Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Christmas & Boxing Day

Christmas is just not the same when it's hot!!! In fact I would go as far as to say it is downright weird!!

We were invited by Elyssa (Liss) and Tim to join them at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club which is about two hours drive from Bangkok and is set in a secluded beach in Jomtien - We were struggling to decide what we were going to do for Christmas and were debating on whether to just go for a curry so we jumped at the chance (It was really kind of them to invite us). We had to be up early - so what did we do? Yep we sat up till after midnight drinking wine and talking to people on Skype....then we decided to open our pressies since we would be too knackered to do it in the morning so it was a late one. Santa was good to both of us - Chris got a new digital camera, a t-shirt, a silver key ring and the picture that I drew for him (He liked it - phew!!) and I got an ipod, perfume, a CD and a beautiful pashmina.

Krung, Liss's Driver (I know.....It's another world), arrived at 8am to pick us up, Christmas Day is not a holiday in Thailand so he was working as normal, and he drove us up to Jomtien to join Liss, Tim, Chris, Cathy and their two kids. I have to say that the journey was fantastic - Chris and I got in the car, said hi, then promptly fell asleep....when we both surfaced we had arrived (I really hope neither of us snored too loudly - The Creature from the Black Lagoon, I mean Chris, is known for not making a peep in his sleep!!). The Yacht Club was lovely. Liss was a bit worried that we were going to find the sleeping area too basic, it was a wooden Chalet style room which had an en-suit bathroom and air-con, Chris and I have definitely slept in hotels that were worse.....I don't know what she was worried about. The clubhouse was really nice as well and had beautiful views of the sea, a cool sea breeze and was very relaxing.

We got ourselves organised, once all the introductions were made - did get a little confusing having two Chris's, and headed along the road to the Sheraton where we had booked to have Christmas dinner. It was a beautiful day - we had dinner looking out over the sparkling blue sea, surrounded by palm trees, boats sailing past..... (Not that I am trying to rub it in or anything!!). The meal was buffet style which was especially good for Chris and Cathy as it meant that they could tend to the kids without feeling any pressure to be at the table before the next course arrived etc. The food was great - they had a good selection of starters (Pate, salads, tomato and mozzarella, different breads etc) and even had turkey, glazed ham and cranberry sauce - although the Thai's never manage to get it quite right.....there were no roast potatoes.....there were mashed potatoes ('That's ok' I hear you say.....) in a creamy sauce (Erm....mashed potato in a cream sauce??) with scallops (I don't know why!!) but they had a yummy selection of deserts so all was forgiven (Well, by me anyway......Chris is still hankering after roast potatoes). Oh, and talking about not getting it quite right - we did have a very thin, short Thai Santa to entertain the kids (I just want to point out that a false bushy white beard does not look good on a Thai!!) followed by a clown. Now, I’m not scared of clowns but I think I may have a slight fear of them was like the black and white minstrels gone wrong and to make matters worse he kept bursting the balloons he was using to make balloon animals. (I'm shuddering at the thought) - We've not got any photos but I’ll check with Cathy and Liss and if they have any I will post really have to see how freaky this was.

After dinner we moved out onto the terrace and sat in the afternoon sun drinking wine and Champagne - which we thought was going to be very expensive but we had brought our own alcohol and the hotel only charged us corkage for one bottle per couple - as you can see from the pictures we got through more than that. I really like the photo of Gay Bono and The Edge aka Tim and Chris. (Sorry Liss - I did warn you that it was going on the blog!!)

We then headed back to the Clubhouse at the yacht club where we continued our Christmas celebrations. We ate more food (I know....I don't know where we put it either) and drank more and were generally merry. We enjoyed speaking to everyone back home although Liss, Tim and Chris (Cathy had gone to bed by this point) were very disappointed that the camera wasn't working when we spoke to the gathering of the Burns's (I think Australian Chris wanted proof that my Chris's sisters were both small with red Margaret still blond?).

Boxing Day was fantastic (and hangover free!!). We lazed about at the club, went for a walk on the beach (Yes, ok....that was the nice way of saying that we went for a paddle), watched Tim trying to keep the kids entertained with his kite flying expertise (Actually he was pretty good - anytime I’ve tried it's been tangled within seconds!!) and contemplated doing something more energetic (Which never actually happened). We did have a very funny conversation about language during which we discovered that no-one in Australia actually says 'Throw another shrimp on the barby', that the English are known as 'Pomms' and to have a 'Pommy Shower' is to only put deodorant on (Of course being Scottish we were not offended in the slightest at this fact we are thinking of adopting it :-)) and that they call swimming costumes 'Bathers'. I have to say that they were killing themselves laughing at the fact that in Scotland 'a poke' means a bag and that you can ask for 'A poke of chips', that when you ask for 'A single fish' at the chippy you will get fish without any chips but you will get two of them (I know.....your now thinking 'and you have the cheek to slag off Thailand for being weird') and that we have so many words for excrement i.e. jobbie, keech, shite etc (For those of you who are not Scottish). Talking of language we took a picture of the rules next to the pool which we thought were funny. Anyway, a good time was had by all and we were assured on Boxing Day that Chris hadn't kept anyone awake with his snoring.......ah, the wonders of a few buckets of wine.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Moon's Christmas

We weren’t sure when we were going to see Moon since she normally has weekends off and we had given her Christmas Day and Boxing Day as well (we're going away so there is no point in her hanging around) so we decided that we would have a mini Christmas Day for her on Friday.

Since she doesn't get to see her daughter very often I bought two silver necklaces and a pair of shoe pendants - Her daughters name is Fa which in Thai means blue (Fa likes pink.....I bet if she had been called pink she would have liked blue) Anyway, the pendants are blue with pink flowers (The best of both worlds - I thought Moon could wear one and Fa could wear the other). I also bought her a shirt top for everyday wear and a beautiful turquoise blue top for going out (I had pinched one of her shirts off the washing line so I could get the right size - I'm sure she thinks I’m mad) and I had been doing a drawing for Chris as part of his Christmas present (Still struggling with the concept that really it's Chris that buys his own present so I thought I would make something for him) and she really liked it so I did something for her too. I got her to write all their names in Thai for me and I drew a pregnant Thai woman with a little girl cuddling her stomach (I can't draw boys so Dawan is the bump) and wrote their names on it then had it framed. You should have seen her face - she was thrilled with the pendant (We explained that we had one for Fa as well), dashed into the bathroom to try on her tops and gave us a bit of a fashion show and was so pleased with the picture that I got three 'Oh Madame I like's (When Thai's want to emphasize something it is always said three times - you are never hot - you are hot hot hot etc)

We then took her out to dinner at Admakers. She had never been before but I think it was a good choice as she felt completely comfortable (Due to the good mix of Thai's and Farang's). We had a brilliant night - we ordered a few dishes (We chose two each) and put them in the middle of the table and each tried a bit of everything. Chris was teasing her about eyeing up the waiter which was hilarious - she kept saying 'No Khun Chris you no understand me' whilst giggling away and reaching across the table and nipping him. The band were playing Beatles songs and she was bopping away on her chair telling us that she didn't understand a word but that she liked it anyway. We did get her 'Maw Maw' again which I felt slightly guilty about till Chris pointed out that she is a grown woman with two children who is capable of saying no - felt better after that.

She came in on Saturday and announced that she was 'Hang Hang Hang' (See what I mean about saying things three times for emphasis) and that she had already spoken to both her sisters to tell them about the evening and the picture Madame had drawn for her.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Tales from the office

As always Chris's 'Tales from the office' shock and delight me.

It's Nap Time!! -
I would like to set the scene for this one.....Imagine for a moment that you are looking at a conference room - in that room you see six people (aka the clients) and they have invited very senior representatives from a large organisation to their office for a meeting (Chris was one of the representatives). During the meeting one of the six said 'I will pass you over to my colleague as this is her area of expertise' at which point everyone turns and looks at said expert who is.....wait for it......asleep!!! She fell asleep in the middle of the meeting!!! She then came to, didn't even apologise for being asleep, and started talking about something completely different. How is that for professionalism!!

There's a what in the office?
Chris had popped out for some lunch and when he got back to the office and pushed open the door it was wet (That is weird he thought). Then as he stepped into the office he saw some of his colleagues on their knees....was there a mad gunman taking over the office? No......a Monk had been invited to bless the office (as you do) and was wondering around waving a wet Orchid.

It's Nap Time No.2!!
In the lunch is completely acceptable for the Thai's to pull out their pillows, (From where we are not sure) put them on their desks and have a little nap. Chris went out to get lunch and walked past an entire department fast asleep. (Honestly the Thai's can sleep anywhere.....on the street, waiting for a bus, mopping a floor..... Yes, we have actually seen this)

You are going to love this - part of the official yearly appraisal is a section on how you conduct yourself at meetings. Here you are graded on your appearance (makes sense), manner (I can see that) and whether you brought your own snacks to the meeting (Eh??). Thai's love to eat and they eat all the time (How the hell are they so thin) actually I would go as far as to say they graze. So part of their official appraisal is whether they have been so uncouth as to produce snacks during a long meeting (Ahhh.....all makes sense a strange kind of way)

I hear a strange sound?? (No it's not the voices)
As Chris was leaving the office he heard a noise....what the hell is that?? He listened sounded can't be......French pop music? (Having only just recovered from the shock of hearing my Dad singing French pop music he knew the sound had haunted him since that fateful day....). Well, it sounded like French pop music because that's what it was.....having followed the sound he found a gaggle (that is really the only word you can use to describe a group of Thai women) learning dance routines (Think line dancing) at the lifts. They were practicing for the Christmas Party!!

Friday, 15 December 2006

Christmas Carols at B&H Hospital & Reuters

Somehow, and I'm really not sure how this happened, I managed to get roped into singing carol's with the BWG at the B&H Children's Hospital. There were about 11 of us that had agreed to humiliate ourselves in public (no-one had told us that not only were we singing but we were doing it wearing antler headdresses so I'm really not kidding about the public humiliation).

We had to sing twice....the 1st time was in a garden on the 4th floor and there was no bugger there!! Well, that is if you don't count the staff from the hospital who I think had been told that they had to be there and the window cleaners (poor buggers were only doing their job and were subjected to Farang catterwalling).....although there was one who insisted on filming the whole thing - very off putting that was.....he practically had the camera up the nose of one of the women!! We were then served sherry and mince pies which was lovely if not a little surreal. The second time was better as it was in the lobby (at least there were people there) but in typical Thai stylie whilst we were singing there were two people dressed up as Thai cartoon characters with huge heads (Think Frank Sidebottom) dancing round a Christmas tree. Why???

So how the hell did you manage to end up singing for Reuters I hear you ask. I had promised Jenny that I would sing carols with her that afternoon at her husbands Christmas party (not out of the goodness of my heart but because she bribed me with the promise of lunch and wine......). (David had organised the whole thing and was doing a British Xmas - Jenny had stockings for all the staff and had filled them with things like shortbread, tea, address books with Union Jacks on them etc. The staff had even taken part in a Secret Santa - all David's staff are Thai so they loved it). At one point Jen and I were panicking that it was only going to be the two of us standing there but we managed to rope in a few others (Thank God they were both on the same day). So in the afternoon five of us went and sang in front of 40 Thai's who were absolutely delighted. Chris came and joined us when he finished work and we made a night of it.

I think that if I ever have to sing another Christmas Carol I may scream!!

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Cheap Charlies, Tapas and ACDC singing Thai's

We decided to try somewhere new last night so headed down to Soi 11 to have a drink at a bar called Cheap Charlie’s which we had been told was really good. I think that the term 'bar' was a rather generous description of the place - I saw it and laughed my head off.

It's actually a small wooden shack on the corner of a sub soi......actually it's not even a's more of an outside bar that looks like it grew from the side of a building - there is enough space in it for a Thai barman (Thai's of course are not huge people), beer, vodka (I had one so I know that they have it), gin and not hellish much else. You have to bend down to order your drink (my vodka and tonic cost a grand total of 60 baht.....less than a pound.....ahhh.....that's why it's called Cheap Charlie’s) then you perch on stools or sit at the table (I'll come back to the table in a minute) inside a white circle which is drawn on the road. 'Why the white circle' I hear you ask because if your seat is not inside the white circle you run the risk of being run over by passing cars.....of course!! (We're back to the 'Only In Thailand' shrug of the shoulders).

The table.......ah yes......can't forget about that. There is no easy way to describe this so I’m just going to come right out and say it - the table is a big wooden penis!! I've found a picture (Does that make me really sad??). The other thing that had me roaring with laughter was the sign that stated 'Now - open lady toilet here pee do not shit' they had even underlined the shit!! Chris and I loved the place (not sure if that is a good or bad thing) - everyone was really friendly and believe it or not we met a Canadian woman who's family are from Ardrossan....her mum went to Ardrossan High School and her Aunt still lives there (Sadie I wouldn't be surprised if you knew her)....Chris was actually lost for words - I should have taken a photo!! It is easily the weirdest place we have ever sat and had a drink.

After Chris had recovered we went round the corner to try out Charlie Browns (I think perhaps the Thai's have a thing about the name Charlie) which apparently does really good Mexican food but it was shut so we decided to walk a bit further down the soi and came across a Spanish restaurant called Tapas Cafe. There were about three people in it (It had only been open a few days and we actually ended up being invited to their Grand Opening the next evening) but the food was fantastic - we had Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs), patatas bravas and proper spicy chorizo. Chris was in seventh just doesn't get any better......

Then we heard the band......
Not far from us is a small (Well.....small for a Thai shopping mall) mall called Time Square and during December they put out tables and chairs in the evening and have bands that come and play. We were on our way home when we heard Pink Floyd being played (and being played well.....which is not something you can say about Thai cover bands very often!!) so we headed over, sat down and were delivered a pitcher of beer. The band played for about an hour and a half and were very good - it was strange watching a small Thai man jump up and down whilst singing ACDC but not nearly as confusing as when they changed from singing rock songs in English to something very odd in Spanish. Baffling but kept the Spanish theme of the evening....

Saturday, 9 December 2006

Chris's 1st Date

Meeting people in Bangkok is not easy. Most companies have one or two ex-pats working for them at the most (It being an expensive old business bringing people to work over here) so there are not the same opportunities for making friends through work as there are in the UK.

Sorry........struggling to control it........aarrrggggg........rant coming up.......
It is notoriously difficult for women to get work here. The recruitment section of the newspaper is quite astonishing - there are no discrimination laws (at least none that I am aware of) so there is nothing stopping a company asking for a female Thai National who is slim, pretty and who has been educated at a foreign university!! I'm not kidding - one I looked at today wanted a woman between the age of 23 and 28 and stated that applications would be rejected if their weight and a recent photo were not included (This was not for the position of a bar girl - it was for an office manager). God only knows what you do if you are a fat ugly Thai!! This is why there are so many women's groups!!!
Ahhhh........feel better now.......heart rate slowing.........rant over!

Anyway, back to Chris's first date.....Elyssa and I have become good friends over the last few months but the husbands had never met so we arranged a 'date'. In typical Chris style we ended up running late (yep - you guessed it - we have arranged to do something in the evening so something came up at work) actually I didn't feel so bad about this as we got a text message from Elyssa saying that Tim had just walked in the door at the exact same time I had sent one to her saying the same thing about Chris!! (It's good to know it's not just me!!).

We had a great night - we met at a bar/restaurant called Ad Makers in Soi Lang Suan (Note: Lang Suan in Thai actually means 'behind the park' in this case Lumpini Park - well i found it interesting even if no-one else does!!). It's fab - has a good mix of Thai and Farang clientele, a good band (Which starts off not too loud and gets louder as the night progresses - perfect if you want to eat then have a few drinks) and does really tasty cheap Thai food (Can highly recommend the prawns wrapped in bacon with chili dip and the chicken in pandas leaves - ooohhh it's making my mouth water just thinking about it). We had a very entertaining evening regaling each other with funny stories - in our case our trip to Wales last New Year (For those of you who don't know it it's a very comical story involving a hotel on a hill, a staring red headed old man, banjos, a skeleton dressed as a bride and a very unsubtle Tomato (Tom)) and theirs involved some hilarious stories about Tim's Croatian family which involved burials of people who were not actually dead

and very expressive hand gestures (Elyssa informed me that you didn't need to be able to speak Croatian to understand exactly what Tim's 80 year old grandmother thought about a sexual relationship that was taking place on the island)

We moved on from there and went to a Jazz/Blues Bar called Brown Sugar which is a short taxi ride from Ad Makers. I love this place (been a couple of times before) - it's a laid back, friendly bar with great musicians (the music kicks off around 9pm and is not too loud as to blow your ear sockets so you can actually still have a conversation - Just as a good jazz club should be). We stayed there till Chris and Tim were struggling to keep their eyes open then called it a night.

Very good start to the weekend.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

BWG Christmas Lunch

Let’s eat, drink and be merry

Yes folks, I am turning into a lady that lunches (Stop laughing at the thought of me being a lady!!). The Christmas lunch was actually held at the Sukhothai Hotel over in South Sathorn (I've put a link into a virtual tour - hope it works ok.) Someone somewhere had the brilliant idea of getting vendors to attend and telling everyone to come early for some Champagne and shopping (Very civilized – nothing like Sauchiehall Street in the run up to Christmas). Actually it was just as well there was plenty of Champagne doing the rounds - there was a group of us singing Christmas Carols after lunch…….not sure if the champagne was needed to give us dutch courage or to get everyone else so plastered they didn't notice how bad the singing was!! Julie, the President of the BWG, had arranged for kids from the local school to sing before lunch (How the hell were we supposed to follow that....). A few glasses of Champagne later Jenny, Debbie and I (Elyssa had sensibly declined to take part in the singing) decided we didn't care and that we would sing our little hearts out. (God help everyone!!)

(Just so you know - from left to right Jenny, Elyssa, Me, Debbie - you can now put faces to the names :-))
Lunch was great – really tasty (Turkey, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce – the usual Christmas fare) and our singing didn’t make anyone’s ears bleed (Although when the music was cranked up I thought mine might……my brain definitely leaked out my ear and hid in a corner as Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ was played for the 3rd time). Debbie and I skillfully managed to dodge the conga line – we pretended to be deep in conversation then got the giggles when we realised that the line was massive and was going to take ages to get passed us. We then had the trauma of having to go and sit on Santa’s knee to get our present and our photograph taken. (This is fine when you are three – not when you are thirty-one). We went en mass…..I was one of the lucky ones….managed to stand behind him (Poor Elyssa was not so lucky although she had avoided the public humiliation of singing so it was only fair that she had to endure sitting on Santa’s knee).

Oh and then we met the most vile woman I have ever encountered!! Her opening gambit was ‘I don’t normally associate with people like you because I have money’ (Can you believe it!! How to win friends and influence people in one easy lesson!!)

She then had a conversation with me which went something like this;

‘You’ll know what this song is since your Australian’
‘I’m not Australian I’m Scottish’
‘You’ll know what this song is since your Scottish’ (ehh??)
‘Why… it ‘Scotland the Brave’?’
‘Then why would I know it because I’m Scottish?’
She then came over….sat on my knee…..slapped me repeatedly on the forehead and said ‘Does this jog your memory?’ (Yeah…….you can imagine how impressed I was…..)

She then went on to tell us that she didn’t like the fact that her children spoke more Thai than English (Hmmm…..well that will happen when you pap them off to a Thai Nanny and don’t spend any time with them!!) and that she was so used to being a bitch to her Thai staff that she couldn’t switch it off (She really was a charmer). Actually, she was so awful that all Elyssa and I could do on the way home in the taxi was laugh at how bad she had been.

Monday, 4 December 2006

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

The run up to Christmas in Bangkok is very strange - the decorations go from the sublime (See photos of Emporium Department Store) to the ridiculous

(This sorry excuse for a Christmas Tree was outside our local travel agents - i really don't know why they bothered!!).

It is soooo strange wondering around in the heat of Bangkok listening to Christmas Carols being sung by Thai’s who are predominately Buddhists.

Chris and I decided that we might feel slightly more festive if we put our tree up earlier than we normally would in the UK - little did we know that this decision would lead to an invasion of the Thai's!! We asked Moon if she would like to help decorate the tree (She was ridiculously excited at the prospect - it was very sweet) so we bought some Thai wine (I wouldn't recommend it - tastes a bit like alcoholic Ribena but there was no way i was going to give her any of our wine after the last time!!) as well as normal wine for us and decided that we would phone out for Pizza. It had been Mai's Birthday (Moon's Sister) the previous week so we invited her along as well. The tree was up and the lights were half on when the Pizza arrived - we had just sat down to munch when the door went - it was Moon's Aunt Naparon and her sister ??????? (We couldn't work out what her name was.....then we discovered that Aunt Naparon is actually Khun Whan and that Naparon is her Japanese name (The Thai's have Thai names, English names, Japanese names.....honestly......Outer Mongolian name's wouldn't surprise me!!!) this point we gave up - they are now known as Aunty 1 and Aunty 2) and about five minutes later Mai’s Boyfriend turned up!!

We had such good fun – As you can see from the photo’s Moon was ‘Maw Maw’ again – to be fair Mai was not much better. Moon managed a whole bottle of Thai wine (Which is about the size of a glass coke bottle) before deciding to hang Christmas Decorations from her ears - she kept trying to tell us she was ‘Nit Noi Maw Maw’ which means only a little drunk but no-one believed her. Mai also let slip that the night Moon had got drunk on ‘Madam’s wine’ she had gone to the wrong room, had burst through the door and then ended up really confused when the room was completely empty (Can you imagine how bad it would have been if there had been a maid asleep in there!!). Poor Moon, she then got teased relentlessly about the fact that she had kept that one quiet!!

It was the Kings Birthday the next day so they all had the day off and didn’t leave till late – a good night was had by all.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Tales from the office

I can't come into work because.....

(Those of a nervous disposition look away now)
For the brave amongst you i would like to set you a task!! I would like you to try out some of the excuses given to Chris by his colleagues for why they can't come into work. (I love these!!)

'I can't come into work today because it's raining'
(I would love to know what kind of reaction that would get in Glasgow or Manchester)

'I have to stay home - i am having a sofa delivered'. You must then send an e-mail to everyone in the office with a picture of said sofa attached. (So you don't have any problems here is a picture of a sofa that you can cut and paste - don't say i am not good to you)

'I have to leave early - i need to take my Mum to King Power' .Please substitue 'King Power' for the name of your nearest department store. (Obviously her Mum really needed that second opinion!!)

'I can't come into work today because i have to buy the Tax Team presents' (Isn't that lovely - buying the Tax Team presents......Chris works with some really nice people!!)

last but by no means least (This is my personal favourite)

'I can't come into work today because my friend is being haunted and i need to take her to see a Monk'

I would dearly love to hear what kind of responses you receive from your boss!!