“What a difference a day makes,
Twenty-four little hours,
Brought the sun and the flowers,
Where there used to be rain”
So went Esther Phillips’s disco track version of the classic Spanish song. I grew up in the 1970s with such music even though describing me as a disco duck would be an affront to webbed-waddlers everywhere.
The song came poignantly to mind this week as a number of very popular stories on Thaivisa went from the sublime (and ghastly) to the ridiculous. In fact there were – to quote Sukhumvit Soi 4 vernacular – more ups and downs than a Nana girl’s drawers.
Chief suspect was what here at Thai visa we call “Gold” though this week it felt more like platinum or fool’s gold depending on your perspective. I speak of Pattaya and tourism, with a few Chinese and Indians and a smattering of officialdom thrown in for good measure.
The week began with all the optimism of QUOTES – the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard – getting its own tram, by 2030 no less. We are spoiled in Bangkok because by that time we hope to have more than 100 stations on a whole system….but I won’t gloat.
Forum curmudgeons complained a functioning police force were needed first along with a bit of refuse collection. Maybe plod should just be cleared up thus shooting one bird and getting two, as the Thais say.
By next day things had really gone down Pratumnak hill – what a difference! We were treated to the idea that Indian tourists were the “last hope” for Pattaya after hotel bookings and tourists fell 20% despite the fact that high season is upon us.
A click-a-thon on the forum and Facebook was fueled by the usual racist suspects who banged on with their anecdotes about bargaining visitors from the sub-continent and the sharing of one wine cooler with four straws.
In dozens of pages of outrageous comments few appreciated a salient fact – some Indians are filthy rich (much richer than the bar stool bashers!) and have their weddings here. Indians of any social strata do not skimp on their weddings so this could well be part of the reason that 10,000 baht daily expenditure – twice as much as Mr Woo – was mentioned in the Thai press.
The story was written by Rooster but needed no embellishment to have people frothing at the mouth and even – shock horror – reading to the end of it!
In comparison, a story that referred to the possible introduction of a “Double Entry Tourist Visa” met with about as much enthusiasm as a cup of lukewarm Rosy Lee.
Talking of “rosy” the next story – bringing sunshine and flowers where once there was rain – featured a deputy Pattaya mayor who was ‘bigging’ up the resort like there was no tomorrow. He did find time to gush about “tomorrow”, however, spouting about the seaside fireworks this weekend, the wonderful clean sea for families and the untold events that would drag international tourists in their millions to the eastern seaboard.
He even promised more sand for Jomtien come 2020. Methinks that they are taking this “2020 Vision” thing a bit far though I was delighted with my headline that managed to get millions and billions into the same sentence without causing undue offence.
The forum faithful barely had time to recover their mocking senses before “Pattaya Watchdog” posted pictures of a deserted seaside road. It was 1 am so you might have expected a few people to have been tucked up dreaming of a better place to holiday, so here at Thaivisa we concentrated on the comments made by Thais about the lack of visitors.
One lady remarked that it used to be said that Pattaya never sleeps, another mentioned ghosts in a kind of “dead as a graveyard” analogy while one wag said that Uncle Too had finally got the peace and quiet he always wanted!
It was topped off with a final flourish – the report of the arrest of a Hell’s Angels bikie and compatriot, a Nigerian and two Thai women in an “ice ” sting. Yes, Rooster worked overtime this week and really went to town.
But, no, that town won’t be Pattaya, thanks all the same.
I’m riding out the storm (as so many incorrectly perceive Thailand to be at the moment) in Ratchayothin in Bangkok where we shall be welcoming the new Green Line northern train on the auspicious December 5th holiday this week.
Myself and neighbors – mostly Thais – will be boarding the train before a celebration I am calling the “Extension Party” – though thankfully none of us need visas and we all have plenty in the bank due to the sky-rocketing prices of our condos. I’m alright Jack and not surprisingly I actually love Thailand.
However, I do understand some of the gripes that people have. Apropos, when a Naew Na story arrived on my desk for translation I went to bat for the downtrodden.
Naew Na have become nothing less than a mouthpiece for immigration (Yinn, a candidate for Poster of the Year no less, has suggested that the media has a relative in immigration). Naew Na always but always grovel by mentioning the names of dozens of officers as part of their arrest stories but this time it backfired as a promotional exercise – at least in the eyes of the expatriate community.
Rooster mentioned that five officers were involved in the arrest of a single German tourist on a measly five day overstay. Nobody missed the sense of overkill and the story, that could have been buried under the mountain of those forgetting when they should leave the kingdom, went ballistic.
There are some prunes on the forum who bang on about upholding the law. But many think immigration is deservedly getting a bad press for being overzealous. I don’t actually buy the notion that Prayut and his cronies like all this overt action against foreigners hitting the press. Tourism is, after all, a delicate beast. Rooster could quite easily envisage a time in the not too distant future when someone whispers into his shell-like:
“Er…don’t you think, sir, that Big Oud might be a bit….er…..big for his immigration bootees?”
“You mean like that Big Rice Gruel chap everyone thought was a bigger Joke than me?”
“Er…yes, sir. Furthermore I just received the latest budget for vinyl from accounts at Suan Phlu. Nasty reading at a time when the baht is so…er….unfavorable….. and we might need a new sub”.
“Indeed. I see where you are coming from. Make mine a 12 inch….with Future Forward meatballs!”.
The week both started and ended with murders so gruesome – and perhaps intriguing – that Rooster made a note of them for possible inclusion in an upcoming entry in my “Classic True Crime of Thailand” book that looks like it will be around 10,000 pages long in the unabridged version.
On Monday we were told that Sira, 20, had cut up his mother Yuree, 42, into five pieces and put her in the freezer compartment in the house he shared with her. He also flush some of her chest down the loo. He then conveniently shot himself in the head after denying to a work colleague that his mum was even on the premises.
From the Bangkok neighbors to the friends in Sukhothai, the grandmother to Sira’s fellow students, no one would either believe it or accept it. Mother and son seemed to get on just fine and though the young man had depression and occasionally argued with his mum, what 20-something doesn’t? Plod was adamant that only the two of them were home and promised autopsy findings in four or five days.
On Friday – setting a lie to another day making a difference – came the announcement that a husband and wife teaching couple had been slain in a bloodbath in their house in Rayong. Rooster translates these stories in detail but this one put me off my kippers. The proverbial “mystery surrounds” a note left on the gate of the luxury murder house. School colleagues spoke of a “loving couple” while the foster mum of the man said he was massively in footy gambling debt.
The English Premier League has got an awful lot to answer for.
As in any week on Thaivisa there was an awful lot to laugh about though for a change the politicians – Generally speaking – and Plod were low on the titter-fest radar.
In Ayuthaya we were treated to the best excuse of the week when the electrical authorities said that a bunch of their wires at head height on a “saphan loi” came before the footbridge was even constructed. This seemed to make it all okay. They promised action in a few days; Rooster half expected them to say if anyone is electrocuted in the meantime we’ll put 10,000 baht towards the funeral expenses.
The story brought to mind how many years ago I had employed a “chang” to install a ceiling fan. A little busy with something I committed the cardinal sin of not watching him work. I emerged from my room to see that the fan was at the height just above the top of my head. My two flatmates were half a foot taller than me. Aghast at what he had down I demanded in Thai what he expected us to do.
“Duck,” he offered.
The tragedy was that he was being serious.
Anyway, the wires in the story were outside a hospital so all was not lost if the public did happen to be fried on their way to work.
On Monday a discount on movie tickets caused considerable amusement. Major Cineplex Group thought it would be a spiffing idea to offer seats for 25 baht on their 25th anniversary on the 25th. The stunt was another backfire. Yes, the theaters were full to bursting but with school kids playing truant.
The kids were promptly rounded up by the “prefects” and persuaded that they would learn much more in school than by going to see Frozen 2. They didn’t appear convinced by that. I notice from reviews of the movie that it champions “empowerment” so they may have been right to be skeptical.
Making Rooster chuckle uncontrollably was news that Musk Melon will be speaking in his defense in the upcoming “Pedo Guy” defamation trial in Los Angeles. That should see at least an extra million in damages for “Our Vern” especially if the “Tesla Todger” has a spliff before taking the stand.
Over in Blighty the amusement that is British politics began to get white hot. All parties made pledges that were as shiny as “Pledge” (a polish) and about as slippery. Boris was accused of “selling off our NHS to Trump” and Corbyn was rated on a par with Goebbels in disliking people who celebrate the Sabbath on a Saturday. The polls say the Tories will win but it looks like the people, once again, will all be losers.
Finally, on a more serious note, today December 1st is World AIDS Day 2019. The focus of this year’s event is under the banner that “Communities Make the Difference”. Making a difference in this case has been a 35 year journey since the first case of HIV/AIDS was found in Thailand.
While much needs to be done especially in terms of stigma, the government, health authorities and people in Thailand have made incredible strides. After an initial reluctance to face up to what promised to be a catastrophe for all concerned, everyone – even up to the Thai Royal Family – has worked together to make progress in combating the disease, improving attitudes, lowering the price of medication and getting treatment within the Universal Healthcare scheme. Many are now living relatively normal, happy lives with a normal life expectancy.
One worthwhile read on the subject is an interview earlier last month with Jean-Louis Lamboray the co-founder of Constellation, a non-profit organization that focuses on community development. He visited Phayao in northern Thailand and was thoroughly impressed by what he witnessed.
The road to making a difference on HIV/AIDS in Thailand was not done in a day…..
But for many it has brought sunshine and flowers, where there used to be rain.