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The Four Plagues Of Thailand – The Second Plague

  • Written by Cent
  • January 31st, 2005
  • 17 min read


The Second Plague
The Four Plagues of Thailand-The Second Plague

The Plague of Your Lady's Friends and Family



The old red shitbox pickup





To continue to the next plague.

After arriving in Surin and finding a hong nam (bathroom) we waited for my lass' friend to pick us up in, what else, but her pick-up truck. My lady had arranged for us to "rent" her best friend's truck for the week. The reason? It was cheaper, according to my lady, than renting one from the hotel as we usually did for 1,000 baht daily. (Around 25 bucks.) Her friend would rent us her pick-up for 700 baht. (About 17 bucks then.) Such a deal. Plus, my lass says, it will help her friend make some extra cash. My lady is jai dee! (Jai Dee means "Good heart") Gotta keep the dough in the village ya know. Why give the dough to strangers when you can help out family and friends instead is the thinking behind this stuff for the villagers and Thais.

So here we stood, waiting for the friend, who's nowhere in sight, after our glorious and refreshing trip in the "Uncomfortable Long Haul Conveyance". Read … shitbox bus monster. Now I know from experience, God do I know, that most Thai people are never, never, on time for anything. It's why I bought my lass and the whole family each a watch as a present during my earlier trips over, for birthdays and such holidays. It didn't make a difference really, but at least now I can ask what time is it, and how late are we anyway? I’m trying to make a point, which just seems to go over everyone’s heads. Sigh.

Noticing a noodle stand open for business across the street from the bus depot (Do these places ever close?) I ask my lovely lady and Sis, and our look sow (daughter), if anyone would care for a cola or something. "Nothing? You sure? Daughter? No? No one? Well, I'm getting a beer Chang." I say, and head across the soi (road) to the ubiquitous funky refrigerator standing on the sidewalk. I grab an ice cold beer Chang and guzzle it down. The clerk guy in the shop watches in amazement as the falang (foreigner) empties the beer in two seconds flat. He seems duly impressed, and smiles his understanding and approval as I smack my lips. Ah Jesus, did I need that! Suitably refreshed I grab two more, pay the guy in the stall, and bring them back to the depot to wait for our ride. And wait. And wait. And wait. Where the hell is this woman?

I ask sister, "Where the hell IS this woman?"

Sis smiles, and shrugs.

"Well can you at least call her and see where she is, and if she's on her way?" I ask her.

"Tried," says Sis, "Phone not open."

Figures.

It's now around 3:40 a.m. or later. I'm tired, hungry, and dying for a shower and a nice cool, clean bed. To hell with this shit. I grab our bags and go over to the cyclo taxi guys who had mobbed us earlier when we first got off the bus. No taxis to be had in Surin, no siree, just these pedal-powered convertible tri-cycle rickshaw thingies. All of the trikes about fifty or more years old by the looks of them. These guys must have a strong union or something, which keeps the city council from letting anyone start a cab company. Picturesque and quaint though these tri-cycle taxis may be, someone should address this lack of modern transport. These guys must be teamsters.

My lady asks me, "What you do, darling?"

"We're going to go to the Thong Tarin hotel, darling." I tell her.

"C'mon, let's get outta here. Your friend can call us when she arrives. She has our mobile number right?" I explain to her puzzled puss.

She yaks to Sis and turns back to me, and says "Okay, we go hotel."

I wonder to myself how friggin' long would they have waited there, uncomplaining, stoic, just waiting and waiting. Their patience and seeming indifference to the passing of time, or of time itself, is quite unbelievable at times. Frustrating too! Ah, the inscrutable Asian mind. Must be a Buddha thang. The falang takes charge and commissions three scrawny, yet muscular, guys to whisk us speedily to our oasis in Surin, the venerable Thong Tarin hotel.

I rent us two rooms. One for Sis and look sow, and one for myself and my love. I deposit Sis and daughter in their room, telling them to shower and change, as we're going back out to see if we can find some place open at this hour, where we can get something to eat and drink. No dilly dallying, please. Lieu, lieu! (Hurry, hurry! Or however it's spelled) Papa is hungry! And I know some place will be selling some rice or noodles somewhere around here. One thing about Thailand, you can always find a beer or a coke and a meal somewhere nearby, no matter how late or early it is.

I crank up the ac full blast once in our room, tell my lass if I catch her messing with the controls I'll wring her pretty little neck, (the woman thinks anything below 85 degrees is too cold) and offer her first shot at the shower, which she accepts, after making a face at me for the ac crack. I wander over to the fridge where I'd spied a pint of Sang Thip, a cheap Thai brandy which tastes like rum, in a basket on a shelf on top of the refrigerator. I pour myself a strong one, sit on the bed and ruminate as to how long they would have sat there at the bus depot waiting for the friend. Unreal! I sigh and flop back onto the cool sheets after downing my drink.

Buddha, help me.

After getting the phone call from my lass' friend later we asked her to pick us up at the hotel around noon and got ready for our ride up to our Happy village. Downstairs in the Thong Tarin hotel they have a small restaurant which serves a decent American breakfast, decent being subjective as to how long it has been since you've actually had a decent American breakfast. It's served buffet style, for small baht at least. The coffee is excellent I must say. At night on Friday's and the weekends they have a live band here that does pretty good, and attracts a crowd of locals as well as the hotel guests. When done eating I grab an hour at the pool catching some rays and reading the paper. My lady and her sis go out to do some shopping for things that can't be had easily in the village, and to buy some treats for Mama and the rest. Daughter and I relax at the pool. For anyone taking a trip up to Surin I do recommend this hotel.

There are many Khmer temple ruins within an hour or two drive from Surin, and you can rent a vehicle at the hotel desk easily for these trips, with driver and guide if need be for the less adventurous. The Cambodian border isn't very far away either. Surin is a good place to check out if you are bored with the big city and all the tourists and smog. Not many farang (foreigners) around here. Actually until a few years ago I could count the white people I'd see in a month's stay on one hand. Some fun disco's are also near the hotel, and there is a large outdoor beer garden style establishment where you can watch the locals strolling by while having a brew. Although if you want mixed drinks you have to buy your own bottle and mixes it is not expensive though. It’s a change of pace from Bangkok, and not as small a city as you would think. Surin has all the amenities needed for a pleasant stay. Check it out.

Well, around noon time the friend shows up, close enough to noon as to be not worth the bother to comment anyways. We check out of the hotel, and bring our luggage out to the parking lot. I ask my lady where's our wheels and she guides me over to an old, mud-caked, red shitbox of a pick-up truck. Damn! This is it darling? "What a junker!" I think to myself. Not an extended cab either. Room for two in the cab, everyone else goes in the back, "Isaan" style. I throw our bags in back, along with the friend, Sis, and daughter, and my love and I climb in the cab, or at least I try to, the freaking seat is all the way forward, and won't go back. I look behind the seat and see there is a huge goddamned stereo speaker box behind it. Shit! The seat won't budge.

My lass talks to her friend, and she tells us she will have her husband take the speakers out when we get to the village. Well, okay, I guess. I squeeze behind the steering wheel, my knees bent and almost touching the wheel, and start the bugger up. It starts anyway at least. I put it into reverse and back out. A skinny little parking lot security type guy distracts the hell outta me blowing his friggin' whistle and waving his arms in directions meant to guide me. "Get the heck outta my way you idiot before I run your ass over fer chrissakes!" I mutter to myself. It seems every parking lot in Surin has at least one of these guys working there. They're more of a nuisance than a help. I put the truck in first, and pull away from the pest. I turn left out of the parking lot, and then left again onto the main road that leads to the highway out of town. As I get up some speed I go to throw the tranny into second gear and get a loud grinding noise for my trouble. Jesus! I try again and the same thing happens, but it does go into gear. What the hell?

As we get onto the "Highway" I notice that second and fourth gear are screwed up. Every time I go to shift the damned thing grinds and crunches. The gear box is definitely in need of an overhaul. The clutch is pretty worn too. Great. I notice as I'm driving that there is a crack in the windshield, on my side, and the side view mirror jiggles around like it has a vibrator strapped to it. I can't see squat in it as is moving around so much. I look in the rear view mirror and see a hazy trail of smoke following in my wake. I realize, with a sudden panic, that I haven't tried to see if the ac works in this rattle trap. I switch it on, and after a few minutes am relieved to feel a steady blast of cool air coming from the vents. Wheeew! At least if it rains and we have to close the windows we won't roast to death.

Around 60 kph the front end starts to vibrate, which I can feel through the steering wheel. I look at my lady, bug out my eyes at her, and scream, "AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!! We're all gonna DIE!!!"

"What you do, darling?" she says to me, with a puzzled frown of consternation on her puss.

"Nothing, darling." I reply, "Just commenting on your wonderful choice of locomotion for us."

I laugh, and she gives me her patented "All falangs are crazy." look, as she hangs her head back out the window like a Labrador retriever on a Sunday drive, and continues talking to her friend in the back by screaming out the window.

After a few direct hits to her noggin by some monster sized flying bugs she is finally discouraged from this, and rolls up the window. The ac does it job as I start whistling the theme song from the old TV show "The Beverly Hillbillies". We continue on our way down the highway, crunching and grinding, and vibrating in a cloud of diesel fumes towards our "Happy" (sabai=happy) village. "So they packed up their bags and moved to village Sabaiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeee" I sing along the way. My lady throws in a Lao music tape and cranks it up. Friggin' music critic she is now. Damn! Just call me Jethro.

Meandering along in this manner we finally arrive in the village in a cloud of dust and diesel fumes and a hearty HI HO Silver awaaaaaay. Whoa my trusty rusty red beast. The brakes aren't so hot either it seems, amongst the many other little problems this shitbox of a truck has.

I bribe a few kids with some candy, my own kid included, to help me pry myself from behind the steering wheel. A loud popping noise ensues as I try to straighten my now paralyzed legs. Ouch! My left knee was seriously damaged years ago in a motorcycle accident, and now and again seizes up when left bent in one position for too long, such as now. Shit. I hobble into our house and my lass' friend takes the truck to her husband to remove the monster speaker box from behind the seat. That should give me another six or so inches of leg-room at least. Christ on a crutch!

I give my look sow some baht and send her next-door to step-sis', to buy some potation for my thirsty self. Beer Chang please dear. Four bottles! Cee beer Chang! (Cee = the number four in Thai.) Leiu, leiu! (Quick, quick, hurry, hurry, however it's spelled.) I had noticed the fridge was bare of the essential ingredients for village life. Namely, cold beer. Mama and Auntie had drunk up any remaining bottles ages ago while I was away in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The old stiffs.

Now I know the resident ex-patriots and old timers and other frequent visitors to Thailand probably know most of this stuff about the Plague of Friends and Relatives/Family already, and all about my other ramblings about this country and culture. I try to show the newbies, the rookies and first time tourists, some of the things they can expect to run into if they decide to get out of the mainly tourist areas and see more of the countryside through these stories. I write for my own pleasure, and to amuse some of my friends who visit and have had similar experiences, and others who live there in Thailand I know who are easily amused, with my own humorous experiences.

All too true, and I do have a great time with the Thai people and falangs I know and meet while in the country. I try to show others what it is like here, and I'm by no means an expert, believe me, and maybe some of you will have an easier time of it. Hopefully some will have learned a thing or two from these tales of my trial and tribulations, and maybe have gotten a laugh or two at the nutty stuff that always seems to happen to me.

My outlook on life is, live and learn, AND have fun doing it! I always come away from these experiences a wiser, humbler, (Me? Humble?) more tolerant man. You have to learn patience and humility if you expect to be able to deal with Thais. Although it can, at times, be extremely exasperating to a Western person.

The time involved, when in the village, doing simple things like buying a few beers, or some eggs, or a roasted chicken for a meal, or a hair cut, et cetera, etc. is annoying sometimes. Let me show you a few examples and explain a bit. I want a few beers for my fridge. A neighbor next door over sells beer. BUT, Sis2 also sells beer a few doors down. I have to buy my beer from Sis2. Even though she is further away, and sells it for the same price. I want some eggs for breakfast. A lady down the road sells eggs. A friend of my lass' sells eggs too. She lives on the other side of the freaking village. Guess where I have to go to buy eggs. Riiiiight! You guessed it! I need a hair-cut. Can I go to the lass in the village that does this? Noooooo! I have to go to another village, where an old high school friend of my lady has a shop. We only patronize friends and family where-ever, and when-ever, possible. Even if it means spending more time to do this, and traveling further for said services and goods. This is the Thai way from what I've seen. At least it is the village way I've seen during my time here. They are extremely loyal when it comes to helping friends and family. Even when it only involves a few baht. Why give to others when you can give it to friends and family? Right?

This is a good quality, and one of the reasons I love the Thai people. Loyalty. But it can be a pain in the ass! Time, especially in the village, is irrelevant. Just smile and do it. You are now family, and expected to watch out for the interests and well being of friends and relatives of said family. When in Rome do as the Romans do. Your lady will love you all the more for it, as will her family and friends no doubt. You are family now, not falang. And you'll learn too, and be able to enjoy yourself the more for it. Learn the culture, try and learn the language, (even a little helps and is appreciated by the locals.) be respectful of Buddha and the King, and most of all show respect towards your lady and her family, and help out when possible and if possible. This does not mean you have to spend lots of money. I'm talking about small, un-asked for things that show you are thinking of them as family and friends.

An example. I was in Jomtien Beach my last trip over, and noticed a lass selling laminated maps. The maps were of the world, and one of Thailand. Both had Thai and English names for the locations on the map. I asked my lady if my daughter's teacher had maps for her students in the classroom on the walls. You've all seen these in your own classrooms as a kid, right? My lady said no, there were no maps in the classroom. (I hadn't noticed any myself when there visiting her one day.) I bought the maps, cost me I think 60 or 80 baht for the two, (A buck fifty to two bucks) and gave them to the teacher upon returning to the village. Her reaction to this was, well, heart-warming. I thought she was gonna cry fer chrissakes. She was very grateful that I thought of her and her students. I've done other small things like this that really do go a long way in getting you accepted by the people in the village. I'm not trying to pat myself on the back here, but trying to show that small things like this are a help to these people. At the cost of a couple of bucks.

You don't have to be Daddy Warbucks to help out, and believe me, it is appreciated.



(To be continued.)



Cent
(The Central Scrutinizer)

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