Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · Paradise lost & found
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Paradise lost & found

Robert Downes - December 27th, 2007
If you go traveling around the world in search of paradise, you are likely to be sadly disappointed. Every time you see a beautiful beach or a waterfall in a travel brochure, all it means is that the photographer was able to sweep thousands of tourists out of the way long enough to grab a shot before they all came flooding back again. We travelers tend to love beautiful places to death.

Such was the case at Patong Beach on the island of Phuket in southern Thailand, where I’m continuing my slow journey around the planet. I had expected Patong to be a bustling place, but thought there would at least be some sandy lanes and secluded beaches to enjoy. Instead, there are thousands of shops and restaurants here, packed like a train wreck into a two-mile strip of beach, with tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world: Russia, England, Germany, Australia, India -- but again, no Americans that I’ve seen.

This is a place which endured the 25-foot tsunami wave three years ago on Dec. 26, 2004. This monster roared through town, sweeping hundreds of people, cars and shops in its path. But there’s not a trace of a reminder that it ever happened today.

Besides the insane level of hyper-development, there are hundreds -- perhaps even thousands -- of prostitutes mixed in with the tourists. It’s quite an odd sight to see some fat old bloke with a gray crewcut and hair growing out of his ears dining with his teenage bar girl while a young family from Sweden (or wherever) sits with their kids at the next table. Some of these illiterate girls are hooked up with big bullies and look scared silly.

So, the island of Phuket is kind of a downer -- and far from a paradise -- but as Mick Jagger once said, “If you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need, oh baby.”

Indeed, my wife Jeannette (who is spending two weeks in Thailand) and I find paradise on Phi-Phi Island after a 30-mile boat trip into the Andaman Sea. Here are scenes of tropical splendor fit for a Hollywood movie: in fact, “The Beach,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was shot just a coconut-toss away on Phi-Phi’s little sister island. It’s about a group of backpackers who go looking for a secret island paradise in Thailand and find a bunch of pot farmers.

So what does paradise look like? Long-tail dragon boats ply the bay and in the distance, sheer rock outcroppings tower from the sea. The shoals are aquamarine and lined with palm trees, frangipani and hibiscus flowers, and people walking around half-naked or strapped with backpacks. Bayside cafes are piled high with prawns the size of bananas, lobsters, and whopper fish, still wriggling on ice. At night, fire dancers whirl batons and bolos filled with kerosene on the beach while the bar blasts Limp Bizkit, LL Cool J and Bob Marley’s remix reggae at a thumping volume that pounds right through your heart. Would you like some “merrywanna” to go with your beer? The friendly barman can supply.

But it’s too hot to do much of anything but melt. A tough day here is dining by the waves over shrimp pad thai and pineapple shakes and trying to decide whether to lounge on the beach or hang by the pool... Or should you go for a chocolate banana crepe instead? Hmmm...

Anyway, I’m sure readers back home could care less about such drivel, being caught up in the excitement of Christmas and the New Year, but here’s the latest from the other side of Planet Earth:

-- We had the good fortune to explore a sea cave full of thousands of sleeping bats near “James Bond Island,” where “The Man with the Golden Gun” was filmed in 1971. The cave had a horrible, hideous stink -- like the concentrated B.O. of 100 jock straps that had been worn for a month on jungle maneuvers -- only worse. The captain said to keep your mouth shut if you looked up. Aye-aye sir! Scary place...

-- The biggest freak show in Asia has to be that of the “lady boys” of Patong. These are transsexuals and transvestites decked out with long, sleek hair, full breasts, girlie outfits and thongs. Some are dressed in ballet tu-tus, ball gowns and wedding gowns. On a street full of go-go bars, we saw a flock of five she-males dancing to the sounds of “Ice, Ice, Baby” for a huge crowd gathered outside a disco. Some idiot Western tourist handed his little baby to them to shake up and down on the platform. Classic. But then, you see all kinds of European and Australian families with little children and infants walking down this street late at night, which is basically a red light zone. Many of the kids look exhausted.

-- Our hotel charged extra if you got a new tattoo, because the ink from a fresh tat tends to bleed on the sheets.

-- I had a live cobra dumped in my lap by a chap named “Snake Man,” who was clowning around during a visit to a snake farm. The cobra was six feet long and as big around as my arm, with a soft, silky texture. It had a “What the hell?!?” look in its black doll eyes and was loaded to kill too -- we watched Snake Man milk it for poison after I got my lap dance. I was glad he had a good grip on its head, because I jumped about a foot.

Hmmm, I see on my watch that Christmas is just a week away as of this writing. It seems like an event in another galaxy. My stay in Thailand is almost up and it’s time to ramble on. Paradise gets a bit snoozy after awhile -- not to mention expensive. Where to spend the holiday? Cambodia? Malaysia, Laos? Perhaps a place that resonates with m-my g-g-g-eneration. See you there.

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