Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Christmas story

When I came to from the day after "almost the Mother of all hangovers", something was wrong.. In fact there was three things: 1) it was far to early, 2) I had yet to open my presents and 3) I felt a damm sight worse than the day before.. Christ I felt afloat? I was sure that I had left those beers in the fridge well alone last night, and why were my bedrooms blind’s banging back and forth into the window? I fell out of bed, staggered like a drunk to the bathroom thinking it must be a serious illness, grabbing onto the basin to maybe throw-up I could then feel that it was not just my brain vibrating like a strange drum but the whole apartment block.. Running back to the window and the increasingly dancing blinds, I could see the water in the pool far below sloshing up and down in one big wave, it was like a giant had lifted one end of a paddling pool and let it drop. My mind turned over, Earthquake. shit, now what do I do?? As I raced to put on my shorts and a tshirt to bolt down the stairs I suddenly had a visualisation of dieing running down the 13 floors as the building collapsed. I took the easier option that any child would and cowered under my pillow in bed waiting for the ceiling to come down, eventually the movements stopped and inexplicably I drifted into sleep.

Over the next few hours before the waves struck the various coasts, I dreamt of being trapped in a beach-front hotel as first one floor and then the next and then the next got submerged under a steady but unstoppable tide. I can still remember how I escaped to the safety of a hill and could only watch as other guests screamed and jumped from their rooms as if from the Twin Towers.. Later that afternoon I would realize just how scary this premonition was.

A few dazed days later on New Year's Eve I was sitting listening to Jazz in my local bar, I asked the quiet but friendly looking guy next to me how he was doing. "I'm am Ok" he said with what I thought was a smile but there was also something undescernable in his eyes. "Where are you from?" I asked, he paused "North Sumatra". Then he looked at me to see if I understood. Clearly I could never understand. Later he told me that he had just that day found out his family survived, but the town he lived in simply did not exist anymore and nearly eveyone else who lived there was missing.

The reason I posted this is that today I saw this photo of a town in N.Sumatra. This site has more stunningly tragic photos.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A tuktuk virgin no more

The following is an extract from my friend's account of his first (and I hope not last) visit to Bangkok, for anyone who has ever been on a tuktuk in Krung Thep I am sure this rings a few bells..

"I, in my excuse, had no frame of reference for the correct price to pay a toothless lunatic to drive us through the town on another mangled mix of transportation means (this time a milk float crossed with a moped dashed by a carnival float for colour and the smell of what might happen if you showered a very smelly man in Green curry). In the end, after bravely bargaining him down an impressive 20p, we were off. And again Bangkok gave us that feeling of high happy as we both for the first time flew through this crazed city, gripping on to anything we could hold onto as the milkped darted and danced around the fat columns of stuck cars and trucks.." - A.Talbot 07/05

I may publish some more of Andy's account if and when my lawyer succeeds in having him remove the slanderous claims he makes against me.. However, I must say that it was a pleasure to catch up after 3 years and also all my thanks and deep respects to my other friends who have been over in the last few months. I realise that for everyone coming over from Europe it is at no little expense and I appreciate your visits greatly, for everyone else yet to make it then I intend over the next few weeks to upload a few retrospective posts of my times here in Asia. I hope that in some small way they tempt you to book that flight and see where these midnight tuktuks can take you..

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Asalaha Bucha and The Beast Of Lumphini

Today is a full moon and being the eighth lunar month it marks the day that the Lord Buddha gave his first sermon called "Dhamma-cakkappavattana Sutta" or the Discourse on Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion. The day is called Asalaha Bucha and in the Buddhist calendar it is a very sacred day that precedes the Buddhist lent and honors the community of the monks. In Thailand, Asalaha Bucha is a public holiday and people will go to the temples to make merit and abstain from drinking alcohol (well most people at least!). As for me, I have to work today although I do get tomorrow off and I will be leaving Bangkok for a long weekend in Kanchanaburi..

Two Sundays ago, my friend James and I went down to my local park Suan Lumphini to lie down and basically try and recover from a fairly heavy Saturday night. Lumphini park was built during the reign of King Rama IV who apart from making a lovely park also managed to have 80 odd children and 40 something wife's!. Lumphini is without a doubt one of my favorite places to relax and it is home to an amazing selection of wildlife, I enjoy checking out the water lizards and this particular day we spotted a really large beast that I captured on my phone camera (excuse the lack of zoom). I think the lizards are Malayan water monitors (Varanus salvator) and a friend of mine recently saw one struggling for half an hour to eat a terrapin, eventually the lizard just swallowed him down shell and all!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

City of Angels (and traffic jams)....

My 10 minute journey to work was delayed by an hour today as a large protest blocked the road outside the Securities Exchange Commission near my office. Generally speaking if you close a road for 3 minutes in central Bangkok at rush time then you get horrific grid lock so it is a really efficient form of protest. It turns out that the demo was against a brewing company who makes ‘Chang’ beer and is attempting to float on the Thai stock market. This flotation has meet with fierce resistance in the press and much reported 'public uproar' over the terrible example to the Thai public that it sets (?) Hmm.. Personally I think a demonstration against the US at their embassy just opposite would be a much more moral cause..

The picture attached shows you a typical ominous afternoon during the rainy season here in Bangkok. The daily pattern is generally like this: The day starts off pretty cool (less than 28) and with not much breeze.. After 10:00am the heat is heading above 32 but still is not too humid but by lunchtime however it will be over 35 and getting sticky. Now sometime after 13:00 the wind will suddenly pick up and the clouds usually come in from the W-SW... What happens next is predictable enough but can be amazingly dramatic, last week for example 100mm of rain was dumped down in 2 hours. These downpours often turn roads to rivers and create instant queues of cars, motorbikes, tuktuks, taxis, buses, songthaews and lorries that can extend for kilometres.. Krung Thep the City of Angels? Sure, now where do I buy a set of wings!

Friday, July 15, 2005

London bombings

Sorry to start on a downer but for my first ever post I thought I would mention the London blasts. I could not help thinking before the events that it was just a matter of when, not if the UK would be attacked. In the light of the bombings I found Steve Bell's cartoon on observing the silence in Baghdad particularly poignant as the bombings in London came at a time when on average 800 people die every month in Iraq from terror attacks.