Monday 17 December 2012

Romance on the River Kwai.


It's Monday afternoon - the first real day of my Christmas holiday. I'm penning this on my new Acer netbook connected via WIFI. I uploaded the photos from my iPhone using Bluetooth. I mention all this techno-babble because I was disappointed to discover that none of my brothers read this site. Unfortunately they possess the same love for IT as the Luddites did for modern machinery. I started this blog as a means of communication to keep them updated on my adventures, however, that seems to have been a fruitless endeavour. I have also tentatively ventured the notion of using skype (like everyone else I know) to make video calls but, alas, this also fell on deaf ears. I am not ringing Europe from Asia on a mobile when there're a whole plethora of free options. Haway lads, it's 2012, get with it.

I am laying on my bed (I don't have a desk) with my bastardised-hybrid fan blowing a serene torrent of air that is doing little to combat the Bangkok afternoon mugginess. Still I'd rather be in tropical heat than snow and ice! Tonight I'm meeting my new girlfriend to eat Isaan food at Lumphini Park. More on her later.


I will be 40 in November 2013. Any life one lives past 30 should be perceived as a bonus since in Medieval Britain life expectancy at birth was 30. However, living the life I have been living for the last 7 years will attenuate one's life span considerably. Drinking to excess, smoking and eating the following will surely curtail one's longevity:

This is the 215bt Queen Vic breakfast on Sukhumvit Soi 23. It also comes with a mug of amphetamine-based coffee. It was then off to Gerodie Neil's condo for a drink of pure vegetable juice fresh from his much-vaunted 'juicer'. You have to push carrots (or anything else you can think of) through a machine that turns it into pure juice. It's an ingestion-friendly conversion and Neil is convinced it helps hangovers. My hangover solution is simpler as it needs less plant and capital - don't drink in the first place. I am deploying my 'thinking-outside-the-box' idea during the whole of 2013 where I aim to be alcohol and nicotine free for the year. This is a direct result of missing two days at work because of my inability to control alcohol.

Infinitely Hi-So

After our pure juice drinks it was into the 'infinity' pool. We spent two hours alternating between sauna and pool. It was absolutely sublime. I hadn't been in a pool since Phuket. A sauna?? Can't remember.

As a maths teacher I appreciate that the concept of infinity can be a difficult one for kids to embrace. This is where my contempt for marketing gurus comes in. Can somebody please point out anything infinite about this pool? Any infinite quality that this pool might possess? Infinity? My arse. It is a lovely pool but there is f*ck all infinite about it. Is my toilet infinite?

After the pool we went looking for a place to repair Neil's scooter. We ended up walking around a huge swathe of Bangkok which afforded me the opportunity to take some snaps. This graceful building wouldn't look out of place in Europe. Any idea what it is today?? A bloody Starbucks. 

Indeed, Thai people do love their King. The Thai says: "Thanon Rao rak Nailuang". Many Thais have that very sticker on their car. The whole love-the-King thing is a very tangible force here and a foreigner would be foolish to openly criticise anything to do with this highly respected institution.


This picture highlights one of my major gripes about living in Asia (not only Thialand). I love to walk. I used to walk up mountains on weekends in the UK. I even like walking around Bangkok. However, as you can see above, the pavement situation is rubbish. There aren't many pavements to begin with. Most streets simply don't have them and you have to walk (precariously) on the invariably busy roads. However, when some urban planning has actually occurred and pavements are in evidence, people simply park bikes, cars, restaurant, stalls, markets.......anything you can think of block the few pavements that exist. This is enormously frustrating but you have to learn to be philosophical and say (like the Thais) Mai Pen Rai.

Quite a boast I reckon. Do you have Dolphin? Blue Whale? Duncan Goodhew? Penguin? Polar Bear? Michael Phelps? Can someone please contact the Trade Descriptions fact don't bother......they earn plenty as it is.

After this stroll around town we went to watch Cloud Atlas in Terminal 21. It was a very enjoyable movie and they even gave us a free notepad. Last weekend I watched The Hobbit.......canny!!

Online Guru

I was thrilled to see this website reach 20,000 hits. However, it's done nothing for the monetization. One regret I have is that I wish I'd had a camera for the earlier years of this trip. Now cameras are ubiquitous (on phones etc.) but they weren't back then. I wish I had more pics of Iceland, Mongolia and Japan. I don't actually have any photos at all of Japan, Tibet and many other awesome places. Gutted.

I bought five trundle wheels for my kids to learn how to measure things. I now have two left. The boys managed to break three of them on the first outing despite my instructions. These little t**ts will never see the light of day outside my classroom again. Here's the lasses measuring the perimeter of the University field. These kids are in year 8 which is by far the most tiresome class to teach. The material is simple but the behavioural management is hard work. I'm exhausted after most lessons with these guys. Give me A levels any day. 


Here we are in Starbucks on our first date. I dressed-to-impress by throwing on a pair of jeans. This is Yui, 27 from Silom (originally Udon). The good thing about Yui is that she actually has a job. Yes, a real job. She has to get up at 7am and go to work. Yes, actual work. She doesn't rely on a man to support her. This alone is enough to make me love her. In my experience these women are few and far between here in the Land of Smiles. She is involved in the export of gems. This meeting was on the King's 85th birthday on the 5th of December. Afterwards we strolled around Lumphini Park before heading for some Isaan food. We then arranged to go to Kanchanaburi on my bike the following weekend.

My first exposure to a strange Western festival in Tesco. A Siberian tree and a fat bloke in red pajamas. What's all that about? I wonder what the little lad next to me wants in his sock? 

Here we are on the River Kwai. We stayed in these raft-rooms for £8/night.

We did not complain about the view from our window. We gorged on the tranquility after the noise and filthy hustle of Bangkok.

I'm turning Japanese

Yui had never been here before so we jumped on the bike and headed to the cemetery and famous bridge. At the bridge they were doing a light and sound show re-enactment of the Japanese occupation. The mock-up camp looked really cool.

At this machine gun post I was surprised to see that the Japanese soldiers had European faces.........mmmmmmmm? A minor detail I agree but for me the legitimacy had been tarnished. I would not be paying 500bt to watch the show that evening as a result.


Yui took a snap of me riding across a bridge. She said she could ride motorbikes so we attempted to do the same thing with her riding. As soon as she got on she lost her balance and the bike fell on top of her. The accelerator was stuck in the full-throttle position and the noise was scary. I had to get the bike off her straight away so I have no pics of this hilarious event. 

We all know that Asians struggle with L's and R's when speaking English but this is simply ridicurous. Even the Thai script uses an L so why did they write an R in English?? 

The King and Queen. I noticed this as I was having breakfast in Kanchanaburi. Yui even recognised Lizzy which is a good sign!

On the way back to BKK they are building a new stretch of sky train along Phetkasem Road. The traffic jam here was impressive even by Bangkok standards.

Only 2.8km to go until 44,444.4km. I couldn't stop at the crucial juncture because I was in a stressful Bangkok traffic flow. In fact I think I was crossing the Thaksin Bridge over the Chao Phraya River.

After the trip I commissioned a team of experts to conduct an oil change and a chain tightening. The last time the rear wheel was moved was in Uttaradit when I replaced the chain and sprockets. The time before that I did it myself. Consequently, I could tell the guy what size spanners he needed. He thought I was 'Geng Mac' as a result.


We had our first fire drill at school last week. They wouldn't let me up the ladders despite my vast submarine fire-fighting experience.


I was sitting in McDonald's enjoying a coffee when the female version of a pirate walked past me. She had squawking birds on each shoulder. That's weird man. She washed her hands in the McDonald's sink with these two massive birds shrieking from their shoulder perches.

Trang connection

Here's the Trang lads. Matt and Mike enjoying a coffee before Mike's departure to Saudi Arabia. Shit - I'm starting to look old!

To meet them I had to walk past this massive lego tree. The whole thing was made from millions of tiny 'real' lego bricks. I know because I went up close to check.

Lumphini Park

In the heart of Bangkok is an oasis of calm known as Lumphini Park. Yesterday Yui and I chilled out here again. I am wearing my school's T-shirt.

We hired a rowing boat which gave her the perfect opportunity to play on her phone.

Guess who had to row? The emblem on the school T-shirt shows an exponential function. Probably y=e^x. Not many teachers at SPIP know that.

Afterwards we went to this dazzling display of weird western cultural stuff. How they managed to build a snowman in this stifling heat is beyond me.

They must've used some kind of freon coolant gases along with a complex pumping system to maintain a pocket of sub-zero temperatures. One can only guess.

Waiting for the lift. She looks so cute in those glasses.

Pump up the Jam

It's great to have a day off and time to take some photos of the traffic instead of being in it. One example of Bangkok's legendary traffic. Stationary cars as far as the eye can see.

Walking back from Yui's place this morning along Sathorn Road. This is where all the big global banks manifest themselves. How did they get so rich? Aren't they merely supposed to look after your money for a small fee? There are many wealthy expat westerners here living like Royalty. I am sure they deserve their fat salaries and free condos for all their 'hard' work. In the midst of these glassy monolithic temples of greed, destitution flaunts itself. It's thought provoking to see tramps sleeping on benches as BMW's and Porches roll past.

Another road same same but different. Could one describe this as an infinite traffic jam? Might be a more appropriate use of the word than for a swimming pool.

Mellow Yellow

Thinking deeply about how silly I look in this yellow jacket first thing in the morning. Wondering why I'm being deprived of my morning ritualistic coffee. Oh yeah, because it was the King's 85th birthday.


Here are the teachers of SPIP. A conscientious bunch. The two disheveled blokes with folded arms are the PE teachers - le creme de la creme!!

These are all the teachers in the school's organisation. I am top right next to Rajan. SPIP school is a small part of a larger organisation as you can see here. I have no idea who 90% of these people are.

In the Navy

This is a blast form the past. An old friend from Morpeth scanned and posted this on facebook. I think I was 18 years old at HMS Collingwood. 

I was a Weapons Engineering Artificer on Royal Navy Submarines for 10 years before becoming a maths teacher in Asia!

Oh the memories. Like Uncle Albert, I am probably prone to embellishing many of my tales, particularly the shagging ones!! 


I am thinking of starting my motorbike trip around the North of Thailand tomorrow. I'm going to meet Yui for dinner so I'd better be off.


Too ra - things to do
ra ta ban - government
jakayan - bicycle
bung pert - just opened
Suan Loom - Lumphini Park

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