Daily Archives: August 25, 2005

Forbidden Acts 2: the Thai criminal

Can’t go without disclaimers nowadays…

Caveat Emptor! No, this is not the ’empty cave’ spell from Harry Potter, but an old Latin saying that stands for ‘buyer beware!’. It means that once you bought something, the seller couldn’t care less if you later turn out to be unhappy with the stuff. What you see is what you get.

The same could be said about my blogs, some of which are serious, but many are written in a tongue-in-cheek manner – read them at your own risk! Readers having the sense of humor and wit of a dead fish better stay away from these entries. That way they will spare themselves from stomach ulcers, and the rest of us from headaches. So… caveat reador! :p

Onto the real stuff…

Today, after every last drop of floodwater has been personally cleaned up by Thaksin & Co, the city of Chiang Mai returned to its usual hustle and bustle, and yours truly can deliver the blog he promised before Noah’s Ark hit home.

When we explored the restrictions foreigners have to face in Thailand, I left you with the promise that next time I will tell you about some ridiculous restrictions Thais have to face abroad.

A good while ago, being bored at the Thai embassy in Laos, I picked up a small booklet that turned out to be the Thai government’s guide advising its citizens on the correct and absolutely lawful behavior in the country of Hammer and Sickle. As you might imagine, rules under the Red Star are most strict than what the rest of us, dirty spoiled capitalists, have ever seen.

Consider the piece of useful advice I scanned in from the book:

rule 4

In English, it would go along the following lines:

“Sexual interaction with a Lao citizen who is not your lawful spouse is prohibited; breach of this law carries a $500 fine.”

Okay, after you stopped laughing, let’s look at this thing a bit closer. It seems that Lao citizens lent their rights over their own bodies to the government, no? I guess the Lao PDR tries to maintain a “pure” Lao blood, minimizing the entry of the “inferior” Thai genes only to relationships that carry the government-approved piece of paper. Maybe they would do away with that too, if they could. For now, this law effectively turned nearly all Lao women and men to the likes of pricey prostitutes.

A few more curious questions come to mind. They mentioned only how the Thai side is punished; what about the offending Lao? Will they be publicly stoned to death? Also they don’t mention whether the fine is per ‘sexual act’, or per offending person. It may be a big difference in some cases. 😉

Another gem from the same booklet:

rule 5

And the English equivalent: “It is prohibited to break in and sleep in the home of a Lao citizen without the owner’s consent.”

A strange crime… should be obvious, but I guess it happens so often, they had to put it into writing. How about the next one:

rule 5

The English version: “Acting as a guide in the Lao PDR is forbidden. Violators are liable to a $2000 fine.”

Okay, so they REALLY don’t want Thai folks guiding anyone in the glorious Commie-land. Never mind that some kon-isaan visit the country on a nearly daily basis and know the area inside out. I shudder to think what happens with the unlucky guy who is visiting Laos for the first time with his family and friends, but has been there many times by himself… I guess he either has to hire a Lao guide to show the places he probably knows even better – or go with common sense, but risk paying through his teeth.

I grouped the last two rules in the booklet together, because I feel both are reflective of the commie spirit:

last rules

The first one (8) basically says that distributing leaflets is forbidden; the second one (9) says that forming groups is against the law and punishable by a $500 fine. What they don’t mention (yet again), is what’s considered a ‘group’? Three people? Four? A dozen? What about families? I guess the interpretation of this law is up to the commissar in charge.

Well, there you go. Stripped from even the most basic human rights, this communist Lao regime is a ‘blessing’ for both visitors and locals. Well, Thai visitors anyway. Farang in Lao are oblivious to these rules, and rightly so, as they are very unlikely to be affected. Your average Backpacker Joe won’t be caught red-handed distributing leaflets, and the package tours surely won’t be considered ‘suspicious group activities’ that need to be busted.

So, next time when you are about to bemoan the fact that you need special permit to mine rocksalt in Thailand, think of the difficulty of the poor Thai chaps who not only have to be careful about going in groups,but also have to be vary about pointing out Lao attractions to their friends. If that’s not enough, they are also liable to the government’s special ‘value-added tax’, if they want to have a little hanky-panky under the Lao paathung.

Lao woman
She looks pretty, but think again… do you have the $$$ for government fees?

ps: word-by-word Thai translation has been converted to meaningful English equivalents. There might be better ways of saying it, but please only post a correction if it affects the meaning of the translation. Thank you for reading,


The Elegance of Thai Script.

Thai Script

Wandering in Bangkok, I chanced upon this beautiful building above. The pagoda-like porch is looking novel and somehow goes well with a modern skyscraper.

The Elegant Clock

Another attractive feature is the clock, where in the time is indicated in Thai script. This gives a unique type of beauty to the clock.

Thai script with its elliptic and circular alphabet is very distinct. The most easily recognised and readable words in hoardings are Coke and Pepsi.

Thai script contributes a lot to the beauty of hoardings and advertisements.

New To The Kingdom[1979]:Ao Patong

Old Patong was about the sweetest place a couple of lucky honeymooners could be in 1979.

We arrived early June, the monsoon working strong, we’d sit in a little open air restaurant, watching the sky turn black, the winds pick up from the southeast, over the southern cape of Patong Bay.

The shopkeeper would usually only drop the blue plastic tarp shielding us from the onslaught after a few minutes of heavy downpour.

We’d sip hot Milo as the rain beat a steady, deffening alegro on the tin roof. You’d never realize the Blue Andaman was just across the street, 30meters to the ocean.

The big waves washed in, some 2-3meters high, I’d hobbled out to sea, get in the water up to my hips and then through my forearm crutches as far onto shore as I could, quickly swimming out under the big breakers, occassionally catching a few and riding them all the way back into the shower.

The powdery white sands of Patong, a few kilos anyway, inside my swim trucks, but back out to sea, catch another wave, and another and another, dodging the huge logs and various things floating in the water, but it was nice, the water temp would always cool down a few degrees during the heavy rains or big waves, maybe as cool as 90F…

Catching one last wave, hopefully a BIG one, I’d bodysurf back to shore, crawl the few meters towards my crutches, hopefully find them[sometimes I didn’t throw them far enough and had to search for a bit, but was lucky that time and learned to throw them as far as I could from the sea, maybe 20meters], get back up on my feet, wander back into the warm water, try to remove a kilo of sand from my swim trunks,etc, it was always the same, but once you body surfed Patong during the monsoon, you were spoiled, the rest of the year the bay was smooth as glass, and never a cool spot to be found!

The heavy rains would often just blow thru quickly, sometimes it rained for a few hrs, usually it was past us in 15minutes, but you never knew during monsoon.

Usually there were no others in the water with me, a few times some of the Kangaroo tourists we’d met that week, staying at Valentine Bungalow too.

These were wild boys, all in their 20’s, all addicted to Singha and good times. All worked hard in the mines of Western Aussie where they finally saved enough to stay here for months at a time.

Usually the water buffalo[Carabao]would walk out in the late afternoons heat, a heard mingling up and down the beach, escaping the heat and misquitos from the little rice paddy just a few clicks east of the bay.

Old Patong was still the same side it is today, but then there were barely 5 bungalow compounds and the big Patong Beach Hotel up the road about mid bay.

Patong Beach bungalow was first one the beach, the place by the little stagnant misquito filled creek, next Patong Beach Hotel, several stories, hmmmmm, was it two or three, anyway, only bus tour folks stayed there, it was a lofty 500Baht a day, and no serious traveller or backpacker would ever stay at a place that had ….air conditioning! A few crazy Dutch would usually be found at the nearby Seven Seas bungalow, then Valentines, Bayshore, next to what is now Holiday Inn, then last but not least…SeaView!

SeaView was at the extreme southern end of Patong Bay, it was rumored that the “bandits” had actually come out of the “jungle” beyond there and robbed the tourists and stoled the TV set!

Behind the beach was a small rice paddy that went the entire rear section of the bay, brackish water, and you could even catch BIG King Prawns there if you knew how!

We occassionally took the local bus to Phuket town to buy supplies, there was NO store anywhere around Patong, but the big open market in Phuket town had anything needed. The bus ride was about sip baht, I think. Patty found a nice noodle stall near the bowling alley where the curry was top rank and would often bring some back, along with 50baht worth of orchids, enough to fill both her arms!

The second day there we met “Chi-an”, he was a tall, lanky Thai, had an old jeep from the Viet Nam days, with “UArmy Remember” painted on it, we became quick friends, Chi-an had a little hootch just infront of Valentine bungalow, he sold us fresh BBQ’d fish, played frisbee with the water buffalos and we spent considerable time there consuming Mekhong whiskey, our new favorite drink, liberally mixed with Spite or Coke, sometimes even GreenSpot.

Chi-an jeep was a real pile,it wouldn’t make it over the steep Patong hills to Phuket town without those inside getting out and putting big rocks under the tires to keep it from rolling back down to the bottom of the road[it did happen occassionally]. Chi-an would “pop” the clutch and the old rusted jeep would lurch up the hill another meter, sometimes this took several tries before the occupants could climb back in, usually as the Jeep rolled over the crest of the hill and was ready to slide down the other side.

Chi-an fortunately knew how to drive OK, he never scared us like the TukTuk/Samlor/Bus drivers, but it was a tad unnerving just the same.

Most of the roads in Phuket in 79 were unpaved, cept the big road across the bridge, the airport or near town.

Once we were lucky and he took us around to Kata Noi, a real gem! Like a very small Patong, horseshoe shaped bay, a few small huts on the hillside, that was it, it was idealic!!!

to be continued…

*Breaking news* Thai player in national scrabble championship finals

20-year old Bangkok college student Panupol Sujjayakorn is playing in the 2005 National Scrabble Championship finals today (24th August)against 31-year old Dave Wiegand from Portland, Oregon. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, ESPN will be taping the finals for telecast in the fall. As of 12:45 PDT, the finalists had finished three of the five games. Sujjayakorn won the first and second games and Wiegand won the third game. The winner of the best-of-five finals wins a $25,000 first prize.
In 2003 Panupol won the World Scrabble Championship held in Malaysia. According to the Wall Street Journal, the National Scrabble Championship has never been won by a non-North American.

*** update ***
Wiegand defeated Panupol in the final two games of the series to win the championship. The final scores were 338-467, 349-463, 501-364, 441-371, and 529-331. Words played in the finals include SABERING, FLORINS, COGWAY, GAYETY, TANKING, RUSTLED, ENDOSTEA and EARLOBE; all played by Panupol. Wiegand’s plays include HUGEOUS, SCABIES, EULACHON, TINSTOENE, TAPERING, OVERKEEN, DYADIC, LENSMEN, REENTERS, and PARTING.

As the second prize winner, Panupol takes home $10,000 which he reportedly will use to fly to London in a few months to defend his world championship title.

Interestingly, the article in the Wall Street Journal noted that Panupol does not speak very good English. The journalist went on to speculate whether this is actually an advantage in Scrabble training because Panupol does not concern himself with the meanings or contexts of words, he just memorizes them and categorises them in terms of probabilities and Scrabble strategy.