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.
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...
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.
conquest phase swiftly follows the falling in love.
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.
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.
different when you come home after seeing a place like Phuket...
men speak badly and they say it's because their brains are poorly developed,
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.
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.
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.
prostitution has reached insane levels, proportionally comparable perhaps
only with South America.
South East Asia is like a pustulating gash, and prostitution is one of the
Ignorance, poverty and gullibility are probably at the roots of the
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.
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.
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.
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.
English girls almost in ethylic comas with their arms around men who are
helping them walk...as if it were nothing! All normal...
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...
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
images must be seen to be believed: life is not a film.
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.
is a tourist location and the Thai people come here to work, everything is
arranged for the tourist and for his pleasure.
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.
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.
these women are there for their own work, to seduce with almost inhuman
sweet, docile, they will give themselves to a willing man solely to give him
pleasure and happiness.
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
characteristic of Thai women: if they don't like it, they won't do
Even if she
has a job which pays highly by the month if she doesn't like it she will
leave without hesitation.
is money which then ruins them, they become slaves to it, perhaps like us
have made some money, they must always find the means to make more, cheating
Pattina, Mario's girl, I can
see working in a school with lots of children, and married.
William's girl, I see in an Italian gym teaching Thai dancing and Thai
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.
smiles now out of habit but deep down she is sad.
to me about her parents who don't know she works in a massage centre, but
think she works in a restaurant.
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,
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'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.
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.
girls from the remote villages come down to the tourist centres, they're
illiterate, they have nothing, they're gorgeous.
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?
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
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...
girls accept everyone, they kiss on the lips right on the street, often it's
a saddening spectacle.
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....
feeling, there's no real attraction and the girls are good actresses.
There is no real pleasure but
only games, only smoke.
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
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.
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.
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
there looking at her and can't even engage your brain, stunned by so much
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
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.
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
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".
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...
characteristics of Thai women are stubbornness, absurd unpredictability,
caring sweetness, jealousy (which often leads to inexplicable violence).
they hate going out in the sun, and if they do they come out with absurd
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
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.
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
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.
thoughtlessly uses and wastes money, objects, food and various lotions.
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
female is weak in the eyes of society and the authorities. She never rebels,
she never judges, she never asks for anything.
will never follow your advice or opinions. Because she has to make her own
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.
myself over on the bed, stomach down with my eyes sunk into the dark of the
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".
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...
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.
reassuring and precise person, he is in equal parts nice, crazy and a
You see him
stride with head held high through the streets of the town centre, arms
dangling and neck tensed.
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
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
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.
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.
way he is, he's always looking for a reason to have fun and he does so
involving anyone around him.
stubborn, it's true, firm and tenacious in his convictions and it's almost
exhausting to impose any other opinion on him.
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".
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PART 2 AND 3
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.
know where I was going but I was going there, and in a hurry.
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.
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.
there for me and was looking at me with soppy eyes...
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!!?
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
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...
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.
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.
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
the joys of life, having a woman beside you who's crazy about you.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
receive texts from Nim in the morning at 1 pm saying "wake up wake up!" was
an immense pleasure.
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.
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.
face in the morning which said "It broke on me!", incredible.
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?
stunned me and saddened me enormously.
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".....
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
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
she going to get to, working so hard...and for so long? What is her future
if not a difficult life?
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
should give her all the love she needs and deserves.
careful...careful...because sometimes they only want to benefit from some
Western advantage...money...carefree days with the chance to buy everything.
even have time to think because she works works works...
sometimes I have this wish to grab her by the hand and take her away...
you find round and about these days...it would probably cause a splash...For
them...that's exactly what they want.
careful of the change in culture: what would a Thai girl do at home in
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?
sure that's what she'd like to do.
girls like the home and children, but are more inclined to party, go
shopping and get out and enjoy themselves.
Westerners are party animals because they only see them when they're on
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.
grace in the Heavens has thrown down with resolute stroke the handful of
earth called Thailand for "la bella vita"?
are the people of smiles, friendship, goodwill and relaxation.
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
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!
to live, to feel life going by, to have problems, find solutions, and go for
a stroll or a walk throught the woods.
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.
things that we Westerners often lose from sight, too busy chasing after
which we associate much of the time with material things.
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
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.
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?!
know why they like us so much...Because we have noses! Well, not just
because of that obviously...
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
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
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.
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
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.
intelligence is magnificent, her sweetness at times leaves you speechless,
her beauty is magnetic. What can you feel for this stupendous girl if not
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
fall of Japanese power numerous coups d'état followed, although the
possibility of a monarchic regime was never discussed.
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.
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.
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.
therefore signalled the return of democratic rule in Thailand.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
also known as Siam, which was the official name of the nation until
June 24th, 1939. The word "Thai" means free.
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.
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.
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
The North of the country is
mountainous, with its highest point being Mount Doi Inthanon a 2.576 metres.
North-East is formed by the Khorat plateau, and bordered to the East by the
of the nation is in turn dominated by the largely flat river valley Chao
Phraya, which flows into the Gulf of Siam.
consists of a narrow bridge of land, the Kra isthmus, which widens into the
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.
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
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.
distinguish three seasons:
- a cool, dry
period, from November to February, when the North-West
- a very hot
season, from March to the middle of May;
- the rainy
season, from May to October, determined by the South-West
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.
middle of May and September we witness a monsoon in the
South West characterised by high rains, temperatures and
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
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 electronics industries are developing. International
tourism is growing and is concentrated particularly around
Fishing is practised from the country's typical vessel, the
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.
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.
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
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
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
Numerous raised motorways and a ringroad,
which circles the entire city, have been
completed, and others are about to be
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.
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.
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.
permits the peaceful coexistence of other faiths like Islam (4%),
Christianity (1%) and Hinduism.
religious life is a particular artistic creativity which takes its form
in architecture and painting, a deep expression of the same Buddhist
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.
(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
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
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.
"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.
therefore say that Buddhism is a philosophy or science of the spirit.
Shoes must be removed
when entering a private house.
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.
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.
women never kiss each other in Thai culture, not even in films, and
in these there are never sex scenes.
foreign films the nude scenes will be censured.
people are peaceful and extremely tolerant, sometimes to excess,
especially where rude tourists are concerned.
in Thailand means to enjoy life, to live in happiness, and not to worry too
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
the rules of politeness and courtesy followed by Italians are equally valid
in Thai culture.
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
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!
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!
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.
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