Published: August 8th 2007April 22nd 2007 Bangkok - Khon Kaen
My first impressions of Bangkok can be found in the blog "Introducing the Bangkok And Southern Thailand Academy of Rip-offs, Deviousness and Scams". But actually, if you stay away from the hideous Khoa San Road area, this is a nice place to be with people who greet you with a smile rather than contempt.
I read an article on the BBC website the other day that made me do a great big HAH HAH laugh.
Apparently, fluffy song poodle Sheryl Crow has gone on an environmental awareness campaign that includes touring in a biodiesel-powered bus. Very worthy I’m sure. But what got me sniggering into my fair-trade iced mocha-choca-diddly-bopper was her climate changing thoughts on loo roll consumption: "I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting…” says Sheryl. At this point she must have been asked to come up with some meat for the bones of this heart-in-the-right-place idea because she goes on to suggest: “…only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required".
There are so many scenario’s flipping like pancakes in the frying pan of my mind right now. I’m not even going to address the problem of whether one square is enough for even lesser-pesky moments, or whether the type of paper used should be standardized - what I want to know is how Sheryl proposes this be policed? If there are to
Limpini Park, Bangkok
Peace in the city... well, not entirely, but its a nice enough park so we spent an afternoon here eating chicken and people watching.
be restroom attendants handing out paper - will you have to declare that your visit is one of those “pesky occasions”? If so, are they going to keep track of how many “pesky occasions” you have so that your quota isn’t exceeded?
DESPERATE MAN: “Er, yes - in a bit of a hurry… it’s one of those dash-darn pesky occasions again I’m afraid…”
TOILET ROLL TALIBAN: “This is your fourth pesky occasion today sir.”
DESPERATE MAN: “Yes…er…dodgy curry last night; you know how it is.”
TOILET ROLL TALIBAN: “Of course sir, I’m sure I do, but do you have a curry exemption voucher which entitles you to five squares per visit?”
DESPERATE MAN: “Er…no. Should I?”
TOILET ROLL TALIBAN: “Oh yes, sir. Take your curry receipt to your doctors surgery to receive your voucher”.
DESPERATE MAN: “Right… But, you know - it kind of crept up on me. I mean I didn’t really have time to make a doctors appointment”.
TOILET ROLL TALIBAN: “In that case sir, I’m afraid, under Sheryls Law 3.4a, I will issue you with this final square of paper.”
DESPERATE MAN: “One square!? Bu..!”
TOILET ROLL TALIBAN: “Sir, if you wish, you may complete this
Massive Monitor Lizard, Limpini Park, Bangkok
These beasts of the deep live around the lake in Limpini Park. Not realising that these animals lived here, when it dragged its full 1.5 metres out of the water infront of me my thoughts turned to something along the lines of "who the hell do I call to report giant mutant crocodiles living in the lake!?"
form - sections A through Y which allows you to use your next weeks quota in one sitting - so to speak.”
DESPERATE MAN: “Look - I am really very desperate… Can’t I just…”
TOILET ROLL TALIBAN: “The law is very clearly laid out by Sheryl Almighty sir. No exceptions.”
DESPERATE MAN: “There must be somethi…”
TOILET ROLL TALIBAN: “One square or complete the form sir…”
DESPERATE MAN: “Oh Christ! Give me the form!”
TOILET ROLL TALIBAN: “Oi!! Where are you going with that! Come back ‘ere! Stop that man!”
DESPERATE MAN: “Oh heaven! Sections A to G is five sheets of A4 alone!”
DESPERATE MAN’S 11 YR OLD DAUGHTER: Muuummm! Dad’s become a fugitive from the Loo Roll Law and locked himself in the bathroom again!”
But let’s be fair to Sheryl. She clearly wants to make a difference in the world but hasn’t really given her world changing ideas much brain-time. Shoot and darnation.
I can relate to how she feels. I mean, physically, relating to someone who clearly has a bottom the size of a small rodents is always going to be difficult; but on that higher plain of charitable intentions, Sheryl and I are
This one's just for you Joan.
strumming the same stringless guitar.
On the train journey from Nong Khai to Bangkok a few weeks ago it occurred to me that courtesy of the worlds rail systems and their unsavoury way of dealing with waste, there is now a trail of my DNA stretching a good distance round the globe. I’m quite tempted to hide somewhere and see if the bloke with the ultra violet torch from CSI can find me.
But I want my travels to have more meaning than just a trail of jobbies. I want to make a difference too.
It is for this reason that we contacted Mercy International to enquire about volunteering at their home for children affected by HIV in Khon Kaen, north-eastern Thailand.
The idea of visiting Khon Kaen for a spot of feel-good-about-ourselves charity work, came from reading an excellent blog by a couple who have recently done a very similar journey to us but have been blessed with the ability to write readable and thoroughly educational blogs that don’t rely on toilet humor in the slightest. I suggest, therefore, that if you wish to learn something about traveling and the strange exotic countries we’ve
Stevie Wonder/Elton John, On Nut (appropriately), Bangkok
Susie's ENORMOUS comedy sunglasses provided us with hours of entertainment. I've never sung so many Elton John songs. This is Vik doing her impression of Stevie Wonder flossing his teeth on the night he won a Grammie.
been visiting, rather than feeling compelled to read about Sheryl Crow’s bathroom habits, Dal and Ab’s blog is for you.
Mercy International is essentially a Christian charity and I have always had a bit of a problem with religion and tend to think of it as a divisive rather than charitable entity. Religion promotes bigotry. Religion starts wars. Religion creates extremism. And Religion ruined the weekend. Saturdays were great when I was little - you could settle down infront of the telly with your burger, beans and chips and watch “Catchphrase” followed by “The A-Team”. On Sundays though it was carrots and brussel sprouts in front of “Antiques Roadshow” (which I could just about live with) followed by bloomin’ “Songs of Praise”. I mean who in their right mind would schedule a programme like “Songs of Praise” for peak time on a Sunday evening? No, religion never redeemed itself in my eyes.
I remember when “Songs of Praise” came to our home town. Usually on a busy Sunday, in a town of sinners like Fort William, I imagine the Duncansborough Church would get a congregation of three or four down and outs looking for some potato soup and
The Best Food Hall in the World?, Siam Paragon Centre, Bangkok
The food in the supermarket in the basement is top quality and surprisingly inexpensive. This is also the home of Ocean World which has real live mermaids. Watch them frolic and enjoy the popcorn.
a pew to sleep in. But as soon as there’s the possibility of getting on the telly, suddenly the whole town’s rife with born again Christians. Clearly nobody knew the words to any of the hymns. As the camera panned round the crowd during “Jerusalem”, it was clear most people knew the chorus, but then sang anything they could get away with during the verse - which was mainly just “nah, nah, nah”. Only one of the down and outs made it into the church that day, and on the telly it looks like he’s singing like Pavarotti, when really he’s trying to find out where the bloody soup is.
Thankfully my experience with Mercy International was a positive one. The tambourine playing and crucifixion talk was kept fairly low-key and I never saw a single picture of God, Jesus or David Ike. But what was really important was that the kids seemed to be thriving in their environment.
Its not how I imagined it would be. I think when I thought of a Children’s Home I pictured bars on the windows, large matrons with arms like a sailors and the tattoos to match; tin bed pans, mutton
Dead Animals, Fire and Greasy Streets? Chinatown, Bangkok
If there are dead animals hanging from every stall, the streets are narrow and coated with a thick layer of grease and somebody somewhere is burning something - you know you're in Chinatown. Much like the real China, if you can cope with the frantic pace, the dirt and the smells, then you'll love it. I did.
stew and cold stone floors. Much like my own childhood but with less Madonna and Wings.
It wasn’t like that at all. It was exactly as it should be. It was exactly what all kids need. It was a home. A proper home, but with a few more brothers and sisters to play with.
The girl who met us when we arrived had been a volunteer for six years. She only meant to stay for a few months but found it hard to leave - even though the place has loads of doors. It is clear that the volunteers, who are a mixture of Thai and Westerner’s are very much attached to the children.
The home was built to cater for children with HIV, who it was thought would not survive past their tenth birthday’s, but as a testimony to the success of the place, they now have an issue with what to do with the group of teenagers they look after.
We were told that it was a relaxed place and that volunteers came and went as they pleased and that we should just play with the children. Great, thought I and immediately immersed myself
Sunset on the Chao Praya River, Bangkok
The Chao Praya runs right through the heart of Bangkok providing the coolest transport system in any Asian city - the Water Taxi. Its cheap, efficient and just as good as any of the tours. Working out which stop you need to get off at can be tricky though.
in several games of chasing, human climbing frame, pelt the tall man with water bombs and hide and seek.
Three hours later I was so knackered my legs wouldn’t work properly and my mouth tasted of balloons (I only ate a few). I’d managed to wear out most of the more confident kids who’d started playing as soon as they saw I had fairly much the same mental age as they did, but now the shy kids - fresh with energy and water bombs wanted to play too.
Fortunately I was saved by the call to dinner. We joined the kids for dinner, but I needed to lie down and sleep before somebody else demanded I carry them round the garden. As it stood the most likely candidate for this was Vikki, who after several marathon games of balloon hitting was dead on her feet as well. After dinner and an impromptu photography class (the results of which were mainly fingerprints on the lens) me and the wife went back to our guesthouse and slept until 3pm the next day.
As much as we’d enjoyed it, we didn’t feel like we were actually helping. It’s easy to
entertain kids for a few hours, and with forty of them in the house, they are fairly much used to entertaining themselves. But we’d readied ourselves for work. We wanted to do something - to feel like we were doing something that made a difference - even if it was just for a day or two.
When we went back two days later, we tried to involve ourselves in the chores that you’d expect in any home - dishes, laundry… (that’s all I know actually…), but there was nothing to be done. It was the school holidays and the kids had a rota for doing the chores themselves. They didn’t need any help - the house fairly much ran itself. So we played for a few hours, but again felt that all we were achieving was new levels of exhaustion!
While we had a huge amount of fun, we just couldn’t see what the kids were getting out of it other than an unusually tall person to climb on and a world class “balloon” player. This made me wonder if I was being selfish - did I just want to do this whole volunteering thing because it would
Tears before Bedtime, Suvarnabhumi Airport's International Departures, Bangkok
After three weeks of surviving the smell from my feet and being mentally scarred by witnessing me parading around in my pants - Susie went home. Vik cried for two days. She'd forgotten what it was like to have real conversation.
make me feel good about myself - give our journey a bit of “meaning” - or did I actually want to help?
But having thought about it, I’m not sure that I can separate the two. I don’t deny that I would get a personal satisfaction from knowing that I had done something good - no matter how small or insignificant that help may be, but at the same time I DO want to help by giving something back to the world for letting me smear my DNA this far across it.
But how do you decide what worthy cause to give your time or money too? Is one person or group more needy than the next?
I’ll bet Sheryl wonders the same thing. As she sits in her tour bus planning how to change the world, she decides to start with the basics - with the things close to home. With the things she knows a bit about. So is she is suggesting we cut down on the number of squares of toilet paper we use because she genuinely wants to help the planet or does she just want everyone to know what a little bottom
she has? Either way, someone should put her out of her misery - tell her the world’s dying anyway so she might as well wipe herself properly. Dirty monkey.
In her own distorted words:
“All I Wanna do is wipe my bum,
I’ve got the feelin’ I’ll need more than one [square]
There are more photos below