Bangkok By Ourselves

After Susan's Journal and Before Part II

August 30 - September 5, 2001

Thursday, August 30, 2001

Susan left the hotel at 5 this morning. Though her flight to LAX was scheduled to depart hours later, she walked out of here way before dawn with the hope of latching on to an emergency exit row. Ten days ago, on her flight to Bangkok, she got stuck in the middle seat of a bulkhead row ... eighteen hours of watching movies 'straight-up' left her bent.

Last night Watcharee,1 Susan and I had parting-drinks in The Oriental lobby and a farewell-dinner at the Gallery restaurant.

Wescott, with another strange saint:

Rose of Lima
1586 1617

This South American saint was an exceedingly pretty seamstress. Holy at heart as she was, her beauty embarrassed her. When she had to wear roses in her hair, she fixed them so that they made a crown of thorns for herself, however they may have looked to others. Finally she burned her face away, with applications of quicklime.

NEWNES (for Andy):

The Bangkok Daily News looks at two water deaths.


1 Pictured here having her hair 'done' the day before yesterday ... also, seen here about 15 years earlier.


Friday, August 31, 2001

This morning's Bangkok Post carried a strange story:

HOTEL CHAIN'S WEBSITE DRAWS FEMINIST FURY
Thai Women In Shorts Likened To Prostitutes

Women's groups and politicians are indignant about what they say is an insulting description of Thai women on a website run by the hotel chain Marriott International.

Prostitutes?The page in contention, connected to www.marriott.com, is a briefing for tourists about Thai customs and attractions.

"Shorts, t-shirts and sandals expose more skin than is considered seemly by Thais," it says in a segment on business and tourist attire. "No Thai men wear shorts. Among women, only prostitutes wear sleeveless blouses and/or shorts."

Pavena Hongsakula, a Chart Pattana MP and head of a children's and women's foundation, said the description was "evil" and insulting to Thai women.

"It is like they say, I suppose it means that Thai women have no right to wear shorts, Sleevelessand have to go back to wearing the sarong to avoid being looked at as prostitutes," she said.

Matthana Chetamee, of the Foundation for Women, also expressed indignation at the description.

"Just because someone wears a sleeveless blouse or shorts doesn't mean they are bad. Society shouldn't make snap judgments on appearances," she said.

The description took a moral stance without considering that many women entered prostitution due to the lack of alternatives.

Spokesmen at JW Marriott Hotel, a local affiliate of Marriott International, declined to comment on the website, which they said was done at the overseas headquarters.

An employee said local executives were in contact with the US headquarters about changing the wording.

"It is not certain where the website designer obtained the information for the page," she said. Supensri Poungkoaksung, a feminist, said the wording was sexist and insensitive.

In another column, on the same front page of the Bangkok Post, rage among "night-workers" is reported over the government continuing enforcement of "social order". Nightspot operators, employees and taxi drivers are upset over the enforcement of a "final drinks at 1 am" law. The government view is that this edict will save Thai youth from the three sins of "drugs, drink and sex".1 Those opposed say, "The iron-fist mandate will put a major dent in the kingdom's tourism industry, the crucial segment that is driving the sluggish economy". The drink-minders were quick to reply: "tourists visit Thailand for its natural beauty, not for entertainment venues and girlie bars".

Both stories require my independent investigation. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Daily News reported on the case of a man having pig dung dumped on his head.2 It had something to do with a protest about bank interest rates.

The Asian Wall Street Journal whined on and on about plunging share prices all over the world.

The International Herald Tribune worried about some little town in Palestine.

NEWNES reminds us of the anniversaries of two great battles:

Another strange saint from Wescott:

Raymond Nonnatus
DIED 1240

When in Algeria ransoming captives, this Spanish friar ran out of money. Touched by the misery and homesickness of those he saw, moved no doubt by some dark fit of selfish heroism as well, he sold himself to buy back one more. Some time passed before his order, that of Our Lady of Ransom, succeeded in freeing him; and he preached to his fellow-captives, until his masters put an iron padlock on his mouth. Years later he was rewarded with a cardinal's hat, but refused to assume any of the cardinal's worldly importance.


1 In another paragraph an Islamic spokesman condemned night entertainment outlets in general.

2 Readers here will note that Morton's services of late have not been needed. Wags suggest that his services have not been used due to Morton's own unavailability ... that the paper has been forced to run bloodless photographs because of his 'over tinkering' with the bottles of D-76 [today's News also carries other "non-Mortonized" pictures].


Saturday, September 1, 2001 (Feast of Giles, Patron of Malignant Growths)

The winning number is in here! Or, so Thai people believe ... Watcharee, too believes this. Remember, dear reader, it was just a few short weeks ago when I gave you the winning number for the August lottery. Winning Number!Sure you do, that million baht prize was cleverly disguised in a banana plant ... you must remember (or, was it hidden in something else?). Anyway, today your fortune lies in the correct reading of whatever is floating on the top of this basin of water.

The Marriott Hotel has performed a major mea culpa; it removed the 'offensive' language from its web site ... the words that suggested sleeveless shirts and shorts1 were a sign that the wearer was a Thai prostitute. Elephant DungThe Marriott's marketing director, Jeff Crowe, apologized (in a way) for the blunder by casting all the blame on an unnamed travel guide company that had been hired by Marriott overseas.

Local criminal courts have just sentenced 17 people (including two teenagers and five women) to death for dealing in 'speed'. Does this mean that pencil thin Thai girls will soon be a thing of the past?

The fear of creeping and floating elephant dung made the front page of this morning's Bangkok Post. So great is the concern among local environmentalists that steel grids have been installed below the headwaters of canals to keep the massive clumps of dung from floating into the sea. The principal 'supplier' of unwanted elephant dung, Tour Island Safari Company, has offered to collect the dropped dung and turn it over to the Science Ministry for biogas production.

Look at this woman's face. What do you see? Is she thinking about ... what might have been ... the good life that was so close, but is now so far away ... that little 'slip' that tipped off the cops (Oh, God, what was it?) ... the awful troubles that now lie ahead ... the ruined life ... the endless woe? So many dreams turned to nightmares! Yes, this assistant director of the UOB Radanasin Bank was just arrested for illegally transferring 7,000 million baht ($155 million) out of the country in what the government says was a money laundering scheme. Look at her face!

Wescott expands on the life of Giles:

Giles
SEVENTH CENTURY

Giles was a noble Greek, a healer by profession. Wearying of this practice, or plagued by the scruples about the pride he took in it, he emigrated to France and settled savagely in a forest near Nimes. He had a pet doe and lived on its milk, with a few roots. One day the Gothic king of the neighborhood went out hunting; his hounds startled the blessed beast, which fled into its master's arms; the king shot at it, and wounded the hermit.

In expiation of his great days in Greece, or in the perversity of old age, Giles did his best to keep the wound from healing. The king made amends by building him a great monastic establishment in the forest.

He is the patron of woodland and of the lame, and, because of his wound, is expected to relieve cancer.

NEWNES:


1 The Oriental frowns on such attire in a more subtle way.


Sunday, September 2, 2001

Those of you who properly 'read' the stuff in the pot1 now have an extra 3,000,000 Baht in your pocket. Those of you who were not able to sort out the winning number Yui the Lizardfrom this week's flotsam have yet another chance at riches if you make a trip to Thailand's Bang Bua Thong District and ferret out old Mrs. Chamlong and her amazing monitor lizard, Yui. The spirit of Mrs. Chamlong's deceased son currently resides in the lizard's body. Up to now only a few lottery number seekers have visited Yui, but that could dramatically change if someone won the lottery with guidance from the monitor lizard. In that case, according to Mrs. Chamlong, the lizard would be swamped with gifts of its favorite food (raw meat). Implicit is the suggestion that should gifts of food to the lizard (and appreciative donations to the family) be moved more to the front ... well ... the winning lottery number might just be a 'thank you' gift from the lizard. Will you join the queue? "Right away", you say?

"Don't make sweet eyes at small wife!"

"What are you talking about, Watcharee?"

Many men in Thailand have 'small wives'.2 A 'small wife' is a mistress ... a kept woman. Like elsewhere, she only inhabits a niche ... in most cases, a shallow and lonely one. As with her 'sisters' in other countries, she is never rewarded with the joy of packing her kids off to school, the satisfaction of properly sorting her man's laundry and the excitement of laying scrumptious meals onto the family table. Hammer MassageHer life is taken up with long lunches with girl friends, time-killing bauble shopping, room-service breakfast orders and lengthy reads of trashy novels by the pool. Yes, as most of her life is spent without 'her' man, she is just a 'small wife'. And, sometimes this 'small wife' runs into big trouble by trying to sneak hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country. But, had she been successful, do you think that the 'big wife' would have traded places with her? "Never", you say?

A new type of massage (actually, a traditional one that is attempting to come back into vogue) is being practiced by the Health Reform Office. Called the "wedge and hammer" massage, it has fallen into disuse. Will it make a comeback and push Patpong out of existence? "For sure", you say?

Crime is now almost nonexistent in Bangkok, as evidenced by the cover of this morning's Bangkok Daily News. No more blood and guts for your cereal read? "Thank God", you say?

Wescott:

Nonnosus
SIXTH CENTURY

St. Gregory tells us that this man's predominant virtue was his patience with the bad-tempered abbot under whom he had to live and work. He was called a prior, but many of his duties evidently were those of a man of all work and a sort butler. One day, by a miracle, he succeeded in getting a great boulder out of the monastery-garden. One day he was washing a glass lampshade, and broke it; thinking no doubt about the abbot's temper, he fell on his knees in prayer; whereupon the lampshade mended itself.

It is surprising to find that the emblem of this wonderfully subordinate soul is a mountain before him in the clouds.

NEWNES:


1 And, bought the lottery ticket number 119067.

2 Or, 'minor wives'.


Monday, September 3, 2001

God, if I had only been around a hundred years ago ... how much easier things would have been:

IHT History IN OUR PAGES: 100 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1901: Airship for One

PARIS M. Santos-Dumont's balloon, having brought him fame, is, according to the "Figaro," regarded as an ideal vehicle for allowing others to reach celebrity. Every day the postman brings him epistles from young ladies of the French stage, imploring him to allow them to make the ascent with him. They all lay stress on the fact that they weigh a fabulously small number of kilogrammes and are therefore ideal traveling companions for an airship, where every ounce counts. Unfortunately for them, the Saint-Dumont No. 6, like its predecessors, is only constructed for one person.

Dear reader, to bring you up to date, the construction of CB #4 has been held in abeyance pending the selection of a model.1 CB4Though our worldwide solicitation has been 'active' for many months, we have had few applicants. Frankly, this puzzles everyone on the selection committee. The 'requirements' that we have 'suggested' for our model have been minimal: that 'she' be a 'girl'.2 And, attractive. And, willing to travel. And ... well, I guess that is about it. Oh, and have a good sense of humor.

Is there anyone out there (where you are) who would like to be our model? Or, do you know anyone who you think might like to be our model? Please let us hear from you! Write to: application@corkscrew-balloon.com.

My Bangkok lawyer has moved his office. A little over a year ago he was located on Silom Road, not far from The Oriental. Though this was convenient for me, his walk-in trade suffered for being so far from those most in need of his caring. His new office is much closer to the Patpong area, where he can better serve the bulk of his clients. Along with a change of location he has changed his name: though now offering services under the "Mr. Ben" name, he still lists "fortune telling" and "law counseling"3 as the two principal tines on his fork for hire.

Last spring the Bangkok papers were awash with the details of a particularly gruesome crime: a doctor's dissection of his wife and her subsequent flush down the toilet. Yesterday Watcharee and I walked past the building in which the crime took place.

Wescott's saint appears to have little to offer us. His connection to 'little Anthony' wants further probing.4

Aristus
THIRD CENTURY

A bishop who was put to death in Capua, along with a child called little Anthony.

NEWNES:


1 Though the lucky model would not take home a traditional paycheck, she would have the satisfaction of knowing that her nude likeness would be visible from the ground for many years to come. In addition, she would get to travel with the balloon on its initial tour: in this case, the jumping off point would be from a barge in front of The Oriental Hotel on Bangkok's Chao Phya River. Though what happens next is a little bit murky, we hope to haul everything and everyone to Australia for a tour of 'Downunder'. A flight over Ayers Rock would be great fun ... if only to get the local PCs all puffy and stormy about the sacredness of the indigenous holy stuff over which we are flying and how offensive it is to those long dead pygmies to have a nude lady overhead, etc. etc.

3 Transvestites (Thai 'Ladyboys') are also encouraged to apply. After witnessing the performances at Bangkok's Mambo Club and The Calypso Club the selection committee was unanimous in agreement that their better stage offerings would satisfy everyone.

3 Though there is little difference between the two, he wishes to preserve the integrity of the "fortune telling" side of his business.

4 Perhaps this was an early instance of impropriety between a member of the cloth and a child; one which was 'handled' out of court, so to speak.


Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Should his hand slip ... should a dollop of untoward slime fatally slather his grip ... or, should he just plain drop for God-only-knows-what-reason ... well, if that should happen ... ALIMAK workeryes, yes, that great serving cart below ... that great wheezing wheeled-thing loaded with so many cauldrons of steaming and boiling soups ... yes, that rolling multi-venting volcano of bubbling broths lying just underneath ... yes, that awaiting bed of fiery liquid would surely first crunch his little spine into useless sections; only micro milliseconds before scalding him totally clean of his mother-given skin. But is this risk worth it? For this man the answer is a resounding "YES"!

At long last The Oriental has shed its construction drapes. In less than two weeks all of the work on the River Wing will be complete ... the final bits being on those floors '9' and below.1 And, in the best tradition of Thai construction techniques, we can see our brave worker precipitously balanced outside his guardrail ... dusting his ledge of unsightly building debris ... making things ready for his guest. Only this man's hand prevents his multi-floor plunge onto that serving cart so loaded with horror.

Meanwhile, Rosalia entertains us in a lighter way:

Rosalia
DIED 1160

A spinster of Palermo, remotely related to Charlemagne, who retired to a cave and died there amid the little trickling springs, under the stalactites. Five hundred years later her body was found, petrified by the mineral water, the head overgrown with roses. She herself had carved an inscription on the rock, telling who she was.

NEWNES:

From this morning's Bangkok Post:

ELEPHANTS
Hua Hin To Host Six-Nation Tusker Polo Tournament

The first elephant polo tournament will take place in Thailand in the seaside resort town of Hua Hin next weekend.

A team each from Australia, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the US, and two teams from Thailand would compete at the stadium of the 16th army regiment during Sept. 14-16, said Christopher Stafford, general manager of Anantara Resort and Spa.

Screwy TuskersThe hotel is organizing the event with the co-operation of the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, the World Elephant Polo Association and with the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Alf Erickson, of the polo association, said the US would field an all-female team called the Screwy Tuskers.2

The elephant center would supply about 11 elephants for the tournament. Three elephants make a team. Two smaller members of the team would play in the offensive role while the last and larger member would stay back and defend the goal.

Each elephant will carry a "driver" and a player. There would be a referee on the largest pachyderm. There would also be two goal judges.

Silachai Surai, central regional director of the tourism authority, expressed optimism that the game would draw wide interest from tourists.

All proceeds from ticket sales, at 500 baht each, would be donated to the elephant conservation center, he said.


1 Seasoned readers will remember the day ALIMAK started his 'siege' of the place. Driven from our homes, we found shelter in the Garden Wing. Many months passed before we were able to return. That epic has been preserved in print.

1 This photograph from the Bangkok Daily News does not show a member of the Screwy Tusker team, but we believe that her love of elephants will bring good fortune to all e-polo players and fans in Thailand.


Wednesday, September 5, 2001 [Feast of Laurence Justiniani: Patrician, Patriarch and Devotional Writer of Unusual Sublimity and Simplicity]1

Dean Koontz in his novel, FALSE MEMORY, gives us a scene that is just too wonderful to ignore ... if only it could happen ... and, if only we could be close to the screen when CNN first brings it to us in its 'Breaking News':

" ... the event was a major fund-raiser for the president's political party, to be held at the Bel Air estate of a director who had earned more money, garnered more Oscars, and risked contracting a sexually transmitted disease with more would-be actresses than had even the late Josh Ahriman, King of Tears. Two hundred of Hollywood's glitterati would pay twenty thousand dollars apiece for the privilege of fawning over this ultimate politico as they themselves were daily fawned over by everyone from talk-show hosts to riffraff in the streets. For their money, they would get, alternately throughout the evening, both an ego rush so tremendous it induced spontaneous orgasms and a deliciously perverse feeling that they were nothing more than servile pop-culture scum in the presence of greatness."

The novel's arch villain, Dr. Mark Ahriman ... a hypnotist among other trades ... has just taken total control of the mind of one of film's greatest megastars. The good doctor has cozied the star as a patient for reasons other than affecting a cure for the raging drug addiction to which the actor is held captive.

"On that evening, when you come face-to-face with the president, you'll use your charm and manipulative skills to put him instantly at ease. Then, induce him to lean especially close, as if you intend to impart an irresistible bit of gossip about one of the most beautiful actresses present. When he is very close and most vulnerable, you will seize his head in both hands and bite off his nose."2

The cover of this morning's Bangkok Post carried a photograph of mahouts at practice. The weekend after next we'll be at Hua Hin for this first Thai elephant polo tournament. When I say "we", I really mean just Watcharee and I ... as the rest of my all-female Screwy Tusker team didn't get the word about this competition until the last minute.3 This means that we'll not be at full strength until the 2002 games. Anyway, today's photo caption reads: "Thai mahouts and their mounts were out practicing yesterday for an international polo tournament in Hua Hin on Sept 14 16. Teams from Australia, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the United States and Thailand will compete in the games to raise funds for elephant conservation."

NEWNES:

IN OUR PAGES: 50 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1951: Man-Made Moon

LONDON Interplanetary scientists of 12 nations got down to the preliminaries of planning a miniature man-made moon 500 miles above the earth's surface. As the second International Congress on Astronautics (space navigation) sees it, this satellite would be the first stepping stone to controlled flights to the moon and stars. The congress announced that it had set up an international federation to control space-flight research, headed by Dr. Eugen Saenger, one of Adolf Hitler's former rocket experts. "Such a station would have many interesting tasks when developed," Dr. Saenger said. "We could study the effect of cosmic rays on the human form an important problem in space travel."

Watcharee and her friend, Oh, sit near the pool at the Peninsula Hotel. Watcharee is seen wearing her three-day-old glasses. Oh is seen three months short of her delivery date. They would like to trade places. I voted to keep things as they are.

PS White Shirts seen on an unusually 'empty night'. Here the foot is always king.


1 Wescott says he was "Harsh and idealistic ... refusing to give the daughter of one of his relatives a dowry, lest the money be misspent, spending it instead on food and clothing for the poor, lest he be thought avaricious. ... For years he ranted about the extravagances of women. Despite this, prayers to him were thought to be effective against plague, war and famine."

2 A couple of hundred pages later, just paragraphs before the end of the book, Koontz leaves us just this sentence: "The only story that displaced ... [other stuff] ... from the top of the nightly news was the insane attack on the President of the United States at a Bel Air fund-raiser, and the subsequent shooting to death of the megastar assailant by those outraged Secret Service agents who weren't otherwise occupied with recovering and preserving the nose."

3 Excuses from the Screwy Tusker team members were as wide ranging as the vagaries of the female mind (boy friends and bad hair topped the list for most ... though commitments to Mennonite socials pressed Tilman to decline).


PPS Moments after dispatching today's journal to the publisher ... the one which included the 'snip' from a half century ago's International Herald Tribune; you know, the article about mad scientists (including Hitler's 'Doctor No') going on about putting up a 'man-made moon' ... well, wouldn't you know it ... today's Bangkok Post carried a story about Russian plans to start 'Orbital Tourism' in 2004.

Next: Part II

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