Straight to the pool room
When asked why you'd want to go to Thailand (instead of to Bonnie Doon), Con replied: "it's the culture, Mr. Kerrigan." And he's right: Thailand does have an amazing culture. And that's exactly why I had to purchase a few souvenirs of that culture, to bring back to my loudly and proudly uncultured homeland. An absolutely essential purchase was the elephant — so essential was it, in fact, that I decided to take two — because as we all know: "When an elephant's trunk is up it means good luck(?). And this one's trunk was up(?)." Also scored a little mantlepiece plate, and a Kung Fu dude picking his ear. These are all such precious, adorable souvenirs, that there can be only one possible home for them: "these are going straight to the pool room."
Cute little fella, innee? He's got little velcro dots sewn into his hands, so that you can wrap his arms around your neck, and let him "hold on" and dangle there for a while. He also makes a horrible screeching monkey noise, if you squeeze him hard enough — this will be sure to induce plenty of headaches upon all who hear it. Picked the monkey up in Khao San Road today, although there is (naturally) nothing Thai about him — but a quick snip of the 'ol label, and nobody ever need know his humble "made in China" origins. As well as being a cuddly teddy, I believe this monkey would also serve well as a long-hanging wall decoration.
Khao San t-shirts
Khao San Road is absolutely chock-full of little stalls selling cheesy t-shirts. And since this is my last full day in Thailand, I couldn't resist picking up a few of them as souvenirs. As their brand name suggests, they are all pretty much "same same... but different". I especially like the "iPood" one, which is a not-at-all-subtle satire on that overpriced fashion accessory which I've avoided owning for so many years. Also good is the one with the picture of cave man evolving into upright man, and then ultimately devolving into man hunched over a computer screen, with the inscription: "something somewhere went terrible wrong." Geek power! The tuk-tuk one is cute, too. It was tough to pick out a mere three, since they're all so funny and so wearable — but sadly, I can't take the entire contents of Khao San Road back home with me.
Apart from the classic entertainment stock-up, Bangkok is also a great place to expand the ol' wardrobe for a bargain. This afternoon, I wandered over to Pratunam Market, where I came across the wholesale outlet of "Nobody Jeans". Their stock is a bit pricey (by Thai standards), and their policy of "no trying on" is absurd (even after you've bought it — I tried changing clothes in the shop after I'd paid them, and they threatened to hand my money back!); but they do sell very nice jeans. Since my traveller jeans are threatening to vaporise into thin air, if worn for too much longer, I figured it was time to invest in a new pair. Luckily, the new jeans do fit (despite the complications in trying them on).
Arrr... these be π-rated
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.
Ko Tao shmutters
After 10 nights here, I couldn't just leave Ko Tao empty-handed — I had to walk away with at least something to remember it by. Found these souvenir t-shirts this evening, while perusing the souvenir shops and knock-off boutique stores that line the streets of Mae Hat. Cute little reminders of this wonderful place. And no, neither of them is for me: I'm generally not a big fan of either pink or of aqua! I think they'll make good presents for the folks back home, when I return in a few weeks' time.
PADI Open Water certification
Courtesy of Ban's, I now proudly possess a PADI Open Water certification. The goodies that come with this include: a diver's handbook (which, being certified, I ostensibly know from cover-to-cover); a diver's logbook; and a temporary PADI membership card. My permanent membership card, which needs to be processed by the PADI head office in the States, will be mailed to me within the next few months. Plus, one other very useful perk: I'm now listed in the PADI global online database, which means that should I ever go diving again, my certification can be checked online by any dive shop in the world.
I bought it because I'm going to be lying on the beach for the next three weeks, and because I need a nice big hat to shade myself while in the sun. But it's a cowboy hat: and so, despite my intentions, it does plenty more than just give me some extra UV protection. A cowboy hat is a fashion statement. People see me wearing it, and they know I'm an Aussie (if only they could witness me wrestling with some croccies :P). They see me wearing it, and they know I'm a seasoned traveller. They see me wearing it, and they know I'm tough and ready for anything. And all that, just from a little piece-of-junk shmontse, that I picked up at a market stall today in Khao San Road. Oy, how people think!
Knitted starving Ethiopians
While Marie, Claire and myself were perusing the Pai night market this evening, I couldn't help but notice these little fellas. Sitting in neat rows in one of the souvenir stalls, they smiled back up at me with their jet-black knitted faces, all garbed in the African colours of red, yellow and green. When I saw them, I couldn't help but smile back, and think: "holy crap, it's a bunch of Starvin' Marvins!" Sweeeet.
Pencils for the kids
I'd heard that instead of just giving them money, it's a much better idea to give the kids in hill-tribe villages some stationery that they can use at school. This is similar to the custom for tourists in other parts of the world, such as on the islands of Peru's Lake Titicaca. So before I left Chiang Mai on Tuesday, I bought a few pens, a few pencils, and some blank exercise books. Didn't get a chance to offer these to the kids last night; but I cornered two little boys this morning, and they eagerly accepted the precious educational gifts. I Hope they get put to good use.