Time for a moan ...

On the subject of food safety, and in the light of all the recent concerns over excessively high levels of melamine in products from China, one does wonder what one can safely eat these days. A few cases are publicised... but how many are discretely 'forgotten' by irresponsible manufacturers, traders and politicians?

Just a week ago nearly 4 tons of 'unmarked' powdered milk was discovered in a Bangkok warehouse; ostensibly from Australia, although the entire consignment was unlabelled. Clearly, given the recent melamine scandal, there will be a massive quantity of 'unsaleable' milk powder in China. Will it all be destroyed, or will unscrupulous dealers get their hands on some of it? 4 tons might not sound much... but potentially that's some 4,000 tins of baby milk powder...

After melamine as a protein additive, what next? A professor at Chiang Mai University recently revealed - in confidence of course! - that a common practice in China is for undertakers to remove the hair of the deceased for selling on to food processors, for the purpose of creating a 'protein slurry'. So who knows what we are eating these days!

De-licious! Aliens for dinner... - Photo Hosted at Buzznet
Perhaps there is something to be said for 'home grown' food, collected in remote areas of the countryside, after all!

From obnoxious foods, to obnoxious farangs ....

What is it about some, mainly Western, tourists? I spent long enough living in France occasionally apologising for the behaviour of the British, but it's even more noticeable in Thailand, made particularly conspicuous by the obvious comparison to the polite and respectful locals. The other night in the Chiang Mai Saloon, a young baseball-shirted American staggers in, so loud you could hear him over the sound of the superb Pulse concert (Floyd) I was trying to listen to up on the big screen, while watching West Ham v. Arsenal in a Premier League match on screen number two (in silent mode). "You Thai?" he yells in the ear of the (obviously Thai) bloke sat at the bar next to where he'd found a stool to collapse onto. Not waiting for an answer, "Don' understan' Thai. Been all over, speak different everywhere", he enlightens us all. Thai guy is lost for words, unsurprisingly. "Like American football?" Yank shouts, after a short lull. Thai guy doesn't reply, so Yank thinks he has to yell a bit louder. "A-MER-I-CAN FOOT-BALL". Thai guy tries to be polite. "Ah, Chelsea very good". Bemused look crosses Yanks face. "FOOT-BALL", he bellows. "A-MER-I-CAN!". Thai looks lost, but politely tries again. "Ah Beck-Ham! Very good, Ga-Lax-EE!" Complete incomprehension on Yank's face. Clearly it hasn't occurred to him that American football isn't the world's number one sport. Not to be put off by such a minor setback, he tries again. "YOU LIKE BASEBALL?" I can't take any more, and go in search of another bar.

Because of the time difference (plus 6 hours) , live games are sometimes on late evening or in the middle of the night here. I find a quiet Thai bar down by the moat near Loi Kroh. Loi Kroh is the 'red light' area of Chiang Mai, such as it is (a few scattered girlie bars, no comparison to Bangkok or Pattaya). Naturally it attracts a sizeable number of mainly male farang visitors. I manage to miss one goal thanks to the five minute transit down the road from the CM Saloon. Still, the virtually empty bar with its TV behind the bar showing the match seems ideal to see out the last few minutes...

In stagger two middle-aged farangs, of indeterminate origin. They are both covered in blood, but seem completely unaware of their condition. The one with the largest beer gut promptly throws up over the top of the bar. For a while neither is capable of speech. In typically caring and uncritical Thai fashion, the proprietress immediately produces tissues, and tries to mop up some of the blood on their faces - they appear oblivious to her administrations - while another girl uncomplainingly begins to clean up the bar counter and floor. Eventually the two bloody farangs recover enough to speak. "Two beers luv". (They're Brits - why am I not surprised). When asked what had happened, they were totally clueless. Didn't know where they had been, where they were staying. A complete, genuine, blank. The alcoholic mist eventually clears enough for the bald Scouser (the one that hadn't been sick yet) to notice there's a game on. He unleashes a couple of obscenities, followed by a "WA-ALK ON ....". In walks another farang, slightly more capable of speech. (Spotting the blood) "Is that your bike on the road outside"? I go to the door - a hundred yards away, a definitively written-off tangled mess of metal was lying abandoned in the middle of the road. It seems that the two Brits had come off their hire scooter with the assistance of an inconveniently placed lamppost (no other vehicle was involved fortunately), and staggered down the road to the nearest bar. They were so far gone they didn't even remember they had a bike in the first place.

The Thais have a word for farang behaviour of this type - roughly translated as 'uncivilised'. Some Westerners seem to think they are visiting a land of illiterate, impoverished, uneducated peasants living in wooden shacks, and can do as they please. In my book, and that of virtually all other expats I've met in Thailand (and France come to that), if civilisation means Big Macs, drunken yobs, mega million dollar city bonuses and financial crises ... you can keep it!

I give up on the match, and head off home. The only other goal was scored no sooner had I walked out of the door ...

1 comment:

Thai Girl said...

Thanks for this truly delightful blog and fabulous photos. I'm in Bangkok at the moment in an internet place but when home am going to have a good read.

Thanks also for the link to my blog, THAI GIRL and for your email. I read it and sadly lost it but can be contacted more safely at arhicks56@hotmail.com.

I'd love to contact you by email if you can give me your email address again..

Andrew Hicks