Thailand: Things That Travel Guides Don't Tell You

By @Kavya |

What happens when you put two software engineers –the usual dime a dozen ones; frustrated, overworked and convinced that they are put on earth to serve a much higher purpose than the computer stuff- on an IM conversation? They rant about work and debate on who is more unfortunate. A recent experiment showed that if you do that every day, in about 2 years these engineers will pack their bags and board a flight to Bangkok. And that, dear readers, is the story of how I found myself in Thailand in the company of an equally bored software engineer.

I set off with the quintessential backpacker guide- Lonely planet, a backpack and just enough Thai Bahts to last a few days. As helpful as the guide book was, there is a lot it doesn’t tell you.

For starters the good folks at Lonely Planet don’t tell you that there is really nothing lonely about that part of the planet. It doesn’t tell you that being an Indian doesn’t automatically grant you immunity to the multitude of stomach bugs as you thought it would. It does mention the extremely friendly swindlers but it doesn’t dwell on how difficult it is to shake off the walk and talk variety of the above. Don’t expect to find a mention of the pink eggs you find all over Thailand. Multiple attempts at getting a satisfactory explanation from the locals ended up being colossal failures. I tried the time tested technique of pointing at the egg and twisting my hand’s into the universal sign language for what. And I always got 10 baht as the answer. There are more unanswered question involving exotic looking fruits and mysterious snacks

Clockwise from top left: Pink eggs, fried locust, weird fruit and mysterious snack

The backpacker bible doesn’t tell you that just because something is spelled with a ph doesn’t mean that it is pronounced as ‘f’. You learn that when you lose face trying to bargain a ride to ‘fi fi’ islands. There is no mention of the immensely popular and entertaining tour guides on the one day tours to the islands near Phuket(yep it is poo-ket) like the elfin guy who called himself ‘Rock’. “Dawn forgeh your maneey and your haanney on my four enjun bot eh?� in his unbearably cute accent made us laugh so hard that it gave me stomach cramps for rest of the trip.

LP doesn’t warn you that a backpack and listless wandering (outside Bangkok) will often elicit a ‘you come here to be like the bitch?’ question. I could not, for all the lemon grass in Thai food, figure out what about me offended them until someone started talking at length about the movie ‘the bitch’ with Leonardo Di Caprio. Nothing you read could prepare you for being dragged in by arm to watch a ping pong show at Patpong market. It doesn’t prepare you to hide the shock when you get the question “Do you want hot Indian men?� from the street side vendor who just served you spicy phad thai.

There is a lot that a guide book cannot even start describing.-The feeling of utter nausea and elation after you sample your first fried locust; the trepidation and fear when you stand at the edge of a bungee platform; the joy of free fall and flight; The moment of hesitation before you reject the offered joint of pot on Khao San; The relief when you finally hitch a ride from the middle of nowhere to civilization; The disgusting taste of Chang and Singha beers…

A Sign to Sum up Bangkok. Click for a slide show

Thailand is a lot of things to a lot of people. According to the 80 baht  T-shirts sold at Banglamphu market, it is  the land of golden faces and golden places. It is what your mother warned you about as the next T shirt says. It is the “bee knees for getting some� according to a stoned dude on Khao San Road. For me it will, however, remain a typographic wonderland first (Don’t forget to check out the Slideshow) and then a backpacker’s worst nightmare and paradise rolled into one. Kapunka Thailand!

PS: Thanks to people who enlightened me. The pink fruit is called dragon fruit.

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