Daily Archives: November 8, 2005

People and Places

There are places I’ll remember
all my life, though some have changed,
some for ever, not for better,
some have gone and some remain.
All these places had their moments,
with lovers and friends I still can recall,
some are dead and some are living,
in my life I’ve loved them all.

(The Beatles- In My Life)

The above stanza explains best the dynamics of our memory. We some how get attached to people and places. Many of these things change. Some places may remain the same for a long time.

The photograph above is of an Optician’s Showroom, taken in 2002. It has remained exactly the same since 1989. Not even the slightest change in the display material and brand names. It is located in Muang Thong Thani III off the Chaengwattana Road. Something that had not changed for so long gave me a lot of happiness.

In the same road further down, there is the Wandee Building. Inside the building, there used to be a small super market selling food items and other household provisions. All the time it used to play music. I remember having bought many types of Brazilian Coffee, some with caffeine and some decaffeinated. The music always lingered in my mind. This time when I revisited the building, I found the supermarket missing and in its place an automobile Tyre Shop had come up. I could feel a bit nostalgic and leave the premises. Such is life.

Old Patong: 1980: Electricity comes to Patong

Big Dave had Thai Garden restaurant running like clockwork, sorta, by early monsoon.

He had Nok on top of the roof turning the new tv antenna around and around until he could pickup the one Bangkok TV station that showed all the Thai soap operas!

There still was NO electric power on the beach, other than a few owners that had generators. We didn’t really know at the time how good we had it made, without full time electricity!

I used to think how nice it’d be if Mr. Singh would run his noisy generation during the day, thereby resting under the COOL fan, which only ran after sunset.

We were green then and only thought of immeadiate pleasures, but full time electricity brought alot more than being able to switch on the fan anytime we wanted…it brought…GHETTO BLASTERS at EVERY shop along the beach, all playing a DIFFERENT tune! Often at earsplitting decibles that ALL the bars just seemed to think their thirsty customers would buy more hotch, the louder the music was!

Daves generator was fairly strong, the biggest on the beach then, but it seemed to osilate frequency during the movies, often making Dave yell out to the ever working Dao, “fix the generator”, Big Dave rarely left his perch at the bar, surrounded by expats all listening to his many tales of adventure[lies?], but somehow, we never really watched the continual movies Dave played, but would just “solve the problems of the world”, laugh at the rest of the world during winter, reading and commenting on various Bangkok Post stories, detailing what “Trink” really meant at the various watering holes he went on and on and on about, and told each other that we were definitely the chosen folks for being intelligent enough to stay on Patong Beach as long as we could before the dreaded “visa run” to Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong or unfortunately for the many rigrats, back to the awful oil fields for another 90 days.

It was during this 2nd phase of our Patong visiting that we met…Dutch Jeff, expat extrodinaire, former Dutch freedom fighter during WWII, jack of all trades, master of none, and absolutely the most frugal person on Patong Beach!

Jeff was a big fella, 6’2″ 250 lbs, that could even out talk Big Dave. Jeff had been a “business” partner of Thai Gardens for a short while, but the usual craziness of the “guy with the $[Big Dave]vs the guy with the original ideas[Dutch Jeff]soon parted their need to run the bar together, it really didn’t matter who claimed to own the place, it was Dao that did ALL the work, shopping, cleaning and she always had a smile on her little kisser too!

Dave & Jeff could often been seen at the same table, they rarely moved for any occasion, cept Dutch Jeff would stop by another table if the drinks were offered, but Big Dave never left his spot. Holding court and over elaborating on things past, as well as future.

One evening Big Dave, Dutch Jeff and Shady Brady concocted a wild tale of Yamamotos WWII sunken submarine full of GOLD, buried on the other side of the island around Can Ang Restaurant, well, it didn’t take long for the coconut telegraph to put word out of the huge treasure trove, just waiting for the “right” bunch of lucky folks, it could almost be seen at low tide, etc,etc,etc,

Soon, bus loads of locals, a few expats drove over the big San Francisco like hills, thru Phuket town, turning south past the huge Wat Chalon and toward the east silt filled low tide beach with a myraids of shovels, scoups, etc to quickly find Yamamotos $20,000,000 worth of GOLD BARS!

Of course, those of us “in the know” didn’t venture past Thai Gardens those few weeks of financial anticipation, we had many a laugh when some of the locals & expats would return from their daily grind across the island where all they really got for their hard shovelling sand labor was sunburnt!

We never let on that there would NEVER be any treasure found, but would strive to convince them that they were probably just a few feet of sand between their lucky shovels and immense riches! They finally quit digging about a few weeks.

too be continued…

Hari Raya Open House

After a whole month of fasting , the Muslim community around the world celebrates “Hari Raya” with joyous family gathering. In Malaysia, the muslims celebrates with “open houses” too.

The open house or rumah terbuka tradition is unique to Malaysia and everyone from the Prime Minister down hosts open house ,especially during major festivals and celebrations like the Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year and Christmas.

During the month of Syawal, many Muslims open the doors of their homes to welcome visitors irrespective of creed, culture and position to participate in the rejoicing. Traditional delicacies and local favourites like ketupat (rice wrapped in coconut leaves), peanut sauce and rendang (a dry spicy beef dish) are served. Large scale open houses, like those organized by political figures are announced via the mass media and are held at venues big enough to hold colossal events. Visitors attending the open houses during scheduled times, not only to eat and have fun, but to meet the country’s leaders. Tourists are also welcomed to such events.

I came back from Kuala Lumpur on the 2nd, hoping to visit a few Malay friends during Hari Raya. However, I only came to know that there was an invitation from the Sultan of Perak on the first day of Hari Raya. On that day, the Mayor, his advisor and myself left for Malaysia at six in the morning. The invitation was extended to VIPs only and three of us were the only guests from Thailand.

When we arrived at the palace, we were led to a grand hall. The hall was very big and there were more than three hundred guests. I found the women, Malay or Chinese, were wearing the traditional Malay costumes with shawls. I was a little embarrassed initially but then relieved as I found there were a few women wearing western dress too. I wore a milky long dress with a pink coat, which was too lady-like and looked too young for the occasion!

Malay women in their traditional costume-Baju Kurung/Another type of traditional costume-Baju Kebaya(Can you see the difference?!)

The gentlemen/The long queue

The Sultan and his wife and also, the Chief Minister and his wife, stood and were greeted by the long queue of well-wishers. It was very simple, just bow a little, shake hands and say “Selamat Hari Raya”(Happy New Year). According to the mayor, the protocol was much more simpler than in Thailand.

There was a lunch reception after that and there were eleven stalls serving variety of foods, including Japanese, Malay, Western and Chinese foods. It was really a sumptuous lunch and all the dishes were very delicious!

In Betong, I went to a few fast breaking dinner reception and there were only men. The mayor told me that the Muslims in Malaysia were more “modern” as we can find the women and men mixing around naturally, greeting, chatting, joking, shaking hands…

Sultan and others stood in front of the plants to be greeted/Lunch seats for the Sultan and Chief Minister

The luncheon/Open house hosted by Chief Minister of Perak State, would be started in 3:00pm, we came after lunch to send the Hari Raya gift and left.