Monday, 28 September 2009

I lost my songs down a Khao Yai waterfall

Not a translation of a popular Thai folk song translated into English with my newfound Thai interpretation skills but the reality of going up country and down waterfall with an ipod in your trouser pocket.

D and I went all 'Deliverance' again and attempted to tame nature until it unexpectedly fought back.

Many of the 'tachers' were off to the Khao Yai national park (where St Steve's sister school is) the following weekend to hike, play tennis, swap resources and talk shop about nailing kids for forgetting their Lacrosse sticks, but not for D and I- we were going all Burt Reynolds, sans 'tache, and Jon (how the hell did he produce such a cracking daughter) Voight again in the wilderness early. Seeing as D has a hairier chest than me and can recite all the lines from the 'Smokey and the Bandit' films and I have 'a real purty mouth' she got to be Burt and I was Voight.

Luckily things didn't get too macho and there were no potential male rapists (only Graham from Cornwall, where sodomy is a given) as we were aided by some familiar faces, daring Thai guys and a French character from the Tricolore French text books-

'Ou est Pierre?'

'Pierre est falling down a waterfall in Thailand!'

wasn't one of the usual grammar exercises one found in the '80s, but it fitted here.

We were told to prepare for something a little more daring than the last adventure, perhaps Corrin's translation skills aren't as perfect as we thought as none of us knew what was about to befall us:

1. A 70 foot drop without safety rope that the SAS would've been proud of and overhanging cliff into a lagoon just as it started raining
1a. A tree crashing down into the valley floor just after we'd departed

2. A short abseil down the middle of a slippy waterfall (where the ipod got ruined and because of the last harddrive refusing to work we can't reload them onto a new ipod!)

3. Lunch in a cave consisting of the tastiest chicken I've had in Thailand yet and some sticky rice

4. Another terrifying waterfall abseil where it was impossible to know which way was up and which way was down (see the video of Corrin in perhaps the scariest and most amusing thing I've seen in a long time holding his breath while decending like Mr Bean)

5. Fun on a Tarzan swing

6. A hike on your hands and knees down a fast flowing river which took about 3 hours!

7. A final mini abseil into a boat where you had to row your way to civilisation!

All this of course while being filmed by a Thai TV crew for Channel 7 TV- perhaps they'll name it 'When thick Farangs go bad' or something...

They seemed disappointed that none of us fell to our deaths I think- it would've boosted the viewing figures no doubt!

The canoeing on the Sunday was laughably tame in comparison.

It's a few quiet weekends now before our first visitors arrive for October half-term, sorry mid-term break, and we work out how to send some money home.

Laew phop gan mai

Monday, 14 September 2009

Stories of pictures of...

I know some of you can't read very well and because I seem to be tired all the time so often can't be bothered to type (although by the time I've finished reading this it seems it's the longest post in a long time)- I thought some pics might be more suitable for all of us.

A colleague, Paul, is a keen and skilled amateur photographer and has added some good pics to facebook from the first month or so and I'm sure he won't mind me sharing them- hey he won't even know unless my ego gets the better of me and I post a link from facebook.

Above is the sketching from D's first anniversary present for me (she had a cheap blow-up of Bearwood High Street in exchange but she didn't seem to mind...) from the rising artistic talent of Sheffield and one time HMV colleague and fellow Wednesday fanzine contributor Pete McKee. Hopefully it will grace the main wall in our apartment when we return to the UK to fetch it come Christmas. Hopefully my face will look less round in the finished version and D will begin to look black- but who knows...

Above that is one of Paul's shots from a recent lads only trip to Sukhumvit (a very touristcentric part of Bangkok that is also popular with expats) in Country Road II bar- not sure where the original Country Road is but I'm assured it's probably even more surreal. Here the Thais love of Country is shown for the first time in this post- you might be able to spot the Thai Country star on the stage- I particularly enjoyed the Beegees and Billy Joel medleys he diversified into (both artistes are a particular secret favourite of mine- especially the much maligned Mr Joel). All this while being served constant booze, club sandwiches and having pool balls racked by Thai bar ladies!
Higher still is the infamous Soi (alley) Cowboy, named after a GI post 'Nam who positioned this street as Bangkok's premier fleshpot for lots of belligerent and ignorant westerners to expoloit/be ripped off by up country Thai girls looking for Prince Charming. They're not likely to find him ala 'Pretty Woman' as the place is full of saddos and aggressive 'lads' who are happy to fuel the Thai image of western males. D and I have already realised that we're not fond of the expat areas like Sukhumvit and Silom. The prices are huge for everything that you have tried to forget about the west and the often boorish attitude of our 'kin' when juxtaposed next to the refined and pleasant Thai people is too much to take at times.
Rising up we have a strange shot of me at 'Winks' the local music bar come trendy HiSo teen/early 20s hangout in our area of Chatuchak, about half a mile up our road Pathon Yothin. Gary, the Head of English first introduced me to the place on our first working day and I think he's already started to regret it as he was at one time a bit of a novelty as the only Farang (foreigner) regular as it's just on the end of the soi where he lives- now all the St Steve's staff seem to be treating it as a local!
Not that the trendy young Thai things that co-own it would be thrilled with Gary's, D's or my UK credentials as it's just not in the nature of Thai people to ask you about life in the UK- they seemingly are happy to soak up, especially US and in this case UK culture. (the place is full of Beatles stuff, including DVDs of the Fab Four in the far east in the 60s and has a large display case full of action figures and curio alternative/retro items like 'Speak n spells') That particular night we were in, the band were playing a Ska set followed by Arctic Monkeys and Pulp downladed on a macbook by the DJ. Here was an opportunity to ask a Sheffielder with more than a passing knowledge about both Sheffield bands and a woman from the home of 2Tone everything they didn't know but the Thais just seem to regard you with mild curiosity (they certainly did when we were dancing later on- as far as I can see they are far too reserved to do anything other than bop in a stationary position)- and it's to their credit and my admiration.
Judging by my expression I'd had quite a few by this time (eventually we rolled in down Yothin at 5:30! unheard of since about 1994) and it seems that I'll have to find my drinking boots again as the expat culture and Thai for that matter is heavily into boozing. A few bottles followed by a whiskey and soda to share seems to be the novel way of joining in and it seems to work as the soda actually hydrates you along the way and stops the dreadful hangover in a tropical country the next day- or so the geeky Science teachers tell me.
Higher still is me on the speedboat taking us back from our first, and only so far, beach adventure. I can see the burnt patches of my ever decreasing hairline in this shot (I actually look like a young Peter Cushing here I think) but I look smug and contented and so I should do- we have a wonderful job, in a great city and have made some great new friends as quite a few of us are couples over here for similar reasons and have just been thrown together to live, work and play. It's not been easy at times, especially living and working with your better half, but on the whole everyone's been great and I think it shows on my face. Using facebook also reminds me just how priviliged we are to be here and enjoying weekends like this when most people are negotiating painter and decorators or watching their children take their first dump in a potty if their facebook statuses are anything to go by. Thank goodness D and I didn't smarm our way into a career in the UK. Although there's quite a few here that are trying so I guess the no nowt, thick as pigshit, talentless and charmless jobsworth is a universal figure of fun and frustration for normal folk.
There's a few of us karaokeing on a recent trip up country (I've detailed some of it in a lazy way in the previous post) The shot, I think is really professional and the depth Paul has got in this image is amazing. If I could be bothered I'd like to learn how- but in the meantime I'm happy to copy his pics and give him some occasional credit along with his wife Hannah and another couple, Andrea and Graham (there you go I know he reads this so will enjoy seeing his name in lights), who also like to use big cameras. We are learning Thai though so perhaps we are contributing to some of this proud country's culture in some way.
I digress though, karaoke is another import of course and like it's originator Japan, seems to have a massive effect on the Thai people. Often they're hesitant to do anything that is deemed a bit 'showing off' (like men going bare chested in the swimming pool or the dancing I was mentioning earlier) but are happy to humiliate themselves 'Endurance' style at the mic. In this pic we are giving it some western tuneage from the limited repetoire they had on their database- but it's clear they were happy when we had gone, such is the way they are proud of themselves and happy to make themselves look a bit, well, stupid with dreadful Country numbers and bubblegum uncatchy pop sung in Thai with dreadfully high-pitched voices.
We recently ventured to Chinatown in Bangkok and were met with an old man singing (badly) into a mic at 3pm in the afternoon in a very traditional mall with no-one listening- very surreal. It's also clear from the kids at school that Thais love this geek chic and not in a it's cool to be uncool way- more likely they appreciate someone when they're a bit of a loser as they're more likely to be self-deprecating. (although not in my experience- losers try way too hard to fit in and their easy going nature is generally on the surface due to the way they look and carry themselves) I guess it fits in with the Buddhist philosophy of humility being the way to enlightenment (or so Steven Seagal says, that great Buddhist philosopher...) although I'm not sure Thais are proper Buddhists and only seem to catch on to the fun stuff like Spirit Houses and the worthwhile stuff like not having to look at someones crusty feet.
Gary and I recently had a discussion how monks buying computer games and listening to ipods can't possibly make them proper monks either. Oh by the way the Thais aren't completely chilled out, perfect human beings- they do get very competetive when the bets come out at snooker etc.
The top two pics sum up my journey to find my drinking boots again 6 weeks in and again the Thais and their cheeky sense of humour in a parallel world of embarassment about the most normal things.
The glass of Singha looks like amber nectar but is in fact gut rot, especially in the mini draft towers that most bars do- the other local devil's urine Chang beer seems to go down much better but is an unregulated 6.5% and mostly much stronger which is why I and a few of my colleagues have collapsed, puked and shat their way into a few Saturday and Sunday mornings. The best bet seems to be paying an extra 20-40p for a bottle of Heineken or trying to source out 'Leo' another local fave- it certainly suits me to get on the whiskey and sodas asap if my body's going to hold out! We're trying to steer away from the boozing though and have recently took up the 'lot more difficult than I remembered' Badminton and will soon be away again on a rock climbing/abseiling weekend up country.
So until next time- sawadee krap.