Sunday, November 26, 2006

Budget Village Tour

A “Moo Barn” in Thailand refers to a village. Like in the past days of Singapore where we used to have kampong communities, the people here socialize a lot in a simple unsophisticated manner. Urbanization killed the unsophisticated human nature of Singaporeans. Although Bangkok is now a jumble of unorganized concrete and wooden housing, each area has their own hidden boundary of a kampong village. Almost once a month, some guy in the village will organize an outing, much like the Community Centers in Singapore organizing a budget road trip. I was on several of these budget tours with the Thai “Moo Barn” people.

First of all, chaos is an inherent nature of such tours. The bus seats are always almost definitely less then the people going. This is Thai nature. More people going means more profit for the organizer and any issues with seating can be sorted out with some simple jokes and ah-mahd-relak-jac approach. That means three people sharing two seats or some standing or sitting on the floor board and major seating re-arrangement, much like pieces of a chess game thrown all over the chess board. Being a spoilt Singaporean used to systematic treatment of every conceivable service in Singapore, this put my rage into 6th gear on VTEC roar and they had to persuade me to withdraw my furious request for a full refund and not to try perform an alien examination probe with my camera tripod on the organizer. The comforting thing to note is that on such tours, the buses are of a rather luxurious standard. A double deck air condition coach goes for about 15,000 baht (SGD$600) per day. And the holidaying monks always get the good view seats upfront.

Almost every appointment is late in Thailand. This is again Thai nature. So the bus started one and a half hour late and I am supposed to hold my cool and forgo the lost holiday experience time. The bus trip to KL from Singapore means perfect timing of your bladder with a single toilet stop on a 5 hour journey. Any toilet request is usually rejected by the lao-ah-beng driver whose excuse is a scheduled timing to follow. Thai bus trips however mean one toilet stop once per hour. I liked it. I do not need to enlarge my nostrils and strenuously filter the nicotine out from natural air.

On a trips like this where the destination involves rough remote roads to Mae Hong Son, there usually involves two modes of transport. The journey to Chang Mai was 9 hours. We had breakfast at one of the many rest areas where the restaurant owner pays the bus driver a “commission” for stopping by. Following a stuff food down my unawake digestive system session in the early morning, we switch to 10 seater vans to commute the rest of the journey. Such vans are rented at about 1,500 baht (SDG$60) per day with driver. The journey reminded me of the old roads behind Haw Par Villa known as juap-sar-wan (13 bends) back in Singapore. The Mae Hong Son road is jip-cheng-buay-ba-lam-par-wan (1800 XX bends). It was like traveling in a washing machine on wheels. Six more swooshing hours on a 400km road through the mountains. The view was exhilarating and at the same time breathtaking as the wheels rolled near the cliff edge. Up, down, left, right we went, I swore the contents of my scrotum were 15 percent horizontally further apart and more then 20 degrees vertically offset from each other. When we reached midway for lunch in one of the mountain villages, I believe I have achieved the medically impossible feat of swapping positions of whatever orbs I had between my legs.

We made several stops here and there along the way, all part of the tour route. Normally such budget tours will bring you to anywhere along the way where it says “Tourist Attraction” on the map. Occasionally, there will be the waterfall or hot spring stops but these are quite rare. Natural wonders are usually quite deep and involve some trekking. Not wanting the tour group to progress into a mass funeral for the 70 percent middle-aged to old folks on board, tourist attractions means temples, temples and more temples situated next to the roads. Those are where you can cremate any of the 70 percent conveniently, just in case.

Daylight means hectic 30 minute stops here and there. Once it started to turn dark, we were shipped to our lodging area. Now in Thailand, how you judge an accommodation by its name is always almost certainly wide off its mark. Maybe it could be the nation’s bad grasp of English. Maybe it is intended deception. Hotel equals compartmentalized and more then a single level. Anything standing on its own surrounded by grass equals Resort. Huay-Nam-Lin Resort (Pond-Water-Pouring Resort). Expecting a boutique hotel style surrounding and seeing the reality that this place looks like the old Institute of Mental Health 20 years ago in Singapore almost turned me into one of the actual patients.

And again. There were more people in the tour then the number of rooms booked. Village Budget Tour means free-riders, friends of organizer. Village Budget Tour also means more people more profit resource shortage and worry later. Accommodation like these cost only 500 baht (SGD$20) elsewhere but I spent an extra 1500 baht (SGD$60) to open up a room myself. Public extortion by the resort owner. It was way too expensive for this Huay-Nam-MyAss Resort but I really do not want to sleep in the tour-packaged non-air-conditioned longhouse with 10 other strangers. I do not want a shared toilet that lights goes out without warning. And I really do not want to share a bed with some uncle because there was shortage.

We were served dinner in Styrofoam boxes and water was bottled. And they turned the water supply off at 10pm without warning me, a sweaty meatball not bathed. Resort my ass. But hey, get used to it. This is Thailand. So I spend the night bathing out from the water used to flush the toilet bowl. The meteor shower in the night sky soothed my ridiculed dignity. Welcome to Thailand, I told myself, a land where unimaginable holiday service is possible.

Photos - Here under Mae Hong Son

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Ever Interesting Thai English

“Welcome to UOB call center, for English please press the pun sign. Ke ka koo kwak blahhh (Thai language continues…)”


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thai November

Thai Graduation
It’s November now. It’s the month where sometimes cool breezes catch me by surprise when I am working at the outdoor café. Winter is here again. It is the month where Thai students attend graduation. Well they finished exams in April, but the graduation ceremony is 7 months later. And worst of all, they gotta pay for it. Thought it did be part of the school fees. It sucks, stupid rules. The graduation ceremony consist of like up to 3 rehearsals over weekends of a month. Crazy shit. All in preparation so that they will know how to shake the hand of the Princess properly on the actual day itself. The Princess will hand down their certificates. You should practice so that you will not shake and shatter the Princess’ bones in the moment of violent excitement. She gotta shake for a full shag day, all students, one by one.

Anyway, been reading a book from Michio Kaku. Quantum theory states that an electron can appear at two places at one time. You can never know both the position and velocity of an electron. You can only know one. This alters our perception of everything. We are but atoms and electrons, so are you really there? Rabbits.. can also be at two places at one time. One moment it seems to be on the floor playing, and at the same time (so it seems), it has teleported itself onto my bed and peed on my blanket. Kan ni nah. And before you know it, it is chewing on my shoes at a corner. Fugging quantum rabbits. You can never know its exact position and velocity. This also changes my perception of everything on my rabbit. I want to kill him.