Bangkok, December 2007

After November

December 2007

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Across the road from the Royal Orchid Sheraton hotel there is a derelict building that has been left standing for some mysterious reason. It appears to be about the same age as the former Custom House (now a fire station) that sits on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River.

So as not to disappoint the foodies here is a photo of our English Pub dinner: Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding via Food by Phone.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 (Pre-journal)

A train driving through a Bangkok market.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Kevin, the former owner of the Old China Hand bar (*) on Soi Cowboy asked me to take some photographs of Chao Mae Tuptims shrine. It is located behind the Nai Lert Park hotel on Wireless Road. It is a Hindu shrine that through practice has been dedicated to fertility.

(*) Now known as Sams 2000.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Kevin, when he wasn't tending to the business at the Old China Hand, spent his leisure hours in Washington Square. The square, located off Sukhumvit 22, is ringed (or, should I say 'squared'?) with bars. Though the place looks a bit down and out during the day I am sure that it shows its true colors once the sun goes down.

The square is also the home of the Iranian Embassy (or, so says my map). Maybe Iran's leader, Imadinnerjacket, should check on what his employees are up to at night.

PS: God, your followers are so cool!

Sudan frees Briton in teddy row

KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) — A British teacher in Sudan jailed over the naming of a teddy bear has been released from police custody, the British Embassy in Khartoum said, several hours after Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir pardoned her.

An undated amateur photo shows Gillian Gibbons, who was jailed for allowing children to name a teddy bear "Mohammed".

Gillian Gibbons, freed after Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir granted her a presidential pardon earlier Monday, apologized for any distress her actions may have caused.

"I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone and I am sorry if I caused any distress," Gibbons said, in a statement read out by Sayeeda Warsi, one of two Muslim lawmakers who traveled out to Sudan to secure her release.

Gibbons, 54, was sentenced to 15 days in jail last Thursday for having allowed her students at a private school to name a teddy bear "Mohammed."

Without a pardon, she would have remained in jail another six days.

She is expected to leave Sudan on flight to England soon after the courts ruled she should be deported after completing her sentence, the spokesman said.

Gibbons also praised the "kindness and generosity" of the Sudanese and said she would be sad to leave her job at the Unity High School and said she would miss her students "terribly".

The pardon came following efforts by Nazir Ahmed and Sayeeda Warsi, Muslim members of the House of Lords, to persuade the Sudanese government that releasing Gibbons would create international goodwill toward their country.

Ahmed, who is a member of the House of Lords --the UK's upper parliamentary chamber, told CNN that Sudan's president was impressed that Gibbons intended no harm.

"This was an unfortunate, unintentional, innocent misunderstanding," Ahmed said.

He added: "I am very confident that the whole matter will be resolved within hours rather than days."

"Common sense has prevailed," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. He added that Gibbons will be taken to the British embassy in Khartoum after "what must have been a difficult ordeal".

British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said he welcomed President al-Bashir's intervention.

"Gillian's welfare has been our priority at every stage. Gillian will now be released into the care of British Embassy officials in Khartoum. We will be discussing with Gillian her preferences for her return to the UK," he said.

Gibbon's son John told reporters he was sure his mom would be "very pleased", but said the family were holding in their excitement until she returned to Britain.

"It's been a good news morning, but the family won't be 100 per cent thrilled until she's on the plane.

"It's been a strange old week, very strange for the family, and we're pleased it's coming to an end," he said.

He also expressed his family's gratitude towards the British government for helping to secure Gibbon's release, adding they were "thankful" for the Sudanese president's decision.

The efforts of Ahmed and Warsi had been complicated by pressure from hard-liners for Gibbons to serve out the last week of a 15-day sentence.

Some protesters called for her execution.

She has apologized to a faculty member offended by the toy's name, Dealey told CNN.

The members of Parliament met privately with Gibbons on Saturday, who told them she was being treated well, they said. Warsi told Dealey she was doing "remarkably."

Gibbons was cleared of charges of inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs, her lawyer, Ali Ajeb, said.

On Friday, hundreds of protesters, some waving ceremonial swords from trucks equipped with loudspeakers, gathered outside the presidential palace to denounce Gibbons.

On Friday, hundreds of protesters, some waving ceremonial swords from trucks equipped with loudspeakers, gathered outside the presidential palace to denounce Gibbons.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007 (Pre-journal)

Wow! This is not just close to home ... it's IN our homes. I was thumbing through the December 10 issue of Business Week when I saw a little picture of Riviera Isles and Seven Isles as they will look in 2030.

PS: For sure, I deserve it! And the fact that we have a S280 and a SLK200 in Bangkok doesn't change things. When we bought these eco-friendly cars Mercedes Benz Thailand did not offer anything stronger.

Here is the S280:

And, the fuel efficient SLK200:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 (Father's Day in Thailand - The King's 80th Birthday)

Feeling hungry for some really high end Thai food we went to Salathip, the Thai restaurant in the Shangri-La hotel. At the end of the meal our friend, Noi, joined Watcharee, Pom and Golf for a photo in front of the hotel's Christmas tree.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Conrad hotel on Wireless Road is near our new condominium at The Athenee Residence. The buffet, though not deep in dishes, does what it does very well. The oysters are shucked right in front of you.

Do you recognize the girl on the right?

Friday, December 7, 2007

I think that from now until we move in there will not be any additional changes to the exterior of the Athenee Residence. This will probably be my last exterior photo entry until after the New Year.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

River Garden put up its Christmas decorations today. This prompted THOCBDC to post its own Holiday Cheer on the lobby floor bulletin board.

Feeling spiritual, THOCBDC went even further and Googled Evangelical World in search of something to distance it from its normal secular cynical world. In "Creationism is God's Friend" this popped up:

"Proof that there is a creative God and that no evolutionary evils were behind His making of man lies easily in our own two hands. Only God could have foreseen that man by the 20th century would invent the QWERTY board and thus be in need of 10 fingers. Only God could have foreseen that by the 19th century man would need to be uniquely identified at crime scenes and thus God gave him unique fingerprints. And, only God could have foreseen our teen's need for an opposable thumb in the 21st century ... to send text messages, of course."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

(A) The Search

Reader Kevin who once owned the Old China Hand (*) on Soi Cowboy used to have a house at 45/97 Suthisarn Road. Today with the help of Golf I tried to find Kevin's former home. Aside from the address I knew that the place was adjacent to the local Suthisarn police station. We took the motorway and a multi-laned road for most of the way, exiting at the Sutisarn turn. We followed this two lane road for about two kilometers to where we thought the police station was located. It was not there. But, a few blocks ahead there was a police station with a convenient car park. We decided to ask for directions. After many questions and answers one of the policemen at the station asked us to follow him. We did. He led us to a narrow soi (Soi Yimpattana II). We drove to the end of the soi (about 500 meters) and the three of us walked back up the soi towards Suthisarn.

At this point the police officer started asking people on the street questions about the location of Kevin's house. To complicate matters most people were not sure where was the location of the old police station. Even more vexing the house numbers had changed and 45/97 no longer existed.

While the police officer and Golf were talking to residents I shot a number of random photos of the area hoping to, by luck, capture the illusive house.

(*) Now named Sams 2000.


(B) Found it!

While we were puzzling about the lost house a man in a yellow shirt approached us. He spoke excellent English and when we told him what we were looking for he pointed to a house that was gently set back from the street. He told us that the owner was a Customs Officer and that the house was now vacant and was undergoing a bit of restoration. He told us that he knew the owner very well and we were welcome to enter and take photographs. We did.

When I returned to River Garden I emailed Kevin along with one photograph. He replied: "That is my house!" In an immediate follow-up email he sent me a photo of the house when he lived there.

About an hour ago Kevin sent me these rememberances of the place:


Seeing that house brings back a flood of memories. It was a really nice place when we had it... Looks like time hasn't been too kind to the old place since... I 'm glad to see that it's being rehabbed though. I've got to get the Mrs. to call her uncle and see if he still owns the place.

We got the place from my wife's uncle... We'd just tied the knot a month or so before. We paid 1.5 million Baht when the exchange rate was 25 to one U.S. dollar... around $60 Grand... A little less maybe. Got the place fully furnished too. leather furniture... silk tapestries... smoked glass inserts for the walls... Lots of teak... Really nice. My plans were to stay there until the bitter end... But circumstances changed those plans.

But what good times were had at that house! The place quickly became a way point for a bunch of my old co-workers from Saudi Arabia... I don't believe we had any real time when we weren't putting someone up. At one point there were 9 people sacked out all over the house on two or three week furloughs. There were a couple of occasions where we had to lock the gate and toss someone's gear over to them to get them to go back to their jobs. We had two or three merchant mariners jump ship and declare that they'd found heaven and weren't leaving. Of course, my owning the bar and this being the pre aids period and such... Some guys from the states and europe really thought they'd died and gone to heaven. I had more than a few Pakistani's and assorted Arabs thinking that they'd entered paradise too.

Guys would pop into town with 4 or 5 thousand bucks burning holes in their pockets ... They'd drop $700 or $800 into my wife's hand for room and board and I'd see to it that they didn't get ripped off or rolled and that they got to see some real sights and not just Nana and Cowboy and Patpong. People got to see some of the real Thailand. Additionally... I think we single handedly kept the local bakery and market going. Another funny thing... I think that there were a half dozen marriages that resulted from some of those visits. ... some of them still thriving today.

During the time we lived in that house there were a few movies shot in Thailand... most notably "Good Morning Vietnam" and a few others like "Off Limits"... Smaller ones. I'd gotten to know a few folks and got a bunch of my buddies extra and walk on parts. A small claim to fame and a few extra bucks in their pockets. I'd learned that there was a bunch of ex GI's from the Vietnam era who'd gone native and made quite a tidy living doing location scouting and bit parts for all of the big production companies. So I jumped on that bandwagon pretty quick. And since my specialty was logistics... I was a natural go to for some of these companies. I got to meet a few Thai celebrities due to their having parts in various movies. One of the Thai celebs who used to come around had a big commercial series going at the time for Krating Daeng... Red Bull. "Krating Daeng Di Qwa!" was his pitch line... He was a hot commodity and drew in a lot of his friends. Robin Williams and some of the crew from Good Morning Vietnam came through... But Forrest Whitaker spent his whole time in BKK whining about getting back to L.A. ... Robin Williams had me laughing so hard early one morning when we'd been up all night that I threw up my breakfast into the koi pond and one of the fish died. Gregory Hines and Willem Defoe came through after hard days of filming. I remember one night on Soi Cowboy that they had to do take after take running up and down the soi. It was hot and muggy too. Then there was a scene with a knife fight for Off Limits where my buddy Ben had got the part of the knifer... Big bruiser of a fellow... Well... they had given him a real K-Bar knife to swing around and I walked up to Hines and said... "Do you know he can't see a thing with out these?".. as I held out Ben's nearly 1/2" thick glasses..... Chris Crowe... the director, had made him take them off because he didn't look mean enough. But they'd given him the stunt training with the darn things on!... They found a rubber knife pretty quick.

After my new wife settled in and started really taking over my life... Things slowed down a bit. Her family in BKK were a bit HiSo ... So they kind of frowned on the idea that there was a lot of partying going on a lot of the time. But... It was darn interesting to watch her deal with young ladies who forgot that the house owner had a wife.... We were treated to the spectacle of my little woman decking and frog marching more than one unfortunate but attractive young thing out the gate. Did I mention that her dad was the Muay Thai champ of the north when he was young?.. To this day ... I don't dare cross her without declaring my utter willingness to fight unfairly. Plus it was costing a pretty penny to keep the local gendarmerie in booze, broads and bread. We had one police captain that set up two of his "nieces" with westerners for marriage.

But the straw that broke the camel's back came when someone stomped to death the mouse that lived in the shrine in the den.... Bad Karma!! There were monks and merit-making and at least three visits to Wat Arun and all kinds of hullaballoo. And after that... Things slowed down considerably. Life was a lot more sedate... But we still had a few nice get-togethers with closer friends. But the days of Soi Yimpattana being party central were past. We heard from people up to two years after we'd given up the place that they'd come looking for us there. There were a lot of days that I woke up in that house speaking the immortal words of Mel Brooks as King Louis in "History of the World" .... "It's GOOD to be the King!"


(C) Sams 2000

When the famous Old China Hand became Sams 2000 things changed for the worst. The old place that was once alive and fun under the tutelage of Kevin drifted into mediocrity when he left Soi Cowboy. Soi Cowboy is now a tamer place. But, it is still colorful ... though lacking in the post Vietnam War action.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Kevin reminisces:

Just read the post this morning ... Wow! the old place really, really went downhill! I just spent an hour hunting for pics of the place when we had it... But I suspect she's got them tucked away in one of her hoards... I'll have to wait until she gets home.

I see that the little shrine is still there next to the bar... That's the one we put in to replace the one the mouse lived in. They moved the spirit house out front too. I'll bet there are still some ribbons there that we tied on that pedestal. That garish mirror is still there though in the alcove by the window too. I never liked that thing. It gave me the creeps. I wouldn't look in it. Ket says it was haunted.

Looks like the place has seen some cheap renters ... And it has definitely suffered for it. As busy as it was in our day... It was always spic & span and in excellent repair. I used to brag about how you could look up a woman's dress using the shine from the floor! We had a bank of switches in the living room that controlled the waterfall and the fountain and all of the colored lights in and around the pond. There were around $5000 worth of prize koi in that pond.... In fact... The fish I killed with vomit was worth $50. Once we had someone offer $100 to cook one! He got a carp from the market cooked with chilli sauce instead. The housekeeper cleared $99.50 on that deal!!

One thing that gave me a good chuckle though.... We've had that same light fixture as in that house in our dining room since shortly after we moved into the house we have now.... And she won't let me change it out... I think I know why now.

Here's Ket (orange) giving one of her classmates a B'day party

Top Pic - Roy was the owner of the OCH before me. Bottom - The vomit killed Koi

PS: More memories from Kevin:

This sequence shows a car bomb going off on "Off Limits" ... This was filmed in the Suthisarn area... The middle pic is off frame because the "boom" made me jump... the head at the right of the top pic is Chris Crowe the director

This series shows the guy who was Robin Williams stand-in for "Good Morning Vietnam" with one of the guys who we'd got on... Australian I think (note the name tag "Cronauer")

The second is my buddy Ben (with his glasses on!) after the knife scene with Gregory Hines.

The third is Ben (right) with some guys who were relative unknowns at the time but are now fairly well known David Keith (left) and David Alan Grier (center)

Next: Part II

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