Letters from Thailand

{October 11, 2007}   A Brush with the Inquisition

I’ve just returned from Hong Kong, which was great. I stayed with an old friend from way back, met up with a couple of others, ate some great seafood, drank some cool cocktails and generally had a wonderful time.

The main reason for going there was to renew my visa at the Thai Embassy. That was not so wonderful. It seems that the Gestapo are alive and well and working in the Thai Embassy in Hong Kong. What had previously been a simple, stress-free experience in the embassy in Kuala Lumpur, turned into an interrogation.

The first indication that things were not going to go as smoothly as before came on the Sunday evening I arrived. Over a few Sauv Blancs, I was telling my friend that my plan for the next day was to get up early and get to the embassy, leaving the rest of the day free for fun stuff. She then informed me that it was a public holiday in HK, and that the embassy would be closed. Whoops! Rather than panic, we just sank a few more wines and spent the whole of the next day (and night) doing fun stuff (a bottle of Veuve, a couple of lychee martinis and – for old time’s sake – vodka red bulls in Insomnia. Suffice to say that sitting around waiting in the embassy the following day was an even less attractive prospect than it had been the day before.

So, I arrive on time at the embassy, slightly worse for wear, but ready to be all smiles as I flirtily requested a fast-track application as my flight to Bangkok was the following morning. The exchange went as follows:

Me: Good morning. I’m here to apply for my visa. Here is the paperwork you require. I’m ever so sorry that I wasn’t aware that….

Embassy Man: Fill in this form.

(I go off to fill in form, asking official-looking lady at information desk if I can borrow her pen. Answer: No. This is my only pen, and I am using it. Finally ask another applicant if I can borrow her pen, she graciously lends it to me. I return to EM)

Me: OK, here is the form. I’m ever so sorry that I wasn’t aware that yesterday was a public holiday here….

EM: Be quiet. I am looking at your papers.

(A bit of shuffling)

EM: Where is the xyz form you need?

Me: I’m sorry, what form is that? I wasn’t aware I needed one. I didn’t need one the last time.

EM: New regulations.

Me: Since when?

EM: Since May.

Me: But the last time I went was in July.

EM: You need the paper. Wait. I will speak to my Supervisor. Sit!

(I sit and observe a dodgy looking bloke incoherently explaining to his Embassy Person about how his girlfriend stole his passport somewhere in the North of Thailand. He had a new one and was now going back to look for her despite the fact he did not know her full name, address AND had overstayed by 2 years! Good luck, mate!)

20 minutes later, the Supervisor (previously known as the”I don’t lend my pen to anyone lady”) arrives, beckoning me into an office where there is a suspicious looking spotlight shining from the ceiling and a rack in the corner (OK, so I made that last bit up).

IDLMPTAL: Why do you have all these stamps in your passport?
Me: Well, I used to work in Thailand, then I went back to the UK for a couple of years. My job back then involved a lot of overseas travel, so that’s why there are so many stamps.

IDLMPTAL: Are you working at the moment?

Me: No. I’m applying for a job and waiting for my work permit to be processed.

IDLMPTAL: Did you have a work permit when you were there before?

Me: Of course.

IDLMPTAL: How long was it for? (Translation – I’m going to trip you up if it’s the last think on earth that I do)

Me: The same as every work permit – one year and then renewable after that (right answer – do I win a prize now?)

IDLMPTAL: OK. This time I will give you the visa. (Undertone – don’t ever come here and bother me again, I’m busy taking care that my pen doesn’t get borrowed or stolen.)

Me: Thank you so much. By the way, I wasn’t aware that yesterday was a public holiday here. My flight is tomorrow, so is there any way my visa could possibly be fast-tracked? I’d be ever so grateful.

IDLMPTAL: No. It’s not fair on other people. You must change your flight.

Me: But, that’s not possible. My flight is not changeable (a white lie, but what do they know)

IDLMPTAL: Then there is nothing we can do to help you.

Me: OK, OK. I’ll come back tomorrow.

IDLMPTAL: Now take another number and join the queue. My colleague needs to check your documents again.

I wait another 15 minutes, during which time I decide to try again for a fast-track.

Me: I’m so sorry I wasn’t aware that yesterday was a public holiday here. My flight is tomorrow, so is there any way my visa could possibly be fast-tracked? I’d be ever so grateful.

EM: No.

Me: Come on, a little act of random kindness is good for the soul, you know.

EM: No. Come back tomorrow.

I decide I’m probably pushing my luck and go back the next day. Luckily, the powers that be in Hong Kong have the foresight to open check in desks at the airport express station, so you don’t have to go all the way there and miss your flight. Other cities, take note.


{July 9, 2007}   What Not To Wear In Kao San

Yesterday I had the pleasure of resurrecting an old tradition from my first life here in Bangkok. At that time, my friends and I would spend our Sunday afternoons at Kao San Road, recovering from the excesses of the previous night, chatting, eating and people-watching with a few medicinal cocktails. It became such an institution that we christened the event, ‘Kao San Shitface Sunday’ and its associated rituals (such as declaring it officially open as soon as there were more than three of us present) were performed as solemnly and seriously as a holy communion. Since that time, we’ve become a bit lax in our observations – probably because we’re all a bit older and the recovery time is twice as long. But it was nice to indulge in a bit of nostalgia.

Kao San is one of the best areas in the world for people-watching, in my opinion. And sitting there, cocktail in hand, I found myself mentally composing a list of dos and don’ts (or rather, just don’ts) for visitors to the area. As it is here that the most heinous crimes against fashion, style and all-round fabulousness are committed, a mere sampling of which follow:

  • Dreadlocks. This is simple. Unless you are a black rastafarian, or on tour with the Levellers, don’t do it. Particularly if you’re blonde. You look ridiculous. You’ve just come from mummy and daddy’s middle-class suburbia, not the protest of a motorway construction, where you lived in a tree. If there was such a thing as ‘eco-warrior chic’ , it died a death in 1996.
  • ‘Same Same….but Different’ t-shirts. Should read, ‘Same Same…and bloody tedious’.
  • Fisherman’s pants. Should be banned as outdoor wear. They’re great for slobbing around in the home, as are pyjamas, but they aren’t flattering either and you wouldn’t set foot outside wearing them.
  • To all the Brits in football shirts, shorts and skinhead haircuts, guzzling Chang on the pavement – please go back to Magaluth or Faliraki, where you belong. The sight of you offends me and makes me want to trade in my passport.
  • To ladies who are bigger than a size 10 – don’t bother trying on any of the clothes for sale by the side of the road. No matter how much you huff and puff and try to squeeze into them, they’re not going to fit. They were not made for women like you (and me). I’m not saying you’re fat, you’re not, you’re gorgeous, womanly and voluptuous, but it’s a sad fact of life here, that the clothes are not. Trying them on will only dent your self-esteem and you’ll look a bit of a twit into the bargain.
  • To ladies of all sizes. Bras were invented many years ago, and for good reason. Use them.
  • To the idiot I saw yesterday in your persil white fisherman’s pants and navy blue tunic shirt, entering the establishment that I happened to be sitting in, slapping a poor girl on the arm as she was blocking your ‘entrance’ and forcing her to make way for you, waltzing in as if you owned the place, looking with disdain as the staff tried to find you a suitable table, then flouncing out with your nose in the air, as if ‘dressing like a native’ would do you any favours and ingratiate you with local people (it won’t – they think you’re a bloody idiot too). I hope you’ve left the country already. Go back home and tell all your friends what an ‘Asian expert’ you are because you’ve spent a couple of months on a whirlwind tour of the region. Go on, you know you want to.

Please note, that this(except for the fourth one and the last one!) ‘style guide’ is mostly tongue in cheek. I’m certainly not expecting anyone who reads this to follow my commandments. In fact, I hope some of these fashion faux-pas continue to be committed as it gives me and my friends something amusing to look at and bitch about while we sip our margaritas.

God, this mellow-stuff is getting worse.  I thought at one point last night I had been cured as I met someone annoying enough to incur my bitter wrath, but then random  quote generator sends me this litte gem from Oscar Wilde today.

Having been away from my gang for a couple of years, it’s perfectly natural that others will have come and gone.  I’ve been fortunate enough to reacquaint myself with most of them, and have met a few new people as well, who have generally been pretty cool.  There is, of course, an exception.  I had been told about this person from others and was actually looking forward to our introduction – apparently this person was another ‘me’, we’d get on like a house on fire!  Boy, was I disappointed! 

I think (hope) that what people meant by our being alike was our role within the group as opposed to our personalities, hence the aversion.  Anyway, I confess to spending a little time bitching and making spiteful (but witty!) comments behind their back at dinner, but this person isn’t going to go away however much I wish it, so I have to not let their presence bother me.  And I’m going to take Oscar’s advice here and save my enmity for one who has the intellect and class to be worthy of it!

{May 22, 2007}   What Am I Doing Here?

It has now been 2 days since my favourite frog plied me with champagne and coerced me into starting this blog malarkey.  Ok, I admit that, in my tipsy state it was a good idea at the time, but now, in the cold, sober light of day, I have to find interesting and witty things to say.  And that’s the hard part.

You see, I don’t consider myself sufficiently knowledgeable about a subject (any subject) to offer an opinion on it, for fear of appearing to be an utter pillock.  In real-life discussions among friends I am most likely to just sit back and listen to their topic of conversation and hope to learn something (provided said topic is of interest to me, otherwise I just sit back and contemplate more urgent matters such as the state of my eyebrows at the moment.)  Furthermore, if pressed to make a contribution to the discussion (a question demanding a yes or no answer, for example) I lose all credibility by contradicting myself hundreds of times due to a pathalogical disease to please all by appearing to agree with them, which really does make me look like an utter pillock!

In fact, there are only a few occasions when I can be confident in giving an opinion of my own;  They include:

  • Bitching about people I don’t like.
  • Bitching about people I pretend to like.
  • Bitching about people I like but who don’t like me
  • Bitching about people I like but who occasionally do things that piss me off.
  • Bitching about people I read about in magazines.

This means that my top 4 topics are off-limits, just in case I get caught.  And Perez Hilton has already cornered the market for number 5 (and a wonderful job he does, too!)  which leaves me with nothing of substance to say!

I guess I could start to write about my new life in Thailand (when I eventually get there!) but this too is not without drawbacks – I could only give an oversanitized version of events in case my mum sees this!

So, there we have it:  The start of a potentially deadly boring blog until I get myself some therapy or learn how to upload interesting pictures.

et cetera