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Why I love Songkran – live from Australia!

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Why I love Songkran – live from Australia!

Songkran? Absolutely adore it. All that splashing, all that culture, out with the old in with the new and a mountain of respect.

Can’t get enough of it. Such a shame that for about the twentieth year in a row fate would have it that I had to fly out of the kingdom on some spurious business connected to playing an English board game. Still, I feel sure that most of the kingdom will still be in one piece when Wednesday comes and it might be safe to return. For now I shall
just have to make do with bone dry, 26 degree Perth and the tedium of the Australian National Scrabble Championships.

The sacrifices one makes! Yes, I have to admit that as far as Songkran and one or two other things in Thailand are concerned I subscribe to the view that if you can’t beat ‘em, beat it.

Fortunately in these days of instant access and internet I have been able to keep close tabs on all the latest accidents and Thais and foreigners behaving badly stories while enjoying my breakfast of yams and witchetty grubs.

And what a week of success it has been. With every passing day we were told there were no fatalities in Phuket with serious injury in such and such a province down 0.8% and pick-up fatalities on country roads between 3 and 3.05am showing only a minor increase.

Sorry, they can spin it any way they like there’s no fooling wily old Wooster unless you happen to be my long suffering wife. With all this success I was particularly aghast that the chief in Udon Thani was not out saving lives on his roads and instead had made tracks for the computer crime police to shout “defamation” about someone who said he was a rotten rozzer and other scurrilous chaps who compared him and his force using words “associated with a man’s
genitalia”.

I have lived a bit of a sheltered life but I guess that must be like Rooster being called a cock – something I had to stomach myself last week, chief, when some TV poster suggested that I only had one friend and was a childish, Thai basher who clearly had never bothered to learn Thai.

Thanks Philthyphil, but do you know me? You really ought to know the difference between what I write and what the TV posters put in their comments. And as far as bashing, you might have spotted “admire” and “Thais” in what us journalists call the same sentence. And thanks for posting the public information accident videos – I didn’t actually need the English subtitles – you see I paid attention in Thai class.

Indeed, defamation is no laughing matter especially when you are on the receiving end, though it is unlikely that the general PM will face a suit to add to his military fatigues after he called the Thais “gullible” for thinking that they could get a cut price Songkran trip to Japan by buying some food supplements.

Some 2,000 of his countrymen and women were left stranded as tourism minister Khun Kobkarn raced to Swampy to sort out the mess. She was probably secretly happy that the lack of departures meant less immigration bottlenecks.

When the lead fraudster, unbelievably called “Shogun”, said she was not guilty, I came over all gullible myself…just for a nanosecond you understand. “Yes”, Prayut screamed “Thais believe too easily”. Funny but several
of my acquaintances – yes I do have more than one Phil – don’t believe a single thing he says. And I always thought that one of Big Too’s redeeming features was that he actually gets irony. Clearly I was wrong.

Continuing to do the rounds of Thai social media was the story of the Pattaya woman who thought it quite alright to keep someone’s phone that she found on the counter at 7/11. She had tried to extort 5,000 baht from the rightful owner and when that failed she hung on to the iPhone 7. Now she intends to fight the matter in court but methinks that unless she has access to OJ Simpson’s legal team she may be on a hiding to nothing.

The case says a lot about certain attitudes but only from certain people – the great majority of Thais online are convinced that she is either a complete tool or is one tool short of a shedful. Either way I hope the judge hammers her. Songkran week had got off to a very happy start with news of a gay marriage between a Brit and a Thai man, though to read some of the forum posters you’d think they guzzle bottled misery rather than beer.

Here we had an obviously wealthy but deliriously happy foreign man marrying an intelligent restaurant manager he’d known for ages. Of course the dowry was mentioned – the Thais always do mention it, that’s what makes them Thai – but some of the posters expressed genuine outrage at the fact he parted with a million baht. Why the hell shouldn’t he? If it was a lot of money to him or wasn’t, whether he expected anything back or not, who’s business is that but his.

If nothing else, it reveals how poor the average TV misery-guts actually is. I’ve seen a dowry the mum couldn’t pick up because it was so heavy; seen dowries handed back; seen some where they really were needed for the family to settle debts. And having been married at least twice that I can think of in very different circumstances I would attest that the whole dowry issue is different strokes for different folks.

Some dismiss the dowry concept as somehow immoral – twaddle – get out there, open your eyes and smell the Thai roses.
There are many fragrant varieties. Unfortunately, a man who will be pushing them up rather than smelling them, was a 31 year old British man who fell naked from a guest house room above a go-go bar in Walking Street on Friday.

Police expressed surprise that a naked man should fall to his death in Pattaya which made me think they must have either been rookie officers or perhaps those volunteers one sees from New Zealand or some such backwater.

But one sincerely hopes that the family got the news before stumbling on the pictures, news and conspiracy theory comments on Thaivisa, though it would be hard to dress up such a demise with anything approaching respectability. And so back to Songkran for despite all of us having our strategies to either enjoy or avoid the festivities you can’t be anywhere online without being swamped by it. Still, it does have its funny side and I had to chuckle at the Bangkok force mobilizing 400 officers to monitor traffic.

Bless! They are not as dumb as I thought as it must have been a lovely week – if there is one thing you can set your Thai watch by it’s that the roads in Bangkok at Songkran are blissfully empty! Everyone has left for Buriram leaving it all to us! Of course a few of the cops may have nabbed a drunk driver or three which brings me on to the story about the man on the MRT who was denied boarding a train because he’d been drinking.

Indignantly, he informed the jobsworth guards who were arguing with him that he was taking the train precisely BECAUSE he had been drinking not wishing to endanger others by getting behind the wheel. Maybe the MRT people need to take a trip to Tokyo to see the state of some “salarymen” on the city’s networks and reassess why we have public transport.
And so to this week’s Rooster awards. “Poster of the Week” award goes to reliable forum wag “ratcatcher” who appealed to my punny-bone with his comment on the story that topless women in Krung Thep could face a 5,000 baht fine at Songkran if they behaved lewdly.

“Only in Bangkok?” he asked, “Would that make it a capital offense?” OK, I like puns, but I also have a soft spot for idiocy and what better prize can I give than the “Darwin Award For Services to the Gene Pool” to the driver who didn’t bother to wait for the train to pass at a crossing. The Bangkok to Hat Yai express had already passed up to its tenth carriage when he decided belligerently to force his way across with inevitable consequences. He lived, which I am happy about, but I do beg him to have a vasectomy just in case he thinks of celebrating his survival by making some
children. Of course, he may have just nodded off like the ambulance driver who came round with a start and crashed as the nurse next to him gave him a timely pinch.

The sight of an ambulance on its side as Songkran approached really gave me a sense of foreboding and a warm fuzzy feeling that I had that all important air-ticket to Perth Finally I would like to mention a Thai man who passed away suddenly this week who did not make the news pages.

Khun Amnuay Ploysangngam was the president of the Thailand Crossword Game club who for the last 31 years has tirelessly promoted English Scrabble, Thai Scrabble, Sudoku and many other board games and competitions that have inspired tens of thousands of Thai school children to enjoy and better themselves in weekend events up and down the kingdom in shopping centers. Under his auspices Thailand became an icon for crossword gaming worldwide and two of his proteges even became World Scrabble Champions, the first non-native speakers to do so. He was known and respected by thousands of non-Thais from Australia to Africa to Europe to North America.

I also count him as my closest personal friend, an honorable Thai who kindly and unreservedly opened the door to his country for me to go in. I did and I have never looked back.

Rooster

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