Bangkok Forever? ... Part VIII

Back at the Oriental Hotel

Between Part VII and Part IX

June 7-13, 2000

Wednesday, June 7, 2000

War news is everywhere!

NEWNES drags his peculiar net selectively:

IN OUR PAGES: 50 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1950: Honoring D-Day

OMAHA BEACH - Members of the United States 1st Infantry Division stormed the bluff over Omaha Beach again today [June 6] on the sixth anniversary of D-Day. Sixteen officers and men, still wearing the "Big Red One" insignia, came back to the spot where they made the assault. But today they were there to lay a wreath at the monument honoring those of their division who died in the Normandy area. About 500 names of the fallen are listed on the marble shaft. The group offered silent prayer in memory of the dead and then trooped back through the weeds and clover. They made a visit to the American military cemetery, where 9,321 soldiers, sailors and airmen are buried. Battered hulks of a few landing craft and freighters still rest and rust on the beach. French and American flags hung side by side at every house and at the entrance to Omaha Beach, a sign stretched across the road proclaimed: "110,000 soldiers debarked on this beach June 6, 1944."

IN THEIR PAGES: 50 YEARS AGO
[from The Onion]
NORMANDY INVASION FORCE CRIPPLED BY NOSTALGIA
Thousands of GIs Die as They Pause to Reflect on the Momentous Day

NORMANDY, France - American forces sent to liberate France from Hitler's forces suffered a great defeat today on the beach at Normandy, as the entire U.S. First Army was overcome with nostalgia. Brave men running up the beach with all their strength stopped, one by one, just a few yards onto the shore to pause and reflect on the momentous event.

"I remember it distinctly," Private Marvin Jenkins of Minneapolis said slowly, as German mortars blew holes in the sand all around him. "Back in 1944, I stormed the beach at Normandy. It was about 20 seconds ago."

Jenkins was then gunned down by a German sniper.

No sooner had Private Al Madsen of Phoenix, Ariz., jumped off the landing transport vehicle than he immediately leaned back in a comfortable arm chair, remembering the moment with great fondness.

Madsen wasn't the only one telling stories. The beach was strewn with easy chairs, as hundreds of soldiers sat back, puffed on pipes, smiled, and looked into the distance wistfully.

Other soldiers stopped their advance to exchange bitter-sweet recollections of the great military action. Meanwhile, hundreds of soldiers were cut down by German gunners and artillerymen atop the beachhead.

Army sound engineers captured some of the troop exchanges over the hail of German guns.

"This was perhaps the single most important military operation in the war, and we were there. We were there," Madsen could be heard saying. "It's possible that no less than the freedom of the entire world was resting on our shoulders at that very moment."

"I was one of the survivors," Madsen added.

A voice near Madsen called out, "I was a survivor of the Normandy invasion, too!"

"I was with the 4th," Madsen said. "What was your unit?"

"The 1st," the voice answered. "We came ashore right next to you!"

Madsen and the unidentified soldier can then be heard enjoying a tearful reunion before being blown to pulpy bits by a large mortar blast.

War Department officials reported at 2 p.m. E.S.T. today that the U.S. Army suffered over 80 percent losses at Normandy, a grim setback in the effort to drive Hitler from France.

The entire face of that great day's broadsheet screamed war stories.

Wescott's saint retains the flavor of the day:

Paul
DIED 350

An orthodox archbishop who had to fight for his episcopate against the Arians, with wild interference by the populace and the army on this side or that. Finally he was exiled to a small town in Cappadocia, and was starved and strangled to death.

40 YEARS AGO
[from the Bangkok Post]

"The Thonburi Rotary Club has raised funds to donate a 17 inch television set to the Home of the Aged, Bangkhae, Thonburi. 1960"

Elsewhere in the Bangkok Post:

In a not very hotly contested race, the Bangkok Post was the first English language newspaper in Bangkok to publish on its front page a color photograph of the half-built Tamil Tiger commissioned submersible. The Post goes on to say, "The submersible, found in the Seacraft shipyard on Koh Si-rae, is reportedly owned by Christy Reginald Lawrence, a Jaffna-born Tamil who holds a Norwegian passport."

Is NEWNES helpful here?


Thursday, June 8, 2000

IN OUR PAGES: 100 YEARS (plus one day) AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1900: China Revolt

Tientsin - The murder of Mr. Norman Robinson, Church of England missionary, is conformed. Mr. Robinson's body was dreadfully mutilated, in addition to being disemboweled. The rebels have burned and destroyed Anting Station and have surrounded Lang-Fang.

Three of Thailand's neighbors, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Laos and Cambodia are restless neighbors. In the case of Burma there has been considerable spillage of its internal mess into Thailand; some of it has been orchestrated from Yangoon (formerly Rangoon); though the more bizarre incidents, like that of the pre-teen cigarette smoking deities, have been involuntary overflows.

What to make of the events last week in Laos is another question. Here is how the Bangkok Post reported it:

BUS BOMB KILLS TWO IN VIENTIANE
Mystery Surrounds Spate of Attacks

Vientiane - Two people were believed killed yesterday in a bomb blast at the central bus station in the Lao capital.

Witnesses said the 6:30am explosion was in a bus parked at a station near the morning market.

The bus was on its way to a village just north of the capital.

The incident was the latest in a series of mysterious attacks that have disturbed the normally placid communist state in recent months.

It was not clear how many people were on the bus, which was said to have had four windows blown out. Because it was a local bus serving a destination of no interest to tourists, it was unlikely any foreigners were aboard.

The number of injured was not known. There was no official report of the blast.

The explosion came one day after reports surfaced of a bomb blast in a hotel in southern Laos which injured around 10 people last week.

The explosion on May 30 at the Champa Palace Hotel in Pakse, 500km southeast of Vientiane, also was unreported, and diplomats said they were unable to confirm details of it.

In a May 28 explosion in Vientiane, 10 to 20 shoppers were injured by a bomb in the main indoor market.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for what are now at least five explosions in the capital over the past two months.

The government blamed the May 28 market blast on "bad elements" and declared a national security alert.

Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan expressed concern over the incident saying instability in neighboring countries would affect Thailand and the region as a whole.

40 YEARS AGO
[from the Bangkok Post]

The Bangkok Municipality has passed a law forbidding people with epilepsy, tuberculosis or syphilis from barbering. 1960

As any Norwegian will tell you, Christy Reginald Lawrence was not being cold: he was just being Norwegian. But, here is how local Thais reported it:

NEIGHBORS FIND SUB OWNERS UNFRIENDLY

Phuket - People living near the shipyard where a submersible was being built said yesterday that they had been made unwelcome by a group of Tamils.

They said Christy Reginald Lawrence, a part owner of the yard on Koh Si-lae and a suspected member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, did not speak to the island people.

A villager who asked not to be identified said the Tamils had spent months building the 10m submersible with the help of a manual. "He [Lawrence] never spoke to anyone. He and the others kept themselves busy building the vessel all the time."

Mr. Lawrence, who holds a Norwegian passport, has been released on bail following his arrest in April when local police found military materials and sonar and radar gear aboard his speedboat.

John Raynuce
FOURTEENTH CENTURY

A saint of whom nothing is known. His remains were discovered in the sixteenth century, by a fanatic.

NEWNES:


Friday, June 9, 2000

NEWNES, pretty much limits himself to novelists, composers, painters, statesmen, explorers, statesmen, architects, engineers, economists, jurists, mistresses, humorists, missionaries, journalists, inventors and church reformers. Occasionally, he allows the birth of a secularist. Rarely does he stomach the fringe trades:

Do you think that this is still around?

This morning's Bangkok Post leads with:

BULL ELEPHANT SHOT DEAD ON FRINGE OF KHAO SALAK PHRA

Kanchanaburi - A wild elephant was found dead from a gunshot wound in a forest in Sawat district on Wednesday night.

Members of the Anurak Kan group went to Ban Bukkoh in tambon Nong Ped yesterday to investigate.

The dead bull was found about 400m from the Kanchaburi-Si Sawat Highway and only 300m from the office of Khao Salak Phra wildlife sanctuary. There are corn and chili farms nearby.

Anurak Kan members said the animal had been shot in the right ear, about a week ago judging from the condition of the body. There were a lot of elephant footprints in the area.

Li Duang-on, 49, caretaker of a nearby corn farm, said the dead elephant was part of a heard of 10-12 which regularly left the wildlife sanctuary in search of food.

He could have been killed by local people in revenge for his destroying their crops and stomping a villager to death several months ago.


Is this some bizarre Norwegian hoax? Is Christy Reginald Lawrence, a man whom the local press love to describe as "a Sri Lanka-born man holding a Norwegian passport," just pulling the Tiger's tail? "Thailand's Independent Newspaper," The Nation, thinks so:

SUBMARINE IS ONLY 'SCRAP METAL'

National Intelligence Agency chief Bhumarat Taksadipong yesterday reiterated that Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels are not using Thailand as a transit point for arms-smuggling.

The Colombo government has repeatedly alleged the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) use an island near Phuket province to smuggle arms, which are destined for their controlled zone in Sri Lanka. But it is an "old story," Bhumarat said.

"We have made it clear to Sri Lanka several times we have found no solid evidence to justify their claims," he said.

The allegations have been hotly debated this week after a submersible-type vessel found in Phuket was confiscated from a shipyard owned by Christy Reginald Lawrence, a Sri Lanka-born man holding a Norwegian passport. Scrap Metal SubmarineThe vessel has been reported to be a suspected submarine intended for the Tamil Tiger separatists.

The object found in Lawrence's shipyard could not become a submarine, as it is only scrap metal built up to look like one, said Bhumarat, repeating Third Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Saneh Chaichomlert's dismissal of the claim.

"It is our understanding submarines used for covert operations have a rather rounded shape, not the rocket-like one found in Lawrence's shipyard," Bhumarat added.


Saturday, June 10, 2000

Getulius
SECOND CENTURY

A Roman put to death under the Emperor Hadrian. The wood on which he was to have been burned would not burn; so the soldiers beat him to death with vine-poles.

St. Symphorosa was his widow.

World War II aficionados, particularly those who thought James Mason should have received an Oscar for his performance in The Desert Fox, will have no difficulty in placing Barbarossa. Parenthetically, do you find it curious that the team that brought the world the real D-Day, just a few days ago, chose the name of this Emperor as its code word for the big outing?

Not to the clever mathematicians at Cambridge Circus. Subtracting the year of his death (1190) from the year of D-Day (1944) yields 854. Dividing this number (854) by the number of days between June 6th (D-Day) and the date of Barbarossa's death anniversary (4) gives 227. Subtracting this from the number of days in the year 1944 yields 138. Final calculation: the difference between this and the elapsed number of days into 1944 is 6. So, 6/6 is June 6th.

NEWNES notes three important events that occurred within a twenty-year period:

This stretch of Surawong Road is not inviting. Though the street is a major artery for vehicles heading toward the river, once it leaves the well-lit Patpong area there are not many attractions for pedestrians. Especially at night. Halfway toward the Chao Phraya, one lone brothel serves as a little oasis. Even it does not seem to attract many customers; the girls frequently just sit on stools and watch the cars buzz by. The elephant that wandered in last night must have been very welcome. The girls chirped with delight as they fed it bananas and nuts. The elephant, too, looked pleased with the attention that it got.


Sunday, June 11, 2000

Victims of assassination, like composers, people NEWNES' list disproportionately. Some are obscure, as in the case of Queen Draga, others, not. Of the composers, Richard Strauss was born (1864) while Geoffrey Toune died (1942).

Wescott has to remind us that Barnabas was an apostle. Little else, apparently, is known about this 'one of twelve.' Even a study of Leonardo's greatest supper scene tells us nothing useful. Perhaps he was a vegetarian, perhaps, not. His plate is not conclusive. Though his glass is empty, it would be dangerous to draw conclusions from this: liking the pressings of the grape or liking wine not at all are just two possibilities, but not the only ones. The wine waiter may have not yet paid his visit. Remember, Leonardo was forbidden by his papal handler from adding extras to the scene. We know that he was drawn to food, though Leonardo's brush suggests otherwise; the ascetic look was de rigueur for serious contenders for the halo; and Leonardo was politic when working for the Board.

Wescott all too kindly paints the body of a man of ample girth:

Barnabas, the Apostle
FIRST CENTURY

When St. Paul, on his first missionary journey, was mistaken for the god Mercury, it was Barnabas who was with him and was thought to be Jupiter. Naturally two such important ministers could not work together long; after their disagreement, the one who must have been the more impressive physically led an obscure though doubtless a blessed life.

NEWNES' rake for 1935 uncovers something that obviously didn't last:

Again, the front page of the Bangkok Post is filled with a story about the notorious Burmese child-twins:

TWINS CAN STILL DREAM OF REVENGE
Disarmed and in Hiding in Burma

Kanchanaburi - The warrior twin child leaders of God's Army have temporarily laid down their arms and taken refuge in a remote Burmese village opposite Kanchanaburi.

Twelve-year-old Johnny and Luter Htoo are living in a Karen Christian village about 35km from the Thai border, roughly opposite tambon Bonh Ti in Kanchanaburi's Saiyok district.

The community is led by a 70-year-old man, who at first refused to discuss the boys out of concern for retribution if their presence became public knowledge, but relented on the condition no photographs were taken.

The twins, spiritual commanders of the Christian Karen guerrilla group, went into hiding after their jungle base in Kamaplaw, opposite Ratchaburi's Suan Phueng district, was overrun by Burmese troops.

They had their heads shaved to conceal their identity and then promised the village headman to lay down their arms and devote themselves to Christianity during their stay in the village.

But Luther cannot get revenge out of his mind.

"I clearly remember how Burmese soldiers killed my men, and pregnant women. I will seek revenge,' he said. Speaking through a Karen translator.

Burmese forces launched heavy assaults on anti-Rangoon groups in the wake of the occupation of Ratchaburi hospital earlier this year by ethnic gunmen said to be God's Army members.

They held doctors, staff and patients hostage for 22 hours before Thai security forces stormed the building and killed all 10 intruders.

After assessing the situation, Luther and his twin brother fled Kamaplaw, along with 10 other armed rebels, including a student known as Johnny who took part in the Burmese embassy occupation in Bangkok last October.

Luther said he did not know about the fate of the other Karen fighters, only that they could not flee into Thailand because of the extra-tight security.

His team kept close to the border as they headed north, He said they parted from Johnny, who was wounded in the leg, at a rebel base and had not heard from him since.

Luther and his people eventually crossed into Thailand and stayed for a week at a church in Ban Bong Ti, where he had his head shaved.

In this Christian village the boys, who hold the rank of colonel, gave up their weapons and uniforms and changed to traditional Karen costumes.

Throughout the interview, Luther talked while Johnny remained silent. The twins are respected by Karen fighters as spiritual commanders because they are different - they have black tongues which they said indicates they are children of God.

Before going to war, the fighters pay their respects to the boys in a spiritual ceremony and receive blessings for good luck and victory.


Who is this girl?


Have you been guessing furiously at the password? Probably not. Anyway, I am not particularly original at this sort of thing. I think I have one password that opens the door to everything around here, and I even have THAT taped to the top of my computer. Password-Free Spa GirlsThough not as mindless as my name spelled backwards, still it's not one of those computer generated alphanumeric ones with case sensitive letters that no amount of intelligent guessing will discover.

No password is needed for these girls:

The four receptionists at The Oriental's Spa are really lovely. Their nicknames (a very common concept in Thailand) are Oh, Honey, Pear and Noo. You have seen photographs of all of them at one time or another in this journal. As they were all under the roof at the same time today, I took advantage of the opportunity:

I started with few group shots ... followed by some individual ones.


Monday, June 12, 2000

If Andy Page is reading this I'd like to hear from him. NEWNES lists only two events for 12th June; the second one I know nothing about:

Onuphrius
FOURTH CENTURY

Onuphrius, or Humphrey, was a Theban who stayed all alone in the desert for sixty years. He wore nothing but a minimum of leaves; his hair and beard grew so long that he looked like an animal; furthermore, he walked on all fours. Another solitary saint, Paphnutius, found him, and was badly frightened, not knowing that he was human, but as soon as he got up courage enough to draw near, admired him intensely. He stayed there until the wild man died, and, not liking to leave him naked in the sand, tore his coat in half for a shroud.

For NEWNES, two to-be-remembered death days; for HC, just one:

For several nights running I've had dinner at Terrace Rim Naam, the hotel's Thai-cuisine al la carte restaurant. Located on the west side of the river, it has become my favorite place for surprises. Rather than resorting to the menu, I asked Noi, one of Ah's best friends, to choose something for me. Last night she chose:

  1. Spicy mushroom salad
  2. Poached sea bass
  3. Water chestnut dessert

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

"The corpses may make us shudder but they are also a reflection of our future." -Anon.

"I felt like going down [stairs]; but I knew you wanted to see It." -Friend.

"Uuukkk." -Pre-teen daughter with parents.

"Cool." -Pre-teen son with parents.

The place is awash with them. Some appear carefully dried and hung, like life-size beef jerky from a cannibal's winter larder. Others lie about in roughly sectioned pieces as if fresh from a journeyman's butcher block. There are boiled hunks, broiled slabs, and steamed wholes. In other cabinets nicely diced bits are tastefully arranged: brains here, livers just to the right, spleens and lesser organs next to the sticky unidentifiables. Cancerous lungs on the far shelf. Whole babies, like veal plucked from the womb, sleep silently in their brick hard amniotic "fluids." Twins float weightlessly as if in a Stanley Kubrick outtake. Tattoo artists, too, have an everlasting piece of "canvas." Museum TourCleanly sliced-through-brains display the dirty track of a 9mm slug or the tiny tunnel from a sparkling ice pick attack. Additional heads brag tumors, contusions, abscesses and a whole rich range of other fatal and colorful bumps or gouges.

Photographs hanging about the halls record all manner of ways in which people are forced through their final exit. Some go dramatically when a hand grenade is operated improperly. Others, such as sufferers of horrendous train accidents or of whirling factory blades run amuck, have their pieces clumsily rejoined for that last picture on the gurney. One panicky person squeezed himself into a pot while trying to escape the fire; he cooked in his own juices.

According to my friend, the "babies" are entitled to special treatment. Their showcases are almost always augmented with odd gifts: pieces of candy or toys. Whether given by strangers moved to do so by some bizarre emotion, or left by grieving parents (unlikely), these peculiar little offerings lend a wasted and untidy look to the site. As if the cleaning people had forgotten to dust.

The main draw of the museum, of course, is the mummified body of Si-Ouey Sae-Ung, a notorious serial killer whose life of crime inspired no end of television entertainment. Around this one exhibit a whole repository of gory odds and ends has been built. Housed on the second floor of Siriraj Hospital complex, this thing is the Songran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum ... aka "Si-Ouey's place."


Perhaps Becky has asked the chef to prepare something special for tonight's dinner at Vault-de-Lugny. You see, according to NEWNES, her Chateau was in existence when this good man was born ... well, I guess it is safer to say that according to NEWNES this good man was born at the end of the 14th century and the rocks that are now Lugny were then Lugny as well. Of course, had he not been the Duke of Burgundy there would be no need for Becky to make a fuss over tonight's dinner.

But, bad luck in Bavaria:

No doubt, Butterfield & Robinson guides are laying on special picnics throughout northern Italy this day:

Anthony of Padua
1195 - 1231

This infinitely seductive Spaniard was on his way to the Near East, but very bad weather and sea-sickness drove him ashore in Italy, where he became St. Francis' close friend. No church in Italy could hold his audiences, so he made a practice of preaching in the market-place. It seems that he supplemented the spoken word with magical illustrations, or perhaps the figures of his rhetoric were afterwards reported as facts: the schools of fish crowding a river-bank as a lesson to inattentive heretics; the disrespectful Frenchman's mule which got down on its knees to the sacrament; the hobgoblin which induced a young friar to give back a borrowed book; the Child that appeared in his celibate arms when he prayed. His miracles all had a certain capriciousness and popular charm.

In some places the careless faithful appear to have confused him with his namesake, the tempted hermit; and the pig which stands for what the latter longed for or was tempted to do or did in the desert is merrily eaten on the Paduan's holiday.

Next: Bangkok Forever, Part IX

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