Saturday, July 31, 2010

Don't drink the water.

Living out in the sticks we have more than our fair share of over sized rats. The crops of rice keep them well fed and my mother-in-law makes sure that they don't go without by throwing left over and unwanted food straight out of the kitchen window.  My young nephew, Jem, sets traps for them a couple of times a week. The traps consist of a metal gauze box with a spring loaded trap door at one end. A small piece of food is suspended inside and when Roland patters inside for a free meal the door springs shut behind him and his fate is sealed.
                            As with most things, with any calorific value, in rural Thailand the unfortunate rodents are destined for the wok. But before they can be prepared they have to be sent to meet their maker. Young Jem does this by hooking the traps onto a piece of cord and dropping them into the river that runs by outside our house. The river is dry at the moment so Jem has been "dispatching" the rats by dropping the traps into a large plastic dustbin of water that is located directly by the entrance to the shop that takes up the downstairs part of our house. The bin is kept topped up from a nearby hosepipe.    Customers visiting the shop will often use the half submerged plastic ladle to wash their hands and face and generally freshen up. On occasion, i've even seen them drink the contents without a second thought.
                          You're probably ahead of me by now but i will continue.
The other day Jem retrieved his latest victims from the bin and took the proverbial drowned rats out to the kitchen for preparation. Just then, a customer alighted from his motorcycle and ordered some ice. While he was waiting for his order to be bagged up he lifted the ladle from the dustbin and ,leaning forward, poured some of the water over the back of his neck and head. He lifted a second ladle and, to my horror, took half a dozen long pulls to slake his thirst.   I watched wide eyed and open mouthed as he collected his purchase, pocketed his change and kick started his steed.
                          I would have thought that drinking untreated water is probably taking a chance at the best of times. I'm almost certain that drinking untreated water that has just been used to drown rats in a rusty cage is really asking for trouble.    I went into the shop and told Laong what her last customer had unwittingly done. She just shrugged and said "up to him".

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

That Monday morning feeling

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Back in the UK i suffered badly from that Monday morning feeling for as long as i can remember. One of the sad facts of life about living in England is that most people spend a lifetime doing a job from which they take no enjoyment.  Spending at least 5 days a week doing something that we don't like can't be good for the soul. As we progress in years, if the employment is in any way physical, then it's not good for the body either.
                                      That Monday morning feeling starts with the same journey to work every day of your working life. The same monotonous route, seeing the same sad, depressed people at the same time in the same place every day. Every one of them shuffling along with shoulders slouched and a hunted look of unavoidable captivity about them. It's enough to bring you back down to the dumps even if you are in semi-good spirits yourself.

                                   Thankfully, things are a little different for me now. Sure, i see the same people every day but they greet me with a cheery wave and a genuinely happy smile. And it's worth remembering that these are people on their way to do a really tough days toil in hot, muddy fields for very little financial reward.                                    My route to work is also the same every day. But it's no longer through cold, grey, windswept streets. My journey to work now takes me on a road that runs parallel to a branch of the Chao Praya river. I often have to pinch myself back to reality as i drink in the vision of the sun beginning a new arc and the tendrils of early morning mist rising from the still waters beside me. As i cross the river and head towards town, the enormous golden Buddha on the hillside above Wat Takhli Yai keeps a constant silent vigil on the countryside for miles around.
                                   I still experience that Monday morning feeling but a sense of depressed loathing has been replaced with one of feeling good to be alive and very lucky to be where i am and doing what i'm doing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Three wheels on my wagon

Just about every road user in Thailand must of had a near death experience involving one of the vehicles shown in the photograph. If you haven't then you are very much in the minority.
           There are a number of reasons why this mode of transport is so dangerous. Most of them don't seem to be equipped with rear view mirrors. The ones that are usually have them angled so that the driver has a prime view of the road beneath them rather than give him any clue as to what might be going on behind him.
            Very few have lights or indicators of any description and none of their drivers seem to be familiar with the concept of hand signals.  In fact, it's the drivers that seem to be the main problem.  It would appear that to qualify as an owner of such a vehicle you must be at least 75 years old. You must also carry, whenever possible, a passenger in the front portion who is a minimum of 10 years older than yourself. If such a passenger isn't available then they can be substituted for at least 7 small children and babies. A good working knowledge of how to break every rule in the highway code is also a distinct advantage.
                              I had my closest call just the other day with one of these 3 wheeled wrecks and it's brain dead driver. I was unable to second guess his intentions at a busy junction and i used up another one of my dwindling stock of 9 lives. I managed a quick out-in swerve at the last moment and avoided a collision by inches. If we had indeed collided then he would have been well protected by the contents of his cart. Namely, at least a half a ton of scrap cardboard stacked improbably high and only just held down with some pink frayed string.
                                    It was only when i stole a quick glance in my mirror that my suspicions were confirmed. He couldn't see over or around his cargo!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The bridge over the river dry

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view from my balcony

Directly outside our house is a small river. Since i arrived here 7 years ago it had been spanned by an ancient wooden bridge. It was in a state of disrepair when i came and now it's condition is positively dangerous. It was a tricky mission to walk across it let alone attempt the traverse on a motorcycle. Some people used what i refer to as the momentum method whereby they would zoom across at high speed in the hope that if the creaky wooden structure did in fact collapse then they would be across before it crumbled beneath them.
                                        The recent drought in Thailand has meant that the river has actually run dry. Therefore, an unfortunate fall from the bridge would leave you with a 14 foot drop to the dry stony river bed below and almost certain injury. So everyone was quite pleased when contractors arrived last week to erect a new bridge. The old wooden deathtrap was replaced with a solid construction of metal and concrete.
                                       The new bridge was set in absolutely dead level. This would have been perfect but for the fact that the banks of the river are nowhere near level themselves. I for one, could have lived with a new solid bridge with a slight slope but we now have a dead level bridge with a smooth entry and exit at one side and a 4 foot drop over on the other bank!
                                     The contractors shuttered the drop with blocks and filled it in with hardcore and concrete and then cemented it smooth. The gradient is so steep that to cross by motorcycle you have to swing onto the other side of the road and take a measured run up. It simply can't be done if there is anyone standing on the narrow bridge at the time.    It seems to be only me that thinks that the whole concept is flawed. Everyone else thinks it's an engineering miracle of the modern age!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The price of being a farang

A short while ago my wife and i decided to visit the bird park at Chainat. Although it's only 20 minutes drive from where we live, i just haven't found the time to go down there. So i was quite looking forward to visiting what the area boasts as it's best attraction.
                                    On arrival at the entrance my eyes were drawn straight away to a huge sign above the ticket office. The sign was displaying the cost of entry. The cost of entry for a Thai national was just 20 Baht but foreign nationals were expected to pay ten times the price at 200 Baht. While 200 Baht wouldn't seem to be an awful lot of money, let's just try and put things into perspective.
                            The same situation back in the UK would be like paying maybe 10 Pounds to enter a bird park and being expected to pay 100 Pounds to take my foreign wife in with me. Well, back in the UK i just wouldn't pay it and i wasn't too keen to pay the foreign surcharge in Chainat. I was quite prepared to sit outside sulking. But in the end it was another case of shut up and pay up.
                              I am pleased to report that it was actually quite a pleasant morning wandering around the clean, well maintained grounds.  I'm even more pleased to report that since the time of our visit the entry price for farangs is the same as Thai nationals.  It only takes half a day at the most to see everything that there is to see but it's full value for 20 Baht. So if you're in the area it's well worth checking out what i'm told is the largest bird park in South East Asia.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Make a small fortune in Thailand

If you are looking to make a small fortune in Thailand then i have some solid gold advice.........Start off with a big one!!!!!

Looking for love in Thailand ??

Thought for the day.........If you're looking for love in Thailand......Buy a dog!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Welcome to my world.

Ask yourself a couple of questions. Are you an ex-pat living in Thailand? Do you wish you were an ex-pat living in Thailand? If you answer yes to either of these questions then my blog will certainly be of interest to you.
                    Those of you who already live here will be able to identify with my experiences and those of you who don't, but would like to, will  maybe benefit from the lessons i have learnt along the way.
                          I'm 48 years old and i've been living in amazing Thailand for nearly 7 years. I spent the first 2 years in sin city (Pattaya) This is a destination that has spawned plenty of tales. Some amusing and some cautionary. However, for the last 5 yers i've been living up country in central Thailand near the town of Takhli in Nakon Sawan province. I live here with my Thai wife of 6 years and her mum and dad. Laong runs a small shop in the downstairs part of our home and also farms rice on a modest scale.  For my sins i'm employed as an english teacher for a teaching franchise called Smart Brain.
                            My time spent in country has allowed me to observe, comment and give advice on many aspects of this unique country and its people. From the ever changing visa regulations to affairs of the heart and the wallet, i have a thousand stories
                            Those of you who follow my blog in the future may well form the opinion that i don't look apon my adopted home with much favour. This just isn't true but may be reflected as such in the anecdotes.
                               I very much look forward to everyones comments, both positive and negative. Please feel free to e-mail me at   tom_yam41@yahoo.co.uk or leave a comment directly on the blog page.
                          So let the journey begin.........................