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Regular readers may recollect that a sibling of mine persuaded my grandmother that I was, in actual fact, in prison here. I’ll have it known that I was only ever once in prison, and that was for something I didn’t do…..I didn’t wipe my fingerprints off the evidence. Unfortunately, my first home did somewhat resemble what I imagine a prison might look like – food all over the dining table, several bars of soap dropped on the bathroom floor, and a pair of handcuffs next to the bed *insert suggestive wink*
House hunting here is not easy as there are no letting/estate agents to be had. In order to find a house, one must know someone who knows someone who knows someone who might be willing to rent out a house they own. As it happens, we do. One glance inside at the mirrors on every wall, and I thought “I can definitely see myself living here” – and now I am. I read once that moving home is considered one of the most stressful things that can happen in life, though I imagine it must be trumped by stress felt by house-owners I once read about, whose house burned down…..due to stress relief candles! Thankfully, it was fairly easy to move this time, owing to the very few possessions I have here – and the fact that I had a stress-relieving drink in the local café, near the hospital – it was ‘Casual Tea’.
My new housemate is a fellow teacher I hadn’t met prior to landing here in Thailand who, incredibly, also hails from my own home town of Carmarthen. It seems our paths must have crossed hundreds of times in the past, but never did we meet – a classic example of how simultaneously large, and small this World can be on occasions. I think we’ll be ok sharing a house, despite a shaky start. I tried telling him a joke yesterday: “Hey, what’s the difference between a toilet and a fridge?” “I don’t know, what?” he replied…..He’s so disgusting!
Finally now, for the first time since May, I do have access to strong Internet at home. Good job too – without Facebook access last night, I had to phone 630 people to tell them “tuff day in the office so Im gunna hav a cheeky beer n an early nite lol” – it took me hours! Guess I’ll have to come up with new excuses for the delays between Skype conversations with friends and family now. When my Mum first started using it, I accused her of not understanding the concept of Skype, but then she got angry and said “watch who you’re talking to!” I guess she’s smarter than I give her credit for.
The Death Railway Bridge / The Bridge on the River Kwai (or Khwae, depending on the spelling used) is here, “built following the novelisation of the popular film in order to cash in”, I was told by a brash, in-your-face, uninformed tourist who sat next to me uninvited. (It was not). When referring to it, it’s recommended to use ‘Khwae’ (rhymes with square) as opposed to ‘Kwai’ (rhymes with why) – Kwai is not a nice word here – it would be a bit like accidentally mispronouncing ‘you can’t’, using a ‘u’ in place of the ‘a’.
After a past disappointing experience visiting an ‘Air and Space’ museum (it was an empty room), I’ve never been the biggest museum fan, but, for those interested in the history of the bridge, ‘Death Railway’, and Thailand’s involvement in the Second World War, there are a couple of excellent (and slightly haunting) museums nearby that can use up a full day of your time: these are ‘Jeath War Museum’ and the ‘Thailand-Burma Railway Centre’. If you visit the latter, look out for the statue/models of the prisoners used in the construction of the railway, and pay particular attention to the MASSIVE knee-length penises unnecessarily given to each model, and the fact that some have been clothed in such a way as to have that penis hanging out to ensure all male visitors leave with their egos crushed.
Alas, I became ill here again, and was confined to the pool for the next few days #firstworldproblems As a result, I missed out on an excursion to ‘Hell-Fire Pass’, just north of Kanchanaburi, but I’m told it’s a must. When I go back, I’ll let you know.
Recovered, and refreshed, I headed north, back to friendly, relaxing Chiang Mai. I’ve not many details to share about this trip as I did many of the same things as last time, but I did experience my first Muay Thai evening – highly recommended. I was never a fan of boxing, and I think Cage Fighting is wrong (I support free range fighting), but there’s something extra about Muay Thai that captures the imagination. Perhaps it was the baying of the crowd, perhaps it was the added factor of knees and elbows, perhaps it was watching four different coaches trying to fix a dislocated shoulder and failing spectacularly, or perhaps it was the many, many beers consumed in a short space of time – whatever it was, it made for a good night. I had considered adding a boxing joke in here somewhere, maybe something about David Haye, but I can’t seem to type properly since breaking my toe…..Maybe some of you have already forgotten him? Shame – as the saying goes, “there is nothing worse than fading into complete obscurity” (Anonymous)
A few days in Bangkok offered me the chance to visit ‘Chao Mae Tuptim’, also known as ‘The Penis Shrine’. It’s only a 5-10 minute walk from ‘Chit Lom’ BTS station, though it will take much longer if, like me, you’re too stubborn to ask for directions – I applied to join a Map Reading club once and even they told me to get lost. It’s located on a corner of what seems to be the entrance to an office block, inside the grounds itself. You’ll have to walk past the building security guard, though he’ll gladly point you in the right direction with no qualms, unlike the rude security guard in ‘French Connection’ who accused me of shoplifting once – he was a right cnut.
My summary of the shrine would be as follows: “far smaller than I expected, a bit weird looking, and potential to be very awkward and uncomfortable”. Ironically, this is the same summary women make about my penis. It made for an interesting day out though. An ex once compared my jokes to my penis – she said they were both anti-climactic. The difference is that no-one laughs at my jokes.
She also once made me aware of the 4 kinds of orgasms that women can have.
The positive orgasm: “Yes, yes, yes, YEEEESSS!”
The negative orgasm: “No, no, no, WOOOOO!”
The religious orgasm: “OH MY GOD!”
The fake orgasm: “Oh, Ems….Ems….Ems….”
With this in mind, and the fact that I was visiting a shrine, I felt compelled to pray. Here is my prayer:
Penis Spirit, with whom I speak,
Please don’t make my willy weak
Make it strong, and make it long
And please don’t make it look all wrong
My wish is simple, I hope you hear
To have sex with two…..in the same year
I beg you now to heed my calls
About this thing above my balls
Please, oh please, just give it work
I’m sick and tired of having to jerk
And when it happens (if you are kind)
I ask one more thing if you don’t mind
Don’t let me come until she’s done
For premature is never fun *
Penis spirit, to you I pray
Please look kindly on what I say
*(or so I’m told, ahem)
From Bangkok, I headed south to the beach town of ‘Hua Hin’, a small town that has a bizarre mix of posh-ness (5* hotels, expensive gourmet restaurants) and seediness (a prominent red light district with women running after you, begging to give you a happy-ending massage). A family or a couple could very much enjoy a holiday here…..a lone man not interested in paying for sex would just feel harassed.
There are plenty of places to stay, and prices tend to be fairly standard all over (approximately 500B per night), and for that price you could do a lot worse than ‘Pattana Guest House’ I know this because on the third night I had to stay elsewhere, and it WAS a lot worse than ‘Pattana Guest House’! I forget the name, but I’m sure it’ll come back to me in a future counselling session. It was hidden away and doesn’t appear in a Lonely Planet guide – usually (but not always) a bad sign. It overlooked the sea (which was nice), but also overlooked hygiene, good service, and comfort.
Despite the above, the most important part of any beach holiday of course, is the beach itself. The beach is…….nice enough. Careful if you’re wading through the shallow waters as there are hidden rocks that have the potential to break big toes if one walks into them….if one happens to be a clumsy s0d. I’d still go again though, if just for the convenience (easy to get to from where I live), but I wouldn’t recommend adding it to your itinerary if you’re backpacking through Thailand – there are better places to go……like a penis shrine for example.
Not far North of Bangkok, Ayutthaya is a must for anyone with an interest in Thai history. It is the former capital, and offers the feeling of travelling centuries back in time – very much like going to Swansea, come to think of it. For anyone wanting to travel there, going by Minivan is highly recommended, if only for the fact that they will transport you onto the island itself. A bus is far more comfortable, but you will be left stranded on a motorway a few miles away from the island….and I mean on the central reservation of the motorway. I’ve no problem with motorways – they’ve always given me a shoulder to cry on – but trying to run across the traffic to the other side is not my idea of a decent holiday. I wish I’d spotted the bridge earlier.
Most of the cheaper hotels/hostels seem to be located on, or near, ‘Soi 2’, (oh-so-conveniently, incorrectly, signposted as ‘Soi 5’), and I can say nothing bad about ‘Baan Lotus Guest House’ as a place to stay if you’re looking for somewhere quiet, away from the crowd, which I was (I like my privacy). I’ve often been accused by people of being anti-social – I wish those people would leave me alone. I’ve self-diagnosed as an antisocial schizophrenic – I hear voices in my head, but I ignore them.
Food-wise, ‘Hua Raw Night Market’ offers plenty of options, as well as a nice, riverside view of a temple (fireworks are set off at night, adding to the ‘oooh’ factor), or one can opt for one of many restaurants on the street East of the market, though the view of a naked man in his hotel room doesn’t quite match the view offered by the market.
Recommended sites to visit:
‘Wat Phra Si Sanphet’ – the sort of thing I imagined I would see when I came to Thailand. Ticked all the preconceived ‘Thai’ boxes I had in my mind.
‘Wat Phra Mahathat’ – located in the park in the centre of the island. Worth a trip just to see a Buddha’s head that’s tangled in tree roots that grew around it.
‘Wat Chai Wattanaram’ – this one is off the island, but well worth the trip. Apparently* covered by thick Jungle just a few decades ago, it is now apparently* one of the most photographed sites in Ayutthaya.
*apparently = I read it in Lonely Planet
Don’t bother with:
‘Japanese Village’ – it’s a long old walk away and it consists of two rooms in which you sit down and watch a video, and another two small rooms with very few objects to see – not at all worth the effort.
Last tip – hire a bike. You’ll waste a lot of time walking / waste a lot of money on tuk-tuks otherwise.
Here, the academic year is split into two terms, one running from May to September, and the other from November to March – long stints indeed when you consider the absence of half-terms. The dangling carrot for us though, is the paid 4-week break halfway through the year and the paid 2-month break at the end – a very juicy carrot I must admit. After all, a lot of travelling could be accomplished in that time, and that is what drives me these days. In the past, I’ve struggled with motivation. I once bought a self-help book called “How to be more motivated”, but I never bothered to read it. I did see a motivational speaker once though – I was left really inspired by the fact that sound can be created with just an electromagnetic coil and an amplifier!
In order to maximise my travelling budget for this first break, I sacrificed all of my days off for a 6 week period. That in itself is not a particularly big deal in fairness: there are plenty of people in the World who have no days off whatsoever. Unfortunately, I contracted acute bronchitis midway through that period. With my mind on that extra finance, and what I could use it on in the break, I pushed through – and that is where the plan backfired.
I’m now a whole week into our break, and I’ve gone nowhere due to ill-health. In addition to that, I’ve now spent two months’ rent on hospital bills and medication, squandering the entire extra budget I worked so hard for, and losing the time I thought I was gaining. It’s my worst backfire since I was called out for using big words I didn’t understand just to make myself sound a bit more photosynthesis (yes, I definitely stole that joke)
Don’t cry for me though, with every cloud comes a silver lining. Mine is this: a new appreciation for public health care. Most of the complaints I hear tend around the waiting times. Well, imagine if you had to wait the same amount of time AND it cost you a month’s rent? Then imagine that every treatment offered carries an additional cost. Need to see a different Doctor? £££. Need some x-rays? £££. Need a bed for the evening? £££. Would you like a glass of water? £££. Here are the drugs we recommend…..£££. Private care does have some advantages though: Initially I couldn’t sleep so they offered me some medication. I opted for the night nurse – I always sleep well after making love.
It was when he recommended a full-body x-ray that I started to suspect perhaps my well-being was no longer top priority. I may not be a medical professional, but I remember that song from childhood, and the lung-bones are definitely not connected to every other bone in the body….. I guess it would be slightly unfair to claim that they didn’t really care for my wellbeing. After all, they measured my blood pressure as many times as it took to get the reading they wanted that makes it safe to release a patient (4 times last week, 6 this week). A friend of mine had the same problem once, and surgeons had to remove his left atrium and ventricle as a result. He lived a half-hearted life after that.
Alas! What with the language barrier, and my desperation for a fix, I accepted the recommendation to take 12 different drugs each day for the next week (up from 8 last week, but still nowhere near the number some friends hit in their late teens!) Some are ‘knock-me-out’ tablets, others are steroid based. I’d love the idea of waking up one morning with a six-pack, but I’m more likely to end up with the ‘East-German Athletics post-retirement’ symptoms of a small(er) willy and jiggly, jelly-like man boobs.
I head off tomorrow anyway until further notice, with the knowledge that, if I’m going to drop dead, I’d far rather it happen on the beach. Time to dust off those Gillette Razors again…..