Wednesday, October 13, 2010

14 October 2010 Kindness

Two days ago I sat in the administration building using the internet (still waiting at home; should be by the end of this week, they say), and as I was about to walk out, one of the front office girls who I barely know, said to me "Lung (Uncle), your car has a flat tire."
Well, I was like a deer in the headlights.  I just zoned out.  I hadn't changed a flat in 20 years, wasn't even sure if my car had a jack.  I "came to" long enough to phone my neighbor, a Thai guy who lived in the US for 40 years.  He set off with his wife to rescue me.
Meanwhile, the front office girl called a couple of guys to come change my tire  They and my neighbhor arrived simultaneously and formed a tire changing committee, with very positive results. 
This young lady did not go more than 2 meters away from me during this whole time, making sure the tongue-tied Farang was completely taken care of.  On the one hand, it was a reflection of what a nice person she is.  On the other hand, it was not at all unusual for Thailand.
After the tire was fixed, my neighbor took me to a nearby tire repair shop (they are everywhere out here in the boondocks, as the many trucks often get flats on the good but sometimes complicated roads).  He made sure the tire repair shop understood me, and $3.25 later, I had a perfectly patched tire re-loaded on my car, with the spare back in the trunk.
Footnote on spare:  The cars here come with REAL spare tires, not those little donuts you get in the US nowadays.
It's not hard to find stuff to criticize here, but the kindness is extraordinary.

14 October 2010 Japanese village

If you are a facebook friend, you've already seen the pictures.  The Japanese village is a true gem in Ayutthaya.  Located southeast of the island, it is directly across the Chao Phraya from the old Portuguese settlement.  The portuguese settlement, as I think I mentioned before, is basically just a "ruin".  It's a shame, because they have the foundations and have identified several of the chambers.  They should just restore it and make it a tourist attraction.  Sort of "Lisbonland" in Ayutthaya.
Well, the Japanese did just that, in a way.  There are, as far as I could ascertain, absolutely no original structures of the Japanese presence, which goes back 400 years.  Basically they built a small but fascinating museum (featuring a great 10 minute documentary on the history of Ayutthaya, in Japanese and Thai with subtitles in the other language and in English).  The museum has a reproduction of the most famous mural-map of Ayutthaya, of which the original hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I believe.  Plus there are a few artifacts.  There is a small research library with books and computers.  Then there is a Japanese Zen-style garden.  And finally, the obligatory gift shop, but with a twist.  The owner is Japanese (though he has a couple of thai employees), he speaks some Thai and English.  They accept payment in Japanese Yen, i.e. this is a definite tourist destination for Japanese in Thailand.  All the signs and labels are in Japanese, some are in Thai, and none in any Roman alphabet based language.    The stuff they sell is the typical tourist stuff you can find anywhere in Thailand, and they don't even shaft you particularly on the prices.  Using my rudimntary Japanese, I asked the owner if it was okay to pay in Thai Baht.  He thought that was quite humorous, and halfway through his laugh he realized I'd asked him in Japanese.  That led to a short but pleasant conversation in Japanese (my conversations in Japanese have to be VERY short), while the store was empty.  Five minutes later a tour bus emptied a load of Japanese tourists into the store.
Anyway, I highly recommend the Japanese village as a tourist destination.  You need about a hour or so for it, and can combine it with a couple of other nearby attractions in Ayutthaya (of which there is no end).

14 October 2010 dinosaur

So, you thought dinosaurs were extinct?  For a couple of million years already?  I'm afraid I have to disabuse you of that notion.  Come to thailand, and see the dinosaur.   This sucker is about four or five feet long, and apparently is quite a fisherman.  We live a couple of miles from the river, but there are plenty of klongs (canals) and flooded rice fields, so on two occasions I've seen one of these fellows (or maybe the same one) wandering on the periphery of our "village".  Someone said they also eat chicken.  I'll just take their word for it.  Especially since they aren't vegetarians.