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Thailand: Escape from Paradise

Thailand March 2010

Thailand reminds me of avocados. I like the flavor, but they are so difficult to experience because getting to the heart of them can be a complicated and messy affair. You can get an air ticket for next to nothing from Bangkok to most neighboring countries, but the price quadruples for destinations within Thailand. Trains and buses are plentiful but price regulation and schedules are non-existent. Touts and taxi drivers try every trick they know to squeeze that extra dollar out of you. Hotel and shop prices rise exponentially with the tide of tourists each season. Pseudo-gourmet restaurants charge double that of authentic Thai cuisine; something I seriously do not ethically understand. It is like a slap in the face to Thai culture.

While the tourism industry chases after the all illusive dollar, Thai culture and tradition seem to have become a mere facade and veneer that aids the blatant profiteering. In Thailand tourists don't want culture; they want beaches, cheap beer, prostitutes, and fake Italian restaurants. While expat business owners milk the pasty-white tourist hordes of their surplus dollars, ethically and environmentally the country is being raped.

Backpackers have long lamented the steady infusion of exclusive resorts and gated communities into what was once sacred ground for the young, the brave and in-the-know adventure seekers. But trailblazers with their glorious stories of exotic realms and fabulous riches are as much to blame for the foreign invasion as are the wannabe-come-after hordes and the scores of would-be travel writers on the internet these days.

There is no escaping it. Our world is transforming, and we are all playing a part in it. Pristine white sand beaches once the domain of simple fisherman have become the exclusive property of the countless hastily constructed pleasure spas that now line the coast. Huge tracts of virgin rain forest are plowed under to accommodate these gaudy, bourgeois palaces that infinitesimally increase the demand on already overtaxed, inadequate, and often non-existent sewage disposal systems. And all of this is done for the sake of the surplus dollars of the newly weds and the suburban middleclass families that come searching for paradise on a two week vacation. Where will we escape to next?

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