Chiang Mai In The News


This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, November 30, 2004 was originally posted on December 05, 2004.

DAY 409:  Everyone in my little Chiang Mai clique decided to “take a day off” to rest and recuperate in the city after being in the jungle for three days.  Despite the beautiful weather outside, I spent most of the day indoors at the desk in my room writing and sorting out photos, all while listening to my eclectic music collection:  the Linkin Park Live in Texas CD, Stevie Wonder’s greatest hits and an assortment of MP3s like the underground hip-hop classic, Akinyele’s “Put It In Your Mouth.”

I took a mid-day lunch break back at the Chiang Mai Saloon for a baked potato stuffed with chili, cheese and sour cream — probably the best baked potato I’ve had outside the USA.  I sat alone at a table and watched the TV in the corner, which was playing a special World AIDS Day program produced by a collaboration of CNN and MTV.  The program showcased how different countries were dealing with the AIDS epidemic — from Beijing to Tanzania to West Virginia, USA — and all of a sudden the image on the screen looked familiar.

“Here in Chiang Mai…” began the segment, with text on the screen saying “Chiang Mai, Thailand.”

“Hey, that’s right there!” I said to the guy at the bar.  He was surprised too; they had shot just down the block from where we were.  The report continued about AIDS in Thailand, how it’s become more rampant since casual sex has become almost as common as sex tourism, but the rate of new HIV cases has taken a huge dive since the country’s big education and condom distribution efforts. 

LOT, ELISE, HANS, CLAIRE AND I MET UP that evening to go to the night bazaar, which was like most any other tourist-targeted market selling the usual wooden carvings, textiles, Che Guevarra t-shirts and bootleg CDs.  There were also some Thai-specific items, like Muay Thai boxing trunks.  I was looking for a new towel and a new pair of swimming trunks since I accidentally mine hanging out to dry in the village after the rafting trip the day before, but there was nothing to be found in such a souvenir market.  “Basically they just sell the same thing over and over,” I told Claire.

“Yeah, it’s the same everywhere in Thailand.”

“All over the world, really.”  Seriously, what is it about Che Guevarra that has made him this neo-bohemian t-shirt icon all over the world?  Many people I’ve asked didn’t even know anything about him.

I gave up on trunks and towels and just camped out with Claire in the corner Starbucks for Frappucinos until the others met us there.  One thing I did buy though was some bootleg DVDs so that I could catch up on the latest in American pop culture on my laptop.  Hans and I shopped at one stand where the actual physical DVD discs were somewhere else; you had to go through a catalog and pick the ones you wanted.  Hans and I each chose five; the guy handled me first, but not in haste.  For some reason he was stalling and kept on asking me to “wait five minute.”  He was on his mobile phone to coordinate the delivery — I figured the guy on the other end was just having trouble finding the last remaining copy of Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.  My discs came in a bag about fifteen minutes later, but Hans wasn’t so lucky; the guy told him to come back later, and when he did, the DVDs were no longer available for the night.

“They’re too many cops around,” Hans figured out.  One of the Bangkok Post‘s top stories that day was the fact that not only was it World AIDS Day, but it was one of the first days of a 90-day campaign of surprise bootleg media raids in Thailand.  According to a factoid pointed out by Blogreader Noelle, “Rampant movie piracy in Asia in the form of bootlegged DVDs cost Hollywood more than $718 million in lost revenue in 2003, up from $575 million in 2000.”  Just outside of Bangkok, factories mass-produced illegal DVDs and distributed them around the country, from the beaches of the south to the cities in the north like Chiang Mai.  Until the raids the police usually let the pirate vendors slide, but this time the government sent out the national police for the busts.  In the first day alone, 200 policemen seized over a million illegal DVDs and CDs.

Isn’t it funny how perhaps twenty years ago, we would have laughed and thought this was just futuristic science fiction?  Back then, police made big drug busts, and now they were going out for electronic crime offenders.  The future really is now, especially with mobile and internet technology advancing at an exponential rate; I can’t wait until we start seeing flying cars.

IT WAS ELISE’S LAST DAY IN CHIANG MAI so we sent her off with a night of drinks.  Just like in Bangkok, it wasn’t necessary to be inside a bar to get schlacquered; right on the main road a couple of Thai guys set up a cocktail bar converted from a vintage Volkswagen van (picture above).  Hans and I experimented by ordering drinks on the menu that we never heard of — “Elephant Kiss” and “Around the World” — but both ended up tasting worse than fish sauce.  I played it safe afterwards with the standard Mai Tai, which Lot and I redubbed the “Chiang Mai Tai.”  Not many people called it that though, but I’m sure we could have sent a press release out to announce the name change for the next day the city of Chiang Mai was in the news spotlight again.

Next entry: The Occidental Tourist

Previous entry: Whingeing Down The River

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Comments for “Chiang Mai In The News”

  • that clamp gets funnier every time i see it

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  10:29 AM

  • That quote is from Variety - it’s a pretty big thing over here for the entertainment industry. All of the CDs I just bought have this FBI insignia on them, talking about the anti-piracy program. My mom bought cassette tapes when I was in the 4th grade.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  01:42 PM

  • Apparently I hit post too quickly - she bought pirated cassettes, b/c they were available then. And one of the tapes had songs on it that I’d never heard before - very strange…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  01:51 PM

  • Schlacquered! Erik, you kill me!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  04:24 PM

  • damn anti-piracy bastards…

    news from howard stern…cheech and chong are back together and are currently writing a new movie!

    yes!  (chong is finally out of jail for running a bong manufacturing business…)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  05:06 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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