Friday, September 24, 2010

The Thailand Full Moon Party: A Douche-umentary

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I was going to title this post “The Asshole Compendium” until this jerk threatened to sue me. So instead, I’ll just call it what it is. A bestiary of hoodlums.

In preface, Thailand is often a truly infuriating place to travel since it has become so difficult to engage with people outside the prescribed “tourist/local” relationship. I find that Thailand usually serves to make me feel lousy about myself, since the minute I step off the plane I am bombarded with shrieks and howls from large crowds of taxi drivers who don’t even bother to be subtle or insinuating about their assumption that what I need, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, at ONE IN THE MORNING, is to have sex with a compromised or underage individual; to buy boatloads of illicit or psychedelic substances; to drink 100 proof alcohol of indeterminate origin out of a plastic bucket, or to watch some hollow eyed waif with an opioid dependency perform unthinkable acts with a ping pong ball. To the rhythm of the live version of “Hotel California.”

And I resent those assumptions. We would all like to consider ourselves the kind of travelers that can just intrinsically feel respect and esteem for the people and customs we encounter in foreign countries. We all like to think of ourselves as compassionate, polite individuals who see others as human first, who never lose patience with others as a result of cultural differences, who don’t experience the extremities of culture shock, who never, ever, under ANY circumstances, catch ourselves uttering or even thinking the words “THESE PEOPLE…” We would all like to think that as tourists, we are good representatives of our own culture, ambassadors to the world.

All of that falls apart completely in a place like Thailand. There wouldn’t be so many people assuming YOU want those things if there weren’t legions of individuals who look just like you that actually DO want them.  You can resent it as much as you want, but the following individuals depicted herein ARE those ambassadors. These are the people who lead the way, who represent YOU, regardless of your sustainable travel wardrobe, your affinity for destinations off the beaten track, your repeated attempts to learn a few respectful phrases in the native language – THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE.  Enjoy them here, because encountering them in the real world is like getting someone else’s cold water enema right in the face.

As an Ethicist, I am compelled to point out that the following pictures were obtained occasionally by deception, without explicit verbal or written consent, and that in truth every subject of every photo is probably a potential poster child for reduced capacity.

But that’s what I love about the internet! And so I present to you, without further ado,

THE ROLODEX OF ANIMATE HANDJOBS. 

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Ah, the full moon party. Koh Phangan is a small island off the coast of Thailand, famous for one thing only. A huge crowd of drunk lunatics getting obliterated on a beach.  And in one way, this party truly reinforces the small world philosophy, much like hands across the world, here we see the proof that we’re never too far from home.

Because assholes on drugs are the same EVERYWHERE.

Thailand’s official stance on drugs is that they are illegal. This is hilarious. That statement has about as much veracity as the purported intent of the full moon party itself:

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  • keeping the area clean
  • providing advice for visitors
  • helping in case (ED. NOTE: In case of WHAT?!)
  • ensuring that you feel safe and enjoy your stay in Haadrin (ED. NOTE: HA! HA! HA!)

This is the biggest load of bullshit I have EVER seen in my whole life. In the first place, this “area” is the most revolting place I have ever been. This is an “area” in which people actually DEFECATE IN THE OCEAN IN PUBLIC (not pictured). UNABASHADLY.  This is an “area” flanked on the terminal ends by a line of men urinating into the water and onto the beach. There are oases of vomit, beer, rum and worse (also not pictured)creating a foul ecosystem of pestilent tide pools in the sand.

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keeping the area clean.

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providing advice for tourists.

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helping in case?

BUT WAIT:

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be safe! Enjoy your stay!

Until you become dog, I guess.

for pickpockets, this party is like those scenes on game shows where they lock a contestant in a phone booth and then there’s a tornado of money. Only in this case the money is drunk.

And to return to my point about the drugs, they are RAMPANT. In all honesty, most of them are bunk – hundreds of sketchy agents furtively sell fake ecstasy and then vanish into the crowd. Restaurants for days preceding the party sell bags of marijuana, mushrooms and acid. Police officers stationed conveniently up the road from the restaurants search your bags, confiscate your drugs, and negotiate exorbitant bribes up to 1000 U.S. dollars. (Please note that this is not an autobiographical experience.)  There is little to no police presence at the party itself, since drugs provide a significant source of income for the island, and if there were no drugs, there could be no bribes. There are no measures in place to discourage drug use, which would in fact be detrimental to everyone. Except perhaps these dudes.

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special thanks to my mutt reporters (I think it’s pretty clear who they are) who helped make this picture possible.

Aside from booze and drugs, body painting is probably the biggest revenue generator at the full moon party.

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In all fairness I think this last one was probably done for free by a drunk person.

Then there are the hats. These are all bad hats. There is no excuse for purchasing these hats and then wearing them to a place. Unless you’re going to a theme party, and the theme of that party is “COMPREHENSIVE SHIT BAGS AS DEFINED BY HATS.”

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don’t wear this hat.  

IMG_3248 LOOK AT THIS PRINCE. This is the number one dude of all the dudes that represent at this party.

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NOT HATS.

 

 

 

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Yet another nice capture by my minion assistants. What a prize!!!

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This dude is pretty much the worst dude. This picture would run on the cover of National Geographic if National Geographic was actually a magazine about people that suck instead of a magazine about lions looking angrily at the landscape.

Here is a nice little collection of jerks.

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I can’t even begin to list all the reasons that this guy is probably the biggest dick in the world because it’s just too exhausting to even contemplate trying to be thorough.

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No.

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No.

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what the hell is this bullshit? While still a douche, this man is yet highly incongruous. I include him because he was there, even if I’m not sure why.

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I tried to make an assumption about what was happening here but then I had a stroke.

Conversely, here is the only possible way to dress up for this party without making me write a bitchy caption for your photo.

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Awesome.

I consider this post one of the most instructional that I have written, since the hurt and confusion that inevitably results from stereotyping tourists are significant factors for people when they evaluate their travel experience. And so when I complain that I dislike Thailand, that I had a terrible time, that the way people treat tourists there is offensive and degrading, let me also be the first to say that this is not the fault of the people of Thailand. And when you go to a place, and you have an awful time, and you get ripped off, and mocked, and driven to a whorehouse instead of a hotel, think back on this little wildlife guide and realize that these are the archetypes who perpetuate these stereotypes, these are the scourge of the tourist, the plague of the sightseer, the blot that will overwhelm and efface all of your attempts to meet locals on a common ground.  These are far better and more appropriate targets for your frustration and fury.

These are pretty much the dudes who wreck it for all of us.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Toilets Galore!

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This is a post about toilets. It is arguably the most disgusting post I have ever written. Some people may have been put off by the rabbit head, or the bee larvae, but those dudes are amateur hour compared to some of the bathrooms I have seen. So I warn you right now that while some of these toilets are funny, and some of them are interesting, and at least one of them is kind of cool, this is after all a blog post about toilets, with pictures, and I am repeating this because as an ethicist I am big on informed consent and if you do not want to look at pictures of bathrooms in the third world, that will not affect the quality of the treatment you receive in future at this blog and you are entirely within your rights to opt out of reading this post at any time.

That being said, Toilets. IMG_1643

As if there are actual standards. This is a completely made up award, and as such why would you only award yourself two stars?At least they’re honest.

Toilets.

They are an integral part of every day life, for every one.  They are something we all have in common. It’s like they all bring us closer together, every time we use one. And using the toilet in China is a lot like holding hands with 1.3 billion people.

Hands that are never, ever washed.

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This is pretty much your typical Chinese bathroom. You have the squat toilet, the waste paper basket, and the sink that drains straight onto the floor. The toilet is flushed by pouring water down the mouth from the bucket.

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This little prize in Yunnan actually has a flush function, one that sprays water upwards in a filthy geyser all over the 3 square feet of space allotted to you.

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This bathroom in Sichuan was “UNDER CONSTRUCTION” and so makes the honor roll for most horrendous place you could possibly pee. The bathroom is separated from the rest of the bar by a plastic sheet, and you mount to the toilet stall on crumbling mortar.  There is no sink. There is a plank of wood laid down so you don’t sink into the mud. Why is there mud if it’s indoors?

Don’t let’s ask that question.

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IMG_2604This place wins the prize for most creative use  of wooden vessels.  In an extremely small space, this Kunming restaurant managed to fit a urinal, a toilet and a sink, complete with a reasonable amount of charm, if such an attribute could ever in good faith be applied to a toilet. There was a mechanized flush, and everything! (Except of course toilet paper, but you learn that lesson early. You can’t expect everything. )

How does a tiny place like this stay so clean?

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These bars are freaking serious about this. The sewer systems are not particularly advanced, even in big cities like Kunming, and any obstruction can cause a catastrophic sewage apocalypse. 100 kuai is about 15 USD.

Some public toilets, such as the one at the Sichuan Opera, have bathroom attendants who are paid to live in the bathroom and make sure it is acceptable.

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The attendant pictured below has an actual dormitory room in the ladies restroom. The attendant pictured above was about the size of my thumb and does not get paid.

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holy shit, a dude lives in the bathroom, y’all. That might be all the perspective I need for the rest of my life.

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This place in Xishuangbanna was a real beauty. There is no toilet. There is not even a hole. There is a drain in the floor in the far corner, and you use water from a bucket outside to wash the aftermath down. The best part about this bathroom is that there are no lights, and once you close the door it is pitch black. When you need to go, the guy who owns the bar gives you his cell phone flashlight, and you just try your best. These are the kind of experiences that truly test the character of mankind. And the bladder.

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This is a fabled toilet tent in Guilin. Erected out of canvas and wooden stakes, an actual porcelain squat toilet is partially buried in the dirt over a hole.  And they want your money to use it.

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One of the coolest and creepiest toilets of the trip was a bathroom in a ridiculously expensive restaurant in Beijing.

The stall doors are horsehair, and the inside is a double paned mirror.

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So you can spend the entirety of your micturition watching yourself be valeted by an offensive caricature of a Chinese servant.

Awesome.

Also immediately after you use it an ancient old crone who looks like she gets paid in babushkas wipes down everything that you touch and refolds the towels, muttering.  She did this even though we were the only people in the restaurant.

Train toilets range from the acceptable to the horrifying.

IMG_3468 you are damn lucky if you get a metal sit toilet. For the most part, train bathrooms are comprised of a door that has no latching mechanism, leading to a suffocating chamber housing a rusted squat toilet and at least an inch of FLUID on the corrugated floors.  I am unable to post a picture of this end of the train bathroom gamut, because for some reason, whenever you get a bathroom that terrible, the train is ticketed for standing room only, which means that the bathroom is filled with people who treat it like a luxury compartment. If you have to actually USE the toilet, God Forbid, it takes about ten minutes to clear all the people out, and then an old lady will shake her fist at you.

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not NEARLY as sanctified as it looks.

One of the hill tribe villages we stayed in (more on that later) did not have a single bathroom in any of the fifty or so houses. Instead, everyone hikes up a really slippery, muddy hill to use the public toilet.  At least that’s what they said. I’m pretty sure they just went in the barnyard.

Finally, the absolute WORST bathroom of he trip.

Worse than the cement bomb cellar.

Worse than the semi-public mud hole under construction.

Worse than any foetid trench toilet in the Sichuan slums.

Worse than the Spider.

To outward appearances, this toilet is not significantly worse than any other revolting public hole in a remote backwoods outpost.

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Mouldering walls, an assassinating stench, fluid on the floors, all that comes standard.

But I would rather be forced into the indignity of these:

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Than be forced to use that hole again. In fact, I got up before dawn so that no one would see me pee in the street rather than go back there.

I am situating this photo so you are forced to scroll way down to see it, since I don’t want any whining about not warning you.

It has never been cleaned.

I seriously mean that about never.

Like, not EVER.

As in, the waste rises in soggy peaks above the rim of the hole like the burgeoning tips of a nightmarish meringue.

I should probably have you sign something before you scroll down.

 

 

 

 

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now picture it moving.

AAAAAAAAUUUUUGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

MAGGOT TOILET

AAAAAAAAAAAAAUUHHHGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

THIS POST IS OVER BECAUSE YOU PROBABLY DIED FROM LOOKING AT THAT.