Expat@Large

Need Help

Posted in allergy, Bangkok, cockroach, Thailand, translation, WTF by expatatlarge on February 13, 2012

… in getting a decent translation of the following. One of my many lovely friends/colleagues (see above) in BKK is unwell. At least I think she is unwell. She posted this on Facebook:

จะบอกว่า ร้านดอกไม้ร้านใหญ่ที่อยู่ใกล้ๆกัน มีความคิดสร้างสรรมาก ขนดอกหญ้ามาจัดร้าน theme valentine ประหนึ่งว่าอยู่สวนป่า อีเดนท่ามกลางธรรมชาติ โรแมนติกค่อดๆ วันดีคืนดี ลมพัดมาหอบละอองเกสรปลิวว่อนเลย เซ็ง~ ไม่รู้เลยว่าอิคนอยู่ใกล้ๆ จะตายเอา 5555 [at least I know that these numbers are a Thai emoticon for LOL. Why? Because the number five in Thai is pronounced Ha. Hahahahaha.]

… and Bing (the FB default for some reason) translated it thus:

The art of flower shop is telling me to usurp tuttu shops near the capital. There are many creative ideas to optimize your store organized grass heart valentine theme is comparable to that in the midst of a natural park Eden. Robert semantic khot propitious day. The wind blows coming en masse swiftly carry pollen. Bored ~ I don’t know that the ikhon near to death removing LOL.

~~~~~~~~~

Also need to learn the Thai characters for WTF.

~~~~~~~~~

… and Google translated it thus:

It is a flower shop near the well. There are many creative ideas. Feather grass is a free theme valentine, as though the forest. Eden nature. Haddock and romantic fine wind to carry pollen carded ~ I do not know I was close to death I 5555.

~~~~~~~~~

… and Yahoo BabelFish doesn’t do Thai.

~~~~~~~~~

Response from the victim herself after I assumed she was having acupuncture or something silly like that:

It’s a procedure of Skin test, not a treatment. They drop 13 allergen solutions on my both arms and then prick my arms with special needles. finally, leave them for 15 minutes. if there are skin rash and itch at any position, means I got allergy them. The result is cockroach and pollen.

~~~~~~~~~

Cockroach?

~~~~~~~~~

In BKK for 10 days, will be that is, coming up from this Thursday. Could try aversion therapy, but E@L hasn’t got much of a roach.

E@L

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Jaded

Posted in Bangkok, Bruce by expatatlarge on August 22, 2011

The bright lights and big… um, bright lights of Soi Cowboy wash over Bruce now, like some much water off so much duck. Bangkok, OMG not again. Way skinny girls wearing not enough (if anything at all) given the settings of the air-con. They have to cuddle their bronzed bodies, so unforgivingly hard and unforgivably toned, they have push themselves right up against Bruce to borrow some of his body’s substantial calorific storage.

Ah, dear. The breasts on these girls are so small and sitting up way too high, their nipples too prominent and stiff. And what the hell is wrong with that girl’s KNEES? So knobbly, eh?

Jaded. Sigh. Shrug. Meh.

So hard to be impressed these days, so hard to be moved, so hard to be bothered. Same same, only more-so. Really, shouldn’t there be more than just … this?

Bruce is listening…? No?

Well, no-one has come up up with a good answer yet so Bruce will just have to shrug and bare bear it, and buy the not-quite naked girl sitting next to him (knee-high boots are clothes, right?) another ‘tequila’ before she “go dance now” and he’ll pretend to watch the TV while she pretends that what she her and her two colleagues are doing on stage could, in anyone’s vocabulary, be called ‘dancing’.

E@L

The Fishbowl

Posted in Bangkok, Bruce, hookers, Thailand by expatatlarge on January 14, 2011

So there we were. Smashed in Bangkok. Again. Bruce narrowed an eye even further, if that were possible, and said, “Let’s go for a massage. I know a place that gives a great soapie.”

“Oh Jesus, Bruce, not Annie’s again. Anyway, I’m hammered. It’s late. It’s what – 4am? Everything will shut. I am so way past all this. I’m going back to the hotel,” said Stuart.

“One more, one more,” said the grimy faced urchin (who claimed she was twelve) to Stuart as she restocked the trays with pink and yellow disks. “I beat you, I beat you good mistah. You not so smart, but I like you!” Stuart, having been out-thunked six consecutive times, knew that he had met someone more than his intellectual match and that at this point, going back to the hotel and throwing up the toilet was the better part of valor. And that Connect-4 was way too complicated for him and that he was going to sell his chess textbooks the minute he got back to Hong Kong. He picked up his plastic cup and drained the last of his sour gin-tonic. He patted the disappointed girl on her head and said goodbye with a 50baht note.

That left Bruce and E@L. Again. Stuart was always crashing early (well, relatively early).

But it was hardly a minute, or hardly another futile move in Connect-4 against the determined-to-win street savant, before a revived Stuart was back. He was escorting a large green dress which contained a goodly proportion of, but certainly not all, the body of a hair-braided freelancer from Africa. Stuart could barely contain his glee. The street kid stared at Stuart like he was yet another inconstant lover.

We invited her to sit down at the small tables on one of the remaining fold-up chairs. Her face was a soft, shiny velvet-black. She was very pretty, thick-lipped, not so broad a nose and her forehead sloped back roundly into the back-cut braid, but her tits were enormous and overflowing in the too tight dress, her belly bulged out (not that we are slim, eh E@L?) and her butt ballooned out the back.

‘Mo-anie’ shrugged and spoke softly in a strong African accent when we asked some polite questions about herself (28, Sierra Leone, no kids), and then about her preferences in film (which was her favorite Harry Potter?) and politics (red shirts, yellow shirts?). Eventually she realized we were just drunk funny-guys all taking the piss, mildly enough and in good fun, but still there was no tricks to turn here. She excused herself and hustled off, rather shaken by the experience if he movement of her large bubble-butt was anything to judge by.

“Massage!” said Bruce. He called for chek bin khrup and Nit, our young waitress for these early mornings libations at the yellow trolley-bar (which would be folded up neatly into itself and wheeled away in a few hours – assembled and open 6 till 6) brought over a scribbled reckoning. Bruce paid. “It’ll all work out over the weekend.”

We scuttled the 12(?8,?16) year-old girl off with an initial offering of 50baht, but she pointed out that Bruce owed her another 10baht each for the five games he had insisted on gambling against her and lost. She had won at least half our Connect-4 games. She left with 100baht, probably enough to live on for three days, or for her mother to go gambling with.

Amazing kid. Sharp mind. Good at Connect-4.

“Imagine what she could have done with her life if she had ever gone to school,” mused Bruce.

“Or been born in another country,” E@L countered. (Frackin’ social conscience, E@L’s Achilles testicle.)

“Like Sierra Leone,” double-whammed Stuart.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Everything’s shut, Bruce. Nothing will be open. Stuart is right,” E@L said. Indeed the whole strip was much quieter than just 45 minutes before when we had first sat down at the street bar.

“We need maaaSSSSAAAAaaaaaage!” cried Bruce.

“And I know where we can get a fuck at 4;15 in this god-forsaken megalopolis!” He may have thrown a few extra “ol” and “al” syllables into that last word.

He led the charge across the legendary shifting pavers of Sukhomvit, over the legs of stacked-away stalls, of chairs at other temp bars and those of sleeping soi-dogs. We turned the all-too familiar corner where the fried locusts stall had been two hours earlier. The Nana clubs and bars were supposed to be closed by now. Even the trolley for the best hamburger in town was packed away and gone.

“I know a place,” he said. “Open 24 hrs, but don’t tell the police. You’ll wake them.” Ho ho. Bruce always had some new snippet of knowledge of the local debauchery scene to amaze us with, and a joke to follow.

Stuart, earlier adamant that he been heading for bed, was with us E@L realized, however his energy was fading fast after the fun of bringing the exotic hooker to our little table. We waved to the last of girls who called out to us from bars that were obviously shutting up shop and dodged the crotch grabs of the last of the katooeys still manning(!) the front of the Nana Hotel. After a few short blocks of the typical Bangkok shops (tailor, laundry, foot massage) stepping up and down at pavement and road, Bruce unexpectedly turned down a soi to the left. We had expected to go right, didn’t know there was anything to the left.

“If this placed is closed, I’m heading straight back,” complained Stuart. “Seriously, I’m fucking tired.”

At the entrance to the soi, Bruce hesitated at first. “This is the one” he said, unconvincingly. “C’mon mate, nearly there.” We walked slowly to the end of the soi, where it progressively became darker as we moved out of the street-lights and glowing signs on Soi 4 and moved behind the rear of the taller buildings on the left. Finally, maybe two hundred meters in, we made out the low rise block on the right side that E@L guessed Bruce was looking for. On the very last verandah a dim, solitary red light hung in front of a door and it silhouetted a row of pot-plants. “Here,” said Bruce, quickening. We stepped up. It was dark but not dark enough to miss the four-foot high electric sign with a plastic sign and curly fruit-loop Thai script on it and, tellingly, the outline of a naked lady in a bath-tub. But the sign was up on the verandah behind the plants, turned off. The place looked closed up. Bruce shrugged and walked up to the door confidently. “It’s always open. The locals know about it,” he said.

A knock, a wait, the sound of foot-steps. A look. A female face. “You wann massagee? Welcome!”

The welcome lady, maybe a kind fifty, maybe a harsh twenty-five, hard to tell in the dim light, was wearing a light-colored evening gown with a low-cut top. She gave Bruce some directions which he hardly needed as he was already on his way up the stairs. We walked up on worn red(? – also hard to tell) carpets to the third floor, behind him. There was a bar directly in front of us as we reached the top. It was almost pitch dark in here as well, but with the blue-tint of ultraviolet lights that reflected from the mirrors behind bottles of spirit (Mekhong, SongSam, Johnny Walker Red, cheap but expensive gin and vodka) and liqueurs (two of them, both Baileys) and empty beer bottles (Heineken, Tiger, Chang). The strange light made the dandruff on our dark t-shirts light up, our teeth glow and our eyes go smokey, but didn’t really help illuminate much around. We could just make out large-hewn, darkly lacquered wooden stools at the bar. As our eyes adjusted, down at the far end we made out the form of a person in a brown uniformed leaning forward on one of the seats, his peaked cap on the bar, his head on his cap and his arms outstretched around them both and a half full/empty bottle of Johnny Red. Bruce and E@L raised eyebrows at each and gave a silent high five! There WAS a sleeping policeman here!

The lady who looked up over her reading-glasses from behind the bar where she was toting up large pile of thousand baht notes, a lip-balanced cigarette wavering in her now-smiling face, greeted Bruce as an old friend. After a soft catch-up chat in pigeon-Thai, Bruce introduced us to Mrs Samathinporn or something like that, or not like that, and ordered more gin-tonics. Stuart’s face dropped. He really did not want more alcohol. But the tonic in our gins lit up, electric in the blue light and Stuart took a long sip. And then Bruce asked something that sounded like “Is the bowl still open?”

“Of course, Mistah Brut.”

She smiled warmly(?) at Bruce and put out her cigarette. She made a phone call that needed only a single number and then screeched rapidly into the handset. We heard a sudden loud scurrying behind the walls, like mice playing basketball, like girls putting on high heels.

“Solly, take time, girls rest, watch TV.” Practice Connect-4, thought E@L.

To the right of the bar, at the end of the room, the wall flickered into light. This wall was in fact made of two full-height glass windows that looked into into another room that was where the fluorescent globes were coming awake. There were three rows of stepped seats, up against the three walls in the room, all painted white and with cushions and stuffed toys on them. The cause of that scurrying sound became obvious as fifteen, maybe twenty, girls walked in quickly from an adjoining room and took their places in a well-understood arrangement.

“The fishbowl,” said Bruce.

Mrs Somethingporn led the three of us over.

Several of the girls were looking out towards us through the glass walls. Some were waving, some adjusting their low-cut dresses even lower to their push-up bras and some smiling falsely as if they were listening to a bad joke, but some sleepy-eyed ones were quite sullen and had just plonked themselves down. E@L noted that the welcome lady was sitting there as well, unambiguously older in the harsher light. Many of them appeared stunningly beautiful, but it was well after 4am and Bruce, Stuart and E@L had been drinking since lunch (oops) dinner.

“Is OK,” said the bar-lady to reassure Stuart and E@L, as we must have looked uncomfortable, “they cannot see you.” E@L, even now and having been back a few times, has no idea if she was lying or not. “Take you time. You look, you look. Take two lady Mistah Brut? Very pretty tonight.

“Girl this side of room,” she explained to Stuart and E@L, “are model, very beautiful, 2500baht. One and half hour massage, you very clean. Girl this side, very pretty also, special price, 1700baht. Take two for massage, only 3000baht.

“Please take a look. Very new girls. All very new.”

Bruce smiled. Stuart blanched. E@L wondered where the hell they got the idea for this!

~~~~~~~~~~

Harem, Thomas Rowlandson, 1812.


Caged Prostitutes in Japan, 1890-1900 via Flickr

~~~~~~~~~~

All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.
Ecclesiastes 1, 8-10. ~250BCE.

E@L

Toes

Posted in anatomical variants, Bangkok, books, David Foster Wallace, hookers, knees, literature, toes by expatatlarge on November 12, 2010

I was going to write a piece about Thai bar girls’ ugly knees (a Bruce story) and the strange looking toes I noticed on one of my colleagues (on her feet to be exact) – they were long and thin and splay-toed, with buttons of yellow callus on the little toes, gecko-like, Gollum-like, and they really freaked me out – until* I read the opening lines of David Foster Wallace’s Broom Of The System

Most pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metelman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden. They’re long and thin and splay-toed, with buttons of yellow callus on the little toes… etc…(No mention of Gollum)

Sigh.

More about The Broom of the System

(Wrong picture – I have the new Penguin Ink edition, cover art by tattooist Duke Reilly)

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Finally, yes, I’ve started to dispel the fog of guilt in which I have been literarily (new word?) lost, never having read Infinite Jest. [And now I’ve purchased BotS! What an fracken idiot!]

When Wallace ended the universe of himself – rope, neck, kitchen ceiling (I believe) [I wonder if he wore shoes when he went, or were his toes exposed? Were they pretty toes or ugly ones?]- a few years back, I thought, heck I’d better read it, in memoriam you know? But immediately he went, all his books evaporated into the libraries of similarly motivated but more prompt aesthetes, and I failed in my epicish (new word?) endeavour to obtain an edition of IJ, indeed any of DFW’s books, in Singapore. Consider the Lobster I eventually found in Bangkok, but still it sits unread on my unread-over-weighted shelves. Then, slippery cerebral circuitry, Infinite Jest escaped from my mind for a while.

I was reading about infinity a while back and trying (failing) to come to terms with the Aleph of infinities proposed by George Cantor in the late 19th century, when I saw in the science/mathematics section Wallace’s book on infinity – Everything And More – grabbed it, read it, but it didn’t really help, only frustrated me more. My fault of course – glazed eyes? you have no idea.

Izzy’s friend Tom (hey dude) is a maths prodigy (compared to me, compared to anyone), and he helped; but he was amazed that I hadn’t read Infinite Jest. So, by now it was far enough away from his funeral for the new editions to have returned to the Kinokuniya shelves, at his insistence I took one home. Unread. Guilt. Fog. Book become invisible.

Then on Tuesday (this Tuesday, last Tuesday I mean, a few days ago, remember?) at a pub quiz – beers, pizza, imminent victory, jaws, defeat – the conversation inexplicably turned to DFW. Did I start it**? Maybe I did. Two of the guys, one Welsh (another mathemetician) the other American, went quasi-orgasmic over Infinite Jest. They seemed to have read everything of his, but they didn’t know which week Thanksgiving falls in! So again me, with guilt/inadequacy. Fog. Shuts up. (But I read today – I should be working, not blogging or reading interviews, I know – in an interview with Arundhati Roy that she hadn’t read any William Faulkener, so hey… [oops, neither have I])

So now, two days later E@L is about fifteen pages into IJ; autistic/savant tennis players, dope fiends… and skipping around about too, to sample what’s ahead.

EVERY SENTENCE IS AMAZING and requires you to think and puzzle, find the joke and the wit and the genius, but somehow it is enjoyably readable (once you let it flow, as you have to do with Proust). At one point while browsing ahead, I hiccuped into spontaneous laughter – fat woman’s buttocks inextricably wedged out the window of a bus toilet! One minute hyper-intense, 60 seconds later slapstick.

And I only have 1000 pages of this stuff to go!

More about Infinite Jest

It took the below footnoted David Eggers a month to read it he confesses in the intro to my edition. Ha! That’s what my McSweeney subscriber said as well. As I struggled and wanked my way for fifteen years to eventually get over Gravity’s Rainbow, (somewhere, oh that’s right, in Phuket) I doubt I will be that rapid in my reading…

E@L

* the “I was going write”, not the freaked out bit

** Oh that’s right, I had mentioned McSweeney’s in a facile attempt to make me sound smart (iron, Eiffel tower, who woulda thunk?) a propos who the frack knows what, but one of the guys had been a fracking subscriber to McSweeneys (embarrassment, curl up, ball), and then the question (not from the pub quiz) as to who was the editor of McSweeneys (I thought Rick Moody, but fortunately kept my mouth shut) and then up (on my Google phone) came David Eggers and he subsequently led us through the garden of fracking allusional (new word?) paths of semi-drunken one-up-manship to the topic of the works of one David Foster Wallace (deceased).

The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times.

Posted in AK-47, Bangkok, beggars, capitalism, Dickens, soldiers, work by expatatlarge on October 10, 2010

Every day I walk past where a leather-faced, one-legged woman sits on the footpath. I think of her as old, but she might be my age or she might even be my mother’s age. Her skin is so dark. There are several men in pink/orange vests hanging around nearby, drivers for the motor-cycle taxi “stand” under the steps to the elevated crossway. They hog the shade and chat. She sits on a piece of cloth, next to a phone-booth, in the sun. (I count nine public phone booths in this section of footpath.) Her good leg is tucked underneath and her plastic prosthesis is extended into the path to draw attention, but to not block anyone, well not much. She holds her mug out in the stumps of leprosied fingers. Sometimes I drop some coins, 10 or 15Bht, or maybe a 20Bht note into the cup. No-one else does this that I have seen, not even the Buddhist Thais. I am her target demographic.

I take the SkyTrain down to Asok, change to the MTR underground and head to Silom for a day at Chula Hospital. Soldiers in camouflage uniforms, hard black hats with tight chin-straps, large guns, shiny boots and gaiters. There are security gates, metal detectors. One soldier waves me away from the glass-enclosed entrance foyer. All the doors are blocked, save one in the basement of the car-park. He indicates for me to go around. I say no: I must wait for someone here, but he insists. I too insist though I don’t have a gun to support my argument. There are some chairs near a drinks machine and some soldiers are taking a rest. I indicate that I will join them, wait here. I take a copy of the IHT out of my Samsonite satchel in order to finish the Sudoku puzzle I had started at the breakfast buffet in The Landmark. The resting soldiers smile and nod hello. One moves over a seat to give me room, moves his AK-47, so polite. The soldier who had tried to get me to go to the other door waves to say it’s OK, he smiles. The Royal Niece is upstairs having her goitre removed.

I come back via Siam Station in the early evening, change trains around 6 o’clock. Music plays over a public speaker and thousands of commuters stop, everyone a statue. It seems weird to me, this frozen state, this nationalism.

At the very top of the stairs that I take down from the Nana station is a Sootra juice and herb drinks stall with a display of brightly colored plastic bottles of juices in crushed ice, and more in a refrigerator behind the server. I indicate a bottle of the chilled passion-fruit and beetroot juice, for 20Bht. The server is on her mobile phone, talking. She is only watching me out of the corner of her eye while she places a bottle in a plastic bag and takes the 20Bht note I offer.

At the bottom of the steps another beggar, a much younger woman, is seated. She holds a cup towards me in wai-ing hands and pleads with big eyes. She has a comatose infant draped across her lap. I walk past her, glowering, whatever change I have loose (maybe 20Bht) is still in my pocket. Within a second I feel guilty for my disgust and a second after that, I don’t. I was unjustly accusing her with my glare and no doubt it made her feel bad, or maybe not. I know that while it is not her fault that she is so desperately poor that she has been given this drugged child to hold in order to grab at my sympathies and that post-colonial (not that Thailand was ever colonized) guilt, and that neither she nor the child will never see again any of the money that is placed in her cup.

As I slide past the motorcycle-taxi drivers, I hear a cackling laugh up ahead. The drivers are sauntering, hovering from foot to foot, joking with someone. It seems weird too, like there was stand-up routine and I couldn’t understand the patter. The cackle is coming from the one-legged beggar, still in her place by the phone-booth. She spoons some curry out of a plastic bag into her toothless mouth, grins gleefully back at her friends, the laughing drivers.

We are all in this together, we all have a role to play, we are all doing our jobs in the Dickensian City of Angels.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two years ago in Rangoon, I met a toothpick-thin, boisterous young Burmese man called Somerset. He had conferred this nickname on himself at age sixteen, after renting a collection of stories by W. Somerset Maugham from one of the bookstalls on Pansodan Road. By memorizing sentences from the collection, Somerset taught himself a somewhat formal and archaic English. Then he moved on to Charles Dickens. His identification with the works of these long-dead British writers was total. “All of those characters are me,” Somerset explained. “Neither a British nor American young man living in the twenty-first century can understand a Dickens as well as I can. I am living in a Dickens atmosphere. Our country is at least one or two centuries behind the Western world. My neighborhood—bleak, poor, with small domestic industries, children playing on the street, the parents are fighting with each other, some are with great debt, everyone is dirty. That is Dickens. In that Dickens atmosphere I grew up. I am more equipped to understand Dickens than modern novels. I don’t know what is air conditioning, what is subway, what is fingerprint exam.” Dickens In Lagos – Lapham’s Quarterly

.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

E@L

Ploo Sar Sharnge, Ploo Cellar Mem Shows

Posted in Bangkok, LongGun, politics, Thailand by expatatlarge on May 26, 2010

Dear oh dear. If only the King would step in and sort it out again – report from the frontlines – Soi Cowboy, Long Gun, Bangkok, 2006.

Both parties are fronted by corrupt businessmen as I understand it: the hidden motivation of the protest seems to hinge on the fact one is a lot richer than the other and the other wants to catch up…

But obviously the Thai’s royalty loyalty is weakening…

E@L

Bangkok – It’s Going To Hurt

Posted in Bangkok, economics, Thailand by expatatlarge on May 20, 2010

And while I rave on bout books and phones, Bangkok is burning. Bangkok, my home away from home away from home.

GoogleMaps

The Centralworld shopping mall that I used to visit every now and then has been torched and gutted and is danger of collapsing.

This is not good for Thailand’s Land Of Smiles image. The world is looking at Thailand as just another coup, reprisal, coup, reprisal third world country now. And ASEAN are sitting on their arse, too afraid to offer opinions.

E@L has an opinion, and while he always been a pacifist and a lover of law and order and the peaceful solutions, he is increasingly of the opinion that some jarhead should take the shot at Thaksin as soon as. Everyone knows that Thaksin is the puppet-master behind all this chaos.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And the trouble is spreading all across the country, even to Chang Mai where one of E@L’s colleagues lives.

E@L’s distributors in Bangkok say they are fine and continuing to work around those areas of town not affected, but according to the map above, that’s not the centre of town!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

E@L was supposed to be in Thailand at some stage in the last few weeks and of course, he has been postponing his trip, and then postponing again, and yet again, always thinking that things are about to be sorted. Well they’re not sorted. They’re a long way from being sorted.

Thailand and in particular Bangkok is in great danger of crashing as a tourist spot, not to mention a favored work destination for expats and it will put a halt to the 10 years of recovery that has been gaining momentum since the AEC of 1997/98. That’s going to hurt people, all the way along from hookers, market touts and tuk-tuk drivers to bankers, investors and businessmen.

E@L senses a tsunami of economic devastation on the way, and while he values people and their freedom above dollars or baht,… ooh dear, it’s going to hurt.

E@L

Bull Wang Gib You POWER!

Posted in 4FoW, Bangkok, cialis, herbal medicine, hookers, medication, Singapore, TCM, Thailand, viagra by expatatlarge on February 12, 2009

File this under Travellers’ Warning.

Yesterday’s mood distortion was not caused by a batch of fake Cialis from Thailand, though some was offered to me on the street last time I was in Bangkok.

“Where you go? Body massage, girl, DBD porno, Viagah, Chalice?” is the chant of the superfluous tuk-tuk drivers along Sukhomvit Rd as they accost me on each Soi corner. Meanwhile I try to avoid stepping on the ragged women beggars, sitting cross-legged by the steps to the train, drugged children comatose on their laps. And try to avoid twisting my ankle on the Indiana Jones-like stepping-puzzle they call a footpath here.

Rather than the usual worn fold-up ad for a three-girl soapie and massage, the tuk-tuk driver may hold open a plastic bag, showing me the blue or orange box of the potency drugs.

I don’t buy anything from these guys. No matter what you do or where go on a tuk-tuk these days, you will be ripped off. When I first came to Thailand they were a legitimate form of transport, much cheaper, faster and more available than taxis. Now, with the traffic at lock-jaw levels, tuk-tuks are just as stuck as ordinary cars. And they charge enormous amounts of money. Demands of 200Bht for a trip that would cost 45Bht in a A-C taxi are not to be believed. A motor-cycle taxi is the only way for serious commuters to weave through the cars, though chances of smashing a knee are pretty high. As often as possible, I take the sky-train.

Tuk-tuk drivers can only make their money by scamming you, the wide-eyed, wet-eared tourist. Selling erectile dysfunction medication is their latest beat.

On the odd occasion I might have made discreet purchases of ED drugs while travelling, it would have been in a “legit” pharmacy in Bangkok while getting a top up on my other medications: blood pressure, cholesterol and nerve-pain. Mmm, I hope they were legitimate drugs (Don’t we? You know who!) I bought. They certainly cost enough – like full price, but without the added cost and embarrassment of seeing a physician to get a ‘script.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I can’t bring myself to get some here. I imagine my cute female GP asking me, “How much do you need? When will you use it? How often?”

What am I going to say – the truth?

“I don’t KNOW, I DON’T KNOW! Cheeerist woman, leave me alone with your incessant cataloguing of my personal failures! I KNOW I AM OVERWEIGHT, alright!? I KNOW that’s the cause of almost all my problems, alright! I just need to have some Viagra handy in case I get so despairing in my pathetic lonely existence that I am prepared to suffer the ignominy and shame of picking up a bored and desperate Triad-run hooker in the ultra-sleazy 4FoWs and attempt to have sex with her even I don’t even know or like her and she speaks no English and when I can’t get it up… again… I’m a failure because I’ve wasted $250 not to mention taxi fare, and my life is shit, I don’t know why I even bother breathing…!”

~~~~~~~~~~~

OK, moving on…. I think we can all agree it’d be for the best if I pick the occasional batch up when I get to Thailand and avoid that scene all together, right?…

~~~~~~~~~~~

So this article in the New England Journal Medicine is a bit of a warning:

An Unusual Outbreak of Hypoglycemia

Pasted from NEJM

To the Editor: The off-label use of drugs for the enhancement of sexual performance in persons without erectile dysfunction is a phenomenon that is increasingly recognized.1 These drugs are available in illegal forms, including counterfeit versions of brand-name drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction and purported herbal remedies containing synthetic phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors.2 We describe an outbreak of severe hypoglycemia in Singapore; this outbreak was associated with contamination of illegal sexual-enhancement drugs with glyburide.

Between January 1 and May 26, 2008, a total of 150 nondiabetic patients with severe hypoglycemia were admitted to the five public hospitals in Singapore. All the patients except one were men, and they ranged in age from 19 to 97 years (median, 51). Seven patients remained comatose as a result of prolonged neuroglycopenia, and four subsequently died.

Glyburide was detected in blood or urine samples obtained from 127 of these patients (85%). On specific questioning, 45 patients (30%) admitted ingesting illegal sexual-enhancement drugs before the onset of hypoglycemia. Drug samples obtained from these patients and from drugs seized in police raids were analyzed by means of high-performance liquid chromatography. Four preparations were contaminated with glyburide in amounts ranging from 13 to 100 mg per tablet (Figure 1A). These drugs included a counterfeit of Cialis (tadalafil) and three herbal preparations for the purported treatment of erectile dysfunction (Power 1 Walnut, Santi Bovine Penis Erecting Capsule, and Zhong Hua Niu Bian).3 All four products also contained sildenafil in amounts ranging from 0.5 to 110.0 mg per tablet. Santi Bovine Penis Erecting Capsule and Zhong Hua Niu Bian also contained trace amounts of tadalafil and sibutramine.

Translation: Travellers in foreign climes be warned. The Cialis and crap Chinese copies/clones/competition you buy off the street in towns like Bangkok are pirated and could possibly contaminated by substances like glyoburil which is a diabetes drug that is harmful to non-diabetics. In Singapore, in a three month period in 2008, nearly 200 people were admitted to hosptial and four people died from these sprurious medications. There was a similar though more restricted experience in Hong Kong at around the same time. The NEJM article does not say where these medicines were purchased.

“Zhong Hua Niu Bian” means Chinese Bull Penis. “Saint Bovine” also hints at the non-herbal origin of the source of these pseudo-TCM’s “Penis Erecting” power. [This just screams for a ‘Truth In Naming’ case-study.]

Of course, eating the (herbal) penis of any dead animal is a total waste of time in a pharmacological sense: a) they’re really chewy, b) just don’t. The TCM idea of like for like is patently illogical nonsense to my Western eye. Eat a big penis get a big penis? What a – dare I say it – wank.

Penis munchers, you might HYPNOTIZE yourself into a placebo effect, but note that these “herbal” products are also stuffed with various amounts of tadalafil (Cialis) and sildenafil (Viagra) which DO actually work in many cases of ED. So if some of these herbal remedies eventually work, it’s because they are packed surreptitiously with the REAL medicine, not because of the TCM’s magic properties!

But note too the potential dose range across the products seized: “All four products also contained sildenafil in amounts ranging from 0.5 to 110.0 mg per tablet.” At least if you buy the genuine article you know that the dosage is going to be close to that stated on the package, and the results can be assessed in a reasonable light.

With any herbal concoction, not only are the doses basically random due to the typical slack QA at these snake-oil producers factories , there is also a higher risk of contaminants, such as occurred with the glyburide.

Of course these products were probably stamped together in a filthy backyard factory in Outer Nowheresville, China, perhaps near a slaughterhouse for a steady supply of bull products. They could contain anything, and usually do. The milk scandal is another case of un-policed Chinese regulations allowing producers to get away with, literally, murder.

If you would consider buying such drugs off the street you should first get a mirror and some Viagra eyedrops – then take a long, hard look at yourself.

E@L