Monday, October 22, 2012

Strangers in the Thai Deep South: October 2012

Ok, I'm sorry to get political on this blog which is supposed to be very personal about what I'm up to, but I'm going to. First political question: Why is everyone in the Deep South really nice? The Deep South of Thailand with all the bombings and insurgents and whatnot? I didn't meet any insurgents*, but everyone I did meet I think mistook me a friend. Possibly a learning-disabled friend, given the times I had to theatrically cup my hand to my ear and say "อะไรครับ" (which is Thai for "I don't understand, but maybe it's less embarrassing to act like I'm just hard of hearing?") Really nice. In only thee days, four times I was asking someone for directions when I suddenly found myself being hopped onto their motorbike or their friend's motorbike and delivered there like a lost kid. Three of those times they didn't know where what I needed was, so they just drove me around LOOKING for it and asking for directions until they found it. I'm riding the train home now with an umbrella that was given to me by the owner of an ice-cream parlour who didn't want me getting my guitar wet in the rain so she GAVE ME AN UMBRELLA. In Narathiwat at the bus station I asked the young, friendly, & Muslim** clerk which van left the soonest for the town of Yala, and after making brisk bilingual (Thai/Yawi) inquiries she rushed me out front, yelled for a motorcycle taxi driver, sat me on the back, gave me a slip of paper with a van's license plate number on it, told me the motorcycle was only 30 baht and had him drive me through a shortcut out to the highway where we sped to catch up with the van to Yala that had just left with one empty seat on it.

That woman should definitely be the manager of that bus terminal.

Unfortunately, what made the news that very same day in Narathiwat was this story:
"A spate of bombings and shootings occurred in Narathiwat on Saturday and yesterday, killing at least two soldiers and injuring more than 10 people, including a nine-year-old girl. A suspected insurgent was also killed."--Bangkok Post.***

I'm not saying that "people in the Deep South are unusually nice" is more deserving of the headline than that story. Obviously, it isn't. But that said, if you've ever visited there, "people in the Deep South ARE unusually nice" is still a fact, and worth knowing as you may be reading that headline, because those headlines are things happening TO those same people.
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* I know I didn't meet any of them because the usual meet-a-foreigner conversation always includes the question "What's your job?" and when I said "teacher", no one reciprocated with "armed insurgent".

**I mention she was Muslim not because it's particularly important, but only so you'll be visualising her wearing a headscarf which she, in fact, was.

[WARNING: Downer ahead.]

***I didn't see this happen. It was in nearby towns, not Narathiwat itself. But the attacks were linked to the anniversary of the 2004 Tak Bai incident, which you should know was a massacre perpetrated by the Thai army and the word "incident" does not even begin to hint at how terrible it was. Essentially: soldiers rounded up protesters, bound their hands behind their backs and stacked them, alive, horizontally in trucks. 78 of them suffocated or were crushed to death before they reached a detention centre. Seven others were shot dead, but when I think of those 78 helpless, panicked men and boys gasping for breath under the crush of bodies--I'd much rather be shot.
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Theendsorrytobeadowner!! I'll be back within the week with something cheerier.

Monday, June 11, 2012

More Videos!

I've got some more videos from Sri Lanka and others from visiting Canada that I haven't put up here but I will. If ever I'm behind on posting stuff like that, you can of course just go straight to my YouTube channel and see if anything's missing: https://www.youtube.com/user/stirlingsbusiness

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sri Lanka 2 (Train Ride)

The amazing train ride from Colombo to Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sri Lanka 3 (got to Kandy)

Took the first train leaving out of Colombo, which happened to be to Kandy. Unexpected, but I'm glad I went.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mor Lum Dancing (Paradise Bangkok)

This happened in February at a club called Sonic on Soi Ekkamai in Bkk. Mor Lum is a style of music from Laos (the country) and Isaan, which you could say is culturally Lao. The band playing is a reunited mor lum band that apparently had a lot of success in the 70's. I wasn't in Thailand (or, uh, born) at the time. I wouldn't really call it a mor lum dance party though, since, while there WAS a lot of dancing going on, most of the crowd didn't really know how to do any mor lum dancing per se. It was a lot of Thai Bangkok hipsters and farangs, hipster or otherwise. That's the kind of venue it is. That the farangs would be out of their element is obvious, but there's also a pretty big cultural gulf between your upcountry Isaan cool kid and your urban (part-time graphic designer) Bangkok hipster kid. The woman on stage, however, was a different story. Watch her go. You'll learn something.

Performers: "Wong Dontri Molam Theppabutr" (8 piece molam band from Isaan/Northeast Thailand)

Featuring Saksiam Petchchompu, Pimjai Petchplachai and Chamnapa Petchplachai

From Paradise Bangkok's promotional material:

"To celebrate Paradise Bangkok third anniversary, Zudrangma Records H.Q. is proud to present the original king of the raw country molam band formed in 1973, 'Wong Dontri Molam Theppabut' have recorded with dozens of key luk thung isan and molam artists such as Dao Bandon, Saksiam Petchchompu, Thepporn Petchubon, Banyen Rakkan as well as on countless productions by molam pioneer Theppabutr Satirodchompu. This will be an exclusive one-off show of raw, authentic molam live and direct from the North East. They will be joined by Sombut Chimla, the king of experimental khaen, Kummao Perdtanon the original phin player of Theppabutr band and the Isan legendary vocalists Saksiam Petchchompu together with the molam duo Pimjai Petchplachai and Chamnapa Petchplachai."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Morning Noodles in Phra Khanong

Mornings are the coolest when you have a neighborhood to hang out in.
I woke up this morning and went out for breakfast, which is the only way I ever do breakfast these days (not as bourgeois as it sounds, I promise) and which usually means either Burmese noodles or Nepali roti chole. I'm not avoiding Thai food—I love it—but there's a large Nepali-Burmese immigrant minority in my neighborhood and I just dig their vegetarian options a lot, and have gotten to know a lot of the shopkeepers.
So I was around the corner, eating to hpu nuy [sp?] (bean soup noodles) at a Burmese place, and I had a small language triumph. A Thai guy walked into the shop and asked them for miang (เมี่ยง), by which he meant (I'm pretty sure) maak (หมาก), which is betel. Miang is a thai dish wrapped in leaves, a lot like the way betel is wrapped. I thinks that's what he was dumbing down for the shopkeeper, but the point is that she had no idea what he was talking about, and so I got to be the farang who could tell him that they made it a few shops down and then later explain to her that the guy had wanted kun-ya (betel). This is a long story for a small event, but it made me really happy, so you guys are going to just deal with that. After that I was just on a neighborhood high. My apartment building is in the Phra Khanong market, and so I went out and bought a shirt from a vendor, and when I admired the banged-up old motorcycle side mirror he had repurposed, he told me where I could buy one, but then remembered he had another one, and just opened up his junk cabinet, dug it out, and gave it to me. Good people around here. Met the woman who irons my work shirts (yes, that part IS as bourgeois as it sounds, I guess) and chatted with her, and just exchanged a lot of pleasantries with neighbors about my broken wrist, which is a conversation I am getting slightly better at having. It was a good morning in a good place.


A bit about the pictures: up top is a Burmese shop. You can see their daily pile of samosas out there. They're not my favourite samosa spot, but I pass them every day, so sometimes I go for one anyway. Down here is the morning soy milk and you tiao cart. They do this Chinese breakfast food here in Thailand too, but the family that runs this cart is actually Chinese. They just moved down here from Yunnan almost exactly a year ago, so they and I both get to be new to the neighborhood. End of story: I'm settling in pretty well. Send postcards and/or come visit.

-Matthew

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Canada Visit, October 2011: Tree Climbing in TO

I visited home in October, which usually means Montreal. This year, though, I have a brother and a good friend (Montreal transplant) living in Toronto, so I flew in to Toronto to catch some time with those two, and then bused it to Montreal for the rest of my visit. And how did we spend our time in Toronto? Climbing a tree. Also playing a game called "Miniature Tanks", which is a-mazing, where you get down curled up on elbows and knees (on grass, preferably) and then pretend you're a tank and basically play bumper cars.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September Update from Bangkok


If you're on Facebook and you don't see a video here, click: http://youtu.be/IfSud-cSN_8
Rise Up Singing as it continues: http://www.youtube.com/user/matthewvaughan