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1,200 Steps to a New You

All the signs in Ao Nang are in English.

I do not consider this to be a good thing. Ao Nang is a beach in the Krabi area, we've been staying in Krabi Town and surrounding areas for over a week now. It's beautiful here. Emerald and saphire seas, island Karsts, and temple caves.

But it's also ugly. The people are considerably less friendly than in other areas of Thailand I've been to, and both Harper and I have sensed a resentment from our hosts. I was even spat at by a woman passing by on a motorcycle, and others have been openly hostile. I've been laughed at and made to feel generally unwelcome.

Why do they hate us?

I can't explain it. Not at all. But perhaps it has something to do with the fact that this area is dominated by tourists, rather than travelers. People who come in for a week or two, never bother to learn anything about the customs, and have al their travel arrangements sorted for them, rather than DIY. When you go to Ao Nang, where fat farang lie prostrate in the sand with their titties hanging out for all the world to see (a cultural no-no all over Thailand, just as in most of America. Imagine, if you will, hordes of naked Asians taking over the beaches of Alabama), while lithe Thai people slave over them, rubbing them down and serving them pineapple; where you see scores of Farang men in their 50s accompanied by Thai men and women (little more than boys and girls) in their early twenties; then you begin to get a sense of why. Or you go to the Tiger Cave Temple, a monastary where 1,200 steps lead 600 meters up to the Buddha's footprint where you see not only shorts (a taboo for both men and women), but even bikini-clad women, clamoring through the temples. Or you watch a Scottsman bitch out the hotel staff after *he* leaves his bags on a songthaeu. Or the 50-something American nerd, who looks at three different hotel rooms, and makes a sport of loudly deriding them all in the lobby. Or the Englishman staying at the resort across the street who strides into the bar and thinks nothing of asking the bartender to sell him marijuana. (and the real rub is that it's mostly Euorpeans spreading the image of the ugly American) And all that lazy money everywhere...

Is it any wonder that we're little more than a dollar bill in their eyes here? That everywhere you go you're harrassed by tour agents and touts, "where you go?" Is it any wonder that you can't be left alone in Krabi-- a way point for the tourist meccas of Ko Phi Phi and Phuket--without being pitched and sold and suckered every five minutes? I can't even consider Ko Phi Phi, where the worst of the bunch go to wallow with their own pathetic party-loving kind. Where 500 Bhat won't even buy you a room with a toilet.

Meanwhile, I was amazed to read a Crowded Lonely Planet from 1992, which advised travelers not to go to Ko Phi Phi due to the rampant development, which was destroying the national marine park. Likewise, I was saddened to see an article in yesterday's Bangkok Post, which reported that neither the multimillion dollar waste-water treatment plant nor the trash incenerator were being used by *any* of the islands allegedly eco-friendly resorts (which are predominantly Thai-owned). Slap eco in front of your name and you can serve gorilla sandwiches if you want.

The tourists here are as awful as they can be, and the hosts aren't much better. Which came first: chicken or egg? I cannot even imagine Phuket. Yes, you're pampered in these places. The rooms are nicer, and the service better. But I'd rather rough it a bit and actually interact with a few (gasp!) Thais. Otherwise, why not just go to Florida?

. . .

We escaped to a completely isolated beach, Hat Nopharaat Thara, where there were virtually no Farang. Nevermind that it's only a few kilometers from the horros of Ao Nang and Railay. Probably because it isn't on the package route. I prefer travelers. However. They have a tendency to be boorish. To tell you how much better it was seven years ago. Great. Except. I'm here *now.* So pipe down, Jorn. (And I hope I don't succomb to it, having enough boorish tendencies as is.)

. . .

But it is so beautiful here. At HNT, the tide rolls in and out by nearly a kilometer or so. The Karsts rising straight from the ocean floor become sometimes-slands, that you can walk out to at low tide. One of these is split down the middle, and only has a beach for a few hours out of the day. The rest of the time it's a channel, maybe 40 feet wide by 30 meters long. At low tide, you can walk out about 300 metes into the water (crystal clear and the temperature of blood) and still only be up to your mid thigh. And at Tiger Cave Temple, the 600 meters to the top was one of my best experiences yet in Thailand. Even if I did nearly sweat to death on the way up. The hike was a meditation in and of itself. And at the base; my monkey friends.

Meanwhile, I read in the local rag that a McDonald's is opening on Ao Nang. I'll see you on Ko Jum.

. . .

Pictures, pictures, pictures in glorious color and big enough to see without glasses.

- l i n k -



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