Expat@Large

Trouble Up Mill

Posted in braces, Thailand, the runs, toilet troubles by expatatlarge on October 26, 2010

You can’t stay in Thailand for too long (or E@L can’t) without a tad of tummy trouble. Over the last several weeks in Bangkok, things have been… hand, outspread, waggles … variable in the lower reaches of E@L’s – what shall we call it? – of his GI-tract. Can’t say what causes this issue most times, but every few days, sure enough…

And this has consequences, and not only for the housekeeping staff. Too much strain on the venous system in that area can result in… the need for certain medical preparations that might or might not have the letter H in them. We are sure you know the symptoms, so there’s no need to elaborate. With such pathological conditions one has to be careful with the grade of sandpaper they provide in the toilets of the cheaper hotels. This hotel is OK (freaking near on Bht500/night, what!). Though certainly not the hospital he was visiting today. A hospital with toilet paper? What were you thinking? Next you’ll be expecting soap, or asking for something clean to dry your hands on. Foolish person.

One has to be prepared. So one bring one’s own (one’s hotel’s own) toilet paper and one finds some appropriate moist towelettes, such as one’s usual baby-bum cleaners. Something soft, cool and pampering to staunch the flow of blood. Oops, and I promised I wasn’t going to go into details.

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“Hmm, that pickled vegetable on my boiled pork and rice had a sour taste”, E@L thinks. Too late, he had swallowed one small bit before he notices, but he pushes the remainder away as hordes of hospital personal, visitors and patients, some curious, some indifferent, weave around his chair in the heat of the old car-park that is now a clothing and food market, and a restaurant…

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After work that night, E@L stands up from the shabu-shabu table. There is still some tofu and a “rugby ball” of minced fish paste left in the soup-pot. Whatever, he thinks, I’m stuffed. And a gurgle of bowel-gas moves across his mid-stomach. Those pickles, he thinks. And as he stands, the rear of his braces (he’s wearing braces of late – something to do with the Hip/Waist Ratio and gravity) snags on something and pops. The elastic flies up behind and hits him on the scone. Reaching around he grabs at the dangling band and finds that the leather strap between the two buckles has given away. He holds the end of his braces and sees the torn leather and the single intact buckle. The other one is still on the rear of his trousers. Useless.

He sighs.

He undoes the free buckle at the back and the buckles at the front and stuffs the braces into his bag. His trousers start to slide down, duh. With his bag in one hand he sticks his other hand into a pocket and tries to maintain some vertical force against this clownish behaviour of his trousers. His colleague sort of smiles, in that amused look of embarrassment that Thais have mastered. They move out of the MK restaurant and E@L fells something else going wrong in the internal parts (the GI-tract, remember) of his pants department – “Trouble up mill”, he thinks – his bowels give a twinge of cramp and another gurgle.

“I just wann buy some breakfast,” says Nit. “For my daughter tomollow.” They are in a bakery part of the supermarket area (near the restaurant) on their way out to the car-park. She starts picking up various soft bready things. E@L thinks he is OK, he can last until Nit drops him at the hotel. Putting his bag down while Nit chooses dough, he pulls his trousers up over the lower bulge of his belly and they feel a bit tight there, but no, immediately they slide down a little bit. He can’t take his hand out of his pocket or they will fall down. Another gurgle. Is this urgent? sometimes you can’t be certain until it’s too late.

E@L sees a toilet sign. He’d better go, risk whatever scene from Saw IV is hidden behind the door, just to be on the safe side. In the bag, below where his braces are, he has a toilet roll from his hotel and the sachet of those new moist wipes he had hurriedly bought yesterday at the Boots in Paragon. (“Yes, they OK for heemarrhoys,” the Pharmacist had said, as she gave E@L quite a strange look. “What’s your problem, lady?” thinks E@L. That fact that she now is aware of his is neither here nor up there.)

He tells Nit that he is off the hawng nam for a minute, just a minute, while she waits in the queue with some things like a small bread-rolls only with saveloys poking out the ends. How can anyone eat something so disgusting? thinks E@L.

‘Next Toilet 3rd Floor’ says a sign next to the toilet door. The MK restaurant and the bakery are in the basement of Robinsons Department Store, so as one expect, the toilet actually appears clean and tidy. Across from the urinals, there are three cubicles. The larger one on the left, which must be for disabled, is occupied. The one the right has a sign, A4 paper stuck on to the door with two pieces of clear Scotch tape – “Out Of Order” scribbled in English, and “Please Use Toilet on 3 Floor”. Disabled, thinks E@L. There is another sign. This one is on the laminate of the partition between the door of the right cubicle and the door to the middle cubicle. This is also a piece of A4 paper. It is stuck on with two pieces of Scotch tape and it also reads “Out Of Order”. E@L wonders why they would put two signs up for the one broken toilet.

The door to the middle cubicle is open. The floor is dry. The bowl look clean. The seat-lid is down. There is a flip-lid bucket for crap-soiled toilet paper, but – well, duh! – there is no toilet paper.

E@L kicks the seat-lid up with a shoe-toe and the water in the bowl appears of normal depth and clean. Gurgle… Spasm… Uh-oh! Lucky he didn’t wait to get to the hotel… E@L quickly closes and snibs the door as he swings around, put his bag safe on the door-hook, allows his trousers to fall, tugs down his new Marks and Spencer cotton and lycra briefs (they had no shorts, he prefer the shorts) and…

HOLY CRAAAAAaaaAAAAAPP.

Pain. Discomfort. More pain. Saw V. Sore *. Whew. Teeth-marks.

Most of the damage can be mopped up with his roll of toilet paper, but he needs those moist wipes. He reaches up to his bag on the back of the door, fossicks, and takes out the blue sachet. He hadn’t noticed before, but there is a green cartoon alligator on the front of the sachet. Huh? Whatever. He peels back the cover and removes a towelette. Over the obvious odours in the room, comes something else. It’s a sweet scent. Playful, young. What is it? He tries to place it. It smells sort of… purple. Bubble-gum. E@L has bubble-gum flavored, he means scented toilet wipes. Sigh. Whatever. They work as well as any…

And no he couldn’t taste … get the full bubble-gum experience.

E@L rises and pulls up his underwear and trousers. He flushes the toilet. Water pours down and everything, ugh, spins around and around. And the “water” level rises and rises… Oh no! E@L quickly drops the lid and, as he struggles to hold up his pants, he takes down his bag, he open the door and tries his escape… and notices two half torn pieces of Scotch tape on the cubicle door.

(No, fortunately, the toilet did not overflow!)

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When E@L finds Nit, she is nibbling a piece of her daughter’s bread rolls that she has pinched off. She asks if he would prefer to take the sky-Train. Nononono, says E@L. Ok then, would be it OK if she drops E@L off on this side of the road and he climbs up the foot-bridge? Nonononono, says E@L.

E@L is still holding his pants up with one hand in his pocket (it all looks very suspect), he is standing in a bakery, he is wincing with four hundred types of pain, and he is trying to convince Nit to do whatever it takes to get him right to the hotel front door in her car; he doesn’t want to walk anywhere, dammit he *can’t* walk – his pants will fall down and he’ll shit himself, doesn’t she understand this?!

Then, I kid you not, E@L gets a txt from Mercer – “I have had an epiphany. The universe is the most elaborate Rube Goldberg machine ever constructed.” E@L txts back the abbreviated version of the above debacle. “That’s exactly what I mean! That’s how the universe operates!” replies Mercer.

Sigh. Don’t you hate it when Americans are right? It’s so … unexpected…

E@L

Coffee, Breakfast, Thailand – more of the same

Posted in breakfast, coffee, internet, Thailand, toast by expatatlarge on August 20, 2010

E@L was in a “coffee” shop in a place slightly to the left of the middle of nowhere, the town of Phrae, in the province of Phrae. E@L has been up in this area before: Phitsanulok, Nan. Driving here is mountain, valley and river, mountains, valley and river, etc… Not that impressed with the valleys. The mountain are fantastic except that E@L has slept through most of the drives.

E@L has essentially given up on Thai coffee, on coffee in general in fact, and he is drinking a ‘jasmine’ green tea as he drafts this post with the morning sun over his shoulder (left, or was it right?). The slim, fawning waitress had initially poured condensed milk into the mix of tea and hot water she offered, and he sent it back perfunctorily. He was in a perfunctorial mood again. She deferentially delivered (she was now in a typically Thai deferential mood) the fresh cup which on first taste seemed to contain no jasmine. It was mostly green tea. Not completely. About 40% of the cup was sugar syrup, streaky clear stuff that spiraled through the tea, slowly diffusing. This sucrose vortex would be enough to upset his endocrinologist no end, who was on a quest to stave off E@L from metabolic syndrome – i.e diabetes, if E@L ever told him.

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Coffee, tea, can they ever be right? Toast, breakfast in general, ditto.

Breakfast – the coffee was fine, breakfast coffee usually is because it’s not espresso – was missing just a few things last week in the Sheraton Krabi Resort (closer to Ao Nang actually). E@L noticed the absence of a prepared fruit salad. He had to chop his fruit up on his plate at the table, clinkety clink, must annoy the people nearby. E@L is nothing if not considerate. And there were cinnamon bagels but no Philly cream cheese. WTF? Not that E@L should be eating bagels – see above re: metabolic syndrome. Wholemeal or whole grain toast with their low glycaemic indices are fair game, and they were both present, so OK.

Fecking idiots who put their bread onto the circling treads of the toaster’s tray and then stand in front of the toaster, blocking other people from inserting their carbohydrates, those feckwets were ALSO milling, like litigious movie lawyers outside movie hospitals.

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But, Krabi? That was LAST week, this is THIS week. Having jumped (via taxi) from Suvarbumi to Don Muaeng (the old international airport in Bangkok) E@L Nokked up to the Central/Northern provinces of Thailand. Two demos, two deals, but who is one to puff oneself up?

Uttaradit, Phrae (see above), and now Phitsanulok. E@L mused that you know you’ve been in some shitholes* of late when you consider Phitsanulok a respite, a haven of sophistication, a safe port in the northern storms which have flooded heavily and stirred up Dengue fever epidemics in the previous few weeks (Google it). No-one’s ever heard of any of these places, have they? No-one of any importance E@L means, of course.

Breakfast in Phitsanulok is a different story to the Sheraton’s minor glitches (and aren’t all unhappy breakfast stories unique?) Even before E@L arrived from his room, a plate had been placed for him at his assumed chair, opposite his more punctual colleague. On the plate was the plaster imitation of a circular fried egg, two precisely aligned steamed sausages of uncertain – perhaps porcine – provenance, two slices of white bread glued together with butter substitute, and two triangles of long-simmered (now cold) “ham”. E@L was fortunate and foresightful enough to bring with him two bananas, two tubs of yoghurt and an apple. E@L eschewed the chilled still life and passed his coupon to another colleague, one who had slept elsewhere. (500Bht was excessive, he felt.)

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Five THOUSAND Bht a night at the Sheraton, with cable internet an extra 530Bht for 24hrs. Last night in Phitsanulok, a reasonable room (OK, the toilet door kept locking whenever it closed, but so does Izzy’s old one at E@LGHQ – you learn to live with it, or she did anyway) was 500Bht, and yet the WiFi was free.

The internet seems to get cheaper the lower you go in hotel stars. Weird.

E@L will be writing a note of severe castigation to the Sheraton HQ, where heads will asymmetrically roll (as heads are wont to do – anyone remember Polanski’s McB… Scottish Play?).

It is totally indefensible to charge the amount they do. There is no excuse he will accept, nothing they can say that will convince him that such a charge in necessary. He will never accept this insulting financial infringement again!

Exception: tonight. E@L is paying 600Bht to present you with this electronic missive in a 3,300Bht room at The Landmark – awesome breakfast BTW!

Life can be weird and E@L is not always consistent.

E@L

* not that E@L cannot tell these small(ish) Thai towns apart anymore; they all look desperate, distant, hungry and the same.

(Does this post make ANY sense?)

Metamorphosis

Posted in food, insects, Thailand by expatatlarge on August 15, 2010

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed into E@L’s dinner…

These were just (just!!) some fried locusts but cockroaches, the supposed insect/vermin/bug of K’s story, were also available. Yep, had a few of the above beauties. Yummy to the Max! Crunchy and salty, like a small peanut with legs and wings.

Uttaradit. Never heard of it either.

Travel: it broadens your horizons. And leaves parasites in your intestines.

E@L

Coffee Crisis

Posted in airport, coffee, left-handedness, Thailand by expatatlarge on August 15, 2010

Bloody Suvarnabumhi (Suvaboomi to the locals) Airport is, I repeat, a shocker. It was 700m from the gate to the baggage carousel, the first 400m of that with no travellator. I’ll correct that: no travellator going in my direction. There is one going out, but none coming back. (Something like Muldoon Manor in Tom Stoppard’s hilarious “The Real Inspector Hound,” where, due to a quirk in the local geographic strata, there are roads leading TO the Manor, but no roads leading FROM the Manor – misty moors, fog rolling in from Pirate’s Cove, mysterious strangers, mixed identities, love unrequited, dead body under the couch, no-one shall leave the room sort of thing).

As I was saying before I was distracted, bloody Suvaboomi… The scale is just wrong. It’s huge (lengthy) in the places it should be more compact, tight as a fish’s arse in the places that it should be more expansive, like the reception area. AND half the time for domestic flight the planes are way out in a tarmac parking area and you have to bus out – this is a brand new(ish) modern airport and you still you have to bus out to the plane – amazingly backward. I was fortunate today as my Krabi flight came to the terminal, but still, it’s the principle.

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I am supposed to be headed to extremely flooded Uttraradit now, but the plane leaves from the old Don Muaeng airport on the other side of town. Even though it is three hours to my flight, I’d better head off soon. Taxi!!

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Regard the above hinted at coffee issues: just quickly, I have decided to eschew the espresso paradigm and seek my caffeine solace outside its restricted, esoteric and pompous purview. I ordered a Viennese coffee here at the airport and received a cup of whipped cream. I was told that there was a smidgen of caffeine bearing liquid at the bottom, but by the time I removed 95% of the pseudo-dairy product and stirred the remaining 5% into those few drops of brownish fluid, it was cold and horrible and gone in a large sip. What happened to the days when a Viennese coffee was a cup of coffee (a CUP!) with some fresh cream floating on top? (Some say this was the precursor of the cappuccino? The coffee part of a cappuccino should be dark brown btw, the colour of the monks’ robes.)

Why can I not find a coffee establishment that serves the type of coffee they give you for breakfast at a hotel? I have been knocking off the majority of a mug of brewed java every morning. Fantastic. You get a large plunger at the Excelesior in Hong Kong. Fantastic. There was drip filter machine in my hotel room in Krabi with free sachets and filter papers. Fantastic.

You can get a CUP of coffee from these devices.

That was the way it used to be. Thanks to the bloody Italians and there hegemony over the coffee zeitgeist, every coffee for sale in every coffee shop in the world is a variation on the espresso. OK espresso is nice; strong, sip sip, gone, but what about if you want a FULL CUP of strong coffee? An Americano (espresso topped with hot water) is disgusting BTW.

I want to drink plunger coffee, percolated coffee (what I brew up for our post-Christmas dinner chats – and tea-towel throwing championships -around the table), freshly brewed coffee, instant coffee, even fucking Cafe-Bar coffee! Anything that fills a freaking cup!

One day (I’m just a young kid with a crazy dream) I’m going to open an international coffee house (they are licensed to print money these places, all profit, it’s unbelievable!) that serves the entire range of way to prepare coffees, delivered at your table according to your preference… Let’s break this espresso paradigm!

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There is a restaurant in Singapore that serves its coffee (espresso based) in cups that have an oblique finger-hold (what do you all those things? The handle? But it’s not for hands, it’s for fingers – the fingle?) This work fine so long as you hold the cup in your right hand; lovely, comfortable, stable. In case no-one suspected this, I am left-handed. If I try to pick up this type of cup in my left hand – WHOA!! – it tilts at an angle frighteningly close to pants-scalding.

“Please, may I have a left-handed coffee cup?

I’ve always wanted to ask that.

E@L

Ko Samui Grub

Posted in food, Ko Samui, Thailand by expatatlarge on June 24, 2010

One of the surprising things about this un-taken-leave soaking-up trip to Ko Samui has been the presence of so many girlie bars quality of the cuisine and, um, cookin’.

Four standouts, only one of which is Thai.

1. Red Pepper Schnapper Bar and Grill. Just a few doors down from where I was staying. Amazing high class charcuterie, open grill area. Even more amazing is how empty it was. a) The BEST pumpkin and cinnamon soup, with a coriander foam on top. b) Steak perfecto. c) Red-pepper (duh!) and strawberry creme brulee with basil ice-cream and crunchy peanuts. Drooling still… Awesome. They made an off-menu (why?) Black Russian for me too. Only complaints, the salad bar is mediocre and the steak came too promptly after the soup – what’s the rush?

2: Duomo Italian. Just another almost empty Italian place I thought, until I heard the bald waiter speaking Italiano to the lone pair of diners. Free crosti and a delicious tomato sauce hit the table first. The Napoletana pizza was just terrific, not overdone with excess ingredients like a family restaurant or underdone like some art-house place, just some stylishly laid out anchovies and a few olives. The thin base was crisp and non-greasy all the way though the meal. The only Hefeweizen Bier I could find on the island (not that I’ve looked that much) was the perfect accompaniment to a long day of frustrating golf on my birthday, seeing as how I don’t particularly think champagne goes with pizza.

3: Mad Greek. The best Greek food I’ve had for ages, certainly better than that place I went to in Little Bourke St. in Melbourne earlier this year – at about 25% the price. For once the food was handle with relative subtlety too. I took the mezze plate. The standout on this was the marinated squid – a just wonderful spicy, sweet marinade and squid like you only get in the best sushi bars. The pita bread was freshly baked, crisp yet… soft – ‘yielding’ is the word I’d use – if I was fucking nutter. Lamb kebabs, flamed in ouzo, with the marination and nice herb flavour preserved through the grilling, something that rarely happens – tender, juicy, just superb.

All of these are within a stone’s throw of each other on the main strip of Chawaeng Beach Rd, towards the west end of town.

4: Santiburi Golf Course: for golf course grub, this has to take the (prawn) cake. The sweet-chili dipping sauce for the donut-shaped(!) tod mun goong (the prawn cakes) was top notch. Typically for Thai it was both simple and sophisticated. I could see how it was done too. Take your boring sweet chili sauce from a bottle in the supermarket, add small wedges of super-thin sliced cucumber and some red-onion, add small bites of extra red chilies and top with finely chopped peanuts. Taste is out of this world. The plate of potentially boring sate sticks were well laid out, some lying down, some vertical in a small glass (amazing how these small touches make the difference) with an excellent peanut sauce. I waited the rain-storm out with this. I wish I could say the rest of my golf was up to par with the food.

Compared to Phuket, I’d have to rate Ko Samui tops for farang food. MomTri’s in Kata Beach is the closest to Red Pepper in food style, but this was both cheaper and more adventurous! Plus, I didn’t see anywhere in Chawaeng that looked like it would treat the local food the way the chef at the golf-course did.

E@L

p.s. Best if you Google these places yourself, my internet connection may not last long enough for the tedious task…

Thai With Bon

Posted in Angelina Jolie, Koh Samui, language, Thailand by expatatlarge on June 17, 2010

I’m off to Koh Samui on Sunday (you know, where the Fockers were going to send the newlyweds for their honeymoon), so I thought I’d better brush up on my Thai pick-up lines for those times when I am not playing golf or lying on the beach thinking about writing a pretentious art-house novel about my escapades in Hong Kong, Singapore and of course Thailand.

Pom chob Angelina Jolie I guess, but I reckon Bon herself is damn cute too!

via Dan

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.

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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!

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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

Nan — With The Lot II

Posted in autobiography, Bruce, Thai girls, Thailand, travel trouble by expatatlarge on July 8, 2009

E@L was kidnapped today. Taken from the Chiang Mai airport, whisked off in a dark van by a person who spoke no English, and driven for hours into places unknown.

“Are we going to my hotel?” asked E@L. “Le Meridien in Chiang Mai. I have booked on the internet for tonight until next Friday.”

The driver looked confused. “No go Chiang Mai. Tonight I go witchew Nan.”

Nan. That was the name of the hospital E@L was to do the demo at tomorrow.

“But tonight I stay Chiang Mai hotel, right”

“No, no. I take you Nan.” It is a very long ‘a’ in Nan: Naaaaaaahn.

We had been driving for two hours already, which is why E@L thought he had better check.

“Nan is, tree, tree… tree tousant kilometer. Take [he held up three fingers] four hours more to drive. You go Nan two day, Chiang Mai I drive you Friday.”

Shit. For some reason, E@L had done this trip’s accommodation booking himself, online. That means he had to pay in advance. Shit. He had no idea that Nan Hospital was not in Chiang Mai. That there was actually an entire province, 200km (not 3000) from Chiang Mai, called Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn.

E@L had confirmed with the Thai team about the trip twice, to makes sure there’d been no schedule changes. Yes, you can book, schedule no change. But no-one mentioned that Naaaaaaaahn was a separate place, distinct from Chiang Mai and that a separate hotel booking had to be made.

Shit. Why had E@L decided this one time to book himself and not just turn up, expecting everything to have been done for him? Mainly because they normally put him up in a shit hotel (the Imperial Pei) when he goes to Chiang Mai (which is rarely).

So he’s gone searching online for nice deals at better establishments – like maybe a Lanna Villa somewhere, or maybe there’d be a special at a top-line hotel, seeing as how the Thailand Tourist Industry is a basket case at the moment. And there was. The lady who organizes his Thai trips could not get a better corporate rate than the on-line rate for the classy new Le Meridien in the heart of town, so she said he could book it himself. She neglected to tell him that he’d only need it from Friday, not from Wednesday.

Shit. Amazing drive though, over three mountain ranges. Fantastic scenery. Village tribes in hovels, kids playing by the side of the road, water-buffalo being driven up paths, terraced crops on the hillsides, wild jungle in several national parks, waterfalls,… As mentioned, it is about 200km as the crow flies, but more like 350km by road. Long and Very Winding Road. And it was lock to lock for the entire freaking trip across those mountains. E@L tried to sleep but was getting tossed awake at every corner. Sleep would have helped him not see the danger at each glance where his driver cut across the double yellow lines or overtook slower vehicles on the approach to a blind corner or a crest. And going as fast as he could, of course. Eventually, as they were coming into yet another blind hair-pin bend at speed and the driver pulled out across double yellow lines to overtake about 40 yards before the corner, E@L had to cry out: “No, no, pull back! Please, stop trying to kill me, OK?”

“OK, solly,” the driver said, and from there on in he went like a grandmother going to church on Sunday. It took nearly six hours.

p.s. The hotel in Nan is shit.

(…but it has free Internet.)

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I swear to doG I am going to die on one of these business trips. I’ve told you before. Check the old blog. Forget the immense cardiovascular risk factors, strokes, heart-attacks and prostate cancer.

E@L has his date with destiny as a passenger in a Datsun.

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(Something to tide you over. From The Chronicles of Bruce)

Bruce finished his burger, licked his lips and scrunched up the burger-juice-filled paper to place it in the ash-tray.

Remember ash-trays? Remember cigarettes?

“True story,” he said. Immediately I went into disbelief mode. It must have showed. “I kid you not.” And he put on this butter-wouldn’t-melt look which was quite hilarious on someone with his school-of-hard-knocks appearance. Big shoulders and arms to match his belly, a huge red head with no hair and a bristly goatee and moustache on his acne-pocked face. His thick fingers hardly seem long enough to wrap around the stubbie holder of Beer Chang, but he had already put two down while nibbling on his burger.

“OK” I said, “the hamburger story, let’s hear it.”

“Righto,” he laughed and wet his whistle. “You know Soi Cowboy, right? You’re not a total beginner here, right?”

I nodded. I knew it. I fingered the label on my coaster.

“Here’s the set-up: This is a few years ago, before I was living here. We had this work do in Bangkok, training, marketing, whatever. We’d been at it in the conference room all day, so then we moved on and had few beers and some Thai nosh at Cabbages and Condoms , you know it? Soi 16, not bad grub if it’s your first time in Thailand, not too pricky. Know what I mean?

Prik is chili, isn’t it?” I half-guessed, the bulge of a Thai phrase-book in my pocket.

“Correct. Full points. And afterwards, we put the most of the ladies into a couple of tuk-tuks, while the boys and I, plus one or two of the more… adventurous, or maybe broad-minded is what I mean to say… anyway two of the ladies from the company joined us, and we crossed over the road to Asok and went to Cowboy to check out the show at Long Gun. We stayed there a while, watched the banana popping show and the lesbian show… The girls thought it was hilarious, but tame. It could be pretty gross for some I guess, but not as bad as it used to be at over the road there at Nana, pre-Thaksin. But these ladies they thought it was a tame! They wanted to see some real on-stage fucking. I swear to God, women, I’ll never understand ’em. I had to take the girls to a gay-boy show next night, see some real action, but that’s another story.

“Anyway, it was getting late and no bird in the bar had really taken my fancy. I suppose I was in one of those moods, you know how it is. You can get so over the whole girlie bar racket, right? Some of the other lads had hooked with a bar-girl each and had already headed off to some short-time hotel, or maybe they’d risked the 1000Bht surcharge for a guest at the hotel, I don’t know.

“There were four of us left, the two company ladies, and one other guy – we called him L-G (or Algie, like from that Oscar Wilde, some play…) We called him that because it was his idea to come to Long-Gun tonight, as it’s his favorite place – obviously it was, because he knew the girls’ names and he had already picked up his favorite, a girl called Pim, he’d taken her out a few times before. Actually there were five of us, counting her. And then there was me, with no lady… We were walking along the Cowboy strip up to Soi23 past all the theme bars to find a taxi when L-G noticed a hamburger stand right at the end. There was a girl buying a burger there. She was in normal clothes, a bit suggestive, but not in the uniform of one of the bars on the strip.

“I said – They looked good.

” – The hamburgers or the girls? Long-Gun asked me and everybody laughed.

“I said – I meant the burgers.

“So he said to me – Why didn’t you get one?

” – Burger? I asked.

“He said – No, the girl! There’s one right there for you, and you can share the burger with her as well. It’s a bargain!

“This pretty girl, she was a stunner actually, had paid and was just collecting her burger and turning to walk away when Long Gun approached her. I swear to God he said, – My friend is very shy, he would like to take you home tonight. Indicating to me. She stopped, looked at me for a second and smiled, and then she nodded!

“Well as you can imagine I was very embarrassed, but I got over it. We got in the taxi together with her still eating her burger. We went back to my hotel, I paid the excess and she stayed the night. And she was brilliant in bed. I kid you not, some of the best sex I’ve ever had. Just a random girl who happened to be standing at a burger stand. And she was lovely and polite, and had this perfect body. It was amazing.”

Bruce was rubbing his chin and staring out over my shoulder.

“Did you get her name, her number?” I asked him. “Did you ever go with her again?”

He gradually focused back on to me. “No, of course not. I wouldn’t want to have her number, I might be tempted to call her. That’s not how I operate. I’m not like L-G. Gotta keep a distance. Variety keeps you safe. You never know, otherwise I might fall in love with one of them. And that’d be the fucking end of me, wouldn’t it?” He laughed and knocked back the last third of the beer.

“Bloody L-G, you know he married that bloody hooker, Pim. Stupid fuck-wit. She took for a grand ride alright. But that’s another story, too…

” ‘Nother one, love!” he called to the fierce-eyed waitress who was upset because Bruce could never seem to recollect her name.

E@L

With The Lot

Posted in autobiography, Bruce, food, Thai girls, Thailand by expatatlarge on June 26, 2009

Bruce had an added exaggerated loll to what had once been called his “unfortunate” gait this evening. Four hours in the car yesterday morning, an afternoon on the vinyl seat in the cop-shop’s backroom, cheap sheets in the hotel last night and no talcum to lubricate the creases (it had been a rough and spontaneous trip to Buriram to bail a mate out of prison), then another fours hours in the car back to Bangkok, to deliver the chastened mate off to his non-too pleased wife, and then through the traffic jams to his own apartment off Wireless Rd. Sweat rash, flaring around his tackle. “Out of action” until this settles down. In his immuno-suppressed condition he was susceptible to such hazards. He made his way slowly to the pharmacy on Sukhomvit Rd just up from the Marriott where Pei, the lovely attendant, found some of the appropriate cream – part hydrocortisone, to take away the itching, and part mycolytic to kill any fungal spores – in fact the base cream probably did most of the hard work.

Pei was big-boned girl for a Thai, well-fed with it, though she presented an amazing, classically beautiful face that kept drawing your eyes back to it: the gentle line of her nose, her full lips, her huge almond eyes and those not-too-high cheekbones. To the Thai men however she was too brown-skinned and hence working class. In a westerner like Bruce’s opinion, she should get an eating disorder or hit the horse and become a cat-walk model. She should be selling magazine covers, instead she was selling people like Bruce lotions to rub on their balls.

Bruce usually picked up his medications – a wide range we won’t discuss here – from small shops like this. Girls like Pei and the splendidly grumpy pharmacist Boochit (Bruce’s called him Bullshit) made the effort of topping up his prescriptions a pleasant chore.

He came around the corner into Soi 4 slowly, past the fried cockroach and locust stands, gingerly stepped down to the road to avoid a herd (two) of baby elephants on the footpath and waddled eventually to the entrance to the infamous Nana Entertainment Plaza. He looked in briefly, saw the gaudy sign of Pharaohs and thought back to the pre-Thaksin days when all sorts of things counted as “entertainment” and how the shows were now a poor shadow of their previous shadowy hyperbole.

He had a sour stomach from the food in Buriram. There were locust stalls there too – this was not just a Nana phenomenon to shock gullible tourists – but the hot and sour Isaan soup he’d had for early lunch had sat there for hours. He needed a western food fix.

The small stall stands squarely at the Plaza entrance. You have to walk past it to go in, but Bruce was not wasting him time tonight as he couldn’t take a girl (or two) home with this broad purple rash (it looked like a bruise in the dim light of his bathroom) all around his arse.

Minn was a short girl, as chubby as Pei, but with a square puffy face and not at all attractive – except when she smiled. Any slight joke would break her face in half with immense perfectly aligned teeth in a captivating and contagious smile. Bruce gave her a wink, and she recognized him at the rear of the solid contingent of European men around the front of her stand.

Sawaddee na klhup, khun Minn,” he wai-ed to her. Her hands were full of utensils so she could only continue her brightest of smiles. She had on a yellow ‘We Love The King’ polo-shirt under her grey apron.

Sawadee kaaa, khun Bruthe, she said as she flipped three burgers over on her hotplate.

She arranged another bun to toast at the side of the hotplate, pulled up a patty and dropped into a small puddle of fresh oil, cracked an egg into a ring and laid some bacon down. The usual for Mr Bruthe.

“Best burgers in town,” said Bruce to the big fella in front/next to him who had noticed the special attention given to him by the short-order chef and was staring blatantly. “You live here, or are you a tourist?”

In a soft Aussie accent the embarrassed man replied, “Live in Singapore, come here one week a month. For work… Look didn’t mean to stare, just that… well, your Thai is very good.”

“Yeah, this is the place for burgers in Bangkok. Fuck McDonalds and Burger King, eh? I been living here since 2003. All my mates we… if we are in this part of town, we always come here for a burger. You’re an Aussie too, eh?” asked Bruce.

The other man nodded. His 70Bht burger was delivered wrapped into a tight triangle of butcher’s paper with a perfect one-third of it exposed, just begging to be chomped into.

“Certainly looks good,” said the man as he admired its tidy presentation – lettuce, onion, tomato, beef patty, squirt of mustard, squirt of tomato sauce, fry-toasted bun, neatly tucked into the white paper which was folded in such a way as to hold any juices.

“Come over to the bar here, grab a beer to wash that down,” said Bruce. “If you got time.”

“Yeah, I’ve got time.”

“Wanna tell you story. True story. What’s your name, lad?”

The man, no longer a lad, had dripped some juice from his first bite of burger onto his goatee where it eventually fell onto the striped t-shirt stretched over his protuberant stomach, and it joined a stain from his lunch, or breakfast, or yestrerday’s dinner… “My mates call me The Expat at Large,” he said. “Please to meet you…?”

“Bruce,” he said. “You can call me Bruce…”

“Like the sketch in Monty Python,” laughed

E@L