#16 from SE Asia — Characters you meet on the road

#16 from SE Asia — Characters you meet on the road
February 20th, 2011
SiaYuan, Phuket Island, Thailand

On the road, you meet people that you simply would not run into at all, ever, at home.  ‘Characters’ I guess.  People that you will never see in your home towns.  They may think that about you too.  Here are some interesting ones, from many different backgrounds, in no particular order.

James, the New Zealander, riding across Asia to England

I met this very young New Zealander in Krabi, Thailand.  He had ridden across New Zealand, flown to Singapore, and was riding to China.  From there he was riding across central Asia to ENGLAND.  He planned to do it in 16 months.  His budget was $17 US @ day.  Wow.  Go Youngblood go.

They ended up calling him 'the Devil'....

The people who went out drinking with this guy in the dive bars in Georgetown, Malaysia all came staggering back in the morning calling him ‘the devil’.  What happened, I don’t know.  But he blew old veteran expats’ minds.   But they said that his feats in the bars of Georgetown were legendary.  I will call him the Devil because he never told anyone his name.
The devil rode with us on a ‘visa run’ to Malaysia.  (to renew your visa in Thailand, you must leave the country and then return).

The devil’ was in his late 30’s perhaps.  He spoke working class German and simple English in a raspy, sandpaper monologue.  He clearly had learned English in the street.  He smoked cigarettes and drank beer non-stop on the trip while telling insane but fascinating stories in broken English.  …full of sound and fury…  He sat in the back of the van playing pop Thai songs on his mini-boom box and singing along to them in all too loud a voice.  Who is this guy?
But what finally got my attention about him was when we went thru Thai customs.  We were in the back of the line and the Devil began speaking fluent Thai to the customs agents.  They began laughing.  The devil continued speaking rapid fire Thai with the agents until they were all splitting up.  The customs agents waved us to the front of the line.  We passed thru quickly.  Other Thais gathered around Devil as he spoke.  Clearly he had mastered a very difficult language.  I asked him how long he had studied it.  He said 12 years, and he could read and write it too.
Then I looked at the tattoos that covered most of his body, the brutal piercings on his face, and his gypsy clothing.  He did not look like a student.
Wherever he went he rapped with the Thais and quickly gained their confidence.  I had not met a single foreigner who spoke Thai nearly as well as this man.
As I watched him, I noticed that the tattoos on his right side of his body were very different than those on his left.  Devil smoked and drank with his left hand so I presumed that he was left-handed.  I had seen tattoos like the ones he had, when I was in prison in Mexico.  These were not the parlor tattoos that you paid for.  These looked like the ones done by guys to each other when they are locked up for long periods of time.  It looked like he had done his right arm and leg by himself, while others had done his left side.
I sat next to him handed him another beer.
“I spent two years in a Mexican prison.  How long did you spend in prison in Thailand?” I said.
He looked at me for a while.  His face became  very serious.  Then he said
“Only another prisoner could see that.  I pass ten years in prison in Thailand.  You know what for?”
“Sure.  And then the Thais let you stay afterward?”
“Yes.  After ten years, I have no more family.  No other country want me.  So I petition Thailand on my knees.  I promise to be good.  I speak Thai so well that they welcome me.  Ha.  Now I stay here forever.  This my home.  Soon I become Thai citizen.  I never break the laws here now.”
The Devil lit up, swigged some beer, and smiled.  He had a twinkle in his eye.

Floren, the accidental bicycle tourist

I ran into to Floren riding in opposite directions on highway 4 in Thailand.  Floren had gotten off the plane in Bangkok from Austria planning on riding on buses around Thailand.  Then on his first bus he saw some bicycle tourists.  On impulse, he stashed his heavy gear, bought a bicycle, and strapped his gear to it and begun bike touring.  He had never done it before and knew no one who had.  He had about 1000 kms under his belt and was loving every moment of it.  His equipment on his bike was makeshift.  He hadn’t professionally packed his bike.  He had many basic questions for me about bike-touring.  By his exuberance alone, I could see that Floren was a convert.  We wished each other well and headed off in opposite directions.

I have a quiz for you.  In the following two pictures, guess what they are.  You have 3 choices.

Please guess for yourself, because others have told me that I was wrong on all three.

#1, #2 or ...

#3 ??????

(the answers are at the bottom of the text)
In Thailand you are confronted by what the Thais call ‘the third sex’.  These are the katouie lady-boys.  They are men who early on decide that they should be ladies.  From that point on, they dress and live like women.  Chiang Mai University even has a special department for them.
Thai culture is accepting of katouies, and tolerant of other cultures and ideas in general.  In fact, I have never seen another culture in the world so tolerant of different lifestyles and beliefs.
I spend most of my time in rural Thailand, riding my bike between national parks and cities.  I have been surprised at how many lady-boys I see in restaurants, markets, and stores in the most rural of places.

This lone picture does not do justice to these 2 women from Bahrain

On the boat to Ko Phi Phi Island, there were two young women who stuck mostly to themselves.  Their backs and parts of their legs were covered with tattoos.  They were laughing between themselves.  Finally I asked them where they were from.

Bahrain.  But you do not know anything about it.

I told them it was an island kingdom in the Persian Gulf. They said that I knew more about Bahrain than any other tourist they had met.

I looked at them smoking cigarettes and drinking beer.  I said something about them not fitting the stereotypes.

“What else do you know about us except stereotypes?”  I felt immediately that I had spoken ignorantly.

“The men in Bahrain do not know what is under our hijabs.  And here we want you foreigners to see us.  That would make them angry.”

“And maybe more”  the other chirped in.  They laughed.  We were beginning at last to enjoy our conversation when our boat captains called us back.


#1 is a post-operation male-to-female

#2  is a male transvestite, and

#3  is a real woman.

I was wrong on all of them.  And I base my information strictly upon what others told me.  There were NO corporal exams.  Don’t even think about it, and that is that!

Dieter and Sinon

2 Responses to #16 from SE Asia — Characters you meet on the road

  1. Great post Dwight. I got one out of three on the ladyboy test. Not so good. But it’s easier in 3-D.

    Looking forward to what else you learned about Bahrain…


  2. You are TOTALLY on my “character” list… my most favorite of last year’s trip.

    I leave next Tuesday for 2 months in India, Nepal and China (with that bicycling boy I e-mailed you about a few months back!)

    Hope you are well 🙂

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