Thursday, March 29, 2007

Beyond a joke

This photography lark is getting beyond a joke – I, now, have an agent. Bim’s job is to make sure that all of the girl’s know what my fee is, and then to make sure that I collect what’s due to me. In return, she gets a lady drink every now and again. This cuts into my “profits”, but increases “turnover”
Last night, I decided to go watch some Thai boxing at the new stadium, that replaced one of the better discos in Phuket. Owner was forced to leave Thailand after a series of revealing photos appeared in a Swedish paper, which offended the Thai cultural norms – let that be a warning to any foreigner who becomes too successful in Thailand, but I digress. The ticket was overpriced, but what the heck, I am on holiday. All in all, there were twelve bouts, only a few went the full five rounds; the first was between two young kids (60lb or 27kg weight), for kids they weren’t pulling any punches, and looking at the supporters there was quite a bit of money wagered on this bout. Betting on Thai boxing is the only gambling allowed in Thailand. There were quite a few foreigners fighting, as well; an Australian beat his local opponent by hitting him in the bollocks with his knee, a Swede lost to a South Korean, who scooped the prize money of 40,000 baht (about 1,000 US Dollars). It made a change for one evening.
There are quite a few Russian tourists here at the moment, and a pair of ladies, who must have been Moscow’s answer to Sharon and Trace (the two fat slags in Viz magazine) tried to chat me up last night, when Peanut wasn’t around. When they didn’t get any success, one of them spilt her vodka and coke down my back. This did nothing to improve her chances of ending up in bed with me, ughh the brain shivers, even at the thought of it.
I am finding more and more bars that are stocking Beer Laos these days; this is great as I love the stuff, and it gives me less of a headache. This is a bit strange as it never used to give me a headache at all, so either, a) I am drinking even more, b) its old stock and past its “best before” date, or, c) due to high demand the brewery is letting its standards slip.
The weather has been great the last few days, and now aloe vera after sun is being purchased by the truckload to try and ease the sunburn. I don’t think this good weather will last, as there are a few wispy cirrus clouds in the sky as I write this, so could be rain soon. Its also been getting noticeably hotter, obviously getting ready for the baking temperatures of Songkran.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Lord Lichfield needn't worry

I will never make a living as a photographer, but I do enjoy it as a hobby. As a career it would not suit me, as I am not artistic or creative; however, I do understand the physics of lenses and light, which means that I can take proficient photos. Also to earn a crust you need to have a good business plan, and my present one sucks at making me money, but it does keep me in beer.
The first night I went out with my camera and went to a bar where I was known, and I offered to take some portrait shots of the girls. A lot of the girls were reluctant, thinking I would post them on the Internet, so a bribe was needed – a lady drink. This night was very expensive, and fortunately the batteries on my flash ran out before my cash did. Next morning spend about half an hour on the laptop processing the shots, and load them up onto a memory stick. Luckily the weather was poor that day so I wasn’t wasting any valuable beach time. Then its down to the developers and get the photos printed on a good size paper, 6R (6” x 8”). Then I am ready for the next evening.
This time go to a different bar, with last night’s photos and the camera. Put the photo envelope on the bar: Thais love to look at photos, so then they will say how nice the photos are – so I offer to take their photo, no enticement is needed this time, and all I ask is that if they like their photo, when it is printed that they buy me a beer. Then it’s back to the first bar, and have drinks bought for me by the girls, saving me 70 baht on each beer.
OK I have to be careful because: firstly, I don’t have a work permit, and what I am doing could be construed as work, and, secondly, there are Thai photographers, who take photos of the bar girls for money. I certainly don’t want to upset these guys, as I could end up being beaten up or having my camera gear smashed or stolen – and that would ruin my holiday.
Still it’s a nice diversion to an evening, and it gets me to practice my hobby some more. I will try and upload some of the photos, soon, but all the Internet connections I have found, so far have either been expensive, or slow. I also need to remember which of the girls didn’t want their photo published – and that is harder, as the memory cells seem to get a bit messed up after a few bottles of Beer Lao.
Peanut’s sister, Mem is in town. I first met her, when she was a gangly, shy thirteen year old. Now she has blossomed into a young, Thai beauty. I am not sure if I believe the story I am being told about her working in Carrefour, and getting a transfer to a different branch after a month. It seems a bit un-kosher for someone who has recently finished school. Still it was nice to see her again, and she is still so shy and reserved, totally the opposite of the confident, outgoing Peanut.
Last night, on the way home, Peanut wanted to stop and get some food, but I wasn’t in the mood, and told her that I wanted to go straight back to the hotel, which we did. About five o’clock in the morning, Peanut wakes me up, and says, “ I can’t sleep, tilak, my stomach hurts so I am going to get some food”. So she gets up pulls on some clothes and heads out to forage for a noodle stall still open at that time. About an hour later she crawls back into bed, and I ask her if she had had some food, to which she replied that yes she had, and that she had bought me some chicken noodle soup. Sure enough, when I got up a few hours later, I found a plastic bag with cold soup in it. I blasted it in the microwave and had it for breakfast. 30 baht soup, it can’t be beaten.
The weather is much improved today, and the bright lobster colour is coming along nicely, a few more days and it will start to peel off!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Phuket - day 1

My expectations for the flight to Phuket were not high, especially since Thai Air had re-arranged my return flight to enable me to kick my heels for four hours in Bangkok’s new Cobra Swamp Airport. However, this time my expectations were pleasantly exceeded. For a start the flight was only about a half full, so I had the seat next to me empty; secondly, the cabin service was exemplary – I think I fell in love with the young stewardess who kept making sure that my glass of Singha never went dry. Dry is a good adjective to describe the fish/rice meal that was served – but it was tasty.
We landed in Phuket three and a half hours later, just behind a Russian charter jet, so the queues at immigration were not short – I supposed it took me about forty minutes to clear that particular hurdle. By then the luggage had been unloaded and there was my suitcase sitting forlornly by the carousel. The customs officer wanted to scan my luggage and then was interested in my case full of camera gear, but accepted that I was an enthusiastic photographer on holiday, and let me through.
The drive to the resort was uneventful, and soon I dumped my suitcase in my room and headed across the road to the Friendly Massage hut, where I let a Thai lady work the stress of the flight from my muscles. After that I headed to the Beach Bar. Several of the staff there remembered me (mind you it was only ten weeks since I was last here) and I supped a few ales. After that I staggered across to another bar, where several of my friends were drinking, and it would have been churlish to refuse the drinks they were offering. Then it started to rain, so I couldn’t leave the bar.
After a while the rain eased and I managed to head back to my hotel room and have a shower before going out for the evening. The first tuk-tuk driver I asked the fare to Basngla Road told me 150baht. When I asked why it was so much, he told me it was due to the new one way system. The fact that the new one way system doesn’t make the journey any longer didn’t appear to appease his argument. So I walked there, instead. Fortunately, because it was still raining the pavements were relatively clear.
Heading up Bangla, I popped into Kangaroo Bar, where Bim was very happy to see me; she introduced me to her sister Mei, who seemed charming enough. I only stopped there for a couple of drinks, before heading up to Mai Thai Bar, where the owner’s fiancée Ead was having her birthday party. Fortunately there was food at the party, but I was still on the way to becoming “kee mau”
Then Peanut turned up, we went and sat down at a table on our own. I told her that I was a little surprised to get a phone call from her last weekend; it seems I have her mother to thank for that. Apparently her mum said that she wasn’t a young girl any more (25) and needed to work out what to do with her life. Now that her sister has finished school and started work in Carrefour, there no longer the monetary pressures that she used to have- although of course she still needs to send money back for her son, Joe. On and on she went, not letting me get a word in edgeways, and when I told her, that if we were going to get back together again, we need to have a serious talk she told me to “talk to her tomorrow”
So, anyway, back to the hotel – this time the tuk-tuk cost two hundred baht, which was a pure rip off, even Peanut said so and she is not often willing to defend the Farang over the Thai; but it was all to no avail – two hundred baht was paid.
Back up to the hotel room and we had great sex – that’s a bit of a lie, as I was to pissed and tired to be up for much, so Peanut had to do most of the work, and it was jolly good for me, at least.
Got up late this morning and went and had a breakfast of chicken rice soup (kao tom gai), which is great after a night on the piss, then down to the beach, a few beers after lunch and then a siesta. Peanut is going to some kind of concert tonight, so I won’t see her till later on; and I will definitely be eating before I start drinking, this evening – I feel like som Phad kaprow mua.
I am a littler bit sunburned all ready, I would guess about two or three days before I turn into a lobster and peel. The weather today has been great: sunny, not too hot with a nice breeze off the ocean, and the sea was lovely and warm.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Forget about the bad times, oh yeah,

I haven't been in the mood for posting much recently; but thought I would try and catch up.
Last week I went to Perth for some business meetings. The meetings were very constructive and worthwhile. We had a great dinner at the yachtclub, there on the Swan River, and I even managed to grab some time to wander around King's Park and take some pictures with my new camera. I found Perth to be a quaint city, with friendly people; but what is it with the taxis, just about impossible to find, even when you book them twelve hours before. Don't mention Qantas: this airline is supposed to represent the Spirit of Australia, and they aren't doing Australia any favours, I can tell you.
I have been really busy at work, although there are some major SNAFUs in China with creeping pipework and the such, but no one will admit to any delay in the project. I had two phone calls from Peanut at the weekend, totally out of the blue. When I asked her why she was phoning me she said it was because she missed me! Ahh!
I am on holiday in Phuket for the next couple of weeks, so wait to find out what happens!
Thai Air have screwed up my flights on the way back. They have moved half their flights from Phuket to Bangkok to use the old airport, and as a result they have cancelled the first leg of TG630. This means I have to get an early flight from Phuket and kick my heels for 4 hours in the new airport. Good reason for using Dragonair next time!
I won a free lunch for ten people at the Bulldog Bar in LKF, so I am taking a bunch of people from the office there today, then a mad rush to clear my desk before going on holiday tomorrow. Glad to get out of the way of all the crowds that accompany the Rugby sevens, and with Ching Ming and Easter, I don't use up too much of my annual vacation.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Welcome the pommey bastard to God's own Earth.

Tonight I have the pleasure of flying to Perth (in Australia, not the one in Scotland). I had hoped to do a bit of sightseeing, but it now seems that they are sticking in meetings left, right and centre; so I doubt I will have a minute to myself. Life is hard at the top. Back here on Friday evening, so will have to make the most of the weekend.
I am flying there with QANTAS (Quickies Available Now in Toilets, Ask the Staff); though, I guess, since my names not Ralph, theres little chance of that; probably more of the Quick And Nasty Typical Australian Service.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I surrender!

OK, I admit it, my will power is non-existant, I am weak willed, irresolute, spineless, submissive maggot who shouldn't have access to money in a bank account.
Yes I bought the camera and lens that I saw the other day. Yes it was extravagant, but it was a bargain - rather like the housewife who buys crates of cat food, because it was on special offer; even though she didn't own a cat.
So I am now the proud owner of two good digital SLR cameras, and now need the impetus to go out and use them. I have decided that the rule will be:- unless shooting conditions dictate one particular camera, then on manky days, like today, I will use the 1D, on dry days or inside I will use the 5D. That's basically because the 1D has better weather sealing than the 5D.
Looking out of my office window, I see that the passenger liner "Queen Elizabeth II" has berthed at the Ocean Terminal at Tsim Sha Tsu, which seems alot more convenient than the Queen Mary II who was miles away from anywhere. I also noticed that the QE2 didn't get alonside until 11:45 in the morning which must have put a few excursion operators in a tizzy. As she was making her way through Victoria Harbour the barges that were stacked up to supply her with fuel, food and remove the garbage, where already following her up the channel. Its just a shame I don't have my camera with me!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sorely tempted

As usual, after my weekly Mandarin lesson, I was in need of some liquid refreshment, so I headed up towards LKF. This takes me along Stanley Street, and I normally pop into a camera shop on the way just to see if they have any glass that I like.
As I walked into the store I noticed two of the store assistants looking at a very nice camera body with a nice looking lens with a red band on it (a red band on a Canon lens indicates that it is one of their top of the range "L" lenses). I worked out that the camera was a Canon EOS 1D, but couldn't work out whick mark it was. Knowing that the Mark III has just been released, I asked the assistants if this was the new Mark III. They told me: "Can not be. This is second hand". So I went for a closer look and sure enough it was the Mark II - which is a very good camera, and the lens was an EF85mm F1.2L lens which is a really nice piece of glass. They wanted just over HKD14,500 for it - it would cost you probably four times as much new, and if I had the cash in my pocket I would probably have gone for it.
So instead I went up to Lang Kwai Fung to quench my thirst, and then home for a restless sleep, dreaming about cameras - I know, its sad.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hello, Sailor!

Well it seems that Wanchai will be off limits for a few days. I went out for a cigarette on the safety floor this morning, and spotted a couple of warships in the anchorage. I have checked the Hong Kong Marine Department website to find that there are 4 US Navy ships and a support vessel in Hong Kong; they are:- USS Ronald Reagan, USS Lake Champlain, USS Paul Hamilton, USS Russel and USNS Tippecanoe altogether there are six thousand eight hundred personnel on those ships. I just hope that they are gone by the weekend.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Body Check and Splash

Back before the Hulk Hogan Era of wrestling, England had a large wrestling industry of its own that used to regularly pull in audiences of over 10 million. Not bad for a small island. When I was a kid, it was a tradition that Saturday teatime in winter was spent watching wrestling, drinking tea and eating crumpets. We had our favourites: Mick Mcmanus, Les Kellett, Giant Haystacks, Jacky Pallo and Kendo Nagasaki, to name a few. There was, however, one other wrestler, reportedly a favourite of the Queen and Margeret Thatcher, called Big Daddy; normally attired in a union jack leotard, he boasted a 64" chest. His famous move was the splash, where whilst his opponent was lying on the mat he would drop on him spread-eagled, all 350lbs of him. My favourite move of his though was the body check that used to make his ample stomach wobble, and usually caused his opponent to stagger backwards and fall on the mat, ready for the Daddy Splash to finish him off.
Despite the MTR corporation's campaign to promote courteous behavior on the trains, I am getting used to peoples rushing on to trains at MTR stations and not allowing passengers to alight. This is despite obvious green arrows on the platforms and announcements in 3 languages on the tannoy system. Hong Kongers just have to be first, and will continue to exhibit a total lack of courtesy to people trying to get off. And don't give me that "its a mass transit system carrying a lot of passengers" its been this way since 1986 and it ain't going to change in a hurry.
So I have developed my own, very effective way of overcoming this behaviour, and its based on the Big Daddy body check, and, although I can't boast the same chest size or weight of Big Daddy, it is very effective against puny little people who fail to exhibit the proper courtesy; as one guy found out this evening when he found himself on his backside on the platform.
The Thais have a very appropriate phrase for this; "Som Nam Na", which loosely translates as "serves you right!"

Monday, March 05, 2007

Getting things done.

I haven't been in the mood for blogging recently, and when that happens I always make excuses for not writing, like: there's nothing to write about, or, my eight readers don't want to hear about that.
Of course this ends up in a re-enforcing cycle, the longer it is that you don't post the harder it is to come back with a zinger of a post, to get the ball rolling. Someone, recently suggested that you need to have posts already written, so that you can do a quick edit and post it - but, that's really hard to do in a diary type blog - like I know whats going to happen when I go out in Wanchai on Friday night.
Take this Friday, for instance, I headed down to Wanchai, and started off in Joe Bananas, and it became apparent from the outset that the clowns were out in force. I thought that I might gain some refuge from these immature idiots in Neptune, but exactly the opposite occurred. First of all, the local know it all sat down next to me, and started to tell me stuff about the bar staff to show how knowledgeable he was, then he moved on to his bowel movements. I was saved from that unpleasant conservation by a group of very drunk people, one of whom managed to knock my beer over with his filofax - fortunately it spilled all over mr. Know-It-All, and my drunk saviour replaced my bottle of beer - I just wish that he didn't apologise quite so much. Several other people passed through my world that night, none of which enthused me to the atmosphere in there, so I went home early.