Sunday, 4 May 2014

Only in Thailand

Only In Thailand, can you be given the keys to the shop only hours after meeting the owner. Only in Thailand does a posh restaurant play videos of animal operations on the big screen while you try to eat. Only in Thailand is the theme for today's update!

"You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension — a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone." Or in this case, Thailand.

We have mentioned many times that the roads of Thailand present a significant danger, although those species with eyes on all facets of their head may well find the danger to be insignificant, but for the average human basic, the roads can be lethal. The primary danger is the white minibus driven at great speed by the pick up drivers who simply wish to transport as many tourists as possible in a limited space of time. These maniacs will tail gate you so closely, that you can smell gulped down sick of the passenger in the back seat. If you ride a bike, be it a huge muscle bike or a tiny scooter, these guys will see you as merely an obstruction over which they can drive. You will be pushed out of the road, almost run down and when you lose patience and stop, they have no idea of what your problem is! The white minibus will also over take long lines of traffic and suddenly cut in when the gap between them and on coming traffic is no longer larger enough to contain atomic oxygen. Over taking will often be saved for blind corners, blind crests of hills and gaps into on coming bikes.

Thai massage is wonderful, imagine gentle music playing, cool wind licking over your naked skin as a well trained medical professional rubs delicate soothing ointments into your stretched and aching muscles. Now imagine what we have seen here in the twilight zone of the tourist massage trade. Overly loud dance music blaring out as scantily dressed overly made women wearing too much jewellery attempt to extract hard currency from your purse by offering you the client of what ever age, gender or planetary origin a menu of playful, painful, or simply perverted practices. It saddens me greatly that these well trained and well practised medical professionals are treated as something else by tourists. Let me put it to you this way, would you ask the nurse who has just done your blood test for a quick hand job? The shame of it is that many of these women will now initiate the conversation because this is what they think is expected of them. Carol and I have both recently encountered this behaviour while seeking relief from pain during our stay in Phuket. I have had many massages now and can say with certainty that a medical massage is in no way erotic because it really, really hurts, while a relaxing massage is a waste of my time because it just puts me to sleep but does not stop my pain. At no point do I desire any fiddling in my pants!

Imagine if you will the end of a journey where at your destination you are suddenly asked to mind the shop you have just walked into. What would you do? This is the situation I found myself in upon my arrival here in Thailand recently as we discovered a rather fabulous bike shop here on Koh Samui. The owner of Keen Big Bikes is a lovely gentleman named Keen, in his early thirties, energetic and enthusiastic, what he does not know about the Honda Super Blackbird you can write in full on the back of a stamp. I popped over to say hello a couple of days ago and to see if he had seen Carol and Diarmuid who had gone out on a mission to collect a motorbike. He looked at his watch and said he would not expect them back just yet and I could wait if I wanted. He was fixing a Honda CBR and chatting away when suddenly he stood up and asked if I could watch the shop for a while and then he jumped on his bike and left. In no way could he know that I was trustworthy, but he gave me the chance to prove that I was. So I sat and watched his shop for half an hour until Carol arrived with the bike. twenty minutes later Keen arrived back and was all smiles. I guess that I passed the trustworthy test.

There are so many stories we can tell of only in Thailand, but some we dare not go into. Only Thailand will you be told that Prison is more human than in Britain and that British law is barbaric. Only in Thailand will the local cops drink your coffee and then nick you for riding with out a helmet while every one around you rides past not wearing a helmet. Only in Thailand will the Police give you the thumbs up for speeding, Only in Thailand can you score from the Rozzers! This truly is the Twilight Zone!

Only in Thailand can you find yourself in a posh restaurant, seated on the terrace at a table that has starched orange linen table cloths and napkins that are so well folded that they can be used as structural supports for the collapsing kitchen! Only in Thailand can you be told that the burger you wish to order for dinner that night is only available on the breakfast menu until eleven in the morning! Only in Thailand can you enter a fantastic custom shoe shop that has plush carpets and teak shelves showing the hand crafted motorcycle boots that cost tens of thousands of Baht and yet find behind the small door in the back, the bare concrete walled, dusty floor bed of the shop owner and his wife!

I cannot explain to you the incongruence of how things look and how things are here. The shop this morning had the door wide open, the sign in the window said in large friendly letters that it was open and yet the shop owner was in the shower because she did not expect any customers at that time! Imagine if you will a family who dwell in a hovel that is made from broken pallets and ripped hard board, they have no running water, they sleep on boxes covered in old blankets and yet they have a flat screen TV with satellite dish and a custom 4x4 outside! The balance of what matters and what does not is strangely mixed here. The working week here has no weekends, the Thai people are so driven by money and status that they work all hours and will buy the most luxury items rather than buy the essentials.

Finally imagine if you will a business that is clearly owned by a non Thai and in which non Thai practices are the norm. We encountered such a business only this evening, a restaurant that is clean, smart and modern. The food is cooked in plain view of the patrons and all looks normal, but remember this is Thailand, expect the Twilight Zone at any second and sure enough gently at first the weirdness starts to filter through. As our food arrives it is apparent that what was asked for and what was delivered do not compare favourably, so it is sent back and a replacement is requested, the misunderstanding of language is a common thing through out the galaxy and what is needed is a Babel Fish, but sadly since they do not naturally occur on Earth, we shall persevere. When the correct meal is delivered normality is almost present, but it was then that we noticed the television on the restaurant, showing a program about animal behaviour. Namely the consuming of other animals in horrific ways and with catastrophic results! So as we enjoyed our charming meal out we were presented with Dog operations, Snakes swallowing alligators that split them in half, Pelicans swallowing whole pigeons on city streets and frogs being torn apart alive by strange hill-billies who eat the resultant mess. 

Only in Thailand, not even the Restaurant at the end of the Universe is this bizarre!