Category Archives: Strange Tourism

Strange Tourism / ,

Mystery, Intrigue, Trans-Siberian Express

To get from Beijing to Mongolia, you have a few choices.  A flight takes just over an hour.  The Trans-Siberian Express, meanwhile, offers a rugged thirty-hour ride through cities, towns, barren landscapes, desert, and finally the capital of Chingghis Khan.

It's a famously hard ride.  I pictured drunk Russians and fiery Mongols and live chickens and illegal cargo.  Border police and bribes and human trafficking.  Vodka and filterless smokes and mystery and intrigue. 

So, dressed in a t-shirt with red hearts and the huge word "KITTENS," I climbed aboard, ready to head up the wild.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 1 Comment
Strange Tourism /

Vang Vieng: The Silliest Place in Laos

Imagine the most pristine, untouched, slow-moving river. A place that seems from a dream. It carefully wraps around banks of green, where water buffalo and cows nap in the shade, and wake to sip from small pools. Four novice monks hold umbrellas for shade as they cross a rickety old bridge. A fisherman slaps his bamboo rod in the water to punt himself a few feet upstream. Up above, two volcanic mounts bring Mordor to mind. Beauty. Absolute pure remote beauty. You float through this serenity on an inner tube, and smile.

Now hold that prior image. Jam twenty bars that resemble frat parties into this river, each jutting out, perched over the water, each with their own pounding '90s techno or hiphop soundtrack. At one bar, thirty muscled drunk jarheads dance in a sweaty circle to "boys who like girls who like boys" as four girls in bikinis pretend to be bored. A screaming couple fly over our heads, suspended on a zipline, and bellyflop into the river behind us.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 1 Comment
Strange Tourism / ,

Weird Things in Chiang Mai

My favorite things about Chiang Mai were all pretty weird… Watch the video for dancing elephants and more.

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Strange Tourism / ,

Whoring in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai's an interesting town: a lot like Bangkok, but on a much smaller scale.  Hundreds of coffee shops.  Great boutiques.  And old white men with young Thai girls.  Absolutely everywhere.  Old hippies with Thai women in their 40s, and adorable little hapa kids.  Bald and bearded bikers with chubby teenagers.  Backpackers with stunning beauties.  It's not as offensive as it was in Hua Hin, but it's twice as pervasive.

At the UN Irish pub, I joined a group of four older farang, each of whom turned out to have come to Chiang Mai for the women. 

Derek, a 76-year-old cockney, works as a tree surgeon's assistant back home.  He's been in Chiang Mai on and off for forty years, but for three years he's lived here more than not.  "I went into a bar," he says, "And this bird sits down next to me and asks me to buy her a drink.  Now she wasn't what's normally my type.  I like 'em small, you see, and this one's big.  She's got some weight on her.  But I said, why not — thinking to myself it's just one night.  And we had some fun.  Well, that was three years ago, and we're still together.  Thirty six years old, she is."  She's less than half his age.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 1 Comment