TRAVELLING IN THAILAND
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Thailand: a country extraordinarily different to Italy. The cultural shock is similar to that of a journey through Japan except that here, particularly in the marine areas, lies an earthly paradise.

Mappa dell'AsiaPhuket, the island in the south of Thailand, will leave you with so many timeless memories, wild scooter rides through the hills, past the huts, past the lagoons, past the beaches, the sultry weather which engulfs you as soon as you leave the oasis of the hotel, the improvised funfair of the streets in the centre, adverts for Thai boxing matches consisting of real people on pick-up trucks, the bitter odours of the streets at night, the girls pulled out to enchant the Westerners, the rubbery, squeaky sand, the sea waters in colours as of yet unseen, the myriads of fish around Phi Phi Island, my friends arm in arm with Thai women, the Buddhist temples, the stalls selling fried insects and toasted scarab beetles, the exotic quarrel between Mario, one of my travel companions, and a nightclub attendant, the sudden tropical cloudbursts during scooter rides, the smile stamped on the face of the Thai people, the petrol sold "by the bottle" by vendors on foot, the elephants in the lay-bys beneath the trees...

And we've fallen in love. Love? As if surrounded by conniving mermaids we let ourselves be captured, one languid almond-eyed look is like an enchanting spritz for us Westerners, addicted as we are to masculinised women.

And the conquest phase swiftly follows the falling in love.

Mappa ThailandiaMario the worldly Latin lover melts into giving sweet caresses never before seento come from him, William the dark Calabrian home-boy with his voluminous crest of hair (my, so swoonsome) will give himself up in the silence of the bedroom to mawkish embraces interrupted by crude moves on those hapless females quickly scooped up during the scooter ride home.

And how could I avoid so many idyllic temptations? I would head off alone into the sultry afternoon with my beaten up motorbike (scooter) in search of landscape to photograph and female beings to admire.

Life is different when you come home after seeing a place like Phuket...

Some Thai men speak badly and they say it's because their brains are poorly developed, but...

The Hot Guys remain "unlucky" by choice, they go around playing Playboy with the dregs of Thai society, at least that's common opinion, although I'm not sure I would think of it in the same way.

The majority of the prostitutes come from the Isaan (according to Thai data), women born into a situation of poverty and ignorance which leads them to the easiest and most convenient choice, and it's no longer, as it once was, in order to send four more bath to their family, (and honestly, it is highly likely that as soon as she sees a couple of bucks the daughter will go out and play little lady, right in the face of Thai culture and religion!) but rather to buy themselves the latest cellphone model, a designer pair or jeans, or to get highlights in fashion's latest colour.

These girls often live without any hopes or prospects due to the simple fact that they don't want any, they don't think about tomorrow or what they will do when they are older, tomorrow is another day and they'll see.

In Thailand prostitution has reached insane levels, proportionally comparable perhaps only with South America.

All of South East Asia is like a pustulating gash, and prostitution is one of the causal cuts.

Ignorance, poverty and gullibility are probably at the roots of the problem.

Not one of the girls enjoys it, but they all know that prostitution is a source of easy money, not for getting rich, but for paying a father's gambling debts or looking after daughters; for paying for the whisky bottles of a husband who would otherwise become violent, etc. etc.

Mappa Thailand estesaAnd so people go to the GoGos and Bars to pick up abandoned ex-wives, poor uneducated farm women, women who feed this business thanks to the illusion of easy money.

They say that Pattaya (a seaside resort near the capital, Bangkok) and Patong (the seaside promenade of the island of Phuket) are the remnants of what was once the Americans' playground, and they say they grew opium in the Golden Triangle in the sixties and seventies, and the poor farmers had no choice but to follow suit.

And from Bangkok it is easy to get on a plane for Patong Beach in Phuket...a place which stands for relaxation and unchecked entertainment thrown in there towards the east.

And you can sit there incredulously watching old people, bottle in hand, happily swaying to the live music and people maddening themselves with alcohol, laughing.

Young English girls almost in ethylic comas with their arms around men who are helping them walk...as if it were nothing! All normal...

In some streets you can literally feel the stench entering your alveoli...people heaped in the dust on the ground that stay there night and day, the stink of old and decaying corpses, women with their backsides on show like precious merchandise, bananas and little balls being hurled by lascivious and worldly women, young girls with no underwear on dancing on a transparent piece of glass or put in a shop window like clothes to be picked out and put on...

It's incredible, all this. All of a sudden you feel mixed sensations somewhere between sadness and amazement.

One of the images that will stay with me is seeing a friend inside a bar in Sukhumvit, surrounded by beer and seminaked, flapping chicks, unforgettable and incredible.

But certain images must be seen to be believed: life is not a film.

Certain situations would arouse a variety of reactions in our Italian homeland but here...Here it's different...for them it is normal, it is more than enough that they feel good...that they're happy.

And I saw beneath the hotel my friends fighting for the prize of two Florentine Italian girls they had just met: I asked myself in the solitude of my hotel room, to the soundtrack of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, why it was so difficult and problematic for two Italians to conquest an Italian girl, there are always too many difficulties and problems created in one's head.

Phuket is a tourist location and the Thai people come here to work, everything is arranged for the tourist and for his pleasure.

Alas, prostitution spreads everywhere and all kinds of girls fish for tourists, albeit with much discretion and without vulgarity (which is unfortunately often typical of Western displays) as according to Thai culture every form of public manifestation of emotions is banned.

And there I was right in the middle of all this to think and observe.

I still remember her, the queen of the Tiger Disco on Patong Beach in Phuket: in the middle of the street, she moves like a panther softly waving her thick, rich hair with her tiny shoulders like a sea wave you wait for that engulfs you, her gaze green and magnetic.

And it is incredible when the Tiger Disco closes seeing beautiful little women, all very young, dressed in little skirts to make you cry out and with graceful little bodies that are, with timeless Eastern grace, irresistible. I'm there to get down to work.

But in the middle of this disco is a magic whirl of lights, sounds and movement...but it's all fake.

All of these women are there for their own work, to seduce with almost inhuman grace.

Honest, sweet, docile, they will give themselves to a willing man solely to give him pleasure and happiness.

And if they see something you like? Then she'll tell you she'd be glad to and that you can do it with her as many times as you please: what else would you like?

A characteristic of Thai women: if they don't like it, they won't do it.

Even if she has a job which pays highly by the month if she doesn't like it she will leave without hesitation.

Indeed, it is money which then ruins them, they become slaves to it, perhaps like us Westerners.

Once they have made some money, they must always find the means to make more, cheating others.

Pattina, Mario's girl, I can see working in a school with lots of children, and married.

Pak, William's girl, I see in an Italian gym teaching Thai dancing and Thai boxing.

And Dow, a girlfriend of mine, talks about a friend of hers she hasn't seen in months, and she thinks he might be dead.

Her face smiles now out of habit but deep down she is sad.

She talks to me about her parents who don't know she works in a massage centre, but think she works in a restaurant.

She lives near Bangkok, it's such a large family, she lives with two girlfriends in a tiny appartment with a wall fan, no air conditioning and a low ceiling, that feels like a prison and in the morning they get up with the light coming in the window and noises rising from the nearby, foul-smelling street.

"I'm an unlucky girl," she says, and I know I'm not perfect, I can't understand why you like me so much she keeps telling me, I saw you in the club five times and not once were you talking with another girl.

She says she's 28, she wears a brace on her teeth which was bought at great cost, and she has to work in a massage centre with extra services, though only doing massage, she says.

I have no other job option here in Thailand and she says she even manages to earn  40,000 baths a month, or a little more than 800 Italian euros.

She seems so tiny in a better bed than her own, she doesn't move, she doesn't annoy anyone, she is happy and says she's a lucky girl when she's with me.

This is the life you live! A life that's worth not living a normal life for. Often you earn more here than in a thousand days your life in her home town.

The girls from the remote villages come down to the tourist centres, they're illiterate, they have nothing, they're gorgeous.

There are villages with straw houses raised from the earth with wooden posts, people live there, lost from the world, abandoned, luckless, and we're full of food, are they not people like us?

And the people there are often beautiful and when they look at you and they tell you with their eyes they know they are unlucky you don't know what to say and you feel so small...

It is a common belief that women only want to win and make men their slaves. Once they get their guy they all fleece him and leave him, once they realise he likes her.

Here, if you want to, it's easy (and not very nice to admit to) to "buy" very young, beautiful girls, even for the fat and old...

And the girls accept everyone, they kiss on the lips right on the street, often it's a saddening spectacle.

For them foreigners are manna falling from the sky and each 1,000 bath is a round figure, and to refuse someone would be madness.

Here a fat guy thinks he's dreaming when a young girl, barely of age, rubs herself against him, kisses him with her tongue, makes him believe she likes it.

For the fat guy, this is buying paradise, but the problem is that it's fake, and cars move forward if you give them petrol money....

There's no feeling, there's no real attraction and the girls are good actresses.

There is no real pleasure but only games, only smoke.

Thailandia Bangkok Tempio

And now here in Italy on a dreary street in March it seems like banks of fog have descended on my mind, endless nostalgia for this place, for these colours, for the smoke rising from the little carts in the evening. And outside the air is moldering with melancholy.

The women there, simple like flowers, untainted by consumerism and Western cultural perversions, free from the pollutions of advertising and society.

What is a woman if not a sweet collection of pink bits?...

This is a Thai woman: open, graceful, entrancing almond eyes like a manga stirring up images of flowered fields, straight black hair steadily leading downwards to a smooth neck as if to remind us of the back bending to pick up rice, docile and at times sly but immediately submissive to male severity, smiling at life showing all her teeth despite her few possessions, coming down from the villages and giving herself to Westerners looking for easy love, these are their riches which come from the sky with the planes.

It's not enough to fall in love with one endlessly fascinating Thai woman and her endless charm...in a moment you see another and you're captured afresh...and again...her grace is for us Westerners an irresistible call: you see them, dark, thin, flowing raven-black hair, slim, graceful forms...it is impossible not to be entranced.

So much love is wasted, so much female grace is shut up at the end of a prophylactic. It should be worth more than so pitifully... little. And your heart tightens slightly if you let yourself be drawn out from the whirl of your thoughts.

You're there looking at her and can't even engage your brain, stunned by so much grace.

Smiling she fills up on thin watery soup that mixes sweet and savory, she goes here and there like a little bird, then she turns around and gives you a kiss.

Here in the stalls they even sell giant ants or crunchy fried worms, grilled kebabs and candied grasshoppers.

You can get mega Thai boxing brawls in the clubs. But apart from that it is a very peaceful place with very little crime.

At around five in the morning, after a night in the club, we would head "home" and almost always stop off in a 24-hour supermarket according to the "Stay Up Late and Wait For the Morning Religion": the Seven Eleven, our ever-ready oasis, you go in and suddenly you're in the Alps in December, that's how cold the air is that engulfs you, and we're there messing around buying little somethings to chew between repartees, we three Italo-Thai musketeers, me, Mario and William.

And there they are, sitting at the sides of the Seven's doorstep with a salted and roasted ear of the Thai countryside in hand on the other side of the world to bullshit in the middle of March as if we were in August outside a bar in Riccione.

The sweetness of these girls born into poverty and misfortune is infinite. They are honest girls but they work, out of necessity. None of them enjoy playing the "bad girl".

The Thai woman is also a very nervous mother, sometimes overly so, worse than an Italian Mamma, very close to her children but only up to a certain age, then they are left to the mercy of events...

Other characteristics of Thai women are stubbornness, absurd unpredictability, caring sweetness, jealousy (which often leads to inexplicable violence).

Generally they hate going out in the sun, and if they do they come out with absurd comments.

If she, your Thai woman, has a headache...she's ill! If it goes away...she's well! Obvious, you might say. Yes, but in the space of five minutes for her, everything changes completely. If she feels well after the third different type of medicine, it'll obviously be that one that has cured her. If she goes to the seaside and hides herself from the sun to avoid tanning (she hates it!) she will say after a few minutes, "look how black I've got!". You can spend hours explaining to her that it's not possible because the skin only reacts after a few hours...but she'll be right because she feels hot right then.

If she promises you something. Don't count on it completely. Especially if the promise is about the future. So today's Monday and tomorrow's Tuesday. Monday she's a believer and she makes a promise. Tuesday is another day! That was yesterday, dammit! And if you give her money to spend and tell her it's for her for the whole week...she will understand only that the money's for her and she can spend it. And 99% of the time after a few hours she'll have spent it all. A Thai woman cannot be organised or think of consequences or next month's problems...or next week's...or even the next day's. Sometimes if she really tries she can make it last until the next day.

However the contentment and the pleasure they give you when they love you in their magic sweet way, without doubts or far-off fears, as only they know how, is priceless.

Even in their way of life, prettiness and novelty and "having" as opposed to "being"...it's disgustingly and serenely consumerist in a complete and serene way, because it is instinctive, joyful and hedonistic.

She thoughtlessly uses and wastes money, objects, food and various lotions.

She'll always throw away at least 30% of the food she's bought. On the plate at the end of a meal or in the fridge. If she has two packets of food or two bottles of shampoo...she'll finish the already opened one with difficulty. Instead she'll open the "new" one, the fresh one, that will give her "new emotions".

A Thai female is weak in the eyes of society and the authorities. She never rebels, she never judges, she never asks for anything.

But she will never follow your advice or opinions. Because she has to make her own mistakes.

And stretched out on the bed, now I make a journey...through my thoughts. And I see my travel companions, that have now become real friends.

I turn myself over on the bed, stomach down with my eyes sunk into the dark of the cushion.

"There's always a reflection, a gaze that connects with your thoughts I feel it sink in it murmurs it whispers it talks to you it bursts it evaporates it falls it ricochets at times you want want to eat it to feel it inside of you".

I see Richard, the manager of our hotel at the edge of Patong Beach, he's been around for a while now. But I think at least once he too has lost his head and heart for a Thai girl, they're so sweet...

He churned out much of this information when we had just met him, cramming it with details and just as many illustrations, enough to leave us speechless like silent obedient little schoolboys before a lecturing schoolmaster.

A reassuring and precise person, he is in equal parts nice, crazy and a daydreamer.

You see him stride with head held high through the streets of the town centre, arms dangling and neck tensed.

Then suddenly he lets out insults you're not expecting, almost seriously, and then bursts out that occasionally snide laugh.

He devotes himself with dazzling courage to defending the hotel from occasional attacks by inebriated tourists, shielding it with his own body (he did actually have a lame limb).

Bangkok Sky Train

He was the real leader of our trip and in the end we developed a good relationship.

He has a suprising literary streak, shared via email during sleepless nights shut up in his poky air-conditioned office, surrounded by little piles of bath and notes written about how to instruct/improve his workers, purposefully selected from hordes of sad country girls to be of mixed beauty leaning towards ugly.

Who knows what he thought about Italy 12,000 km away, which by then he'd set aside for several years, and who knows how many he had seen...we're hoping he'll tell us about his experiences again, while he lets himself bathe in the shallows with his hands sunk into the sand regardless of the molluscs buried beneath and between dives, ever sly with a hint of a smile, watching his Thai dragonfly jump from one rock to another, looking for something to eat.

And now I "see" Mario and his great intelligence, his wish to do his utmost for himself and his friends is wonderful. Even if by dint of being a perfectionist he often ends up being a pedant.

After a brief after-dinner nap, ready for another night on the streets of Phuket, freshened up, polished like a shop window on the high street during the run-up to Christmas, he starts out walking leaving behind a perfumed trail of masculine spices, reaches his mode of transportation that's been camping out on hotel doorstep, jumps into the saddle and races off, then turns around to look for us.

You can see from far off that he is the rider of that derelict scooter with its peculiar trappings: the undone helmet with its laces left blowing in the wind in keeping with his haphazard logic, the unregulated zigzagging like a water motorcycle at the mercy of the waves, the incessant gas fumes from the half-Japanese monocylinder exhaust pipe, trying to pull a wheelie regardless of the following traffic behind him.

That's the way he is, he's always looking for a reason to have fun and he does so involving anyone around him.

He's stubborn, it's true, firm and tenacious in his convictions and it's almost exhausting to impose any other opinion on him.

I also remember his comment when we were in a club together watching some characters with monstrously bulging muscles, "He who works on his muscles does it to compensate for the lack of brains".

Bangkok mix fotografieAnd William, a typically scatty artist, all feeling and no logic: his room is a messy way of taking up space, he's always ready to pick up and run with an idea, a proposal, a new adventure.

He's like a "butterfly" (here meaning he flies from one girl to another) but inside is goodwill and a tender heart. Perhaps he's in the wrong profession and should have gone into the cinema.

He also lives switching between lucid moments and daydreaming, asking himself why he's there, always travelling and touching down in new worlds, with these two people who confuse him.

I think he may consider himself a kid who's living the life. And one day when he's old and ailing he'll look back at the ancient splendours of youth! Well, he's not the only one...

And with these characters I have lived and am about to live through the Indo-Chinese handover in Thailand: I wonder what better company I could possibly have.

Three brains at large in the cup of fantasy, rendering honour and reverence to this strange perception of the senses that is "life".

I turn over again into the pillow to remember these moments and look for the edge of the bedcovers which is by now almost out of reach.

And there's the sun, on our last evening, a large fiery ball melting on the sea's horizon into the sea to hail the end of our holiday.

And on the last evening the rain helps to sadden the street outside our hotel.

And now it's Saturday which we are spending waiting for Sunday's rest.

We get up in the morning with much to do but we know Sunday will come and it will be long and full.

It's a recurring thought, the knowledge, the consciousness that we'll come back and the wish to live in this paradise again turns our present into a long extension of past joys that will cloud in our memories.

 

THAILAND PART 2 AND 3

We decided one day to set off early in the afternoon for the nearby Phuket Town, and a new world was opened to my eyes, no longer a tourist town and the setting of infinite gaudy perversions, but a real city, a real Thai population, people busied with work, sweat and dedication, calm, people available to help, and the infinite sweetness I saw in those little school children in uniform like small soldiers at the gates of the public gardens, trotting along with shoulderbags of books, looking at me strangely...well yes, strangely enough I was looking strange...dressed for the beach on my garish "Yamaha nuevo" scooter wearing a helmet World War I soldier style, of course I didn't know where the devil I was going but I made a break for first place at the traffic lights all the same, in the middle of hundreds of vehicles of every kind, and set off like a free rocket...free like the queen of the eagles.

I didn't know where I was going but I was going there, and in a hurry.

Who knows why...gazes followed me every time I stopped and more than a few times they belonged to Thai women...what sweet women...wild, with sexy flipflops like the women of the far-off rice fields.

I had lost my friends, clinging to their scooters, together with Riccardo playing guide at Anchalee Inn (with the pregnant Miao bringing up the rear) on the nearby hill of Patong.

I was lost but I didn't mind one tiny bit, I was happy and would have liked to keep zooming around for hours and hours and hours and hours.

But finally I found it, the "Central Festival" and, facing it, "HomeWork", and as if by magic after a text from me out comes my Thai girlfriend Nim in uniform (she's working as a nurse in a beauty parlour.

She was there for me and was looking at me with soppy eyes...

And I confess I stood there, still like a lizard in the sun thinking: but look at my luck, finding such a splendid girlfriend after just a day here. And she's crazy about me too!!?

She smiled for a moment and then the eyes and the mouth widen in a smile which leaves you defenceless and devastates you: my God she's beautiful...but you are a moron, don't you understand she's your girlfriend? Yes! She's really is yours!

Having recovered from the giddiness of overflowing happiness I decide to approach and embrace her, almost crushing her, and kiss her without saying anything while she lets her arms go, unconsciously responding to my passion. her calm Asian eyes had completely knocked me out, I couldn't speak a word and was supposed to be speaking in English...

And she on the other hand, what does she do, to destroy me completely? She turns to me, newly resolved, and yields to me, and I by now am already on a cloud dancing around with the angels...

She snuggles onto my scooter like a country bumpkin from the swamps on the side of the Po and asks me to take her to her house, we go out to dinner and fully enjoy an amazing evening.

In the bedroom I was granted moments that have never come close to being equalled...I still ask myself...what do I do to her every time? I manage to stimulate her in ways so intense I amaze myself...

I bring her to tuc tuc.

But what does she do? She turns around, stands up, waves to me fluttering her hand and shouts "I love you"...well, these are moments that stay with you all your life.

These are the joys of life, having a woman beside you who's crazy about you.

Italian girls, on the other hand, often only cause inferiority complexes.

To make a comparison, in my opinion Thai women are more delicate than the Brasilians and are therefore decidedly more beautiful.

I was slowly passing an August afteroon in my hotel room in Patong Beach, but the climax of the adventure was still to come, in the evening...after I had instantly got the phone number of the stunning waitress in Hotel di Riccardo, cunningly written on the go, onto a napkin I immediately threw in my pocket, I left my companions at the entrance of the Tiger Disco and crawled up towards the exit for Phuket Town, after innumerable adventures in the pounding rain astride my scooter, after innumerable requests to barefoot tattooed people for help finding my girlfriend's house, after so many stops underneath makeshift bus stops to shelter myself from the rain, finally I find the house of my beloved Nim who had now been waiting for hours, half asleep.

I go in and scamper to find her in the absolute silence of the residence, with extremely tight short white panties on, waiting for me asleep diagonally across the bed, resting her head on a long roll of cushion.

Extremely beautiful, with softest skin, as soft to the touch as oil if not more, lips tasting of ginger pouting invitingly, sparkling dark eyes that cut through you like a knife blade, she was there, peaceful, waiting for nothing but me, in the silence of her extremely tidy little room, in her solitude, with photos of parents and friends, a computer, an LCD television, and various creams and lotions to take care of her splendid Asian body of pure Thai blood.

And I, far from my friends (who would sometimes set off for an expedition into the wilderness seeing as I had stopped going to the Tiger disco), completely lost to the wild adventure, rolling through streets whose names I didn't know, sitting on my scooter not really knowing where I was, in the pounding rain, with several scooters driving around with barefoot people on top, motorised mobile kiosks with dangling objects on top, old farmers' wives on motor carts tightly covered to protect them from the rain, streets clouded with mists of rain and splashes, huts with loose electrical cables...I was there with my little helmet, my jumper completely soaked and a smile on my face, happy to be going.

In the meanwhile I finally reached the approximate area of the inhabited zone of Patong Beach, after unrecountable adventures trying to reach the hotel; at dawn's first light I saw the Buddhist monks walking barefoot in the rain, untroubled by puddles, noises and splashes from trucks, spread out over hundreds of metres, and I like the last of the centaurs was zigzagging along like a madman, alone and far from friends and family, avoiding one by one the manhole covers that were buried under puddles of rainwater.

On the phone a happy Mario in his room, in the company of one of the so very beautiful women he picked up told me he was already in the hotel, with William too...pity, I'd have liked to have met them down at the Seven Eleven like always, for a final day's briefing...and for a last race on the scooters through the wide streets stinking of the corpses of chickens of cooked pigs...

A Genovese from Chiavari is ready for action and will calm down a friend on the job even in moments of infinite uncertainty.

And at one of the last bends a calling cock, just woken up, put me on my guard better than any truck's horn.

There...thus ended one of the most adventurous and exciting night-mornings of my life.

And to receive texts from Nim in the morning at 1 pm saying "wake up wake up!" was an immense pleasure.

Many tourists that come to Phuket do not understand that the girls here aren't prostitutes but...like at home there are prostitutes and there are normal girls, who make up the vast majority.

People miss out on the great privelege of living a love story with a serious Thai woman. I feel truly sorry for them in their craziness, and I feel really bad for those who haven't managed to go beyond just doing a deal, like they do at the Tiger Disco.

And Mario's face in the morning which said "It broke on me!", incredible.

And one surreal afternoon, nude on the bed, stomach downwards, curtains lowered, air conditioner humming, away from the chaos of Patong Beach, having left Mario on Karon beach with Richard as a guide...I thought...I thought, half-asleep.

And a girl who sends me texts from Bangkok without knowing me, gorgeous, tall, great girl, sad because she can't find true love and a faithful boyfriend and she has already labelled me as the best guy she's ever known (by then she'd only met me on the phone), hah...Nim was waiting for nothing other than for me to go pick her up with my motorbike (scooter) as soon as I had finished work because she only wants to kiss me and hold me all night, Dow my ex from last year keeps chasing me saying she misses my eyes, Ann from Phuket Town won't go to sleep or wake up without texting me saying "I miss you", Miao the waitress from the Riccardo has formed a frightening attachment to me, two girls from the Tiger Disco are in love with me and are willing to pay me!!! Hey, what is going on here???

You have to be daring. In life you have to be daring. Don't think about whether what you're about to do might not be for you or that you might fail. That's not how it is! A lack of confidence causes absurd mess-ups!!!!

And in Bangkok one evening on returning to the hotel I saw the one of the worst sights of my life: an old man missing an arm under the steps to a front door slept on a threadbare and sweaty mattress with a child a few months old next to him, sleeping belly-up. I asked myself: why does God allow this?

That image stunned me and saddened me enormously.

Bangkok vista notturna Bangkok vista da uno dei ristoranti in cima ai grattacieli

And I like speaking English because it brings you closer to the people of the world and you feel like you're part of the same "global community".....

In Thailand a woman wants you to be happy and does all she can to make that happen: is it the same in Italy? Over to you for the response to that one :­-)

And I met a girl from Bangkok...She worked and worked and worked...because she needed money.

No-one in the world helps her but she has to work hard alone to pull ahead....To pay for university and pay for the shopping for her mother who goes into hospital from time to time...

She is 24, has the sweetest way of looking at you and a stomach ulcer because she likes spicy food so much.

They used a gastroscope on her and sometimes she goes to hospital because she has strong stomach pains.

Where is she going to get to, working so hard...and for so long? What is her future if not a difficult life?

She loves travelling but she works hard I'm not sure if she'll be able to.

I think her beauty could be a disadvantage because she could fall pray to men who only want to have sex with her and want to be with her because she is so beautiful.

Someone should give her all the love she needs and deserves.

But careful...careful...because sometimes they only want to benefit from some Western advantage...money...carefree days with the chance to buy everything.

She doesn't even have time to think because she works works works...

And sometimes I have this wish to grab her by the hand and take her away...

With what you find round and about these days...it would probably cause a splash...For them...that's exactly what they want.

But be careful of the change in culture: what would a Thai girl do at home in Italy?

Without being able to chat to her friends and without their food? You know how boring it is staying at home in a country where everyone is strange (from her point of view), where you don't understand the language, where there is no Thai TV and where you don't share the habits and customs? 

You have to try to imagine her like this and then probably it's easier to decide.

What would she do: be a housewife? First make sure that's what she'd like to do.

Not all girls like the home and children, but are more inclined to party, go shopping and get out and enjoy themselves.

To them Westerners are party animals because they only see them when they're on holiday.

You hear that lots of Thai girls go back to Thailand angry because once they've married and moved in their husband expects them to do something useful.

Oh what grace in the Heavens has thrown down with resolute stroke the handful of earth called Thailand for "la bella vita"?

They really are the people of smiles, friendship, goodwill and relaxation.

Thailandia Phi Phi Island

THAILAND PART 4

Anyone who has visited Thailand knows very well what it means to see the smile of the Thai people, their warmth, their simple living from which comes happiness, the bubbling and lively city of Bangkok, the achingly beautiful island of Phuket. 

And while I took refuge in the hotel while Bangkok's suffocating heat ruled outside, I got a text: "You open my mind when you look into my eyes, sweet love and tender touch are the reasons why i fall in love with you too..kiss i gonna dream about you". The magic had begun.

What do the girls do here? They do whatever makes them happy and can make others happy!

It's good to live, to feel life going by, to have problems, find solutions, and go for a stroll or a walk throught the woods.

However one thing I'm even more sure about: living Asia, the innate grace of the Thai women's gait, their motionless faces at the public transport stations, their jewelled necks and fingers, the colours of their nails and lipstick.

I love their calm and the coloured smile they wear continually, their smiling faces so open to the happiness of simple things.

The simpler things that we Westerners often lose from sight, too busy chasing after "well-being".

Well-being which we associate much of the time with material things.

However happiness is always near to us and, blind, we can easily fail to see it: it lies in simplicity, in the right kind of harmony with nature and our fellow beings.

It does not lie in mastodon, well-tended houses, it does not lie in the possession of various riches, it does not lie in knowing how to show off what we own to our neighbours. All this is in our erroneous minds. And we cannot understand that we will never reach happiness running after the possession of something, we will never reach satisfaction in that sense, because we will never be able to possess everything. And one day we will all be equals facing the unstoppable passing of life.

Certainly they have less "belongings" than us Westerners, but their "happy" existence, their healthy life and their open smile are to be envied.

And thus it is easy to realise on a humid February night, during the Bangkok spring, in the midst of the Asian people, how much grace can be found in this people, but this is not why they call them the "smiling people".

Why do they smile? Because they say smiling makes this world more beautiful...And how can we claim they're wrong?!

And you know why they like us so much...Because we have noses! Well, not just because of that obviously...

There are often discrepancies of living conditions amongst the Thai people. Sometimes they live in bare houses, in huts, surrounded with many old things, a springless bed with a hard mattress, fans and great heat, they often sleep in the same bed, the windows looking onto sheets of metal, on the ground there are ants, their poverty stays with you and I personally have still been thinking about it for several hours after coming back to the hotel.

However almost always they have something to teach us Westerners with our heads swollen by "material wealth", indeed they often manage to single out the tools for happiness more easily than we do. And they can be happy with very little.

It'd be worth reflecting on their way of dealing with life and understanding anew that material possessions cannot give us happiness, on the contrary, many extremely rich people in the West are not happy.

And to judge a person worthy or otherwise, often what interests them most whether the person has a good heart.

There is so much poverty in the world but some things we can't imagine without seeing them.

I can now understand better their desperation when they sell their bodies on the streets. Their hunger is real, it is a fear of dying, dying lonely and sad, without love, without friends, without anyone ever having cared about them, alone, in the dark, in the heat, it's enough to drive you mad.

And here is Jang, a Bangkok girl, a student deeply involved in the Asian world.

Her intelligence is magnificent, her sweetness at times leaves you speechless, her beauty is magnetic. What can you feel for this stupendous girl if not love?

And every day spent communicating with her is rich in fun and smiles.

I have come to know the Thai people and Jang is still my best friend.

What does she want from you? She only wants you to be happy, she takes care of you and lives off your smile.

What more could you want? 

Only to see her walk...her long, straight, swaying, black black hair...her penetrating eyes....her open smile.

Jang lives in a world made up of friends, days at university, afternoons spent sipping a glass of beer at friends' houses, evenings playing videogames and infront of her computer, which is an open window to the world.

Jang is a marvellous girl.

Then from Bangkok I went back to Phuket again, the island which to me means freedom, feeling free aboard a motorbike, feeling free to choose whichever beach, feeling free to go in any direction and at whatever time, surrounded by people who are on holiday and are having fun.

And so it was one February Phuket morning at 8 o'clock in the morning when I was going towards Chalong beach on my rented scooter (motorbike), with my nice rucksack propped up on the handlebars and my camera around my neck, while in Italy it was snowing I had 38 degrees of sun beating down on my helmet, thousands of kilometres away from my native land, I was going on an adventure, on a hunt for beautiful photos.

I didn't really have any idea where Chalong might be but I knew that it was not very far away and so, polarized sunglasses stuck on and rickety two wheeler at full throttle, I set off on the journey.

Far from home, alone and with good exposure.....prospects since the sun beaming down from on high was giving me its best!

And so it was that paying a taxi to help me find the way (1 euro) I arrived in a residential area completely surrounded by jungle, with buffalo and son grazing nearby!

A fantastic afternoon...completely immersed in a world so different from my own.  

And as the aeroplane punctually took off, crossing the dark Sian sky, I was already feeling nostalgic for those smiles and that exuberant nature of the people, that I will not forget.

Thailand is unforgettable, it stays with us as a sensation or a vague memory that every now and then flowers again and, just for a moment, lets us travel in time.

 

NOTES ON THAILAND'S HISTORY

Between the eleventh and twelfth centuries AC, the first Thai populations of central Indochina were subject to the power of Cambodia's Khmer emperor, which at the time was in full flourish.

Around the first half of the thirteenth century, the first independent Siamese reign was formed around the city of Sukhothai, and it extended to part of Malaysia, lower Birmania and northern Laos.

A new independent Siamese kingdom was only born in 1587, at the hands of a hereditary prince of Ayutthaya, Naresuen, who with a series of genius military campaigns conquered the Birmans and seized the territories which the Birmans had stripped from Thailand.

In 1764 Thailand once more went to war with the Birmans who, in 1767, succeeded in taking and sacking Ayutthaya.

The capital was therefore moved to Bangkok and after the brief reign of Phya Tak, a general who succeeded in chasing the Birmans from the country, the new dynasty of Phya Chakri was founded, who proclaimed himself king with the name of Raam I in 1782.

In the first decades of this century Thailand underwent gradual modernising reforms but some social contradictions led to a coup d'état in 1932, which transformed the country into a constitutional monarchy.

Very soon, deep fractures emerged within the people's party which emerged from the revolution, and a military power prevailed which influenced the country for the next two decades.

After the fall of Japanese power numerous coups d'état followed, although the possibility of a monarchic regime was never discussed.

For several years the country was led by the military and with the alliance of Bangkok politics with Washington in the 1970s, it saw an extraordinary economic boom, however, this accentuated the difference between the masses and a small circle of the well-to-do.

In 1973, these difficulties came to a head in a great student revolt which set in motion the fall of the military government which had lasted uninterruptedly since 1847.

A provisional government produced a new constitution, which came into effect in 1974, and called an election for 1975.

A sequence of short-lived democratic and socialist governments led to the coup d'état of 1976 which brought a new military regime into power.

There then followed a new wave of coups which introduced great tensions between the military and civilians.

On February 23rd of 1991 yet another coup was headed by general Suchinda, who was removed after the bloody revolt of 1992 by Anand Panyarachun, at the head of a transition government, fully supported by the United States.

This therefore signalled the return of democratic rule in Thailand.

In 1997 the failure of the Thai currency also had devastating effects on the economy of surrounding countries, but with the dawn of the new millenium the Thai economy stopped its steep descent, and a PIL increase around 4.6% was registered.

Furthermore, 2000 signalled an important installment in the country's political life: for the first time the Senate was directly elected, which in the future would succeed in exercising stronger control on corruption in the government and the lower cabinet.

Now attempts to eradicate corruption seem to have been put into action, but the Thais living in poverty do not believe in the promises and are asking for more reforms.

After a period of calm, the situation worsened suddenly in 2006, when a coup d'état led by general Prapart Skuntanak put an end to the government of telecommunications magnate turned politician Thaksin Shinawatra, suspending all government activities apart from Parliament and the Consitutional Court.

 

THAILAND: GENERAL INFORMATION

The Kingdom of Thailand is a state in the South-East Asiatic, with Laos and Cambodia to the East, the gulf of Thailand and Malasia to the South, and the Andaman Sea and Myanmar (formerly Birmania) to the West.

Thailand is also known as Siam, which was the official name of the nation until June 24th, 1939. The word "Thai" means free.

The official language is Thailandese, and many people also speak English. Although it is taught in many schools, English has not spread widely in the country, with its presence particularly lacking in the more remote regions.

The total surface area is 514,000 km2 (with dimensions similar to Spain), with a population of around 65 million inhabitants and a density of around 125 inhabitants per square kilometre.

The time difference is 6 hours with respect to Italy (GMT + 7) and the currency is the bath, which was heavily devalued in 1997 after a serious economic crisis, leading to a domino effect which was the cause of the famous Asian Tigers crisis.

The North of the country is mountainous, with its highest point being Mount Doi Inthanon a 2.576 metres.

The North-East is formed by the Khorat plateau, and bordered to the East by the river Mekong.

The centre of the nation is in turn dominated by the largely flat river valley Chao Phraya, which flows into the Gulf of Siam.

The South consists of a narrow bridge of land, the Kra isthmus, which widens into the Malese peninsula.

In the Gulf of Siam and in the Andaman Sea many islands are present which, with their white white beaches and spectacular turist attractions, are one of the principal sources of income in the country of the free people.

Some names are Phuket, Phi Phi Island, Koh Samui, Koh Lanta.

The local climate is tropical and characterised by the presence of monsoons.

Temperatures vary with the zones, for example in the centre, North and West of the country the cold season goes from mid October to January during which temperatures drop to 15 degrees centigrade, and the hot season runs from Febraury and April with temperatures that reach 40 degrees centigrade. Finally, the rainy season starts in June and ends in October, with temperatures which can reach as low as zero.

In contrast, in the Southern areas there are only three seasons, since the rainy season passes straight into the hot season as soon as the monsoon which blows on the regions bordering the Andaman Sea ends its rains a couple of months later than the rest of the country. Thailand's climate is tropical and so feels the effects of the monsoon cycle.

We can distinguish three seasons:

- a cool, dry period, from November to February, when the North-West monsoon blows;

- a very hot season, from March to the middle of May;

- the rainy season, from May to October, determined by the South-West monsoon.

Southern Thailand is often struck by cyclones (when the water is heated to over 26 degrees centigrade) which can be devastating in the Summer and Autumn periods. 

Between the middle of May and September we witness a monsoon in the South West characterised by high rains, temperatures and cloud coverage.

The southern isthmus, conversely, is hot and humid.

Along with the capital, Bangkok, the principal cities are Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Surat Thani, Phuket and Hat Yai (in the provice of Songkhla).

Almost 70 percent of the entire Thailandese population is composed of farmers, who farm floodlands so rich that Thailand is first in the world for exporting tapioca, second for rice and rubber, and third for tinned pineapple.

The country is also one of the most important exporters of sugar, maize and tin.

The clothes and electronics industries are developing. International tourism is growing and is concentrated particularly around the coast.

Fishing is practised from the country's typical vessel, the Kolae.

 

NOTES ON BANGKOK

Bangkok is Thailand's largest city, and the capital.

The city is situated on the western bank of the Chao Phraya river, near to the Gulf of Thailand.

Bangkok is a city which has known one of the most rapid industrial developments and represents one of the most economically dynamic cities in south-east Asia.

The local population likes to think of itself as level with regional competition such as Singapore and Hong Kong, but it is supported by a precarious infrastructure and pressing social problems due to its rapid growth.

The city is also a famous jewellery centre, rich in craftsmen's boutiques which work in silver and bronze.

Tourism is one of Bangkok's more lucrative activities, and for this reason it is known as a mass tourism destination.

Therefore it is one of the most popular destinations of global tourism. 

One of the city's most commercially lively zones is Chinatown along with Paurat, the Indian zone.

Bangkok was initially a small commercial centre and port, called Bang Makok, and served the city of Ayutthaya, which was Siam's capital when the country fell into the hands of Birmania in 1767.

The capital was subsequently established at Thonburi (now part of Bangkok) above the Western part of the river, and later, in 1782, King Rama I had a royal palace constructed on the Western bank and chose Bangkok as its new capital, renaming it Krung Thep, which means "city of angels".

The inhabitants of Bangkok often continue using the old name, but this is no longer used in the rest of the world.

From an administrative point of view, Bangkok is one of two zones under special administration in Thailand (the other being Pattay), whose inhabitants chose a civic government, unlike the other 75 state provinces (changwat).

The symbol of the city of Bangkok is a plant, the ficus benjamina.

Bangkok is also the cultural capital of the country with its various universities, the Academy of Fine Art, the National Theatre and the National Museum.

The city is rich in Buddhist temples (known in Thailand as Wat).

The most famous are Wat Pho (the seat of one of the most important schools of traditional massage) and Wat Phra Kaeo (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha), situated in the grounds of the Royal Palace, and Wat Arun at Thonburi, a settlement on the right side of the Chao Phraya which was the capital in the Rattanakosin period before Bangkok.

A complex network of canals (khlong) has led the city to be named the Venice of the East.

Today the canals are still thriving with boats and traffic, inhabited as they were in the past, and also playing host to numerous markets. 

Numerous raised motorways and a ringroad, which circles the entire city, have been completed, and others are about to be completed.

These infrastructures should diminish the city's traffic problems. 

Other motorway projects have been abandoned for lack of funds, following the Asia's financial crisis of recent years.

In 1999 an elevated double railway line was opened, the Skytrain, officially called BTS.

The first line of Bangkok's underground metro was in turn opened to the public in July of 2004.

It is estimated that the Skytrain has reduced daily Bangkok traffic by more than 300,000 vehicles, but the situation is still more chaotic because with lifestyle improvements private car ownership is rising to join hundreds of thousands of legal and illegal taxis, and the tuk-tuks (three-wheeled vehicals which run only on LPG, found all over Asia), not to mention the scooters which provide a taxi service for relatively short journeys.

Still in the July of 2004, a new metropolitan system was opened, the MRT,  which united Bang Sue station with that of Hua Lamphong, passing across the whole city.

The International Aeroport of Bangkok, one of the busiest of South East Asia, has been called Don Muang since 2006.

The construction of the new aeroport Suvarnabhumi, in the Bang Phli district, in the province of Samut Prakan, in the southeast of the city was started in 2002 and finished in 2006.

This project, which cost extortionately high amounts has become a symbol of the administrative corruption of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which then led to a peaceful coup d'état in September 2006.

After the initial period that lasted until the end of 2006, in which both internal and international flights were all received in the new Suvarnabhumi aeroport, for logistical reasons from 2007 some of the internal flights were newly reinstituated in the old Don Muang aeroport.

 

RELIGION

The official religion in Thailand is Theravada Buddhism which is at the roots of Thai culture. It is practised by 95 % of the population and was introduced into the country in 329 BC.

Buddhism exerts a strong influence in the daily life of the Thai people and monks are highly respected figures.

There is however a great religious tolerance in Thailand which is a positive prerogative and at the base of Thai culture.

This permits the peaceful coexistence of other faiths like Islam (4%), Christianity (1%) and Hinduism.

Linked to religious life is a particular artistic creativity which takes its form in architecture and painting, a deep expression of the same Buddhist doctrine.

It will therefore be necessary to acquire some knowledge of thai artistic symbolism to understand the contents of extraordinary works which make this country so fascinating.

Furthermore, Buddhism does not exclude the world views that other religions propose, and so many other minorities have developed in Thailand; Muslims, Christians, Hindis or Sikhs, freely proclaim their faith and live alongside each other peacefully.

Buddha (which means the enlightened one) was a noble named Gotama Siddharta who lived in India in 530 b.c. and aged 35, on the night of the full moon in May, meditated all night beneath a sacred fig tree until he reached Nirvana.

We have probably all, at least once, seen Buddha's portrait, a face with a placid smile, with eyes closed or barely open, depicting a quality which expresses itself from the inside.

This face is the image of a man that has reached a state of harmony and understanding and through this understanding has been able to soothe every internal turbulence, a man of serenity.

He did not teach serenity or set out to achieve it, but only sought a method for liberation from grief and with this he has made a total and unshakeable serenity possible for all.

Serenity lies in the attitude that a human being can go beyond the common difficulties of daily life, almost as if to contain oneself, and to limit one's own desire at least until the pain ceases.

The life of Buddha was dotted not only with spiritual adventures but also by legendary events, great loves and bloody battles.

Buddhism "here and now" is a faith of moderation and respect, it is estranged from concepts of dogma and sacrifice, it has an entirely worldly devotion towards life and nature, and can help us find ourselves and the things which really count.

We can therefore say that Buddhism is a philosophy or science of the spirit.

 

THAILAND: PECULIARITIES

Shoes must be removed when entering a private house.

One must never touch another person's head as it is considered a sign of disrespect; the head is the most noble part of the body.

To point to someone with one's feet is considered the worst of insults, as the feet are the lowliest part of the body.

Every image of Buddha, large or small, whether damaged or in tact, is considered a sacred object and therefore must be respected and should not be handled too much for making photocopies.

Men and women never kiss each other in Thai culture, not even in films, and in these there are never sex scenes.

In imported foreign films the nude scenes will be censured.

The Thai people are peaceful and extremely tolerant, sometimes to excess, especially where rude tourists are concerned.

"Sanuk" in Thailand means to enjoy life, to live in happiness, and not to worry too much.

Sanuk is looking at life philosophically, without worrying too much about tomorrow: every aspect of life, including illness and daily problems should be taken with a good dose of Sanuk.

In general the rules of politeness and courtesy followed by Italians are equally valid in Thai culture.

In Thailand expletives and threatening gestures should be avoided in public, and expressions of rage are considered a sign of weakness and lack of character. A good rule is to remain calm always and to release a smile occasionally, which will allow the most easy resolution to any arising problem.

It should be remembered that any public manifestation of emotions is banned: in the Bangkok Skytrain not one person will raise their voice, not one person will cause an annoyance, not one person will look you in the face, and not one person will express any emotion on his face!

Everything is very discreet and this brings pleasure and does not provoke unhappiness or anxiousness. There is no manifestation of happiness of sadness or other kinds of emotion!! But when one is no longer in public things change!

The Thai people are peaceful and very very polite and delinquency, causing trouble or causing annoyance to one's neighbour are rare occurances.

Scenes of anger in particular, which are often provoked by situations of misunderstanding, always turn out to be unjust and never achieve the desired result.

Therefore public displays of affection, such as walking along clutching each other like snakes, are for the Thai people a truly comical sight.

THAILAND PHOTOGRAPHIC REPORT AYUTTHAYA

THAILAND PHOTOGRAPHIC REPORT BANGKOK

THAILAND PHOTOGRAPHIC REPORT PHUKET

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