Klong Prao Beach, Koh Chang Photo ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn
Back in Thailand for a dose of good friends, great food, warm weather, wonderful smiles, holiday shopping and a pleasant place to celebrate the Christmas and New Year Holidays. Winter in Chengdu is bone-cracking cold, dripping wet and depressingly grey so the motivation to flee the city is great. Those living in south-west China and with spare change (and time) are spoiled for choice: Hainan Island, southern Yunnan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos (no beaches though!), Vietnam, the Philippines, are all warm destinations this time of year. Wintertime in most of south-east Asia is perfect, very little rain, sun, sun, sun and not too hot. The kids love it and we parents are easily convinced. Thailand is still the choice of many even though the numbers of travelers this year is down due to the recent political problems and closed airports. A perfect time to travel actually as it means less problems getting accomodation during peak season, better rates, etc - but of course, terrible for all who rely on the tourism industry for their daily survival.
For many years the coastal areas of Thailand have sold themselves as a total tourist package where the visitor can thoroughly relax, indulge their every fantasy and forget all worries at home. But every time I come to Thailand it still takes a little getting used to the extent that people throw their cares (and clothes) away. And I'm not talking of topless women here (on the island of Koh Chang), but big, fat men with bulging beer bellies, hairy chests and armpits, frighteningly tight speedoes, butt-crack exposing low-slung Billabongs and tattoos galore. The average age of the Thailand-tourist is no longer twenty-something so the beach beauties mentioned above (like myself) are way past their prime. Exposing yourself on the beach or around the pool is one thing but extending this fashion to every waking moment of the day and any place you go always makes me wonder what the ever-smiling local people think of us crazy foreigners who often treat Thailand like a disposable commodity with no culture of it's own. So fellow Thailand travelers, please keep coming to Thailand, but remember to close your shirt or put on your sarong when you're walking through the lobby or eating in a restaurant!