Daily Archives: May 24, 2005

Thai Superstitions about Washing

Here are some more Thai superstitions and old wives tales from Thailand:

(1) Do not wash you clothes on the same day a relation is cremated, because the ghost will come and take you away
(2) Do not wash your clothes during the night-time because you will become sick whenever you wear these clothes
(3) Do not wash the mosquito net in the canal because a crocodile will attack you
(4) Do not wash the plates of food that a neighbour gave you because you will hate each other
(5) Do not wash your plates at night-time because you will wash away your money
(6) Do not wash your hands together with other people because you will die together
(7) Do not wash your rice cooker at night-time because you should save some for the house ghost

Source: Translated from “Boran Oo-bai” by Sanom Krutmeuang

Down and out…….in Cambodia

For all you dishevelled disgruntled Farang readers who have felt that life has been just a little unfair at times, take this opportunity to read into the awfully unfortunate saga of a certain Mr Tammas.

Looking through me archives, it won’t take the reader too long to realise that your regular blogwit blogger here, once upon a time, spent many-a-day living it up across the border over in the former Kampuchea, the Land of Landmines and Legless Lepers.

Any traveller-cum-tourist-cum-expatriate on entering Cambodia will soon be inundated with a myriad of sad, sorrowful tales, and the tale in question is no exception.

So, for all you foreigners residing over here in the Land of Monks and Mangosteen who have the not so enviable task of having to pop across the Poipet border every month to renew your visa, here is the hellish low-down on a Hungarian ex-pat whose across the border ‘visa run’ turned into a ghastly nightmare

Having exited Thailand, Mr Tammas decides to take it upon himself to have a quick look round Poipet market on the Cambodian side before realising to his absolute shock and horror that some fervent fiend has, with a razor-sharp knife, sliced open his backpack and taken off with all of Mr Tammas’ cash, credit cards and even passport! Not having the faintest idea what to do, he is soon given the ‘You can not go Thailand, you no passport’ from the not so user-friendly Khmer immigration officials. Of course, with no cash and no passport he is soon pleading away asking ‘just let me get back into Thailand’ before, to his seeming good fortune, chatting away to one Khmer official who says “I’ll get you back across the border but its gonna cost ya”. Mr Tammas, on realising he still has a thousand baht note in his pocket, slyly slides it into the officer’s backpocket before . . . the officer just… disappears off the scene never to be seen again.

Evening arrives, and after getting a ‘nauseated nasty look’ from a bunch of ‘visa-runners’ wanting nothing whatsoever to do with the now rather smelly Mr Tammas, he comes to the realisation that he is ‘stranded’ in Cambodia with not even a single baht, not to mention no passport to his name! Having nowhere to sleep ‘til morning, a sheepish shopowner allows Mr Tammas to sleep on his floor before the hunfortunate Hungararian has to go off to file a police report. So, the next morning on arriving at Poipet’s so-called Cop Shop, he is duly informed that he is ‘unable’ to file a police report as he doesn’t have the 50 baht required to do so!

Aghast at the state of law and order in Cambodia, Mr Tammas can do nothing but head for Phnom Penh and seek some international help. Well, that morning with a slice of luck he soon meets up with a friendly NGO from the States, working in a town halfway to Phnom Penh called Battambang, who offers Mr Tammas a lift, just that far, for free. Half a day later and feeling flippin fortunate to be out of Poipet, Mr Tammas, halfway to Phnom Penh is soon searching around for the address of a free place to stay given to him courtesy of the friendly chauffeur. Looking rather pitiful, and stinking to the heavens, our Hungarian friend is soon befriended by a Cambodian Policeman who asks him ‘Where are you going?

Unable to give him a decent answer the police official radios up his buddy, only to ask Mr Tammas the likes of ‘Where’s yer passport?’ Of course the, by now hungry, Hungarian on being escorted to the local station is soon givin them the lowdown of his hellish bad luck.

Not exactly believing Mr Tammas’ story, the Pol Cpt asks to see his police report to verify the theft in Poipet. “They needed 50 baht to process the darned thing and I didn’t have the cash” Mr Tammas hastily retorts before the superintendent unfortunately informs him that having no cash and no passport he is therefore considered a grave threat to national security and must be ‘held’ at the police jail until he is able to pay the frivolous fine!

From only wishing to ‘pop across the border’ our friend here is soon squatted in a mosquito-ridden cell with a thousand Cambodian cellmates living in the most squalid of dirty places not having the faintest clue to his future. Having no diplomatic relations in town whatsoever, Mr Tammas can do absolutely nothing but play tiddly-winks with the cells’ cockroaches for the next week.

Luck soon arrives a week later and Mr Tammas is called to the superintendent’s office and told ‘you go to court today” before being shuttled away handcuffed to hear his verdict. Fortunately for Mr Tammas the judge declares that a meager 300 baht fine will suffice and, in lieu of cash, his watch would be ‘just sufficient’.

Outside of court, still cashless and not having the foggiest on
how to get to Phnom Penh, he is soon told by a kind police guy “You bad luck, you no money go Phnom Penh but I buy your shoes for 5 dollars, enough go!”

Anyway, on taking Mr Tammas’ shoes the kind official hands him in return a slimy slippery well-worn pair of flip-flops for his grubby feet for free

Even though 5 bucks wasn’t enough for the fare to Phnom Penh, the considerate corporal orders the pick up taxi driver to “Just take the tattered down and out farang, have sympathy for the guy!”

A day later, our friend Mr Tammas on arriving in Phnom Penh, having absolutely nowhere to sleep and no food for his belly, is soon pleading with all the guesthouses down by the lake ‘Hey, I clean all up for you and cook you good goulash, just point me to the paprika and give me a freebie bed!” Anyway, Mr Tammas does strike it lucky when he’s soon hired to cook, clean and ‘hussle’ all the Farang coming off the Angkor Wat bus to stay at ‘his’ guesthouse.

This nauseous nightmare is prolonged once again when he finds out that his darned country had nowt in the way of diplomatic relations with Cambodia

The last time I met our hapless Hungarian friend he was still sweeping the filthy floors of the guesthouse down by the lake and he clumsily complained “Darned British Embassy tells me to go to the Cuban Embassy, the Cuban Embassy says – get out of it, go to the French Embassy and the French Embassy goes “We sees you has a little problem, come back see us when you have-a yer new passport!”

Sadly, Mr Tammas was unable to phone his relations for assistance in this matter as both of his parents had, only a few months prior, died in a horrible auto wreck.

I see the positives in multi-culturalism

In response to a comment I got from a visitor about the downside of multi-cultural communities in the big city I decided to post this reply: New comment on your post #378 “Our Multi-Cultural Family”

Hey there! That was a very interesting response on Thai blogs in regards to multi-culturalism in the big city. I suppose there is alot of truth to what you wrote. I guess I look at things with more optimism & I choose to insert myself into other communities in an effort to learn more about who it is I am sharing my streets with. I think that in cities like Sydney or Los Angeles, where there are high migration rates due to immigrants arriving in hopes of a better economic situation, people tend to settle in distinct neighborhoods where they are surrounded by their own ethnic groups. It’s pretty obvious that people do this for the support they will receive from their own communities. The fact is it has to be easier for them if they are somewhere where they can communicate in their native tongue, eat their native food, and see people who look like them considering most of the immigrants in our Western cities are from totally different cultures than what we are from. This, like you eluded to, puts them at a handicap when it comes time for them to assimilate into our society. But, this is something that our governments have allowed and its also up to us to help welcome these people and teach them about becoming a part of our own community. Here in LA I encounter many people who clearly aren’t of Anglo-American origin but they are as American as one can be. There are the Japanese-Americans who have sadly lost their ability to even speak Japanese & their Japanese blood line is being breded right out of existence. What I mean is that many of the Japanese-Americans that I’ve encountered have married Caucasian or other ethnicities….their half/half offspring go on to marry non-Japanese and within a few generations you’ve got a guy/woman sitting in front of you who is named Johnny Nagatani and you’re wondering how the heck did this white guy get a Japanese last name. The same things goes in in the Latino community here in LA. I’ve got so many friends who are of mixed ethnic backgrounds that its a normal thing….and they are just as American as I am. I think the problem that you were referring to is more in regards to recent immigrant groups. By them settling in these nearly exclusive ethnic communities it may put them at a disadvantage but it also helps assimilate them into our countries…….in the long run. It’s up to our school systems, as poor as they may be, to teach their children English and to help them become a part of the greater community. Sure, there will always be ethnic rivalries but what good will it do to gripe about it? It’s been that way from the time the white man stepped foot in North America and in Australia. I’ve lived in Latino, Asian and African American neighborhoods and I personally never had a problem, I rather enjoyed it. Maybe I was naive in thinking that by me being there would prove to those I encountered that we “people in the majority” aren’t all that disinterested in their communities. I figured we could all learn from each other. I remember when an Asian police office in LA asked me, “what the heck are you doing living here?” after encountering me during a call to my apartment building and seeing that I was the only white guy living in an all black neighborhood. You know, it never really was an issue to me but of course I noticed that I was indeed a minority. But for me that was what was so great about living where I did. Now I knew what it was like to be on the other side. As for Bangkok….there are ethnic communities sprouting up in certain neighborhoods. These groups, primarily east Africans, south Asians, middle eastern people, tend to stick together in their small communities (or apartment buildings). There just isn’t a lot of immigration going on to Thailand as there is in our cities. Well my friend….very interesting topic. Enjoy your travels to the land of smiles and next time your in LA let me show you the good side.

Happy travels,

I’ll add more later…thanks for all the responses to my first few blogs. I’m still learning the system here.