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  • Living in Thailand Blog May 2006

 

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Living In Thailand Blog

Wednesday 31st May 2006

A much better day in the classroom. All of the students today, I have been teaching for a long time and we have a good rapport. Quite a few recent absentees returned for lessons and the fun that went missing when they did suddenly returned.

Apart from my students, something else also returned this week - the heat. Last week it appeared that the rainy season was well and truly with us. Regular as clockwork, the rain cloudes started to gather in the afternoon and a huge storm would arrive every day. The rain is sometimes inconvenient but I love the cooler temperatures.

There has been no rain now for three days and today was as hot as any 'hot season' day. When it gets like this I start to feel quite ill. It's just oppressively hot and very uncomfortable. My day finished nicely though.

I went to a little place for dinner I discovered recently that does the best sweet-and-sour chicken I have had in Thailand. The cost is a measly Bt25 and I always come out feeling bloated. On the way home, still feeling hot from the searing heat today, I stopped at a small hairdressing place to get my hair washed.

There were two girls sitting outside, both of whom were very pretty. I asked how much to get my hair washed and they told me Bt30. Getting my hair washed without getting it cut is something I would never do in England but in Thailand I do occasionally.

It's more like a head massage than a shampoo. You lie down, rather than sitting uncomfortably with your head cranked back over a sink, while a pretty girl massages your scalp and temples. Some, like the girl tonight, use their nails to scratch your scalp which I find just heavenly.

The whole thing takes about 15 or 20 minutes; they shampoo two or three times and then condition your hair. If required they finish you off with a blow! All this for Bt30. I was planning on giving her a Bt20 tip but that was before the owner of the shop decided I should be charged Bt50 instead of the Bt30 I was told previously.

Last night, while I was working on my computer, the girlfriend decided to give me a shoulder massage. It was great - very relaxing - and soon it progressed to a full, lying down on the bed massage that sent me to sleep.

These girls just know instinctively how to give pleasure and, unlike many Western girls I have known, they go out of their way to please their men. Thai society is not equal and it is still very much a man's world but I'm not complaining.

The men are happy and the women seem pretty happy too. There is no silly political correctness or women's liberation movement to screw things up. Men like to be men and women like to be women. You don't see gangs of thug-like Thai girls out on binge-drinking sessions swearing and smoking. Everyone's happy.

Suffice to say, the chances of me being even remotely interested in a farang girl again are about the same as they are of me hooking up with a ladyboy. I have absolutely no interest at all apart from, maybe, Angelina Jolie but I think she's already taken by some guy who's name I can't remember.

What a country.

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Tuesday 30th May 2006

I have one of the best teaching positions in Thailand but the job has its moments. My students are all adults in full-time employment and just recently they have been busy. On top of that I think that a few have become a little fatigued with learning English. As a result, class attendance has dropped off lately.

In other situations in Thailand I would possibly be blamed for the fall in attendance but they know I put in a lot of effort and that it's not my fault. It was therefore decided to open up the classes to other members of staff. Quite a few signed up but this has given me a number of problems.

The classes are a mixture of old and new students. Some of the new students are better English speakers than the old ones but first I have to assess their ability. Mixed ability classes are very difficult to teach so I may have to rearrange the groups but I'm not in a position to do that just yet.

Last week I ran a general assessment session with the new students and, while talking about families, one of them asked about the difference between elder and older and eldest and oldest. It's a subject I already have a lesson plan for so instead of answering the question I decided to teach it this week and that's what I did today.

The first problem was that the student who asked the question didn't turn up this week. Mai bpen rai. The next problem was constant chattering among a few of the new students. When I investigated I got a not-uncommon Thai objection. One of the girls had decided that what I was teaching was the dreaded grammar and, "she wasn't there to learn grammar, she was there to learn English conversation."

This attitude really bugs me. It's the same as students asking to be taught how to add up numbers but they don't want to learn maths. My stock response is a series of questions about what is required to be able to converse in English.

They need words - vocabulary - and then they need the ability to put those words into the right order. They need to know which other words to use to make correct sentences and, in the case of English, they need to conjugate verbs and use specific tense structures. In other words, grammar. So, how can they learn English conversation if they choose to ignore grammar?

This all goes back to their schooling. English grammar is 'taught' at Thai schools by giving the students pages and pages of verb conjugations to memorise and it's a nightmare for them. They then develop a phobia about English grammar and later in life, if they study English further, they switch off whenever they think something is too much like grammar.

Her next objection was that she wants to learn English for her job, not general English. It's a problem in this group because they all do different jobs. When I asked the rest of the class, the others wanted to do general English and when she saw she was the odd one out she decided to change her mind.

All this nonsense and carrying-on just upset my old students. They are quite shy and it has taken a long time for me to overcome their shyness. During this entire lesson they sat there and I couldn't get a peep out of them.

These are all resolvable problems, and they will need to be resolved soon, but it's a headache I can do without at the moment.

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Saturday 27th May 2006

The pound to Baht exchange rate finally seems to be getting back to a reasonable level after a scary couple of months. When I arrived in Thailand at the end of 2003 it was around Bt64/Bt65. I watched it climb steadily during 2004 until it had reached almost Bt74. At that time, Bt10,000 from the ATM was only costing me around £135.

At the start of 2006 it started to fall and by April (with the rate less than Bt65) that same Bt10,000 from the ATM was costing me over £154 - a big difference. It's now back to around Bt70 and maybe the rate will continue to improve. While the rate was bad I was very happy to be earning some money in local currency.

While out and about this morning I was involved in another outrageous flirting encounter. I boarded a sawng-thaew and two sisters got on straight after me. They were both pretty girls but the younger of the two was quite stunning. I guess she was about 22 or 23.

They sat opposite me beaming huge smiles and after a couple of minutes we got into a conversation. They were going home to Phattalung and the younger sister worked in a hotel in Phuket somewhere. Her name was Apple and I don't know what it is about that name but, for some reason, the worst flirts I encounter in Thailand always seem to be called Apple. As we spoke she gazed at me with a cheeky look in her eye and continually raised her eyebrows in a very suggestive manner.

There was a time not so long ago when I may have been taken in with all this nonsense and may have read far too much into what was actually going on. I may have thought it was my lucky day and tried to pursue the girl.

However, experience has taught me otherwise. We arrived at my stop where I said goodbye and good luck and I went home. Having a very pretty girl half my age flirting outrageously with me feels good but that's as far as it goes. This kind of thing is not uncommon in Thailand and in the past I have tried to pursue the girls but it is always a huge waste of time. If we can't learn from experience, we probably aren't capable of learning.

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Sunday 21st May 2006

It's that time, once again, to make a run to the border to get a new passport stamp. Thai Immigration gave me a one-year visa but whenever I come into the country I only ever get a 90 day stamp. Every 90 days I must leave the country and come back in again to get another 90 days. I then have to make two trips to the Department of Labour to keep my work permit in synch with my visa.

The whole process take about 10 hours of my time spread over two or three days and costs just over Bt1,000. It's a small price to pay for the privilege of living in Thailand but sometimes I wonder if it is really necessary.

I am one of the fortunate ones as I live close to a border but for people living in some parts of central Thailand these border runs can take a couple of days and entail an overnight stop.

As usual, I spent about two minutes in Malaysia. As soon as I entered Malaysia I turned round to exit again in order to go back into Thailand. It's never a very comfortable experience because entry is never guaranteed and Thai immigration officials are about the surliest folks you will ever meet in Thailand. When you are dealing with Thai Immigration forget about being in the 'Land of Smiles'.

Exiting Thailand is never a problem but what if they don't want me to come back in for some reason? It's unlikely but it could happen. On these border runs I just carry my passport and leave all of my belongings in my room but what if I can't get back in to the country? This is something that I don't like about living in Thailand. I live in a semi-permanent manner but at some time in the future I would like to make more of a permanent home in Thailand.

This could possibly mean buying a property and a vehicle. However, would I want to own valuable assets in the country but reside permanently on a visa basis where my visa renewal - or just entry into the country - was never guaranteed?

Having got my new passport stamp I returned to Hat Yai and then took a minivan to Songkhla. Rarely in Thailand do I ever get involved in confrontations but it happened today. Whenever it happens it is always because of the same reason.

The reason is that somebody is being greedy and is trying to make things better for themselves - or get more money - at the expense of other people. I am not a confrontational person at all and will do anything to avoid confrontation but when people try to take advantage of me I tend to react.

The minivan journey didn't get off to a good start. As I climbed in, I was looking around for somewhere to sit when I felt someone jab me in the back. I turned round and some little Thai idiot shouted, "You," at me while pointing at a seat. I didn't appreciate his rudeness but just sat down. There was worse to come.

The drivers won't leave until the vans are full. There are 14 seats and pretty soon there were 14 people. We started to move but then stopped. The door was opened and the ill-mannered back-poker showed three more people in.

Behind me were mostly small Thai females who were ordered to squeeze up so that the other people could get in. It wasn't comfortable for them but the Thais never complain in such situations. We started moving again but then stopped after a few yards for a repeat performance.

With 17 people already in the van they had stopped so that three more people could get in. Where, I thought, are they going to go? The rude guy then starts pointing at me, telling me to squeeze up. Next to me was a Thai man with his eight year-old son standing between his legs.

On the other side was a large Muslim lady who didn't even have a proper seat. She was sitting on the highly uncomfortable collapsible seat next to the door that is always going up and down to allow people to get on and off. Not only couldn't I 'budge up' but even if I could I wasn't going to. It was at this point that I started getting quite angry.

This overcrowding of transport is one of my pet hates in Thailand. They do it on all manner of vehicles, including boats, and people have drowned as a result of overloaded boats capsizing. In vans it is not only bloody uncomfortable but it is dangerous too because the brakes and suspension aren't designed for so many people.

Despite what was going on, the Thais still refused to speak out - they never do. They are nice, easy-going people which is a pleasant quality but they allow people to walk all over them. However, this farang had had enough and started to speak out - in Thai.

As I started my rant they just ignored me but the fact that I wasn't going to move (there was no room to move anyway) thwarted their plan because there just wasn't any physical space for more people to get on board. As they continued trying to cram more people on board my rant just got louder.

The driver of the van was as keen as anyone to get 20 people in the van and it was him that exploded first. He was a Chinese-Thai and whereas the Thais are quite docile, the Chinese aren't. If I ever get into a confrontational situation in Thailand I can guarantee it will normally be with a Chinese or another farang.

He couldn't handle my objections constructively. His only answer was to try to throw me off so he could then replace me with three Thais. In Thai he just shouted, Farang, get out." I refused. They gave up their plan to get the other people in and left with 17 passengers.

The driver was furious and had steam coming out of his ears. He proceeded to drive like a maniac, just pulling straight on to a roundabout and cutting people up. It didn't bother me. If he had caused an accident it was his problem, not mine.

At this stage the other passengers did actually start to pipe up and weren't impressed with his behaviour. After a few minutes he calmed down. I was getting ready for a fist-fight but when we got to Songkhla he actually asked where I was going and dropped me off.

Culturally the Thais are a lot more compliant than Westerners. It's good because this compliancy - and the respect Thais have for others higher in society - keeps society well regulated despite the fact there is very little law enforcement.

However, there are a lot of greedy Thais (not to mention a few farangs living in Thailand) who think they can get away with anything because people never speak out and will just do what they are asked to do.

In this case there was no other reason than greed. They load up their vehicles for no other reason than to get more money and they don't give a toss that it is uncomfortable and dangerous for passengers.

As a farang in Thailand, you may feel like speaking out occasionally - as I do occasionally - but be prepared for some fireworks. They know that what they are doing is wrong but they don't like people telling them - especially foreigners. If nothing else, it is a loss of face which can have serious consequences in Thailand.

Whenever I get into these situations I start to regret having said anything almost immediately. Not only do I not like causing a scene but potentially it can be dangerous. There are millions of illegal firearms in the country, not to mention millions of knives.

Thais, having lost face, can also lose their marbles temporarily and do crazy things. This guy decided to teach me a lesson for complaining his overloaded minivan was dangerous by driving in a dangerous manner. Nothing bad happened to me but upsetting the wrong person in Thailand could result in a gun being fired in anger.

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Wednesday 17th May 2006

The Thais are a miserable bunch at times and it's not actually that unusual to find them in a bad mood. I have been shown more cold shoulders today than I can ever remember in one day. So much for the 'Land of Smiles'.

There is a woman at work who runs a small kitchen there. She makes drinks for the staff and serves lunches and plates of fruit at meetings. For a long time she would track me down on the days I worked and make me iced coffee. That stopped all of a sudden and I have noticed some quite unfriendly looks from her recently.

I saw her this afternoon and she just turned away to ignore me. I said hello and asked for a coffee, to which she snapped back at me, "Arai na?" (What's that?). She begrudgingly brought me a coffee but refused to reply when I spoke to her.

Later in the evening I walked past a small local restaurant where I normally talk and joke with the girls working there. There are about five of them ranging from around 20 to 40. As I prepared to say hello and exchange the usual banter I was met with icy stares and, once again, deliberately ignored. The same thing happened as I walked back later.

I have no idea what has upset the coffee lady but with the women in the restaurant it is one of two things. A few days ago one of them asked me if I would teach her son English and the question got my usual response which was a polite but firm refusal. If it is his mother who wants him to study he is very unlikely to be motivated and I have had enough of trying to teach unmotivated, lazy students. Apart from that, they would only expect to pay me what an Isaan rice farmer is paid so there is just no desire on my part to do this type of work.

The other possible reason is that I walked past their shop with my girlfriend for the first time a couple of days ago. I have found before that girls who are friendly and chatty suddenly start giving me the cold shoulder treatment if they see me with another girl.

These are not isolated incidents. Since I've lived in Thailand, this kind of thing has happened a lot for no apparent reason - or for a stupid reason. When I checked out of the first apartment building I stayed at, the girls on reception all started ignoring me. Great. Aren't I allowed to move then?

At restaurants I've eaten at fairly often but then stopped going to because I got a bit bored the staff have subsequently ignored me. They really are a funny bunch at times - touchy, moody and prone to sulking over nothing.

Another observation is that on some days I encounter lots of miserable Thais and on others I encounter lots of happy ones. This, again, is a bit of a mystery but it might be weather related. There have been heavy thunderstorms the last few days and the Thais react very strangely to rain.

I've mentioned this elsewhere but for many, life stops when it rains. They won't travel anywhere and act almost with a sense of fear. Rain means staying indoors - preferably asleep. Whatever the reason, it's not a pleasant trait and it came as a bit of a surprise to me, but if you come to Thailand expecting perpetual smiles and happiness you are in for a rude awakening.

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Saturday 13th May 2006

My girlfriend can always be relied on for some fascinating stories. She spends more time where she works waiting around for customers than actually working and while she is idle she reads the Thai newspapers as well as doing other things to pass the time.

What I have noticed though is that the stories she gets from the newspapers tend to have a common theme. The most common theme is a Thai female getting involved with a foreign man where her motive is financial and his is sexual.

Sex occurs very quickly before they have a chance to get to know each other, the relationship goes wrong and one of them ends up dead. This is when their story makes the newspapers.

She told me a couple of weeks ago about a Thai woman and a German guy. The German had given her money apparently for some kind of business venture but then the relationship had gone wrong. He demanded the money back but she didn't want to return it. Instead she used some of it to hire a contract killer (a frighteningly common phenomena in Thailand) who killed Fritz.

This week's story was about a female Thai teacher who had been 'chatting' to a Pakistani guy over the Internet. He had sent photos he said were of him but weren't and then he arranged to travel to Thailand. She went to Bangkok to meet him at the airport and within minutes they were heading to a hotel together.

At the hotel they had sex and later she asked for money to cover her expenses for travelling to Bangkok, which he had previously agreed to give her. He refused. He tied her up and had sex with her again but this time against her will (in other words, raped her) and then killed her.

There are many girls in Thailand who aren't starving but they don't have much money in life and have even fewer opportunities to get more money to experience better lives. For many, the only solution is to find a foreign man.

This strategy is fraught with danger. Thais are not very good at differentiating between good and bad foreigners. It doesn't take me very long to suss out foreigners in Thailand. I can normally do it just by looking at them but there are other factors. Their manner of speech, their general intelligence, their knowledge of spoken and written Thai, their leisure time habits, their knowledge of Thai culture. There are lots of things but most Thais can't read any of the signs.

I have had serious words with a few of my Thai girl friends to be very cautious of foreign males in Thailand. A lot I see are just losers who I wouldn't wish upon any girl, especially a respectable Thai girl. The way some of the girls throw themselves at foreign men is a little concerning considering the type of foreign male Thailand tends to attract.

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Friday 12th May 2006

I've been suffering from some hearing problems this week. They started a few days ago when my bad ears made me think that motorcycle taxi guys were quoting me double the normal fare. This morning I had to check what I thought I heard again but for different reasons.

My first task of the day was to send a package to Bangkok. A publisher working on a new guidebook for Thailand may be interested in some photos I took at Thale Noi in Phattalung. The files are large and too big to send by e-mail so I got them burned to a CD.

I got an oversized envelope and packed the CD in with a lot of bubble wrap making it a fairly bulky package. At the Post Office the girl asked if I just wanted to send it my normal post. I asked what the options were and she told me there was an express service as well as registered post.

Sending it by registered post seemed like a good idea so that's what I opted for. The price was Bt18 and when she told me was when I thought my hearing had started to go again. It seemed ridiculously cheap.

After sending my package I went to a music store to buy the second Lanna Cummins album as I love the first one. Legitimate CDs are cheap in Thailand anyway which is why I don't generally bother with the copied ones. The normal price is about Bt135 compared to the UK where CDs cost the equivalent of about Bt600 or Bt700.

I got out Bt200 and the girl said Bt45. The CD was on sale and it cost me a paltry Bt45. On the way home I stopped for lunch and ordered dtom kha gai (one of my favourite Thai dishes), rice and a glass of freshly sqeezed lemon juice. The cost for a great meal was Bt80. What a great country.

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Thursday 11th May 2006

I went to a wedding reception last night. Wednesday might seem like a strange day for a wedding but it is not unusual in Thailand. Monks are consulted about special occasions so they can choose an auspicious date and it can be any day of the week.

The wedding was what might be described as a 'Hi-So' affair. I have one very good female friend who is a fantastic girl. She's not from a wealthy family but she went to a good school and many of her old school friends (who she still keeps in touch with) are from wealthy families. I have got to know some of her friends and I now have a circle of friends who are fairly influential around town.

The girl who took me to the wedding is a local councillor and her uncle is the town mayor. The bride's father is also high up in local government. The wedding was held in one of the top local hotels and it was huge. Not only was a very large reception room packed with guests but there were also many people eating outside the main room and around the swimming pool. I was told there were approximately 1,200 guests. It was certainly the biggest wedding I have been to.

I was informed beforehand that there would be a lot of very good-looking, single, wealthy girls there and that proved to be the case. There were several large tables of girls on their own, all dressed up and quite a feast for the eyes.

I am only writing about this because experiencing 'Hi-So' Thailand is very different to what I am used to. For many years I only met people lower down the social scale when I visited Thailand as a tourist - service staff and bar girls (prostitutes), actually.

If anything, the wedding reception was a little reality check. I know the situation with Thai girls very well but even I start to get carried away at times, thinking what they say is true and that I am really a desirable person.

When you completely remove money from the equation the situation becomes pretty much the same as it is anywhere in the developed world. While mixing with Thai girls who have money, I have found them to be polite but not particularly interested in me.

The ones that are interested are always the poor ones. Don't ever be fooled as to what the real reason is for many Thai girls having an interest in you. There are exceptions but most often than not it is only ever money.

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Tuesday 9th May 2006

As a farang living in Thailand, there are certain aspects of Thai behaviour that become quite tedious after a while. That's the case for me anyway. These things are no big deal and I can handle them easily but when they reoccur day after day it just gets tiresome and boring.

Often, when I go into a restaurant where farangs normally don't go, it's as if an alien has just walked in. The waitresses turn into giggling schoolgirls. Because they can't speak English and because they assume that all farangs cannot speak Thai they just ignore me.

The other thing is greedy taxi drivers. When I arrived in Thailand the situation was fine. The standard fare for tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis was Bt10 and for sawng-thaews Bt5. However, the Thais were hit by a double-whammy with fuel prices.

As oil prices rose to record levels the government, who had been subsidising fuel in Thailand, realised they could no longer afford this generous subsidy and removed it. Suddenly the Thais were hit with real market prices in a market that was rising very quickly.

As a result, and quite understandably, fares went up. However, fares are all now at least double what they were when fuel prices haven't doubled so actually the guys are doing OK. Yet they are still greedy and that greed is even worse when a farang wants to go anywhere.

I had the usual problems this morning. Firstly there were a number of tuk-tuks that wouldn't stop for me because I was on my own. Fares are charged per person in Thailand and not for the journey. This even applies to motorbike taxis if they take two passengers. They charge double for two people even though the fuel cost is just a little bit more for the extra weight compared to a single passenger.

Because tuk-tuks can carry several passengers the drivers often can't be bothered if just one person tries to flag them down. Tuk-tuk rides are not private charters and the drivers can pick up other people on the way if they already have a fare but this doesn't seem to make much difference to their way of thinking.

After several tuk-tuk drivers waved me away, my only option was a motorbike taxi. In all truth the fare to where I was going should have been about Bt15 by motorbike taxi but I know that the minimum I will pay is Bt20. The drivers work a cartel to keep the minimum fare higher than it should be.

I didn't have to wait long for one to come past as there are hundreds. When I asked how much, he had to think about it (which is always a bad sign) and then he came back with Bt30. I just shook my head. He asked me how much I wanted to pay. I knew that if I'd said Bt15 he would have refused so I just said Bt20 and off we went.

When I wanted to come back I was waved away by tuk-tuks again so flagged down another motorbike taxi. When I asked the fare he told me Bt40. I made him repeat it several times and he even knew what it was in English. I made him repeat it because he was taking the piss.

I asked him if he was joking, "Phut len mai?" He said he was speaking the truth, "Phut jing." I just walked away with a look of disgust on my face. Another tuk-tuk came along and he stopped for me even though I was alone. I told him where I was going and asked how much. He said Bt20, which was fine.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, my experience with tuk-tuk drivers has been very mixed. They can be complete rogues or really kind gentlemen. This one was the latter. He spoke nicely (phut phrot) and thanked me at the end of the journey. I thanked him equally.

This is how it should be but it hardly ever is. I shouldn't have to ask the fare all the time but if you don't and the driver tries to rip you off at the end of the journey you are in a difficult position. By negotiating the fare beforehand you can just walk away if he takes the piss.

These irritations are things I will have to live with because nothing will change. As I said though, it's no big deal really and the benefits of living in Thailand far outweigh these minor annoyances.

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Monday 8th May 2006

It's been a while since I mentioned anything about Thai politics. That pleases me because what was going on upset me a great deal and when I don't have anything to say it is a good sign. However, there was a major piece of news announced today.

The Constitutional Court (mainly as a result of recent comments from HM the King to get the mess sorted out) ruled today that the April 2nd election was invalid and will have to be held again. The Thais have already been to the polls many times this year and will have to go again soon.

I am still not happy with the situation because with Thaksin still around, what will be different at the next election? Thailand's academics and educated middle-classes know what is going on but once opened up to the general public (specifically the rural poor) the same election result will come back.

All along, there has only been one real problem with the current Thai political situation but that problem has never gone away. Until he does, nothing will change. Thaksin cleverly stepped down to avoid some awkward questions after selling Shin Corp. Where he is now is safe but he has never officially exited Thai politics and the word is that he will stand again in a future election.

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Friday 5th May 2006

Around Songkran I started getting disturbed in the evening by loud music playing somewhere outside by a live band. I thought it was just part of the Songkran celebrations and that it would stop soon. It didn't.

Today I discovered the source of the noise. It's a new bar that has opened at least half a kilometre away. The style is the typical Western saloon type of place that the Thais love so much. It's large and fairly open. In the corner is a stage with lots of musical instruments and naturally, this being Thailand, Spinal Tap amps that go up to 11.

Noise is at the top of the annoyance list for most expats in Thailand. In apartment buildings with small rooms, thin walls and people living closely together some Thai residents have no problem playing music as loud as they can. When you see people moving in or out of a place they often have ridiculously big hi-fi systems for where they stay.

I think, but I'm not sure, that there are laws in Thailand about bars in residential areas having to install double glazing and other sound-proofing items. These laws may well exist but laws in Thailand aren't worth the paper they are written on.

The music every night must be affecting the quality of life for hundreds - maybe thousands - of local residents living in the neighbourhood and there are plenty of poor unfortunates who live a lot closer to it than I do. I can change apartment buildings if it really becomes unbearable but they can't just move.

This is one of the hazards of buying a property in Thailand. When you buy it everything may be fine but there is nothing to stop a bar opening up next door and playing loud music until 2am every morning. What do you do then? Call the police?

I read about just such a situation arising in Phuket but when the expat resident investigated further he found that members of the local constabulary were regulars at the very bar causing the problem.

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Thursday 4th May 2006

What's wrong with me? I felt ecstatically happy about being in Thailand on Monday but for the last three days I have just felt generally pissed off? This doesn't make any sense at all. It's just me and not Thailand. When I get like this it doesn't matter where I am living because I would feel the same. Let's look at the reasons why I shouldn't feel this way.

I have a great job and work just six hours a week although recently it has only been four or five hours. On my days off I can visit places that many people would only be able to visit once a year on vacation. What's more, I can travel around very cheaply. Transportation, accommodation and food is extremely cheap in this part of the world.

This evening I went for a massage. I have given up with the Bt100 an hour places because so many of the girls have bad attitudes towards their work. I've started going to a spa which is a lot more upmarket. My current massage girl - who I always go to - is a goddess.

She is 24 with a pretty face, gorgeous smile and a body any catwalk model would be proud of. Everything about her is graceful and elegant and just being in her presence makes me relax. She is a good girl, very conservative, and certainly doesn't mess around with clients. It's just not that kind of place.

In terms of expense it is expensive for Thailand - over five times more expensive than the Bt100 an hour places but there is just no comparison. Back in my native England this type of spa massage experience would be far too expensive for me but in Thailand I can indulge myself once or twice a week and still not spend a lot of money.

On the way back from the massage I stopped at a little restaurant I hadn't eaten at before. It's a place that doesn't often see farangs. As I approached I saw one woman nudging her friend as if a Martian was approaching. This isn't unusual with Thais who have little contact with foreigners. I think they were a bit surprised when I asked in Thai what they had.

It was the usual rice dishes - phut kreung gaeng, phut grapow, phut phet with different meats or seafood. I opted for sweet and sour chicken and shrimp. It was delicious with lots of fresh stir-fried veggies and a sauce that was just right. Water was free as it usually is at these places.

The tables were low with cushions to sit on instead of chairs and everything was very clean. My meal cost Bt25. The woman doing the cooking was working like a demon over hot woks in very high temperatures. At these prices their profit must be minimal. So many Thais work so hard for so little but they seem happy and they are normally the kindest and most generous people of all.

At times like this I want them to charge me more. Charge me Bt30 or Bt40 ... please. I have tried to leave tips in the past but they think I have forgotten my change and just come running after me with the money.

What a great country this is.

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Wednesday 3rd May 2006

What do Thai girls see in farang men? They continually bitch about their own men and repeatedly tell me how the Thai men are unfaithful and can't be trusted. They seem to think that farang men are different. Well maybe some are but most of the farang men I see in Thailand certainly aren't.

I have several female Thai friends and they are a great bunch of girls. They are all approaching 30, well educated with good jobs and good connections, and all are very riep roi. All of them are single and most are still very pure. They are traditional girls who don't believe in sex before marriage.

They have this fixation with foreign men though which I just can't understand. I get asked often if I have friends I can introduce them to and they are quite serious. They won't look at Thai men but literally chase foreign men down the street if they see one.

I met two of the girls today and found out that one has just finished a relationship with a farang. She has a small restaurant and the other girl was sitting outside one day when a farang walked by. She made a big thing of talking to him and he came back later.

He liked the other girl and they started seeing each other. Today I found out a little about him. He's a 38 year-old American ex-GI and by the sound of it he has some fairly serious emotional problems. She said that he cried all the time when they were alone and he had made several suicide attempts.

I asked if he was taking any medication and she said lots. I would imagine a cocktail of anti-depressants; that being the American way of dealing with emotional problems. What she said about him didn't sound at all good and she is a very nice, level-headed girl who is balanced with no hang ups.

She told me he was now living in a small town on the Malaysian border which I know from having done visa runs there. There is only one activity in town and that is prostitution. The town has grown into what it is because of the demand across the border from Malaysian men for prostitutes.

I met a Norwegian girl some years ago who had a severe emotional disorder and her only escape was through sex. We met on a plane flying from New York to London and it was about the most interesting plane journey I have ever had but that's another story. Anyway, we tried to continue the relationship but she was so screwed up in the head it was impossible.

From what my Thai friend said I get the impression the American guy has the same type of problem and is trying to escape by surrounding himself with prostitutes. Knowing the kind of girl she is I doubt he had much luck with her.

The point though is that this obsession the Thai girls have is quite dangerous. They completely overlook Thai men who are probably decent guys to choose foreign men who are mentally unbalanced. It's crazy.

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Phil.UK.Net

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Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.

One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. I always use Agoda to book hotels in Thailand. The company was established in Thailand and has great local knowledge, as well as a huge inventory of hotels.

If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.

I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.

If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.

If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.

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