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Ghosts Of Loy Kratongs Past

  • Written by Mr Tim
  • October 31st, 2001
  • 17 min read


Ghosts of Loy Kratong Past



In 1979 I took a 6 month contract to work with the medical teams providing health care in the U.N. refugee camps along the Thai / Cambodian and Thai / Laos borders. The situation was unique from other refugee relief programs around the world the U.N was providing under the control of U.N.H.C.R. [ United Nations High Commission for Refugees. This program was run by The branch known as U.N.B.R.O. [United Nations Border Relief Operation] The organization known as the American Refugee Committee provided the vast majority of medical personnel along the Cambodian border. Places like Nong Samet with a Khmer population of 70,000. Teams in Surin, in Phanat Nikom, and others to a lesser degree. The woman in charge of medical personnel named Susan was a physical therapist who had never worked a day in her illustrious career as a physical therapist. When she met me as I arrived at Don Muang, we chatted as we strolled over to where her driver was parked with the 'company' car. I inquired as to how she found her way to this part of the planet. She said that her father was a pilot in the neighbourhood a decade earlier. Being a rookie civilian pilot, I had to ask her who he flew with. She turned around with a look that froze my eyeballs, and matter of factly replied Air America. A high decibel blast of laughter jumped out of my throat. She responded with the same emotionless look on her face, and in what would become her trademark monotone voice. 'Well' You either know it or you don't". He had now moved on to greener pastures in Central America. At the time the American Embassy in Bangkok had a full plate monitoring "the goings on' behind the closed borders of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam and was said to be among ,if not the largest embassies on mother earth.

The exact location of the border in those days was a tad ambiguous, and when a proper geographical survey was done, it came to light that the clinic I was in charge of was actually located 2 kilometres inside Cambodia. There was a strange pecking order in the flow of information with some bastardized "need to know theme' My Farang ass was the only non Asian one out there. Other than my semi faithful Thai man-servant Chalouey there were a dozen or so Khmer males and females I was training as Nurses and medics, and it was they who initially interviewed and did the physical exams on an average of 120 patients a day. I mostly observed this process, demonstrating the accepted technique for anything from starting an I.V. to suturing, to delivering babies, but mostly it was trying to transform mostly former rice farmers into people that could perform a basic physical exam, and treat a variety of mostly common infections of various bodily orifices.

I actually got along fairly well with my boss Ms .Air America till I returned from a weekend in Krunthep with a young lady on the back of my CB-Jet-roy-haa-sip. Miss HOY, an Udon stunner whose very sight elicited a guttural groin from me as my toes curled and the muscles in my arms among other places tightened. It was Thanksgiving week and every farang from every relief agency on the border showed up for a genuine Turkey dinner. Thais do not generally dine on these birds, preferring to keep them around as semi-pets, for their uniqueness. It certainly not there intelligence as Turkeys have been known to drown in a rainstorm trying to quench their thirst by opening their mouths to the heavens. They are hard to fin or at least were 20 years ago ,and the few we managed to track down commanded at least 500 baht from their owners [$25 U.S. in early 80,s baht] The smell of Turkey with all the trimmings cooking had every farang guest licking their lips. But on our entrance, the vision of Hoy {yes Hoy] had the males [even the Gay ones ] with a blank look, slacked jaw drool betraying their thoughts of what the main course should be. 5 foot 2 – 46 kilos with waist length black hair, she was poured into a recently purchased 180 Baht, snug fitting, full length, low cut, blue floral patterned "granny style dress, topped off with the obligatory shit eating grin. Nobody was neutral on this. 3 of the gay Thai males who worked as assistants / secretaries for an English relief agency sat in the corner gasped, fingers over their mouths, whispering among themselves about the fine qualities of the seamstresses work and the dangling silver earrings we had purchased at the night market in Chiang Mai on one of my previous 5 day a month R +Rs The straight males had strange looks of pain on their faces, one just shook his head as his breathing became audibly irregular. 2 male co-workers shot me a smiling, envious, you bastard look. Amongst my female co-workers the reviews were mixed. 2 or 3 of ones that had been in country for a lengthy spell telegraphed looks of disdain at me. One poor soul looked sad as he turned to give his farang wife a comparative glance, while simultaneously receiving an elbow to his ribs. My Boss Ms. Air America was sullen, and remained so, never again as much as smiling at me. She had previously found a decent percentage of my jokes at least amusing or cute. No more. Her Husband a good looking Thai guy who I considered a good friend, was no longer allowed to so much as sit at a restaurant table with me and throw back some Singhas within 10 seconds of her spotting us chatting together, she would order him to her side with a tone of voice that remains in my brain 20 years later. Suthat – COME HERE! The poor guy was pussy whipped. He had married a farang bitch, that was his boss in all respects. She had found a spot for him on the payroll at twice the rate others performing the same job got. She just changed his job title. The job remained the same .On one occasion I had arranged to switch work days with a Thai nurse so I could have extra time to go to Koh Samet with Hoy. I actually worked for the nurse and covered her first so she could go see mom, but when the time came for her to cover me while I was in Samet. She initially tried to say that she didn't understand the arrangement, but do to the fact that she speaks English and I speak fair Thai and I had gone over the details several times with her ,she finally had to admit forgotten [conveniently] painfully losing much face. Ms. Air America initially tried to use this to threaten my position. But as 2 people came forward to say that they heard m make these arrangements. But the kicker was that I had put the change in writing ,and we both initialled it. I was covered My face saved. Strangely this made my boss even more irate. 6 months later I took a job at Tom Dooley hospital in Nan province. 10 kilometres from the Lao border. As for my 6 months, it turned into 7 years. Every year since I spend 3-5 months a year in Thailand. I came back from there after 6 weeks on 9/27/01 and will be returning 12/5/01 for 2 months.

As for Prayongchit Sangkamanee A.K.A. Miss HOY. We moved in together for 6 months during which time she became Miss Soi Cowboy 1983 and enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame. While waiting for my last months pay check which was inexplicably delayed, misplaced, but eventually paid. I was almost bahtless. I have very rarely been sick in Thailand, but the day after Loy Krathong 1983 I sick spent my last 200 baht at the clinic and was broke for the night. I had friends that were lending me enough money to squeeze through till the check came in, but not enough to go bar and disco hopping every night. That night at 6 PM Hoy wanted some money to go out somewhere with her friends. She knew I was sick and only had enough money to stay home and for food ,a couple beers at home and smokes for Hoy. Hoy proceeded to get dressed up and said she was going back to where she had worked at Our Place on Soi Cowboy. I said "look Hoy I'm sick and I can't get any money from my friend Phisal till the next morning. Phisal said he could afford to lend us 500 Baht a day till my check came in. I asked her again to stay home just tonight, we'll have money any day now and if you want to go to the Nana disco will go. She said OK, I'll stay home. She waited several seconds then stuck out her hand and said "for 500 baht' She waited another minute to be sure I wasn't holding out on her. Then she walked out the door and got the 1st tuk tuk that came by. I stayed there for 3 days till my money came. She never came home. I knew she was staying with a girlfriend somewhere with in 50 yards from me. I could hear the girls in the neighbourhood gossiping in the courtyard. I couldn't keep food down and after 3 days Phisal insisted I come stay at his house, which I did. He gave me his bed and he slept on the floor. He was the manager of the Mariners club in Klong Toey and put in long hours, twice a day he had one of the waiters at the club or the security guard stop by the house with food and check up on me. 2 weeks later life had greatly improved. I had money again, and crossed paths with an old friend named Onn. We had spent time together on a few occasions. She was another hot looker who went to the Nana disco 1 – 2 times a week but work in bars. She lived way the hell out in Thonburi where her family owned this massive old 3 story rickety wooden house. Her father had heart problems and so she would stick close to home 5 days a week while her sister worked. Having a medical background has paid off many times fir me over the years, I knew 2 medicines that would help keep his chronic health problems in check. Onn had an idea which sounded good to me, so I moved in to Onn's house and we had the 3rd floor to ourselves. My part of the bargain involved no set restrictions on my time. I would monitor pa's health and do what I could if a major problem arose. I would look after Pa and Onn would look after me. I'd pay for food and Onn would cook it and keep the house straight. We paid a modest salary to a 14 year old neighbourhood girl to do some of the housework and laundry. Life was Ok. I still had a nice CB750 so we were mobile and could come into Bangkok to visit friends or see a movie. Onn had hair that came down almost to her knees. I can remember coming home at 7 or 8 on a Sunday morning, going over the river on the bridge to Thonburi. Not another vehicle on the bridge. We,d get up over 100 mph and her hair would be tailing straight out the back. One of the things I like about Thai girls is that they almost never make a peep about your driving. One Saturday we had come in to Washington square to catch a movie. On the way out we ran into a friend of mine from England. He Had made arrangements to meet a Cowgirl at the Thermae. We made plans to meet up with him there between 12:30 and 1am. We got there a little early and decided to pull the bike around back and parked right next to the back door, wait a few minutes and go inside. Ah! the Thermae. A place so sleazy it had a certain class, all of it low. We go in through the designed to impress unisex toilet stalls where numerous other activities other than what the facilities were intended for are taking place. Down the Hallway past the kitchen and enter the main room next to the bar, where we order a couple drinks and snag one of the few remaining tables. One of the little weasel waiters who have all been there forever brings our drinks. [these little pricks endure to this day at the new Thermae] They have honed ruddiness into a fine art. The new Thermae is short on class, but the air is much more breathable. I've only been inside a half dozen times and would just as soon grab a table around the 7-11 during the cooler months. Anyway, about 3 sips into a cold Singha I sense a tide of bad vibes washing over our table. Onn says there's some girl eating with 2 farangs, and she, trying to burn a hole in the back of my head with the nastiest of stares. A few minutes pass and I hear an increasingly loud voice, which I instantly peg as a moderately drunk Hoy. Over the next few minutes she is starting to attract attention, and is becoming abundantly clear a change of venues is in order. What does she possibly have to bitch about? She walked out on me while I was sick and almost bahtless. I inferred from that she no longer wanted my companionship, While they may not want you anymore, they also do not want anybody else to have you either. Wspechially if the girl is only a 1/4 turn awayon the hotness scale. At least half the girls in the place know us or of us when we were an us. Christ only knows the storys she has spun in order to put herself in the most favorable light possible. I pay the bill and we start to ease our way on a course to saftey. Tonight, saftey is not in the cards. Without warning she is on the move and here she comes wielding what passes as a steak knife at the Thermae. With one eye on Hoy and the other scanning the sea of humanity for the opening that will allow me to wiggle my way into the hallway and a straight line shot thru the toliet area. By now she's screaming a stream of obsenities,and less than wholesome references to Miss Onn who has decided to seek refuge behind the bar trying to put as many employee's between her and and this Baa phuying. By now it's a real scene and the sea of humanity is parting for her like Moses at the red sea. The crowd lets out a communal grunt of fear as the steak knife whizzes by and bounces off the wall a good 2 feet off my right shoulder and toward a tabletop full of drinks. My adrenal glands pumping full tilt has my ass power shifting instantaneously into warp speed. As the hallway between the bar room and the toliet area fairly narrow with a constant flow of people funneling into it from both ends, it tends to become a clogged artery in the wee hours.I try to stay moving, dancing and darting, looking like a trapped fullback desparetly seeking a hole in the defensive line of the oposition. Glancing off walls and people. Excuse me , Excuse me, sorry, hoping this will sooth any bruised feelings,as the last thing I need is another angry drunk on my tail. I burst into the bright lights of the toliet area as I feel her fingertips swipe thru the hair on the back of my head.I deke to the right and sharply break left. The doorway is mobbed as I spin around to face her.As anyone who has even playfully wrestled with these 100 pound Thai girls knows, growing up on the family farm, working the paddies, hauling a couple buckets of water slung over their shoulders on a slat of wood from whereever the nearest well was dug, produces some deceptivily strong little hardbodies. Anyway, she bit on the 1st fake to the right, but recovered rapidly and was coming at me like a flash. No time to think I half pushed her, half deflected her up againest the wall with a hip check, then proceeded to pin her shoulders to the wall while setting up a defence of the family jewels from the inevatable attempts to knee my balls into my throat. A couple of employees then 2 or 3 of the boys in brown appeared out of nowhere. The cops trying to figure out what was going on, and who did what.

There are few constants in the universe, but one of them is that when a farang is involved in a dispute with a Thai, you can safely bet all your worldly possesions on who will be blamed and who compensation will be sought from. While Hoy ran her mouth a backround chorus of girls with all the sincerity and timing of Martha and the Vandella's sang her back-up story. We seen it,We seen it all! This drunken, heathen farang slammed this poor little girl up againest the wall for no reason, she did nothing / nothing! I tried explaining in Thai and managed to create a shadow of doubt about her story by collaring one of the bartenders i knew seen the 1st half of the show in the bar room and hallway. The knife had hit the wall less than 5 feet from his head, but he said he knew nothing about the knife, just that the girl had been yelling and followed the farang out thru the hallway. Onn at least told the cops I neither said or did anything to provoke Hoy and that her and I were in fact leaving to avoid a problem, but stopped short of mentioning a knife. A couple of farangs tried to tell the cops about the knife, only to be ignored and drowned out by the now quite aggitated and loud chorus of bathroom back-up girls squealing that there was no knife.The no good farang is lying. The cops unable to get a grip on the truth,and after recieving a firm, NO WAY! from me to the suggestion that I give Hoy 500 Baht to forget the vile farangs abuse of her, decided to take us both to the police station up on soi Tonglor [soi 55] It was there when they asked for identifacation that something pretty much unexpected and ultimetly amusing transpired. They loked at my passport, my driver's licence and took down some information. Then the unexpected happened. While looking over the registration for my cycle they came accross my security clearance from TF-80 [short for Task Force 1980] Which was the Thai Rangers, the boys in black with black barets. They comprised the 1st line of defence on the Cambodian border, and what with the khmer Rouge still around and the Vietamese still making dry season offensive forays into the border areas, these TF-80 Guys were well known to many Thais, particularily those in the milatary and police, as real tough guys and a sorce of pride in those circles. That along with a picture of me with the Tf-80 sargent that had a crush on one of the nurses I shared a house with. Suddenly their whole attitude to me changed. This farang had a high security pass, that allowed him to actually cross the TF-80 lines and go right into the refugee camps [big deal] They got wide eyed and all they wanted to hear about was what was really going on on the border, and anything about those boys in black. They became all smiles and dowmright friendly. Started making jokes about the girls at the Thermae and in short order I was one of the boys. They brought out a little Mekong, offered me smokes and after a half hour of joking around and male bonding they cut me loose with the friendly advice to "watch out for these girls, none of them are any good" Hoy who by then was put in another cell to 'cool off" and sober up had this glow of anger and sheer perplexment in her eyes as she watched the police laughing it up with me a patting me on the back as they escorted me out the door to freedoom. One of the motorcycle guys gave me a ride back to the Thermae where I was met by looks of astonishment from the back-up chorus girls when I told them that the police had gotten to the truth and that Hoy would be staying in jail for a few more hours. She in fact stayed 4 more hours in jail and never bothered me again. She would wave and say hello and move right along.

Stickman says:

Lots of nice pbservations and I couldn't agree more with the ending….in a farang vs Thai situation you seldom see the farang come out on top..