A Riverside Walk

15 12 2012

I don’t like fire ants. I want to make that abundantly clear. But I do like Google’s satellite images. In the absence of anything resembling a good map here in Thailand, the combination of Google maps and their satellite images is wonderful. I often use that to identify something interesting I have passed by. Recently, I was taking a look at a large area of greenery that I pass on my way to work and spotted something that looked interesting on our side of the river. There, along the east bank of the Chao Praya River in Samut Prakan was what appeared to be a path through the jungle running almost on the edge of the river. Even better, it looked easy to get to.

The old ordination hall in front of the new one.

The old ordination hall in front of the new one.

Opposite the Erewan Museum, on old Sukhumvit Road, is a small street called Soi Bang Duan. And, thinking of myself as an ever-intrepid explorer, off I went dragging my wife and a friend with me. We drove all the way to the end of the street where there is a lovely temple supported by the local community. It’s called Wat Bang Duan Nok and I made use of their car park. The original ordination chapel, several hundred years old is still standing but not in the best state of repair. Last year, it was badly flooded and two companies have since helped raise the ground level and the chapel floor but there is no money for urgently needed roof repairs. The hall is protected by a trio of aggressive temple dogs but a very friendly monk did his utmost to assure me that they wouldn’t bite. I waited for my wife and our friend to return from the toilet and sent them in first as a sort of experiment. They didn’t bite and neither did the dogs.

The path seemed to be clear and well maintained.

The path seemed to be clear and well maintained.

The path I had seen was very easy to find and exactly where the satellite image showed it! As you go into the temple car park, look to your left where you will see a water gate. Walk across that and there is the path. For a short while it was easy going and well maintained. But not for long! Very soon, we were hacking our way through jungle using the inevitable stick to bang for snakes and other wee beasties we didn’t want around our ankles. We could just about make out the path but it was getting worse and, pushing through the foliage, more and more fire ants were landing on me and attacking. Not the most pleasant sensation so I whimpered loudly as a way of encouraging my companions to get them off me. Eventually, the path all but disappeared and, reluctantly, we decided it was time to turn back.

Eventually the path all but disappeared.

Eventually the path all but disappeared.

However, I had seen another possibility on Google and, asking the locals, that seemed very likely. So we walked back up the street we had driven down for almost half a kilometre and took the second raised concrete walkway on our right, just before a small shop and with a thing like a memorial to (or housing the spirit of) a dead child on the corner. The people in the shop told us that the path we had originally tried is only passable in the dry season and here we were at the end of the rainy season, trying to get through when it would be at its worst! The walkway provided lovely easy walking with plenty of shade. At a fork in the path, we bore right and were very soon walking through a huge area of nipa palm trees. The Thai name for the nipa palm is ‘jaak’ and it has many uses. The leaf can be used to wrap a local dessert called ‘khanom jaak’, they are stitched together to make roofing material, brooms are made from them, hats, baskets, fish traps and more. The fruit is also edible although I haven’t tried it.

The spirit thingy.

The spirit thingy.

We passed another small community and shortly after that the raised walkway finished, leading us on to the same path we had abandoned earlier. It was in good repair here and we walked eastwards along the river. Mostly it was just out of sight but every now and then we came across a tiny path leading to the water’s edge. Now it was just us, nature and the tankers we could hear on the river! Before long, we reached a large fenced compound blocking the path. This was the Marine Training Centre and we turned right, following a small boardwalk along the edge. At the river bank, this changed to a concrete path leading us around the perimeter of the centre and, eventually a road bridge. We crossed the bridge and followed the road, which was old Sukhumvit Soi 6.

The Chao Praya river was just to our right.

The Chao Praya river was just to our right.

A short distance along on the right is another large compound, this one belonging to the police. We wandered in and, in the far left corner by the riverside is an almost hidden gate. Walking through there, we found ourselves in the kitchen area of a large restaurant which was opportune as we were hungry. We were shown into the restaurant proper and enjoyed the air conditioning. The food wasn’t bad either. After lunch, we retrod our steps back to the car and are now planning to do it again in the dry season when we should be able to make it a circular walk.

Lovely sign in the restaurant we stumbled upon.

Lovely sign in the restaurant we stumbled upon.

 

 





2011 in review

1 01 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 190,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 8 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.





Floods!

31 10 2011

Okay, my ‘Year in Bangkok’ finished a few months ago but there will sometimes be something worth adding and this seems like one of those things.

Water, water everywhere!

As you may have heard, Thailand is experiencing its worst flooding for fifty years and, as I write, almost 400 people have died as a direct result of those floods. There are less obvious problems too. For instance, the rather aggressive cross-breeds that are used for their skin are escaping from the crocodile farms en masse. Snakes, like us, are keen to get to dry land and snakebite has increased hugely. Much of the water contains leeches and they are feeding off the people wading and swimming in the water, even managing to invade them internally occasionally. The flood water in many places is polluted with sewage and, in Bangkok, that polluted floodwater has now got into the mains water system. It is impossible to buy clean drinking water, supermarket shelves are stripped of produce almost the minute it arrives, smokers are having extreme difficulty buying their weed but, strategically, I have moved my small collection of single malts upstairs well away from any rising waters.

Snakes, usually rarely seen, are becoming a problem.

Another problem is that nobody can agree who is in charge. The prime minister says she is. The governor of Bangkok says he is. The local administrators say they are. The U.S president probably thinks he is. And we, the people, are getting some strangely mixed messages. “Evacuate your area immediately,” says one bigwig. “No, don’t,” says another. “He doesn’t know what he is talking about, wait until I make an announcement,” And so it goes on. Meanwhile, all we really know is that we are in the middle of a unique if dangerous situation. I have so far stayed dry despite several warnings but I don’t know what might happen to me tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the one after that. Friends have been evacuated and don’t know what might happen to their homes. Others have left the city and are renting houses or flats in other areas. No doubt, when it is all over, everybody here will have their own unique flood story.

This is how it looks inside every local Tesco store at the moment.

Yesterday, I looked after an 82 year old visitor from England prior to putting him on his midnight plane home. I live in an area with no other westerners so don’t have much chance of conversation in my own language. I also work almost entirely with Thai people so the same applies there. Usually, I relish the opportunity to natter with another native English speaker but this guy was something else. There were things I sort of had in common with him – he is the same age as my father, he was in the RAF at the same time as my father, we were living on the same RAF base at the same time in the late 60s so there was plenty of opportunity to enjoy some conversation and maybe some reminiscences. But no. This guy talked non-stop about his children, their children and their children for almost the entire 12 hours I looked after him. I drove him down to the coast for a beer as he hadn’t seen the sea while he was here and almost pushed him off the pier. I didn’t of course, my patience somehow held but it was the first time I remember ever dancing for happiness after seeing somebody off at an airport.

You never know what might escape from your local crocodile farm.





A Year in Bangkok – Valentine’s Day

27 02 2011

Yet again, I’m a bit rushed at the moment so have decided to post something I wrote earlier, on what must have been my first February over here in Thailand.

 

All of a sudden it is Valentine’s day and I’ve been amazed at how the Thais have taken this Christian festival to their hearts, it’s a really big deal here. I have been deluged with gifts, mainly for my home and, for the first time, it is actually starting to look like a home. I now have vases of fresh and dried flowers, delightful fabrics, smelly things, a lime tree and even some tropical fish swimming around. Two friends came round and cooked me a western style meal then sent me out for a beer while they cleaned up! The only non-home present was an Armani shirt from one of them and I’m still feeling quite overwhelmed.

It was the same at school. The younger children covered my clothing with stickers, mainly heart shaped of course. Some of the older, teenage, girls gave me roses and even a couple of the teachers gave me roses.  Unfortunately, the roses have struggled to survive the day and, as I arrive back at my building, they give up the last of their limp petals. I arrive in my flat with a delightful bunch of stems which immediately go into a vase. Actually I don’t have any vases, so they go into an empty wine bottle which I’m sure they will appreciate. As stems go, they look quite good.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Today, the twenty first of February, is a special day, it is Makha Bucha day which is a big Buddhist festival. I went to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha with my two women friends who were so kind to me on Valentine’s Day. We walked round the temple three times constantly wai-ing and holding lotus blossoms, burning incense, a candle and some gold leaf which were all ceremoniously given to the Buddha afterwards. I just hope I’m not married to them now. After that, we strolled around town taking in the sights and sounds of people celebrating in every park, temple or public space we came across.

It’s the last Friday of the second semester and I’ve just taught my favourite class for the last time as they’ll all be leaving school now. Art and Boy especially, I shall miss your cheery good humour even when you’re being punished. My journey home is a pretty long one from here as I’m south of the river so the first stage of the trip home is a taxi to Thaliya Pepsi, or Pepsi Port but the Pepsi bit is pronounced Pepsee. From there I walk down a narrow alley to the river, always a colourful experience as this is a favourite spot for beggars and buskers. Many of these people are fed, housed and clothed by gangs who take all their ‘earnings’ and transport them to and from their begging spots. Because people with missing limbs make more money, I’ve even heard of them paying the families of these people sums like three thousand baht (about sixty pounds) in order to gain agreement to amputate a limb. Because of these practices, I usually only give to beggars who are local to me.

Thaksin Bridge

Once at the river, I pay three baht for a ferry across or I climb eighty six stairs to walk across Thaksin bridge to the sky train station. I will be glad when they open the southern extension of the sky train, my journeys will be so much easier. Today I’m feeling lazy so decide on the ferry. Whilst waiting, I spend ten baht on a small tub of hot delicious sweet corn.

Later, on the sky train travelling to Thong Lor, somebody said “Excuse me, do you live here?” A little surprised, as it’s the first time a stranger has approached me with that question, I replied in the affirmative.

The Sky Train

“Oh great” he said, “Can you tell me how to get to Chatuchak?” Chatuchak is the huge weekend market here, it’s the size of a small town. Having warned him it was only fully open on Saturdays and Sundays, I told him:

“The easiest way is to get a sky train to More Shit and just follow the crowds but beware, it’s very hot and crowded there”

“More Shit?” he said “that’s what the place is called?”

“Yes” I replied “but it’s spelt Mo Chit”

“You’re winding me up” says he “nobody could call a place More Shit”

“Really” I said “it’s More Shit”

“No, I’m not falling for that but thanks for your help mate.”

I suppose I could have told him how the Thais have great difficulty making the ‘ch’ sound or that ‘o’ often sounds like a short ‘ore’ but would he really have been interested? I would love to have seen his face though when the disembodied voice on the sky train announced

“Next station, More Shit.”

On the sky train

At Thong Lor station, I get my fourth mode of transport for this journey, the little red bus. This costs five baht and is a bit like a taxi in that bus stops are ignored, it will stop wherever somebody hails it or when somebody presses the bell. Walking to where the bus starts its journey, I stop to buy a banana pancake – one of my favourite Thai snack foods. It’s a thin crepe like pancake filled with sliced banana and condensed milk – unhealthy but great to eat. I love sitting on the bus watching the sights along Soi Thong Lor. Today one of the wedding shops is offering a ‘buy one get one free’ deal. First time I’ve seen that one for weddings and I wonder what sort of message it’s sending! There’s a new shop too, advertising ‘used books, coffee and cakes’. I hope only the books have been used. I’m wishing I’ve got my camera with me as the bus driver has such a characterful face, sat thinking about that so that I have to be shouted at to get off the bus at the end of the line. Just after crossing the footbridge over the canal, I notice a banana tree coming into bloom and think it would be good to photograph the different stages – must remember to pop out over the weekend.

The Little Red Bus

Because the main road is so busy and I rarely feel suicidal, I take a detour to use a footbridge. This bridge is a delight as it is normally lined with hawkers including a traditional herbalist. Sometimes there is a guy who sells beautiful, hand made artificial flowers. To top them off, he attaches finely detailed hand made insects. Last time I saw him, I’d just bought a couple of chilled beers in the convenience store and, as I was passing him, he said “Ah beer, welly good” so I decided to have one with him. We used the sharp edge of the railing to open the bottles and, as we were drinking, had the sort of conversation I love. He gabbled away in Thai and I gabbled away in English. With the help of many gestures his story emerged. He is only there occasionally as he has terminal cancer and now spends much of his time in hospital. When he’s out, he raises the funds for further treatment by doing this. It’s a while now since I’ve seen him so I hope that isn’t bad news.

Once I’m over the bridge, I generally stop to say hello to the lady on the fruit stall and then I’m home and straight into a lovely cold shower before demolishing a plate of mango and watermelon.

 





A Year in Bangkok – Moving House

31 12 2010

Farewell to the old place.

As we had mid-term tests in school, I was able to take the day off on Tuesday. We got up ludicrously early and went out for breakfast as we had no food in and nothing to cook it with. Added to that, I was feeling exceedingly sorry for myself as I had just got one of those horrible Thai colds which make you feel that death by a million cigarette burns would be a far preferable option. Upon returning home, we threw ourselves into a frenzy of activity which essentially involved carefully placing every portable possession we had into a cardboard box, repeatedly saying “We don’t need this do we?” and running to the bin with the one thing we both agreed we could dispose of. At ten, four men and a bbt arrived and carried everything to the lifts. We were moving house!

Possessions start to accumulate by the lifts.

Seeing all that stuff at the lifts was a depressing sight. When I came here, I just a suitcase. I had given away or sold all my possessions in England and it had been a remarkably liberating experience. Now, here I am getting bogged down by possessions again. Of course, I have perfectly good sounding (to me) excuses for all of them. For example, the furniture in the apartment we rented was awful and uncomfortable so we bought our own. My first major purchase, before I even met my wife, was a sofa so that I had somewhere comfortable to sit and read. Before that, I went to a bar with comfy seats every night. I’m not quite sure here whether I’m coming up with an excuse for drinking or an excuse for that first big possession but, either way, it sounds good to me. And those four guys completely filled the bbt with our stuff. At one point, I even managed to worry about whether the bbt was big enough!

The 'bleedin' big truck' is starting to fill up.

There used to be a lovely restaurant in our apartment but, like everything else there, it has gone downhill. We decided to have lunch there and I ordered chicken and chips. My chicken came. The meat was still pink so I sent it back. We were then informed that they had no chips – peeling and frying a real potato is beyond them and they had run out of those ubiquitous frozen ‘french fries’ which seem to have over-run the world. So I told them not to bother with the chicken and got a sandwich from down the road. I blame myself for this as I should have known that obtaining a simple food order was unlikely in the restaurant now taken over by the building’s management rather than being independently run. Unfortunately, the new management in the building have taken over and destroyed every successful little business in the building – that is just one of the many reasons we decided to move out.

...and the 'bleedin' big truck' starts to be emptied at the other end.

Then off we went – the four guys and our stuff in the bbt and us in a taxi. Up to now, the house has been used mainly for storage so we had come out the weekend before to do some work on it and sort out the stuff but a weekend wasn’t long enough. A niece is going to come and take some of the furniture so we moved that into the car port before the bbt arrived and everything was brought into the house. We quickly got the stereo set up, unpacked some CDs and opened a beer. We were home! Then it was an early night as we were both tired and I had to go back to school on Wednesday.

School on Wednesday, but the two students on the left are actually teachers!

We woke up on Wednesday morning to the sound of birdsong – how lovely that is after those years in the city centre. I toddled off to work – my journey time is about the same but I now skirt the city instead of going right through it and my wife headed off to work a bit later. On the way to work, I notice what I think of as a ‘stork’ tree. Storks seem to congregate on one tree, all fighting to get a little standing room and yet they ignore other, empty, nearby trees. I suppose none of them wants to be a ‘Johnny-no-mates’. They can be quite spectacular sights.

A 'stork' tree.

I didn’t come straight home from work on that first day though as it was the staff new year party. And a very pleasant party it was too. Everybody except me was dressed up – I felt it had been a remarkable achievement to have found my regular work clothes that morning, never mind anything else. Also, they had forgotten to tell me it was a themed night but I am used to being the odd one out. There were two themes and one of them must have been cowboys as maybe half the people were dressed as cowboys. I couldn’t work out the other theme though – some were dressed as students, some as witches, some in drag, some in traditional Thai costume and one as the fairy from the top of the Christmas tree. Maybe that second theme was just called ‘freestyle’?

Freestylers.

An even bigger achievement than getting dressed was getting home. The school owner had brought some beer to the party to share with me (he’d told his wife it was really for me!) which was most pleasant. I got a taxi back and successfully directed the driver back to the housing estate – no mean achievement in the dark and after a few beers. The streets all look alike though so I tried to direct him down the wrong one but realised in time as the shop on our corner wasn’t there. The houses are probably the local equivalent of terraced houses back home, although they are given the much grander name of ‘town houses’ here. The trouble is, they all look the same. Especially in the dark. Especially after a drop of ale. And I hadn’t a clue what number ours was, not that I could see any numbers anyway. And everybody goes to bed early here, so no houses were lit up. Again, Lady Luck stepped in and, by chance, I stopped the taxi at the house next door and was able to spot our house by the stuff we had dumped in the carport.

This limbo dancing isn't as easy as it looks!

For tonight, we have a bottle of champagne in the fridge and if we are lucky, we will manage to unpack some glasses. I wish all of you a very happy new year 2011.

Home sweet home.





A Year in Bangkok – Christmas Day

25 12 2010

Apparently it’s Christmas Day! I know this because we should have been moving house today but we haven’t quite got everything ready yet so we’ll be moving in a few days time. As you doubtless realise, Thailand is a Buddhist country so the old mid-winter festival isn’t a big deal over here and, although it has been said before, my attitude towards it errs on the side of “Bah, humbug!”

Yesterday was a good day in school though. We had some Christmas activities for the students. The secondary students, in Thai and English, told the ‘true history’ of Christmas which many of the teachers said they had never heard before. Younger students sang some Christmas songs – standard fare such as Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, Jingle Bells and so on while the secondary students chose to sing “Do They Know It’s Christmas’ to a standing ovation, even though it is not a well known song here – they got it from a CD I lent them. The kids performed two fairy stories and the kindergarten kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves doing a dance routine to ‘Rock’n’Roll Body Parts’.

I also got quite a lot of gifts which was surprising as that isn’t a tradition here either. Some parents had sent me gifts and some colleagues did but, especially moving, were the visits from my students to my room bringing me packets of crisps, biscuits and sweets which they had bought with their pocket money.

Many Thai English teachers have extremely poor English skills and, yesterday, I was presented with an essay written by such a person. I was so gobsmacked by it that I thought I would share it with you today. And yes, it really was written as one sentence without any punctuation! The title is ‘Football World History’ so that at least gave me some idea of what it is about. Here then is the full, uncensored and original version:

The word is that football happen in the world officially when date 8 December 2406 Buddhist eras free the back rub in V a woman London England and arrive at date 21 May 2447 Buddhist Eras are day first of forming federation foreign countries football or FIFA and in year 2463 Buddhist Eras are when step from president association football France position comes in to control FIFA bridle by have crowd oval abundantly a donkey be honorary trusting secretary just this at participate important build wasp the supporting has football world arrangement and ball world cup name that for honorable old person push forward the very important person with.

I will leave you with that, apologies for no photos this time, and I wish you all a peaceful and joyous Christmas time.





A Year in Bangkok – Taxi Tales.

5 10 2010

Firstly, to pick up on the last post, I had an email from an ex-colleague in the US of A. We’d had to part company because he was so unreliable when it came to turning up for work and he was worried that he was Terry. I’ll call him John for want of any other name. In fact he’s half Terry’s age and the wrong nationality. Then, to my immense surprise, he knocked on my door on Friday evening, having (unknown to me) flown out to Bangkok the day before. He wanted to buy me a beer which, of course, I was unable to refuse. In the bar, he told me that he felt really bad about the line Now, I don’t suppose he’ll buy me a beer at the end of the semester.” Whatever, it was good to see him and to have a chat.

This post is about Bangkok taxis so there aren’t many photos – after all, how many pictures of taxis does anybody want to see? A couple of years ago, there was a survey which informed those of us who were interested that Bangkok has the cheapest taxis in the world. They are so cheap that I get a taxi to work every morning – 42 kilometres for exactly the same price as I paid in the UK for about 1 kilometre to the local railway station. I use the same taxi every day and have built up a friendly relationship with Chalee, the driver who has just switched from renting a taxi to having bought his own for the first time. However, getting a taxi here can be an interesting experience. I have had drunk drivers, stoned drivers, happy drivers, angry drivers and so on. Here are some of my ‘taxi stories’.

Chalee in his smart new taxi.

If I were to go and live back in England again, there are many situations that I would be unsure how to act in as I am now so used to the Thai ways. Getting a taxi would be one. It’s become second nature to hail a cab with the camp downward wave and finger flick near the hip that is customary over here. And taxi drivers back home just go where you ask them. There is none of the bartering, none of the struggle to persuade the driver that he should go to your destination of choice. Goodness, you don’t even have to give English taxi drivers directions. I’m sure I’d find myself talking to a taxi driver back home in the strange mix of English and Thai that I use over here. “Go, Thanon Rockingham. Chai?” It doesn’t really sound quite right.

On my second day here I went to the supermarket with people I had met while on holiday. I had naively assumed that we would need two or three taxis but no – all nine of us (four adults and five kids) managed to cram ourselves into a single Toyota Carina taxi. Another time, I was out in the country with a friend and we decided to take her nephews to the local zoo. They have a similar idea of how to use motorcycles here – as many as possible balance on a single bike. This trip to a free, smelly and overcrowded zoo involved all four of us going by motorcycle, about an hour’s journey. Crash helmets? No chance! She drove (this was before I summoned up the courage to drive myself) I perched on the back and the kids sat between us. Once the zoo visit was finished and we were riding back, both the kids happily fell asleep on the bike and I found myself holding on to them both while trying to keep my own balance. Not a journey I would like to repeat.

Rainy day taxi.

An aspect of Thai life which seems strange is time. In the west, we have two twelve hour periods in each day but, over here, there are four six hour periods. Therefore there are four ‘two o’clocks’: two o’clock in the morning, two o’clock in the afternoon, two o’clock in the evening and two o’clock at night. Most Thai people are familiar with our system and usually use it but that is not always the case, and I find it is very easy to forget about the Thai system. One of our teachers who also lives in the same building as me, a tall and leggy blonde, was flying home to California for a holiday. She had asked a taxi driver, not Chalee but one who we both use regularly, to pick her up and take her to the airport at five o’clock in the morning on the appointed day. At seven o’clock that morning, I got in his taxi. He said “Lay dee”. I said “No, man”. He said “Lay dee Bar bee”. Erica’s resemblance to a certain well known doll has not escaped anybody’s attention, even the students call her ‘Barbie’ so I was pleased to note that there were no flies on this taxi driver, who is also a thoroughly nice guy. He went on to say “Go ai-port, lay dee bar bee, fie o’crock”. “Yes” I said “but it’s seven o’clock so she’s gone”. “Chai” says he (yes) “Go ai-port fie o’crock, lay dee bar bee fry Amelica’. Well, we played verbal ping pong for a while and then, at last, it dawned on me. When Erica booked the taxi for five o’clock in the morning, she meant five o’clock in the morning. The taxi driver though had assumed she meant five o’clock in the morning, Thai time. And that is eleven o’clock in the morning to us. Our five o’clock in the morning is five at night to the Thais. So he was planning to go and collect somebody who had left six hours earlier and Erica, no doubt, had cursed the unreliability of the Thais as she tried to flag down an empty taxi at, er, ‘five’ in the morning.

Every now and then, a taxi driver will smile at me and say “rod my tit”. Naturally, my first assumption is that I am being invited to take part in an act of intimacy but I am also wary of my limited Thai language skills so my response so far has been to smile vacuously and nod my head. The vacuous smile and head-nod, often employed with a kind of short, grunting laugh, have become an essential part of my linguistic toolbox here. And I wonder why it is only taxi drivers who make such offers? Not a single one of the many attractive women I’ve got to know here have extended the same invitation which I naturally find a little disappointing. However, little by little, my language skills are growing and I now know that the taxi drivers are commenting on a relatively unusual phenomenon in Bangkok – that the roads are clear of traffic. Thank goodness I didn’t start gleefully peeling my clothes off in one of those taxis!

A friend has told me about a bar near the Victory Monument with a good band on tonight so two female friends (Da and Moo) and I head off down there later on. There is no invitation to indulge in bizarre sexual acts but I think I can live with that. Oh joy of joys, at last, I’ve found Bangkok’s equivalent of the Leopard in Doncaster. It’s a bit of a dive on first impression but it’s friendly and, if tonight is anything to go by, has great live music. Even better, they sell real chips made with real potatoes. As the dreadful Arnie said, “I’ll be back!”  We get home very late, about two in the morning and the girls decide we’re having another drink in Poo’s bar before bed. Saturday morning, I sleep until eleven.

One day, I got my nipple tweaked. I got a taxi home from work, as usual when I am working in the office, as it is cheaper than using public transport and a lot quicker. The driver soon took a right instead of a left. Bangkok taxi drivers often know a ‘quicker’ way which takes you all round the houses but I had a feeling this guy was genuine so I sat back to see where we went. His driving was more like low level flying and he produced a wonderful, maniacal laugh every time we had a near miss. However, it was a great way home and much faster than usual. As he didn’t respond to me in English, I assumed he didn’t speak the language. How wrong I was, and a good job I didn’t insult him because, as I got out of the taxi, he leaned over to me, tweaked my nipple, laughed maniacally and said “spik eengliss leettle bit”.








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