Have you heard about the Rot Fai Train Market?
It used to be my favorite night market back when I was living in Bangkok and I think it might be the best night market in the whole city, which says a lot about its awesomeness, considering that Bangkok is a metropolis bustling with night markets and bazaars.
As you may know, I know live in Krabi, Southern Thailand, but last month I was in Bangkok for a few days and, on a Friday night, I went back to Rot Fai to see how it looked after the two-year pandemic.
My father was visiting from Europe while my boss Pluto happened to be in town too, and both of them had never been to Rot Fai, so they joined me in the expedition to the outskirts of Bangkok. You can watch my video of Rot Fai here.
Rot Fai is an authentic open-air market selling an incredible variety of vintage memorabilia, from shoes and hippy clothes to antique forniture, old cars, spare parts and road signs.
There are also shops selling modern fashion and more typical stuff like toys, pins, socks and underwear; there are cool restaurants, bars and snack stalls, tattoo parlours, barber shops and even a skate park.
FRIDAY NIGHT AT ROT FAI
We (as per my father, Pluto, his wife Alice and I) left from La Pala restaurant in Asoke (which you must try if you fancy great authentic Italian food at a reasonable price in an informal and central location) at around 7.30 pm on a Friday night, after an early dinner. Our decision to visit Rot Fai was last minute and we were all very tired after a full day of walking in Bangkok heat, so we didn’t feel to go by BTS and decided to risk being stuck in traffic by riding a taxi. It took us about 45 minutes to reach Rot Fai, but it could have been a much longer ride.
We entered Rot Fai from the main entrance, flanking some Thai restaurants, a few bars, hairdressers and barber shops. A bunch of kids and teenagers were skating in a new skate park I didn’t notice on my previous visit. I was happy to see that the market was lively although not crowded.
THE FIRST SECTION
The first section of Rot Fai has shops selling modern clothes and bags, and popular Korean and Thai restaurants and cafes, some housed in containers, some in old train wagons and campers. Don’t be tricked into thinking that this is all the market is about, but keep going and explore the huge plot of land until you find more interesting sections.
Food stalls selling popular Thai street specialties are abundant, as are the ones selling insects, if you want to try something unusual for a Western palate.
One place I really like is an old style café selling juices, granitas, drinks and snacks in the first section: you will notice a bicycle with the Coca Cola logo and lots of old posters and advertising. Alice confirmed that this café looks exactly like the ones she used to buy her after school snacks when she was a little kid in the Seventies.
We had had dinner already, so we skipped the food stalls and headed directly to the second and third section of the market, where the car sellers and antique furniture shops are.
OLD STYLE AMERICA, BEATLES AND CARABAO
What makes Rot Fai Srinakarin stand out among all the other markets in Bangkok is the hard-to-find items located in the Warehouse and Rod’ Antiques sections of the market, such as 1950s Cadillacs and Volkswagen minibuses, old record players and juke boxes, tin kids cars and scooters, one-off vintage leather jackets and boots, 1960s Adidas sneakers and action figures combined with a few old style American diners and a Carabao and Beatles café. (Carabao is a Thai rock band, the Beatles are… well, I bet you know who they are).
This time I couldn’t find both the Carabao and Beatles venues, so it might be that they shut down during the pandemic, however most of all the other Road 66 style diners are still there and open. Gasoline pumps and rugged lamp posts and traffic lights give the place a ghostly atmosphere, like an abandoned mine city in the middle of a desert, somewhere in Arizona. An American bomber is set on a warehouse roof, its wings and cabin menacing above the stalls and shops.
At the Warehouse vendors are incredibly friendly and the array of products is astonishing, so we spent a long time there taking videos and photos. You’ll be surrounded by old cameras, Coca Cola , Ducati & Marlboro merchandise, ET puppets, household furniture, electronic equipment and shoes that will make you feel like you have been sucked into Netflix’s “Strangers Things”, then walk to Rod’s Antiques zone and you’ll be catapulted into another era, head first in a James Dean’s movie.
Some of the sellers are also collectors, always on the hunt for something original, so you never know what you’ll find next time.
A MIXED CROWD
What I couldn’t record on video, for copy right reasons, is the music coming from the shops: a good balance of Jazz from the Fifties, early rock’n’roll & old Thai folk songs. I couldn’t help but wanting to dance, there, among the piles of All Stars and Elvis’ records and life-size mannequins. And somebody was dancing.
This is what I like most about Rot Fai: the easy attitude of everyone involved, from the vendors to the customers, a crowd of friendly and chilled people that you don’t see often in tourist traps and bars downtown. Families with young children living in the area come to take their evening walk and dinner at the market, teenagers zig zag among the warehouses on bikes and skates, older people sit drinking a Chang and discussing the old cars and us, the foreigners, blend in the scene without attracting much attention.
Bargaining is expected at this market, yet the vintage items you’ll see displayed are guaranteed to be original, so don’t try too hard: if the price is high, it’s probably for a reason.
Even if you’re not an expert on vintage goods nor a fan, I promise that Rot Fai Srinakarin has an authentic charm and a friendly environment that you’ll end up loving. It’s far from downtown and you might struggle to find a taxi willing to bring you back to Asoke or Silom late at night, but the market really makes for a fun night out of the city centre and it’s a fantastic place to buy souvenirs.
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO ROT FAI MARKET
Hey there, what’s up?
It’s been a long long time since my last update, and a lot happened in the last 4 months.
At the end of July I decided to fly back to Europe to get vaccinated in my home country. It’s been great and also emotional to see some family members and friends after more than 2 years.
After getting my two shots, I even managed to travel to Denmark to spend a week in Copenhagen with a few friends. At that time (beginning of October) traveling around Europe was a breeze compared to travels in Asia. I only needed to show my Green Pass ( a certificate of vaccination) in order to board the plane and enter Denmark.
I enjoyed being a care free tourist again, trying new food, going to art exhibitions and discovering a new country. I even appreciated the cold and windy weather (for a short while!).
In Italy I spent most of the time eating and drinking at restaurants or family reunions, and caught up with my best friends.
However, it wasn’t all rosey. First, my mother broke a foot and had to wear a cast for almost two months, and then my beloved Birman cat Lila Grace, my soul mate for the past 17 years, died of sickness and age while I was at home.
She died peacefully in my arms, surrounded by the whole family, and I should be grateful for her long life and that she is now pain free, but the truth is it’s been devastating, and I’ll keep looking for her in any cat I meet, hoping to see her again, somewhere, somehow.
Thank you for being the most intelligent, affectionate friend ever, and for waiting for my return before living this world, Lila.
Bad things never come alone, and a very disappointing news reached me in Italy less than two weeks after I had left Thailand: my landlord decided to kick me out of the little house I had been renting in Klong Muang.
My two cats (and their pet sitter) were still living there at the time, waiting for my return, but the landlord didn’t want them to stay one day longer, and they had to move out to a temporary place.
The sudden reason for the eviction? The landlord got scared of Covid and emptied all his rental properties. There wasn’t much to discuss, I had to ask friends to host my cats and take care of them until my return.
My 3 and a half months in Europe went fast, and at the beginning of November I flew back to Thailand, looking forward to leave winter behind and to be reunited with my feline family.
Because I had already started the procedures for the Sandbox scheme, I had to book a hotel in Phuket for 7 nights, even if from November 1st the new Stop & Go scheme began, allowing foreign travellers from 62 countries to only sleep in Phuket one night before being free to travel elsewhere.
However, after all the stress I experienced in the past 3 months, I wasn’t upset of having to rest and relax in a hotel for a week; on the contrary, my mother and I 100% enjoyed our “forced” stay at Le Meridien Beach Resort in Karon Noi (best known as Relax Beach).
Paying for all the expenses related to the Sandbox wasn’t cheap: in order to enter Thailand through this scheme one needs:
to be fully vaccinated,
to book a 7 night stay in a SHA+ hotel
to pay for the transfer (airport to hotel)
to pay for two PCR tests (on arrival and on day 6th)
to have proof of an insurance specifically covering for Covid related expenses up to 100,000 US dollars.
Some of these requirements have been waved by now, but they were all in places when I entered Thailand, making it an expensive come back. However, it was time to be back, and I had a great week at Le Meridien.
As soon as I arrived in Krabi, I started looking for a new house.
Due to the lack of international tourists and long term tenants, there are many properties available at the moment, and prices are lower than what they used to be one year ago, so it wasn’t too difficult to find a bigger house at a convenient rate.
I had to give up a wonderful location right on the beach, and a single house where nobody disturbed me, however I’m happy with the new apartment in a condo with gym, pool and walking distance to the beach.
Now I have a guest room and a spare bathroom, and a kitchen that looks like a real European kitchen (not so common in Thailand!).
Now that I’m settled, I only miss one thing to get my life back on track: work.
We’re all struggling here in Krabi, several people I know had left for good, others went back to their home countries (or villages upcountry) not having a clue about when and how they will be back.
It’s depressing to see so many companies which were doing well before the pandemic shutting down and so many abandoned buildings falling in pieces.
A few tourists are back in Krabi and a few shops re-opened, but the recent outburst of a new Covid variant puts everything at stake, again.
It’s going to be another quiet high season, how quiet is still too early to say.
Hey, what's up? How is summer going in your country (or winter if you live in the Southern hemisphere)? Are the Covid restrictions easing where you live?
In Thailand, restrictions are increasing, despite all the public talks about the Phuket Sandbox project (basically, Phuket island reopened to vaccinated international tourists since July 1st).
In reality, Bangkok is again under a semi-lockdown (an unusual form of lockdown in which restaurants and cafes are closed for dine in, parks are closed, but shopping malls are allowed to operate almost as normal), more provinces have become red, new infections are in the thousands every day ( +9000 and something as yesterday) and vaccination is going very slow.
Not a rosey picture for a country which did really well for a year, but it's now facing its worst crisis since the beginning of the Covid 19 virus.
Krabi Province has been relatively untouched until now, however the combination of what we call Green Season (aka rainy season/ low season) and the Covid emergency created a very unprecedented situation: it's like being alive and kicking after a nuclear war, safe but shocked, unable to understand what happened for real.
I mean, of course we read the news, and it's pretty clear, here more than anywhere else, that foreign tourists are not going to come anytime soon, and domestic tourism is also 90% uncounted, the pandemic is not fading, and the country is struggling, but all the same we walk to the beach, swim, eat outside, go for a weekend picnic and enjoy the free time that usually come with the low season.
Only this time it's all that we are doing, and it's been like this for almost a year.
I've never really experienced a normal "low season", since I started to work in Krabi around August 2019, but what I'm experiencing now is good and bad at the same time. I like my long naps in the afternoon, I like to wake up and take it easy before starting the day, I like those silly moments I spend playing with my cats, Skyping with far away friends or just enjoying the breeze on the balcony.
If I learned anything from this pandemic is how much I value -and need- the extra off work time. We shouldn't spend most of our life working, we should be able to have a good balance and time to pursue our hobbies, too.
But it's not all good. Seeing entire communities struggling to meet month ends, and being myself at risk of facing money problems if Tourism doesn't restart soon, is painful and extremely destabilising.
I have such an enormous respect for the Thais, who seem so resilient and proud and never prone to complain. Once it became clear that the crisis wouldn't pass soon, they fled the touristic destinations where they had moved for employment and to start a new life and in great number went back to their villages and rice fields in the Deep South or the North East, only to be told that no help would come from the Government, and nobody could predict when the country will be ready to reopen.
But not all of them have a rice field or a support system to rely on. In big cities you now see crowds of homeless people sleeping and begging outside the MRT and Sky Train stations: they don't make the morning news, but they are many, and in great need. So, I have an enormous respect for these resilient people but, nevertheless, I feel like they have been too patient, and this should be the time to protest and find a way to be heard and supported by their Government.
As you can guess, I'm sad and worried and confused, torn between the soothing calmness and beauty of nature, and the everyday struggles brought by Covid 19. Sometimes I don't think I'm lucid, sometimes I get angry with myself for this tendency to complain, and sometimes I feel optimistic and happy - yes, even happy - for having been given the unexpected gift of time off work for such a long period.
Going back to the main topic of this post, my life in low season at Covid time, since almost a year, looks like this:
The alarm (which I still keep out of habit) rings between 7:15 and 7:30, but I'm usually awake before it because I sleep with the shutters partially open, and dawn comes early here in Krabi.
By the time the alarm goes off, I'm ready to jump off the bed (well, maybe not exactly jump...) and drag myself to the living room. My cats sleep in the bathroom, so the first thing I do is to open their door, say Hi and cuddle for 10 minutes.
Then I eat breakfast, consisting in a bowl of overnight oat porridge in cold milk to which I add a spoon of Nutella cream and half a sliced banana.
I eat while looking at the news or checking social media, sipping my hot Espresso or Americano.
After breakfast I like to take some time to relax: sometimes I answer text messages from friends in Europe, sometimes I watch Youtube videos, most days I play with the cats who are very excited and active in the morning.
Before getting ready, I brush the cats' fur and quickly wash bowls and cups.
My morning care routine is really basic: a 2 minute shower, then brush teeth, apply sunscreen on the face, neck and arms, put lipstick, massage some coconut oil on my hair ends. That's it. Quick and easy.
Getting dressed takes even less time, since I live by the sea, don't have to meet people for work, and the office is closed now. The "fanciest", closest town, Ao Nang, is a 15minute ride. So, it's shorts and t-shirt almost everyday for me.
By 10 am I reach the gym, a 5-minute ride from the house, where I spend a few hours, sometimes a bit more if the day is sunny and I decide to enjoy the spectacular outdoor swimming pools facing Klong Muang Beach.
The gym is inside a 5 star hotel, and, thanks to a really good Covid-deal, I now take advantage of a super cheap rate including the use of the gym and all the hotel facilities (tennis courts, squash and badminton courts, table tennis, Muay Thai ring, sauna and Turkish bath, pools and some Yoga, Zumba and Aerobic classes).
Joining the gym has really changed my life, since I was starting to become impossibly lazy and bitter, and wasting time doing nothing but feeling sad and restless.
Exercising is good for the body, but especially for the mind. I've become happier, days fly by and I don't spend time thinking about everything that is going bad in my life, focusing on what it's going well, instead.
After the gym and before going back home, I usually do some grocery shopping at 7/11 or markets nearby, just to buy the basics to cover lunch and dinner.
I like to eat a big lunch since I'm starving after gym, while I prefer to have only a light dinner at evening.
My favorite is always carbo: rice like Khao Pad Krapao (spicy rice with chicken or pork and Thai basil), rice and curry (like Massaman), or Pasta with Tomato , Cheese or Pesto sauce.
A few days a week I experiment new recipes like legume meatballs, a new hummus-like sauce, baked avocados or a new soup. I like to cook but I get bored easily if I don't try something new.
By 1.30 pm I sit for lunch, watching videos or reading online. After lunch, I wash dishes and pans, then turn on the air con in the bedroom and spend a few hours napping, cuddling with the cats or watching Netflix series.
About 4 pm I get up and drink my afternoon coffee, sometimes at home, sometimes at my boss' house, a 50 meter walk from my place. His wife is a superb cook, and 90% of the time coffee break becomes a cake and coffee appointment.
She is Thai but she likes to bake Western desserts as well. We sit and talk over coffee, commenting the news, Thai politics, Covid updates but also discussing work, when there's something important.
In a normal low season, we would still have customers coming to Krabi, and we would be visiting them at their hotels in the afternoon and evening to check about their stay, arrange their tours and help them having a great holiday. I would also have lots of emails to answer, and local suppliers to contact.
All this is not happening now, and that's why we have the luxury (but also the misery) to spend a whole hour over coffee and chit chats every day.
At around 5 pm I get back home and work at my laptop station (which is a pillow on the floor, in front of the fan, by the living room's coffee table ...).
These days it's mostly about posting content on social media or answering customers' messages from abroad. They ask questions about Thailand, about a future reopening, about the Phuket Sandbox plan, but they also ask about new routes and itineraries to book in the (hopefully near) future.
Some days I write this blog, some others I edit new videos (haven't done much in the last month, I confess).
Usually I'm done with work by 6 pm, and I spend the rest of the afternoon messaging friends, reading, watching the sunset on the beach behind my house, going for a walk or preparing dinner. I'm always behind on laundry or special cleanings, however I do try to do it, I swear!
At evening I Whatsapp or Skype with family and friends in Europe for about half an hour, then it's my cats' favourite part of the day, dinner time: I feed them first (cat wet food plus melon, they are both crazy for melon), then it's my turn.
Dinner is an easy business since I moved to Thailand: 5 days out of 7 I eat fruit (blended in a smoothie or full: mango, apples, papaya, melons, mangosteen or passion fruits, the choices are endless in this country!) or some veggies like cucumbers and tomatoes; leftovers are another option, and a couple of times per week I end up having dinner outside with friends.
My go-to places are Italian restaurants where I can have my weekly dose of Pizza, but I also have a few Thai favorite restaurants or the Irish Embassy for burgers and beers. I desperately miss Mexican food, but there is none available at the moment in Krabi. After dinner, I watch movies and play with the cats until it's time to go to bed.
I know it might sound weird, but they have been sleeping in the bathroom since they were kittens because they are serial killers who would destroy the house trying to catch geckos and other insects at night if I didn't keep them in a confined space.
They are used to that room, where they have all their stuff, and love to go in there after their evening cat-snack.
I go to bed myself around 10.30 pm, since I love to read for an hour in bed. By 11.30 pm my lights are off.
Quite a boring routine, you are probably thinking by now. And I agree.
But the truth is: I got used to it, and after struggling with the downsides of Covid for several months, I've come to accept this unexpected extra time for introspection and quietness, and the little gifts that come with it: sipping coffee without having to look at the clock, loosing myself in contemplation of the clouds and the birds outside, sleeping without worrying not to hear the alarm, not having to make plans, but going with the flow.
This is a typical, average day in my life now, but the truth is no day is exactly like the other. Sometimes I go for a swim in the ocean instead of going to the gym, some mornings I cook ragù for hours, listening to my favourite music from the Nineties, other mornings I bring my laptop to a panoramic or beach café where I spend a long time writing or reading.
National parks are closed at the moment, and travelling to other provinces is restricted, and that's why I'm not taking advantage of Phi Phi or Hong Islands or I'm not going to travel domestic, but even if they were open, money is becoming an issue and I try to stick to activities which don't cost much.
My budget per day, and I'm sure some of you will be shocked but I assure you it's manageable, even with two hungry cats in the house, is 400 THB, all included.
If there's anything that I learnt in the past year is that I can be happy being minimalistic -not the You Tube fancy minimalist who lives in an empty white flat in central Manhattan- but as a normal person who is learning that less is often better than more.
Checking my bank account balance often, sticking to a daily budget that I can control through an APP, buying food everyday instead of wasting it or throwing it away, taking advantage of the subscriptions I've already got and the wireless package I already pay are my ways of fighting the crisis, and they are working.
What is your daily life like during the Covid pandemic? Has it changed? Is there anything that you have started appreciating or that you value more than before?
Let’s start by saying that I tried very hard to make a list of 10 things, but I couldn’t find so many. And that's the reason for the weird number 8.
1- Road safety : there’s none, unfortunately. Thais drive super fast or super slow, and are often distracted and careless behind the wheel.
It’s common to see an entire family squeezed on a motorbike: father, mother and two or three young kids, and nobody’s wearing a helmet. People travel as passengers in the trunk of pick up trucks, or transport their forniture or live stocks without any safety precaution.
Roads are poorly lit at night, and wild life and street dogs are abundant, which adds to the dangers of driving in the Kingdom. Thailand has one of the world’s deadliest rate of road accidents, and the number has been decreasing in the past year only because of Covid restrictions: lockdowns meant less people on the road, therefore the dropping in deadly accidents.
2- Bureaucracy: applying for a visa, renewing a visa, getting a Thai ID or a driving license can be a very painful and long process in Thailand.
The rules are endless, and more often than not different from one province to the other, sometimes from one office to the other or depending on the employee you have to deal with.
The more you try to comply to the rules, the more the rules get confused or absurd. It’s the price to pay to live in paradise, I guess.
What I learnt from dealing with Thai bureaucracy is: dress neatly, be polite, never rise your voice, and always be prepared for the worst.
3- Traffic. When I was working in Bangkok, it took me 2 to 3 hours to travel from my house in On Nut to Minburi, less than 15 km apart, every day. 2 to 3 hours per way.
I had to wake up at 4.45 every morning and get on the bus by 5.30 if I wanted to reach my work place by 7:30.
The same in the late afternoon, with a commuting that required the combination of a songthaew, a bus, a ferry-boat, another songthaew and a 15 minute walk past construction sites and underpasses per trip.
Traffic in Bangkok is madness, despite the improvement that is coming with the building of more BTS and MRT lines. And it’s not only Bangkok: try driving in Phuket and Nakhon or even in Ao Nang at peak hour in high season, and you’ll see.
No surprise that in 2016 Thailand ranked first as the world’s most congested country for traffic!
l4- Fish sauce. I don’t eat fish nor seafood so I’m already suspicious of anything from the sea coming in my plate. However, the reason I don’t like fish sauce -nam pla in Thai language- is not as noble as you may think, but purely “olfactory”: fish sauce smells terrible.
If you only eat at restaurants or take away food, you might not have noticed it, but try to pour it into a hot pan, like Thais do for most of their recipes, and smell the air.
To me that smell is way worst than Durian. Of course I eat fish sauce (it would be a hard life trying to survive in Thailand avoiding it at all cost, since it is actually used in most Thai soups, noodles, curries, stir-frays dishes even when it’s not listed on the menu), but only when it’s already cooked and mixed with the other ingredients, and only if it’s in reasonable amount.
But what is fish sauce? The basic ingredients are fish, water and salt. The fish is usually anchovies, but it can also be shrimp or mackerel.
The fermentation process for a good fish sauce can last two years. To me it tastes extremely fishy and salty, but sometimes it’s diluted with lime juice and other ingredients that balance the flavour.
Surprisingly, Thailand is not the leading consumer of fish sauce in the world: the first place goes to Vietnam, with Phu Quoc Island being one of the main producers of fish sauce in all Asia.
5- Snakes, snakes, and more snakes. There are over 200 species of reptiles in Thailand, many poisonous, and they don’t live only in the jungle, as you may think.
Have a look at social media platforms like Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and TikTok: it’ full of videos of snakes trespassing into properties, in Bangkok almost as often as in smaller cities and country villages.
Humans invaded their space, cutting trees and building villages and cities where it used to be forest, so snakes now live among us. You can see them crossing the road (or smashed on the road after being hit by vehicles), inside shops and restaurants, at the beach, in the water.
And you hear scary stories from friends, like the guy who was showering inside his bathroom when he realised that, in a corner, a few feet away, a king cobra was staring at him. Some other friends had their dog killed by Malayan pit vipers or banded kraits or cobras in their garden.
Given that I have an irrational, absolute repulsion of snakes, I chose the wrong country to settle down, guaranteed.
If, unlike me, you are fascinated by snakes, join an online communities such as the “All About Thailand Snakes” group on Facebook, there are several expert members who seem to now a lot about the snakes of Thailand.
6-The environmental abuse and waste: despite the recent campaigns and bans on plastic bags, Thais use an enormous amount of plastic.
Everything is wrapped in plastic, then packed in a second plastic bag, and if you buy a drink in a supermarket a plastic straw (often 2) is placed in your bag without you even asking for it.
Plus, it’s quite common to see families gathering for picnic at parks and beaches, then leaving all their garbage behind, or throwing it in a corner so that street dogs and various animals will have an easy job scattering everything around.
The result is that waste from plastic use (but not only plastic) is a serious problem in the country and a threat to the natural environment and fragile co-system.
Add that in some provinces, especially in the North, the air is so polluted at certain times of the year that people have to leave for other regions, or stay inside their homes all day with filtered air. Chiang Mai won the infamous award for most polluted city in the world. I mean, CHIANG MAI, MOST POLLUTED city in the world. That’s crazy!
7- Dual pricing standards for foreigners and Thais. This is something that affects many countries, but I experienced it in Thailand more than anywhere else.
As a faràng, the Thai word for foreigner, you are considered rich, privileged and somehow a villain, and they’ll make you pay for it. I would accept a slight difference, but in many places (the more touristic the place, the higher the dual pricing applied) it is more than 2 or 3 times the normal price, even if you explain that you live in the country, earn a Thai salary and pay tax.
I understand that Thailand having not experienced the multiculturalism of Europe and the US, it still has a “Thai way” of doing things, however it is sometimes sad and frustrating to be treated so differently when you have been living in the country for a long time, and you are trying your best to blend in and feel welcomed.
Speaking the local language can help, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t. But in a way, I always try to remind myself that this dual pricing policy is also connected with one of the characteristics which is so fascinating about Thailand: Thais feel a profound national pride, patriotism and self-identification with the flag and the country.
So, no matter what price you pay as a foreigner living in Thailand, you are and will always be perceived as an alien. Deal with it, or go home.
8-Animal exploitation: elephants, monkeys and other wild life are used as forced employment in palm and coconut plantation, trunk transportation and tourist attractions. Some live their whole life in chains and cages, some are beaten and mistreated, and even though things are changing, and several animal welfare associations and volunteers are fighting for the health and freedom of the animals, animal exploitation is still happening.
Around 6,500 elephants live in Thailand today, with around 2,500 of them being caught from the wild.
When you travel to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, or visit the tropical islands, choose your excursions and tours carefully, do inquire about how animals are treated, and never, ever go to an “Elephant park” or “Sanctuary” that offers elephant rides, or “boxing elephants, painter elephants”, “monkey dance” and so on.
These animals are not painters and dancers in nature, so how do you think they learnt those “funny” tricks? You can still have an opportunity to see elephants and monkeys, just visit a rehabilitation center or take part in an eco-tour that brings you to the jungle to observe them in the wild.
Although I have always hated animal parks, zoo or going to the Circus, I confess that on my first holidays in South East Asia in the Nineties I did ride elephants, and I even visited a Chiang Mai park where you can pet tiger cubs and giant, old tigers, and have your photo taken with them.
I didn’t know, or I didn’t want to know, how those places worked. I was young, stupid, naive. And I regret it. It was several years ago, animal exploitation wasn’t even in the news, but I did learn from my mistakes and I’m determined not to repeat them, and to help other travellers not to fall in the traps.
Animal abandonment, illegal hunting, animal fighting are another face of the same coin, all still happening in Thailand.
Cock fighting is still permitted under the recent "Prevention of Animal Cruelty and Provision of Animal Welfare Act" of 2014, and quite common in villages and during religious festivals.
Here’s a list of Animal welfare organisations operating in Thailand, have a look or contact them if you want to know more about their work, or even donate to the cause.
And here they are, my main reasons for not always liking Thailand. What about yours, if you do have any?