There’s no need for shoes, if you have manners, i.e. how to avoid tourist traps in Thailand

Krabi. The rock faces at Railay Beach near Ao Nang attract climbers from all over the world. They also attract bored, flabby Westerners looking for something to tell once back home from their once in a lifetime exotic trip to Thailand. Every year those paradisiac places host The Rock and Fire Festival. In such occasions, I usually stay home and try to see the least amount of people possible.

“Do you think it is a good idea?” The guy with alopecia from the Netherlands starts to be scared. The mountain, his walls, the rocks hanging everywhere with tiny bits of vegetation growing on them annihilate his poor and much-civilized thoughts. Those natural pillars seem like massive tears on the various mountain faces. We are usually too scared to take into account Ms. Nature and her emotions.

The other guy without alopecia from the Netherlands agrees, and complains because their Thai guide didn’t tell them to put on sports shoes. Their guide is 165cm, dark-skinned, with long dreadlocks that come down to his butt, barefooted and probably didn’t wash himself for a couple of days. Minimum.

The Thai guide smiles at them because he really thinks there’s no need for shoes, and he’s been doing this for 13 years already, almost every day and without wearing anything but his own skin. He smiles again and takes the guys higher on the climbing wall. Western safety standards mean almost nothing in this country. Hobbes himself won’t be considered that much, and Machiavelli could be a noodles soup name.

They are now on the top of the mountain, all red and sweaty, scared as fuck, dirty and angry with their Lonely Planet because it didn’t tell them how to deal with the random, idiotic, Thai guide they found in the first shop selling excursions. They fear they can’t go back to their common and safe lives, the everyday routine life feels so sweet sometimes. I laugh to myself and glance at the guide.

At the restaurant, the owners taught the waiters that the tourists like to see and receive their traditional Thai salute. Those rich and chubby farang are not going to salute you back or anything, but their ego will feel good and honored by receiving that, and they’ll feel part of the culture for a little moment.

Before complaining about the food. Before asking for a glass without ice because their doctor told them not to have the ice from random restaurants. Before getting upset with the waiter that couldn’t understand their accent, speaking with a less than scholastic English. Before thinking for half an hour to give the staff a 50 cents tip.

The guy with the tattoos ordered pizza. He’s trying to get the European girl with the squared jaw. A little bit masculine for sure, but it’s only the first night, and he could have the chance to get laid, saving the flag for the entire vacation. In the meantime, on the little stage, the guy with the guitar plays “Wonderwall” by Oasis.

Live music hasn’t changed for more than 15 years. Music covers are always the same, like a blurry looping video clip from the 90s. I was there in the 90s; I was waking up minutes before the alarm rang, telling me that it was time to go to school, just to fuel myself up with MTV video clips. Beastie Boys, U2, Tom York from the Radiohead following a poor redneck with his car in order to hit him. Tom York from the Radiohead singing underwater, a song that I always liked more in its acoustic version. Limp Bizkit with their crossover and red Adidas long sleeve shirts. The Korn, occasionally some Green Day singing in a sanitarium. Easy life, that of the 90s, and we still play the same songs. Rock bars and pubs have disappeared, and those few that remain never changed their playlist.

The guy now has a hand positioned on the girls left leg, she is uncertain if she should say something or not, and waits for a sign from her body, a sign of enjoyment from the contact. She could tell her friends back home that she met this very interesting guy, a little crazy wearing all those hipster tattoos, one that approached her on the first night abroad, during one of her very much extreme trips. She waits a little bit more, orders another beer, then as sometimes happens, the good feelings in both parts suddenly go away, the chemical attraction disappears instantly. The guy backs off and starts looking away. He is so skinny, he looks like he could break any second. His tattoos like blue veins on his arms and legs glow in the soft and yellowish cheap – wannabe-ethnic lights of the restaurant. His pizza arrives. Too bad there’s no ketchup on that salami-pineapple masterpiece. The guy with the acoustic guitar is singing “The time of your life” with some pronunciation mistakes that would never feel more appropriate to the situation.

I still laugh to myself.

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Author Matteo

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