02 Feb Travels in Asia
Travels in Asia
I just took my first trip to Asia and it was to Thailand. I knew going into it what a tourist’s and climber’s mecca it is. I knew my greatest challenge would be finding authenticity, the places the tourists hadn’t already overrun and avoid the party scene in the name of accessing something pure. Does pure still exist in Thailand, I wondered? Or should I have booked my ticket for Vietnam which they say is Thailand circa 1998?
My goal, in one of (if not the) most touristy places in Asia was to discover a secluded island – the kind you refer to when you ask hypotheticals that start with “if you were stranded on a deserted island …,” the kind where you’re more likely to see an animal than a human and if you see people they’re locals because the tourists have never heard of it. Well, much to my surprise, I found it.
Though the colors and lights of Chiang Mai and Bangkok did surprise me in their eclectic beauty (like hearing a Thai with a voice like Barry White sing the blues) nothing could compare to this island, my own little slice of paradise. I stayed in a simple bungalow where a lovely family not only provided me with shelter but became my friends. I saw maybe 10 other tourists on the whole island, where grabbing a kayak I hit the ocean and found the most perfect isolated beach in the world – with nothing in sight behind the palms but a grazing cow.
In the tiny 3 chair reggae bar where Nina, a cool Finnish chick, worked – I drank Mai Thais and discussed the nature of the travel industry with the small clique of world-traveling company: a Brit, a German, and fellow travel blogger Ian Ord. “What does it mean that places like this still exist?” Nina was quick to chime in, “It means people like you haven’t written about it.”
Ouch. But I knew she was right. Travel bloggers are like gatekeepers to the best kept secrets of the travel world. Are we obligated to reveal all of them? And if we do, what will be left? Before I left Nina and I had breakfast together. She was quick to bring it up again. “You know what will happen if you write about this place, right?” I laughed. “You’re giving me too much credit. No one even reads my blog.”
“It doesn’t matter. This is how it starts.” We sat there in silence. I had brief flashbacks to Tonsai, the beach that 10 years ago was the hidden secret and now might as well be Krabi Beach. She had a point. “Promise me,” she said. She didn’t have to spell out the promise. I knew she wanted to keep something so pristine and perfect a secret. I agreed.