Daily Archives: January 16, 2006

Old Patong: Big Dave Becomes Crazy Dave

The early 80’s saw Big Dave run Thai Garden Restaurant&Bar into the hottest party place on the beach.

He had shunned the operations of other nearby establishments and ran a “family” type place that we still full of fun!

That ended the day his chief cook & bottle washer Dao[the real force behind the good service & wonderful foods of all types]ran off with a RigRat…:-(

A RigRat is what those in know refer to an oil worker, usually these fellas gained their wages in extreme conditions of work, not much less dangerous that a miner.

The boys of the oil fields learned early on that Thailand had everything they wanted and on Old Patong, they had it with sunshine to help relax their minds as much as their bodies.

These fellas rolled into Don Muang, taxi’d straight to Soi Cowboy, Patpong Rd or Nana drank non-stop for several days, then flew down to sunny Phuket.

Big Dave would welcome them with honest to goodness Southern BBQ[atleast south-Thailand style, mostly water buffalo kabobs and BIG steaks], BIG Gringo breakfasts, and the best Thai food on the beach!

The fun never ended in those days and the drinking often took its toll, Patong Patty & I decided years before that the partying would end for us no later than MIDNIGHT, cause with all the new and old faces rolling into Thai Garden in those days, you could literally eat n drink til you passed out!

Even in the early days, we’d leave around midnight and walk the few steps next door to Mr Singhs wonderful Valentine Bungalows, briefly to Paradise Bungalow and after we acquired the Spirit Of Patong, we’d motor ever so slowly the 3 klicks down the beach, across the rice paddy and by the waterfall to our little house in Baan Sai Nam Yen to a QUIET nights repast, lulled ever to dreamland by the pack of neighborhood hounds taring at each other til we drifted into dreamland.

Upon returning one morning to Thai Garden, we noticed that Big Dave was scowling, setting at “his” table near the bar, hiding behind the paper.

As usual, I sat across from him, the only person he’d let at his table that early in the morning, and I knew while he was reading I never said a word, just put my order in for the usual papaya, banana platter with a HOT cup of Milo, while Big Dave festered behind his Bangkok Post.

He finally put the paper down, his eye was swollen and red, I just figured it was another all nighter where he hadn’t gone to sleep yet, there had been too many of those in the last few years and the Mekong Whiskey had turned to knock-off Vodka or Gin in the last year was starting to take it’s toll!

Patong Patty rarely sat with us, instead having her usual morning bowl of “Noodles du jour” with the girls nearby.

I cracked a few jokes,but Big Dave didn’t take the bait and come back with his usual way of taking anything said and “elaborating” upon it.

Meanwhile, Patong Patty was quietly chatting with Dao across the room, evidently Dao had lost interest in Big Dave and run off with a RigRat last night, checking in NEXT DOOR at Paradise!

This wasn’t good, not at all! Things remained sullen and dark, we had our breakie and went down the beach for some bodysurfing, returning around 2pm for lunch to find Big Dave and Dao’s new twinkle quietly, but fiercly playing chess at the front table on the streetside.

I sat at a nearby table and watched them play chess, Big Dave often told us of his experience during one of his many stays at Folsom, where he had honed his chess skills into near championship form.

Big Dave kept flicking open and closing his big Buck lockback blade as the “opponent” gazed at the chess pieces, trying his best to avoid the snake eyes of Crazy Dave.

Dave kept saying little things during the game like “someones gonna get cut” or ” some fool doesn’t know when to leave”,etc.

I leaned over and said “what cha got there pardner, trying to reach for the knife, only to have Dave quickly jerk it away”, I knew better than to try twice.

Dave got up and went to the back room for something, I “coached” the opponent and told him “ya know pal, Dao IS Daves wife”!

He said, “well she don’t think so” and we only held each other last night anyway.

I replied, “you been warned, watch yourself”, he glanced over at me, trying to pretend their was no anxiety or fear, but his eyes gave him away as Crazy Dave returned to the game.

I chatted a little with Dave, not much, we had a wok full of fresh cashews, right from the big tree behind the place and a bowl of noodles. We left soon.

The fool in town left later that day, back to the oil fields of the Middle East and to no drinking or carosing for another 90days or so.

Things around Thai Garden cooled to a slow burn, Crazy Dave drunk most of the time and the restaurant went more or less to nothing, Dave quit ordering food stocks or going to Phuket town to replinish what was needed and the place practically shut down. Getting a hot cup of Milo or a Green Spot was about all that could be ordered the rest of the month!

A month later Dao had Patong Patty write a letter to her new amour, stating clearly that they would soon have a third member to their cozy gathering, but the guy never wrote back or came back to Patong Beach.

Dao lost face, Crazy Dave lost face, Thai Garden became a ghost town full of dread and loathing, many of the expats and locals quit coming by, Paradise got wise and started their own restaurant about that time with “investments” from new partners and business drifted slowly away, but not far, to next door.

One morning towards the end of that month, we rolled in around noon for our usual breakfast or what we could get there to see that Dao had shaved her head, bought an outfit for Nuns and proclaimed she’d be gone to the Wat from now on, we gave her a big party and she left early the next morning.

She rolled by in a few days later, the stubble growing back on her recently shaved scalp, her addiction to Patong Beach was stronger that she thought.

Naturally by this time, Crazy Dave had another woman, infact, many, their were now hostesses at Thai Garden, like Paradise, 7 Seas, etc,etc, things had practically changed overnight.

Dao left in a huff in a rented Tuk Tuk which she always took when they fought,returning to her parents place somewhere in Krabi.

Strangely, the very next day, Phukets finest made a “spot” inspection of Thai Garden and found some “objectionables” in a fishing tackle box which Crazy Dave appealed was “some expats” that left it there between visits>

The police laughed as they hauled Crazy Dave off to Baan Ling, curiously that afternoon Dao returned with the owner to the land which held Crazy Daves lease,trying[in vain]to get Thai Gardens put into her name!

Daos new German boyfriend was only trying to help, but the rest of us looked on and wondered how this fiasco would turn out.

Much like Sommerset Maughns “The Narrow Corner”, it didn’t end happily.

Crazy Dave got out of Baan Ling a few days later, got a lawyer and Dao and her German amigo suddenly had to return to Germany where Dao got married!

After that, Crazy Dave became keemao mak mak and stayed that way for the next decade!

Thai Garden, once the happy go lucky spot became just another bar full of the usual things that bars have. A bigger stereo was immeadiately necessary.

Patong Patty and I could see what happened, we didn’t like it, but we still would saunter by daily, but never stayed past reading the Bangkok Post.

If a big group of expats or RigRats with alot to spend rolled into town, suddenly Thai Gardens was a real restaurant & bar again, the nightly videos running and the bbq’s and food excellent, but as soon as the customers left for their homes or work, the place resumed its dreadful stinge.

Patong Beach was growing though, so with the help of the Spirit Of Patong, Patty & I found plenty of other places to dine and water at, and plenty of new friends were made…:-)

After this time, Big Dave was referred to by all on Phuket that knew him as…Crazy Dave.

Thai Manners at School

Today is National Teacher’s Day in Thailand and I thought I would take this opportunity to show you how well respected teachers are in Thailand. It is a pleasure teaching here and I wouldn’t dream of teaching anywhere else. Certainly not in America! Every January 16th is a holiday for us and we get the day off work. Then, at the start of the academic year in May, all of the students come to school with flowers and prostrate at our feet. You cannot get a better job than that! In Thailand, teachers get a lot of respect in the local community though, unfortunately, they don’t get much money in comparison to other jobs. Many of them have to supplement their income with second jobs and private students.

A few weeks back, I was telling you about the Thai Manners competition we had at our school. Some of the students also gave a demonstration on how to act when visiting elderly relations. Today I want to talk more about manners in a Thai school. If you speak to any Thai teacher, they will immediately say that their students are naughty and badly behaved. They will also comment that children these days are not as well mannered as they were in their day. This might very well be true. In the 12 years I have been teaching here, I have seen some watering down of Thai ethics in both the school and local community. However, ask any educators that have visited our school from America or Europe and they will all agree that our students are the best mannered children that they have ever met.

The Thai people are world famous for their hospitality and their smiles. From an early age they are taught to be well mannered and considerate of other people. Surprisingly, most of this is done in schools across the country. The students are taught not only how to behave at school and their community, but also at home. The students are taught from an early age that they have to do their part in order to keep the family together and happy. Their chores around the house should be done without question. They should prostrate at the feet of their parents on both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They should wai their parents in both greeting and a way of saying thanks. They should be forever grateful to their parents and should always show them the utmost respect.

Proper manners start as soon as the students arrive at school early in the morning. Most, though not all, will wai their parents in a prayer like gesture as they are dropped off at school. This is a way of saying both “thank you” and “goodbye”. They then greet the teacher by the front gate, with a wai and then slightly bow their head as they walk into the school. As they enter the first building, they pause to take off their shoes. They carry them in their hand as they walk up to their classroom. If they meet any teacher in the corridor, they will put down their shoes and wai that teacher. If a teacher is walking down the stairs, they will stop to let the teacher pass.

Inside the classroom the students are just as polite. Maybe too polite. As I walk into the classroom for my English class, the class captain will shout out “please stand up” in English. This is not really a good translation of the Thai version which they do for other lessons. Really they should say something like “students, pay your respects”.  They all then stand up and say “sawatdee krap/kaa” to the teacher. This is the Thai greeting. The teacher then replies with the same greeting and tells the students to sit down. They then say “thank you”. What I always find amusing is the little routine we have at the end of the lessons. Which, by the way, ends when I say it does and not when the bell goes. When I am ready to leave, I signal to the class captain that the lesson is over. She will then tell the students to pay respect to me in much the same way as before. They then thank me for teaching them that lesson. They do this even though I may have been horrible to them or just given them a lot of homework!

In the classroom, the teacher is always right and anything she says will not be questioned. Even if she is wrong. In the past, the teachers taught many classes using the “rote” system. This usually involves the teacher standing at the front of the class reading from one of the text books. The students then sit quietly in their rows listening attentively. Sometimes the teacher will ask the students to read from their books at the same time or repeat after her. From an educators point of view this is obviously very good. It is very easy to maintain discipline when everybody is doing the same thing at the same time. The students are very respectful and don’t really give us a great deal of trouble. However, this is starting to change. For the past few years, the government has been encouraging us to use a “child centered” method of teaching. This means the focus during lessons should be on the students rather than the teacher. The students now do more group work and quite often have to try and work out things for themselves.

In some ways, these new methods are good. I have always said that Thai students are taught what to think instead of how to think. However, the downside of this new approach is that discipline and class control is starting to slip. Students are now questioning the teacher. The want to know why things have to be done in a certain way. Freedom of speech may sound like a good idea, however, the idea of questioning your elders or disputing what they say goes against Thai culture. Students at that age are more likely to cross the line without realizing it. We are starting to see students who are more cheeky or not listening to what the teacher is saying. Before, the students all did the same thing. Now they are split up into groups and are working on different projects. To the older teachers, this looks like chaos. They don’t like it so much. However, the younger teachers realize the potential of teaching the students how to think for themselves.

Despite these changes to teaching methods, some things haven’t changed. If a student wants to go to the toilet during a lesson, he or she will come up to me with their hands together in a prayer-like gesture and kneel at my desk. They will then ask if they can be excused. If I then say yes they will then wai me and say “thank you”. On returning to the classroom, they will hover by the doorway with their hands again in the wai position. They now ask for permission to come back in. When I say “yes” (am I really going to deny entry?) they will thank me again. When I first came to Thailand the students would kneel in the doorway waiting for me to give them permission to enter the classroom. This seems to have stopped now.

If you have read my blogs you would know that the level of your head is very important. In the above photo, you can see that the “teacher” is sitting at his desk. If the students want help with their homework they have to approach the teacher on their knees. They cannot just stand by the desk as their head will be higher than the teacher. Also, if they walk by the seated teacher, the would have to bow their head out of respect. In the past, when students entered the school office, they had to do so on their knees. They weren’t allowed to stand at all. However, these days they can walk in but they would still have to kneel at the desk of the secretary. This isn’t just for the students. If a teacher is called to the office of the school director, they shouldn’t sit on a chair unless invited. They should first kneel at the desk.

Change is to be expected. It is inevitable. However, change is not always for the best. How much of the culture of Thailand is lost when they try to emulate the West? Will all of these examples of Thai manners just become “quaint” and old fashioned? Will Thailand as a country be better off as an an exact clone of the West? I don’t think so. People love Thailand for its charm and level of repect it shows. I for one would hate to see Thai students act like some American and European students dfo in the classroom. Some of my Thai students have seen American movies where students swear at and even hit their teachers. They are shocked and say it will never happen here. But it could. When I first started teaching here in Thailand I told my students not to kneel at my desk or wai me. I regret that now. We all need to do our part to make sure Thai ethics and the Thai way of life is preserved for future generations. It doesn’t matter if we are Thai or foreign. We all have a duty.