Friday, January 9, 2009

Prostitutes, and Tranny's in Pattaya, Thailand


The first place I headed after the two hour road trip from Bangkok was the beach. I'm not sure if it was the narrow brown beach littered with European whales, or the choppy, mixed color water, but Pattaya beaches rank low compared to the rest of Thailand.
In the evening, everywhere you go there’s a bar, full of ladies, and um, ladyboys (transsexuals)
Thailand has the greatest number of trannys in the world? Why? People are poor (although not like in India) and money hard to come by.
If you’re a young woman (or girl in some sad cases) you can chose to make $200 a month working ten hours a day as a maid or toll collector, or you can make that much in a day (if lucky) selling your body. Uptight “moralists” in the West may scoff at this so called “choice” but when you’re living in a shack, and have no food on the table, I wonder how many of them wouldn't do the same.
Thai Tranny
Well, the allure of “easy” money is so great to some, that boys, lacking the earning power of their female counterparts (how many ladies out there pay for sex? Generally all it takes to turn men on is to utter the word, “hello.”) save up thousands of US dollars to have a sex change performed so they can join the girls in the upper echelon of Thai earners, and appeal to the variety of fetishes of the 'farang.' (farang meaning "foreigner") It is what is, it’s just a different reality than wealthier countries.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Project Tiger- Searching for Tigers in the Thai Jungle (Khao Yai National Park)

Project Tiger

I’m a nature lover, minus mosquitos and ticks which I pray daily to my Lord and savior JC (Jim Carrey) to use his Bruce Almighty powers and wipe them off the earth.
(Editors note: Some of you readers might be getting tired of Rich’s unceasing references to Jim Carrey as God. Not that I disagree with him, but frankly, I am tired of him using our space and readership to evangelize his religion. After a frank discussion with him about the importance of separation of church and blog, I have allowed him his religious dogma, one, and ONLY ONE final time, on the condition that all of you immediately watch “Liar Liar,” and pray Northwards towards Canada (where JC was born) five times a day. I had to draw the line somewhere.)
So, today’s adventure took us to an Asian rainforest, Thailand’s first national park, two hours outside of Bangkok. Actually, more like three hours. Traffic in Thailand comes to a crawl when it gets busy. That, and the fact that you often have to sit at traffic lights for four, (yes four!) minutes.
Oftentimes in the US, on newer traffic lights, you see a counter letting you know how long before the light turns yellow. Generally, it’s 30 seconds max. In Thailand, they have a red light counter as well (to torment you) letting you know that it’s 240 seconds before the light turns green. Welcome to hell.
It was afternoon by the time we got to the park. My dream of course was to spot a wild tiger. This has been a dream of mine of mine since I was a child, when I had an infatuation with, and learned all things tiger. I was the original Calvin from “Calvin and Hobbes.” And the national park was home to over 20 tigers. I figured my odds were good.
Driving through the park, the first thing we spotted was a band of monkeys walking the roadways. they just meandered down the road, perhaps in hopes of being offered food, which I'm sure some tourists oblige them.
(See if you can guess this monkey's gender?)
Male Monkey?

A little later, I spotted a small red deer in the bushes. A rare sight, the first time my guide who had spent substantial time in the park had ever seen one. When deer are here, tigers must be near. The deer slipped into the undergrowth before I had a chance to snap a picture of it.
Tiger tiger, burning bright, in the forests of the night …. Where are you.

Our search continued to the visitor center where I spotted Sambar (a tigger delicacy) nearby.
sambar in Thai jungle
I stopped in at the center and saw exhibits and read up on all the wildlife the park contained. Yes, sure enough there were tigers here. I asked one of the rangers if he had ever seen a tiger.
“Yes,” he answered nodding.
I got excited, maybe he could introduce me. “How many times?”
He held up two fingers. I frowned.
“And how long have you worked here?” I inquired.
“Sixteen years,” he replied.
Could it be? Really? I had better chances of winning the lottery than having an encounter with a wild tiger?
“I have many baht (Thai currency.) I will pay tiger for privilege,” I stated, forgetting that Eastern tigers lack the guiding principles of materialism so prevalent amongst tigers living in the United States.
My guide gently escorted a somber and disheartened Ricardo outside. I had to check with another ranger.
“How many times have you seen tigers?”
He shook his head.
“You don’t understand me?” I asked hopefully.
“I understand perfectly,” he replied with the accent of someone who probably spent four years at Oxford, “I just haven‘t seen one in the five years I’ve been here.”

Sighing, we began a trek to a waterfall a couple kilometers away. I gazed around the jungle hopefully as we walked, but only spotted a salamander, the sound of rushing water in the distance subtly soothing my frazzled spirit.
I scaled the rocks, which in the rainy season are covered by water fifteen feet high, and came to the edge of a pool of a thirty foot waterfall. Carefully, I climbed into the water, and felt the rush of cold water enliven me.
I swam out a couple hundred feet, and sat under the cascading water from the falls. I stood there, as long as I could comfortably endure the force of the gushing water, and then swam back to shore, where I sat, peacefully on a large boulder, in harmony with the surrounding jungle for half an hour, meditating, praying to JC to get rid of the mosquitos swarming around me.

(me and Hobbes, my tiger friend I tamed in the forest) ... sighhhh
good ole' Hobbes

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Invest In Crocodile Bank- the Crocodile Shows of Thailand

Crocodile Bank

So it’s my second full day in the city. I found a local guide to show me around, or rather, he found me. Everywhere you go in Bangkok, people are trying to sell you something (usually sex) My guide was no different.
“You want to meet nice girl,” he asks, “I show you best.”
“No thanks,” I reply.
“Come on, I show you best girl in city.”
“I want to eat,” I replied, my stomach growling, walking away from him.
“Very nice girl,” he echoes, chasing after me.
“No,” I reply in a deep authoritative tone.
“Why not?” he stupidly asks.
“Because I am hungry,” my tone getting deeper.
“Well let me recommend restaurant.” Finally, he speaks my language.

When you travel around the world, you get to see how lucky we are in America, where most everyone’s basic needs are taken care of. In Thailand, people work extremely hard for very little in an effort to put food on the table.

He waits for me to finish dinner and asks if he can show me around Thailand. he recommends I visit the world’s largest crocodile farm. "Over 100,000 Crocs!!" they advertise. Talk about a come on.

No Swimming without a  lifeguard on duty!
When we got there, the first thing we did was go to the Crocodile Show.
10 hungry man eating monsters up to 14 feet long in an enclosure consisting of shallow water and a small island in the center, where two handlers dragged, by the tail, a couple of the beasts out of the water. Once on dry land, they teased the croc, poking it with a stick. I suppose the purpose was to demonstrate the amount of power of the croc’s jaw, cause when it snapped down on one of the pieces of bamboo, the force of the jaws meeting sounded like a nuclear explosion.

Grabbing a croc by his tail
Then they proceeded to get the croc to open it’s massive jaws. Once opened, the handlers began to pray. Yes, right there, on a tiny man made island, surrounded by the hungry beasties, they put their hands together and broke into prayer.
Apparently they worship the God of Stupidity, because they proceeded to place their hands in the jaws of the croc, pulling them out before the croc chomped down. Tips rained down onto them, thrown by spectators in the coliseum type seating. I was amongst the tippers. Stupidity deserves to be rewarded.
After another, longer prayer, the handlers opened the croc's jaw, and I swear I am NOT making this up, placed their head in the mouth of the croc. I had to wonder who was on drugs, the croc, or the handlers. Probably both.
head in the mouth of a crocodile
To say it was a spectacle is an understatement. Putting your head in the jaws of a massive fourteen foot crocodile! And they did it several times. Needless to say, tips and applause rained down from the stands.
But did Dumb and Dumber take their loot and run. Nooooo, that would require intelligence, and would be considered blasphemy by their aforementioned God. Instead, they decided to bank the money.
In all fairness, it probably is the world’s most secure bank. Also, the dumbest.
They collected all their tips, every last bill, and threw them all into the crocodile’s open jaws. This  "sound investment strategy" is probably why Thai people are so poor.

The world's safest bank! Dumber attempting to withdraw a deposit.
Crocodile Bank- the world’s most secure bank. Sure we pay no interest, and occasionally swallow your deposits. On the plus side, when you come to withdraw, we’ll do our best to relieve you of an arm.

With these thoughts racing through my mind as the show ended, Dumb and Dumber pointed to me (and only me), apparently stupid people are able to recognize their brethren, and asked me if I wanted to have my picture taken with Crocodile Bank.
Getting up close and personal with a man eating monster croc was simply something I could not pass up.
“Yes!” I yelled back to Dumb and Dumber, “YES! Oh God Yes!” I joyfully exclaimed as I, Dumberer, raced down the slick ladder to Croc Island.
I approached the beastie cautiously, wondering whether this was the greatest idea in the world (probably not.) I put my hand down on the tank armor that comprises crocodile skin, and waited vigilantly for my picture to be taken. When I heard the beastie start hissing, I figured it was time to go.
Me and my my crocodile
But you know what they had at the croc farm? My favorite animal in the world- tigers! And baby white tigers too. I decided that it was my sacred duty to pet them. That’s right, white tiger cubs. Jealous? You’re jeeealllouss.

feeding a white tiger cub!