When it comes to travelling, I have a couple of 'don'ts':
- Don't visit the capital city - it is usually almost always the most busy, the most unfriendly and the least interesting place of a country.
- Don't take a taxi - it is not only expensive but also environmentally unfriendly. (Taking a plane is even more environmentally unfriendly but given my tight schedules there is no other alternatives.)
- Don't visit the same place twice, no matter how you were enchanted by that place the first time round. The attempt to relive or better the good memory always ends with shattering it instead.
But I always make exceptions for Thailand. It is only after visitng Bangkok many times that I begin to feel that enough is enough - such is the charm of this chaotic capital city. I do take a taxi from the airport to Bangkok or to Pattaya because taking a taxi is not that much more expensive than taking a bus and the bus schedule doesn't always work (there is no way I would be stuck in the airport for 1 hour and 45 minutes to wait for another bus after missing the last one for 15 minutes like I did a few days ago). And I do come back to Pattaya to visit my friends - the elephant and the mahout family - in the elephant camp I served as a volunteer a couple of years ago.
Talking about visiting the elephant and the mahout family, this time there was an interesting twist of events. I was told that my young mahout friend had gone to the south of Thailand on a honeymoon, with a western woman who had been a volunteer at the camp before. "He is twenty-three," said the elephant camp friend who told me about the affair on my way to the camp. "His mother is forty-five, and the woman is just two years younger. Her husband killed himself last year." While she said this in a nonchalant way, I didn't fail to detect the slightest sign of disapproval in her tone of voice. But when I reached the family's stilted hut and saw a new hut next to it and the brand new pick-up truck parked outside, I realised that maybe it wasn't entirely Cupid at work, but it was perhaps difficult to resist this sort of attraction. Romance apart, could the young man who hardly speaks any English be trying to help improve his family's standard of living as well?