The first joke I ever told I was aged seven in the wake of the first Apollo space missions.
“There’s good news and bad news. The BBC have just announced that the Chinese have landed on the moon.
“What’s the good news?”
All of them.
OK, I was only seven, cut me some slack for a lame joke. A mate of mine in the 80s on seeing an unusual sight in those days, an overweight Thai, would always get guffaws of unbridled laughter with:
“Oh hoo na khrap. More Chins than a Chinese phone book”.
Little did we know back then – just a decade or so after Richard Nixon met with Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai in China – how the landscape of the world, and especially its tourism, would change.
By the same token given another US president’s rapprochement with a former Asian foe this year we might all be welcoming millions of North Koreans to places like Pattaya and Hua Hin come 2064. It is about as likely.
This week in Thaivisa news it was China, China and more China. It was like the weeks of the cave drama all over again except that every other story featured the Chinese and principally for Thai watchers their burgeoning relationship with everything Thai.
Everybody likes to bash the Chinese it seems but Thai officialdom is increasingly obliged to suck it up and bend over backwards for a jolly good thrashing from their all encompassing and powerful Asian neighbor. And after being spanked they must say “khorp khun” and put another prawn on the buffet.
Tourism, we are repeatedly told, makes up about one fifth of the Thai economy. And of all tourists the Chinese make up more than a quarter. That must mean that the Chinese visitors make up several percent of GDP. That is a lot for one single entity but it is massive when one considers who is affected by negative news and drops in Chinese tourism.
No, it is not the beach operators on Jomtien or the hoteliers and agents on Patong. It is several controlling figures high up in Thailand who will really feel the pinch.
Or as Clive Dunn used to say in “Dad’s Army” – They don’t like it up ’em Mr Mainwaring.
The bleating about the drop off in Chinese numbers since the Phuket boat tragedy and more recently the assault of Mr Chin by a Don Muang security guard
has all come via the Thai government as it is members of that honorable institution, and their relatives, who are feeling that pinch the most.
Namely Big Joke – Maj-Gen Surachate Hakpan who took over as head of immigration on Monday. BJ was sent in all guns blazing and his masters must have been thrilled with the quickfire result – the arrest of a “gang of four” Chinese
(memories of Mao’s wife there!) who had embarrassed the Chinese in an investment fraud ratified by their own government.
One government pleasing another – gold dust.
This must have been music to the Thai premier’s ears as others like tourism minister Wearysak joined in the fray to win back the lost Yuan.
Social media meanwhile – not as shackled by Thai technology and sharing laws as many newbies to Thailand believe – launched into familiar tirades against their fellow Asians.
Stories abounded about fake and illegal guides on tour buses spouting nonsense
about there being things like prostitutes in Pattaya for, shock horror, US servicemen to enjoy! Such claims were ridiculed alongside the guides being filmed giving renditions of the Thai national anthem for their countrymen’s edification on tour buses.
I have heard some bad karaoke in my time but this took the Chinese cookie.
The Thais seemed to be saying – now that is the kind of “Hua Jai Thai” we need now – even if he vaguely resembled one of those bruisers in Pattaya with tattoos who beat people up for not paying the Bike Gang their bar protection money on time.
Normally he would have been hung out to dry for that. Now the Thais rather felt sorry for him and resorted to deferring to age and making jokes about dodgy Rolex.
Amid all the Chinese sphincter licking and its concomitant bashing came perhaps the greatest laugh and the clear winner of my “Irony of the Week award”. A Thai Rath journalist slammed one of the guides on a tour bus for suggesting that Thailand was a colony of the Chinese.
Methinks that the antics of this week may have struck many that such a statement was a little too close to the truth for comfort. At the very least such words may have got stuck in the throat – rather like the chicken feet that was said to be the death of a Chinese tourist
who received scant sympathy for doing what the nation’s detractors say their nationals always do – gobble down their food with barely a Chiw.
Throughout the 80s people told me “you must go to China”. I was always a lover of India for foreign holidays and I didn’t take up the offer to visit until 2011. I planned to take some international school children on a surfing trip to Hainan island and organized several skiing trips to an area north of Beijing.
I enjoyed my visits but hankered for Bangalore. Later I made two trips to Hong Kong but that is hardly China……more like Britain with noodles. Though I must say I absolutely adored Hong Kong – not least of all for picking five winners one night at Happy Valley and attending – with 110,000 others – the biggest attendance in history at Shatin racecourse one memorable Chinese New Year.
I have a lot of respect for the Hong Kong Jockey Club if not quite that much yet for the Chinese themselves. Mostly Rooster takes people as he finds them though like everyone I have my favorite nationalities and those I’d think twice about getting into bed with.
For what it’s worth I shall probably go to my grave thinking that few on earth can match the Japanese and the Irish while I am less enamored by those who live, appropriately enough, no more than a proverbial stone’s throw from Mecca.
No one will be enamored by a British national who this week get’s my wholehearted “Darwin Award For Lack of Service to the Gene Pool”.
That would not qualify for the Darwin Award in itself. What did was the fact that it all played out on CCTV in the hall. They denied it at first then had to admit Pol Col Apichai Krobpetch (AKA AK 47) had made a fair cop.
Welcome to Thai clink Sidney and if and when you do get out – please, please don’t try to procreate.
Another award goes to the omnipresent Big Joke – he was rivaling “Chinese” as the buzzword of the week! The Maj-Gen gets the “Better Late Than Never” award for the “No Tips” signage that has gone up nationwide in an effort to rein in bent immigration officers (otherwise referred to as his underlings). After a brilliant story from Isaan about ghosts killing villagers
like there is no tomorrow it got me thinking:
When, oh when, is Big Joke going to take on the OGRES?!?!
Finally, a big thumbs up for the Thais this week came in the unlikely shape of an altogether better Brit, snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan
. The largely undisputed most-talented-person-ever-to-
pick-up-a-cue told The Sun that he is planning on three months at a Buddhist retreat in Thailand. The firebrand has mellowed greatly in recent years so let’s just hope that the availability of Ya Ba and free sex in the nation’s temples doesn’t tempt him.
The last thing we need would be that another Brit emulates their father – Ronnie’s was banged up for decades for murder.
Of course believing anything in The Sun is like taking deputy prime ministers and their tales at watch face value but I do hope Ronnie comes and makes up for his absence at the Six Red World Championships that we enjoyed in Bangkok last month.
Rooster – a proud and devout atheist – has never stayed at a temple longer than doing a quick “graap” to please the missus so the idea of months or ordaining at one is anathema. I did once have cause to lie through my front teeth about the matter, however.
My local Pathum Thani hairdressers had scandalously put the price of a haircut up from 25 to 30 baht so rather than risk penury I decided to shave my own head.
This freaked out my children but failed to impress my British headmaster at the international school where I worked as Head of Thai Studies. In a welcome back meeting after the summer holidays he announced, with a thinly veiled sneer, that all teachers should refrain from “skinhead haircuts”.
I liked him a lot but on this occasion I intended to get my own back with the artifice of playing on a perceived lack of knowledge of Thai culture. Through one of his deputies I let it be known that during the holidays I had, most honorably, ordained in the monkhood in order to pass onto my students in the Thai Studies classes first hand knowledge of the tenets and traditions of Buddhism.
I figured correctly that only Thais would notice that this was nonsense as I had not had my eyebrows shaved.
I got a lovely British apology though whether I shall burn in the copper pot of Thai hell for lying……
Well, that remains to be seen.