August 6th, 2006

Day 13: Trat, the Mitoya of Thailand.

Those of you from Shimane know of a small town by the name of Mitoya where the locals are friendly enough, and very few people speak English. A place no one really goes TO vacation at, but many people leave FROM to get away.

Trat is that town in Thailand. There is very little tourist infrastructure in the town itself, although it is a very normal-looking relaxed place. We are not hassled by tuk tuk drivers, and the locals smile as we go by. It really feels like a small Japanese town for the most part.

One major disadvantage to Trat not being a tourist town is that almost nobody speaks English throughout the town. This had been the first place we have traveled where we have encountered language barrier problems. Especially in getting across the concept of being a vegetarian.

Which brings me to a slightly funny story. This evening, Mateo and I were looking all over town for a place to eat, but it being Sunday, many places were closed. We had spotted a nice looking place with a middle-aged woman sitting out front and when they noticed that we were doddling, they beckoned us to come in. They brought out their best English speaker, who didn't know much, but more than the rest. We tried to explain to her that we wanted to eat, but not meat. It turns out she didn't understand us in the least, but we didn't know that and had a seat at the restaurant, which I offhandedly noticed had a large and old karaoke machine in the foyer.

After sitting us down, the middle-aged women got us a couple of soda-pops and sat down with us. We asked for a menu and got a blank look. Then she touched my leg and said, "You want a massage."
We had walked into a brothel. An old brothel with middle-aged women, but a brothel, nonetheless. I had read earlier that often karaoke joints are a front for these places, but it didn't click until the hand went on the knee. So I quickly declined and we finished our overpriced sodas with haste, paid, and left. In a town that does not cater to tourists it would definitly help to be able to read the signs above places, but what can you do?

Anyway, we escaped that encounter having not broken the one and only rule of our Southeast Asian Trip: "No Whores." Safe Safe.

Man, I don't like it too much when people besides my wife suddenly and shockingly touch me. Blech!

Most of the day we spent walking around town. Besides that one odd experience, this really is a very normal town, complete with a three-story department store.

There was a couple interesting things in the department store. First of all, they had an arcade, but instead of regular arcade machines, they had PS2s set up were you would insert 10 baht (about $0.30) and get X number of minutes play time. That was the first time I'd ever seen an arcade set up like that.

The other interesting thing we saw was karaoke booths. These were about the size of two phone booths smooshed together, big enough for 2-3 people and a small TV. You closed the almost-soundproof booth and inserted coins to sing karaoke. I had heard of the karaoke box, but this puts that term into a whole new light!

Well, tomorrow we travel to Bangkok in transit to Chiang Mai and trekking adventures. Until then, take care.


P.S.: Signe, it was really great talking with you tonight. I love you with all my heart!
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