It’s 9:30am, a civilised hour in the Big Mango and it’s a sunny morning in late july. The sun is a welcome change after five overcast days in a row but i’m feeling a little sore and sorry for myself after yesterday’s trauma. Had four crowns fitted and since the fittings were done without the comfort of anaesthesia i felt every push on and yank off the lady administered to my sensitive stumps in her efforts to get the crowns to fit right; ‘bite, bite!’ was all i heard for forty-five minutes. But they didn’t cost the small fortune they would have in Europe and she has done a good job. She wants me back in a month for more pushing and yanking but i’ll fall off that bridge when i come to it.
Have fully recovered from the trip to places south. It was memorable and now that i’ve decided Singapore is where i want to be i shall be moving there as soon as my current contract expires.
When i left Bkk by train in early June the first port of call was Penang in West Malaysia. Penang has an easygoing, congenial atmosphere and with its traditional Chinese hotels, trishaws on the streets and its old colonial buildings and monuments the town has a true flavour of the Orient.
I moved on to Kuala Lumpur and as i’d expected it has changed considerably since my last visit. It’s a busy, noisy commercial city with a well-restored and impressive city centre. The government has gone to the trouble of laying out properly landscaped gardens and parks and it’s a joy to stroll through so much greenery but even the greenery and the elegant city centre aren’t enough to make you want to love the city, it’s just too big and too busy.
Singapore has changed even more and is booming in a controlled and disciplined way. The cleanliness is impressive and although the city’s rather soulless i’m attracted to its order and efficiency, a stark contrast to Bkk. I want to live there and already i’m making plans to move.
Today’s paper reveals that 900,000 people in Bangkok suffer from respiratory illnesses caused by traffic pollution, a frightening number and growing all the time. When i went out to buy the Bangkok Post this morning there was the usual jam on Rajaprarop Road and that’s traffic going out of the city. Imagine what the roads leading in are like.
Patrick phoned last night and since i’d not heard from him in a while i was worried he might have fallen into a burning well and evaporated. Seriously, he’s fine and gave me a definite date for his coming. He’s arriving August 11 and is hoping to recruit a few hundred Thais. He’ll have no bother finding them, they’ll be glad of the chance.
A few days back, i had a call from three Kuwaitis i worked with in Kuwait Airways. They’re here for a week and are staying at the Grace Hotel on Soi Nana Nua. The Grace used to be notorious for its visiting Arabs and their local molls but since its expansion and renovation it has cleaned up its act. I went there tuesday night – hadn’t been in the place for years – and was impressed by the all-round improvements and met Abdullah, Adil and Sadiq. They gave me great detail, chapter and verse stuff, on the events from August 2 till February 26. They never once left the country, stuck it out, and aren’t very proud of their fellow Kuwaitis who ran like frightened rabbits. But it’s hard to blame the ones who ran, most of us would have. Nonetheless, the three men aren’t happy with a lot of their countrymen and are certainly not happy with the ruling family and their holding on to power. These men, and they claim to speak for the majority nowadays, want real change and are going to press for the introduction of democracy. They have strong views on the subject and are fed up with the Sabah regime. It was interesting to listen to them as they were unusually candid about how they felt. We talked till late and it was significant to note that although they ordered drinks for me none of them touched a drop of alcohol nor had they plans to chase floosies but i’m pretty sure they’ve already had a few tumbles. They said the main reason for coming to Bkk was to see me – i was flattered – but it’s likely ‘a change of oil’ was a more pressing priority. After here they’re off to Beijing to see the Great Wall.
They’ve invited me to be their guest at dinner tomorrow night in the Regent Hotel. I warned them it would cost an arm and a leg even by international standards but they said it was their pleasure to invite me in appreciation of all i’d done for them when we worked together in Kuwait. Decent men and i certainly accepted their invitation; to have refused would’ve been an insult. I’ve had afternoon tea at the Regent a few times and that in itself is a lavish indulgence of seven courses so i’m looking forward to a first rate meal tomorrow night.
…and speaking of hotels, an English colleague of mine who perhaps has overstayed is responsible for the following conversation in a Bkk hotel between room service and hotel guest. He swears it happened to him when he first arrived here.
rs: Morny. Rune sore bees.
hg: Oh sorry, i thought i dialled room service.
rs: Rye. Rune sore bees. Morny. Jewish to odour sunteen?
hg: I’d like bacon and eggs.
rs: Ow july then?
rs: Aches, ow july then? Pry? Boy? Pooch?
hg: Oh, the eggs! How do i like the…? Sorry. Scrambled.
rs: Ow july the baycome? Crease?
hg: Crisp will be fine.
rs: Okay. An santos?
rs: Santos. July santos?
hg: Oh, i don’t think so.
rs: No? Judo one toes?
hg: Look, i feel bad about this, but i just don’t know what judo one toes means.
rs: Toes! Toes! Why jew don juan toes? Ow a bow senglis moppin we bother?
hg: Oh, English muffin! I’ve got it, you were saying toast. Fine. An English
muffin will be fine.
rs: We bother?
hg: No, just put the bother on the side.
hg: Sorry, i meant butter, butter on the side.
hg: I feel terrible about this but…
rs: Copy. Copy, tea, mill?
hg: Coffee! Yes, coffee please. And that’s all.
rs: Won minnie. Ass rune torino-fie, strangle aches, crease baycome,
tossy senglis mopping we bother honey sigh and copy. Rye?
hg: Whatever you say.
rs: Okay. Ten jew berry mud.
And Bkk isn’t the only place communication can be strange:
Swiss hotel room: If you have any desires during the night ring for the chambermaid
Japanese hotel room: No smoking in bed or other disgusting behaviour
Menu in Geneva: Do not leave without trying the tart of this house, she is strongly recommended
Village cafe in France: Persons are requested not to occupy seat in the cafe without consummation
Berlin hotel cloakroom: Please hang yourself here
Outside doctor’s clinic in Israel: I specialise in women and other diseases
Istanbul hotel room: To call Room Service, please open the door and call ‘Room Service’
Ankara hotel brochure: Visit our restaurant where you can eat Middle East food in a European ambulance
Mexican hotel room: Please hang your order before retiring on your doorknob
Belgrade hotel: All rooms have hot and cold flying water
Rome dry cleaners: Drop your trousers here for best results