Mai Dai Yin!
In the best Tommy Cooper Fashion ‘I was out walking down the road the other day when…’
…Two Thai guys walking behind me literally started shouting at each other. I turned and looked over my shoulder and gave them a puzzled look because I honestly thought they where having an argument and where about to have a right old punch up, but as I turned and looked, I was totally surprised to see that they where just talking ‘normally’ or rather ‘normal’ in the sense of the word had we been sitting in the middle of a loud disco or rock concert at the time. Now I don’t know about you but I find Thai being spoken loudly (be it on TV or otherwise) incredibly irritating and I have to move myself away from the source as quickly as possible before I grind my teeth down. This also explains why I don’t watch the inane ‘someone always seems to be having an argument or fight Thai soap operas’ that the wife loves to watch as well, and in this case as with all things in the not to be confrontational Thailand I just simply got to the nearest Sapan and walked up and over to the other side of the road to put some distance between me and the source of the irritation.
As I got to the other side of the road and continued on with my journey however, not only was I pondering how it was that I now knew the answer to the age old riddle of ‘why the chicken crossed the road’ I could still hear the two guys bleating away at each other despite having 6 lanes of traffic between us as I walked up past the main entrance to Chulalongkorn University. I also started to think about why these two had to shout at each other on their journey up the street. Was it because the traffic was particularly loud? Nope! Was it perhaps because some Chula students where out thrashing a guitar or singing and chanting out some group jamboree? Nope! Was it because a bloody big plane had just flown over or perhaps a troop of soldiers on their way to another coup had just trundled past? Nope and nope again! In fact there was nothing extraordinary about the road that day and I just figured that these two in their exuberant youthfulness had either been listening to too much music on their ipod / MP3 mobile earphones, had attended too many karaoke come Mekong whisky induced wailing sessions or had been swinging their hips down at the old cattle pen boom bop disco in a hope of getting a Thai bird to pull for the evening. In all reality I have no idea but one thing was for sure and that was they where both well on their way to going deaf. The sad thing was that both of these guys were probably no more than 23 years old and if we put their wannabe Academy Fantashea superstar dreams aside for the moment, the chances are they have probably not been told that once your hearing goes then it has gone forever (Thai education system failing its people again) and I positively look forward to showing them where old Windle Spoons ear trumpet is located at Phaya Thai hospital should they need its use in later years… just give it a wipe first though eh boys!
Anyway, this little episode reminded me of a few weeks earlier when the wife and I decided to have a night in to watch a video or two. So we decided on a few titles and I said I would pick them up on the way home from work and so later that day off to the video shop I went. As I got close to the video shop everything seemed its normal relatively peaceful(ish) self, and the usual street vendors where outside selling their wares with tables here and there and happy noodle slurping in’duh’viduals were scattered around enjoying themselves. So I went up the steps to the video shop door and placed my hand on the door handle and immediately I felt the tingle in the fingers and along with it came the subtle feeling of vibrations going up the arm. I stopped for a second and looked down the road because I honestly thought I might see a string of elephants marching along with their trunks and tails entwined all singing the jungle book song, ‘with a one two three…’ therefore explaining away the vibrations I was feeling, but as I didn’t see any bags of peanuts or buns being thrust in my face by some irksome street seller in anticipation of an elephant coming along with a red tail light strapped to its rear, I just decided to continue on my way to open the door to the video shop instead. That’s when the source of the vibes hit me.
Straight away, my hair parted down the middle and along with the now duly departed two fringe flaps at the front trying their best to clap along to the beat, the rest of my hair found itself being thrust back in a wind swept fashion, my face took on a pulled back gaunt like look of sucking very sour lemons and my body automatically leaned forward into what felt like a sudden gust of a 100 mph hurricane wind. The music inside this video shop was positively booming… BUMPETY BUMPETY BUMPETY BUMP…. BOOM DIDDY BOOM DIDDY BOOM DIDDY BOOM… Wow! This music was loud… and into the video shop I sort of edged my way. I decided to veer left ways as I went through the door because I sort of sensed that the speakers where over to my right somewhere, but when I somehow managed to edge my way along to the video rack on the left, I found my shoulders beginning to sag downwards along with my buckling knees because I was right under a speaker which was now doing it’s best to pin me to the floor. In fact, now I come to think about it NASA has probably missed a trick from the Thai’s in how to create the latest anti gravity technology and perhaps they should just blast crap Thai music down on its astronauts instead thus saving the space program a small fortune in heavy boots and anti gravity technology. That way the Thai space program (ha ha ha!) would keep all its child like Thai citizens entertained as they worked in the vastness of their own space filled heads and it would also help to stop their ‘world class’ astronauts from floating off in zero gravity conditions too…
Anyway, after about 10 seconds of this awful Thai music blasting me around the video racks, I decided to go and see someone about it, because ‘hey, I am the paying customer after all’ and also because my ears where beginning to bleed… but don’t get me wrong though because I love listening to music but it’s a very fine definition to call the majority of Thai music, well ‘music’. So of I went further up the video shop wind tunnel and upon reaching my destination I managed to lean into the counter and whilst clinging onto the counter top with my finger nails going white and my feet resisting the desire to flap widely behind me in the jet stream of the noise blasting up through my nostrils, I barely managed to mouth out the words ‘Non Krup, Kort Toht Krup, Bow Bow Noi Krup!’.
The sales girl, who just happened to find herself at the counter at that particular moment looked up at me whilst filing her nails, and as she chewed away on her chewing gum which was churning around in her mouth like some kwai chewing grass, she said in a rather disinteresting fashion and with a crumpled forehead; “Arai wah?”
Now had I not been clinging on to the counter at the time and being bombarded with some inane music I would have given her a peace of my mind for speaking so impolitely but all I found myself doing in my music wind swept state was to mouth again “Bow Bow Noi Krup!” but as I am acutely aware of the guidebook guidelines to behaviour in Thailand, I wasn’t going to raise my voice or shout lest I lose my face with the general Thai populace so I decided to just mouth out the words silently in a bid to get her to read my lips instead.
She cupped her hand around her right ear, leaned in towards me and shouted back ‘mai dai yin ka’
So I mouthed back silently again and said “Bow Bow F*&%ing Noi krrrrup!!”
She turned around at that point and opened some brown non-descript cupboard behind her to reveal the stereo, and with a turn of a knob, the volume went down several decibels. I managed to unclasp my rather dug in finger nails from the counter top and sighed a huge sigh of relief as the buzzing slowly began to dissipate from my ears. The sales girl turned back around towards me and asked again “Arai na ka? Pood arai ka?”
For which I then replied again “Korp Koon Krup, phom pood Bow Bow Noi… thank you!”
She looked at me puzzled and said “I have already”. So I just smiled back at her and said thanks to her again and went back into the video racks to pick out the DVD’s that I wanted. However, no sooner had I got there when the music went back up again and although it was about .05 of a decibel lower than the first time, it was still too loud and so I threw my arms up in the air and just decided to give up, turned around and walked right out of the video shop without picking anything as my ears and brain could not take it anymore and so they lost a customer that day, not that they probably cared.
But noise pollution in Thailand just doesn’t stop there of course because it is everywhere you go nowadays and I believe that a wider problem in Thailand exists when it comes to general noise pollution. For those of us who live here, finding a place of peace and quiet is a challenge and it doesn’t take long to walk around Bangkok to see how difficult this is increasingly becoming as you are hit with one noise or another after another. Noise bombardment can come in the form of not only loud music and karaoke bars, but also in the form of loud TV’s similar to those outside Siam paragon through to TV type advert boards on the BTS platform as well as on the BTS train itself. I noticed recently that some small TV screens are now appearing in passenger front seats inside the Taxi’s themselves although these haven’t started to be too big a nuisance yet with the taxi driver keeping the volume off in favour of his radio instead, but it won’t be long with the onset of blue tooth advertising coming its way into everyday life, that soon our phones will be getting pinged every time we walk past a bill board too and I wonder how soon it will be before these advertisements start pinging inane ditty’s and noises to our telephone ear pieces as well, it’s all designed to make us mad and to fill the empty heads of the average Thai meandering on past.
Talking of telephones, don’t you just find it so annoying when some superficial git is standing on the BTS next to you yabbering away in the loudest Thai voice they can muster up so that everyone in the carriage can hear them thus making them feel good about themselves? I swear one day I am going to accidentally on purpose bump them out of the carriage when the train doors begin to bleep shut… ok I know, I know, I must be getting old… it’s funny though how many letters I sometimes read in the Bangkok Post or the Nation from some retired colonel of the cold stream guards raising a complaint or two about how we are having our places of peace invaded by those loud incessant noises in Bangkok…. Dreadful waste of talent old boy he would bark out… Ok Colonel Smithers you can stop writing those letters now, we hear you or rather we would if they would only turn the volume down.
Anyway, one place I know I can have peace and quiet is back home in my pad especially as the condo management have it in their contract that you cannot make any sort of noise or do anything to annoy the neighbours… that is until someone Thai moves into the building and promptly decides to ignore the rules for their own pleasure.
Two things have happened this past year in my Condo that made me go and ‘have a word’ with the management. The first one was from a young girl who moved into the floor below mine and although she wasn’t directly below my room, she would play her music so loud that along with the inevitable bumpty bump bumpty bump bumpty bump noises coming up through the building (and noooo I am not talking about her after dark sexual activities either…), that anything that was placed on my coffee table would go vibrating across the table top in its own rendition of the Harlem shuffle as well. The first time this happened I picked up the phone to the management office and made a complaint and it was promptly stopped for all of 1 minute and 32 seconds… at which point the management office closed and the music would sneak its way up again and before I knew it the table would be vibrating again along with my feet and my knees. So with a grinding of the teeth, I went down to the floor below and I couldn’t believe how loud this music was as it was seriously thumping away and all the doors where rattling in unison. How no-one from that floor was complaining was a complete bafflement to me and maybe they where all Thai and just deaf to it. Anyway, I thumped rather heavily on the door and immediately it was swung open by a young 22 year old girl with a shout of “What” in English, quickly followed by an “oh!”
I explained to this youthful lass that the music was way too loud and told her to turn it down “now!” to which she nodded and went off straight away to do and that ended that one for at least one evening.
The next day it happened again, with me tromping down the stairs in my underpants pulled up to my chest in a manner to tell her again to turn it down and around and around we went as each day we would go through the cycle over and over again for two weeks solid. This was becoming a battle of wits and both of us where stubbornly trying to fight each other about it. She felt she had the ‘right’ to play her music loud and I felt I had the ‘right’ to some peace and quiet when I was at home. At one point I tried to get her to reason with me, but she even refused to compromise and wear head phones to keep her own music to her own ears, so eventually the inevitable happened and she ended up making a complaint about me to the management saying I was impeding her ‘rights’ to enjoy her music in her own way whilst she was at home. I may add I raised the same complaint several times over the two weeks but the management just shrugged not wanting to react to a farang making a complaint but the minute she complained they where right on it. Anyway, in order to try and resolve this, they asked her to play her music as loud as she normally does (which she of course didn’t and she inevitably turned it down several hundred decibels first) and so when the management came to my room to listen, they could not hear anything and the vibration across the table was minimal, so naturally the farang was in the wrong and was just being an awkward nuisance…
So I had a choice. I could either play the Thai management at their own game and invest in some serious music equipment that would come with 8 speakers and be primed to be played across the entire Soi, into the floors and down the corridors thus blasting out everyone and anything in the neighbourhood with house and trance music or I could just do the sensible adult thing and that is to play the ‘my contract is about to be renewed card’. I went with the latter and just happened to let it slip that they could either lose a stable source of income from someone who not only is no trouble as a tenant but one that also rents out the largest apartment in the whole condo complex and as such pays double the price for the privilege compared to the annoying girl down below or keep their Thai status quo and let me move out instead. Well you can imagine what the result was because not only am I still there having extended my contract with a price reduction I may add, the particular noise freak from below has also disappeared never to be heard of again. Maybe she is on a lower floor serving out her own contract with the Condo, who knows and who cares, but I for one most certainly know my time has been quieter these past six months.
The other occasion happened when an old lady who owned a town house a few doors down from my Condo ended her life on planet earth by popping her clogs. This in itself was no major issue but as she had not left a will of any kind (this is Thailand after all) the house went to probate and along with it came every Nok, Nung and Chaivat from all over Thailand staking a claim on the property. Within days each nook and cranny of the house was filled with relatives and friends all camping out in their own piece of the property and that meant the inevitable Hill Billy Hik tribe from Isaan coming into town on their buffaloes deciding to take residence in the corrugated iron sheds that adorned the rooftops of this property. They arrived fully armed with three things; a case load of Mekong whisky, some sleeping mats and a huge karaoke stereo type ghetto blaster that would have made NASA proud. Within hours the revelry began and the singing, the Isaan music and the clinks of bottle upon bottle emerged across the rooftops and for 1 month solid we where bombarded with the most annoying crap I have ever heard from 9am until 1am everyday. I wanted to get a gun, I wanted to get a sniper rifle and to having the pleasure of picking them off one by one, knee cap by knee cap, and at one point I was even considering the purchase of some anti aircraft missile equipment because these low life planks really needed to be blown right off the roof tops. I even asked the wife if she knew how I could hire a cop to go and shoot them because I was seriously losing sleep. So the wife called the police, not to hire them mind but to just make a complaint (maybe about her strange husband and his strange requests) but nothing happened! The wife complained to the Condo management to see if anything could be done, but they just told her that they had already been around to make a complaint but had been threatened with a knife and told to piss off out of it. So there was nothing any of us could do but wait… well except me of course, because late at night for amusement I would sneak up onto the forbidden zone called the roof top of the Condo block and whilst they where below making merry with their loud crap, I would stand there hiding behind the water tower throwing eggs down onto them from out of the darkness. They could never see me and it was great fun watching eggs pinging off all around them with them looking up into the night sky like Neanderthals wondering which God was responsible for the supply of eggs.
Fortunately for us, the town house was covered by a mortgage and as such came under the ownership of the bank and they where waiting for the court order to come through in order to turf them out. This finally happened at the end of the month and we now have peace back in the soi once again.
Noise is Thailand everywhere though, I got into a taxi the other day and rather than turn the music down once I got into his cab, he decided to turn the volume up even higher and as the taxi started to bump and grind its way down the road, I couldn’t help but say a resounding “nooooo!” when he asked if I liked Isaan music and if he wouldn’t mind saving my ear drums by turning the crap off instead. Even down in the bars the music and noise bombardment doesn’t seem to let up and recently Marc Holt and I met up on a Tuesday night and he took me down to Soi Cowboy in a bid to educate me to the more seedier parts of Thai life using rationales that as I was someone who had lived here for 20 months that I should at least be giving it a go and so off we went. I cannot remember which bar he eventually dragged me into but the first one we popped our heads in had us both reeling out backwards in a bombardment of very loud music with us both seeking sanctuary in a much quieter place instead only to leave about 40 minutes later saying how it just didn’t seem like a fun place to be, but as I hadn’t been there before I couldn’t compare it off to anything and just took his word for it.
Later that week, some of my friends having heard how I had tip toed into Soi Cowboy for the first time decided to continue my Soi Cowboy education by taking me back there on the following Friday night and we ended up in a bar with not only very loud music but also a mirrored floor and a rather interesting glass ceiling with girls ‘showing’ that I managed to forget about the music as I felt myself being distracted elsewhere instead. I couldn't help but observe and wonder as I watched all of these lovely Asian girls doing the bar pole shuffle as well as gyrating on the glass floor above us that despite the amount of traffic that has no doubt passed through each and every one of them, that they have somehow managed to keep themselves very tight, neat and tidy without any protruding bits or looks of obvious wear and tear on their forlorn lips. Now compare that to the average western woman and her naked lower regions and you would more often than not see something that looks like a cauliflower, a rugby battered ear, a pig’s knuckle or a pair of Dumbo the elephant’s ears protruding down between her legs… now why is that?
Anyway, I digress. What worries me about Thailand is that the future looks grim indeed for the people who like to keep their hearing in tact and I suspect that Thailand will more than likely produce the greatest number of deaf mutes than any nation has ever had the misfortune to develop in years to come. Maybe the need for all this noise is the way that Thailand keeps its citizens in order and I cannot wait for all the subliminal messages to come through the loud speakers as the military leaders begin to take hold and start their re-education of the masses.
I must admit to smirking and chuckling to myself a while back about this deafness issue in Thailand because when a certain revered person speaks publicly he does so rather quietly indeed. So when he got up to speak publicly recently from within his home, throughout the whole of Thailand I could hear nothing but the whisper of his voice accompanied by the sound of very loud birds tweeting from inside his home because every Thai across the whole of Thailand had just put up their TV to max volume so that they could hear what he had to say because not one jot lot of them had the ability to listen due to their Thai induced deafness.
Back home the electricity company would complain at the surge in power due to the kettle being put on at half time during the FA cup final. Here they complain about it because someone is speaking too quietly on the TV and everyone compensates by boosting their TV volumes to the max instead… besides the average Thai would probably not know what a kettle was anyway.
Finally, I wonder what the guide books will say when in future years the Land of Smiles will be forced to change its name to the land of deaf mutes and ear trumpets where the smile will be only from the people who having not heard what you have just said will be done as a way to awkwardly smile at you in a confused ‘go on say it again’ state rather than them admitting that they just didn’t hear what you said. For sure the Thai marketing slogan will need to change and perhaps “Eh? Arai na! Eek Krang!” would be a good start.
There is no doubt that noise levels in Thailand are really high. I guess like many people I noticed it when I first came here, but these days I am used to it.