It's been a while since I blogged about a country's music — and when I did it previously, I had mainly good things to say. Unfortunately, the verdict is not so rosy for Thailand. This country has many great and captivating qualities, but I'm afraid that its music simply isn't one of them. The main local music around here — in the urban centres I've visited, at least — is Thai pop. Put simply, Thai pop is about as bad as music gets. Pop music in general is widely recognised as rubbish; Asian pop is known to be particularly rubbish; and Thai pop is without doubt at the bottom of the heap. It's super-soppy, it's super-boppy, and it's super-lacking in talent. And as if it wasn't bad enough, the locals insist on singing along to the cheesy pop tracks, in one of their favourite pastimes — karaoke. Thank heavens I've been sticking mainly to farang hangouts, and that I've as such largely avoided the pop scene — because, hell, even Bob is better than that poison.
Upon the advice of my cousins — who are seasoned veterans in the field — today I headed over to Bangkok's Pantip Plaza shopping centre, and perused the extensive movie, music and computer-related wares on offer there. Three hours and several thousand Baht later, I was satiated. I've been waiting a looong time for this opportunity, and there's no way I was going to let it pass by un-seized. Should be enough DVDs to fill up every sleepy Sydney night and boring long weekend for the next year or so. Plus, enough music to make a year's worth of never-ending bus commutes and long queues fly right by. Attention all friends back in Sydney: you know I owe you, so please grab and burn at will when I return. Amazing how they keep the prices so low here in Thailand, and yet manage to sell nothing but 100% genuine, legitimate MPAA-endorsed goods :P.
First night on Ton Sai. Ko Tao is now behind me, and it's been a week since I saw any of my diving friends from Sairee. And who should I happen to bump into — walking right past me on the beach — but Caroline! Turns out that she's been here — along with all the Canadian dudes from the course — for a few days. Naturally, I was obliged to join my old buddies for a few drinks tonight: especially since it's their last night in Ton Sai, with their destination for tomorrow being the island of Ko Phi-Phi. It seems that there's only one thing, and one night, that everybody remembers about me from Ko Tao — when the crew first saw me this evening, they all greeted me with: "hey, it's vomit boy!" Uhhh... yeah, thanks guys :\.
One last place here on Ko Tao that I've heard good things about, but that I haven't previously visited, is a place called Freedom beach. Since this was my last day on the island, today I tore myself away from yet another trip to Moondance beach, and instead ventured onto new sands. Freedom beach is in the opposite direction from Moondance: it's on the eastern side of Chalok Baan Kao, in a tiny protected bay just in from Chalok's eastern headland. Lovely place, and a great final impression of Ko Tao.
He was with me omnipresently, during my sojourns in hippie-thronged Mexico and South America. He abandoned me in North America and in Europe, where nobody can fit so much as a pony-tail into their hectic modern lives, let alone a daily dose of stoned inner peace. But now that I'm in Thailand, I can most definitely say that my old friend Bob Marley is back, and that he's bigger than ever. Bob is, of course, the undisputed king of all Reggae, the mascot of all hippies, and the master of all chill-out music. His red-yellow-green, dreadlock-infused banner flies tall and proud, everywhere you may go in Thailand.
I really should stay longer here in Pai. It's such a nice place. Anyway, despite the great friends that I've got here, and despite the urging of said friends for me to linger, tonight was my final night here: what can I say, except "the south is calling"? This evening, I enjoyed a delicious Thai curry for dinner with Sonny (can't remember the name — but it's one I've never had before), while the two of us engaged in our final heated political debate. Then, it was back to the sewer bar: it left such a good impression on us last night, that we just had to return for more.
This evening, Deanna and I went to see a Flamenco show here in Barcelona. Flamenco is that most famous of Spanish dancing: you know the one, with the Riverdance-like foot-tapping, and the women in long flowing dresses, and the hairy guys twiddling cheesily on their guitars. It was very convenient — it's right next door to the Kabul hostel — and what's more, the show is free for all Kabul guests! The performance was beautiful, dramatic, stern, and yet fun — a combination that nobody can pull off quite like the Spanish can. The jug of sangria that we ordered wasn't bad, either. We caught the 9:30pm show, which was just as well: because the 10:30pm one was totally packed-out.
I've been to cities that never close down — but I haven't yet found a town (anywhere in the world) without an Irish pub. Congratulations, Ireland: us Aussies only have ourselves everywhere on the planet; you guys have taken world conquest that one step further. Flannigans just goes to show that Kitzbühel (and the Austrian Alps) is no exception. Flannigans is loud, it's smoky, and it's packed every night of the week. This evening — after our enchiladas — Jake and Mitch continued their après-ski tour of the town, by bringing the gang over here. These two Aussie brothers are incredible: they walk into Flannigans, and half the pub is rushing up to talk to them — seems that they're best mates with everyone! Flannigans has a fairly large contingent of "regulars": and if you hang around, you soon get to know most of them. This really is a very gemütliche place, after all.
Follow every strudel, don't resist the lure. When you visit Salzburg, you're visiting the home of "The Sound of Music", one of the most famous movies of all time. And whether you caper, cringe or cry out at the thought of doing anything so cheesy as the official SoM tour (I still haven't decided which I should do), the fact remains: you know you wanna do it, and you know you gotta do it. Today, Lisa and I fulfilled our solemn duty, and hopped along for the ride. It certainly was cheesy, as well as more than a little lame; but it was also a fun, colourful and song-filled day.
I haven't been to a huge amount of live entertainment, thus far on my trip. But tonight, I was in for a treat: Max and Joel took Jack and myself out to a club in London's West End, which is famous for its all-star line-up of Monday night jazz music. Apparently, the place is crowded and sleazy (and the music sucks) on other nights. But every Monday, they have this setup where a great band — comprised of some of England's best-known jazz musicians — play for an hour or two; and then, they hand over the floor to amateur musicians, which is anyone who's walked in the door (with their instrument, preferably), and who is willing to get on stage and to join in, improv style. No cover charge, either. This is a great show, and it's also clearly a huge opportunity for aspiring musicians to get themselves heard. Anyone's welcome, but the night is certainly first and foremost "by musicians, for musicians".