- According to the World Meteorological Organization, Bangkok is the hottest city in the world.
- His late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand was actually born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the United States of America, on December 5, 1927.
- HM the late King was a renowned Jazz saxophonist who has played with many of the world's greatest Jazz musicians.
- H.M. the late King once met Elvis Presley.
- Prior to 1913, most Thais did not have surnames.
- The dark skinned Thai women that Farang men love are not considered attractive by Thai men.
- Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia where Christianity is accepted and protected by law.
- According to the 'Guinness Book of Records 1995', the Thai language has the second largest alphabet in the world. The largest alphabet in world - Khmer.
- Thailand has the longest place-name in the world. The full name for Bangkok: KRUNGTHEP MAHANAKHON BOVORN RATANAKOSIN MAHINTHARAYUTTHAYA MAHADILOKPOP NOPARATRATCHATHANIBURIROM UDOMRATCHANIVETMAHASATHAN AMORNPIMAN AVATARNS ATHIT SAKKATHATTIYAVISNUKARMPRASIT, meaning "The land of angels, the great city (of) immortality, various of devine gems, the great angelic land unconquerable, land of nine noble gems, the royal city, the pleasant capital, place of the grand royal palace, forever land of angels and reincarnated spirits, predestined and created
by the highest Deva(s)."
- According to intensive research conducted by 'Journal of Vector Ecology 26 (2): 2001', about cockroaches in Thailand, it was concluded: 'an average of 5.2 cockroaches/house'.
'Chiang Mai, with 6 species, had the highest number of cockroach species recorded'
- The late King possessed the largest faceted diamond in the world, the Golden Jubilee (545.67 carats).
- It is illegal in Thailand for women to visit night-time entertainment venues alone. They must go with a man!
- It is illegal to leave your house if you are not wearing underwear.
- In 2012 the hospital treated 400,000 foreign patients-the highest of any hospital in the world-from more than 150 countries.
- Barbers are usually closed on Wednesday in Thailand because Thai people think it will bring bad luck to cut their hair that day of the week.
- Thailand is the largest producer of pineapples in the world.
- Thailand's national anthem was composed by a German, Peter Feit.
The road trip from Bamako was uneventful, notwithstanding numerous potholes that our driver negotiated with a natural skill. The view of the savannah, if one cared to look, was one of a desolate landscape mostly obscured by dust clouds thrown up by the land rover’s wheels.
Not that it concerned me, I’d worn out the ‘oh look at that’ T-shirt; nevertheless the thought of visiting Gao, one of the most remote sites of a humanitarian Aid outpost promised to be a rare event – one that I would never forget.
Africa never lets me down. What I imagined to be a township with little amenities let alone a hostel that catered for Bed and Breakfast guests, had exactly that. A terraced stone block with pebbled paths leading up to three wooden doors – I was given the key of the left one, and my colleague took the right one. The middle one was empty. So they said. Outside her door sat a squadron of fat toads who seemed to do nothing but croak.
My pathway was bereft of any such life, and once inside a bed awaited me. Clean sheets and shuttered windows to keep out mosquitoes. Another wooden door opened to a bathroom with shower.
We didn’t linger there as afternoon work took precedence, followed by an evening meal and wine at a local restaurant.
Later, we returned to our quarters. Lamps lit up our paths. Toads were still chilling out, warbling at the moon. I said goodnight, opened the front door, and hit the light switch. Undressed, opened the bathroom door, switched on the light and walked over to the shower. Turned it on.
Waited a few moments before hearing a scrabbling noise at my feet. Looked down to see a trickle of cockroaches emerging from cracks and crevices and up the drain hole, turning to hordes seemingly chasing me as I backed out and slammed the door.
Undeterred, they emerged from underneath while I flung open the front door, and jumped on the mattress. Being shocked was an understatement, my whole body trembled.
They poured out the open doorway as if going to war, only to be met by an opposing army of growling toads.
Next morning, after debugging the shower, I could wash and joke about it. But, needless to say, we never opened the middle room door.
From my archives 5 years ago. Seems like yesterday.
Tigger, a ginger, black, and white cat, has adopted me. I feed her. She follows me around. I feed her. Fish, rice, and fish biscuits. This cat could eat for Thailand.
Yesterday, at dinner time, I went to pick up her dish. It’s a hard plastic throwaway from a fast food restaurant that was used as a paint dish and recycled. Suitable for a stray cat. Not on the floor of the back balcony. I peeped over the seat.
I grumbled, replaced my slippers with my plastic flip-flops and went in search. Down the balcony steps, around the patio and criss crossed the wild garden full of marigolds and papaya trees.
Ou went to search. Said the wind must have blown it somewhere. Couldn’t find it. By this time Tigger was growling and about to tear my leg off, so I replaced her lost dish with a plastic box-type container. Fed her.
This morning, I went in search again. Could have won an orienteering prize, but still no dish. So I sat down and had a think – eliminated the impossible, and settled on this theory. Sometimes Tigger leaves a few grains of rice in the dish. Birds come – very aggressive these ones, as big as magpies and similar behaviour.
I think one bird stole the dish.
What do you think?
Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same colour as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.
Ernest Hemingway, from the Old Man and the Sea.
Luanda Fishing Port, Angola. 8° 47' S latitude and 13°14' E longitude.
For most of my later life I wandered across continents, but unlike pastoral nomads, I’d find a haven by the sea. One such destination was here, in Luanda, in the summer of 2003. My severance stipend and my stumbling Portuguese — a smattering of slurred Spanish — enabled me to gain food and shelter.
I’d lived here for seven months and three weeks come next weekend, when the city dwellers would flock to the beach. I say flocked, but in reality the visitors were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Aid Agency workers, and most days the silvery sands were virgin pastures. As were the opaque breakers that rippled to the shore.
The result of civil war.
The barren beach was for ghosts and young spirits, and I spent most days seated on a wooden bench seat facing the harbour watching the fishing boats glide in at dawn. I got to know one or two skippers, older ones who had picked up pidgin-English at sea. They had frizzy hair, sun-hardened skins and white teeth that glistened. Wearing boots, dungarees and windbreaker jackets.
Most times, my offering of a few dollars was waved away, and my calloused hands filled with a handsome bream or grouper — maybe a tryst of mackerel if I was fortunate. At lunchtime, cleaned, filleted and cooked on my makeshift charcoal barbecue.
I could have said — and others too — that my existence was dull, dreary and trivial, but at nights alone, I made my way to a mound of dry sward above the shore to watch the breakers roll and glisten in the moonlight. A hand-crafted cigarette, its smoke drifting in the breeze, and a flask of dark rum — a local brew — was all I needed to find peace and tranquillity.
I knew they would come for me soon, so I had prepared. My assigned wet-suit, Aqua Sphere goggles and duck-feet swim fins, and I would commit myself to the sea.
As befits a washed-up warrior.
Country blues - a lost love - remembering and forgetting (or trying to forget). I have a five litre box of red wine - quite palatable: I'm waiting for it to hit - take me to the balcony to watch the stars; maybe a few stray dogs howling in the wasteland below my apartment. Company tonight?
My life history recycled - I'm on the fifteenth floor; how many seconds would it take?
About two litres consumed - see, I'm still with it, although my head is feeling the alcohol coursing through my veins. Another glass. That's better, I feel the glow inside - warm, and I try to smile.
Why did she leave me?
A lonely tear - self pity. I shrug away my welling emotions - I'm a man. Darling, I miss you so much - another glass gulped down.
The wine box is taking a heavy hit; I lean over my balcony, and look down. Small people are washing in the showers - they look cold - maybe I could share my wine with them.
Possibly five seconds - quick and easy - another drink, another tear escapes. I clutch my mobile - look at it in desperation.
No good; I lift the box - almost empty - and rip it open. Pour the last dregs into my glass - a toast to my ... what? I lean against the balcony, the small people are waving - time to join them...
On my way down, my mobile rings - I stare at the screen - it's her...
I had to see a doctor to renew my life policy. While the urine and blood tests results were waited (it's pretty quick here in Thailand) I filled in a form with my life history. But the alcohol question that I used to answer with 'on social occasions only' I had to quantify with 2 cans of beer and a glass of red wine a day added to with 'how long have you been drinking?'
Well, I fell for it because my father had introduced me to a sweet vermouth when I was in my early teens - so I said 50 years, which produced a lengthy written remark on my questionnaire.
Hence when my liver function test showed a high globolin result of 4 (normal range 2-3.5) I was refused insurance on the grounds I had nothing short of liver cirrhosis. Naturally, I felt upset and mortal after all, so I arranged for an endoscopy to verify how many social occasions I had left in the bank.
Booked yesterday ( Friday pm) which day coincided with having to take little girl yet again to the animal hospital am because her paw had swollen, her mouth was bleeding and looked in a badway. The doctor took a blood test, telling us it could be leukemia or Aids because her mouth had blisters and her pink bits were white.
I said let's wait for the results.
Ten minutes later when both of us were in the dumps, the animal doctor came out smiling - said Chok Dee (Good health) and suspected that the infection was just a flea bite - no sign of the baddies. But little girl needed red blood cells and she is on a course of injections to stimulate the production of these...
So, in a more hopeful frame of mind, I had my endoscopy (full abdomen test) - result fatty liver (stay off of alcohol for a few weeks) and a slightly enlarged benign prostate (which is fairly normal for a man of my age).
Friday was a good day - it was also a Buddha day, and everything is looking up again...
It could have been Belgrade - my memory is a little dim on the matters of my previous working life for a charity. A project officer (Victor) and I were taking coffee at a small street cafe - he was busy sifting through a pile of applications for piglets.
'Look at this,' he said.
Not that I could read Serbian, or Croation, or whatever. It had seemed a good concept. Help the poor, by giving them pigs to farm. Except most poor people didn't have farms - maybe a back yard at best. And these guys were city dwellers, didn't know anything about rearing livestock.
Victor pointed to the address line. 'This guy lives in a high-rise apartment. How is he going to keep a fully grown pig there?'
'Well that's another thing. We give them piglets, fully innoculated, and a starter pack of food. They're meant to rear them until they're marketable, and with the sale proceeds they can buy another piglet or two, plus have enough money left to feed their family.' Victor sighed. 'But it hasn't worked like that.'
I could sense misgivings about the whole project. I sipped my coffee and waited.
'I interviewed one guy. All the right credentials - poor family, not at work, a big enough garden, and enthusiastic. I asked him what he was going to do with the piglet. He said, take it home, kill it, then eat it.'
Victor gave me a despairing glance. 'I explained that the project was about feeding the pig until it was fully grown as part of a marketing strategy (in simple terms). So I then asked the next question. What would you do when your pig is big and fat? You won't believe what he said.'
I've been around wacky projects long enough to know it wouldn't surprise me, but I couldn't stop laughing at Victor's resigned expression when he told me. I could see it was going to be a long job in selecting the right applicants.
'He said, I understand, I have to feed the pig. When it gets big and fat, then I'll kill it and eat it.'
We live in a newly-built house in a newly built village. At the back and one side we have a view of fields and our grassed park where people can sit on stone benches and walk their dogs. At the front we have a side view of a mountain landscape, and a full vista of houses opposite us.
...and they all live in little boxes all the same.
Across the road is a pink one, where the young couple are ting-tong enough to develop a cattery - about ten persian cross-breeds plus kitten litters from time to time. They have built a wooden extension outside one window exit to house a few.
No problem, we love cats, have two ourselves, with one of their persian cats adopting us as number three. We call him Mow-mow. He loves fish, which we buy from our local market cheaply. Market food is fresh and plentiful, even avocados and mangos, but I digress.
One day last year, we were invited to take a look at a kitten they wanted to give to a good owner - we fell into that category. Nosy us, piqued our interest. What did the inside look like? The lounge was full of cats lazing around on sofa cushions doing what cats do best - licking their bums and sleeping. The said kitten was now a grown cat, and having satisfied our curiousity we declined their generous offer.
A few months later, the woman gave birth to a little girl. She brought the baby over for us to coo over. The baby is now several months old, and this is where it gets interesting. One night in bed - it was just before dawn - we woke up to the sound of a cat crying/wailing. It's a distinctive sound - something was bothering it.
I said whose cat is that? Tip replied, it's the BABY. Cries like a cat...
WARNING – ADULTS ONLY.
The first time he entered her, she was fifteen and a virgin. Afterwards he made her wash the stained bedsheet. Used half a bottle of white vinegar to clean the blood.
The second time she pummelled his hairy chest with her fists. He blacked her eyes and broke an arm. Fell off a ladder, he told the hospital. A doctor sucked the end of his pencil. Made a few notes.
She kept quiet.
Silent each time he took her until she became pregnant and bloated. Then he was injured in a car accident and confined to a wheel-chair. Both legs paralysed. Otherwise, still functional.
She aborted the foetus. Left it dripping on his chest, until he woke and screamed.
Swore he’d make her pay when his body recovered.
Miscarriage, she told the hospital. A woman doctor scraped her clean, made a few notes and prescribed paracetamol.
A month later, at night, while she dragged his legs into bed, he sat up, wrapped his arms around her and hauled her on top. Ripped off her nightdress. Groped her breasts. Laughed at her distress.
It began again.
Pain and suffering in silence.
Contraceptives, she told the hospital. A nurse read her notes, gave her an injection.
When he was in the wheelchair she had leverage. Could pin him down for a minute or so. One Saturday, she visited the hospital while he drank whisky. A woman consultant sucked on her pencil, gave her stronger drugs, and when she got home he was slurring his words.
She ground the tablets into his half-empty glass, and helped him drink it.
All of it. Plus a refill. Thirty minutes later his eyes were closing, and she straddled him in the wheelchair.
Holding a sharpened pencil. From the hospital.
She told him he was dead. He began to struggle. Like a baby. Pushed his hairy arms into her chest, tried to wriggle free, but she rode him like a cowgirl, legs locked around his wheelchair.
He swore at her, spat at her until she clawed his face with one hand and thrust the pencil up his nostril with the other.
All the way.
Right up to the 2H mark.
He hurt me, she told the hospital. She opened her hand. Unwrapped the bandage. A woman psychoanalyst stared at the blood-soaked pencil.
And made a few notes…
...early on Saturday morning was a time for wild-life and fauna observation and perhaps reflection on whether to choose a healthy breakfast of fruit and muesli topped with yogurt or a full veggie English with baked beans instead of bacon, and that stayed with me as I passed the first shop of several spaced around the circular path selling water, soft drinks, coconuts, bird food, and rent-a-mat, and with my eyes diverted I nearly stepped on one ginger kitten from a litter of five who lay prostrate in my way, albeit he was lucky my size tens missed him by a whisker, and I carried on past the open massage parlour where a woman was sweeping away yesterday's dust and who smiled an invitation to me, but not today, my mind set to cover ten circuits totalling over six thousand metres in my allotted hour, and my pace settled down to a rhythmic beat as I neared the 'pigeon sanctuary' bridge over the long narrow lake which was host to dozens of Koi, perhaps a hundred all told I've no doubt, but my gaze was once more diverted by the sheer magnificence of assorted flora in sculptured beds under palms and tall coconut trees, albeit to be struck on the head by one nut wasn't the demise I sought, and I remembered reading that more people get killed by coconuts than from sharks, and that thought stayed with me past the childrens playground area at the park's bottom and anti-clockwise back up to the other end of the bridge where a coffee-shop wasn't open until nine o'clock or when the staff could be bothered to open it, but that didn't bother me, and I walked past several gym machines, a few early-risers stretching their limbs on board, and up to the clock tower paved area where twenty or so older - but graceful - Thais were practising synchronised tai-chi movements in time to a recorded chant coming from an old music box, and I waltzed past in time and up to another set of gym machines on one side and another tarmac area on the other side where a few men were kicking a plastic ball around opposite another food-stall which sold exactly the same products as the other shops at the same price, although the woman was a lot younger and her stall had tables and chairs to sit on, so I suppose her stall had market appeal that the others lacked, and there was a little poster attached to the counter showing a lost cat and a lost dog from what I could make of it as I walked past and up to the end of one circuit which was completed in under six minutes according to the clock above the gate where I had parked along with several motor-scooters, and on my next circuit I would be people watching as runners went past me, as I passed other walkers and watched those exercising - yes it was going to be a fine day for working up an appetite, and deciding what breakfast to choose, providing of course, I side-stepped the ginger kitten on my walk around the city park.
Bio: British age 73 (young) retired and living in Thailand. Profession, Charity Auditor working in some 40 countries over the last ten years before retiring. Familiar with writing reports to professional standard. Sense of humour, reserved, realist and down to earth. Enjoy writing with a passion for the unusual.