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Andrew Biggs (Thai Memories): Expensive

Andrew Biggs

I needed a new door for my bathroom, so I walked down to the end of my soi where there is a giant wood factory.

Yes, I know; I choose the most salubrious of neighborhoods. Making my way through piles of woodchips and sleeping underpaid Cambodian labor, I met the owner who showed me a catalogue. I picked one door at a price of 2,500 Baht.

This is where the story should have ended, only to be filed away for eternity in that folder of life’s forgotten chores, except for one thing.

I opened my big mouth.

When I returned home, waiting outside my house was my old friend Daeng and his sour-faced wife.

“How much are you paying for the door?” he asked when I told him where I’d just been.

“2,500 Baht,” I answered.

Daeng’s eyes widened, then darkened. His face contorted.

Paenggggggg!” (แพง) he exclaimed.

“Kha” (ค่ะ), his wife reiterated. “Paenggggggg.

Thailand is one of the cheapest countries on earth. Food is cheap. Cabs are cheap.

Dental work? Cosmetic surgery? We’re a hub. On any given day the wards of Bamrungrat are littered with the world’s foreign princes and princesses desperate to reverse the onslaught of inbreeding.

We had a slight economic blip recently when the basic wage for Bangkok workers rose — rose — to the equivalent of just under 10 American dollars per 12 hours of work.

Despite all this, the locals remain convinced that every purchase they ever make is expensive.

Nothing gets a lower-middle class Thai more excited than hearing that something is expensive, and Daeng is definitely lower-middle class. I suspect that by marrying what’s-her-name, he managed to drag her up to that social rung as well.

The word for “expensive” in Thai is paeng, which rhymes with gang (or bang, come of think of it). Normally a Thai is very polite when speaking. The Chinese may spit and talk at decibel levels found around Suvarnabhumi, but the Thais are way more civilized.

Put a price tag in front of them, however, and watch them gasp. Wide-eyed. Open mouthed.

Paenggggggg!”

Daeng doesn’t get very excited over much, nor his wife whose mouth is a permanent upside-down U shape, except when hubby asks the price of something.

Daeng leant forward and tapped my knee. “My cousin has a wood factory,” he said. “He can sell you a cheaper door. We can go visit him. Just have a look. You don’t have to buy.”

“No really, it’s –“

“I’ll be around at 10 am tomorrow,” he said.

The next day he was on time, arriving at 11 am with his wife in sullen tow.

“We’ll take your car,” he announced, as if he had a say in it. Out on Srinakharin Road, Daeng said: “Take the expressway.”

“To … where?”

“Nonthaburi.”

“Nonthaburi!??!”

“It’s Saturday. The traffic won’t be that bad.”

Daeng’s life has been a series of serious miscalculations, starting with his betrothal, and passing through numerous odd jobs. He fixed air conditioners; then he had his own van for hire business. Each new enterprise lasted no more than a year – was it because his wife kept answering the phones?

Another of his serious miscalculations was the traffic to Nonthaburi that Saturday morning.

With half my gas tank spent we arrived at Bang Khu Rat, Nonthaburi, around 1 pm. Lunchtime, as Daeng’s wife kept reminding us, repeating “hew” (หิว) throughout the journey.

I foolishly asked what she wanted to eat, and she replied duck, so another half an hour was spent circling Nonthaburi looking for a duck restaurant.

Amazingly we found one, where Daeng’s wife ordered the most expensive duck on the menu while Daeng ordered a few bottles of Heineken. I was driving, I announced, so I ordered an orange juice, resting the glass on the chair beside me and my hip flask.

Not even a spiked orange juice could quell the resentment of having to spend an hour at Nonthaburi’s Most Expensive Duck Restaurant, the cuisine not even being able to upend the upside-down U on the wife’s face.

When the bill came, I paid for it, as a show of thanks for Daeng going out of his way to take me out of my way.

Then, in the restaurant carpark, an unforeseen event.

Blame it on the idiot carpark attendant with the whistle. Blame it on my short temper for being on the wrong side of Bangkok without dark glasses and a fake beard. As I reversed out of my space, I clipped the side of a pick-up truck parked next door.

“Oo-ee!” (โอ๊ย) cried Daeng’s wife from the back seat, as the upended U morphed into an O.

The dent was tiny and almost unrecognizable, and would probably cost about 2,000 Baht to fix according to the vehicle’s owner. I handed over 2,000 Baht to end it right there.

What a mistake that was.

Paeng,” hissed Daeng as we got back in the car.

“Kha!” his wife added. “Paenggggggg!

It was a small price to pay for the dent but I was howled down by Daeng while his wife gave me the evil eye. What hope did I have against a millennium-old culture that screeches paeng at the mere sight of a price tag?

Soon we arrived at Daeng’s cousin’s wood factory, way smaller than the one at the end of my soi.

Daeng’s cousin, Ko, showed me his scant collection of wooden doors – they were hideous, dear reader, all woodchip and plastic.

I stood there, flanked by eager Ko and Daeng, nodding and praising the beauty of a pink fake-wooden door resting in cobwebs against the back of his mini-factory, in some godforsaken soi in the backstreets of Nonthaburi.

“Special price for you,” Ko announced. “2,300 Baht!”

“How about a discount?” Daeng asked. “Andrew’s been my good friend for five years, ever since I got out of Bang Kwang.”

Ko rubbed his chin. “Okay! Two thousand baht!”

“Can you install it for me too?” I asked, and Ko said of course he could, for a small fee.

I said okay. There was no other way to answer without all of us losing face.

The next day some worker who spoke broken Thai turned up with a door, the type one would normally see in brothels and gas station bathrooms. He managed to get the door on some hinges and, if you lifted it slightly as you slammed it shut, it stayed closed.

Ko added an extra 300 Baht for the installation and travel costs. When I calculated everything, including my own gas and toll fees (300 Baht), the duck lunch (1,200 Baht) and the crash (2,000), that door cost me 5,800 Baht.

Paenggggggg.

Daeng disappeared after that, as lower-middle class friends do, and turned up the following year with a new business transporting Japanese tourists to golf courses.

He had ditched his wife, too. He had a new one now; a younger hairdresser who was much prettier than the first, though just as dour and perhaps more demanding.

“I remember that door,” said Daeng proudly as he settled into his second Heineken. He turned to his new wife. “I saved Andrew a lot of money on that door. At first he was going to buy one for way too much – three thousand? Four thousand?“

The new wife gasped.

Paenggggg,” she announced.

“But in the end I helped him out. Took him to my cousin who only charged him one or two thousand. Right Andrew?”

“Right,” I said.

Daeng peered at the door a little more closely. “It looks different. Did you paint it?”

Paenggggg,” repeated his wife, in case I didn’t hear her the first time.

I never told Daeng the truth; that the week after we visited Ko I walked down to the end of my soi and ordered a teak door from the local factory. It cost me 3,000 Baht, including installation, which means in the space of a month I’d outlayed 8,800 for a door.

But that is the price I paid for opening my big mouth.

I did learn a valuable lesson about living in Thailand; when a Thai asks you how much you paid for something, just halve what you really paid and tell them that.
It doesn’t have any effect. It’s still paengggg.

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Andrew Biggs (Thai Memories): Adjectives

Andrew Biggs

Wendy’s gaze was steely and determined.

“You need to cut down on your use of adjectives,” she said, looking in this direction with eyebrows arched. “It’s lazy writing.”

Surely, she’s not referring to …? Oh God. She is.

Last weekend your columnist attended a writer’s workshop in Bangkok where my overuse of adjectives was laid bare before a group of aspiring writers. Now it’s understood how it feels to walk naked down Silom Road.

“Not only that, when you write in first person as you do, Andrew, try writing without using the words ‘I’ and ‘me’,” Wendy continued, unabashed. “It makes you a much better writer.”

A much better writer? The humiliation of it all.

Such criticism may be a little hard for you to believe, considering the grammatically-faultless second-to-none writing style found here on an unrelenting weekly basis. But the fact so many adjectives and adjectival phrases can be crammed into a single sentence like the one you just read – “grammatically-faultless”, “second-to-none”, “unrelenting” – does show my writing is in desperate need of a tune-up.

Thus your faithful and diligent correspondent spent an enjoyable weekend at the chic inner-city Siam@Siam Hotel … no, no, wait a minute, stop right there. Can I start that again without all the adjectives?

Thus your correspondent spent a weekend at a hotel being told he needed to cut down on his flagrant use of adjectives. Not completely annihilate them, mind you (an occasional “flagrant” is fine) but cut them down all the same.

Such were the sage words from Wendy, a New York Times bestselling author, whose advice was as valuable as it was cutting — at least when it came to adjectives. It was an exhilarating weekend, in which ten aspiring writers undertook various writing exercises. All the while, Wendy hovered like the Angel of Semantic Death, ready to cut a swathe through any adjectives that thought to cluster in her path.

How dare she! Imagine a world without adjectives … but indeed, this is the world where the best writers exist.

There was a time, a few decades ago, when my writing was indeed slim and dry. Over the years something changed, and the blame must be placed squarely on Thailand’s shoulders.

Like so many other elite Bangkok Post columnists, (“Ditch the ‘elite’!” Wendy would surely chastise upon hearing that) it was assumed my writing was perfect with no possible room for improvement. Hemingway, Salinger, Biggs … these names roll off the tongue with frightening ease.

Just kidding … there’s no delusional thought going on here. It’s like mentioning Gershwin, Bacharach and Billy Ray Cyrus in the same breath. The writing in this column is far removed from Ernest or J.D. since they knew the magic rule of “showing” rather than “telling”.

That was common knowledge to a former newspaper reporter like myself. So what happened? Where did those wheelbarrows of descriptive words that litter the construction site of my literary output come from?

There was never an opportunity to explain to Wendy that it’s a cultural thing, a direct result of living in the Land Of Smiles for two decades.

The Thai language is far more ingratiating than English. Translation work falls onto my desk regularly, such as invitations to events or advertising copy. Take this gold-embossed invitation card that had to be translated into English exactly three days before going to Wendy’s writer’s retreat, which in Thai went something like this:

“It would be the greatest honor bestowed upon us, and indeed would increase the dignity of our prestigious event, if you could graciously sacrifice your precious time to attend the auspicious grand opening of our new branch on Asoke Road this Monday, January 30th, 2011, the Year of the Rabbit. If you assent, which would be our greatest happiness, please inform Khun Art on the following telephone number (cell phone)” 08-xxx-xxxx.”

Tears well up in both eyes just reading this. It works beautifully in Thai; it is majestic and deferential and gives the recipient a warm tingle in his loins. This is the way the Thai language is; over-polite and unashamedly setting out to flatter the recipient.

The Thai culture, too, is all about prostrating yourself before those in a higher place than you, whether it be because of age, knowledge, or in the case of politicians, how much public money they’ve siphoned off into their private bank accounts to fund their gold Mercedes and Khao Yai holiday home.

The language reflects this. And adjectives are like strong kneecaps – helping you get into the prostrate position with ease.

This is evident in newspaper ads for condo complexes, the likes of which we discussed last week in this column. “Experience the pristine tranquility of idyllic living beside a peaceful sky-blue lake as you awaken joyously in your glamorous, fashionable condo.” It works fine in the Thai translation but in English that sentence needs to go on Atkins, and fast.

Back when Siam Paragon first opened its doors this shopping mall described itself on ubiquitous billboards as “The Glorious Phenomenon!” Besides being a great lesson in tautology, describing a shopping mall in such a way is just a leeeetle over the top, wouldn’t you say? It is indeed a lovely place, and phenomena do exist there from time to time, like the idiots who stood in line for hours to buy doughnuts.

My first visit there ended up with getting lost and having to ask a toothy security guard for the exit; he flashed those teeth with his Isan smile, shrugged his shoulders and said “Mai roo” (ไม่รู้). There’s nothing glorious about that situation (unless you’re a dentist looking for new patients) and the only phenomenon was the absence of exit signs.

Despite all this, “The Glorious Phenomenon!” does work within the context of Thai. It’s beyond imagining how many kittens Wendy would give birth to if she were fluent in the language, but she is right. Good writing in English requires adjectival sacrifice. Thus when faced with a paragraph so plump with padding it reminds me of seating at a Weight Watchers Anonymous meeting, out comes the axe.

“You are invited to attend the grand opening of our new branch on Asoke Road this Monday, January 30th. RSVP 08-xxx-xxxx.” Such was the translation sent back to Khun Art.

Khun Art’s mouth dropped to the floor. “This is a joke, right?” she said, letting out a nervous giggle over the phone. “You can’t write like that in Thailand!” It took 15 minutes to explain that it wasn’t a joke, and that while in Thai such language as in the original is fine, in English it was richer than a slice of banoffi pie at Anna’s Café.

So you can see that the “kill the adjective” stance taken by Wendy is still inherent and deep down within your columnist. But Wendy … dear, dear Wendy … this is Thailand! We love adjectives! Local copy writers are not aspiring to literary greatness – they just want to sell condos!

Oh, nearly forgot … this first person narrative business.

Wendy claims that dispensing with “I” and “me” in first-person narratives such as this column makes the reader feel closer to the action, and closer to the writer himself.

It’s not evident how close you wish to get, dear reader, but did you notice? For the first time ever, this entire column was written without my using a single “I” or “me”.

I am very proud of myself. Damn! Foiled by this final paragraph!

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Andrew Biggs (Thai Memories): Returning to Gor Gai (ก ไก่)

Andrew Biggs

This week I completed a circle that has taken me 23 years. I returned to my roots. I returned to GOR GAI (ก ไก่).

That’s the first letter of the Thai alphabet, and if you’re unhappy about all those capital letters jumping out at you on Sunday morning, be thankful you’ve even got that.

I have a great respect for anybody teaching Thai to foreigners, but you can’t speak Thai via the Roman alphabet. There are too many minefields obstructing your path to fluency.

First, the official way of rendering Thai in English has been devised to deliberately confuse any sensible foreigner. The Bangkok district that is written as “Praves” (ประเวศ), for example, should rhyme with “graves” but it fact it’s something like “Bra-wet”. And what person of normal intelligence would ever think “Phuket” (ภูเก็ต) was really “Poo-get”?!

Second, any “karaoke” (คาราโอเกะ) transliteration dispenses with the tone attached to that word, as integral to Thai as tenses are to English. How do you pronounce song when it can mean number two (สอง – rising tone), envelope (ซอง – middle), send (ส่ง – low) — or even a seedy brothel (ซ่อง – falling)?

(What if I wanted to say: “Send these two envelopes to the brothel!” It’d be written like this: “Song song song song pai song” (ส่ง สอง ซอง ส่งไป ซ่อง). Those two envelopes might end up at some karaoke bar!)

Some clever educators get around this by adding little bumps and squiggles on the transliterated words. If you’re going to invest time in learning bumps and squiggles – why not just sit down and learn the real Thai letters for god’s sake?

That was my thinking 23 years ago when I wandered into a Khon Kaen bookshop and asked: “Have you got a book that teaches me Thai letters?”

What transpired was not a happy time. If my life were a Hallmark movie you’d see me seated by an open bedroom window, happily tracing Thai letters, the sounds of traditional Thai music tinkling out of my transistor radio.

Stuff and nonsense. That first year was a nightmare.

The very first letter in the Thai alphabet is that GOR GAI, or the sound of G as in the first letter of the Thai word for “cock” … as in “cock-a-doodle-doo”, dear reader. Where is your mind on this Sabbath?

I traced GOR GAI over and over on page one of that textbook designed for primary school students. Once finished I had this tremendous sense of elation; I knew my very first letter of the Thai alphabet.

I had come out of the linguistic closet — I was bilingual and proud!

I crashed back down to earth when I snuck a look ahead and saw there were 44 letters to learn. Even at three a day, it would take me a little over two weeks to learn them all – an eternity when you’re backpacking in your twenties.

I employed a Thai teacher to help me. I heard from a mutual friend she became a Buddhist nun in 2002. My only surprise was it took so long between teaching me and donning the white cloth.

“Your language has too many letters. I’m only learning the first half,” I pronounced the first time we met. When I came to my senses and learned them all, she then revealed that two of the letters were obsolete. They remain in the Thai alphabet but nobody uses them anymore.

“You … mean … I … wasted … two-thirds of a day … learning letters … I’ll never use!?!?” I asked, as incredulous as I was menacing.

I also hit the roof when I learned there were three ways of writing a “T”; imagine how my teacher must have dreaded revealing there were FIVE ways to write an “S”.

Language reflects culture. At least I was starting to understand why it took seven Robinson staff to ring up my purchase of a pair of socks, or why there are 650 politicians in Parliament when really only 30 are ever attending, let alone doing any work.

When I got to the end of the 44, my ajarn (อาจารย์) dropped another bombshell.

“Now for the vowels.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, throwing down my pen. “In the English alphabet we incorporate the vowels into the alphabet. We don’t separate them!”

“You’re not learning English,” she replied crisply. That shut me up.

Well look on the bright side, I thought. English has five letters that act as vowels. At least there wouldn’t be so many to learn.

Thirty-friggin’-two of ‘em!

My teacher tried to smooth over things by explaining there were actually “only” 18 along with compounds and such. Oh well that makes life easier, doesn’t it? Excuse me while I go rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I was three months into my Thai experience, and quickly becoming a finalist in the Mr Boring Farang pageant of 1990.

While all my western friends were out gallivanting around Silom, calling me from the phone box outside Pussy Galore, I stayed at home and learnt yet another way of writing the vowel sound of “AH”.

When I finally memorized all 76 sounds and letters, I looked contented. Not so my ajarn. She had nothing but foreboding on her face, like a villager whose hut is right next to an active volcano.

“And now,” she said. “… the tones.”

We had to return to those 44 consonants. You see in Thai, some of those consonants are high class. Some are the hapless middle class, but the vast majority are dirty low class consonants. These classes govern the tones.

Spotting the class differences in consonants was nowhere near as easy as spotting it in the Thais themselves. There is no khunying hairstyle or “Na Ayutthaya” (ณ.อยุธยา) tacked onto the end of the letter to make it high class. I had to go back and learn ‘em all over again.

On day one, when I learned GOR GAI, I thought I knew it all. At this stage, the more I delved into Thai, the more I realized I was out of my depth. I knew absolutely nothing.

You would think that this overload of information would build until I exploded like some Khaosan Road backpacker trying to get directions from a tuk-tuk (ตุ๊ก ๆ) driver.

No. Incredibly, the opposite happened.

It all started to gel.

I began being able to reading Thai words. I could hear the nuances in the tones as people spoke. Sentences started to poke out of the cacophony of sound.

After six months there was an epiphany, and my hard work started to pay dividends.

It is now 23 years later, and to this day, I still learn a new Thai word every day. I make mistakes and mix up the tones, especially if it’s the morning after a particularly long session chewing the fat with dear Uncle Smirnoff.

That 23-year-old circle closed this week as I started a new TV show on cable (MCOT World, Channel 99) teaching Thai. It’s called Tongue Thai’d, a title I proudly thought up myself until I found out half the Thai restaurants in the world have that name, not to mention Catherine Wentworth’s wonderful website www.womenlearnThai.com which is a mine of linguistic information.

I must say I felt a tingle of nostalgia as I kicked off episode one, explaining the letter GOR GAI, and returning me to where I started off. Only now I was the teacher, not the student.

What a great thing I did all those years ago. And who would have thought a mere 44 consonants and 32 vowels would open up a new world that I remain in to this day. I got through with a little perseverance, plus the knowledge that if 65 million Thais can speak the language, why can’t I?

And you … dear reader?

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Andrew Biggs (Thai Memories): The Boat Sinks in the Mouth of the Bay

Andrew Biggs

There is a billboard that caught my attention this week while sitting in a taxi flitting in and out of four lanes of traffic on the three-lane city expressway.

It depicts a young man and woman sitting back to back desolately on a bed. It was clear they were desolate by the hang-dog expression on the man’s face, and the ankle-clutching stance of the woman.

It’s not often we see desolation on inner-city billboards. I’m far more used to billboards featuring the lily-white happy complexions of Thailand’s young actors and actors pushing collagen drinks or bird nest soups or any other of the myriad charlatan products out there.

What also grabbed my attention was the Thai writing next to the unhappy couple.

Reua lom bahk ao (เรือล่มปากอ่าว).

The boat sinks in the mouth of the bay.

What a curious headline!

“What does that mean?” I asked my taxi driver, a happy middle-aged fellow who had been enjoying practicing his English on me until I feigned a cell phone call to shut him up.

Reua lom bahk ao?” he asked back. He broke into a great middle-aged Thai smile. “Oh! You know? You know?” He paused and flashed me a leering smile. “You know?”

“No, I don’t; that’s why I’m asking you.”

“You and lady same-same but you no good. You go first but you very fart. No good, you know?”

I have been in Thailand too long; I understood exactly what he was talking about.

Premature ejaculation.

If ever there was an example of my theory that language doesn’t get much more vivid and descriptive than Thai, then there it was.

I’ve spent 25 years in this country and here was yet another colorful idiomatic phrase that completely passed me by. Nobody had ever said it to me before. And thank God for that, judging by its meaning.

No wonder the couple on the billboard looked so dejected! No wonder the woman was clutching her sturdy ankles; that’s about the only sturdy thing she was going to be clutching that evening for any satisfactory length of time.

(And if you’re new in town, the taxi driver wasn’t that bad in English. You just have to know that ‘same-same’ has the added meaning of ‘sex’ here, while ‘fart’ is in reality ‘fast’ since Thais have difficulty with consonant clusters consisting of S and T.)

How clever of the Thai language to equate premature ejaculation with the sinking of a boat just as it was to enter a harbor. When I got to my office I googled the phrase and sure enough, there it was, hundreds and thousands of times over on the internet.

I did get it the wrong way around. The boat is leaving the harbor, not entering it, as my School Director and Senior Sales Manager, both females, pointed out to me over lunch that day.

“It sinks before it even sets out on the journey,” my School Director explained as she popped a serendipitous Isarn sausage into her mouth.

“I thought it to be more like the train entering the tunnel,” I said. “It’s the boat entering the mouth of the harbor. You know?” Curse that taxi driver! He’s got me saying it now!

“Or the sparrow,” chimed my mannish Senior Sales Manager. She was enjoying a lunch of fried oysters, as was her wont. “When the sparrow has a drink of water.”

I gazed at her intently, expecting her to continue, but it appeared she was finished with her explanation.

“And?” I asked.

“That’s all,” she said. “The sparrow drinks water. That’s what we say in Thai. Nok krajok jib nam (นกกระจอกจิบน้ำ).”

“Yes,” said my Director, eyeing a second sausage. “The sparrow takes a sip of water.”

I don’t know, dear reader, but perhaps I’m just a little slower than the rest of humanity. How on earth does a drinking sparrow relate to premature ejaculation?

Being the boss, I was able to demand an explanation.

“Have you ever seen a sparrow drink water?” my Sales Manager asked. Before I could answer, she was making mannish pecking movements with her right hand towards her plate of fried oysters, accompanied by a very vocal: “Jib! Jib! Jib! Jib! (จิ๊บ! จิ๊บ! จิ๊บ! จิ๊บ!).”

“It’s the same as the boat in the harbor,” added my Director, winking, and I fell further down into the Stupid Hole.

It took them five minutes to pull me out.

The idea is that the sparrow’s pecking at water is a very short, spasmodic movement, not unlike a man who finishes quickly during sex. I find that metaphor a little tenuous and not as imaginative as the boat one, but still, how great is the Thai language!

The conversation didn’t stop there.

“What about the one about the dove?” asked Director to Sales Manager. “In Thai we say: nok khao mai khan (นกเขาไม่ขัน), or ‘The dove does not sing’.”

“You can use that when you feel excited for sex but there is no change – down there,” said my Sales Manager, motioning towards my crutch. Despite every conceivable attempt not to, I reddened ever so slightly.

“Speaking of birds, what about the idiom ‘washing the face of the chicken’ (ล้างหน้าไก่)?” asked my Director.

“Stop right there,” I said. “I’m eating.”

There was an uncomfortable pause.

“Oh what the hell; tell me,” I said and they explained, in polite Thai, how it referred to the erect state of a male upon awakening, if indeed such things can be explained in polite Thai.

“That one is not considered a negative phrase,” said the Sales Manager. “Nothing is stronger than the boat sinking.”

Later that day I was back on the freeway and noticed that the billboard in question wasn’t on its own. It was part of three big signs, the first being the sad couple. The second explained in large letters that NEARLY ONE IN THREE MEN SUFFER FROM PREMATURE EJACULATION and there was a website to visit.

The last one revealed the boat had been dredged up out of the harbor, because in that one the couple were now smiling in each other’s arms, as if their love would last forever, which is a relief since it appeared to have lasted three seconds at the most in the first one.

I have a very old book of common Thai proverbs and sayings that are so entertaining, and not just of a sexual nature.

In Thai, for example, if you “make a sculpture out of water (ปั้นน้ำเป็นตัว)” you are telling lies, since this phrase dates back to an era before we could freeze water into ice-cubes. Yet you still hear it today.

If you “build a house over a tree stump (ปลูกเรือนคร่อมตอ)”, you are committing bigamy. A jack of all trades is somebody who “knows things like a duck (รู้อย่างเป็ด)” … whatever that means.

If you “find a good tree after your axe is broken”, you fall in love with a beautiful woman after you’re already married. A “jar of pickled garlic on legs (ไหกระเทียม)” is a short fat girl.

When you look at all those, a boat sinking in the mouth of the harbor isn’t so out of place.

I have only one reservation. Why is the man in the billboard a farang (ฝรั่ง) while the woman is Thai? Would it have been too close to the bone to have used a Thai male? Just sayin’.

Our story should end there, but it has an interesting footnote.

Remember my casual google of reua lom bahk ao? That was three days ago.

Ever since, I have been bombarded with ads for every erectile dysfunction clinic in town, and believe me there are lots of them. In these modern times Big Brother is not only watching me — he is waiting for my boat to sink.

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