Bangkok

Autumn Orient Trip

October 1999

After Shanghai

Friday, October 22, 1999

NEWNES warns young scoundrels:

And, for Rosemary (aka RG):

From today's BANGKOK POST:

"Gauhati - Wild elephants broke into a cluster of thatched huts, guzzled rice beer that was fermenting in casks and then tore the village apart in a drunken rampage, trampling four people to death and injuring six, a wildlife official said yesterday."

"The herd of 15 elephants burst into Prajapatibosti village in Golaghat district, 290km east of Gauhati, the state capital of northeastern Assam on Wednesday, said elephant expert Kushal Konwar Sharma."

"They trampled standing rice crops and more huts before leaving the area."

"'The man-elephant conflict is mainly due to shrinking forest habitat and encroachment by human beings,' said Mr. Sharma. 'The tastes of sugarcane, maize, rice and homemade brew makes them feel more attracted to the village areas'."

IN OUR PAGES: 75 YEARS AGO
[from The International Herald Tribune]
1924: Prohibition Cost

WASHINGTON - Thirty-seven Federal agents have been killed in enforcing the Prohibition Law, and this enforcement to date has cost the Government $50,000,000, according to a statement issued by enforcement headquarters here. Sixty bootleggers are known to have been killed by Federal agents, including the Coast Guard service, and double or treble the number have been killed if the activities of State, county and municipal offices are counted.

And, on our day, Glenway Wescott observes:

Donatus of Fiesole
NINTH CENTURY

A Scottish or Irish pilgrim, made Bishop of Fiesole by one of those miraculous elections: the candles catching fire, the bells ringing of their own accord, the mob awestricken. He was a poet, and gave his people grammar-lessons and also taught them to write verse.

After breakfast I showed Linda the Oriental Hotel's facilities: pools, restaurants, lobbies and shops. Shuttle BoatThen we took the little shuttle boat to the other side of the Chao Phraya River for a visit to the hotel's fitness center and spa. The spa was so inviting that we booked a ninety-minute massage for after lunch.

It was wonderful!

This evening we walked down Silom Road to the notorious Patpong area…where I offered Linda an introduction to the pleasures of the area. Among the delights of the night, we pilgrimaged ourselves into the infamous Kangaroo Club.

It, too, was wonderful.

We had a late dinner and went to bed.


Saturday, October 23, 1999 (Chulalongkorn Day)

A MESSAGE FROM THE ORIENTAL HOTEL TO ALL HOTEL GUESTS

"King Chulalongkorn the Beloved reigned from 1868 to 1910. We think you may be interested in the following passage taken form The Oriental Album:"

"Our most illustrious guest did not stay overnight at the hotel. His Majesty King Chulalongkorn paid us a private visit on a fine cool evening in December. The 17th of December it was, in 1890. He arrived at a quarter past six, without fanfare - he preferred it that way, was greeted by H.N. Andersen, whom he knew very well, and a rather nervous Mr. Allen the manager, and requested to be shown over the building he had heard so much about these past few years. He chatted easily with his guides and Mr. Allen soon regained his aplomb and silently congratulated himself that the rooms were looking spotless and the lawn well trimmed, and that the bar was not excessively lively as it sometimes could be. After visiting The Oriental, His Majesty went on to the Customs House nearby. A plan to extend the wharves and warehouses was being formulated and he wished to obtain first-hand information regarding its existing facilities, hence the inspection tour. The Oriental felt highly honoured that it too, had been given the same close scrutiny by the people's hardworking and beloved sovereign."

NEWNES, jerking us back to England notes:

And, now from something fun from today's Bangkok Post:

LONDON- Local councils do not have to soundproof public housing where tenants have complained about hearing their neighbours talking, making love and going to the toilet.

The Law Lords found that the London boroughs of Southwark and Camden did not have to foot the bill to soundproof a block of 20 flats and a converted Victorian house.

One resident, in evidence, said: "I can hear all the private and most intimate moments of my neighbors' lives." But the lords said the sounds of everyday life should be expected.

Lord Millett said: "There is no implied covenant on the part of a landlord that the premises are fit for human habitation, let alone that they are soundproofed."

Every once in awhile a day rolls around in which you say to each other, "maybe there is no need for us to even leave the property." Everything is right here. Room service can wheel in any breakfast we want ... the pool is just ten stories below our balcony ... across the river is the fitness center and the spa ... there are at least half a dozen restaurants under this hotel roof.

Alf: "Maybe when it gets dark we'll seek out more risky licenses ... but for now ... let's just stay at home."

Linda: "Sounds good!"

And we did.

After we successfully dealt with an ambitious round of breakfast dishes, we guiltily paid humble penance over on the far side of the Chao Phraya River ... at the fitness center. Linda on the Shuttle BoatThen our hedonistic pendulum swung back into its proper arc, and for the entire hour and a half before our lunch, a pair of teen Thai masseuses took over our bodies. By the way, The Oriental Spa is the standard by which all others are judged. If you don't believe me, ask Becky or Susan.

Sala Rim Naam at night is the destination for a display of classic Thai dance ... and Thai cuisine. It is on the same side of the river as is the Oriental Spa. During the day it is a buffet feast of Thai culinary joys that represent every region of The Kingdom. Yes, that's where we ate.

How decadent! Can there be more? Yes.

A three-hour dinner on the hotel terrace.

Still more? Yes.

Another massage ... this time off the property.


Sunday, October 24, 1999

Barbara Cartland Suite

Alf, staring at the back of the room door: "I wonder why we're here."

Linda, lifting her eyes from her nail file: "What do you mean?"

Alf, turning his gaze: "Well, Barbara Cartland was ... (hey, is she still alive?) ...anyway, she was or she still is the author of really sappy romance novels. Though, I never really read any of them."

Linda, half quizzing: "Oh!"

Alf, sighing-out: "Yeah, the kind where the heroine falls in love but saves herself until her wedding night."

Linda, raising eyebrows: "Geez! So why did the hotel name a suite after her?"

Alf, shrugging: "A lot of famous authors have stayed here ... I suppose the hotel got tired of numbering rooms ... famous names seemed like a good idea, I guess."

A Choice of SuitesLinda, speculating: "Right across from us is the John Le Carré suite. The luck of the draw, huh?"

Alf, with idle curiosity: "I wonder if it's like ours."

Linda, catching a disparity somewhere: "Didn't he write spy novels?"

Alf: "Who?"

Linda: "Le Carré."

Alf, puzzled: "Do you think he has Geritol in his mini-bar ... like we do?"

Linda, amused: "And, I bet he doesn't get a bran muffin on his pillow at night. Though they are tasty."

Alf, also amused: "It's sort of embarrassing to have to carry a pink room key. I bet Le Carré's is gun-metal blue."

Linda, putting away her nail file: "Let's go to the pool. I feel like a Bloody Mary and a swim."

Linda, as an after-thought: "What does NEWNES say about today?"

Linda, rolling eyes: "God, that is really boring. Isn't there anything else?"

Linda, exploring contents of closet: "I think I'll wear my new black bathing suit. What do you think?"

Alf, turning back to the keyboard: "We have to do this saints thing before we go."

THE ARCHANGEL RAPHAEL

Raphael, or "the God-healed," is the archangel in charge of travelers, and of the young and innocent. The best story of his presence on earth is that in the Apocrypha: of his helping the young Jew Tobias to collect a loan for his old father and then to pacify the dubious nature of a young woman who had already killed off seven husbands, so that Tobias might safely be the eighth.

Linda, standing impatiently at the door: "Done?"

Linda in Pool

Monday, October 25, 1999

Crispin and Crispinian
DIED 287

Two noble Romans who grew enthusiastic about the socialist or Tolstoyan implications of early doctrine. They settled in Soissons in Picardy and made shoes for the poor, free of charge; angels brought them the necessary leather.

They are the patrons of shoemakers and tanners.

It's a rainy day in Bangkok.

What shall we do?


Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Quadragesimus
SIXTH CENTURY

Quadragesimus brought a dead man back to life, but was shy about it. His excited wife laughed and cried and would gladly have made it the talk of the town. "Keep it quite," he said. "If anyone makes inquiries, say we had nothing to do with it - our Lord did it for His own amusement."

NEWNES need say no more than:

But, it went on to spoil the moment by adding:

Late yesterday, too late to be included in that day's journal, I received the following e-mail from Becky. Apparently she had just finished reading my October 24th journal entry.

Subj: Hello
Date: 10/25/99 7:21:45 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: lugny@transeo.fr (EMA)
To: Alf@corkscrew-balloon.com (ALF ERICKSON)

The room you have was the room I had with Ron Harris when I first went to Bangkok !

Of course, this brought Barbara Cartland back into sharp focus. What a coincidence! What is there about this suite?

Well, after reading my cable traffic from Vault-de-Lugny ... plus paying more attention to the decorator details of the room ... I got to poking around with this Barbara Cartland thing a bit more. This woman has written dozens of books with such fetching titles as "Little Tongues of Fire" and "The Necklace of Love." But, when you get past the titles you find that all the plots are but a variation on a single theme: side by side doors for schoolgirls who dither about in that tiny world set between some queer life in a nunnery and an almost as queer life in a paper back novel.

The pink is not everywhere. It lies on the floor, it dangles from the key, it plays among the pillows and it takes over the bathrobes. But, it is not everywhere ... I think that she would have wanted more of it:


A LETTER FROM MISS BARBARA CARTLAND, D.St.J.
23rd October 1985

"I am so thrilled to have a Barbara Cartland Suite in what I find is the most romantic Hotel in the whole world."


A LETTER FROM DAME BARBARA CARTLAND, D.B.E., D.St.J.
18th November 1992

"I do hope the party will be a great success and also do not forget that Sir John Mills, our most famous actor, said that he thought there was not enough pink. I do hope you have put some more in now."


This morning's Bangkok Post was amused by what went on in the Tate:

LONDON - Two visitors to the Tate Gallery were arrested after they had a semi-naked pillow fight on a bed displayed as part of a modern art installation.

Jian Jun Xi and Yuan Cai, of Chinese origin, were drawn to an exhibit by Tracey Emin featuring "My Bed," which has an unmade bed as its centerpiece.

The exhibit, part of a Turner Prize display, features the bed and two pillows, with used sheets, and used underwear and stockings thrown on the bed.

At the foot of the bed are used paper tissues, cigarette butts, opened bottles of vodka, medicine and a packet of condoms.

Mr. Jian, 37, told police: "We wanted to push her work to further limits, make it more sensational, interesting and significant."

Mr. Yuan, 43, tried to scare the guards by pretending to be a kung fu artist.

Kinari DancerHours later……………tiring of thinking about Barbara and her love of pink rooms and a pink life we took a boat across the river to watch some traditional Thai dances.

These are a few of the faces that we saw.

Some belonged to the mythological Kinaris ... ... ... others belonged to the Poothai people of north-eastern Thailand.


Wednesday. October 27, 1999

IN OUR PAGES: 75 YEARS AGO
[from The International Herald Tribune]
1924: Flappers Barred

LONDON - Flappers have been barred from the sacred precincts of the Temple, the famous home of London lawyers, because the merry laughter of the girls coming to and from work have annoyed the solemn solicitors and barristers. "What is a flapper?" asked George Bernard Shaw. "Is the Duchess of York a flapper? Have the porters at the Temple passed an examination that qualifies them to say what is a flapper? I think the measure is very high-handed, and personally I hate the word 'flapper' and never use it under any circumstances."

NEWNES notes that it was a dim date for men of God:

The girls at Patpong are so much fun.


Thursday, October 28, 1999

NEWNES, poking around in obscure corners:

Then bouncing back to the relevant:

Jude
FIRST CENTURY

The tradition is that Jude was either one of Our Lord's brothers or one of the Christmas shepherds. His grandchildren were very proud of their descent, and the Emperor Domitian had them brought before them, to ascertain how far the pretensions of this new royal family went. When he saw their farmer's muscles and calloused hands, when he heard that they owned only thirty-nine acres of land, and that the kingdom in question was to be all spiritual, he despised them as harmless simpletons, and let them go - a judgment somewhat more amiable than perspicacious.

After a busy Wednesday, a day of leisure undeservedly followed.


All day later ...

This one is for Becky and Susan ...

Goodnight.


Friday, October 29, 1999

IN OUR PAGES: 75 AND 50 YEARS AGO
[from The International Herald Tribune]
1924: Japan Troops

TOKIO - The Japanese Cabinet to-day [Oct. 28] decided to send two companies of troops and a detachment of machine-guns from Manchuria to Tientsin. The terms of the protocol drawn up at the time of the Boxer rebellion prohibit Chinese military operations along the Peking-Tientsin railway, and in anticipation of a violation Japan holds ready an adequate force for the protection of her interests and those of other nationals if necessary. Meanwhile, the Japanese are unanimously praising Baron Shidehara's firm non-intervention stand.

1949 - Royal Smokers

LONDON - Those who frown on the nicotine habit wondered whether Princess Elizabeth is a secret cigarette-smoker, for newspapers published a picture of her private desk and on it was an ashtray. The princess had never been seen with a cigarette in public or even at semi-private functions. The Buckingham Palace press officer said, "The Queen does not smoke, and the King smokes so rarely it's a matter for household comments when he does." Princess Margaret "has been known to take a puff now and then - but just for a lark," he said.

Benventura Bojani
THIRTEENTH CENTURY

An ardent ascetic who mistreated herself to the point of death. Her friends carried her to St. Dominic's tomb in Bologna; the presence of the bitter Spaniard's great body calmed her; but when she got home she began to lead an impossible life again, and soon died of it.

NEWNES notes the birth of a noted publicist:

And, the death of someone else named Joseph, a man vaguely in the same business:

Our penultimate day in Bangkok swirled again around leisure. We allowed Matsu to share our morning. What more could a bear ask for?

Dear Reader, last September while I was in London (on a working visit to inspect Corkscrew Balloon #3), I reported that two Asian women were killed by lightening in Hyde Park. Here is a follow up on that story that I saw in today's Bangkok Post:

WIRE BRAS DREW BOLT THAT KILLED TWO THAIS

London - Two Thai women were killed by lightening in Hyde Park when their underwired bras acted as conductors, a coroner said on Wednesday.

"This was a tragic case, a pure act of God," said Paul Knapman, recording a death by misadventure.

"This is the second time in my experience of 50,000 deaths where lightening has struck metal in a bra causing death but I do not wish to overemphasize any significance," he said.

Anuban Bell, 24, and Sunee Whitworth, 39, had been sheltering under a tree during a storm on September 22.

Dr. Iain West, a pathologist, said both women were wearing underwired bras and had been left with burn marks on their chests from the electrical current that passed through their bodies. Death would have been instant, he said.

Both women were originally from Thailand but were living in London and had been on a shopping trip when the storm struck.


Saturday, October 30, 1999

IN OUR PAGES 100 YEARS AGO

[from The International Herald Tribune]
1899: Book of Luck

PARIS - A resident of East Dulwich purchased at a local auction for a few shillings a parcel of old books, among which was a family Bible. His wife was looking over the books when she discovered that several pages of the Bible were pasted together, and she proceeded to separate them. A surprise awaited her, no fewer than six 5-Pound Bank of England notes found thus secreted. On the back of one of these the following last will and testament was written: "I have had to work very hard for this, and having none as natural heirs, I leave thee, dear reader, whosoever shall own this holy book, my lawful heir."

NEWNES, sensing the end:

Angelo of Acri
EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

The apostle of Calabria, during his novitiate, was much tormented by a sense of not having a vocation and ran away twice, but returned, feeling that there was no other life for him. As soon as the die was cast all went well. He was as pure as an angel, extremely poor, and perfectly obedient. He preached for thirty-eight years in the heel of Italy.

Today was a day like most others. Except we left Bangkok.


Sunday, October 31, 1999 (Halloween)

NEWNES sighs:

Thirty some hours after checking out of The Oriental Hotel we landed home. But not before passing over half the earth on two non-stop flights.

We started the journey at the Bangkok International Airport. Smoking CellThough BKK radiates all the warmth and intimacy of a large urban shopping mall it has, curiously enough, pioneered the development of holding cages for smokers. Every couple hundred meters throughout its vast departure pastures the ever-thoughtful Thai airport authorities have planted sealed glass booths for the temporary confinement of persons who are addicted to cigarette and cigar smoke. These chambers lack the amenities found in other passenger friendly facilities; however, the absence of circulating air makes it totally unnecessary for the dedicated smoker to waste his own tobacco when he feels the need for a nicotine fix. Merely settling into a folding chair and taking a deep breath is enough to placate any hungry lung tumors.

The flight to London was uneventful. No "brace" positions were required and the food carts were on time. Though, at precisely the time that our TG910 was on its final approach to London, a Boeing 767 on a scheduled flight from JFK to Cairo dropped like a stone into the Atlantic. The luck of the draw: 400 folks from one airplane take the scheduled walk toward the luggage carousel, while 200 others remain forever in their seats.

Virgin Atlantic LoungeHeathrow's Terminal 3 is the home, in my opinion, of the finest airport lounge in the world. This is the Virgin Atlantic holding cradle for its "Upper Class" clients. And, no one does this type of thing any better than Mr. Branson. While Linda took full advantage of the freshening showers and the hair salon, I parked myself at a 3,000,000,000 bytes per second Internet terminal. Though Linda was somewhat diffident about her new "mildly lesbian" hair cut, I was quite pleased with the way the laser printer gave me my complete trip journal just a few seconds after I hit the "OK" button.

The flight to Miami was uneventful.


Coming next ... INDIA, with a journal by Mike and Annie ...


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