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When a foreigner gets to a certain age in Thailand, the Thais usually cut you a bit more slack. Especially if you can speak the Thai language.
Just like with older Thais it is not so important to bow and scrape quite so much as it once was as most people are getting younger than you! So long as you have got a head of grey hairs and some designer wrinkles you are considered vaguely doolally and worthy of a bit of leeway. Even at the age of the late fifties you are probably looked at as having one foot in the crematorium and thus it is timely for a relaxation of the cultural laws determining behavior and relative status.
This is particular true of dress. Being 58 this month I have found myself recently going bare-chested in grubby shorts down in the lift to monitor my little children as they pedal their bikes furiously in my Bangkok soi.
I always internally admonish myself with the sound of my CCF drill sergeant who might have said: “You’re not in Pattaya now, laddie”. But none of the neighbors bat an eyelid and I am pretty sure they couldn’t give a guano. I imagine they are just thinking:
“He’s been here yonks, naturally gone a tad troppo and aren’t those cute grandchildren the old codger’s got”.
Being a city dweller since before the year dot.com I have usually dressed up rather than down. Country bumpkins could wander around in smelly clothes with a straw hanging off their bottom lip but not fashionable Rooster. Oh no! And coming to Thailand in the 1980’s I was instantly aware of the importance of dressing to impress. This was true just going to a bar but was absolutely de rigueur when working or doing something official.
Whether it was immigration or the tax office (or even such places as the Department of Land Transport later on) I was always convinced that having a shirt and long pants saved time, grief and even money.
As an international school teacher it was always shirt and tie and polished shoes (though I got a special dispensation from head masters for sandals when I got older and ingrowing toenails started to be a perennial problem).
These days I am largely confined to the Ratchayothin Barracks though Sgt-Maj (Ying) Rooster will do her own barracking if visitors arrive and I am still forgetfully in my wholly unholy and holey boxers. There are, after all, some things that age cannot wither…..one being a Thai wife’s infinite variety.
I never buy clothes these days having enough old school t-shirts and Scrabble tournament freebies to last until I am about 320 years old. Being a Thai resident these days means just one trip to immigration (for a reentry visa) entailing one of two annual uses of “The Pressed Shirt”. The other will be when I am presented as a member of the Thai team to a Royal Family representative at this weekend’s international Scrabble tournament in Bangkok.
“The Suit” will also come out for this occasion as we always want to look our best when on the Royal TV News at 8pm, don’t we…..
So, earlier in the week, I sat typing in a state of flabby and decrepit undress in my bedroom-cum-office with Mrs R being sarky about the “one pack” stomach and derisively commenting about British people having a “bath night”. I should never have told her that.
This anecdotal foray into the vagaries of sartorial elegance was sparked by one of the threads of the week on Thaivisa.
Namely the requirement of Jomtien Immigration for visitors to dress neatly or be refused service!
The thread had all the expected responses ranging from “it’s not how you dress it’s how you act” to “Australians look good in shorts” (which they rarely do). A reasonable number knew that in Thailand you’d be off your rocker to dress down when dealing with any form of officialdom let along Big Oud’s minging minions.
Poster of the Year 2018 contender NCC1701A said that people had laughed at him but: “I ALWAYS dress like I am going to a very important business meeting when I go to immigration or the bank or any Thai government location”.
How right he is. He might also remember, bearing in mind that he often posts about his cordial relationships with Thai ladies, that the classier females in the kingdom like a man with a collar….
It gives them something to tug on or get hot under.
The pictures on the Jomtien poster seemed to mostly be women though I suppose that many in Pattaya would take their better halves along for moral support when reporting their whereabouts every ninety days or confirming they have enough money for 800 happy hours at one thousand baht a time.
Dressed nicely with his flowing locks immaculately combed this week was Mr Trump. I am being awfully nice to him after the criticism leveled at me last week for calling him names. Mr Trump stepped into North Korea alongside his BBF (Big Barking Friend) Kim in a picture for the ages.
“One small step for a man, one giant leap towards yet another totally unwarranted Nobel Peace Prize”.
Our dear Uncle Pee’Too was also pictured with Mr Tou’pee (oops, there I go again) this week. Someone seemed to have found a box for the Thai PM to stand on so that he could rub shoulders and give a thumbs up next to the Great Man from the White House.
Rooster was further reminded of America – and things that Thais get even more upset about than people not dressing for the occasion – in a story about disrespecting Thai flags. In America I’m told that burning the Stars and Stripes would get you jailed though setting fire to the Union Jack would just be seen as a bit “ting tong” where I was dragged up.
Some Western looking teens in Pai should appreciate how lucky they were not to be eating Rice Gruel for months if not years after they messed about with the King’s and the National flags. On this occasion the authorities put it down to “hijinks” and Rooster must commend the officials for this as crass idiocy rather than malice aforethought seemed to be their motive.
Dress in holiday singlets and shorts to your heart’s content but vandalize anything – let alone Thai symbols – and even if you are Chinese you can expect what’s righteously coming to you.
Down in QUOTES – the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard – the TAT and the local press combined to make a large swathe of humanity disappear. It looked like a typo from “The Pattaya News” as they quoted a local tourism bigwig as saying that 28 million tourists visited Thailand last year. All previous estimates put the figure at 38 million.
Of course it is always possible that 10 million Chinese might have just gone missing in the latest boating accident in Phuket or the minivan ride south. But to read some of the xenophobic comments on the forum and Thaivisa’s Facebook arm one would imagine that they might not be missed by all.
Adding fuel to the anti-Beijing sentiment was a story that the Thai police had escorted one of their countrymen off a Lion Air plane that was about to take off at Don Muang after he had tried to open the emergency door. Well, live and let live….at least he probably only wanted a bit of fresh air and it was much better than that Mrs Chew who had thrown some coins in a jet engine for good luck or people taking a dump in the aisle.
Better news came from The Mall Group who have decided to charge one baht for anyone using a plastic bag at their swanky Bangkok stores (including Emquartier) and Bluport in Hua Hin. I don’t have the clothes necessary to get in some of their stores and my possessions are usually carried in a sturdy 7-Eleven plastic bag.
Putting aside the negative sarcasm that one baht would be a drain on someone buying a genuine Louis Vuitton bag in Paragon, I still feel that more should be done rather than just mark events like Wednesday’s International Plastic Bag Free Day with smiles and waves for the camera. Tesco Lotus are starting to make their seaside stores plastic bag free but they have forbidden their use in just eight out of 2,000 stores. A drop in the polluted ocean.
Rooster would really like to see the major retailers get together and get tough on single use plastics. And it is time that the government got more involved. Everyone in Thailand – Thais and foreign residents and visitors alike – needs to be battered and bruised and cajoled – whatever it takes – to stop using so many plastic bags and stop packaging things in layer upon layer of the revolting stuff. Plastic straw usage also needs to stop immediately.
It will all find it’s way into landfill at best and more likely the rivers and klongs and the sea. The trash build-up in Thailand is a disgrace every bit as disgusting as the maniacal roads. A concerted effort is needed by officialdom and the public not just with “D-Days” and pictures for the press. Start charging the public five baht for a bag. Look to Europe for the answers. Phase out this bloomin’ menace and show leadership for once.
The same goes for recycling. A country that had a proud tradition of poor people collecting cardboard and tin cans to eke out a living should be making far more of an effort particularly with designated and separate bins in municipal areas that must go to separate recycling facilities. I for one would pay for that to be happening in my name….and if I could I would vote for the person who acted on it or shop in the store where they cared rather than just paid lip service to the issue. McDonalds, 7-Eleven, Big C, Prayut and Prawit please note.
Top titter-fest this week was the fact that a large contingent of immigration officials failed to find anyone on overstay at the airport! Why were they looking there I wondered as I translated the story from the Thai press. Until it was revealed that one of the places the cops had hunted for miscreants was the “Longstay” car park.
Clearly there was at least some semblance of method in their madness…..
Finally, this week I have had the pleasure of welcoming perhaps the greatest female Scrabble player of all time into my home. From Scotland, it has been interesting to hear her take on the things she has seen in Bangkok this week that we residents sometimes take for granted.
On arrival she had been one of the people caught up in the queues at Suwannaphum (my spelling) as Immigration tried to figure out how many fingers tourists had for their two million baht biometric system debut. I quoted my much delayed friend and with a Twitter picture from a reporter it made one of the most followed stories of the previous week.
This week my house guest took my daughter to the cinema. And what shocked her? No, not how good “Toy Story 4” was, she was expecting that. But she was amazed by the fact that a six year old was subjected to such violence in the trailer for “The Fast and the Furious 9”. She’s right; everywhere in Thailand very young children are confronted by mayhem and violence. As they grow up it’s hardly surprising when we witness so much Road Rage from supposedly adult Thais.
The filming for Fast and Furious began in earnest in the palm oil plantations, dirt roads and deserted mills of Krabi this week. The authorities begged the public not to reveal details while the news organizations clamored to feed the film going public with Hollywood tittle tattle and the minutest news of where the film crews were going.
Rooster? Well I’ve never seen this franchise and I would frankly never want to even if they ARE carving up the Thai countryside.
Besides I’d never heard of Vin Diesel. I thought it must be an innovative French biofuel used to power the racing cars.
Made from grapes, naturally.