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The week that was in Thailand news: On newbies in Thailand and getting your Siamese wings!


The week that was in Thailand news: On newbies in Thailand and getting your Siamese wings!

This post is also available in: English

One can usually spot a newbie to Thailand a mile off.

They love to regale anyone who pretends to listen about their knowledge of everything Thai from the language to the politics, the daily life to the police. They know all about the Thai people – especially relationships – and they have the culture off pat. They usually condemn it to hide their ignorance.

They once propped up bars talking about life being cheap and brown envelopes, but are increasingly prevalent and tiresome on social media these days.

Yes, things have become very black and white for them. When in reality understanding Thailand is more about the shades of grey. Even the locals are baffled by what goes on in the kingdom at times.

Rooster assesses a newbie as someone who has been in Thailand less than ten years – you get your wings after that. I got mine in the mid 1990s and I’m still learning.

I should be what legendary columnist Bernard Trink called an “Old Hand” by about 2035 if I keep paying attention.

The newbie overreacts to everything. A coup means violence and gunfire on the streets. Being caught with your trousers down means the end of a relationship and food for ducks. Falling foul of the law means incarceration in their favorite Bangkok Hilton, though they have no idea where it is because they can’t even give directions to a taxi driver (who are all dishonest Thai men who pimp their wives and beat them senseless, BTW….).

Ex-newbies who have paid attention are then on probation for about the next ten years. In this period it is important to get further experience and balance. By the end of that – lets say 20 years residence – we should have a person who is blessed with information and knowledge – but who is still “ngong” (suitably flummoxed) in appropriate measure.

You see, not being a newbie is not about always getting things right. It’s about appreciating that despite the knowledge you could still be wrong.

For this columnist the entire Covid-19 pandemic and the reaction to it by the Thai authorities has been a case in point.

I smelled several rodents last year but was prepared to go along with what appeared to be a pretty reasonable response to the pandemic. I was prepared to give credit where it appeared to be due and reserve some criticism for the ever changing circumstances of a health crisis few were fully prepared to handle.

I admit I didn’t see the vaccine rollout failure coming but I’m not going to get my “ganggeng nai” in a twist.

As far as being vaxxed goes I’m following a wait and see approach. Getting all het up about the lack of availability – or thinking about flying abroad to get a jab no less – all smacks of newbie-ism or having more money and time than sense.

I’ve got a doctor’s appointment in August for a lipid check and I’ll ask my Khun Mor about it then. I’m in no hurry – despite being 60 next Sunday it’s hard to catch Covid when the nearest you get to going out is a trip to the landing to take out the trash.

Mrs Rooster – a Thai of 44 years – is behaving more like a newbie. Maybe she needs more powerful medication and less Amarin TV. I’m doing my best to alleviate the fear factor – a tough battle with cases nudging 10,000 and deaths up near 100 every day.

I urge her to appreciate the positives – time spent with family, the pleasures and humor of raising kids in a rich bilingual environment, the eight year old mastering lessons via Zoom, the five year old coloring in nicely……

But it does appear that she has got caught up in the hysteria that this week resembled more like Vaccine Hysteria than broader pandemic angst.

Thais were queuing overnight for non-existent Moderna in Pak Chong and willing to pay 3,300 baht for it. Officials of every color were chopping and changing their Sinovac, Astra Zeneca and Pfizer combination advice at the drop of a hat.

An Australian couple who have clearly got their wings after 14 years, were polite and measured in a TV interview about the problems being faced by foreigners in getting access to vaccine.

They were caught between a rock and a hard place with Australian regulations ramping up but they are only in their 50s so it was hardly last chance saloon.

Interestingly, just days after this, the Australians announced a plan to vaccinate their nationals in Thailand.

Britain’s new ambassador Mark Gooding appeared on video in which he claimed his embassy was pressing the Thais at all levels to get their vax act together.

He expressed concern for his nationals’ problems; might I suggest he follows the lead of other nations and has a word with Whitehall.

Anything short of that makes you look like a lackey with no teeth to go with your lack of hair, Your Excellency.

Meanwhile, the Phuket Sandbox continued with the Thai authorities continuing to talk it up. Relief came slightly when Koh Samui’s “Plus Model” started Thursday.

Tourism minister Pipat and his entourage looked a tad lonely as a dozen or so journalists got off the plane.

Apparently 33 more had booked seats on Bangkok Airways before the end of the month and they’d be spending gazillions in two shakes of a TAT tail (or tale more like).

Pattaya’s tourism leaders then said they were pressing on with “Pattaya Move On”. Only four swab tests, a week in an ALQ, another week in a SHA+ and 14 days in Bang Lamung and Sattahip then you might be able to go somewhere really decent like Bangkok….

And it IS quite decent at the moment. Not much traffic, clear air, quiet like Songkran. Pick your time to go shopping wisely and it’s great in the Thai capital. And gone are the days when a curfew means much.

I’m lucky if the missus gives me a visa to go out to “Sewen”.

The word from all of Pattaya, Phuket and Samui is that the Thais are not expecting many foreign tourists until about November.

Maybe even then their forecasts are overly optimistic but you have to start somewhere to repair an industry that is 20% of GDP and employs millions.

Take the pronouncements about big numbers and even larger revenue with a pinch of salt.

Thais often speak with forked tongue as their culture requires them to keep up appearances at all costs.

Newbies call it lying, only later discovering face and only later still realising there as many faces as Thotsakan of Ramakien fame.

An interesting post about an online organisation led to my favorite comment from the forum faithful this week and will be my last word on Euro 2020 (tears still dropping into humble pie).

It was suggested online that people should hang out flags made of t-shirts outside their homes – white meant “we need food” and red meant “get us a doctor or a bed”.

ASEAN Now poster “jojothai” had Rooster chuckling with: “What if it’s a red and white flag? I have some of those to discard after last Sunday”.

I half expected Pattayan’s to be putting out flags made from their Singha singlets – “We need beer”, being the message.

Keeping up a similar brand of humor was a space cadet official talking about the draft “Space Affairs Act” and bigging up Thailand’s interstellar ambitions.

Talk about poor timing; juxtaposed against a horrendous picture of hundreds waiting for food handouts on Pattaya beach and social media posts about people with no bed waiting on the floor by a hospital’s trash area, this was misplaced priorities.

A bit like Richard Branson and his billionaire buddies rocketing off to the stratosphere. How about parting with a slice of your pandemic profits instead?

Incidentally, I worked with a deputy head in Bangkok who taught geography to the Virgin founder at Stowe. He gave him a “D” and a concerned “could do better” comment.

At least he was able to find outer space on a map, I suppose, and now didn’t need a rocket.

Some better news for those that rely on the baht being weak came when the UK pound surged past 45! Bless…it was double that for a brief period in 1997.

How I remember all the newbie expats at Patana school in the middle of that year panicking when the rate went from 40 to 50 almost overnight. They had to send money back.

This prompted international schools to up their packages benefitting Rooster, who smiled and kept his gleeful council.

Two insurance companies announced they were ending Covid packages. Their assessors clearly bet on the wrong numbers and were bailing out.

Then Dr Yong got the hump after someone edited his Wiki page to say he was a Sinovac salesman. Yes, it may be defamation but you just end up looking daft, doc, when you rise to the bait.

Finally in pandemic news, the authorities started approving self-test kits and advising home isolation for people with no symptoms. About time – a lot of time and money was wasted on the insistence of hospital and field hospital care.

The authorities had plenty of time to see what had happened in the West and missed a trick. Now they are paying for that bigtime.

Plod had another busy week. One was kicked in the face by a disgruntled and clamped van driver in Ploenchit Road, the IB warned about impersonators (not themselves) while spokesmen said to watch out for handsome foreigners online and to get the best ransomware protection after attacks in the US.

More light-hearted was a story about someone bidding 101 million baht for a van plate from the DLT with the registration ฮฮ9999 that many Thais thought meant riches.

The bidder had added an extra zero by mistake and 10,100,000 was his intention. Not inconsiderable but not a record, said the DLT.

Rooster thought of entering the cherished number plate business back in the 1990s, one of several ideas based on successful models from the UK that, with adaptations, I thought might work in Thailand.

In the end I taught Thai to foreigners and rich Thai kids coming back from California. In relative penury, I made do with a bit of tape on the letters พอ on my cut price Soluna spelling out “Daddy’s” car (พ่อ=phor=pater).

Rooster is normally law abiding but the first wife baulked at this “thabian rot” tampering.. What joy to catch her years later when she had the clock turned back by a “chang” with a power drill.

In related road news the traffic bods in Bangkok announced they were changing Zebra Crossings to be red to make drivers stop. Good luck with that – if you stepped out with an Uzi and threatened an advancing motorist he’d probably speed up and mow you down before fleeing the scene and checking if he’d damaged his fender.

Finally spare a thought for two Thai men.

The first was twenty year old Pannathorn, unlucky in love, who had “Jep Phroh Rak, Sak Phroh Khaen” tattooed across his forehead.

“Hurt because of love, tattoo because of revenge” didn’t mean he harbored ill will against his “ex” – he just wanted to make a statement about unrequited love.

At least Joe the Khon Kaen tattooist spelled it correctly and got one million likes on TikTok.

The other was a hapless 38 year old who had to get help from his mum after somehow padlocking his private parts and experiencing ever greater swelling for a week.

Putting pandemic angst in perspective.


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