Thursday, 15 February 2007

Thai Traumas



Thailand is the land of smiles... and I've been doing my best to keep smiling, honest, even when finding myself sandwiched between two ladyboys. (That's Natasha & Sonia featuring in the photo with T if I can upload it...from the excellent Mambo Show complete with v over-the-top Japanese audience!)
On all our previous attempts to give up smoking, we've become so depressed and grumpy that we had to start again to save our marriage. This time, though, it's different. This time we've read the Alan Carr book and know that to be without nicotine is to be free and joyful.
Luckily, Alison's good on smiles anyway. And, as I say, in Thailand it’s more or less compulsory to be joyful. It's considered a huge loss of face if you ever raise your voice or even look the slightest bit angry with anyone. Obviously then this was the place to join her in giving up once and for all.
It all seemed surprisingly easy during the first few days in Bangkok. As in most other Asian cities, the air pollution's so bad you feel as if you’re smoking all the time anyway. Besides, as in the West, smoking is increasingly frowned on if not banned. Even in India we saw hardly anyone with a cigarette and a policeman who saw me in the street enjoying (sorry, alan, suffering over) one of my last ever fags tried to arrest me, saying smoking was forbidden in public. Francoise has just sent us a timely warning that the same is now true in HK, where we're about to head off to.
So, for the first time in what must be at least a dozen short stays in big bad ugly lovable old Bangkok over the years, there I was tripping over the broken pavements and stray cables without feeling the need to light up a new cigarette round every corner.
But then we flew down for a week on the beach on Ko Samui... the tropical paradise island where smoking is still very much part of your standard holiday package. At first we wished we'd gone back to Phuket or Hua Hin, as Samui seemed to have become paradise these days only for property developers. But bearing your instructions in mind, Keyring, that we shouldn't hanker for past glories (and that Lammai is the place to be) we found a beautiful Franco-Thai place further down the beach called Jungle Park Resort ... where we turned out to be the only non-smokers.
So there we sat under the coconut trees of a balmy evening, eating this fantastic food and drinking our French wines and Thai beers, as the guitarist played softly (inviting me up to fill in while he went off for a quick smoke) and the French tourists flirted and frolicked in a huge cloud of blue gauloise haze around the bar. I kept asking the waiter to take our ashtray away but another waiter kept bringing us a new one. And then we'd retire to our perfect little bungalow, yards from our private beach, and sit out on the verandah, gazing out through the palm fronds at the sea and the stars, over another empty ashtray. I mean what do people DO while enjoying a nice view? The only fly in the ointment was not a fly at all but the odd mosquito...the old solution for which was of course the odd cigarette.
But did we give in? Did we feel a moment's lack of joy? Never! We went swimming and snorkelling and speedboating (past the island that inspired The Beach) ...and since returning to Bangkok everyone's said how tanned and healthy and relaxed we are.
Alison's now starting week 6 and I'm on Week 2 (Day 15, hour 3). Simon will understand. But he's an understanding sort of guy. I did say I wouldn't go on about
smoking. So I'll shut up and hand over to my beloved (yes, we're still married, but then she does have sister Meilan and brother-in-law Richard back here in Bangkok -- along with their five cats -- to protect her from any unthai grumpiness on my part)...


But I'd just like to add for the benefit of any bbc-type readers that i've managed to track down various old colleagues here -- only some of whom disappointed me by saying Oh God you're not giving up smoking AGAIN are you?
But briefly, Jonathan Head's as full of good spirits and local wisdom as ever, on his final stint as southeast asia corr before they drop the post. I hadn't realised he now has a small half- Thai son as well as a Thai wife.
Sharing the office with him and a couple of familiar faces from the Burmese section back at Bush House is my former Online colleague Kate McGeown. Just across the corridor is Kylie Morris (not-Minogue despite appearances), who once worked on World Today with me but recently switched to ITN and is soon to be married to the man who just made the Tsunami film.
Just up the street is our onetime East Asia Today boss Larry Jagan, who I found working out of the Robin Hood pub for various asian publications who he can persuade to be interested in burma. And then the new boy in town is Hak-Fan Lau, once the shining star of my Hong Kong handover series and now, seven years after leaving the bbc, head of UN Information Services for the entire region. He too is recently married -- to a mainland Chinese journalist -- and is in fine form.









So here I am (she says), not much more to add - we head off to an Irish pub for the Better Beatles Tribute Band this evening and some girly pool's been played for the article (thanks for Bolivian tips by the way halsky). ...and about to dispatch a (modest) package of shopping to Viveca....

3 comments:

Inedible Halk said...

Is that a false arm hanging on to the lady-boy's elbow while Mr Tim's real palms are each clutching a pert buttock?
Great photos and stories -- keep it coming. Lots of love, Hal xxx

Inedible Halk said...

Is that a false arm hanging on to the lady-boy's elbow while Mr Tim's real palms are each clutching a pert buttock?
Great photos and stories -- keep it coming. Lots of love, Hal xxx

William said...

Hello Guys,
Was really good to see you at the weekend. Dad and Kieran (and Justin!) send their love.