Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

What Taking a Taxi in Thailand Taught Me

Traffic in Thailand

 

Cars travel at speeds in excess of 110mph, motorcycles weave their way between other vehicles, Tuk-Tuk’s beep and splutter past, carts pulled by people or animals amble along the sidelines.  A glorious performance, a production of cohesion and co-operation, the stage is a road, the theatre is Thailand.

My recent trip there involved a lot of travelling, most of which was taxis, and this is what Taking a Taxi in Thailand Taught Me.

I wrote a rough draft of this whilst sitting in the front seat of one, the driver chats with my friends seated in the back, and I am tapping away on my phone writing this out on the ‘Notes’ application, all noise, all distraction gone, as realisation of my trip dawns upon me. This taxi was taking me to Bangkok’s International Airport, for after this I was travelling to Cambodia, and whilst leaving the country I finally understood it. I fell in love with it, because I realised that even in its public transport system, a greater lesson can be learnt, one which is visible in of their daily functioning.

It was interesting to observe how vehicles moved in a fluid motion, crossing lanes, overtaking, zipping past, without hostility or road rage. True the horns of the cars were in constant use, collectively becoming a symphony, but it was more a means to declare intent or to guide.  

There seemed to be a collective understanding of how to work together to help one other but also help an individual. If one car had to take a turn or enter a lane then the drivers in close proximity would reposition, like second nature, to let their fellow through.

Casual Uniformity is the slogan!  A collective agreement of rules and etiquette, but without it feeling forced or imposing. Everyone bands along in order to make the day go by easier. It was amazing to see.  Through their driving I could see the Thai people were a casual caring people, who displayed affection openly, a good sense of humour and contentment also.


For a country still in the process of becoming a sound economy, I was surprised at how few beggars I saw whilst on my trip. What I did however see a lot of were extremely hard working individuals, who were doing whatever to try and make a living. Selling hand made goods, trucking carts around laden with goods for sale, people doing menial jobs trying to make an honest living, and all seeing content. A people who do what they can with what they have. A Quiet Determinism to achieve what is possible in their reality.

Perhaps they’re waiting to return richer in another life, so they see this as temporary state, so they aren’t in a crazed panic to make as much as they can in this life. For a largely Buddhist based people, the belief of ‘you only get one shot’ doesn’t apply, and that permeates into every sense of their being. There’s hope in life. There is something better to come.  Something which all religions try to promote, which helps one to not feel as if life is in vain or of little worth if your monetary worth isn’t great.

A ‘Live and Let Live’ culture is rife, spawned from peace loving Buddhist beliefs. There seems to be less intolerance of alternate life choices and societal taboo. If there is disagreement, it is private or at least respectfully stated. An example of this is the ‘Lady Boy’ gender, this third accepted gender, a people who hold normal working positions within society, without a raised eyebrow or exploitation by and large. Buddhist beliefs state that we are but expressions of energy, not being male female, and so the ‘Lady Boy’ personify this belief, so it becomes a non issue in Thailand. Whilst I don’t agree with it, I find their ability to not create such an issue of it to be sensible. The world and man in his life, has MUCH bigger fish to fry, so perhaps focus on other, more pressing matters.

I found the hyper-sexualisation of Thai culture and people to be quite unfair. From my trip I witnessed none of it, but as with all social ills, if you search for them, you can find them, but that holds true for any country. Perhaps it was easier to exploit the Thai people due to their easy going philosophy and socio-economic conditions, but still it remains a part, not a majority, of their life, culture and country.

What is strongly expressed is their Buddhist belief, but without statement. It just exudes from them and has helped shape and mould the entire nation. There seems to be an integrated and symbiotic merge with modern living, without compromising the core of their ideals. It was great to see, and I learnt this all, by Taking a Taxi in Thailand.

 Yours Truly

Zishaan ‘ZuZu’ Shafi

 

P. S Below are some Pictures from my trip- hope you enjoy them.

 

 

 

 


Julie Andrews Has Nothing On Me

and why is that?

Well because I out sung and out performed her, in the famous ‘The Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Music” scene. Let us be honest, it’s clear that she struggled to reach the top of the hill and piro-twirl in sync with the camera, and don’t get me started on her singing in that awful warble.

Fact is my reenactment of that infamous scene, (witnesses by my two good friends and a few cows), truly deserved an Oscar. My pitch was perfect, my vibrato strong & steady and my ballerina like elegance was unparalleled as I twirled for the heavens.

Did you buy any of that? No… I didn’t think anyone would, but it was worth a try.

Truth is I did try, but I fell, as I got dizzy in the thin air up in the Swiss mountains, and my throat was so dry from all the goings on, that my voice had a growling husky tone that Smokey Robinson would have envied.

Still the rest of my trip was amazing and just as eventful as that fateful moment, and I thought I would share my amazing July 2010 trip to Switzerland (or Soozie-Land as my mother calls it).

So we started off in Interlaken-Ost, heading in from Milan via Lotschberg-Spiez. I was exhausted, at this point I was coming from a mini-tour of Italy. Stayed at ‘Funny Farm’ Hostel…nothing funny about the place, except for the guy, who at 2am, thought he was sharing a room with us, and tried to gain entry. He was ejected! Interlaken was a beautiful beginning to the trip. Check out some pics below.

Second day and off to the tallest mountain in Europe we go, ‘Jungfrau’ here we come. We took a train up, and the journey was breathtaking. So many beautiful scenes. The mountain was ice capped and freezing cold, whilst down below it was a hot sunny day.

There was an ice carvings area inside the Jungfrau Mountain resort, it was incredibly cold and very slippery, but well worth visiting. The tunnel which lead to it was pritty ominous!

Swiss Francs… what a currency! Hardly any difference in rate to the Great British Pound, but that’s where the similarity ends, for when it comes to design, colour and texture it was far from the smiley Queeny notes I was used to. I liked the designs though! The coinage was confusing to use, I normally let the shop keeper pick the relevant coins from the fistful I was clutching… who knows how much they robbed off my ignorance? lol

One thing I did on this trip was confront my fear or heights. I have issues with step ladders, so taking a seat in a cable car and ascending to the mountain range of Grindelwald-First, was quite a feat! The scenes were breathtaking, you could hear Swiss cows with their neck bells clanging in the distance, lots of exclamations of ‘WOW’ from my friends and I, so the journey was actually quite calming and pleasant.

                                    

Oh I am a daredevil too, didn’t you know? Well let me tell you just how crazy this trip got, it wasnt all singing in the mountains and eating great Swiss chocolate.

I also went on an adventure in Lauterbrunnen. A village-town famous for its waterfalls, 62 in total! As my friends and I toured the quaint area, a storm erupted out of nowhere, so we took shelter by a wooden lodge. The rain and the wind picked up, and so did my adrenaline levels. I suggested taking the path up to the waterfall, where you could go into a tunnel which led you directly under it. My friends agreed to my folly and off we went. Soaking wet, freezing cold but laughing the whole way. We trekked up in flip-flops and carrying bags of souvenirs, entered into this dark ominous tunnel which led us through and into the mountain. We saw the waterfall rise up into the air as the wind-swept it up, the clouds descended and we had a great time looking out across the beautiful village. We eventually braved the trip down, literally sliding the whole way. An unforgettable experience!

Luzern was one of the stops in the trip. A city of music it seems. There were bands, singers and instrument players on every street. The weather was fantastic and the town had a very relaxed feel, which the melodious sounds added to. There was a wooden bridge that traversed the river which runs through it. It was lined with flowers and covered in written messages, they mostly were on the lines of ‘so and so loves so and so forever’… I wonder how soon many of them split up after writing those? There was also a world war memorial there too, which was peaceful and serene. It was nice to go there, and see how respectful everyone was at the area.

I spent some time in Zurich too, which I have to say I didn’t enjoy so much. I think having spent so long in the countryside, going into a city felt a little claustrophobic, and underwhelming. So I didn’t explore it much, but I did manage to see creative confectionary treats being crafted by Master Chocolatiers of Switzerland! That alone was worth the trip. I was explained some of the interesting techniques used to create the right consistency for pouring chocolate, how certain designs were done and textures created. Enjoy the pics, yes the chocolate was GOOD ;-P

So that was a brief summary of why I am better than Julie Andrews and why you should consider visiting the amazing-ness that is Switzerland. I had an unforgettable time there, and have had a really good time recounting some of my trip with you all.

Thank You!

Yours Truly

Zishaan ’ZuZu’ Shafi