I was blessed with my dad’s sense of humour – “you’d laugh if your bum was on fire” – my mum would snarl at him, in times of anger and frustration.
Perhaps because of this I have found travelling in Asia a wonderful source of hilarity. However at times, it has been a double edged sword. There is a direct correlation between the mirth factor and the frustration factor. When a funny situation arises one will often find oneself thinking ‘only in Thailand’ – as you shake your head and try to stave off anger or frustration.
I have learnt by experience that it is usually better to diffuse a potentially nasty situation by trying to see the funny side and keep smiles on faces all around.
I remember coming out of the Bow Guesthouse on soi 7 near Thapie Gate in Chiang Mai. It looked as if some dude had ended up on the wrong side of an angry tour-guide. They were shouting at each other like wild Banshees – I guess in that situation there probably wasn’t much the poor hapless Farang felt like laughing about. Only for the fact that his wise better-half dragged him off by the scruff, that it didn’t turn into a brawl.
However most times there is a lot to smile about!!
“Just one moment please”
This has to be my most enduring all time favourite source of mirth in Asia. I have heard it said in so many different countries, in so many places by so many different people – but the way it is used never ceases to amuse me.
If the situation is relaxed and congenial you will normally get the full version – “Just one moment please”. If the situation is a bit tense or rushed you will get “One moment please”. If it is said through clenched teeth you will get the abbreviated version “moment”. All three versions mean exactly the same thing!!
Let my clarify that – except for the odd exception when it can be taken literally – methinks none of the locals knows what the hell it means!!
The office girl will fumble around for your receipt or keys as you wait at reception – and you actually will only wait a few moments – however from then on it is all downhill.
Many is the time I have stood there waiting while frustrated workers fumbled around mumbling “just one moment please”. After a lengthy wait, while they tried to sort out whatever was of concern at the time, another worker outranking the subordinate would come over and say “One moment please”. Finally the boss of the whole shebang would be dragged into the situation and would come shuffling over and through clenched teeth mutter my favourite word “moment”!!
The greatest length of time I have ever waited was when I hitched up with a Dolly-Bird in Pattaya. Being a non-drinker and too miserable to pay the bar fine – I thought I would throw myself into the fray and take my chances with the aids-sodden Wenches on the beach strip. After a suitable fee was negotiated I dragged the not very enthusiastic looking Bird off to my Guesthouse. After the necessary pleasantries and ablutions I headed off to the cot with hope in my heart and a surging in my loins. However there were a few major problems that I had overlooked.
Firstly I was new at this game and had not learnt the rules of philandering. Secondly I had already paid her the 1,000Bht. Finally, the Guesthouse had a toilet away from the bedroom and near another exit.
She told me she was slipping off to the loo and as she disappeared out the door I heard the very familiar refrain. Fortunately for me I got the full version – probably because she knew what was coming – “Just one moment please”. ……………………………. I am still waiting – I never laid eyes on her again!#$%^&
Another time I was travelling on the bus from Pattaya to Bangkok (before I wised up to hiring a taxi) – when the old girl broke down. We were only about one hour out of Pattaya when she gave a few lurches, spluttered a bit and ground to an unceremonious halt. The driver – being the consummate professional that he was – grabbed the biggest mother spanner I have ever laid eyes on. As he struggled down the steps I heard the now famous catchphrase – “Just one moment please”.
………………Four and a half hours later the replacement bus arrived from Bangkok!#%^!
Geography has no bearing on the frequency to which one may be exposed to this phrase. I have been in the absolute back-blocks all the way from Northern Thailand to Cambodia and Lao. Places where the locals speak no English. Places where I was the only Farang for days at a time. Places where, by the collective looks on the faces of the locals I was a rarity. However it wasn’t long before I heard the words rattling from the mouths of selected individuals – “Just one moment please”!!
So next time you don the Sarong and whack on the sandals get ready for the most frustrating/hilarious saying in the LOS – which will cover every situation from toilet time out to that long frustrating wait in line at the Immigration office – “Just one moment please”!!
This has to be the most inexplicable, bewilderingly funny tale to emanate from the LOS for a very long time. In fact I am even more confused now than when I first posed the question – so if anybody can enlighten me please go ahead – I will be forever indebted to you.
It actually involves my girlfriend Princess (Not the Princess of Dana fame!#$%^!~). Let me explain.
For those who read my first submission ‘Love and Assault in Chiang Mai’, you will remember that I brought Princess to Sydney Christmas last. Thais do not get lengthy holidays as we do in the West. As a recent graduate, she obtained a very good position at the Kasikorn bank in Chiang Mai. Unfortunately she had to resign from the position in order to come to Australia.
As we are going to travel together this year, starting in December, we thought it not expedient for her to have to go through the rigmarole of getting another full-time position, only to have to resign again. She is now working in a casual position in Maerim, near where she lives.
As she is only getting 30Bht per hour I felt somewhat obliged to subsidise her income. At least to make up the difference between what she now gets per month to what she was getting at the Bank. I decided to pay her some ‘take care’ every month until December. This should see her in good stead until the time we can be together.
Princess being the entrepreneur that she is showed initiative and asked to have all the ‘take care’ in one hit. Having recently graduated from Uni she has many friends and contacts who are still studying. She said she had discovered an untapped resource – many rich kids who are too lazy or inept to type their own assignments. She bought a computer and printer with the money, works her day job and types for 10 Bht per page in the evening. She now has a thriving little business.
However this is where the total bewilderment of yours truly kicks in. Here is an example of a typical phone conversation with Princess of late.
Dumb Farang – “Hi darling, how is the business going”?
Princess – “Yes good, I very busy now”
DF – “That’s great sweetie, I am glad it is all going well”
P – “Yes I have to go soon to do the lesearch (research)”
DF – “Oh student he not write the assignment yet”?
P – “No, man write the leport (report) alleady”
DF – “So if you have the report already what do you have to research”?
P – “Have to lesearch to do the tarp (typing)”
DF – “Darling if you research and write the assignment that is called plagiarism and it’s illegal”
P – “How can be illegal, man he write the leport alleady”
DF – “What the hell’s a report”?
P – “Same you call assignment”
DF – “Well go and type it”
P – “No – have to lesearch for the tarp”
DF – “Well if the student has done the research and he’s written the bloody assignment why the hell can’t you go and type it”?
P – “Have to do the lesearch for the tarp”
DF – “Research what”?
P – “Lesearch the information so can do the tarp”
DF – “Ok, (here’s me trying to calm down and look as if I have got a handle on this whole wretched confusing Thai thing all along), so if you have to do more research that means the assignment is incomplete. Why did you say man has finished already”?
P – “Yes man he write Leport alleady”
DF – “WELL IF MAN WRITE ASSIGNMENT ALREADY GO AND TYPE THE WRETCHED THING”!$^
P – “No dulleeng – have to do the lesearch before can do the tarp”
DF – “Research what pray tell”?
P – “The information for the tarp”
DF – “What information”
P – “The information to tarp the leport”
DF – “!#$%^*!”
Now I’m not sure about you, but when I went to Uni if the assignment was finished that meant all of the research was complete. Finished, end of story, finito. Grab the computer, rattle the keys a little and hey presto, one complete assignment.
I can’t for the life of me think what the hell Princess has left to do before she can type some idiot’s assignment. She said it’s all done and finished so what on earth is there left to research? I thought she may have to find out information to set up the computer and printer so it’s all working – not so. I asked her that and all is ready to go!!
I even found myself of late rummaging around trying to find the original copy of my B.Ed. It has been a while now and apparently I am so inherently stupid that I am beginning to wonder if perhaps they dished it out just to get rid of me.
I have yet to start mumbling in my Weetbix or wiping copious amounts of slobber from my chin – I haven’t started going loopy – so what on earth is happening?
Up until recently I lived in Chiang Mai for two years. I know the poor hapless Farang is usually about three steps behind what is actually happening around him. The locals have him feeling like King Dick but in reality he is viewed with about the same amount of status as the local village idiot. I lived there – I know these things. But tell me – what the hell could be so hard about a girl sitting down and typing out a bloody assignment? I feel like jumping on a plane and going over there just to get the answer to this riddle.
Nowadays when folk ask me what Princess does for a living I tell them she is a research fellow at the take long time to do the ‘tarp’ school of business!
When I first started my ventures into Asia, a couple of my well travelled friends gave me a slight hint as to what I might expect regarding the toilet scene. All they said was “carry toilet paper with you – there is never any in the loos over there”.
Just on the toilet paper issue – I think I discovered the scoop of the century. I actually found what happens to it. I was initially naive and thought that they had never heard of it or couldn’t afford it – not so. I discovered it in restaurants reinvented as paper napkins.
They pull out the centre cardboard roll and discard that. They then shove it into a plastic dispenser and pull the centre end through the top. Hey presto – paper napkins. My comment is if they can buy it to wipe the top end, why the hell can’t they supply it wipe the other end????
Back to the toilets. I have been ‘enthroned’ on every contraption imaginable – from Koh Penang to Yangon – most of them defy description.
My most memorable sanitary experience was on the boat from Batambong to Siem Reap in Cambodia. The journey itself was enough to leave one scarred for life, without factoring in the ‘dunny’.
I was a bit late arriving to catch the boat so I was allocated to the roof. Incidentally, if you take this journey don’t fall asleep on the roof like yours truly did – I almost came to grief.
As our journey proceeded, the waterway became more and more narrow. On many occasions the captain had to steer the boat near to the side in order to negotiate some of the obstacles, or find the deepest channel. I was snoozing away on top of the boat completely oblivious to this. Suddenly I felt a firm hand on my shoulder shaking me from my pleasant slumber. I heard the Farang saying in a slightly alarmed tone “watch out mate”. My eyes opened just in time to see a huge branch bearing down upon me. I dived down out of the way and just missed getting swiped into the flotsam.
As the captain neared the starboard bank, the boat had gone under a huge tree with an overhanging branch. It happened several times again on the journey – just a trap for young players to be wary of!
However, I digress. The toilet on this baby had to be the worst I had ever been confronted with. The engine was aft of the cubical that housed the toilet. Actually cubical is being kind – it was just a few bits of rusty tin tacked around a frame. The door wouldn’t close properly and the ‘stew’ from previous visits was floating around the floor. I had wondered how people’s aim could be so awry, however I was about to find out first hand!!
The fumes from the nearby engine were being channelled straight into the cubical. The idea was was to leap in, lean against the door and at the same time, disrobe. All the while one had to hold ones breath for as long as possible. Breathing was a health hazard and would lead to dizziness and nausea.
This happened when I first began travelling in Asia. Nobody had told me that you had to take your shoes off everywhere in Thailand. I ended up over there with long pants and big lace-up hiking boots – can you imagine. I should have taken them off before going into ‘action’ – but I didn’t want to tromp around in the ‘stew’ with bare feet.
So here I am trying to balance on one foot whilst taking off my boot. Forgive me for all the details because there is such a thing as ‘too much information’. However certain details are necessary to give the appropriate mental picture.
I had to take the duds right off or they would be getting sloshed whilst I was engaged in ‘action’. As I was strategically balanced on one foot with the boot almost dislodged – the boat gave a lurch to the side as we hit rough waters. I was catapulted off balance and bashed against the wall. At the same time my foot (now minus the boot) shot into the hole where everybody was supposed to be aiming. With the shock of all of this I was forced to gulp a huge gasp of the polluted miasma.
My head was now reeling from the stench of the ‘floaties’ clinging to my socks and the toxins from the diesel fumes. All along I had been trying to hold the door shut but not making a very good job of it. I decided to opt for taking my chances with holding off until I made it to shore. Like a whipped dog I quickly pulled myself together and sauntered out the door – boot in hand. From the collective looks on the faces of the locals I had just provided them with the wildest show on earth. Welcome to ablutions Asian style!#
The most hilarious, bizarre and memorable experience regarding ‘the deed’ was whilst I was travelling in Laos.
I took my life into my hands and boarded the bus from Vientian to Luang Prabang. It is well known that it is one of the steepest most dangerous roads in Asia. Many people have been killed as buses or cars hurtled over the edge into oblivion. I remember reading in the very interesting book called ‘The Ravens’, that there are more unexploded ordinance in the jungles of Laos than there is in Vietnam and Cambodia combined. People are still killed every month in Laos whilst digging up the jungle. So if you do get out of the bus in Laos, don’t go wandering off into the scrub.
I am quite prone to travel sickness, so it was much to my chagrin when I realised I was allocated a seat near the back of the bus. This however would prove to be a great Godsend! The bus had the mandatory basket of chickens and bags of produce stacked up the isle, and I seemed to be the only Farang on board.
The trip started off without event and we seemed to be making reasonable progress as we worked our way up the hills from the beautiful river scenery of Vien Viang.
As the journey progressed a lady sitting about two seats in front of me started vomiting out the window. I still felt very good and was glad that I had taken my ‘Sealegs’ pill. Not long after the first sounds of vomiting had started another lady joined the chorus. There were long mournful groans as every so often they would heave in unison out the window. A few splashes of vomit flicked along the window frame near where I was sitting. The smell was a bit on the nose, but I was still very pleased that I hadn’t succumbed.
When the road finally levelled out a little the bus was able to stop and it was great to stretch ones legs for a minute or two. I was surprised at how unabashed the women were. Many of them just hoicked up their skirts and did what they had to do near the bus. I have seen many men do that in my Western culture, but never women.
We were soon back on board and slowly driving our way up a very steep section of the road. I really enjoyed the journey – just reminiscing about the tranquillity of the place, the history of the Vietnam war and the small villages that were built right against the edge of the road. I guess everything else was so steep they had to take advantage of any space that had been cleared and was a little more flat than the surrounding hills.
I had noticed earlier a guy sitting up the front who was looking a little agitated. Eventually he got out of his seat and approached the driver. Obviously I wasn’t privy to their conversation but I did see the driver shaking his head. The guy returned to his seat and all seemed well for a short while.
Then the guy got out of his seat again and started pacing up and down the isle. He looked very frustrated at this stage and I was beginning to wonder what was going on. I was guessing that he may have asked the driver to stop again but the the road we were now traversing was extremely steep and dangerous – any hope of stopping was out of the question.
Then suddenly all hell broke loose. He charged back to his seat and with one smooth motion worthy of an Oscar nomination he downed his dacks, leapt up onto the seat, thrust his backside out the window and let fly. The technicolour soup shot from his rear end as if by jet propulsion.
Now at this stage, may I take a moment or two to hypothesise? Methinks this dude was a very poor student whilst he had been attending school. I go even further to suggest that he had fallen asleep in class when the teacher was lecturing on Aerodynamics. Particularly the unit on ‘wind factor’ – he was probably fast asleep or daydreaming about flat land or something, HE HAD FORGOTTEN TO FACTOR IN THE WIND!#$%^!
The murky ‘stew’ did a couple of quick swirls then shot back into the window directly behind. There was an almighty shriek as the poor bastard sitting behind him copped the gruesome load in the face. The poor bugger was trying to wipe the offending brew from his eyes as the passengers went into total hysteria. They were all babbling, and wildly waving their arms and gesticulating.
The driver was shouting something at them, but nothing could calm the wildest sideshow on earth. The dude with the diarrhoea had now pulled himself together and was trying to apologise and wipe down the poor bugger who had just got ‘spray painted’.
I guess he couldn’t really help it. He obviously had to answer the call of nature and he only had three options, because it was impossible for the bus to stop. In the bus, do a load in his pants, or out the window. Kind of ‘Hobson’s choice’ – so he opted for the latter!
I was so glad that I had ended up down the back as far away from this horrendous fiasco as I could physically be. The stench started to waft down and fill the bus with a foul miasma that would choke the proverbial donkey.
Fortunately we came to a clearing on the road with a few houses and a verge where the bus could stop. We all piled out holding our noses as we passed the offending area. Buckets of water were soon produced and the two blokes were doused down – along with the bus. I thought the dude with the diarrhoea would be ostracised for such a terrible public faux pas. I guessed he would be strapped to the roof or something as punishment for such offensive behaviour.
To the contrary. We all piled back on board and it wasn’t long before things were back to normal. Folk were chatting, Mr Diarrhoea was fast asleep and the dude who copped the spray painting was chatting to his wife. I couldn’t believe it – it was as if to say ‘this is just a regular occurrence – we all just shove our arses out of the bus window and let fly when the need arises’.
I finally staggered off the bus in one piece when we reached the sleepy little village of Luang Prabang. That would be one journey I would never forget!
As mentioned earlier in this submission, I will be travelling with Princess at year end. Depending on my finances I hope to be away about five months for this trip. Except for coming to Australia Princess has never travelled so I am looking forward to sharing some of my bizarre Asian escapades with her. She has a wonderful sense of humour which has really helped to enrich our relationship. After Cambodia I plan on taking her to Laos. I better tell her to start praying now that ‘Mr Diarrhoea’ is not on board the bus to Luang Prubang!!