Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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On southeast mainland Thailand is the town of Krabi, gateway to the islands. I walk down the gangplank and skirt past the gaggle of taxi drivers and assorted hawkers to find a comfortably air-conditioned cafe for a cup of tea. The boat ride from Ko Lanta was only a couple hours long, but it was a beautifully sunny day and the exposed half of my body has taken on a distinctly Red Lobster hue. The cool air feels luxurious on my burning skin, and the hot tea as always soothes my nerves.
Entering a new town is always daunting. "This street that I'm on... is it the main street? Is this just a side street? Can I see before me 10% or 90% of all that I want to see in this city?" It's a terrible feeling to leave a city behind and hear from someone "Did you go to the [insert area you didn't know existed]? Aw man, it was the best!"
By and large, I travel without a Lonely Planet, and thus I'm in a perpetual state of disorientation. Krabi is no exception. I walk a block in what may or may not be a downtown direction, and I find another road - a four-lane thoroughfare separated by green islands sprouting the fluorescent, neon-light palm trees and animated firework displays that seem surprisingly popular throughout third-world cities. I look around a bit for a new USB reader for my camera, struggling to convey the nuances of compactflash cards in my stripped-down travelers English. "Do you have USB? [show them the camera and the broken reader] You have this? [No, no, try down the road...]"
I continue my wanderings, past the huge Honda building, past a tempting KFC, past an open-air market. Another street in and building after building of more stuff spilling out of storefronts and into the throngs.
One more street and I've reached the other side of town, creating an edge to my growing mental roadmap, each cybercafe and cup of tea firmly imprinted into my mind for when I return. But for now it's back to the riverfront to catch a long-boat to Raily Beach, haven of the rock climbers. After no small amount of confusion as to which of many boat drivers I am supposed to follow, I find my seat on board the rocking boat along with the other passengers, gazing in awe at the powerful, naked motors attached on their anti-aircraft gun pivots, just waiting to catch hold of an errant finger as the driver deftly pokes into its innards in what may be a tuneup, or just steering, it's hard to say.

This sign, posted outside of an average bar in Krabi town, is the finest example I could find to represent bad translations around the world. I'm not exactly sure what it means, but I think it has something to do with an apocalyptic Thai prophecy.
I'll admit it: I have a weakness for KFC. It's just the best fast food (second to the Burger King Whopper, of course). The cole slaw, the potatoes, and yes, even the chicken is all just great. As such I've sampled KFC around the world (it seems to be an international hit, even moreso than McDonalds) and always enjoy the local flair added to the menus. This time, however, I just go straight for a good ole' standby: a chicken sandwich with heaps of mayo. To my pleasurable surprise, the KFC in Thailand is actually a step up from any I've ever seen, with real plates and glasses, exceptional service, and the same ole great food I as a weary traveler have come to depend upon.
I've often heard the term "I couldn't believe my eyes", but had never experienced the phenomenon myself, until this: I walk up to the stand captured in the background of the picture to find a still figure sitting and looking up at me. I say "Orange banana pineapple shake, please", and before the words exit my lips he is already a blur of action. In a series of honed, perhaps reflexive movements he has a ice, banana, pineapple, orange, water in a blender, shake hard while blending, poured into a bag with straw and hung on my finger in a matter of ten seconds, tops. Five may be a more accurate estimate. Money in hand (or in register, if the matter of milliseconds allows for a distinction to be drawn), he resumes his stoic position, with frightening mechanical precision to his every blurred move.
Once the steel shutter is drawn down garage-style over this storefront entrance on a main road in Krabi town, a series of large, overlapping rugs with low tables are laid out onto the sidewalk, along with a huge rear-projection TV screen. Spider senses tingling, I sit down and order myself an overly sugary and really quite terrible drink so as to be supplied with a pot of free Thai tea. Onto the screen is played some Arnold Schwarzenegger film that I hadn't before seen but involved, surprisingly enough, lots of explosions. (The movie was shown in Thai, without English subtitles, but I had absolutely no trouble following along. I actually quite enjoyed listening to a Thai dub of Arnold's voice, complete with thick eastern European accent!)

Because I can't help myself, I was flirting with one of the ubiquitous pretty Thai waitresses, and she joined me at my table as we both talked (to the degree we were capable) and sketched pictures in my notebook. I really wanted to ask her out as, co... [more]

Copyright 2017 - David Barrett -