Thailand Diaries – Under the weather
My physical condition has hampered my writing this week. Sitting for too long at a keyboard, as anyone who has had back trouble will know, is not a particularly good idea. So I have succumbed to nature and the ravages of time and tried to slacken off a little. Nevertheless there are one or two interesting happenings to report.
Received in my inbox on Tuesday this reminds me of other solicitations I got recently. I’m always up for a bit of good-natured fun but really chaps, come on!! Who on earth could possibly fall for this one?
From: Jennifer Chambers [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 9:36 AM
Subject: THIS IS MY FINAL EMAIL NOTIFICATION TO YOU.
On behalf of the Trustees and Executor of the estate of Late Engr. Jürge Krügger. I once again notify you as my earlier letter was returned undelivered. I wish to notify you that the late Engr. Jürge Krügger made you a beneficiary to his will. He left the sum of Thirty Million, One Hundred Thousand Dollars (USD$30, 100.000.00) to you in the Codicil and last testament to his WILL.
This may sound strange and unbelievable, but it is real and true. Being a widely travelled man, he must have been in contact with you in the past or simply you were nominated to him by one of his numerous friends abroad who wished you good. Engr. Jürge Krügger until his death was a member of the Helicopter Society and the Institute of Electronic & Electrical Engineers.
According to him this money is to support your humanitarian activities and to help the poor and needy in the society. Please if I reach you as I am hopeful, endeavor to get back to me as soon as possible to enable me conclude my job. I strongly advise you contact me with my personal email address (email@example.com). I hope to hear from you in no distant time as I await your prompt response.
Yours in Service,
Attorney at Law
Allen & Overy LLP, UK
Why on earth would anyone think it would sound “strange and unbelievable” that an erstwhile member of the Helicopter Society (of all things!) should leave them $30 million in his last will and testicle on the advice of one of his numerous friends, who is obviously a friend of mine, who simply told him to leave the money to an absolute stranger? Surely anyone would consider this to be a perfectly normal occurrence which must happen every day in many of the thousands of lunatic asylums around the world.
I wonder how Ms Chambers knows about my “humanitarian activities”. Anyway this will be a great opportunity “to help the poor and needy” as so far my activities in that regard have been confined to my own survival in this crazy world whilst giving pleasure to as many women as I can before I depart for the joys of what is sanguinely a more manageable place to live where sanity is considered common- place!
Before I rushed to claim my windfall I visited my favourite Scam website and, to my overwhelming surprise, found that Allen & Overy LLP, who is actually a reputable firm of attorneys, have issued this statement:
‘Please note that Allen & Overy LLP has become aware that the name of Jennifer Chambers is being used in connection with certain fraudulent scam emails. These fraudulent emails have nothing to do with Allen & Overy LLP or Jennifer Chambers. The matters have been reported by Allen & Overy LLP to the police’.
At Kata Lucky Villas they are adding 3 or 4 new rooms to existing villas and the builders have been at it for about two months now. Many of the construction workers in southern Thailand are Burmese immigrants and they work all hours, seven days a week. What bemused me for a few days were the very effeminate voices that I kept hearing from a distance which were obviously coming from the construction area. Surely these guys aren’t gay? On closer investigation I discovered that many of the workers are women. It was a novel experience for me to see women plastering on a building site but, I was assured, common in Thailand.
It is a commonly held belief that Thais are easy going, fun loving and that material possessions are not so important as personal relationships with family and friends. This is a perception that is very much at odds with the large number of girls who leave their villages for the bright lights and ‘honey traps’ of Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok in order to fleece the ‘Farangs’ of their money.
Because you are a ‘Farang’, by definition, you must have money and lots of it. This is a commonly held belief among many Thais, particularly in rural areas. For some inexplicable reason they must think that money grows on trees in the Western world. They also can’t seem to differentiate between a wealthy ‘Farang’ or an impoverished one or understand that a large majority of ‘Farangs’ who live in Thailand do so because they can’t afford to live in the West. Ignorance is bliss! Here’s a quote from a Thai bar girl recorded in a ‘YouTube’ video:
“I am jealous of ‘Farangs’ because I work hard for little money and they work little for big money.”
This kind of thinking appears, to some, to justify doing whatever it takes to extricate the money in whatever way they can. It is commonplace, in certain parts of the community, to expect the ‘Farang’ to part with his money at a very early stage in a relationship and is more important than the development of the relationship itself. Unfortunately, this stems from a part of Thai culture which believes that the Farang must shower his perceived riches onto his Thai girl or bride to prove his devotion. He is expected to trust her without question. And that’s often where things go horribly wrong.
Many ‘Farangs’ marry Thai girls and have a good life but there is usually a price tag and it doesn’t take long to find that it can take a whole village to raise one child and it’s often a foreigner who pays for it. Taking money off ‘Farangs’ is a national pastime, in Isaan particularly, and a girl is highly regarded if she does. I have even witnessed an older experienced woman teaching a younger girl how to do it. Sad but true.
You will often hear that Thais will always avoid confrontation where possible and that they are subservient in many ways. That has not been my experience since the initial 15-week sojourn. In fact, I have often found the exact opposite where women are concerned in that they can be fiercely independent, very straightforward and often quite mercenary.
Most Thais don’t travel much outside Thailand, probably because they can’t afford to, which almost certainly accounts for their unworldliness. It seems that it is more important for the less informed or poorly educated that foreigners should understand Thai culture rather than Thais should understand other cultures whereby a balance can be achieved.
I had a long discussion with my friend Pueng about my experiences and how they differ from the general perception and why so many don’t live the Buddhist way. Her view is that many modern Thais, whilst they are Buddhist, don’t actually put the teachings into practice in their everyday lives. She also gave me a stern lecture and said that it is not good to generalize and that, as with any society, you shouldn’t take everything at face value. Everyone is different and Thais are no different in that respect. Sound advice indeed, especially from one so young.
Today I experienced a potentially fatal encounter with a baby King Cobra. Sitting under a tree on the kerb of a walkway I was unaware of a small, about two thirds of a metre, but highly venomous snake moving along the gutter towards my feet. Nin, sitting opposite me, suddenly shouted as the snake was less than a metre away from me. I moved very quickly and the snake, disturbed by the activity, slithered off into the bushes.
According to Nin it was a young King Cobra. How spine-tingling and menacing it is that this snake, which is among the most venomous on the planet, when fully grown can literally “stand up” and look an adult human in the eye. But that describes the famous king cobra which can reach 18 feet (5.5 meters) in length, making them the longest of all venomous snakes. When confronted, they can raise themselves up to one-third of their length straight off the ground and still move forward to attack. They will also flare out their iconic hoods and emit a bone-chilling hiss that sounds almost like a growling dog. Their venom is not the most potent among venomous snakes, but the amount of neurotoxin they can deliver in a single bite, up to two-tenths of a fluid ounce (seven millilitres), is enough to kill twenty people or even an elephant. Fortunately, king cobras are shy and will avoid humans whenever possible, but they are fiercely aggressive when cornered. Even the young are potentially lethal.
They live mainly in the rainforests and plains of India, southern China, and Southeast Asia, and their colouring can vary greatly from region to region. They are comfortable in the trees, on land, and in water, feeding mainly on other snakes, venomous and non-venomous. They will also eat lizards, eggs, and small mammals. They are the only snakes in the world that build nests for their eggs, which they guard ferociously until the hatchlings emerge. King cobras may be best known as the species of choice for the snake charmers of South Asia. Although cobras can hear, they are actually deaf to ambient noises, sensing ground vibrations instead. The charmer’s flute entices the cobra by its shape and movement, not by the music it emits. So now you have been warned. (Source: Wikipedia)