Coming 'home' to Thailand - ups and downs

The girls at Yin Yang massage in Loi Kroh, Chiang Mai. No customers, but still smiling!

After such a long break away from Thailand, I was feeling naively cheerful. The Thai Air flight from Zurich was two-thirds empty so we could stretch out in comfort. Arrived in Bangkok bang on time. The taxi touts thankfully ignored us as we wandered around the airport before heading to domestic departures.

The Bangkok Air flight to Chiang Mai was a mere 40 minutes late which was pretty good in comparison to previous experiences. I withdrew some cash with my Thai bank debit card, left it in the machine, only realised what I'd done 24 hours later... but after a few minutes' panic and a dash to the local bank, discovered that no one had managed to withdraw a fortune in the meantime. I felt good, and was sure I'd got away without contracting swine flu.

Everything was going great.

Then the dreaded lurgy struck. Thankfully not the H1N1 version, but a pretty mean competitor, the way I felt for the next week. Blogging was out of the question, but the mai pen rai approach was working well. It still felt good to be back.

The smiles are still there. Chiang Mai may be dead, bars closing, restaurants struggling, hotels almost empty, monsoon rains coming down... but the Thais carry on smiling. There's a knack to it, I'm sure.


Everything was going 'swimmingly'... or so I thought. Then the body blow...

The new tenants of part of my home in France cleverly decided to use my swimming pool, without my permission (it was empty when I left, awaiting repairs). They decided to part-fill it, and long before it reached a safe level, held a party. A 17 year old (guest) dived in, crushed some neck vertebrae, nearly died, is in an induced coma for some ops, but before losing consciousness had no sensation in arms or legs. The prognosis is not good.

So that's why I haven't been blogging since bouncing back from the bug. It's touch and go whether I shall have to return to France, at least for a while, to try to sort things out. It sometimes amazes me how mind-bogglingly stupid people can be.

The mai pen rai attitude doesn't quite work for this situation. I'm desperately sorry for the kid involved, even if I don't know him from Adam. But I have to say I'm bl..dy annoyed too - I've barely been here a fortnight, and I'm looking at an unscheduled flight home. Unlike Thailand France is drowning in red tape, not quite American-style on the legal front, but heading that way. This story will run for a long while yet.

In an effort to remain cheerful, some more Thai smiles, this time from last Friday's 'Big Buddha Day' celebrations in Chiang Mai. My wife2b regularly tells me that a BBD is in the offing - I've never really taken in what they're all about. But don't the Thais just love them, going to extraordinary and intricate lengths to decorate the floats and people in the parade...


However 'Big Buddha Days' do have certain disadvantages. For no sooner than Friday's celebrations are over, I discover on the point of going out for a quick beer that both today and Wednesday are also BBDs, with bars (those that bother to stay open) not being allowed to sell alcohol. Not ideal for a tourist industry that's already suffering!

Rows of empty barstools at Chiang Mai's Number 1 Bar...

It looks like I'll just have to go out and drown my sorrows in nam som ... ;-)

["nam som" = orange juice]

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32 comments:

Martyn said...

Peter I'm sorry to read about the bad news from France but if there is one place in the world to receive such news then at least your sat in it. I'm glad to see you are keeping your chin up and from here on things will hopefully improve, keep smiling and best wishes from the UK.

Mike said...

Oh dear Peter! Glad you are fully recovered from your bug, such are the joys of intercontinental air travel swine flu or not.

As for the incident in France, I can understand your concerns and hope that it comes to a satisfactory conclusion for all concerned.

Anyway welcome back to Thailand, she is still the same. Same old same old! Plenty to blog about when you have the time I am sure.

Siam.Rick said...

Yikes, I love that bar. That's Bar No. 1, eh? On Loh Kroh soi 1?

When I visited CM three years ago I went there every night with a pair of American brothers and a German pal. I don't think we missed a single night.

Where are all the staff? Off camera, I guess. Oh, well, probably all different anyway. I miss Da, skinny, tall lass who worked behind the bar and was No. 1 Connect Four champ. Hahahaha.

Anyway, FB, sorry to hear of your travails in France. Hope it doesn't get all balled up in lawyers, courts and francs!

Chok dee!
rick

hobby said...

Glad you are back on line - We've missed you.
Sorry to hear of your troubles - I suppose you can try to get some comfort from the old adage:
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger"

Incidents like the swimming pool accident are so common with young people, and it just seems like a lottery that most of us survive that sort of stupidity, when a few unlucky ones can be maimed for life, or worse.
Hopefully the young person involved makes a good recovery.

I did enough stupid things when young that logically there is no way I should be still here now to tell the story.
As a parent you wish there was some way to instill a sense of safety (common sense) into teenagers, but it seems whatever a parent teaches is soon forgotten when the child is out having 'fun' with his/her peers.
Its an age old problem, and despite introducing laws to make things safer, its impossible to enforce a law against stupidity.

Its hard to imagine how you could be liable for the stupidity of others in such circumstances, but its unfortunate that you may have to incur air fare & legal costs to prove that point - hopefully sanity prevails.

The FrogBlogger said...

Cheers Martyn, it's good to be back, yes this is definitely the place to be. Chins and smile firmly glued back in place. Mike, same same but different eh, I wondered if I would get a greater impression of concern from the Thais 6 months further into the economic problems, but not at all. That's definitely a knack worth having. Siam Rick Thanks for dropping by, been reading your blog more and more recently by the way, great stuff. Yes that's the Number 1 Bar off Loi Kroh, the new bar directly opposite across the soi from the old place you'll remember. They got it going just as the recession started to bite combined with the political problems, really bad timing I reckon because a smaller clientele is split between two places as a result. Don't remember a Da, but there's still a Sa, a La, an Aa, and Na only left recently ! :D Very few girls left from three years ago, possibly only one even - you might remember 'Avon'. hobby, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger", sounds like a philosophical Western version of "mai pen rai". Pity too few of us take heed of such wisdom. A Vietnamese Zen buddhist wrote "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." I wonder if that is partly what helps Thais to be more philosophical about things than Westerners.

As for France, lawyers have the knack (and incentive) to make things as complicated as possible, so I'm prepared for the worst. It's true that many of us have done some crazy things in our youth, I'm far more angry with the adult in charge. Who in their right mind would allow a bunch of hormone-infused late teens in full macho phase loose in a half-empty swimming pool without even having permission to be there in the first place. Still what's happened has happened, move on, and all that...

Malcolm and CieJay Burgess said...

Peter,Glad you're back in the LOS and know you are too, sorry you picked up a bug ,but glad you are feeling better . What amess things can be ,when you are not even at home .
You'll never believe it ,but just this mrning my neighbors 1 year old grandkid fell in my pond in my front yard ,thankfully she heard him yelling ,I was still sleeping and ran and pulled him out , wet and scared really bad , I have ask them lots of times to watch their kids and if they wanted to to make a bambo grid to put over my pond when the kids are there , Mai Pen Rai is the answer , we are always watching our kids NO PROBLEM , now there seems to be a problem and my wife is afraid another will fall in and the neighbors ,did not say it , but looks tell me that I am to blame for having a beautiful pond with water fall and plants and flowers all around it , sooooo I am faced with a WHAT DO I DO . will decide later on today after laying in the hammock and listening to the peaceful sounds of the water flowing over the rocks and cascadeing down the small ,but beautiful waterfall .
Glad you are back ,hope things pick up for the businesses up there ,but as they say "don't hold your breath" Malcolm

Catherine said...

Pete, we have indeed missed you around here. Here's hoping that you won't have to make the long trek back to France and their cumbersome legal system.

No country is pleasant when it comes to wading through anything to do with law and such, but the French are awfully fond of extracting their pounds of paperwork. For most anything.

The FrogBlogger said...

Malcolm, a friend of mine lost his one-year-old grandson in his pool in the UK in a similar way, you can never be too careful. I actually told that story to the tenant of my place in France before I left for Thailand, but it seems to have not affected his actions since. I hope you find the right answer for your situation. "Don't wait until it's too late" seems more apt than mai pen lai, as sayings go, in the circumstances!

Thanks, good to be back...

catherine pounds of paperwork is just what I don't need right now, but things will just have to take their course.

I've a lot of catching up to do with three weeks away from the blogs, look forward to some good reading!

Talen said...

Pete, Very sorry to hear about your trouble back home...hopefully it can be resolved quickly and maybe without a trip back.

I hope you can find your Thai smile and relax for a while before you have to tend to the matters back home.

Perhaps the fix for the pool should be filling it in with concrete...

Jon said...

Peter - just staggering how thick some people can be. I don't envy you the inevitable paperwork, but you should at least be able to spend a decent amount of time down south before the French legal machine creeks into action. Good luck with it.

The FrogBlogger said...

Jon - the family used that pool for several months every year for 15 years, with babies, toddlers through to teens, without so much as a broken fingernail. The tenant used it for one hour, illegally, and someone is likely to be in a wheelchair for life as a result. Every year that passes you think you've seen it all, but there just seems to be no limit to stupidity.

talen, I personally built a 1m60 wall around the pool, complete with locked entrance gate. Perhaps I need to set broken glass along the top, but then being France I would probably be sued if an intruder cut himself... that's what annoys me about the nanny state in the likes of the UK, people simply aren't encouraged to take responsiblity for their actions.

Bangkok Blogger said...

Leaving an ATM card in the machine is easy done ! You are not alone :)

Catherine said...

'No customers, but still smiling!'

I wonder just how long the smiles will last out here. It is truly a worry.

I often look at my security cameras, my door alarms, and the lazer alarm outside. And wonder if I should start turning the darn things on.

Nahh...

Ben Shingleton said...

Dear o dear Pete... Feel sorry for the kid, a tad daft though, diving into a half filled swimming pool.. Sounds like Darwin in effect.

Not your fault.

Hope it all works out and the boy gets better .... Chok Dee Kub.

hobby said...

Hopefully your lack of a Net presence is a sign that you are busy having a good time in CM, and not being hassled by matters in France, or elsewhere.

All the best.

The FrogBlogger said...

Hobby - Yes and no, being extremely hassled by events in France, but desperately attempting to have a good time anyway!

BB - first time for me, lucky to have got away with it, was panicking for a while...

Catherine - The swine flu concerns are having a big effect in Chiang Mai, it's clear that people are beginning to avoid markets, cinemas, restaurants... none of this is going to help slow the 'crime wave' people are talking about. I would start turning your alarms on!

Ben - I'm convinced there is such a thing as 'reverse evolution', something along the lines of those t-shirts we see everywhere in the night bazaars...

Joy said...

FB: how do u like CM?:-) Hope u stop by Prachathai English or New Mandala sometimes and post yr comments there. Looking forward to reading yr comments, esp at Prachatai.:-)

The FrogBlogger said...

Chiang Mai's the same as ever, perhaps more polluted - or am I imagining it. Great place.

I'll be back, As Arnie once said... but there have been a few 'contretemps' recently!

Joy said...

I agree abt the pollution issue..too bad, I personally want CM to have effective train and bus system, and some sort of ban of private cars and motorbikes.. and more serious law enforcement that helps increase the safety of pedestrians. You have encountered a few contretemps??????with local people?? sorry for being too curious (aka nosey hehehe:-) )

hobby said...

Sorry to hear you are still having problems.

Its my first time in CM, but I agree there's a lot of pollution, especially on the main roads (although today, Thursday, the roads seemed quieter for some reason, and therefore less pollution)

btw, I see the ads for blues bars on your twitter, so I would like to put in a plug for Chai's Blues House out on the Wat Umong road (Suthep 4) Suthep Rd - highly recommended (by me:)

The FrogBlogger said...

Joy, I just wish there were more motivated people to tackle particularly Thai problems that are arising in areas of rapid development like Chiang Mai - the lack of proper town planning especially, compounded by the likes of corruption, etc.

As for the 'contretemps', I paid 6 months rental up front for a property in town before coming back to Thailand, having been promised faithfully that the property development next door (same owner) would be finished well before I arrived. Of course it was not, and we've had a month of constant noise, dirt and pollution since :-(

hobby, read about Chai on TV a couple of months back, have been meaning to give it a visit. It had good reviews bar one.

Joy said...

FB, you have my sympathy..it's frustrating indeed. I find downtown Chiangmai too hot and congested most of the time. At CMU, we have more trees and shade but there are still lots of motorbikes and cars, so there is obviously pollution on campus( as well as off campus). My place, however, is a bit far from main roads and there are lots of big trees all around so I get decent tranquility and do not have to suffer that much from noise or air pollution.

The FrogBlogger said...

Sounds nice Joy. I'm seriously thinking about abandoning this place (and the money for 6 months) to find somewhere further out; quiet, trees, fresh air! It's not just the dust and noise from the building work, I've also got a full-blast-karaoke-at-midnight-loving neighbour who gets into fights with the others living nearby when they complain, and seems to be drunk most of the time. Not forgetting what seems to be more than my fair share of soi dogs barking away all night!

Joy said...

FB, recently a friend of mine wanted to buy a private house so I accompanied her to a number of villages (still within Chiangmai city but in nice/quiet/safe locations (IMO)) . Why dont u buy a house in this sort of village instead? ( But if u want to go the city/CMU u have to drive around 15-20 mins , depending on which village u choose ..some of the villages are in Maerim ...well..now I sort of forgot their locations but I can ask around if u want to get more info..However, the houses are for sale..You just want to rent, right?

The FrogBlogger said...

Joy, at the moment I would only be interested in renting as I shall have to spend at least six months a year in France until 2012...

Joy said...

I u like, I can ask around for nice house(?) or apartment? for rent (maybe not so far from the city)? Once a friend mentioned one place but i forgot the name. What price ranges are u interested in? And u want somewhere quiet, safe and relatively free from pollution right? I will go out for a farewell dinner with friends and I think one or more of them might know of nice rental accomodation around here.

Thai Girl said...

So sorry to hear about your troubles,most of all the awful accident. I can't think how any lawyers (even French ones) could put the blame on you. Though I wonder if your insurance might cover accidents on site.

Cat and I made it down to see friends in the Charente and the Correze before revisiting the village in the Morbihan where I had a house for ten years.

I thought of you when we were at our most southerly but France is a big country!

My "Thai Girl" blog went quiet when we were away but we're back in our Surin village now and posting again.

Hang in there!

Andrew Hicks

Wotchit321 said...

God, they say there's someone having a worse time of it than you and they're right. Pete, I'm afraid it's your turn to be bottom of the heap. Look on the bright side, things can only go up (surely?)

The FrogBlogger said...

Wotchit, who knows how things will turn out tomorrow... but one tbing's for sure, there are many MANY people having a far tougher time of it than I, right now!!

As for the young lad involved in the accident, he died from his injuries.

I hope to get back to blogging soon(ish)... time will tell :-)

Joy said...

looking forward to yr new blog post:-)

Frances said...

Hi Pete,
Just wondering how things are going. I was really sorry to hear about what happened to the guest at the party you didn't hold. Really hope things are going well for you. Looking forward to your next blog post.
All best wishes from France,
Frances

Vacation Deals said...

smile though your heart is aching.

it really brings a positive aura when a person smile despite of problems...
smile... if you just smile..