29 March 2013


                                                                                                                    (c) Barney Wilczak

Over in Sri Lanka, the roaming dogs and monkeys aren't always fighting. Sometimes they make peace instead. Perhaps the humans who live amongst them - Sinhalese Buddhists, Hindu Tamils and Muslims could have avoided thirty years of bitterness and bloodshed if they had learnt much earlier that it is talking that ends conflict - not bullets or machetes, mobs or martial law. Yesterday a Buddhist mob burnt down a Muslim clothing warehouse in Colombo and a couple of weeks ago a similar mob protested vehemently about the sale of halal meat in Sri Lanka. If war breaks out again over the next two weeks - don't blame me or Shirley. We didn't start it.

I will try to blog again while I am over there but I am not taking my laptop so it will probably need to be from an internet cafe - assuming there are no warring monkeys or growling dogs on the premises. As they say in Italy - but not in Sri Lanka - ciao!

28 March 2013


Three and a half hours - that's how long I spent at the Department of Immigration this morning. It is a huge modern building on the northern outskirts of Bangkok - miles from anywhere. I was there for two reasons. Firstly, I had to extend my work visa because my teaching contract was recently extended from the end of March to May 3rd and secondly I needed to acquire a re-entry visa because I am leaving the country on Saturday for just over two weeks. This flag will tell you where I am bound...and it is there that I will meet up with Shirley who has a week off work:-
And of course, as if you didn't know! It is the flag of Sri Lanka - or as I still prefer to call it - Ceylon. There was political mischief behind the changing of the teardrop country's name.

So anyway, I have got my first supermarket deli ticket and I am sitting in the waiting area adjacent to the many "N" booths. A robotic female voice with a Thai accent chants the evolving appointments - "Tick-et-num-ber Twoah Threeah Zero, Counter (dramatic pause) fourtEEN (Rising to a robotic crescendo)". The appointments are also listed in red digital displays but the "N" section's lady robot's increasingly irritating voice is in competition with the lady robots from the other sections. Their soulless voices are identical and they interlace like spindly fingers.

When you finally get into a glass booth to see an immigration official in an immaculate army-type uniform, she or he goes mad with the old rubber stamps before sending you out to wait for another half hour - only then being allowed to pick up the amended passport. At least today I didn't encounter the cheeky female official who laughed at me in 2011 and said I looked like Colonel Sanders..."Oh yes dear, I'm a finger-lickin dead ringer for Mr KFC!" (Not!)

There are hundreds of other perplexed aliens in the Palace of Bureaucracy - maids from the Philippines, construction workers from Burma (not Myanmar), Welsh chicken farmers, Cambodians, Indians, beachcombing hippies from California and Canton GA and other farang (foreign) international teachers like me with school bureaucrats in tow. I was with the delectable Khun Lek who - in spite of only knowing a dozen English words - is my school's visa liaison officer for foreign staff. But I will give Lek her due today. She managed to bully or charm the officials into giving me my re-entry visa just before the shutters went down for an hour's lunch break. Well, what does it matter if hundreds of visitors have had to traipse out to the suburbs in taxis, waiting in snarled traffic jams, missing hours of work? What really matters is that the army of officials can have their noodles and their Tom Yum soup, their "Daddy Do-nuts" and their Colonel Sanders specials. Let the buggers wait.

So with passport sorted and reservation sheets now printed, I am just about ready for Ceylon where apparently foaming, rabid dogs often fight with equally bad-tempered monkeys. Nice.

26 March 2013


Since suffering the abyssmal "21 and Over", I have visited my local Major Cineplex Cinema twice. The environment is super clean, the staff plentiful and efficient in their smart uniforms, the seat tickets are much cheaper than in England. The quality of sound is top notch. You sit there in the chill, munching cheap popcorn, remembering to stand for "The King's Song" which always precedes the main feature.

The two films I saw recently were "Django Unchained" and "Olympus Has Fallen". Thankfully, I enjoyed them both but regarding the former movie, I wonder if I am alone in thinking that Leonardo DiCaprio lacks the gravitas, the charisma and the simple stage presence to convincingly pull off domineering alpha male roles. He was fine as young fortune seeker Jack Dawson in "Titanic" - the role seemed perfect for him but in "Gangs of New York" he seemed unable to fill the boots of tough gangleader Amsterdam Vallon. It was cringeworthy and so it was in Tarantino's new film - DiCaprio seemed too boyish, too lightweight for the role of the powerful and slightly psychotic plantation owner Calvin J. Candie.
It was a very clever film - lots of humour, lots of spurting blood, lots of back references for ardent film buffs and lots of simple playfulness - deliberately toying with the spaghetti western genre. Tarantino, the director, and his team must have had a ball.

"Olympus Has Fallen" paints North Korea as some kind of predatory nation from outer space. Their well-trained agents attack The White House, hold The President hostage (thankfully not the truly heroic Barack Obama) and threaten to detonate all of America's nuclear arsenal so that the country itself will become a post-nuclear desert. But hey - surprise, surprise - those pesky North Koreans hadn't counted on the guts and sheer bravery of never-say-die US secret agent Mike Banning played by the Scottish film actor Gerard Butler. Single-handedly, like a latter day Superman, he takes on the might of the dastardly North Koreans and beats them, releasing President Asher and saving the free world. It was unbelievable but well done - a ripping good yarn with as many splattered gallons of blood as in "Django Unchaiuned".

25 March 2013


It appears that my last post went down like a lead balloon with the baying mob that constitutes this blog's exclusive, hard-to-please readership. I guess this post will make a similar kamikaze dive into the oily ocean of dissatisfaction and condemnation...

The English language contains so many lovely words and I was thinking about one of them yesterday afternoon as I swam under the shady mango and palm trees in the little pool next to my apartment - "honeymoon". Honeymoon? What does it really mean? Where did it come from?

This is the first known written reference:-

Hony mone, a term proverbially applied to such as be newly married, which will not fall out at the first, but th'one loveth the other at the beginning exceedingly, the likelihood of their exceadinge love appearing to aswage, ye which time the vulgar people call the hony mone.
Richard Huloet —Abcedarium Anglico-Latinum pro Tyrunculis, 1552

So it was the "vulgar" ordinary people who favoured the term and it contains the sense that marriage is at its sweetest during the first "moon" or month. "The first month after marriage, when there is nothing but tenderness  and pleasure" said Samuel Johnson two centuries later.

The term is closely mirrored in other languages - including French (lune de miel), Portugese (lua de mel) and even the ancient Welsh language where mis mêl may be translated as "honey month". Interestingly, the term is also present in some languages of the Indian sub-continent, including Tamil.

My own honeymoon - back in October 1981 - lasted just one night and one day in the city of Lincoln east of Sheffield. Shirley and I had just bought our first house and were busy investing our time and money in it. We didn't have much opportunity to jet off to Barbados or Venice.

On the Sunday morning after our wedding night, we ambled up to Lincoln Minster (Cathedral) which for  over two hundred years was the tallest building in the entire world. We stopped at the official church souvenir shop in the cobbled square in front of the great church and were most surprised to find the shop door unlocked but with nobody inside - no shop assistants anywhere. It was clear that some silly somebody had forgotten to lock up the day before!

Shirley stood guard in the shop while I hurried over to the great cathedral to find a verger in a black cassock who rushed back to the shop with me. He was immensely relieved that we had reported our discovery and magnanimously declared that we could choose anything we wanted as our reward.

We picked a small framed print of Lincoln with its great minster towering above Brayford Pool and we still have that picture today. It seemed a magical almost propitious beginning to our marriage. I remember the details of that morning stroll so vividly even after thirty two years.

22 March 2013


Just like the flotsam and jetsam we might find on a beach, so the human memory throws up random relics of times past. Back in 1961, my father bought an unusual 45 disc which for a few weeks he played interminably on our "Dansette" record player. At the time, it seemed so absurd - such daring "alternative" comedy - written by Peter Cook and performed by Kenneth Williams...."if all the Chinamen in the world linked hands".

I had looked for this recording before within the internet's seemingly endless ersatz  library shelves yet it was only this afternoon that I rediscovered it. For me it is imbued with the sense of a more innocent world and reminiscent of a time when I was just a tousle-haired eight year old boy in the bosom of my family, in the heart of rural East Yorkshire. And there was mum and dad and my three brothers and Oscar the cat and we lived in a house without central heating and I played football and climbed trees and cycled for miles and the television had only two channels and they were in black and white. "Crackerjack", "The Black and White Minstrel Show", "Sunday Night at the London Palladium"...No wonder my nose was usually buried in books.

And so I give you Kenneth Williams with "Interesting Facts". Enjoy it or sleep...

20 March 2013


So incensed was I about the mugging that I decided to take a day off school yesterday and return to Ayutthaya to try to track down the dirty little mugger.

Very close to the place where the robbery took place, I waited in a motorcycle tuk tuk owned by an Indian immigrant called Mr Rashid. We had agreed a price at the railway station. We waited in the hot afternoon sun for ages as I scrutinised every passing motorcyclist and I was starting to give up hope but around five o'clock I saw him - the little scrote with his acne-exploding complexion, just tootling along with my "Berghaus" rucksack on his back! How dare he?

"Follow that motorbike!" I instructed Mr Rashid.
We followed the sad excuse for a human being through a series of small settlements. Mr Rashid kept a suitable distance between us and then we watched while the unsuspecting robber turned into a dusty gateway. Rashid parked the tuk tuk and I tiptoed towards the property that the odorous rapscallion had entered. It was ramshackle but had a whopping satellite dish secured to the shady bodhi tree in the yard.

Surprisingly, the brown dog on the verandah just kept sleeping so I was able to creep up to the open window whence I peered in. Damnable villain! He was wearing my bush hat from Akaroa in New Zealand and my very cool sunglasses from Phnomh Penh, Cambodia. The treasured camera was on the rickety old dresser under a picture of King Rama IX and my copy of "Dreams From My Father" by Barack Obama had just been chucked down on the floor.

I knocked on the door and I could hear the scrote stumbling towards it. He saw me standing there and probably had no idea who I was. I snarled quietly, "Prepare to meet thy maker!' before grabbing him round the throat with my right hand. Adrenalin was pumping through me. I lifted him off the floor and wrestled him out to the bodhi tree  where I tied him up with some rusty old chain that I found in a heap near the gateway.

He was screaming something in Thai and the brown dog had started barking but I felt no sense of mercy. I dragged his Honda motorcycle into the middle of the yard before setting fire to it with the robber's own lighter. There was an explosion that must have been heard through the entire neighbourhood. 

Then I went into the ramshackle dwelling, finding some old rechargeable electric hair clippers in the cupboard. I brought them back outside and proceeded to give the scrote a haircut. I shaved it all off and the top of his left ear too. It wasn't my fault that those rusty clippers had seen better days. I yanked down the satellite dish and bent it double. Crimson blood ran down the side of his face in rivulets and he was screaming hysterically. I pummeled him in the diaphragm a couple of times as if I was belting a punchbag in a gym before grabbing the stolen booty and jumping back into Mr Rashid's tuk tuk...

And then I woke up. It was all just a delicious dream...

17 March 2013


I never really thought about the derivation of the term "mugged" until Saturday when all of a sudden I felt like a complete mug. I was cycling north of the ancient town of Ayutthaya, heading for a hotel that has a small aqua park. It was two o' clock in the afternoon and I was on a main road heading out to the countryside. Suddenly there's a motorcyclist next to me with his "Maid Marion" on the back. He grabs the little rucksack from my front basket and speeds off. It took less than a second and I didn't have time to react. Hindsight tells me I should have turned my bicycle wheel into the motorbike knocking both of the villains off and it also tells me I should have done what I usually do - hook the backpack straps around the handlebars.

He took my faithful "Berghaus" bag that has been my companion on many's the journey - walking or travelling abroad. I had only just washed and dried it for the first time in its life and it was looking rather dandy. He also stole "Dream from my Father" by the erudite and admirable leader of the free world - Barack Obama. This book was given to me by Denise before she returned to England with Baby Alexa and the bamboo bookmark was from Vietnam and given to me by my daughter. There were also some umopened "Kleenex" tissues that Shirley gave to me about three years ago - "They might come in handy", my Rupert the Bear swimming shorts, my Cambodian sunglasses, a towel from my little hotel in Ayutthaya - it had blue fishes on, my Nivea sunspray, my bush hat from New Zealand ( a hat that actually fitted my huge bonce!) and... and... this is the hard part - my lovely Digital SLR Nikon camera. Oh woe is me!

What the little scumbag didn't take was my wallet that for some reason I had left in the pocket of my shorts and my passport which was back in Bangkok. He also didn't bash me or stab me and I am well aware that this little episode is as nothing compared with the troubles that some people in the world are experiencing even as I type this account.

Afterwards, the sympathetically angry owner of my guesthouse kindly drove me to The Tourist Police station where I handwrote a statement and then with painful slowlness the duty officer handwrote her report. Then I was taken to the central police station where the process was repeated with not a computer in sight. It was like a two and a half hour extra punishment on top of the mugging but I survived it.

This is only the second time in my life that I have been mugged. I am usually so wary, so guarded and I guess I just didn't foresee such an event happening on a fairly busy country road in the middle of the day. But I am not to blame - not really - who is to blame is the selfish, nasty, ugly, stinking bastard on the motorbike. I hope he enjoys the rest of "Dreams from my Father". I was up to page 100 and looking forward to the rest. And I hope he enjoys looking at my many photos of Thailand before he sells the camera for a song. I shall see him at the pearly gates and he will not get in! No way!

15 March 2013


How the world has changed. Not always for the better. In this affectionately constructed clip, the author gives us a potted history of  late seventies-early eighties popular culture with special reference to the British collective experience.It makes you smile and it makes you think...

13 March 2013


Song for Lost Youth

Perhaps I should have cradled it
Like a dove
Kept it safe with tender love
But I squandered it -
Like a wild mountain stream
Desperate for an ocean
That was but a distant dream.
...I just never thought
That I could have loitered in the shallows
Reflecting the blueness of the sky
- Concealing silver fishes
- Quietly biding my time
- Stretching it out.
And so, and so it's gone now
- My ephemeral youth
- That precious once only gift
- That honeyed sweetness,
Leaving only the trembling resonance
Of distant echoes
From half-remembered hills.

11 March 2013


As in 2011, I am reading a novel with my Year 9 class called "Rice Without Rain" by Minfong Ho who is sometimes described as a Chinese-American writer, even though most of her childhood was spent in Thailand. I love reading this book with intelligent Thai children as it is about their country and fairly  recent political history. Descriptive colour is also tender and well-considered, enhancing the plot without shrouding it. There are many helpful language lessons that can be drawn from the text - especially with pupils for whom English is very much their second language.

The novel begins in  the far north of the country where the villagers of Maekung depend on their rice harvest. When there is drought they suffer and that suffering is exacerbated by greedy landlords who claim half of the entire harvest thereby condemning the peasants to abject poverty. 

A bunch of idealistic students arrive from Bangkok, keen to learn about the real Thailand and if possible to initiate change as they look towards a brighter future. Their leader is Ned and he falls in love with a village girl called Jinda. Later she joins him in Bangkok where revolution is in the air but the military authorities will have none of it and their response is as fierce as it is brutal.
Minfong Ho
So often, children in developing countries have to chew on English Literature syllabus content that is well-removed from their own lives. I recall that in the early seventies I had to teach "Pygmalion" to Pacific island youngsters who had mostly never left their little island - seven miles long and two miles across at its widest point. And here in Thailand when students pursue Cambridge University exams they're likely to find themselves reading "Romeo and Juliet", "Of Mice and Men" or the poetry of Ted Hughes or Seamus Heaney. They might as easily be reading Martian texts. So it's nice to celebrate and acknowledge Thailand's existence through a novel that speaks directly to its young people and teaches them a lot about their country's recent past. This is how the novel begins:-
Heat the colour of fire, sky as heavy as mud, and under both the soil - hard dry, unyielding.
       It was a silent harvest. Across the valley, yellow rice fields stretched, stooped and dry. The sun glazed the afternoon with a heat so fierce that the distant mountains shimmered in it. The dust in the sky, the cracked earth, the shrivelled leaves fluttering on brittle branches - everything was scorched.

9 March 2013


The other evening Jon and I hoped to see "Flight" starring Denzil Washington at the local cinema but sadly it had just disappeared from the schedule so instead we went to see "21 and Over" which was one of the most abyssmal films I have ever seen. This American "frat-com" manufactured by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore of "Hangover" fame could be summed up in one word - "shallow". The plot was so thin and predictable that it was like tissue paper and I was annoyed by the amount of unnecessary swearing that pervaded this college town night-time drunken "adventure" in which central character Jeff Chang was forced to go out boozing on the night of his twenty first birthday - even though he had an important med school interview the following morning. 

The film had no redeeming features and I thought to myself that if I were a militant Islamist, this movie could be useful propaganda in highlighting all that is wrong with western - particularly American society. It was truly awful and it's such a crying shame that something like this ever saw the light of day when there are so many thousands of creative people out there who could produce much better filmscripts over breakfast. Please don't see it and advise anybody you know to shun "21 and Over". It's a disgrace.

7 March 2013


They're all at it. On the subway train, at the airport, sitting in cafes, just walking along the pavement. I'm talking about the sodding mobile phone. More and more it's becoming like an electronic comforter - checking Facebook, texting messages, playing games and sometimes even making or receiving phone calls. Those who created this monster - Nokia, Apple, Motorola, Orange, Vodaphone and the rest must be rubbing their hand with glee even as they design new ways to squeeze yet more money out of the hordes of mobile addicts who share my planet. It is easy to feel like an alien from another world.
Before Jon and I left Kanchanaburi, we were sitting in a quiet and rather humble  riverside cafe mostly constructed from bamboo. We were the only customers and after a while we decided it was time for lunch. I tried to get the attention of one of the four members of staff on duty - three women and a young lad. All four of them were so entranced by their solitary mobile activities that they appeared to have forgotten what they were meant to be doing. We tried waving but in the end we had to get up to interrupt their button pressing in order to get some service. They were surely on very low incomes and yet they each had an expensive mobile phone or tablet.

It's the same everywhere, not just in Thailand. Spare moments are filled with jiggery pokery on the mobile and it can be as if real life is somehow inadequate, inferior. A couple of weeks ago at one of my favourite local restaurants - "The Banana Leaf" -  I noticed a married couple at the next table. They had finished their meal and she was busily playing a game on her mobile phone - something like "Tetris" while on the other side of the table the husband was playing his little shoot-em-up game. They weren't conversing, so hypnotised were they by their phones.

If anything, this plague is getting worse. Tweeting and texting, googling and simply checking to see if the rest of the world has noticed your existence. And it's all so fleeting, so flimsy. Not like hunkering down to read a good book or perusing a good newspaper. It's click-click and move on, flitting from this to that like a butterfly in a sort of virtual world beyond what is right in front of our eyes - Reality!

6 March 2013


6.15 The digital alarm goes but I'm usually already awake.
6.16 Stumble to the living room extension and press the kettle button.
6.17 Shower including wet shave using the mirror I bought at Tesco Lotus the day after I arrived.
6.25 Breakfast in the living room area - muesli or toast with honey, a big mug of coffee and my essential banana.Watch Al Jazeera news on the television.
6.42 Getting dressed - including inappropriately - tie and black leather shoes.
6.50. Remember lunch token, name tag, diary and pens and set off for work.
7.00 "Sawasdwee krap" to the maids and then soon to the street sweeper and the motorcycle taxi guys in their official orange jerkins. A foul smell of subterranean sewage wafts up on the corner. I hold my breath. The same stray dogs are scrounging around looking for scraps. The same young woman in a light blue Volkswagen Beetle drives by. The traffic jam is already congealing as another working day begins in Bangkok 
7.12 Arrive at the school and clock in electronically with my name tag.
7.13 Drink water from one of the fountains.
7.15 In classroom. Turn on air conditioning. Switch on computer. Check out the Daily Bulletin. Prepare the electronic register before the pupils arrive. Check personal emails and last night's football (if any).
7.45 Pupils arrive. A tutor group of nine fourteen year olds. There's Porsche and Win and there's Eye and Cherie.Take register. Read out notices.
8.00 We are in Pavilion One - like an open barn. The pupils stand in lines. The tannoy plays the Thai national anthem. The younger children sing along. Afterwards all students turn and "wei" to each other with hands clasped together as if in prayer.

And so begins yet another school day. I have been back here two months now and the thing that really sustains me - apart from the salary I can save - is the students. So much warmth and sheer pleasantness. The idea of respecting teachers seems innate and unquestionable but as before, the main thing I observe is how very pleasant they are to each other. There's no chance of a fight breaking out. They help each other with their work They don't shout or snarl or seek to belittle others. Nobody's trying to impress or to be top dog. They just get on with things without fuss and with ready smiles on their faces. There can be subtle cultural undertones but essentially what you see is what you get - happy kids, happy to be at school and happy to do their best, grateful for any extra help you can give them. If only teaching had always been this way...

3 March 2013


Di - the goddess of diarrhoea in Koh Samet
“It looks and sounds idyllic”, said one of this blog’s curvaceous female visitors, reflecting on my various messages from Thailand - as the noble Earl of Trelawnyd complained that my posts were making already humdrum lives seem even more humdrum. Well okay, I guess it’s time for a reality check, and what could be more real than diarrhoea? Such a fascinating subject for a blogpost don’t you think? 

I guess that I am breaking new ground as a blogger, daring to venture into the forbidden territory of bowel movements and if this blog were a TV show I know that many disgusted viewers would already be reaching for their remote controls. Uggh! That sick Yorkshire dimwit! There are some things that decent people just don’t talk about! 

How it began, I don’t know. Was it the chicken kebab I bought from a roadside stall in Kanchanaburi last Monday or was it the sliced pork in the school canteen on Tuesday? Maybe it was some bad water from a water fountain at school – the replacement containers sometimes stand out in the heat for days on end. 

Anyway by Wednesday evening the journey had begun. The Great Yorkshire Pudding’s famous iron constitution was turning to jelly. By Thursday morning it was turning to gravy as I begged my still showering daughter to vacate the bathroom immediately as there was an emergency of Syrian proportions and evacuation was imminent. 

I made it to school where during the day I inspected the men’s lavatory half a dozen times. And I made it home with Frances – she’d spent the day in the primary section of the school. Then I made it to the airport with her and saw her off. That night my sleep was not disturbed by nightmares but by gastric explosions and these continued into Friday when I decided to visit the school nurse. She gave me Imodium pills and electrolyte rehydrating salts. 

Saturday was a write-off. If someone had wanted the rendering on their house painting in earthy camouflage colours, they could have hooked me up to crane and with arse pointing westwards I would have had the job done in an hour using the splatter gun technique. I swear I have never had an attack of diarrhoea like it in my entire life. The magical Imodium has had no effect whatsoever so I’m wondering if it’s dysentery. The wind has been well and truly sucked out of my sails even though today – Sunday morning – I am feeling a hell of a lot better and my bowels seem to be gradually accepting the possibility of a ceasefire. 

My appetite is usually as remorseless as a wolf’s but on Friday I ate half a slice of toast and on Saturday a small bowl of muesli and half a tuna paste sandwich. You could call it the dyssentry diet – radical but effective. 

No Wifi in my accommodation as usual – even though it is promised to guests – so I am going to see if the little coffee shop at the bottom of my soi (lane off a main road) is open in order to post this literary masterpiece and do some other jobs on the internet. I hope that all this reference to waste disposal has not caused too much offence. Perhaps you’d like to post your own disturbing tales of diarrhoea. Maybe Blogger could compile a compendium of such stories as a Christmas stocking filler?

1 March 2013


In the imaginations of some people, Thailand is synonymous with sex - prostitutes, massages, ladyboys and sex shows. Actually, when you are here you discover that the vast majority of Thais live decent lives and are as distant from that legendary seediness as normal people are in other societies.

When I was in Kanchanaburi, I found myself in a little Australian-owned bar. It was early evening and the night of my companion Jon's birthday. We had met up with a Norwegian psychologist, a young Dutch woman whose longterm boyfriend had recently been taken away by leukemia and an English IT specialist who has spent eighteen years working in aviation in Saudi Arabia. But it's not them I want to talk about - it's the beautiful young barmaid called Noi.
How do you react  to this picture?
I had a conversation with her and she told me she had only recently moved to Kanchanaburi from an eastern province where her family were peasant farmers. She said that she wished she could go home and felt rather lonesome in this faraway town. She was perhaps twenty years old. I complimented her on her passable English and asked how she'd learnt to speak my language so well - "I learn from book," she said.

We shook hands and her pearly white smile radiated from her flawless brown face. And then the drinking and the chitter chatter continued as I ordered a Massaman curry and Jon treated himself to birthday pie and chips!

Half an hour later, I looked deeper into the bar where an old western man was sitting. I noticed him talking to Noi. Then it was more than talking. He was perhaps seventy years old with snow white hair - easily old enough to be Noi's grandfather. To my horror, I saw him pulling Noi towards him and attempting to kiss her. A few minutes later they were both in a motorcycle tuk tuk, heading off for half an hour of wild passion. She was not just a barmaid but a "bar girl", employed to satisfy the carnal lusts of lascivious customers. And now I knew why she wasn't happy and why she wished she was home. But no doubt, even her family would have encouraged her to go down this route - it is a familiar pattern in Thailand. To climb out of abject poverty - you do what you can and you use what you have got.

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