Monday, July 30, 2012

Italians in Thailand/3: more on the seafront clique - Pattaya

Continued from here

And then there are non sex-related scams as well.

- "What did you say? Your visa is about to expire? No problem at all, we can arrange a return trip to the Cambodian border. It won't take more than two, three days at most. You pay us and we'll take care of everything...great, isn't it?" And then it's all a sequence of inflated prices: transportation, accommodation, immigration procedures, duty free, casino, meals, revelries, imitation Viagra and, if one cannot stay away from them even for a couple of nights, more hookers, just to have a taste of Khmer culture as well, besides the Thai one, because after all you don't get to know the world just by listening to what other people say, looking at it from behind a car window or reading a few pages of a travel guide: you need first hand experience, meeting the locals...that's the secret!
"Give me two more boxes of that generic Viagra then..."
I suppose that the whole trip will cost him no less than 10000 to 15000 baht (about 300-500 USD), but it might be much more depending on the vices the dupe will indulge on. If he only knew that various agencies in town organize visa runs by minivan, leaving at 6am and returning at about 3 pm on the same day, for a total of just 2000 baht (70 USD), including the Cambodian visa. They would only need to know ten English words. Or the help of an honest Italian, of course...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Italians in Thailand/2: the seafront clique - Pattaya

If you haven't done it yet you can read this propaedeutic post before you proceed.

"They are wretches, living hand to mouth. They loaf around the dolphins statue and are often arguing over one baht (equivalent to 1/30 of a dollar, or 3.3 cents, Fabio's note)"
That's how S' story starts. Not because this is the first thing he told me but as this is the most accurate and to the point description that he managed to give me of those scoundrels. Few key words with heavy implications: wretches, hand to mouth, loaf around, arguing, one baht.
Among the waves of the rough sea of faults that I've always tried to fight back, one of the few qualities I know I can count on is that of making people who have a story to tell trust me. Perhaps it's because I have never turned anybody down and people can feel that I don't have any intention to use their words against them: vibrations that reach their hearts, brains, souls - or whatever the element is where these sensors are hidden - and reassure them. Because S has got a whole sack of manure to empty: he has carried it around on his shoulder for too long but he doesn't want to unload it in front of someone who will use it to throw excrement at him. I only intend to take a look at it, maybe a little sniff so that I can tell you about it, but I definitely don't wanna handle it and hurl it at his face. That's why for the whole length of the story S will simply be called S. Which is not the initial of his name but of the word someone, just someone. And I will be very careful not to disclose any information that might lead to his identification, even though he did provide lots of details about himself and his past, some of them rather embarrassing. This post only wants to tell a (nasty) series of stories that in five or six years happened not only to S but to other Italians he met, and who knows to how many other people. And hopefully to forewarn those who might fall into the same traps. That's all. Here are the stories then...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Neglected promenade - Pattaya, Thailand

Pattaya's promenade could really be a nice place. Its wide walkway where one can stroll, jog or sit down and watch the bay, its palm trees and the colorful multi-ethnic turmoil behind. Even the scant depth of the beach, only a few meters, from this point of view can become an enriching element in the composition of the picture: those looking at the sea will enjoy the deceptive impression of a single-phase horizontal plane that, although veined and streaked with ripples and shades, within the macro-element framework (water, sky, headlands and hills) appears pretty much like a uniform body, with hues that depending on the hour and the weather conditions can vary from dirty sleet to rhino armor, passing through the various standard gradations of flask glass and summer alpine sky.
It could be a nice place, indeed. But it turns out to be one of the most decadent (if not even degraded) areas of Pattaya, which in turn is one of the most decadent cities in South East Asia. One should wonder why the authorities have decided to loosen their grip on it to such an extent, to ignore it altogether in a way, when there already are lots of red light districts in town, catering to vice lovers of various kind, and this area could be the perfect haven for the innocent side of the city tourism.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Italians in Thailand/1: the restaurateurs

Brain drain, one of the various plagues that have hit Italy in the last few years. Actually I think that it only hit the Italian media world, as scientists, economists, physicians, engineers, architects, artists and professionals in any sector have been leaving Italy to seek their fortune elsewhere for decades, maybe centuries. Not all of them, of course, but not just a few either.
I'm definitely not one of them. Maybe my brain did leave indeed, not Italy though, if it really left some place...that was my skull! At least that's what many people who know me affectionately thought after some of my reckless decisions.
Anyway, these waves of gray matter, unlike the oceanic ones of the 2004 tsunami, haven't hit the coasts of Thailand yet. Instead of highly gifted brains Italy sends over here swifts legs, delicate hands, sensitive fingers and extra fine taste buds: chefs, restaurant owners and managers, these are the professions that offer career opportunities for those Italians who want to move to Bangkok, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Phuket.
We're definitely not talking about a uniform host of good food professionals here. Personally I have identified four macro categories, probably still subdivisible into smaller groups, sometimes overlapping, with blurred edges and fluid definitions. Here they are:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cinnamon cappuccino - Bangkok, Thailand

A few days ago I was served a cappuccino with cinnamon powder sprinkled on top. I asked if they happened to have some nutmeg as well but they advised me against it: with cappuccino it's not a good match - those experts claim - unlike cinnamon, of course. And I should also have paid a surcharge, whereas cinnamon was totally free. Checkmate: at that point the only thing I could do was thank them.

Photo by Bao Tri | P h o t o g r a p h y (CC)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Free time by-product

A few years ago, when I suddenly found myself with an increased dose of free time at hand, I instinctively started to use the increment to do the things I liked the most. As soon as my enthusiasm started to dwindle though, I realized that I was unconsciously undertaking another project as well.
There are no longer any doubts: I was born with lots of shortcomings. As the years went on they grew up with me, becoming heavier and ever more cumbersome. As if that weren't enough then, others were added to the list of the congenital ones. For a very long time I didn't take care of them: when I was a teenager I was too busy trying to fit in with the world that surrounded me and later I found myself entangled in a skein of activities that, even though I had chosen to do them myself, felt as if they had been somehow forced upon me.
When I gave most of that up and had more free time to rely on I almost unintentionally started to identify those aspects of my personality that I didn't like or were giving me problems, especially in relation to other people, and I tried to tackle them, to come up with a way to fix them, or at least to smooth them down. I don't wanna boast about having so far been very successful, but at least I can say that I've started to try. 
Started to sounds like a tiny, almost insignificant goal. And maybe it is...but only after you've achieved it.

Photo "Montmartre" by John Althouse Cohen (CC)