Did I miss it? A Short Story

For years I heard of legendary adventures about people traveling through Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand. Island hopping, epic full moon parties, outlaws living off the grid and I needed to know how to navigate it all. Even though I'd been traveling for a while, when I first arrived in Thailand I felt like I was new to the "backpacking" scene. I found myself asking other travelers, what's Thailand all about? Trying to get some tips on how to navigate the region like a pro, and here and there I managed to collect a few secrets. I remember asking the same question to a guy I ran into at my hostel, thinking this guy would know. He was probably in his early 40's, but looked 50. Skin leathery from the sun,  bleached hair - that kinda resembled dreadlocks, inked up with dated tattoos, and always, always looking for a cigarette. You could just tell that the guy had been through it. He looked like a vet traveler so I asked him, do you have any tips? What do I need to know? I was surprised by his answer. He said, "mate," "you missed it." "10 years ago Thailand use to be great." "Everything was a quarter of the price it is now, and there were no tourists, just a small cool backpacker scene." I thought, shit, I just arrived. Did I miss it? In fairness, I probably caught him at a bad time. After 15 years of traveling through the region, he just sold his bar in Koh Rong, Cambodia and was headed home. He said he needed some normalcy.

I had some of the best times in Thailand, but after he said, "you missed it," I can't help but wonder what it was like 10 years ago and I ask myself, what's next? Where's the next backpacker scene? Vietnam? Cambodia? Philippines? Papua New Guinea?