Monthly Archives: September 2007

How to Keep Your Cool in Thailand

There Powderis a Thai phrase that goes “jai yen yen” which you might hear a lot while in Thailand. It basically means “keep your cool” or “calm down”. It is mainly aimed at defusing an argument between two people or if it seems like you are getting hot under the collar about something. A Thai person would tell you to “take it easy”. Which is basically what the Thai people are expert at 24/7. On the surface they never seem to take anything seriously. Nothing seems to bother them. Even work has to be fun for them otherwise they will quit and go and work elsewhere. When I first came to Thailand, so many things bothered me. Little things like the Thai inability to keep an appointment. As an Englishman, if someone set a time for an appointment I would move mountains, and sweat buckets, in order to meet that deadline. But, for Thai people, their attitude is that they will get there as soon as they arrive. And not a moment sooner. Which, of course, is the key to keeping a different kind of cool in Thailand. It is the answer to why foreigners seem to sweat far more than Thai people.

The longer you stay in Thailand the more you change and become assimilated to the local culture. You don’t always know that this is happening. It only becomes obvious when you return to the culture of your birth which is what I did recently. Living in Thailand for so long now, people in the land of my birth say that I have become docile. That I am no longer pro-active. Which is true. I am more accepting of events around me now. If I am driving to an appointment and there is a bad traffic jam, then it doesn’t worry me so much now. There is nothing I can do about it so I shouldn’t stress myself. If anyone talks about me as I walk around a new town, and say things like “there is a farang coming”, then I ignore it and just smile at them. They have probably never met a foreigner in person before and I have just given them something to talk about for the rest of the day.

An obvious way to stop sweating so much is to slow down. Look around you. How do Thai people walk? Do they walk with long strides with their arms swinging back and forth? Do you ever see them run to meet an appointment on time? No, and that is one reason they don’t sweat so much. They take it easy and just stroll down the street. They also make good use of any shade available. So they walk in the shade of trees or buildings. They shield their face with a newspaper or magazine. At bus stops, they don’t stand in lines parallel to the road. However, they do often stand in a straight line under the shadow from the bus stop pole. These are all good tips because once you start to sweat, (loose your cool), then it is downhill from there.

You might ask about the motorcycle taxi drivers and other people who can wear jackets in the mid-day heat. How do they keep their cool? When I first came to Thailand I used to sweat a lot and had to often take a shower. I couldn’t understand how Thai people could wear so many layers of clothing when I wanted to do the opposite. For me it was important to wear the minimum amount of layers that decency allowed. Which basically meant a shirt and tie without undervest or jacket. But I still sweated. I would go home with my shirt sweat stained. Thai people are generally too polite to say anything, but they are very fussy about personal hygiene – not only their own, but other people’s too. That is when I started wearing an undervest.

It may seem strange to wear two layers of clothing in order to stop sweating, but it does work. After I shower, I put on some talcum powder and then the vest and shirt. It wasn’t very comfortable to start with but I soon realized that most days my shirt was no longer soaking wet. As the months and then years went by, I became more proficient at keeping cool. I also realized that taking it easy while walking wasn’t enough. I also had to take it easy in my mind as well. I had to relax more and not to take things so seriously. On the days that there was so much work to do, I found the solution by making a decision as to what tasks didn’t need to be done on that day. Productivity went down at first, but in the long run I became less stressed and probably healthier.

Now, my next step was to mirror the motorcycle taxi drivers that wore jackets. That is what I have been training to do for the past three months. I really wanted to see if I could maintain my cool and be more like a Thai. And it is working. At first I could only wear the three layers of clothes when I walked to school in the early morning. When I arrived at school my brow was sweating. But, after a month the amount of sweat subsided. Then I started wearing the jacket when I walked home in the evening after work. The ultimate test for me was then to wear the jacket in the mid-day heat when I walked home for my lunch. And it is working. I am not saying that I don’t sweat at all, but I am now very comfortable in wearing a jacket in most situations. I feel I have past a test and I have become more Thai.

Jet breaks Apart Landing In Phuket

For all those injured and killed, a heartfelt cry, Rest In Peace.

Bangkok Gluttony

Again, another foodie post I did for my own food blog. But hey, I’m a sharing type! 🙂

I went home for a few weeks this past month. This trip home was a unique one (aside from the obvious circumstance). I mean, I don’t think my family and I had eaten out that much within 2 weeks in our lives. But it was easier for us and for our maid if we were to eat out during the week of wake at the temple.

Not all of the restaurants in Bangkok has a website, so I’m just going by what I remember and will try to give you guys a link the best I can.

Where I’ve eaten:
– Royal Kitchen
– Khun Ying
– Le Dalat Indochine
– Greyhound Cafe
– Kalprapruek on First
– Zen Cucina
– Paesano
– Le Pre Grille

Brace yourself. This is a LONG one. 🙂

Continue reading

Old Patong: The Beach Shacks

Margaret said she was going down the

beach to Sams new shop, the Half Way Cafe.

Sam lived there with Kangaroo Larry in their small thatched roof paradise exactly half way along Patong Beach.

In those early days, there were still small shacks up and down the beach, starting on the north side near the little Muslim village of Kalim,all the way to the south side where Sea View Bungalow ended where the back rice paddy slowly flowed into Patong Bay.

These thatched huts/shacks were ALL “squatters shacks” since they were actually on the Kings land, the entire beach! First one went up, I think it was Peeunes little shop just south and across the beachfront dirt road from Mr Signhs Valentine Bungalows!

Peeune was/is the happiest cook on the beach, you never saw her in a bad mood, always smiling as she cooked with one hand while simultaneously cleaning with the other hand! Peeune made the best noddles on the island!

Just north of Peeunes was Chi-Ans hootch. He was the first Patong beachboy we met through Margaret.

Chi-An offered bbq’d fish/crab/beer and that’s where we met Guitar Noi!

Chi-An had a very old Army jeep, which barely ran, but did with the help of large rocks under the wheels when it’d often stall trying[not always successfully]to conquer the steep hill road to Phuket town.

Next to Chi-Ans place was a new bamboo clad place run by two wild Frenchmen. These tanned and g-stringed lads made french fries and sold them to the tourist by day, by night they serenaded all with
happy French songs played on a guitar.

Next to Frenchys joint was a yet newer and better built bamboo facade run by Lek and Toy. Lek laminated his failed do-nut franchise in Washington DC, wisely returning to the shores of Patong Beach to run his and wife Toys restaurant. Toy cooked very well, her tempura delights were unknown to the area and were a
big hit at the time.

Just south of Peeunes found us that day at Half Way Cafe. Sam, a former wild child of Patong Beach nightlife had recently suffered a bad stroke, but she was recovering rapidly,thanks to a strong instinct and a stubborn nature in general. She had hooked up with Kangaroo Larry, both were mid 20’s and had a zest for life that few, even
in the liveliness of Old Patong knew!

Sam’s curried crabs were legendary and are still the standard that Patong Patty judges ALL Thai food!

One crab,one hour! Some nights Patty would down 3 or 4, we’d be there til midnight, most of us singing folk songs, some Thai, some farang,while Patty finished every morsel!

The Half Way Cafe became more and more popular, but like many new businesses, the owners/workers had different ideas about how things should work, Sam never lost an argument and Kangaroo Larry moved south
to Kata where as rumor has it, Sam sicked Phukets finest on him, he was soon deported and Sam stumbled back into the nightlife.

The beach shacks lasted several seasons, finally the govt sent out a big bull dozer one morning and all the shacks were gone by the afternoon. A few of the “real” local restaurants were allotted space on the new road just being built starting at the beach road where the old Disco thatched place was and going east all the way to the rice paddy!

Lek/Toy had a new shop directly across the street next to David Polmans Thai Garden. Peeune moved to the rice paddy road between the beach and little Baan Nam Sai Yen,where the Lions Hospital now sits! All the rest of the squatters moved on to different parts of the Kingdom or back home…where ever home is, they went. In Old Patong, reality was often comical, but in the end, the party never really ended, people just came and went!

In Old Patong, things never really change, people just came and went and often…returned to paradise.

Death In The Kingdom

Published by Monsoon Books

When I first picked this book up and browsed for some information on the author, I was surprised to read that he had zilch writing experience whatsoever. He had instead been a hunter, merchant seaman and a bodyguard who enjoyed shooting and photography in his free-time. It was only after a Google search did I find out that Andrew Grant had already written and published ten books prior (under two different names). Strange that this information was left out.

Death in the Kingdom by Andrew Grant is a James Bond style spy thriller involving the usual page-turning stuff of conspiracy, portrayal and of course the seedy underworld. And just like James Bond, the star of this book Daniel Swann, who is a secret British agent, is busy fooling around with as many ladies that he can possibly lay his hands on. As the author admits in a later interview, Daniel certainly has his characteristic flaws – besides being just a handsome womanizer, his idea of enjoying his free-time is drinking as much beer as possible before waking up late with a serious hangover.

Anyway, Daniel is back in Thailand by orders of his boss The Right Honourable Bernard Sinclair MBE who Daniel eloquently describes as being as ‘queer as a two-bob watch’. His job is to recover a small black box from the bottom of the Andaman Sea which has been missing since a Japanese ship was sunk there at the end of the Second World War. Not such an easy task to complete all alone and Daniel has to seek out the assistance of Mr Tuk Tuk, Thailand’s Top Mafia Boss (Strange name for a mafia boss). To complicate the matters though, it was Daniel who had once not only killed his son but also shot-off half the face of his ugly mean side-kick ‘Mr Cabbage’.

The book starts off on the island of Phuket where Daniel meets up with an old buddy of his Geezer. Any reader unfamiliar to the place will soon realize that the area is not just cheap and beautiful but it is also host to plenty of delicious food and short-time sex. The plot soon unravels and before Daniel is off to meet the dangerous Mafia Boss, we learn that besides the small black box hidden below the waters there is also 2 billion dollars worth of gold and a one metre high Buddha Image encrusted in 3,000 rubies.

According to Sir Bernard however, the British government don’t need the treasure whatsoever as it is all promised to be given as an award to Mr Tuk Tuk for his help in the salvage. The Mafia Boss is soon flabbergasted at his new-found potential wealth and shakes the hand of Daniel. The latter of whom isn’t so dumb though and knows that his new partner isn’t a man who forgets any past ill-deed so easily. And then, he also has to watch out for scar-face Mr Cabbage who also wants him dead…. as soon as the task is over.

All to plan and a sizable amount of the book is given to the recovery of the small black box, wad of gold and the priceless Ruby Buddha in Burmese Waters. Not being much of sea or diving expert, I kinda flicked through some of this adventure, but was soon back to enjoy a twist to the story when Daniel and his Prawn Boat crew are attacked by a weapons-loaded speedboat, which has appeared out of the blue. Mr Tuk Tuk, the meanest mafia boss in the land, hasn’t let his boys go out into foreign waters with no ammunition back-up and so the enemy speedboat and its crew are blasted out of the Andaman.

Safely back on the boat, the reader gets an idea to the contents of this top-secret box after some of it leaks out, but we don’t get the low-down until Daniel finally makes his way back to the British embassy. During the trip back to Bangkok, Daniel realizes that there is more to this adventure than meets the eye and his suspicions grow by the minute. Who were those guys in the speedboat, the CIA? How, during his zig-zag venture back to the capital are guys continually able to follow him?

Along the way, Daniel meets up again with the Mafia Boss and the reader once more learns of a new twist to the plot. Tuk Tuk never does get to keep the holy image and the Ruby Buddha is thankfully returned to its rightful owner Brother Thana of Wat Pha To. We also get a descriptive picture of Tuk-Tuk’s Japanese mistress Sukura who Daniel wouldn’t mind tasting for himself – in the confines of her palace.

From then on, the author takes us on an adventure which goes from Bangkok to Ayutthaya to the Golden Triangle. People lose their heads (literally), there are bloody slayings and loads new characters are added to the story…… And that’s as much as I will give away…

Altogether, this book is an enjoyable read which turns and twists at every opportunity. I would definitely recommend it as a decent read on a beach-hut hammock for those readers who like a bit of a thrilling page-turner. On the other-hand though, if it’s a decent read-up on Thailand or Thai ways you are after, then this book doesn’t quite offer that.

If you are an author or publisher and are interested in doing a book review, please contact either myself or Richard Barrow.