OK, best write a disclaimer here as my experience in Thailand was amazingly devastating! Something I can laugh about now, after three years of licking my emotional wounds. If you’re wondering if all my blogs are going to be all doom and gloom, I can assure you they are not! This new adventure that I am about to take through Central and South America will be backed by all the lessons I had learned previously.
Am I a Hobo, a Vagabond?
Some might have thought of me as a hobo or a vagabond, but a hobo by definition is a “homeless and usually penniless wanderer”, whereas a vagabond is “a homeless and jobless person.” I had both a good job and money, so neither of those apply. I prefer the term “adventurer,” although I do not fit Webster’s definition entirely. Seems like Webster wants to attach “partaking in risky commercial enterprises for profit” to the definition of “adventurer,” and that is definitely not me.
The first part according to Webster is very true, that being “someone who seeks dangerous or exciting experiences”. Keep in mind what one person sees as dangerous or risky, another may not. Driving a motorbike may seem dangerous to one person, while to another, it’s just fun. Developed and practiced skill as well as knowing one’s limitations is what separates the two. What remains true, is I’m pretty much homeless by choice!
First Impressions of Thailand and My Bike Purchases
Arriving in Thailand was amazing. I was intrigued by the thought of learning more about the ancient belief of Buddhism. After all, there is no shortage of “Buddhist temples” there. Thailand equally has a very dark side, and as said in the movie Hangover Part 2, If one is not careful, Bangkok will have you. But it’s not just Bangkok, it’s Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Patpong, Hua Hin and a few other places that harbour the evil dwellers of the night. I laugh when people now ask me where I live, when I tell them “near Las Vegas,” they reply, “Oh sin city”! Las Vegas is like a Disneyland compared to the likes of Pattaya! But I won’t say too much more. I will say I won’t be returning there in the near future. Largely because I am afraid of getting off the plane and immediately being arrested for stealing my own motorbike! I always say, just because someone said something to someone else, doesn’t make it true. In Thailand, it does, so be warned!
I lived there between shifts in Iraq for over 4 years, traveling to other countries as well. But Thailand held a special place in my heart. In the right areas, it’s stunningly beautiful. Lush jungles, beautiful waterfalls, and food to die for! It was here that I really began the motorbiking adventurers after buying a Honda CRF 250 motocross to start, then moving up to the Honda CBX 500.
After quickly outgrowing that, in a reference of riding skill, I went out and bought my amazing 2018 Africa Twin. The first time I sat on her in the dealership, it fit me like an old leather glove. Buying a motor vehicle in Thailand is not as easy as it is buying one here in the US. Being a foreigner, there are a few complexities. In order to register it, you need to get some paperwork done, a whole lot of paperwork. I had done that for my CBX 500, and what a royal pain in the butt that was, took months! I was more than willing to do it again for my newly purchased Africa Twin. The only difference between the CBX500 and the Africa Twin was this time I had a girlfriend, a Thai girlfriend!
Falling Victim to my Thai Girlfriend’s Scheme
I recall going to the bike shop with her and was about to pay for the bike in cash. This is when it all started, that slippery slope to me falling victim to a well-thought-out Thai girl’s scheme; and in case you’re wondering, they are very good at scheming. She convinced me, which wasn’t hard to do, given my caring nature, to allow her to finance the bike and in her words, “to help her build a better credit report.” Now, HSPs do not enter into relationships with the intent of ripping their future partners off, many Thai girls do! Of course, I didn’t know that at the time; I’m much wiser now, as well as poorer! Believing she was a good honest person, I agreed, so I allowed her to set up the financing in her name, and I would make several payments before paying for it in full. Yeah, I know, stupid!
Then came the registration. She said, “why don’t you register it in my name? It will be easier.” I looked at her and with pure stupid innocence and said, “I want it in my name.” She looked at me and asked a question that I will never ever fall for again: “Don’t you trust me?….” hook, line, and sinker! Never will I ever trust blindly again. You want my trust? You’ll have to earn it!
My Biking Adventures in Thailand
Anyway, I had a blast on that bike, riding all through Thailand was an amazing adventure. As mentioned in a previous blog, that bike and I fell in love! Places like Mae Sot to Um-Phang on the infamous death highway, where it’s only a 50-mile ride, but in that 50-miles is 1219 switchbacks. The road between Kanchanaburi, past Erwan Waterfalls, along Sinakharin Lake over the mountain pass to end up in Nakon Sawan was nothing less than breathtaking. Then there’s Chuphon to Ranong and Ranong to Khao Sok National Park. I would be remiss if I didn’t add the ride from Khao Sok to Krabi, where the famous James Bond movies were filmed.
Figure 1. Erawan National Park – Thailand
Could Buddha Have Been an HSP?
The riding was spectacular, the weather warm, and everywhere you went were temples of all shapes and sizes. For those of you who do not truly know the history of Buddha, I strongly suggest you learn before going to Thailand. Siddharrtha Gautama, aka Buddha, was a young prince born into a royal family. One day he ventured out of the palace for the first time in his life, or so the story goes, and was so impacted by the poverty and conditions the people were living in, he renounced his prince-hood and wandered across the lands in search of meaning. Begging for food, wearing nothing but an old sheet for clothes, he gradually began to learn what was truly important in life. Kindness, compassion, empathy, and Love were his beliefs, sound familiar? Could Buddha have been an HSP? We will never truly know.
Figure 2. Statue of Buddha in Thailand
Buddhism in Modern-Day Thailand
What I can say is, Buddhism, in Thailand, has drifted far away from the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. It is used more as an excuse by many of the sinful Thais; using it as forgiveness for their wicked ways, like greed and lust. I would ask many Thais “tell me about Buddha?”, to which I would get a snarky look as they rattled profanities at me in Thai. A language by the way, many there do not want you to learn, for it robs them of the ability to speak openly about you to other Thais in front of you! I remember walking into a shop in Phuket, seeking a pair of noise-canceling earphones to ride with. Asking the Thai man as he sat behind his cash register playing on his phone; “Excuse me, do you happen to have any noise canceling earphones?”, he didn’t even look up, only barked at me “No Have!”. As I began to walk out, I notice he did, sitting there on the shelf. I picked up the box, and cried out to him, “Yes you do, they’re right here,” to which he replied, “Only one!” I pick up the second identical pair and said “No, you have two.” That’s when he rattled off how Farangs, foreigners, think they know everything and that they should just stay in their own countries. To which I replied in Thai, “Mimi Payha,” meaning no problem! The look on his face was priceless. A forang that can speak Thai!
As an HSP, we are very aware of not just the words, but the intonation and body language delivered at the same time. No matter what language you speak. We tend to feel more than most due to our sensitive nervous system. Like feeling the roar of a waterfall, long before you see it. It takes a lot of practice to understand that feeling and I still am not even close to mastering it, but I am working on it. Mistakes will be made along the way, but practice will gain skill. Don’t get me wrong, if you go into the non-touristy areas of Thailand, you will find real magic. Kind, generous, and empathetic people. Like all places in this world, it’s the cities and the tourist traps that lure in the 2’s and 3’s of the world (See my upcoming Lesson 16 in Lessons learned).
During my visit to the king’s palace in Bangkok, I stood in front of what is believed to be Buddha’s burial site. A shrine of magnificent proportion sits there. I watched as other Thai visitors walk by, not even looking at his tomb. I stood there as a tear rolled down my face asking myself, “I wonder what he would think if he saw the world today?”
My Visit to a Medical Clinic in Thailand
Riding as much as I did around Thailand started to cause some discomfort in my thumb joints. So, I decided to go see a doctor. By the way, the medical care in Thailand is state of the art. There, they actually want to get you healthy, unlike here in the U.S. where it is a profit-making business, and greed has taken over. I walked into a Thai clinic and was instantly greeted with a warm friendly smile, and in clear English, a nurse asked, “how can we help you?” I instantly picked up on the word we, meaning she was representing a team, not just herself. I explained my problem and without hesitation she asked me to immediately follow her, where she lead me to a booth and took my blood pressure. I thought to myself, “Wait, what? Don’t you need to fill in the payment forms and the waivers first?” Then I remembered I was in another country, not the U.S.
She then weighed me, took my height and temperature, filling it all in on a chart she held on her clipboard. Then she asked me to have a seat in a small waiting room. I sat down and there was no one else there. Part of me was thinking, “am I in the right place? where’s everyone else?” The nurse reappeared with the clipboard and sat beside me. “May I have your name please?” she asked, then my address, phone number, and a few more particulars. She wrote them down! Then she apologized and said, “We need a copy of your passport if you don’t mind”. I was used to that, I carried copies all the time, never the original. She thanked me and asked me to read and sign the form she had filled in making sure all was accurate. She then got up and said, ”It won’t be long,” as she started to walk away.
Now I still had no idea what this was all going to cost, how could I? I didn’t know what was wrong. 5 minutes later a man came out and said, “Randy?” with that distinct Thai accent. “Yes, here,” I said before looking around and realizing once again, I was the only one in the room. “Please follow me,” he invited. Now, many HSPs have a heightened attention to detail, often it’s a royal pain in the butt! We pick up on things others tend not to, like the use of manners, which I find is extremely important. The manners used in this clinic were exceptional! Being back in the US for the past three years has been hard! The lack of manners in this country is disturbing.
I walked into an examining room and he politely asked me to have a seat on the examining table, before asking me “what seems to be going on?” As I explained my soreness and thoughts as to why I thought it was happening, he listened with great interest. He then asked me a few questions while he began examining my hands. He pushed on a particular spot in the exact same location on each hand, just by the thumb muscle and I announced, “Yep, right there,” he smiled and said, no problem, we can fix you right up. Poking his head out the door he spoke in Thai to someone I could not see. He sat down and explained I had a moderate case of carpel tunnel syndrome and he wanted to give me a shot of corticosteroid in each hand. He explained that it was a temporary fix and that I should avoid riding the bike for a while to allow the nerves affected to calm down. Then he showed me a few exercises I should do after the pain is gone.
A nurse walked in with two hypodermic syringes with a creamy white liquid in them. She stood by holding them as the doctor cleaned the injection points with alcohol swabs. He then applied another clear gel as I asked him what it was. “It’s to numb the skin,” he replied. We all waited for a minute or two as he allowed the numbing gel to take hold. As we did, he asked me about my bike, or as I call it, the love of my life! Grabbing each hypo, he gently injected the solution in the strategic spot he had pinpointed. It took all of 30 seconds after the injection, and suddenly all pain went away. “wow Doc, that’s amazing.” He smiled again before telling me to take it easy for a while and do the exercises. I thanked him and headed back out to where the first nurse was.
Figure 3. My Experience in that Thai Clinic Forever Captured by Camera
Expecting to pay a considerable amount, I was shocked when she handed me the bill, a whopping $35 USD! Now, I just recently had the same thing done in my knees here in the U.S. and the bill was over $1600.00, of which my medical insurance covered 75%. Having been to many places in this world I now know the U.S. is the most expensive place for medical aid. Even when I bought international medical insurance that covered me anywhere in the world, including emergency vacation in high-risk countries, they still wouldn’t cover me in the USA, why? Too expensive they say! So, when I am asked if I have medical coverage for this new adventure, I smile and say, it’s all good!
If you have read my other blogs, you will know what made me leave Thailand. Being an HSP, things like that carve deep into our hearts. We tend to avoid repeating such trauma, and, let’s face it, the world is full of it. Maybe that’s why so many HSPs are in hiding, hiding in plain sight. I would suggest visiting Thailand, but please use my mistakes as guides for what to avoid. Thailand is a beautiful country, full of ancient history, stunning architecture from an era long ago, and food, oh my god, the best food on this planet (My opinion). But like everything else, there is a dark side, and Thailand’s dark side is as black as the Ace of spades.
Figure 4. Stunning Thailand