When Rooster first came to Thailand – a young man in search of little chicks – he was under no misapprehensions about the dangers lurking in the kingdom. I had decided to not just learn to speak Thai but to study the written language as a matter of urgency and priority. I thought this might help me survive by giving me an edge.
Unlike like-minded friends my reading practice was never Thai children’s cartoons – I gravitated immediately to the speech bubbles of gory picture books with evil ghosts, retribution and murder. As a relief from the imaginary gore and violence I pored over and over the true variety of ‘Crime magazine” and “191” with their salacious stories and horrendous depictions of the results of grisly violence.
I was once walking outside the offices of the Por Teck Tung foundation (one of the organisations that race around picking up the dead and injured) and seeing the grotesque results of accidents posted on their windows asked an official there in my fledgling Thai, why all the gore?
“It ensures we get more donations to carry on our work” came the matter-of-fact reply.
With this background and a daily and nightlife that was “full” to say the least, I was under no illusions about the prevalent dangers and resolved to endeavor to take care and play to my strengths. Like run if it looked like fisticuffs, like look left and right and left again when going through a green light….and yes, with that language learning background, try to talk my way out of the scrapes and problems that anyone is likely to encounter even on a short sojourn in the kingdom.
It has held me in good stead, for thirty five years have passed and I am still almost standing. But reading the news week in and week out, yours truly is forced to concede that in order to survive life in Thailand good sense and guile is one thing – what you also need is a healthy dose of luck.
This week some got lucky and some certainly didn’t. Top of the “chook dee” variety went to the two Japanese tourists who were thrown from their female elephant after a randy pachyderm called Doraemon, of all things, attempted an urgent coupling.
They lived to tell the tale though what story they will tell their Okasans remains to be seen. After all it’s not every day you come to Thailand and Doraemon tries to roger you.
Less lucky by far was the Thai man enjoying a quiet Sunday at home who was killed instantly when a bullet fired in the air during a marriage procession outside dispatched him to “chart naa” (the next life) without asking if he was ready.
Good luck to the police solving that one – with the exception of the groom it appears half the males of the wedding party were armed to the teeth. They were all bailed – hopefully none of them will get hitched before they have their day in court or the body count could really mount up.
Also seemingly unlucky was the big bike westerner caught on video clipping the edge of a bridge and then being unceremoniously hurled out of sight to his death below. The chilling scream of the woman in the following car only added to the horror.
Even Rooster with all that gruesome experience behind him winced at that one.
It was one of several “videos and photos posted to Facebook” – a phrase that is now as much a staple of the Thai news as “fled the scene” or “transferred to an inactive post”.
Fleeing and videoed on Facebook was a motorcyclist who caused a car to end up in the central reservation in Khon Kaen while transferred to a desk job was the policeman ringleader of an extortion gang in Koh Pangan who was banished to the mainland.
As soon as he got some leave he was back on the island with his old mates kidnapping and robbing a Russian couple. Fair play to the Ruskies – they were not daunted by the danger of going to Koh Pangan in the first place then perhaps were not aware of the possible added peril of reporting a rogue cop to the cops.
Whether brave or foolhardy it is to be hoped that their actions help to clean up what the local tourism operators are calling the “wild west”. At the very least it brought the head of Surat police to Had Rin.
Meanwhile, I am indebted to several posters who pointed out my “keep ‘em peeled” error in last week’s column. Of course it was not Dixon of Dock Green but Shaw Taylor who coined that memorable catchphrase.
I must be getting old as mistakes start creeping in though thankfully I have got a ways to go before I am Warren Beatty and I’d need one of those operations famous in Thailand to be remotely like Faye Dunaway.
To stay reasonably safe in Thailand it is best not to rock the boat too much and to learn when to say “Khrap” and when to keep “crap” to yourself.
Consequently the only thing I will say to the metropolitan police chief Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn over the booze firm salary scandal when his signature miraculously appeared on an assets’ declaration is:
I believe you sir…though as my dear departed English mother used to say, thousands wouldn’t.
Reading through posts on the forum regarding the upholding of the death sentences against the Burmese in the Koh Tao murders it seems that thousands are convinced of their innocence and only the odd one has any certainty about their conviction.
And most of the latter seem to be victim David Miller’s family. Who knows what grief, or as some say threats or money, can do to one’s opinions, but the fact remains that the case is a ‘cause celebre’ likely to run until democracy returns to these fair shores.
In what was a rather serious week in many ways, it was just as well that we still had Pattaya. And not just the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard. For when you threw in the erstwhile reigning rani of the Tourism and Sports Ministry – Khun Kobkarn – you got a combination that would turn more heads than the sauciest seaside strumpet.
This week Her Kobkarnliness was trumpeting the resort’s prowess in sporting endeavor and chose as her example of excellence none other than jet-skis.
It amused me to read the translation of the Thai Rath story from the vernacular into English; despite the translator clearly thinking the whole idea was preposterous no attempt was made at ridicule.
Like in so many Thai stories and comments from Thai officialdom – the facts are ridiculous enough to speak for themselves!
I admire Khun Kobkarn who knows what good sport is – she was handing out prizes at the King’s Cup Scrabble event in Bangkok in July after all. Which got me thinking……
Maybe next she will start promoting Bridge in Pattaya and the pensioners can come out of hiding.
Naturally the forum posters had a field day at Khun Kobkarn’s expense as well as much merriment concerning the African female “tourists” who claimed they were out for a stroll on Beach Road.
With their backs to the media cameras they showed more cheek than even the police in denying the bleeding obvious.
The “ooh, er missus” innuendo of the Thaivisa posters reminded us that life in the resort is not to be taken too seriously. Maybe the minister should remember that when she makes her promised visit later this month.
Also keeping Rooster’s ribs tickled “chompuu” was the farang guy in the north east who seemed to have got a free bowl of noodles or two after claiming to be Tom Cruise. He was pictured smiling with the owner on the shop’s wall.
Maybe they talked about Mission Impossible, and by that I mean the movie…..not the latest attempts by the authorities to oust the embezzler at Wat Dhammakaya, a story that makes Thai TV soaps look interesting.
Still the story of “scientology’s savior” gave Rooster a few ideas. Over the years, several Thais have stopped me in the streets and on escalators, of course, to say I look like Robert de Niro. I never deny it and the encounters always end in happy smiles even if no one is yet to get my “it’s nice to Meet the Fockers” joke.
Maybe I shall actively promote my dazzling good looks in the eateries of Ratchayothin this week.
And so to this week’s Rooster Awards – now, where did I put that envelope? Ah, here it is – and the winner of the best “’Avin’ a laugh” award of the year so far is the National Park official who suggested that the charging (sic) of foreign tourists must be “transparent and modernized”.
Thailand may have done a fair job with the modernizing bit over the last few decades but transparency remains as obscure and irrational a concept as ever.
So much so, that I have met Thais who think trans-parent is a lady boy who wants to adopt an orphan.
While the “That Just Has to be Better Than the Real Thing” award goes to the Bangkok police for plans to install hundreds of fake cops or “jaa cheuy” with cameras to catch those arch criminals who don’t even wear the 199 baht helmets available in Lotus.
The idea is to rake in millions in fines…oh and er….stop crime, clean up the tourism image, end the drugs trade….er, no, serve, yes, yes that’s it, serve and protect the public.
I was a little taken aback that the concrete models were A) upstanding and B) not smiling much, as my experience with the cuntstabulary is that they reserve their broadest grin when they are about to relieve motorcyclists of the content of their wallets.
Finally I loved the story about the road in Nakorn Somewhere where the power poles were left in the middle of the thoroughfare when it was widened. Thaivisa forum posters chimed in with dozens of other examples in their own streets, towns and villages up and down the kingdom. It made me think about the similarities between the Thais and the British I left behind all those years ago.
For wasn’t it complaints about the number of Poles in the streets that led to Brexit?