Bangkok for a Month, Part II

Home at the Oriental Hotel

Between Bangkok Part I and Bangkok Part III

March 8-13, 2000

Wednesday, March 8, 2000

I hope that you will never find this to be useful. It's found in Chapter 4 of Piven and Borgenicht: THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO SURVIVAL HANDBOOK.

How To Perform A Tracheotomy

This procedure, technically called a cricothyroidotomy, should be undertaken only when a person with a throat obstruction is not able to breathe at all - no gasping sounds, no coughing - and only after you have attempted to perform the Heimlich maneuver three times without dislodging the obstruction. If possible, someone should call for paramedics while you proceed.

What You Will Need
  1. A first aid kit, if available.
  2. A razor blade or a very sharp knife.
  3. A straw (two would be better) or a ballpoint pen with the inside (ink-filled tube) removed. If neither a straw nor a pen is available, use stiff paper or cardboard rolled into a tube. Good first aid kits may contain "trache" tubes.
  4. You will NOT need to sterilize your tools, as there will not be time for it. In short, don't bother; infection is the least of your worries at this point.
How To Proceed
(Click for illustrated steps)
  1. Find the person's Adam's apple (thyroid cartilage).
  2. Move your finger about one inch down the neck until you find another bulge. This is the cricoid cartilage. The indentation between the two is the cricothyroid membrane, where the incision will be made.
  3. Click for Illustrated StepsTake the razor blade or knife and make a half-inch horizontal incision. The cut should be about half an inch deep. There should not be too much blood.
  4. Pinch the incision open or place your finger inside the slit to open it.
  5. Insert your tube in the incision, roughly one-half to one inch deep.
  6. Breathe into the tube with two quick breaths. Pause five seconds, then give one breath every five seconds.
  7. You will see the chest rise and the person should regain consciousness if you have performed the procedure correctly. The person should be able to breathe on their own, albeit with some difficulty, until help arrives.
Note On Self-Help

If you are the person in need of this emergency procedure, and there is no one around to assist you, this task is damn near impossible to get right. For starters, the absence of air in your lungs will make your fingers fumble. For example, trying to evacuate the innards of a ballpoint pen while, at the same time, sorting out the razor thing will be nothing short of a mess. And trying to do a proper cut without having a mirror handy may just wind up with you spilling a lot of blood over everything. Hell, in your panic you might even slash through your jugular and really speed things up. Perhaps that's not a bad thing, considering the absence of other options. But, rather than getting started it might be easier to just send up a last prayer.

Dear reader, before I wander on to other things, please let me dribble into your court something that appeared far below the fold on the inside pages of today's IHT. I am not going to reprint it in its entirety as the author, obviously tiring of her task after several paragraphs, drifted into the gray world of statistics. But, the cut of the words helps to show why Patpong III has so many elderly Japanese customers. I have also taken the liberty of changing the title of the piece.

FROM:

"As Japan Ages, It Plucks Workers From Family Tree Abroad"

TO:

"Nanjing Residents Need Not Apply"

"TOKYO - Toru Saito drew up a list of Asian countries and checked their status in four categories: war experience with Japan, staple food, religion and number of Japanese settlers"

"Thailand fit perfectly: It was not occupied by Japan during World War II since they were allies. Thais are rice eaters and Buddhists. More than 7,000 first-generation Japanese live in Thailand."

"So Mr. Saito concluded that Thailand could be a part of the solution to Japan's looming shortage of home health-care helpers for its aging population."

" 'Countries with a war relationship with Japan are not ideal because they look at our elderly people and remember their grandparents who were harmed by these people,' said Mr. Saito, who heads an organization that helps foreigners in Japan. 'Thailand is the only country that fits.' "

It's time for lunch and other important things.

For the past couple of days I have been doing quite a bit of river travel; albeit, just from one bank to the other bank and back. It's but a two-minute hop and the hotel-operated shuttle boat runs pretty much non-stop from 6AM until midnight. My John LeCarre quarters and the Business Center are on the east side of the Chao Phraya River while the Fitness Center, the Oriental Spa and the Baan Rim Naam restaurant are on the west side. These places pretty much make up my little world while I am on the property.

A few months ago I posted in one of my journal entries the recipe for Baan Rim Naam's coconut ice cream. If you haven't yet mixed up a batch you should put a full stop to whatever you are doing right now. Have you stopped? OK ... now go ferret out the recipe and charge out for the ingredients. OK, now that desert is out of the way (made and in the freezer) I want you to think about this salad:

YAAM SOM-O
Pomelo Salad with Pork

Serves 4 - 6 Persons

Yaam Som-O

INGREDIENTS

METHOD
  1. Peel the pomelo and shred the flesh.
  2. Clean the shrimps.
  3. Mince half the shrimps and chop the pork.
  4. Place the limejuice, fish sauce, chili jam and sugar in a bowl and stir to mix.
  5. Then, add the minced shrimp, pork, grated coconut and coconut cream and continue stirring until blended.
  6. Add the fruit and toss to coat thoroughly.
  7. Transfer to a serving plate, or serve in the hollowed out shell, arrange the remaining shrimps around the side and garnish with sweet basil leaves, red chili and coriander leaves.

Yaam Som-OThe hotel for its recipe card took one of the photos that you see. I took the other one just a few hours ago. Though they won't help you with the taste part, they are helpful for presentation. And, that is part of the picture, too. Isn't it?

The Oriental Spa photographs don't require any words. It doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who has been here that this spa is consistently ranked in the top three, worldwide. Just ask Becky, Susan, Linda, Annie, Stephani, Tilman, Patty, Christie and others.

Hmmm ... time for dinner.


Thursday, March 9, 2000

The extension cord seemed to be out of place. And, it would have been if it had not been working in Bangkok. Power on the MoveI first noticed it as it slashed its way across the pavement. It had come from a tree that was next to an electric sign that was the home for a ganglion of wires. It slipped off the curb and headed west. A city block later, totally ignoring traffic, it darted across a busy intersection. Following the gutter, it remained hidden from the streetlights until it crossed another intersection. Again it contented itself with running anonymous down the gutter. Suddenly it jumped the curb and darted for a hawker's stall on the far side of the walkway.

Whether this energy was "borrowed" by the end user or was being sold by someone is really irrelevant here. The point is that life in Bangkok is casual.

Let me give you another example. After parting company with the wire, I walked over to where my friend Porn seems to be in charge of the bar. It's a split-level-indoor-outdoor place named Super Queen. On the surface Super Queen has an unenviable customer/employee ratio. When I climbed on the stool the ratio jumped from a dismal 2/30 to a bleak 3/30; a major improvement if the numbers hadn't been so one sided to begin with. But, since wages and social benefits are not a concern of the owner, I suspect that he doesn't care how many people "work" there.

I don't suppose he cared about the explosions either. None of the employees did. Half an hour into my drink a chair on the far side of the bar erupted with a hundred bangs and a shower of sparks. The air conditioner quickly homogenized the smoke, giving the whole place a not unpleasant charcoal/sulfur smell. Looking up from the cash box, Porn said, "Chinese good luck." Apparently, one-third of her customers had let off enough black powder to take out a chair. And this was of no interest to the house!

NEWNES has little to offer today:

The archivists over at Neuilly-sur-Seine did better:

IN OUR PAGES: 75 AND 50 YEARS AGO
[from The International Herald Tribune]
1925: Cancer Carriers

LONDON - Cancer is a parasitic disease which is preventable by stamping out the carriers of the parasites, according to Dr. Louis Sambon, lecturer of the London School of Tropical Medicine. Cockroaches are among the verminous insects named as carriers of embryonic parasites. In different parts of the world cancer affects different parts of the body. These striking differences in the topographical distribution and site of cancer, Dr. Sambon believes, cannot be explained by the prevailing theories which attribute the disease to white bread or various other fantastical notions, but point unmistakably to parasitism.

1950 - Atomic Energy

LONDON - A leading British atomic scientist offered solace to the harried housewife with a prediction that atomic power might allow her to keep the home fires burning on a forty-hour week. "There is no excuse for the use of solid fuel in the home," he said. "Anyone who has considered the dirt and grime created by its use, the domestic drudgery it causes and the fog which it brings in winter must agree that from the viewpoint of the housewife, the all-electric house is essential if she is to share the forty-hour week of her husband."

Don't Jump!Rarely do I read safety instructions. Only lately have I bothered with the little plastic cards found in the seatbacks on airplanes ... and even then it was to point out the futility of preparing for a crash at sea. So, it was with mixed worry that I looked at "What If - What To Do In The Event Of A FIRE." This thoughtful guide to hotel fires set me to wondering. Are the advancing years making me more cautious or are they just allowing my reading habits to be more aimless? I like to think it was the illustrations that caught my eye ... like the ones that capture airline passengers smilingly tugging at dangling oxygen masks. The two that I'd like to share with you today involve packing for a fire (Don't!) and jumping from a building (Don't).



Friday, March 10, 2000

Toursit Police

Moving on to what other survival tips are sleeping in my hotel desk-drawer ... yesterday, what should I do if a fire attacks the John LeCarre Suite ... today, am I at risk of being drugged if I dress up as a Korean and ask a transvestite for something to drink?

Yes, that and other questions are answered by a leaflet that I found sharing space with the fire tips. Tourist Police, Section 5, Sub-division 2 is the arm of the law charged with telling us what scams await us in the streets of Bangkok. It lists six "situations" for which I should be on guard. Personally, I could come up with dozens more ... but, I guess the Tourist Police didn't want to get too detailed on how kidnappers might "prove" to your loved ones that they really did have you under lock and key ... and, if the loved ones didn't come up with the money right quick, someone could expect to get more body parts in the mail.


Situation 1:

Visitors are approached on the street by respectable looking men who speak good English; they will be very friendly and often offer their assistance or services free. At some point during the conversation, they will advise you to go to a gem shop. After buying some jewelry, the visitors find out they have been cheated.

Precautions:
  1. Beware of any encounter with strangers that ends up requiring a visit to a gem shop.
  2. There are no government promotions or special sales at any time of the year.
  3. Buying gems or jewelry to resell them at double or triple the purchase prices is an impossible proposition under any circumstances.


Situation 4 (#2 and #3 were boring):

While walking along the street, male visitors (especially Japanese and Koreans) are often stopped by women or transvestites in a taxi or private car. They pretend to ask for directions and ask the visitors to get in the car. Sometimes items are stolen out of the visitors' bags. Visitors may be taken to a hotel and drugged. They only know what has happened after the thief has made good his escape.

Precautions:
  1. Don't get into a stranger's car if you are asked to do so.
  2. Note down the car's registration number, its color and the description of the person in the car.
  3. Don't accept drinks offered by strangers.

Lest you think The Oriental is only concerned with what awful things might befall us during our stay, the owners have showcased the rich history of this place with a bedside book. The architectural continuity of The Oriental is nicely illustrated in these motif photographs ... only two of which I took (the "live" ones at the bottom).


Saturday, March 11, 2000

From THE ECONOMIST Feb. 26, 2000

"By and large, scientists are an optimistic bunch. They are quite happy to leave fretting about doom and gloom to the philosophers. Some of them can even remain cheerful when considering something that most people would regard as deeply depressing: the eventual destruction of the earth."

Time is Running Out

"The earth's fate is tied to that of the sun, which the laws of stellar evolution suggest will swell into a 'red giant', swallowing the earth up in about five billion years' time. The details, however, are obscure. George Bowen and Lee Ann Willson of Iowa State University decided to work them out."

"Their calculations suggest that the earth will survive the sun's initial sudden swelling, but that the drag from the expanded solar atmosphere will then cause its orbit to shrink until it is consumed. The landscape, shortly before the end will be apocalyptic indeed. The surface temperature will reach 2000 degrees centigrade, the oceans and the atmosphere having long since boiled away."

"This will produce a new atmosphere, which will consist not of oxygen and nitrogen but of vaporized rock. The sky will be a deep, vivid red because the sun will, in essence, have turned into a huge red cloud. The moon will have gone (atmospheric drag will cause it to crash into the earth). Mars and Jupiter, tearing through the outer reaches of the solar cloud at supersonic speeds, will appear as bright streaks in the sky."

"The earth's death spiral will last about 2m years, as its orbit shrinks and the sun continues to expand. Then, in a flash, it will all be over. The planet will plummet into the heart of the sun and disappear."

The girl is Thai. She was born in a small town near the border with Laos. She will begin her "shift" at Super Queen a couple of hours before the sun sets here in Bangkok. She needs a couple of Heinekens to overcome her shyness; before she starts her night of dancing with the pole. She likes Marlboros best. She is very young.

My friend, Porn, works at the same place as the Heineken/Marlboro girl. Porn is approaching retirement age ... which comes pretty soon in this industry ... but, she hasn't given much thought to what will happen next. Her friend, the one with the "lips" tattoo on her arm, is still in high school. She hopes to move into computer programming after she has earned enough money to pay the tuition at a private school. None of these girls feel that Super Queen is the end of the world for them ... in one way or the other.


Sunday, March 12, 2000

I don't know how this passed me by. Browsing through "today" I picked up something from yesterday. Apparently NEWNES' search through the Patent Office has been deeper than what I expected. Surely this is not an idea that would be right up there with rubber vulcanisation and rock drilling. Unless, of course, NEWNES is having a bit of fun with us.

Skipping over a couple of dying popes, a couple of passed-away composers and one deceased Chinese leader:

Christy, this one from NEWNES is just for you:

And, for just about everybody:

From this morning's BANGKOK Post:

'DECADENCE' TO BE OUTLAWED
Beijing, Reuters

"China will update its marriage law this year to counter domestic violence and 'decadent' practices like adultery and bigamy, a senior lawmaker said yesterday."

"China's 20-year-old marriage law must be adapted to reflect social and economic results of two decades of market-oriented reforms, said Hu Kangsheng, vice-chairman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress."

"We should not fail to see that there are some people who, when they become rich and powerful, become subjected to the obsolete and decadent ways of thinking of the feudalist society in the past," Mr. Hu told a news conference."

"They have also become subjected to the invasion of the decadent way of thinking and living of the western world, for example there are some problems such as a second wife or a third wife or a concubine."

"Chinese authorities, alarmed by an escalating divorce rate, have suggested making extra-marital affairs illegal, ordering adulterous partners to pay compensation to their spouses, and requiring a three-year separation before divorce."

"The proposals have met with fierce public opposition. The current law allows a simple, swift divorce once 'mutual affection has ended.' "

"Mr. Hu said the amended law would also address domestic violence after a spate of highly-publicized murders of women by their husbands last year."

Every time that I leave or come back to The Oriental, I pass The China House. It is a restaurant that is owned by the hotel. The literature about in-house dining describes it as:

"Once a grand dame to the diplomatic set, the old world charm has been lovingly restored to its original elegance. Today, The China House is home to the finest Cantonese cuisine in town. Four Master Chefs from Hong Kong prepare their wizardry, daily."

I like what the "solarizing" feature on my camera did to the outside of the place. The ambiguous photograph is of an ice carving of a fish.


Hours Later

This afternoon I took my friend, Porn, to Wat Arun Ratchawararam (Arun Royal Temple). Though she has spent most of her adult life in Bangkok, Grand Temple she has only seen this famous Buddhist temple through the work product of someone else's camera. Oh sure, she might have seen the spire from afar, but that was it. But, isn't that the case with most people and their own hometowns ... even famous ones?

Anyway, during my last two visits to Bangkok I played the part of a bumbling tour guide to both Stephani and Linda. With each of them I "book-ended" a visit into the steamy Patpong with a spiritual break at Wat Arun. With Porn, this wasn't exactly a counterbalancing trip.

To pull verbatim from the back of the ticket receipt:

"It was Grand Temple to King Rama II, Phrabaht Somdej Phraputha Lertlarnaphalai, which was a grand elegant stupa and located on the banks of Chao Phraya River with its height 1 Sen, 13 Wah, 1 Keub, 1 Sork and 1 Nuit, has been decorated by many thousands of pieces of Chinaware which is an unique temple."

Here are a few photographs that I took ... again using the "picture effect" option on my Sony Mavica. I'll probably tire of this gadget after a while; but for now it is great fun for me.


Monday, March 13, 2000

Two men about whom we would like to know more, share for different reasons, March 13th:

The way NEWNES puts it, there appears to be a subtle difference here:

Though Buddha was born in India, his teachings are found in almost every Asian hotel room.

From THE TEACHING OF BUDDHA

Chapter One: SHAKYAMUNI BUDDHA

I. The Life of the Buddha

"The Shakya clansmen dwelt along the Rohini River which flows among the southern foothills of the Himalayas. Their king, Shuddhodana Gautama, established his capital at Kapilavastu and there had a great castle built and ruled wisely, winning the acclaim of his people."

"The Queen's name was Maya. She was the daughter of the King's uncle who was also the king of a neighboring district of the same Shakya clan."

"For twenty years they had no children. But one night Queen Maya had a strange dream, in which she saw a white elephant entering into her womb through the right side of her chest, and she became pregnant. The King and the people looked forward with anticipation to the birth of the royal child. According to custom the Queen returned to her parents' home for the birth, and on her way, in the beautiful spring sunshine, she took a rest in the Lumbibi Garden."

"All about her were Ashoka blossoms. In delight she reached her right arm out to pluck a branch and as she did so a prince was born. All expressed their heart-felt delight with the glory of the Queen and her princely child; Heaven and Earth rejoiced. The memorable day was the eighth day of April."

"The joy of the King was extreme and he named the child, Siddhartha, which means 'Every wish fulfilled'."

"In the palace of the King, however, delight was followed quickly by sorrow, for after several days the lovely Queen Maya suddenly died. Her younger sister, Mahaprajapati, became the child's foster mother and brought him up with loving care."

"A hermit, called Asita, who lived in the mountains not far away, noticed a radiance about the castle. Interpreting it as a good omen he came down to the palace and was shown the child. He predicted: 'This Prince, if he remains in the palace, when grown up will become a great king and subjugate the whole world. But if he forsakes the court life to embrace a religions life, he will become Buddha, the Savior of the world'."

Next: Bangkok Part III!

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