I hope I'll stay here forever: Nanthapon "Toto" Duangkhae

Nanthapon "Toto" Duangkhae, 37


I found Pai as a tourist, in the year 2000. At that time, six or seven years ago, Pai still had nothing. Just a small village. Just one, two, three restaurants, just two or three guesthouses, no traffic lights.

I'm from Bangkok, I was born there. I grew up around Thailand - I moved with my parents every three to four years because my father was a government officer. Then I lived for fifteen years in Bangkok, studying and working. Well, it wasn't really work but I made money, importing sports equipment. If had stayed in Bangkok I could have made more money than here. But I love to live here, that's why money is not so important.

I loved Pai because it's quiet, friendly. It's different from Bangkok, it's opposite: good fresh air, you're close to nature. It's not set up as a touristy place like Pattaya. You can still find the local people. One time my friend Soy lost his ID card and went to the police station, and there was no-one there. At that time, all the village people knew each other, there was no crime.

The thing I like best about Pai is that you spend your life in an easy way. It's a small social place. You don't need a mask here with the local people...maybe just if I do business with Bangkok people...simple life.

If I lived in Bangkok I'd have a house, a car, the costs of city life, everything. Here I have just a small scooter, an old truck, it's enough!

Coming to Pai wasn't too much of a change for me - my grandfather was a farmer, we used to stay with him in the countryside in my school holidays. We'd try to ride buffaloes! You have to crouch, on your knees, not straddle like a horse, otherwise you fall off...

I took over this place. It was a guesthouse before I came. People tell me it was the first guesthouse by the river, and the first out of town. It's at least twenty years old - some old guests came, from fifteen years ago, and the said it was still the same.

The first time I came to Pai I just wanted to build my house here. I came with a friend - he said, "if you buy that guesthouse, I'll run it for you".

TotoI think every city has change. But Pai is changing too fast. I'm trying to keep this guesthouse like Pai was in the past. This time the Government has a policy about hotels - I can't build bamboo huts like this anymore, because they say they are not strong enough, easy to have fires. But the locals have used huts like these for hundreds of years. In summer, it's not too hot. I want to keep this style - bamboo grows fast - the bamboo used in the huts is just three years old. It supports the local people - spreads money around the local people - every time I replace a roof or a whole hut. It's much better than a modern place and a mortgage.

When the Government tourist people knew that many farang, foreigners, were coming, they try to improve Pai, rebuild, make more comfortable - comfortable as in TV, airconditioning. But the commonsense of the local people is not like that. People coming here nowadays are eighty percent still the same - they come here because it's cheap, there's nature, they want to relax.

Pai is also changing towards the people who don't have much time. Tourists that come and go, spend lots of money. They never talk to local people, never breathing the smell of the country.

This has happened to many places. They go into through a touristic phase and then die - but even in the rainy season tourists still come to Pai.

Many people are just speech and not action. But I think it's important to just do something with your simple life, you normal life. Like my King said: if you can feel you have enough already, it will make you happy.

All you need is to eat, sleep, shit, fuck...it will make you happy. Like I just have my scooter, my old truck, it's OK for me.

I hope I'll stay here forever.

TotoToto talked to me on Wednesday, October 7, 2007. He is the owner of Pai River Lodge.


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