(Would be extremely difficult to get these two mixed up – but Mrs Clampton did)
Due to the positive feedback from the last blog “The Legendary Edith Clampton (Mrs)”, I think it’s only fair to write up a part 2 and include some of the readers’ responses – some of which are in concern to Edith’s complaints in the first blog, so you may have to look back. I’m sure you’ll have to agree, this is the Bangkok Post at its editorial best.
Not Up to Scratch (reader’s response) from first blog
SIR: My company subscribes to the Bangkok Post which I read every morning. I look forward to reading Post Bag as it often provides insight into the thoughts of the expatriate community and certain sectors of Thai society. However, I have always felt annoyed by the frequent letters of some correspondents. Which brings me to the reason for my own outburst on these pages: Edith Clampton.
I have just read her latest adventures in Southeast Asia. Doesn’t Edith realise that the green buses are called “mini-buses”? The micro-buses are red. The drivers are relatively considerate. The conductors are young women. The fee is 15 baht. (Did Edith pay 15 baht for a green mini-bus ride?) Unfortunately there is no outlet for your electric toothbrush, and sometimes no Bangkok Post on a mini-bus and that is why the conductor looked at you that way. I would not have been sitting with Khun Parker, driving behind the bus. He would not have been driving very safely while rolling on the floor laughing.
Who has the Right to Elephant Dung (reader’s response) from first blog
SIR: Thank you Mrs Clampton for bringing up the subject of elephant dung. I have discussed this with my legal advisors and they offer me the following: The drunken farang woman would be the legal owner only if she said, “Here elephant, I would like to loan you these bananas”. If she says “There elephant, these are for you”, then the bananas become the property of the elephant and subsequently the elephant can claim full ownership of the manure. Regarding the mahout – he would be the owner if the papers could be produced showing he was the legal owner of the elephant. Unfortunately, Khun Hazel is left behind on this one and has no claim to the dung.
Legal action could take a long time an collecting evidence would be a nightmare. I suggest dropping it.
Commander RN (Retd)
Pizza Men on Bikes Prove Too Elusive (reader’s response) from first blog
SIR: Mrs Edith Clampton recently brought to our attention the difficulty she had with stopping one of our Pizza Hut delivery drivers to buy a pizza.
Edith could make her life easier if she was to call and place an order for pizza. By so doing, she is going to make it safer for herself and our delivery drivers. If Edith lets us know where we can meet, we would then have our drivers deliver a pizza to her.
Manager-Call Service Centre
Minor Group Food Division
Teething Troubles (readers’ responses and Edith’s response to angry Filipinos) from first blog
SIR: Congratulations go out to Mrs. Edith (wealthy person) Clampton for the most pathetic letter I’ve read this year.
SIR: I was utterly amazed about Mrs Clampton’s tale of woe. Only now in my lifetime have I read about someone with the guts and “grotty pearly greens” to gnash with, blame her oral problem on my country’s current power crises. What I perceive is a case of sheer laziness on Mrs Clampton’s part. To top it, her vivid description of her oral condition is really repulsive. I guess Mrs Clampton should switch to a nuke-powered toothbrush (if there’s anything like it, she’s in luck) to scrape off all those accumulated ‘sediment’ on her teeth.
SIR: When Mrs Edith Clampton complained about power failures in the Philippines one would think her life was placed at a very grave danger because her dialysis machine couldn’t function. But no, it was only her status symbol electric toothbrush. How shallow, how self-centred and how silly of the Bangkok Post to provide space to this whinging airhead. Weren’t there enough letters that day worthy of attention?
Emmanoel T Francisco
Newport Beach, California
SIR: Why so many people are taking it upon themselves to condemn me, because of my misfortunes in the Philippines, is beyond me. Their replies in Post Bag make me look stupid and I feel the real reason of their attack is because of my wealth. I didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me so I kept my original letter short. For their information, I also returned to Thailand with a terrible bout of the flu. No electricity also meant no electric hair dryer and as the Philippines has no fire-places, I was forced to spend many nights with soaking wet hair. Regardless of what people say I will never return to that rag-picked country again.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
Keep First Class First (Edith)
SIR: On a recent overseas flight (steve notes: Thai Airways) I was appalled at the conduct of some passengers. I had just settled into my seat when a herd of interlopers were moved into the first class section. They were loud and smelt like they hadn’t bathed for weeks. I complained to the head waiter on the flight but he explained his hands were tied – they had been upgraded by a higher authority.
Higher authority or no higher authority first class passengers shouldn’t be expected to have to suffer a flight sandwiched between backpackers. What upset me further was that I arrived ay my destination looking like a basket case whilst my maid, Khun Hazel, who travelled in economy arrived as bright as a button. Airline officials in high authority will now need to review their policy on upgrading, or genuine passengers will be forced to seek alternative ways of travel.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
Keep First Class First (reader’s response)
SIR: I fear that our dear friend Edith Clmpton (Mrs) has got in a muddle again! Regular readers of the Clampton saga will no doubt recall that not long ago she went on a green mini-bus, under the mistaken impression that it was a micro-bus. Now she had a mishap on her flight, apparently by getting her tickets mixed up. Her maid, Khun Hazel, who “arrived as bright as a button”, most likely travelled in the first class cabin while poor Edith roughed it in economy.
I believe the “alternative way of travel” Mrs Clampton is considering may well be the rail journey from Singapore to Bangkok on the Orient Express, and I look forward to reading her account of the journey in your columns.
Michael Marsh Edwards
Notes: Comfort 100 is a portable urine bottle which can be used by motorists in heavy traffic.
SIR: Could someone please introduce a law that it makes it compulsory for Bangkok taxis to have curtains between the driver and the passenger. Several times now I have caught the driver’s beady eyes looking at me in the rear-view mirror when I have been desperately trying to use the Comfort 100.
The whole experience gave me anything but comfort.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
Discomfort (reader’s response and Edith’s response)
I was utterly shocked and disgusted by one of your Post Bag letters headed “Discomfort” by Edith Clampton. I was totally embarrassed just reading such a shameless complaint.
I am from New York, USA, and I’m coming to the end of a wonderful two-week holiday in this beautiful country, and about to take back such blissful memories. WHAM! then I read this sort of putrid filth, this woman should be ashamed of herself. Yes, we have Comforts in the States and of all sizes, the 100 being the largest, and it’s an acceptable woman’s personal appliance, for private use, certainly not in the back of a taxi!
Thailand does not need this type of woman. She actually had the “Brass neck” to inform us that the taxi driver was “watching her”! and she was having a problem with that! I’m surprised he didn’t crash his taxi. Of course he was watching her, he was wondering what the “buzzing was” was!
Mrs Ruth Dempsey
SIR: We were absolutely dumbfounded to find the Australians have their very own version of the Comfort 100. But as I explained to my maid, Khun Hazel, you’d have to pretty desperate to want to use it.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
(general reader’s response)
SIR: I have read a lot of letters written by this Edith Clampton, and sad to say most of them are just about her ridiculous and often pathetic “tragic misfortunes”. Judging from the way she writes letters, I can say that she is a sour person, has a very serious attitude problem, is very difficult to get along with and is someone whom I do not want to know.
I hope the Bangkok Post will not publish any more of her letters. As for me, the most I could wish for is to watch Edith Clampton (Mrs) being caned in Singapore. Just a thought…
Shoddy Footwear Maid Somewhere (Edith)
SIR: I fear I have to warn the general public about some shoddy workmanship that is being brought into Thailand from a third world country.
Last week I purchased a birthday present for my maid Khun Hazel. Her green thongs had seen their day and I bought some fashionable plastic ones with lovely pink roses on top. They lasted a week and the roses fell off. Hazel was devastated. The name on the side of the striped plastic strip was Femme Fatale but the country of origin was not clearly visible.
I held the questionable thongs to the light and read Maid in China but at another angle it looked like Maid in France. I think both countries need to investigate immediately and report back to the readers in Post Bag about this matter.
And who suffers? Not the manufacturer, not me, but dear Khun Hazel who has to wear old green thongs until next birthday – it just isn’t fair.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
Shoddy Footwear Maid Somewhere (reader’s response)
SIR: I was appalled to read the latter from Mrs Clampton in which she complained that a pair of rather dubious flower-bedecked plastic thongs she had purchased for her maid as a birthday gift fell apart within a week.
I wasn’t appalled by the faulty merchandise as you get what you pay. I was appalled by Mrs Clampton’s meanness. She states that the sufferer of the shoddy merchandise will be the maid, “who has to wear her old green thongs until next birthday – it just isn’t fair”.
Surely if Mrs Clampton can afford to have a maid, she can afford to replace a pair of green thongs. If she had purchased more durable footwear in the first place, the maid wouldn’t be forced to wear the deteriorating green thongs.
I think Mrs Clampton should release the tight grasp she has on her pursestrings and purchase durable footwear for her maid. If Mrs Clampton cannot afford to purchase such footwear, perhaps she should do her own housework.
(A Shocked Tourist)
On reading the title, most of you are probably wondering “Who the heck is she?” Well, she was one of Thailand’s most well-known farang names during the early to mid 1990’s; a name that was highly controversial, but in the stupidest way possible (She even has her very own Wikipedia entry).
So, who was Edith Clampton (Mrs)? She was simply a regular ‘letters to the editor’ (Post Bag) writer at the Bangkok Post. No-one quite knows her nationality, but we do know that she was married to Mr Clampton and had a personal driver called Khun Parker and a servant named Khun Hazel. We also know that she was extremely wealthy, fervently disliked the Philippines and held scruffy smelly backpackers in much contempt (but she did have a little sympathy for them, however). Edith is a legend for two reasons 1. There has been no-one else like it in the English language papers 2. She never existed.
From 1993 – 96, the editing bosses of the Bangkok Post allowed Edith to submit some of the most hilariously daft comments for publication in their Post Bag. She was highly ‘controversial’ because a large minority of the Post Bag readers actually took her letters seriously, including embassy officials and big coperation heads. At the end of the day, what made Edith’s letters so classic were probably the incredibly serious replies which often bombarded the sub-editors desk in batches. After Edith’s demise in 1996, after too many readers complained about what had to be the pen-name of a joker, it wasn’t until years later that the editorial bosses finally admitted that Edith Clampton (Mrs) really was a nom de plume and her letters were made up fiction, by an outsider they eventually got to know personally. The Post has never revealed the true identity of Edith and the writer remains a secret.
In 1996, a compilation of these nonsensical letters were published in a book called Edith Clampton’s Letters and Readers’ Responses to Post Bag, but unfortunately the book went out of print years and years ago. I had always known of the book but was never able to find a copy anywhere – that was until a couple of months or so back when I came across a copy in a tiny English language section of a second-hand bookstore in northern Bangkok. Since the book has been out of print for going on ten years, it seems more than ok to share with the readers here some of the ‘delights’ of Edith Clampton (Mrs).
I’d love to post some of the pathetic replies too, but this blog is long enough as it is.
The first letter here is a classic example of the ignorance of Edith, an upper-class snob who thinks she is riding a brand-new Bangkok micro-bus when instead she’s taking a normal green bus. In 1996, the fare for a micro-bus was 15 Baht, and for an old green bus, 3.50 baht. The last letter, arguably the stupidest of all (the only one not Thailand-related here) caused the Filipino community in Bangkok to throw a complete frenzy and start mayhem at Post Bag.
Not Up to Scratch
SIR: I put the new micro-bus service to the test and have decided it is not the answer to our traffic problems. To say the least I am disappointed. First I was lead to believe the micro-bus had daily papers on board but when I asked the young conductor for a Bangkok Post he looked at me as if I was an idiot. Eventually he became tired of my nagging and snatched me a Thai Rath (Steve’s notes: a Thai language newspaper) from a fellow passenger. The overall service needs to be improved and I would like to suggest the following:
1. Make the drivers slow down and not keep changing lanes.
2. Don’t let people stand in the bus.
3. Insist that the drivers stop at designated bus stops (luckily I had my personal driver, Khun Parker, following in The Car)
4. Make the buses air-conditioned.
5. Forbid the conductor from hanging out the backdoor and waving his money tin around like a mad-man.
6. Change the colour of the buses from green to something more attractive.
The trip was very uncomfortable and I strongly suggest the micro-bus people seriously look at this service if they want Bangkok’s upper echelons to use this service.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
Pizza Men on Bikes Prove Too Elusive
SIR: I’m afraid Pizza (Steve’s notes: Pizza Hut) and Dominos need a dressing down. From time to time their sales people ride motorcycles up and down my soi. And I have great difficulty trying to get them to stop. Other vendors like the lady who rides a bicycle and sells yogurt – she always stops. The ice-cream man, the fruit man and the rag and bone man, the pork-on-the-stick man and the somtam man – they never fail to stop. But the pizza men – I have to stand in the middle of the road and wave my arms about like an idiot before they even acknowledge me. And then they speed off when I try to open their box and buy a pizza. It’s high time somebody stepped in and taught these young hooligans a thing or two about salesman-ship – you don’t make money by swerving around your customers.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
Nowhere on the Phonecard does it say you can’t withdraw the card’s balance from ATM machines. Last week I held up many people while bank officials had to come and gouge my poor Phonecard out of the haemorrhaging Automatic Teller. I’m sure many other wealthy people have suffered this embarrassment and I hope TOT officials make it clear on the Phonecard that ATM’s cannot be used.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
No Help for Backpackers
SIR: I recently sheltered some German backpackers who through no fault of their own had run out of money and were stranded in Thailand for a few days. I helped them with some rice and let them sleep in the garage – and I’m not even German!
They told me they asked some German residents of Bangkok for shelter but were refused. They said the Bangkok Germans made them feel like second class citizens. Admittedly they were scruffy but I found them very friendly and each night I would venture into my garage and entertain them with some of my travel stories. Surely it is the responsibility of each nation to care for their own. Embassies should have a list of their citizens living in Bangkok and when travellers are stranded they could be given the list of names and addresses. This way travellers in trouble could go direct to their fellow countrymen for assistance.
We shouldn’t forget that Mary and Joseph were once stranded.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
Surprise the Maid with a Cuppa
SIR: Every year (in Thailand) we have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Children’s Day, but never a mention of Maid’s Day. And it’s about time attitudes changed. Many people accustomed to living in pigsty conditions in their own country now enjoy a clean and happy home here in Thailand. Thanks to the maid. But do they appreciate the niceties the maid performs?
In the Clampton household one day is set aside each year for my dear maid, Khun Hazel. It is her special day. On that day housework is forbidden. I also perm and cut her hair and let her use my make-up and perfume. She has full use of the car and driver Khun Parker, for an hour. She is also allowed to sit on my Italian Settee and watch whatever she wants on television. And at the end of her favourite day I treat her to dinner at S&P.
Relationship building with domestic servants is important and Maid’s Day will help strengthen the employer/employee bond. It can start with a little knock on the maid’s bedroom door 15 minutes before she normally wakes up and surprise her with a hot cup of tea.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
Who Has the Right to Elephant Dung?
SIR: Elephant droppings have become increasingly popular as garden fertiliser but collecting is risky business. Last week an elephant went to the toilet in our soi and a public spectacle erupted. It involved my maid, Khun Hazel, shovelling the ordure into a bucket, a drunken foreign woman screaming she had fed the animal previously and was claiming a return on her investment, and the mahout, seeing the manure as a possible gold mine, trying to sell it. The elephant remained calm.
I fear incidents like this will happen again and again unless some legal expert can inform the public who is the rightful owner of the dung once it hits the streets.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
SIR: My teeth have turned a grotty shade of green and I have enough sediment between them to grow potatoes and all because of the Philippines.
For the last two months I have been visiting that country and the power blackouts, from three to seven hours everyday, are beyond a joke. Each time I went to clean my teeth there would be no electricity and I was unable to use my electric toothbrush.
I would suggest wealthy people with electric toothbrush not visit the Philippines or if they do take a generator.
Edith Clampton (Mrs)
Part two has now been posted: More Edith Clampton and Readers’ Responses
Quite a while back Maverick House Publishers contacted us here at www.thai-blogs.com and asked whether we were interested in reviewing one of their books about ladyboys. Since that isn’t exactly Richard’s cup-of-tea, the task was with me. Just looking at the stats at thai-blogs the interest shown in this third gender is truly amazing. Three of the top-ten most viewed blogs here are about layboys with more than a hundred thousands individual hits between them, most of which have come via Google.
Ladyboys, The Secret World of Thailand’s Third Gender researched and written by Susan Aldous and Pornchai Sereemongkonpol features a collection of stories of ladyboys from all walks of life. That is comparison to another book review I done Male Bodies, Women’s Soles http://www.thai-blogs.com/index.php/2007/03/14/male_bodies_women_s_souls?blog=8
which only consisted of interviews with an assortment of university students. Not much of a variety altogether, and so, in comparison, this book wins hands down. What I’ve done below is give yous a brief summary of three of the ladyboys stories, with links to three more.
Mali, Go-Go Dancer
In the introduction, Susan & Pornchai write “You have our admiration, and with hearts full of love, we wish you all the best”. The first story however, may confuse some readers as Mali turns out (in my opinion anyway) to be a deceiving con artist.
Meaning jasmine, Mali, now 30 was brought up in poverty-stricken Isarn working as a buffalo herder. Fatherless and with a mother hundreds of miles away, Mali was raised by aunts and grandparents. Mali sensed her third gender ways very young and while at school hung around with ladyboy buddies and made cheerleader outfits from hay. Mali goes on to have her first sexual experience at the age of 15 and shortly after decides to quit the farm and catch a bus heading for the big city of Bangkok.
Mali got her first job working in the kitchen of a pub in Thonburi which put on ladyboy shows. Impressed, Mali would often sneak out and get a glimpse of their beauty. Mali soon hit it off with a waiter Mee who becomes the first person to satisfy her needs. Needing a bit more cash, Mali gets introduced to a Silom gay go-go bar and starts work there as a dancer. “When I began to become more female and grow my hair long, Mee lacked anymore interest. The clients too became less and less interested in this female-like gay” even though she still had a muscular build and manly face.
Besides putting on make-up, Mali begins hormone therapy and starts ‘taking them like candy’. Her chest grows quick. And it is then that she starts work as a go-go dancer in Patpong. It is there where Mali begins to explain in great detail how she and her fellow ladyboys con customers (who believe she is a real woman) by using surgical tape to seal their manhood underneath and wearing tight-fitting bikini bottoms. The customers have no idea that the dancers are actually endowed. She goes on to say that her pubic hair is also shaved in such a way to deceive customers and clients even more (seen through her bikini bottoms). Then, if she gets ‘off’ and taken to a hotel by a client, she goes out of the way to deceive them even more. Mali goes into explicit content which I won’t repeat here.
Mali goes on to say that she would never have sexual reassignment treatment and says that those ‘real’ ladyboys don’t hang around the ones who still have their manhood. Finally, she admits that she isn’t interested in foreign men as boyfriends, she prefers Thai men as a relationship is more than just about the sex.
(And that’s a guy? Calypso Cabaret, Bangkok)
Mimi, Fashion Columnist
After Mali, Mimi was a breath of fresh air. Born a Thai-Chinese, Mimi found out she was a gonna-be ladyboy by the age of 12 when classmates around her gave her the title ‘katoey’. She relates that her parents didn’t give a darned and gave her their initial understanding, a rare thing in Chinese culture due to the amount of family face involved. They did of course think it was just a passing stage. Mimi explains that even though ladyboys aren’t allowed to wear blouse and skirt to school, they bend the rules by wearing girly stuff such as pink watches and sticking Hello Kitty stuff on their bags. This was all part of being in the Fairy Gang. Mimi says that due to the ladyboy gang, none of them were ever bullied at school; a thing that would probably never happen in the West.
When Mimi didn’t stop fooling around at playing ladyboy it was then that her parents began getting serious about her behaviour, possibly bringing shame to her clan. Nevertheless, Mimi did bring face to the family when she excelled at school and secured a place in the Faculty of Arts at one of the Kingdom’s top universities. Being in the arts department Mimi had a whole bunch of ladyboy and gay classmates.
Interesting bit about one of her ladyboy buddies Noon who came from a Muslim family. She had gone through full genital reassignment surgery but her father still didn’t have a clue. Getting the support from her mother though (who even paid for the operation!) she fooled her father into thinking his daughter was a hippy with long hair who preferred baggy shirts to tight spaghetti tops.
After graduation, Mimi gets a job as a translator at a woman’s mag and her working life begins there. She does however, explain that being a cross-dressing ladyboy the workplace is still full of prejudice against transgenders and they often find it hard getting employment. As for a relationship, Mimi says “Against all odds, I still hope to meet a man who shall overlook my birth gender and care more about mutual understanding. I want him to take me as an individual”. She also goes on about the different types of ladyboy such as gay king and gay queen etc… She is currently saving for full sexual reassignment surgery.
Pui, Caberet Girl
Straight away, Pui claims “I don’t think of myself as a katoey, or even gay. They are just words other people use to identify me” and how about this for stirring a bit of controversy “In my opinion, gay and katoey are the same in the sense they are both attracted to men. What differentiates us is how we dress and present ourselves in public, which to me is superficial and therefore of little importance. I find labeling ridiculous, but if I had to choose between gay and katoey, I would choose katoey”.
Even though, Pui would label herself a ladyboy she has done nothing to make her body more feminine, never taken any hormones and never undergone any surgery.
Pui’s story is one of huge success. Born into a poor Islamic family in the south of Thailand, she has never cross-dressed in her village due to social stigma. Arriving in Bangkok at the age of 21, Pui enrolled at Ramkhamhaeng open University and got a job as a female impersonator at a club on Silom Soi 4. At the time, it was The place for gays, fashion designers, models and well-known celebrities. Her club was also the first joint in Thailand to offer entertainment of ladyboys impersonating the likes of Diana Ross and Shirley Bassey. Pui was best known however, for her role as Tina Turner and went on to win as overall winner on a TV show.
On arriving home in the south, Pui was terrified at the thought of confronting her dad whom she believed would be mad at her making a fool of the family on national TV. He was in fact pretty chuffed and was more interested in knowing how much prize money she had won. And it was in the hundreds of thousands. This she used to set up her very own cabaret team, and became even more famous.
To cut a long story, Pui finally joins Calypso Cabaret (presently located at the Asia Hotel in Bangkok) and goes into fine details about just how difficult and rigid it is to become a ladyboy cabaret dancer in Thailand. Very interesting indeed. 20 years later at the age of 49, Pui is still working at Calypso and is considered Calypso’s biggest sister. Besides performing, Pui is also judge of the auditions and trains successful candidates and explains that it often takes a year of training before an impersonator can finally get on the stage. Altogether, a very nice story.
(Super-friendly Nicky: The world’s first ladyboy air-hostess)
No need to write her story, as I already have for thai-blogs. In fact, yours in name here was the first person to write her story in the English language. It’s here http://www.thai-blogs.com/index.php/2007/08/21/thailand_s_1st_real_ladyboy_2?blog=8″>
What a huge disappointment though, Sarah’s story she gives in the book varies so much to the original she claimed in Thai language (as in my blog) and constantly contradicts herself throughout and makes many mistakes with yearly events etc… I even contacted Pornchai the author about her story (I also asked him whether he had pinched the idea of interviewing her from my original blog!) and he too had noticed the inconsistency but felt overall, Sarah had given her all.
Nicky, Air-hostess (world’s very first and perhaps only one)
Off the subject of the book for a moment. With head held a little high I can proudly boast that I was the very first person to write-up Nicky’s story in the English language. And a great one it is; one that has gone international. Ranked as the 5th most read blog on the whole of thai-blogs here’s the very first story about her successful career move http://www.thai-blogs.com/index.php/2007/07/19/world_s_1st_ladyboy_air_hostess?blog=8″>
After interviewing Nicky once for an article that I was gonna submit for the Daily Xpress free newspaper, I was horrified a couple of days later to find an entire two page article about her in the Bangkok Post. That is an example of how popular her story had got. Yes, I gave up on the idea of submitting her story
Nong Toom, Beautiful Boxer
Nicky may be well-known but in terms of fame she is way behind Nong Toom, such a famous former Thai boxer that she even had a movie made about her life. Her story has been told a hundred times before so I’m not gonna tell it all over again here! Just Google for ‘Nong Toom Beautiful Boxer’.
Overall, Pornchai’s and Susan’s book is very decent. The only real disappointments I found were some of the ladyboys who sold their body; a lot of self-centered sensationalism, portraying themselves as the victim while bragging about how much money they made, and they often claimed a darned lot – more than what I earn (you don’t find out though, what they blow all their money on). Bad things they had done to customers and clients were excused by bad experiences they had once went through. Just too much self-pity.
Being bored of lady-of-the-night stories, I took much more pleasure in reading about ladyboys of proper decent professions. Altogether though, a book well-worth buying. Finally, apologies to Maverick for the delay in reviewing the book. My excuse there was that I knew it was gonna be a huge write-up!
Just last week, I was invited by a good friend of mine here in Suphan, on behalf of a few organizations including the Japanese Fund for Global Environment, to attend the release of a new booklet ‘Our Tha Cheen River’ at arguably Thailand’s finest educational institution – Mahidol University, Salaya, Nakhorn Pathom. Knowing I got this blog of mine up and running mind you, I was expected to write about it! So, here it is.
Last Thursday afternoon, after finishing off my last article for The Nation, I jumped in a Suphanburi-Bangkok passenger van and went to catch up with Mr Nicky (Ajarn Nimit Somboonwit, the booklet’s editor). Now, I knew where to get out all right, not far past Bang Yai on the edge of Bangkok, but I had no idea how far away the university actually was. I checked the details and I realized that geez…. I was gonna have to take a taxi to Nakhorn Pathom province – how much it was going to cost was frightening. No worries, Mahidol University, located in Salaya, is just outside Bangkok and I was there in a jiffy costing less than a hundred baht for the 10km journey.
My accommodation paid for courtesy of the Japanese was basic enough, it wasn’t even a proper hotel, it was a flat style hotel room with a university regulated 1am curfew. For dinner, we were invited out to one of the groovy restaurants in the Phutthamonthon Sai 4 area, an area renowned for its excellent Thai-style eateries, by Asst Prof. Ophat of Mahidol Uni. In fact, he is also the Head of Greenpeace, South-east Asia. I mean, this teacher certainly knew his stuff all right and we were soon joined by another lecturer, Asst Prof Solot, who specializes in anthropology and linguistics. As you could well imagine, the conversation that night definitely was not boring and was I surprised to meet Thais who spoke English as well as myself. By the way, the food was scrumptious, and also the beer for that matter.
Up nice and early for the book seminar’s opening ceremony, we were joined by 400 kids from various schools from the 4 provinces located on the Tha Cheen River, they are; Chainat, Suphanburi, Nakhorn Pathom and Samut Sakhorn. Also there, to get things started was the Permanent Secretary to Environment. We had a really fun half day, with Mr Nicky up there doing his teacher bit, showing the kids how to use the booklet and spread word of the needed improvement of the standard of the Tha Cheen River – infamous for being the dirtiest, most polluted river in Thailand. After this, he had a bunch of students up there on stage giving their thoughts on the booklet, and what they could do personally to make sure the river quality was gonna be improved during the allocated 4 year time-span, before 2012. Nervous at the thought of being pulled on the stage also to give a speech, the idea came to light and there I was talking about a subject I really didn’t know much about. Nevermind though, all the kids were more puzzled at this Farang speaking Thai, than paying attention to what I had to say.
Unfortunately, the education system in Thailand doesn’t teach much about the preservation of the environment and when it does, it only uses the same old unflattering black and white photocopies which simply bore the reader. The objective of this free booklet therefore, is to get the message across in a clear, bright and easy-going way, laid out for the kids to take notice – the language in it is basic, simple for the kids to understand. The booklet is aimed at those in Grade 4 – 8. Nicky said that even the rural farmers could learn a thing or two from it!
Nicky assured me that even though a lot of Thais are born on riverbanks, they have no idea on how to look after the actual river, a thing which main purpose is to serve as a place to chuck out the contents of your rubbish bin. This is mentioned in the book, a good reminder for kids and what they ought not to do with their endless supply of 7-11 plastic bags. The worst offenders of all are the countless amount of factories, which after being given the boot out of Bangkok a few decades ago, resettled upcountry along the Tha Cheen River. For them, the river is an ideal spot to toss their annual load of hundreds of tones of waste, both toxic and chemical. Next up are the farmers and their fervent use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The banks of the Tha Cheen are also home to innumerable pig farms – yes, all that pig waste also gets thrown in the river, the farmers completely indifferent to the villagers down stream who use the river to bathe and brush their teeth. Images which spring to mind are pretty repulsive to say the least. All this is explained clearly in the booklet.
((Ajarn Nimit, the editor (guy with the grey hair!) presenting a copy of the booklet to the Permanent Secretary of the Environment))
The Tha Cheen River was once famous for its huge variety of fish, some very rare. Unfortunately though, the fish population has severely dwindled and some species are now extinct. Here is a good example of how the fish have been affected. One of Suphanburi’s districts is named after one of the fish which once lived in abundance, ‘Pla Ma’ (horse fish / Sodier Croaker). Until this day, Suphanburi’s restaurants are full of Bangkokians who have specifically come to Suphanburi to taste this delicious fish. But however, there are no more ‘horse fish’ left in Bang Pla Ma, what is served on dishes is horse fish imported from Burma! Again, the booklet states all the different fish which once swum around happily in droves and what we have to do to save the remaining ones.
Besides all of this, the booklet affords an insight into all the work of the numerous organizations and their efforts to clampdown on this severe abuse of mother nature. And on a bright side, there is far more being down now than in the days of yesteryear. The booklet also gives an interesting summary of the history of the Tha Cheen River and all the places of interest in the areas 4 provinces. I’m sure a lotta kids are really gonna enjoy this book
Altogether, I had a fun and extremely interesting time – I certainly learned a lot. Not forgetting lunch at the university, wow…that’s top notch. And finally, I hope that this blog helps bring a little bit more public awareness to the plight of the Tha Cheen.
Anyway, on behalf of the organizations involved, I have 3 copies to give away for free. Just answer the easy question below and send it by email to steveblogs(at)gmail (Readers in Thailand only) First 3 correct answers i get, will get a copy.
1.What is the name of the longest river in Thailand?
**Just for the sake of Google’s search engine, the Tha Cheen river is also spelt ‘Ta Chin River’, ‘Tha Chin River’, ‘Tha Jeen River’ and ‘Ta Jeen River**