Stranger Than Fiction – What The Two-Week Tourist Doesn’t See
When people come to Thailand for their two-week sojourn in the sun, the strangest thing they are likely to see is an elephant strolling down the street. They miss most of what goes on 'behind the scenes', and some of what happens defies belief
at times. I've been recording some of these bizarre happenings for a while now, gathering items from the local press or elsewhere, that tell tales of a different Thailand, often far from the tourist track. Prepare to open your eyes to one
of the weirdest places on earth, prepare to enter the Twilight Zone…
First, the idea that the Thai people are always serene, always smiling. Not if you go to the wrong school. There are always stories of gangs from rival schools boarding buses and terrorising other passengers as they wield knives or even guns. A quote from someone who oversees passenger vans near Central on Rama II: ''It is like a battleground here. Students get off a bus and confront rival school students, and a gang fight ensues. I saw one vocational school student almost cut off a high school student's arm with a long knife. Sometimes they go on shootouts. Commuters just have to sprint for their lives. Inter-school brawling goes as far as throwing home-made bombs.'' One student defended it, saying it was ‘a custom’.
Sometimes students are on the receiving end of violence. A university student was shot and wounded by a security guard at a branch of Bangkok Bank after she annoyed him by jumping the queue.
More violence in unexpected places. There was the case of 10 novices and three monks who initiated a machete-wielding brawl because of a rivalry over a girl. They attacked each other with samurai swords. Not quite the image most people have of monks.
Better still. In June last year a well-known abbot was found to have been indulging in unlawful sex acts. Not only did they discover over 60 photos involving what appeared to be an under-age girl, but there was a photo of the monk having sexual intercourse with a dog. Elsewhere, some temples have been warned about allowing obscene and indecent shows in their grounds. Young ladies were dancing provocatively in revealing dresses and even indulging in striptease during fairs held there. And we thought that Thais were shy.
No wonder someone known as the Social Development and Human Security Minister wanted to crack down on teenagers on Valentine’s Day. Police were asked to visit motels (i.e. short-time hotels) to check ID cards and that ‘guests’ were over 18. Authorities were urged to turn on all lights in public parks and for passenger vans to be inspected and to have their curtains open to ensure no hanky panky was going on. Apparently, some vans kindly remove the back seats to give their passengers more room for whatever it is they are doing, and drive around until their lust has been satisfied. No word on if they tip the driver, but be very aware if you board a passenger van on Valentine’s Day. It might be quite entertaining. There was no mention of any ‘precautions’ being put in place for the other 364 days of the year. Don’t you just love it.
Some of the things that happen are hilarious. As long as they don’t happen to you.
One foreigner picked up a young man in Pattaya for some social activity, and woke up the next morning to find his false teeth had been stolen. The man had great difficulty explaining to the hotel what had happened because he couldn’t talk properly without his teeth, but that part of the problem was solved when one bright spark suggested he write down what he was trying to say. The hotel staff kindly arranged an appointment for him to have another set of teeth made, when it was then discovered his money and credit cards had also disappeared. He had to delay reporting the matter to the police for two days, until his teeth were ready and he could make himself understood again.
Then there was the case of the woman who was awoken by the sound of her two million baht house subsiding. She should have expected it. An architect friend had told her that some houses collapsed when the project was being built, but ‘the problem appeared not to be serious’.
Sometimes you get the impression that some people are just bored out of their skulls. Why else would an entire community turn out to watch a toilet boat, with three restrooms each for men and woman and a couple of bathrooms, dock at the local pier. Apparently there had been some floods, and the villagers had had nowhere to go… Quite a relief, then, when the boat showed up.
You have to love the way the law is enforced in Thailand. It should be obvious, but the Justice Ministry recently had to remind the police to get evidence before arresting anyone. Apparently, the Ministry was tired of paying out 250 million baht compensation to nearly 3,000 people wrongly arrested.
By the way, if your flight was delayed in landing it might have been one of about 40 flights that were affected on the day that the airspace and runways at Bangkok’s airport were partially closed so that the air force could practise for an air show. Hundreds of passengers were delayed, but what the heck.
I’m not sure if that was at the old or new airport, but one of the countless scandals at Suvarnabhumi involved a company that was awarded the contract to install electrical and air-conditioning systems, having zero experience other than in running an ice cream factory, farming – and a massage service at the old airport. I can only imagine the level of massage they gave!
More next time.
A priceless collection of anecdotes. The TAT got their slogan for the country spot on – Amazing Thailand!