8 months, 21 days; still sober
I think I’m almost back to normal – yes it seems to have taken quite a while to settle back in to my lazy, indolent lifestyle after my mammoth foray into so-called civilisation.
On Saturday, I dropped by the large pub just around the lake from my home to meet up with Rick and a friend of his, who were both in a small group at the bar, watching the rugby – Ireland vs Australia. Remarkably, the Irish scored a famous victory, and as everyone in the group seemed to be celebrating, I deduced that there were no Aussies amongst them, or if they were, they were keeping very quiet.
I actually doubt if there were any Aussies there as they have their own bar just a kilometre down the road – the one and only Kangaroo Bar. I have been to Kanga a few times, as they serve pretty good food and carry excellent sports coverage on their multi-satellite TV’s, but I have to say that it is one of the cliquiest bars I have ever been in.
There is a group of regular Aussie patrons, who sit at their apparently pre allotted seats at their bar and who seem to instantly resent any stranger who dares to enter their sacred realm, let alone try to sit amongst them at the bar. The hostility is palpable – and it’s not just me – many of my friends have experienced the self-same treatment. Anyway, they had a good reason to drown their sorrows on Saturday.
It all brings to mind the 2003 World Cup when I was still living in Bangkok. I used to go to a very large, Australian run Bar, off Soi 33 where they were showing every game live on their enormous screens. I well recall going there to watch the semi-final when the Aussies won, ( against who I forget), and the never ending wild celebrations that followed. You would have thought they had just won the third world war – patriotic Aussies songs were being belted out on the sound system and it seemed that the entire Oz community in Bangkok had all gathered there to celebrate.
The owner/manager/MC was in top form and he exhorted all his customers to make sure they came early the following weekend to get the best seats when would have the unmitigated pleasure of seeing their beloved Wallabies destroy the whingeing poms and walk away with the rugby world cup.
Well, we all know what happened – but just in case some of you don’t – England and a little English fella by the name Johnny Wilco, ruined their famous day and I have never seen such a bunch of pissed off, bad losers in my life.
It was ever thus. The Aussies are great at so many sports and always punch well above their weight on the world stage; but they hate to lose, and are the worst losers I have ever seen.
It is only in Australia where a cricket crowd will rarely – if ever – applaud a member of an opposing team if one of the players does something special, like score a century, or hit a six or make a great catch or bowl an unplayable ball. Most cricketing crowds are generous enough to applaud good play, whatever the nationality – but Aussie crowds? Never.
And who can ever forget that memorable occasion when Nick Faldo overhauled the Great White Shark, Greg Norman, on the Final day of the US Masters, when the poor guy bottled it.
The news of that famous golfing defeat was conspicuous by its virtual total absence in the entire Aussie press. The previous day, Norman’s winning lead, going into the final day had been splashed all over the broadsheets and tabloids alike, but when it all turned to shite, and boring, pommy Faldo pulled off an improbable win, it was difficult to find even a tiny paragraph written about it anywhere in the entire Oz country.
And as for the Ashes… well its a bit like the Germans and the war.
When you’re with Germans; don’t mention the war!
And when you’re with the Aussies; don’t mention the Ashes!
Whatever criticism you can level at the poms – and there is much that may be true – you can never accuse us of being bad losers; win or lose, you will still find banner headlines in the UK newspapers, either extolling or ruing the result. A loss, however embarrassing – is never buried.
It will be interesting to see how this year’s World Cup progresses. I am not even sure if an Oz- pom final is even possible. If it were, then what an occasion! Maybe they can get their own back???
Back at the pub, Rick and his friend, Gary came to sit down with me. The rest of the group, who had been watching the ridiculously small screen which was affixed high up in the far corner of the bar wall paid their meagre bills and drifted away.
I have written about this place several times before in my blog. I shall call it ‘The meeting Place’. It was owned by a husband and wife team (Brit/Thai) and they had built themselves a very nice looking place, complete with a separate, large restaurant, good sized swimming pool at the back along and some very decent, fully furnished rooms for rent.
At first, the place did pretty well. They had employed a nice group of friendly, attentive ladies who attracted the ‘singles’ crowd and the pub also attracted the ‘family’ crowd to their restaurant and to the tables around a very large, circular bar.
But it wasn’t long before the cracks started to show, and to cut a long story short, the English landlord became a hopeless lush and his wife, although well meaning, had no real idea how to hold the business together. The result was that the best and prettiest of the staff soon disappeared and those that remained were lazy, offhand and even started to rip the customers off if they got half a chance.
The quality of food at the restaurant started to deteriorate sharply and whereas in their first few months of operation, the restaurant had been doing a thriving business, it wasn’t long before the number of customers dropped to a trickle and eventually became virtually non- existent. In the bar, even the most loyal of their drinking patrons became fed up with the owner’s drunken behaviour and the offhand attitude of the staff. Most of them drifted away to pastures new.
Things eventually came to a head; the Englishman’s behaviour had become ever more outrageous, having endless drunken fights with his wife, shouting at the staff at the bar, all in front of customers and indeed even their own kids. Added to this were his drunken exploits at nearby bars, involving altercations and other women so his wife decided enough was enough. She got a divorce and kicked him out.
I didn’t blame her for doing this as his behaviour was totally out of control but she deluded herself if she thought she could bring back the customers on her own. She just wasn’t up to it and the business declined even further. The lack of customers, together with the crippling monthly repayments she had to make on the bank loan that the couple had taken out to fund the development of the place, was sending her headlong into bankruptcy.
Meanwhile her ex-husband, now back from a trip to the UK, reappeared on the scene and managed to persuade some investors to go in with him and he did a deal with his wife to buy her out and take over responsibility for the bank loans.
I had a chat with him just before he took it over again and he assured me that he had learned to keep his drinking under control, and that he knew what was required in terms of staffing, management and so on to turn the business round and get the punters back.
At the time I seriously doubted whether he would succeed, knowing him as well as I did, and also knowing that once a drunk, always a drunk; unless like me, he quit the booze 100%. Sure, all drunks can keep their drinking under control for a while, but sooner or later they will lapse back into their old ways, often even worse than they were before.
This was a few months back, and apart from a couple of very brief visits I have stayed away from the place until my stop off there last Saturday. As stated above, as soon as the rugby finished, the small group who were at the bar immediately took off and there was only me, Rick and Gary remaining in this huge pub/resort which still has the massive bank interest to pay every month.
The staff, such as they were, (two lady boys and a couple of Thai ladies that I wouldn’t have given a second glance even back in the UK), appeared to be as off hand and disinterested as ever. After a big hassle, I managed to order a Diet Coke, and some two hours later I was still nursing an empty glass and no one had come anywhere near me to enquire if I wanted to buy another drink. The drunken bar owner, who was on the other side of the bar, was either too drunk to recognise me or just didn’t care any more, as he completely ’blanked me’, despite several attempts by me to get his attention and say hello.
Rick confirmed that no one went there any more and he had heard that the guy has serious money problems.
Really? Surprise, surprise?
It actually gives me no pleasure to say that ‘I told you so’ and I will not enjoy or gloat over the last gasps of what, if it had been run properly, could have been by far and away the best pub on the Lake. It has absolutely everything going for it, except a good, professional owner, who knows how to run it.
Rick’s friend Gary is also a bit of a worry. He has just set up, (leased and fitted out), a brand new beauty salon for his girlfriend, right next door to ‘Meeting Place’.
Apart from the fact that there is already one beauty salon in the Meeting Place complex itself, (which has no customers), at last count, there must be at least 6 hair salons between the ‘Meeting Place’, and the top of Soi Nern Plub Wan. On Soi Nern Plub Wan itself, there has got to be close to a dozen hair salons between the top of the Soi and Sukhumvit.
And let’s not forget that the road around the Lake is not heavily populated. It is not exactly a built up area where you can walk around and pop into a shop or a salon. It is still very much what I once penned as ‘Driving Street’, as opposed to ‘Walking Street’. Unlike Pattaya proper, here, you drive from bar to bar; and now, for your added pleasure, you can also drive from hair salon to hair salon….
I challenge anyone to go in any one of these salons and find more than one customer, and I would bet that in most of them, you will find no customers at all. Even if they have customers, most of them are just in for a wash and blow dry – for the grand sum of around 100Baht – not a lot of dosh for close on 2 hours work. It’s going to take a lot of hair washes just to pay the rent, let alone earn a decent wage.
Why is it that every farang who decides to settle in Thailand thinks he fully qualified to run a successful bar and why is it that every whore who shacks up with a farang thinks she is fully qualified to run a successful hair salon?
Both types of enterprises, from the day they open their doors will be fighting tooth and nail for a finite number of customers, and if they don’t have something really special to entice them in, they will all surely fail.
Some stupid farang is paying for both of them – the bars and the salons!
God knows, I’ve paid for a few in my time. But at least I’ve learned my lesson.
On Sunday, Rick dropped around to my place and we watched England chalk up a not very convincing victory over Georgia. Two very forgettable games so far and unless they get their act together I doubt there will be a repeat of their 2003 victory, or even their lofty achievement as losing finalists, which they managed, against all odds, in 2007.
Meanwhile, back at the inn, the computer in my trusty BMW told me that I needed an engine oil change, so at the crack of dawn on Monday, Noo and I drove to the dealer in Chon Buri to get it sorted. I booked the car in and also asked them to check my windscreen washer reservoir as it kept running out of water and I assumed there was a leak. I was told these exacting tasks would take about 3 hours, so off we went to Central Department store, about 5 minute walk, for an early lunch and a bit of shopping. We also met up with an old friend of Noo’s and enjoyed some nice Japanese food in Fuji. We all love Sashimi and Sushi.
As it was a Monday, I was surprised at the number of young people in Central. By midday the place was buzzing and the Fuji restaurant was packed, even though there are many other similar, but cheaper Japanese restaurants in the same complex. Clearly there is no recession in Chon Buri and the local population seem to be doing very well thank you.
There was a smiling welcome for me when we arrived back at the dealer and my car was ready, everything checked and fixed, oil change completed and all was clean and shiny from its wash and polish. I signed a load of paperwork and we jumped into the car for the return trip to Pattaya.
I had barely turned into Sukhumvit road from the dealer’s exit when there was a ‘dong’ from my on- board computer.
There was a service message on the on screen computer: Windscreen washer empty!!!!
Yesterday, we drove into Pattaya as I had decided it was time to upgrade my television viewing experience. I have had my current 32 inch TV for about 2 years now and as I am watching an increasing amount of TV of an evening I decided it was time to get a bigger screen and also one that has real HD.
My current Samsung is a series 4 HD, but it isn’t full HD quality. There is little point in buying an HD TV for the local cable or satellite channels (unless you pay and exorbitant fee for a few Movie HD channels, which I would never watch anyway), but most of the stuff I now watch is downloaded and nearly all of this is HD.
Anyway, I trawled through the stores to find the best deal and despite my friends strong advice to only buy a Samsung 5 series TV, I actually ended up with an LG 43inch TV at a cost of just over 14,000 Baht. As well as being full HD, I also wanted a TV that would play my hard disk movies etc though a USB port, and although I could have bought a series 5, 40 inch Samsung for around 16K it would have cost over 20k to get one with a movie playing USB function.
So I saved some money and went for the LG and I have not regretted it. It has 3 more inches of screen than the Samsung and the HD is absolutely stunning. I am very pleased with it although I doubt my friend will be convinced I made the right choice!!
Thailand – is it a Third, Second or a First World Country?
This is a subject which I write about from time to time and in recent years it has been my firm opinion that Thailand is indeed more of a developed than a developing country these days. I happen to believe that the wining and bitching by many resident farangs about the Thais and Thailand is generally totally over the top and largely unjustified.
Of course we can all point to things that happen here and claim that such a thing would never happen in the west, but I am equally sure that you could find things that happen in Europe or the USA and claim that they would never happen in Thailand.
Sure you can point to the endemic corruption here and assert that it doesn’t happen in the west, notwithstanding the fact that corruption is rife throughout most of Asia, and the west is by no means immune from such practise.
Yes, the justice system here is not great, often hit and miss and definitely favours those with money, whereas the poor are usually forced into plea bargaining, even when they are obviously innocent.
Is it so different in the USA where the justice system is heavily weighted in favour of those with money and where 95 % of criminal cases are plea bargained and never go to court? Throughout the entire world, justice favours those who have money to pay for good lawyers and in this respect Thailand is no better and no worse.
I remember the disapprobation heaped on Thailand when the new Suvarnabhumi airport was opened at in 2006. Yes, it was a bit of a chaotic disaster for a few weeks, but they got there in the end. These days, although not being the greatest airport in the world it is a perfectly satisfactory, serviceable, 21st Century air terminal which does the job quite adequately.
Yet, for those first few weeks, the farang doom-sayers had a field day; they seemed to delight in rubbishing the Thais and their new airport at every turn.
Fast forward to the UK, two years after Suvarnabhumi, when the new Terminal 5 opened at Heathrow. The opening weeks became such a disorganised nightmare that the airlines lost millions in cancelled flights and lost customers. And as for the baggage that went missing – they are still looking for it.
In both cases these new airports suffered from lack of proper planning – but this isn’t a Thai thing; it is a world-wide phenomenon. Name me one new airport that has opened without everything being in total disarray for days – usually weeks- until the glitches are sorted and the new, untried systems start to run properly.
Yet if you were to believe the screaming, hyper-critical farangs in the local press and on internet forms, you would think that the poor Thais were the most stupid people who ever lived. Well, not quite; for if failing to plan the opening of a new airport properly is a yardstick of how stupid people are, the Brits have shown that they are at least as stupid, if not more so as they were only opening a new terminal, not a whole new airport complex.
One of the most common complaints I hear in Thailand relates to internet service providers; everything from ‘theft of band width’ to unreliable services which are continually crashing and in particular, the unhelpful responses from staff, when trying to get problems rectified.
I admit I have had my fair share of internet problems through the years and sometimes it can be extremely frustrating. But in all the years I have been dealing with Thais on this matter – either face to face or by telephone – I have never failed to have polite and helpful responses, and I am talking here of a variety of internet providers, from Loxinfo, to TOT, to TT&T, to True, to 3 B and now BTV who provide my internet via cable.
I accept that on occasion the service people are not always as knowledgeable as they should be, but for me anyway they always seem to their best and for the most part I have had an acceptable level of service, both in Bangkok and in several locations in Pattaya.
For me, the golden rule is always talk to Thais politely and with respect, and never, ever, get angry – whatever the provocation. Trust me, shouting will never get you anywhere; on the contrary, it will usually prove to be very counter-productive.
I had read some time ago that Thai ISP’s were by no means unique in this matter of theft of band width, (i.e.you pay for, say, 2 megabytes and you actually get 1 megabyte), as the regulators in the UK had also admonished UK providers for the very same offence. I now learn that it is endemic throughout the world, so before we start getting at Thais and accusing them of dastardly, heinous crimes, let us have a quick check in our own backyards first.
Last month, when I first went to England, I stayed at my brother’s house in Kent and the internet connection was quite reliable but not noticeably faster than the one I have in Pattaya. However, following my sojourns in the Midlands and the North, when I returned to Kent some 3 weeks later, he was having all kinds of problems with his internet connection. It was going on and off like a yo yo and on some days it was completely unusable.
The service provider was BT, one of the largest in the country, and when he called them to sort it out, they gave him all kinds of ‘run-arounds’ about re-booting and clearing his ‘cookies’ and his ‘caches’, all of which was total bullshit. The problems continued the entire week I was there, and I actually had to resort to connecting to a nearby hotspot, for which I had to pay a daily fee.
When I was up in the Midlands, at my elder daughter’s house in a suburb of Nuneaton, the internet – which was provided by Sky also wasn’t that fast. Suddenly one evening, it disappeared an it wasn’t until the following day that my son in law discovered that for some unknown reason, Sky had changed the security key number without telling him!
Crazy? Sounds like Thailand? You see what I mean?
While I was in England I read about a massive power outage in the USA.
The outage blacked out parts of southern California, Arizona and Mexico that left millions of customers without power and caused widespread traffic jams. San Diego Gas & Electric said all of its 1.4 million customers were without power. It disrupted traffic, hampered operations of thousands of business establishments, halted trains and trolleys in their tracks, trapped people in elevators, and forced two nuclear power reactors to shut down. Almost 5 million people in California were without power during the height of the outage. San Diego airport authority said the airport was letting only inbound flights land. Outbound flights and security screening were halted due to the power outage.
Apparently it happened when someone pulled the wrong lever causing a high voltage power line to ‘trip out of service’. The power was not restored to millions of homes until the following day.
Has anyone had an outage in Thailand that has lasted more than 24 hours? Down here in Pattaya, we do get outages from time to time, almost always during violent tropical storms which uproot trees that fall on power lines. Yet always, within a couple of hours, the electricity rescue vans are out in force and power is restored.
This can be at any time of the night or day, including public holidays. I used to worry that once the power went out in a storm, it would stay out for many hours, possibly ruining the food in my freezer, but now I know better. I have nothing but admiration for these guys who track down and fix damaged power lines so quickly.
I recall about 10 years back, when I was still living in England, that one weekend we had an elderly couple over to stay with us and there was a freak storm which blew down many trees and caused a power outage.
A fairly large area was affected and we were without power for more than 2 days. Some places did not get their power restored for over a week. OK, maybe the Thais are more used to this kind of emergency than their English counterparts, but one thing I can be sure of – these English workers were certainly not doing 24/7 shifts. And I bet they got their morning coffee breaks, their lunch breaks, their tea breaks and I am sure they were all following the myriad rules and regulations that restricted their productivity and progress.
I know where I’d rather be in a power outage.
Back in Thailand, I drove down to my local pharmacy the other day to buy a month’s supply of insulin for my diabetes. Anyone who knows anything about diabetics and insulin will know that insulin must always be stored at fridge temperatures or it will quickly go off. This is even more important in a country like Thailand where the ambient temperature is very high.
I buy my insulin from Fascino, a chain store pharmacy which has a very large shop in North Pattaya. I would venture to guess, that the north Pattaya store is probably one of the largest drug stores in Thailand. It is absolutely massive and is much bigger than any drug store I have seen elsewhere in Thailand, including Bangkok.
So as you can imagine, Fascino has become a popular place for many farangs to buy their monthly supplies of meds, especially as they stock a very wide range of medication in their large stock rooms at the back of the store. The whole operation has state of the art computerisation, and is, in the main, very efficient.
So far so good.
All of my required insulin was in stock, (I take two different types), and it was duly handed to me across the counter. Because of the need to keep insulin cool, every pharmacist in Thailand knows that they must always put insulin in a bag with some ice so that it remains cool for the journey back to the patient’s home. So you can imagine my surprise when I looked in the bag and found that no ice had been put inside. I looked at the girl.
‘Where’s the ice?’
‘Sorry, the ice is still being made.’
‘So no ice?’
‘But the insulin will get hot and go off!’
‘Sorry, no ice’.
I didn’t bother to ask her why she didn’t send someone to the 7/11m which was a few meters down the road and buy some ice until they own stock was replenished. It was all too hard.
I’m quite sure that they wouldn’t sell me insulin without ice in the UK.
So what do you think dear readers? Is Thailand developed or it still developing?
BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a hoot…!