Thailand - Part 4

8:02am 30th September 2005
Well, a lot has happened in the days since I last updated my journal. We've been spending the majority of our time in Pattaya, a relatively new city that was made famous in the Vietnam War, when it was used as an official R&R center for the US military. It boasts some of the most beautiful tropical areas on the planet. After exploring, it is immediately clear why this area was chosen as the setting for the movie "The Beach", featuring Leonardo Di Caprio and telling of the search for paradise on Earth. There are many ancient fishing villages along the nearby coast and here you will find some of the oldest and most popular scuba diving sites in Asia.

By now we have made friends with many of the shopkeepers, the restaurant staff and a lot of the local residents. This is truly a different world to the one that I live in at home. The differences are so stark that one can't help but be taken aback. People's attitudes and their way of life is so different that I feel like I'm on another planet. One thing I noticed that really floored me was the breadth of ideological availability. There are people visiting here from all over the world, and all are catered for. There are swastikas as pendants and on t-shirts, posters with Fidel Castro looking heroic, shirts with anti-US slogans and the now-defunct hammer and sickle from the former USSR. Even Osama Bin Laden had a spot with his signature raised index finger looking as deadly as ever. But right next to them were icons from western bloc politics such as the common CIA, SWAT and FBI shirts representing the west's most respected law enforcement bodies, images of recognizable military hardware like the famous F-16 fighter aircraft and the almost indestructible Nimitz class aircraft carrier, and, of course, the good ol' stars and stripes. I spoke to a shopkeeper who told me that just about all items sold including the one with Adolf Hitler on it. My own personal feelings on the matter aside, I guess it just goes to show the extent of the phrase "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". One of the lecturers I had in law school said to me one of the very few things I heard at university that I consider valuable. He said "Everything is political. Oh, and everything is relative." Seeing a shirt with swastikas on sale for the price of a can of Pepsi rammed home just how true that statement is. It's a pity he said that to me in an after-class conversation and the rest of my class missed out on what I consider to be the best thing he said all year.

A friend and I have decided to take up scuba diving. We hope to get out PADI certifications soon. I have decided that as soon as possible I will be coming back here to do some of these dive sites. There are some of the best reefs in the world, as well as many wrecks, from small fishing boats to huge modern naval vessels sunken in recent wars.

Getting to some of the off shore islands is easy. We pay Bt2,000 (current exchange $1AUD = about Bt30) for our own private speedboat to take us to an island such as Koh Larn and wait there to take us back as soon as we're ready. There are many things to do on the islands, such as jet skiing, para sailing, scuba diving, beachside traditional Thai massage, a huge variety of foods to enjoy, motorbike trekking, swimming, sunbathing and banana boat rides. There are places to stay on the island and I think next time I'd like to stay on an island instead of in Pattaya itself with the loud obnoxious tourists.

Well that covers at least some of what we've done, I'll try to post an update in the next day or two with some more and I'm going to try to find a point I can plug my laptop into so I can upload my photos. Take care everyone and don't forget to watch this space!