Saturday, March 22, 2008

Black beer with a creamy head

Next weekend, I will be attending the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens Tournament. Hong Kong's, self-proclaimed, most obnoxious expat calls this his "second-favourite occasion of the year, because every sweaty, blubbery gwailo in town has been interned in a stadium where they paint their faces, indulge in inebriated pagan chanting and watch hulking oafs run up and down a field, leaving the rest of the city a distinctly more pleasant place."
What will make it even more pleasant for me is that I didn't have to join the multitude, who queued up all night in December. I got mine by drinking beer. OK I don't normally drink Guinness, but since those kind people at Diageo have rewarded me with tickets, I may even change my tipple for the weekend, especially as G is now the official beer of the tournament for the next 3 years. So Mr H enjoy your pleasant city in the daytime, but watch out in the evening because the smell of b.o. and eggy-farts will be overpowering.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Some people would be modest

But I say I told you so.

There is an international furror as Hong Kong has closed its schools to a flu bug; I mentioned it over a month ago here

Back in Hong Kong myself this weekend and looking forward to it.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

OTOP gemstone scam

I was in Bangkok today, and was nearly had by the gemstone scam.
Although it's widely known about, there maybe people around who haven't heard about it; so that's why I am repeating it here.
I had gone site seeing, taking the river boat from Saphan Taksin to Tha Tien. I spent a nice couple of hours wandering around Wat Po and the area around it.
I was walking past the Grand Palace (with no intention of going inside, I don't like the two tier pricing system: free for Thais, Farang pay 200 baht), when I was approached by an older Thai gent, who spoke very good English, who introduced himself as someone who worked in place security, going home at the end of his shift (alarm bell #1: this guy's English was just a little bit too good for a lower rank civil servant, I thought, but gave him the benefit of the doubt). He even showed me his ID card. (Alarm bell #2: The ID card was very poor. It looked like a photo copy of something that had been laminated and badly trimmed with a pair of scissors. he didn't give me any time to examine it; not that it would have meant anything as it seemed to be totally written in Thai). We started chatting and he asked me if I had been to see the Grand Palace (Alarm bell #3: why did he want to strike up a conversation with a sweaty farang, at the end of his shift? I would want to go home. I also thought that Thais do not normally strike up conversations with strangers). I told him that I didn't want to visit it as it was too crowded with Farangs. He laughed and agreed with me. He then suggested that I visit Wat Suthat, and that i was very lucky, as it was normally closed to the public, but was only open for a couple of days. (Alarm bell #4: What a coincidence that this wonderful temple is only open the day I arrive in Bangkok. Wat Suthat is open to the public [B]every[/B] day. OK I had to check on the internet for that one.)
He then drew me a map and said I should go to Wat Suthat, then go to the OTOP Centre to buy some gifts for my family, and then it was only a short distance to Victory Monument, where I could get the skytrain back to my hotel. All this sounded like a very good plan. The guy was very polite and seemed genuine.
I told him that I was heading back to the river to get a boat back to Saphan Thaksin, and he told me that it would be very busy, and I might have to wait 2-3 hours for a boat. (alarm bell #5: this sounded very improbable. As it happened I had to wait twenty minutes).
He told me about the OTOP store saying it was a royal factory and I could buy gemstones for my family. JACKPOT! Now I knew why he was being so polite, it was the old gemstones scam. He said i would be much better getting a tuktuk to the OTOP centre. He even offered to tell the tuk-tuk driver where to take me. I politely declined his kind offer and said i was going to sit in the shade and think of what to do next, he left and I avoided being part of a gemstone scam.
If you don't know what would have happened next you can find out here and here.
OK I was lucky enough to know about the scam and avoid it, but I feel sorry for tourists who might fall for it. Maybe its there last day in Thailand, and they get told the palace is closed for the day, and they miss out. Why do TAT, the Police and the palace allow these scammers to operate so blatantly?

Monday, March 03, 2008


On the following morn, our blogger awoke and stretched. Ah, the first full day of his adventure, and he didn’t have to do anything at all, if he didn’t want to. What a wonderful lazy feeling. He opened the curtains to see that the golden sun was high in the sky and beating down. He thought that it was beating down a little to strongly for his liking.
He pulled on his colourful shorts, t-shirt and sandals, because this blogger liked to wear colourful clothes when he was on adventures. He sauntered out, because this blogger liked to saunter, it had a lazy feeling to the word, and he was feeling lazy, so he sauntered, and found a place where he could get some food.
After he had filled his stomach he continued to saunter along the beach, and he thought to himself that he was right, the sun was beating down a little too strongly, so he sought shelter in a massage parlour, where he had his wooly feet administered to by a delightful elve, who wanted to give him an oil massage. Our blogger thought to himself, “where’s the harm in that?”; so after an hour they headed out the back to the room where the oil massages were administered, and our blogger enjoyed himself some more.
So now a couple of hours had passed and our blogger didn’t know what to do with himself. He wasted some time looking around a shopping mall, but that really didn’t excite him. Then he remembered he had stashed a couple of large bottles of magic elixir in his fridge. He headed back to his temporary hole, extracted the bottles labeled Singha and spent some time by the secluded swimming pool.
That evening, when our blogger returned to Walking Street, things were back to normal. Trolls, elves and goblins were crying out, trying to entice mere mortals into their emporia: “Come inside, beautiful ladies”, “Welcome to the Lobster Pot”. “Hello handsum man, come inside for a drink” were just some of the cries that reverberated around the street. Others were accosting people in the street, trying to get them to buy their cheap, tacky trinkets at grossly inflated prices. This all added to the cacophony created by the music coming from stalls selling bootleg CDs and DVDs competing with the sound systems of the bars.
Our valiant adventurer was pleased to note that people were drinking from green and brown bottles, esconsed in foam condoms. The elixir, called beer was back on sale. He headed into one establishment on the street and consumed a plate of flat noodles with pork and green vegetables, all washed down with a pint of cold, draught Heineken. He would have tarried longer, but this particular bar had chosen to adopt the smoking ban recently put in force by law, but not enforced by the government.
Wandering around without a clear plan in his head, our blogger spotted a go-go bar he knew from his previous adventures, so he headed up Soi BJ and into TQ2. He found himself a table in the corner and took in the room. In the middle was a stage, with the obligatory chrome pipes reaching to the ceiling. On this stage seven ladies lazily shuffled their feet to the heavy rock music belting from the loudspeakers. They appeared to be more interested in eaking out the last remaining flavour of their chewing gum, than in entertaining the half dozen customers around the room.
The uniform on the stage was, well, nothing. The girls were absolutely naked, but had their knickers close to hand in case the wrong person came through the door. The age and looks of the girls would prevent them from winning any prizes at a beauty pageant. C section scars, sagging bellies and buttocks were evidence of standards being lowered.
Soon two ladies came and sat with our blogger. It seems a common strategy here that one will speak fairly good English, whilst the other struggles to understand the simplest phrases, apart from “do you want a drink?” They all understand that one! Introductions were made and drinks were bought. Friendly, inane chit-chat followed that, thankfully, went beyond “What’s your name? Where you from?”
Although the girls were pleasant enough, they didn’t pass our adventurers “Do-I-Want-To-Wake-Up-Next-To-Her” (DIWTWUNTH) Test. So when the girls had gone back to dance on the stage, our blogger settled his bill and quietly, slipped out the door and into the night.
Our blogger decided to head for safer, if slightly more expensive ground, and ended up at Angelwitch. The mamasans remembered him from his previous visit, and soon he was occupying a prime seat, enjoying the show with a cold beer. A few new dancers and a couple of new routines meant that he wasn’t bored by the naked flesh cavorting across the stage.
Sometime during the first show, one of the mamasans came over and explained that she had a new girl whose first night it was, and could the girl come and sit with him? The blogger, being a gentleman, was hardly going to turn down such gracious hospitality, and this young girl was ushered over. “She’s not new! I have seen her before.” declared our adventurer. “Where?” asked the mamasan with a confused expression on her face. The blogger pondered this riddle for a while, and concluded that he may have been mistaken, so he said “maybe it’s the bikini I have seen before, its very catching, especially on such a beautiful lady” Blushes and face saved all around, the young girl planted herself bown on the bench next to our blogger.
Gloin introduced herself; she claimed to be twenty-one years old and from issan. She said she used to work at Coyotees, but had been on holiday in Phuket for the last few months. “Not working there; on holiday”, she insisted.
After spending some time with her it was apparent that she fitted the bill for our adventurer, so whilst she got changed, he sorted out the bar fine and settled the check bin.
A small issue when they tried to leave, was the waitress claiming that she given our questor too much change. Fortunately he was not so “mao” that he could tell the mamasan exactly how much the bill was, how much the change, and what tip he had given the waitress. He and his fair maiden were allowed to leave the cage unharmed; he did wonder, briefly if the waitress was trying to scam him, but decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, as he may want to go back to that treasure trove some time later on his adventure.
They returned to his cave, where the sexual tension was thick, you could have cut it with a knife. “Come on”, she said, “join me in the shower”.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

There and Back Again Chapter One - Apologies to JRR Tolkien

In a hole above the ground there lived a blogger. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a blogger hole, and that means comfort.
This blogger had lived in the neighbourhood for some time, and people considered him very respectable, not only because he was comfortably off, but also because he never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what this blogger would say on any question without the bother of asking him.
This is the story of how a blogger had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained – well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.
By some curious chance one afternoon long ago in the quiet of the office, when there was less noise and more green, , and the blogger was sitting at his desk after lunch, tapping away at his computer, because the smoking of enormous long wooden pipes that reach nearly down to his woolly toes (neatly brushed) is forbidden– when his boss Gandalf came by. Gandalf ! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale. Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the most extraordinary fashion.
‘‘Good afternoon!’’ said the blogger, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows.
‘‘What do you mean?’’ he said. ‘‘Do you wish me a good afternoon, or mean that it is a good afternoon whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this afternoon; or that it is an afternoon to be good on?’’
‘‘All of them at once,’’ said the blogger.
‘‘Very pretty!’’ said Gandalf. ‘‘But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this afternoon. I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’’
‘‘I should think so – in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them,’’ said our blogger, and stuck one thumb behind his braces, because he was fat in the stomach and had to wear braces to keep his brightly coloured trousers up.
Gandalf drew himself up to his full height, that wasn’t very tall, since he was a shortish wizard and started to explain to the blogger, “Across the see and over the mountains and still further over some plains there will be a great gathering at a place called the City of Angels. This meeting will be opened by a fair princess and I have to attend this meeting to cast some spells, but I need someoneone to attend the meeting as well.”
Well the blogger startled to chortle to himself, and declared, “I am your man”, because this blogger wasn’t going to pass up on a chance to visit the Land of Smiles, especially when a wizard was paying.
The blogger continued “Pray, tell me Gandalf, what is the name of this gathering?”. Gandalf replied”It goes by the strange name of Pipetech 2008, and it is a great gathering of people involved in our business that is held every two years in strange lands”. Of course the blogger knew exactly what the meeting was; he was stalling for time while he devised a plan.
“This seems like a worthy adventure for me,” he declared, “In order to prepare myself for this, I shall go and acclimatize in the Elysian Fields for a week before hand”
Gandalf told him that he was showing his true worth for the adventure by making such a clever plan.
So several weeks later our valiant blogger sets off on his quest carrying a lot more than three handkerchiefs, what is more he didn’t have to fight any trolls on his journey, and the only thing resembling a dragon that he saw was the airplane that carried him to Bangkok. To make his journey even better, the blogger was upgraded to business class for the journey.
Very soon he had found a nice concrete hole with a swimming pool to stay at for his week halfway between Jomtien and Pattaya. That evening he decided to head into town. When he reached the town, something was different. All the gogos were closed, with magical signs on the doors that our valiant blogger couldn’t read. There were some bars open, but the only lights came from above the pool tables, and the people in the bars were drinking strange concoctions such as sprite, orange juice and coke. And it was quiet, ever so quiet. The only music came from stalls that were selling CDs and DVDs.
Our blogger went in search for some nourishment, and quickly he was sat at a table wolfing down some pad kaprow, which wasn’t really spicey enough for him, but it filled the hole in his ample stomach. Now he was happy, a full stomach. He needed to find some entertainment.
Strolling down Walking Street, carefully avoiding the small children selling fluorescent bangles, old ladies selling flowers and swarthy looking men advertising ping-pong shows, he carefully looked around, and then down an alley he spotted a sign that he recognized. Hope at last for some company and entertainment. He turned down the side street and carefully avoided the sleeping troll, side stepped the speeding motorcycles and sauntered past the food stalls selling unimaginable bite size snacks.
He soon reached the door of the place he was heading for, and a mighty fine door it was too, made of blackened glass and guarded by two people. Our blogger suddenly recalled reading about a new smoking law in Thailand, so before he committed himself to entering he asked if he could smoke his long pipe inside, he was told that he could. He entered and looked around to take in the scenery. In the middle of the room was a bar and surrounding the bar were several Thai ladies, some quite beautiful and some not so pretty. He sauntered up and sat on a stool that was vacant between two girls. Very quickly a waitress approached and asked if he wanted a drink. Our blogger said that a little beer would suit him, but the waitress just shook her head, and our blogger settled for some coke light. Then he remembered, they were electing a panel of wizards the next day and the whole country had to stay sober in case an evil wizard was elected by mistake. The two girls next to him introduced themselves as Flori and Nori, and very soon they were all talking away about mines and gold and troubles with the goblins, and the depredations of dragons, and lots of other things which he did not understand. Well they may well have been, because our blogger didn’t really care, he was back in Thailand with a smile on his face and in the company of some beautiful ladies. He bought them drinks, nam som and mipo seemed to be the flavour on this tequila free night.
After a while our blogger got bored of sitting in a bar and asked Nori, or was it Flori? to accompany him back to his hole for the night. In a very short time they were back, wearing no clothes, roaring like lions, howling like wolves and romping on the bed like a stormy sea.