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Rooster is a lot like Guinness. I don’t travel well. In fact as soon as I leave Rooster Central I wonder why I bothered and can’t wait to get back home again.
It wasn’t always like this. In my youth the whole world seemed to be out there waiting for me and I wanted to experience every bit of it. I rarely booked return journeys. If I didn’t like a place or needed a change I’d just go onto somewhere else.
One of my early trips outside of England was to the Emerald Isle that in the early 1980’s was hardly a sparkling jewel. I went to the Falls Road in Belfast and discovered that part of the UK was at war. Hitherto I had always been told of “the troubles” and when foreign media referred to the situation as a war zone I pooh-poohed the notion.
Down in Dublin I was persuaded to sample that strange black drink that back in London had made me want to vomit. The barman went down to the other end of the bar and got one that had already been mostly poured and just topped it up. It actually tasted nice so I had another, and another….I never touched it again though.
My experiences in Ireland gave me an impression that stayed with me for decades, that travel broadens the mind. It seemed a cliche but real nonetheless. It is only in the last five or ten years that I have started to question this idea. Maybe it’s old age setting in but I have had enough of jetting off; even just taking a train or riding off into the sunset makes me want to turn back, go home, shut the door and get out a good book or a decent Netflix series instead.
Am I becoming a meaningless old git? Please don’t answer that in comments.
Readers of this column will know that Rooster is a dyed in the wool Bangkokian. But I have tried to get out and see the kingdom and all its many glories. This week was no exception and I pointed the Civic north-eastwards, loaded up with Campbell’s soup,linguine, tinned tomatoes, children and the wife and headed for the wilds of Loei.
It started reasonably enough. Shortly before Khon Kaen we dropped in on Poster of the Year “Colin Neil” a wheelchair bound man from Preston who is known to many on the Thaivisa forum for his good humor and sense despite the adversity that Thailand has thrown at him.
He told me about a well endowed lady he met called Milk. I countered with a story about a former Thai student who introduced me to his Double D mother who said, as I tried and failed to keep my eyes from her colossal cleavage, that she owned a dairy farm.
Appropriately, that tickled old Colin, who drives the fastest disability scooter in the East….
The children loved the dogs and Mrs Rooster enjoyed meeting Colin’s faithful and charming wife and soon all seemed at peace with the world as a huge orange Isanian sun dropped below the horizon and we contentedly completed our drive to the village of Non Somboon.
On a patch of earth where I held eggs and was covered in string and anointed with mud fifteen years ago, there now stands a five bedroom house that I mostly paid for and my brother-in-law mostly built.
It is surrounded by weeds and plastic bags and the dilapidated failure of a restaurant out front. The in-laws – decent people who are rather infirm these days – have been abandoned by their other daughter and son-in-law who have even dumped their children on them. Muggins helps pay for it all.
They were pleased to see me and I them and I resolved to try to clear up some of the mess inside the house setting forth with gusto the next morning on an internal kitchen area next to where the serious cooking is done under corrugated iron outdoors.
I knew I had to tread carefully – it’s not my home and despite the mess these were their possessions. The microwave didn’t work – the mice had chewed through the cord – but it couldn’t be thrown away because they kept things on it. I suggested putting things on the worktop instead but this foray into rocket science was baffling.
The gas stove had never been installed and the holes and what remained of a sink that had never been used were covered in what looked like a sheet of asbestos.
Gran baffled me saying that food tasted better when cooked on an open fire made from wood and charcoal, though they rarely barbecue using aluminium pots instead. Several huge bins were gathering dust. They contained vast quantities of fermented fish covered in seething maggots. Mrs R said that mum really ought to throw out some of the maggots while Gran countered that each vat was worth 1,000 baht!
I was warned off vocalizing what I was thinking. That a bio-terrorist would pay a lot more than that. Those fish could poison the whole of New York if someone tipped them in the water supply.
I swept the daddy long legs away though Gran wondered why, made the fridge look like new again, scrubbed the floor and walls and changed the light bulbs that were too high for anyone else to reach. It hadn’t occurred to anyone to use the ladder that was being trampled over and coated in poop by the chickens and ducks.
(My what a terrible noise they made when I was trying to sleep in every early morning, the only time when our room was not like an oven).
Within a couple of days my tidying was fast returning to what it was previously and I wondered why I’d bothered. I retreated to a bedroom to watch prerecorded TV and tried not to sulk.
The dustmen came but didn’t take the mountain of trash I’d collected. Perhaps they thought it was not their place. And why would Gran be throwing out rice sacks?
We made a few side trips with the children. One to a water park was not bad though the som tam for lunch was horrible and the chicken one of those unpleasant “gai baan” things that reminded me why I hate anything organic.
A visit to a lake and lunch on a “raft” was curtailed by a violent thunderstorm that terrified the children. The relatives bought their own fish and sticky rice and I made do with an unpalatable fried rice. I’d just read a thread about the folly of ordering prawns in Isan. I never learn and after annoying the missus counting the crustacea I started to count the days and the hours when I would get back to the sanctity of Bangkok and McDonald’s.
Friday’s trip to a limestone cave high up in a mountainside near the town of Erawan was perhaps the highlight of the week. This cavernous space filled with Buddhas, stalagmites and stalagtites also scared the nippers witless and sent their mother into a spiral of vindictive hatred (actually caused by being tired and almost 80 seconds late for the next meal).
On the way to the bus station I let rip at the mess and the ungrateful local kids who had not said a word of thanks for being taken out despite Gran’s urgings to say “khop khun” to uncle Rooster. She backed me up – I have a lot of time for Gran – and even had a go at her own daughter.
I was glad to be alone at the bus depot and finally on my way back to Bangkok. The knowledge that I would soon be in my own condo helped to overcome the fact that the bus was two hours late, broke down again en route, the man in the next seat was so big he had half of my space too, it took 30 minutes (twice) to fill up with LPG and was as uncomfortable and as long a trip as I’d once made from Lake Toba to Bukit Tinggi in Sumatra.
Seeing my chance when a passenger alighted, I fled before Mo Chit and got in a taxi. I tipped the driver handsomely as he had brought me to my door in peace and safety. Travel? Never again I thought, and this time I might start to mean it.
Seeing the lives people lead on Facebook (and all those annoying travel v-loggers) is starting to revolt me. The constant search for somewhere better than Thailand for the down at heel expats. The jet-setting around the world of the affluent “Scrabble Community” to play in tournaments. I’m even starting to give credence to the buzzword of the year coming out of Sweden namely “flygskam”.
The thought of shaming people for flying would have been unthinkable years ago but now the airline industry is accepting that concern over environmental damage is very real and will surely impact their business. I still feel two-faced but I haven’t flown for a year….
Now it’s part of the reason I won’t be going to the World Championships in India this month. Another is the complicated visa. Another is the expense and poor prize money. Another is the possibility of having to go all that way from home and play a cheat. I’d sooner play with myself…..
But the overriding feeling is I don’t want to go anywhere anymore. I’ve had enough. My enthusiasm is shot.
And so my week’s holiday came to a blessed end. Those who followed the Thaivisa forum might have thought it a dull seven days of news. I’ll be back translating again next week and, hopefully, that will improve my mood.
Having taken up more than my fair share of the reader’s time here is a brief synopsis of the stories that I found of some interest on the Thaivisa forum this week:
Hapless tourism minister Phiphat said that the nation and ASEAN’s bidding for the 2034 FIFA World Cup was in line with PM Prayut’s policy. The whole idea is completely pointless unless one considers the junkets for officials and the waste of money as positives. China will be awarded the next Asian slot and then the continent will have to wait two more decades, so why bother.
CP Group have until October 15th to confirm their interest in the three airports, high speed rail project. The $7 billion dollar plans could yet be as dead as the dinosaurs at the State Railway of Thailand who are haggling over what they can screw out of the deal in land use agreements.
King Mongkut Institute of Technology have come up with a robot that cooks street food. Might I suggest that these loonies do something worthwhile instead. They could attach the existing vendors – those that are left after the crackdowns – to electrical jolts when they fail to wash their hands or pick their noses while preparing food. Cost effective and useful.
Bloomberg said that the “surging baht” had shattered many an expat dream in Thailand. What was once affordable is out of the reach of many retirees. Methinks many of these are Brits who find themselves paddle-less up Excrement Creek. I wonder how many now regret those Brexit votes?
As Bangkok suffered some unpleasant toxic air Uncle Too promised to come down hard on vehicle emissions. Has he not considered that his own hot air is merely exacerbating the situation?
The Chinese were expected to spend, spend, spend this “Golden Week” as yet more pie-in-the-sky figures came out of the tourism authority woodwork. Vegetarian festivals in Phuket and Pattaya were top of the agenda; hopefully the incense sticks won’t be too big and add to the haze.
Pattaya villain Reece Vella got a comeuppance of sorts after getting a four year sentence for drug dealing in England. Vella, 27, was on the balcony in QUOTES when his girlfriend Wannipa fell to her death during “strange and extravagant sex”. Forum curmudgeons were delighted that Mr Vella would likely be the recipient of such sexual favors in Strangeways, or wherever he ends up doing his porridge.
The Ministry of Public Health are now “allowing” prescriptions to be filled at pharmacies outside the hospitals. Some of us have been doing this for years with the connivance of doctors to circumvent the money grubbing hospitals. Good to see that the MOPH are on the ball….
As if to reiterate what a lousy week of news this was, the BBC came up with nothing new in a feature about the Saudi Jewels’ Case that dates back three decades. This murky story of personal greed, corrupt customs and police, murder and palace intrigue is an all time classic if you have never heard of it. If you have, give the BBC story a miss.
Finally, apropos Rooster’s Sunday sermon about travel, the news threw up one cautionary tale about visiting foreign lands. A Thai drug mule woman who said she had been paid a meager 20,000 baht was caught with 18 million baht’s worth of cocaine stuffed in bags in her “winter coat”.
It was apparently a hot day.