Last night in Thailand. Hopefully just for now. Tomorrow morning, we get on a plane from Krabi Town, head back to Bangkok, then over to Cambodia. We’re currently in Krabi as I write this.
I’m nervous and excited simultaneously, but I guess I’ll get back to that in a bit. I should probably fill you in on the last couple days.
Unlike anywhere else we’ve been, we really explored the crap out of Koh Lanta. After a bout of food poisoning (we guess), Jay feels up to renting another scooter and exploring the east side of the island, where apparently you can see the real, genuine, way of Thai living. According to a guide book, this is evident in a place called Old Town.
To our disappointment, Old Town should be called Tourist Town as here everything is shaped for tourists. It’s tiny and quaint, but I guess the years of tourists trying to sneak a peek has made people decide it’s more profitable to cater to these onlookers.
This idea is somewhat backed up when, as we’re leaving our resort, we ask the owner, Mr. Mat, what the main business is here on Koh Lanta and Thailand. His answer? Tourism.
We go further south along the eastern coast to something called ‘Gypsey Village.’ These are sea gypseys, and nothing to do with the gypseys North Americans see them as. Here, it has something to do with religion and an old way of life. The guidebook says to keep in mind some respect, as this is their home we’re going to.
The guidebook was right and it was wrong. These are people’s homes, complete with them living, doing their daily routines, raising children, getting by. In that regard, the guidebook was right. It was wrong in that this place shouldn’t be in the guidebook. It’s like if your living room became advertised as a tourist spot and anyone could come in whenever they wanted. These are people’s homes. They’re doing their daily routines, raising their children, etc. These are people living their lives. They’re not there to be gawked at.
I felt I was backstage at a circus, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.
You go to a circus to watch people perform. You’re entertained, you laugh, you’re left in awe. The performers are exactly that – performers. There’s an understanding there, an unwritten contract. They are there to entertain you, yes. But it’s on their terms.
You don’t go behind the curtain to be entertained, unless you’re invited. They’re not on the clock anymore, and the show is over. What you see is the exhausted clown taking off the makeup, the tiger going to sleep in its cage, and the trapeze artist rubbing aching joints.
The Gypsey Village is the people behind the curtain without the performers ever knowing there was a circus tent to begin with, or that they’re performers.
You can see it in their eyes that they’re uncomfortable with you being there, but you can also see how tired they are and how beaten down they seem from the tourists looking at them. It felt like exploitation.
All for tourism.
Jay and I quickly turn around and leave. We didn’t take pictures.
I’ll talk more about our adventures in Koh Lanta in the next few posts.