Thailand Footprint: People, Things, Literature, Music and Henry Miller too. Forget Yourself Here

Recently, there was a video making the rounds of the social networking sites. Its title, NEVER GO TO THAIILAND, with a subtitle of Worst Vacation Ever. The quality of the video is highly professional.  A lot of people were choosing to comment without actually viewing the video – making incorrect assumptions, as we all do in life at times. Not surprising, given that we live in a society that has book reviews written by people who never actually read the book. Why let the small details of living a good life get in the way of our desired end result? The video is worth a look, if you have the time, if not, it’s okay.

The video title is tongue in cheek. The video itself is the antithesis of the title – at least for most people, I would hope. It shows all the many and varied good things about a country I have spent over half my time in, since 2001.

It got me thinking about why I like Thailand. Why I even love it, warts and all. And make no mistake, we are talking about one ugly, wart covered frog, living in a cracked, upside down coconut shell, in the dark, at times. Life may be a beach but in Thailand, murders happen on those beaches, rapes happen on those beaches, yachts are pirated and people are kidnapped not far from those beaches. Tsunami’s even happen on those beaches.

I’ve always believed, whether it is in business or in life, that little things matter. Little things add up to great sums over time.

A jug fills drop by drop.- Buddha

And just as a jug will indisputably fill one drop at a time our lives are filled up one moment at a time. The one common denominator we all share is that we know we are going to die. Unlike the happy and content dog that has no idea he’s being measured for a grave, we humans do. We know we may have a choice between ashes or Mahogany, small, medium or extra large containers but we will all die, one day.

I came to Thailand to die. I needed to be surprised. I wanted to be shocked. Bangkok is unpredictable and it delivers if you give it a chance. Even the small adventures are memorable. – Stirling Silliphant

Bangkok Babylon
The above quote by Oscar winning Hollywood television and screenplay writer, Stirling Silliphant, is from the excellent book by Jerry Hopkins titled, BANGKOK BABYLON -The Real Life Exploits of Bangkok’s Legendary Expatriates in the short story, THE OSCAR WINNER. If you want to look at one of the most impressive writing resumes, ever, go to Stirling Silliphants Wikipedia page. If Bangkok was good enough for Stirling, a man that could choose to live anywhere in the world, it sure seems like a great choice for this former Auburn, California boy. Among the advice one receives from reading Jerry Hopkin’s book is the following quote, which I have practiced as much as is practical: “When in Bangkok, do what your mama told you never to do – talk to a stranger.”

Deutsches Haus Restaurant on Beach Road

Deutsches Haus Restaurant on Beach Road

One of my favorite restaurants on the Gulf of Thailand is Deutsches Haus located on Soi 4 on Beach Road in Pattaya City. I’ve been eating there for 12 years. I’ve eaten there with my wife and daughter; I’ve eaten there many times with a friend and fellow tennis aficionado, whom past away of a heart attack at the age of 61, a few years ago now. The last time I saw him, before I went to his Buddhist funeral, was a breakfast we had at Deutsches Haus on the last day of a trip to see the Pattaya Women’s Tennis Tournament, among other things.

The waitress who works there is named Mook. She has served my food many times. Mook is not a stranger but she once was, until I began talking to her, as Jerry advises.  Mook is skinny, appears shy, cross-eyed, makes about $8.00 a day plus tips and has one of the most beautiful smiles you will ever see. And her crossed eyes always sparkle when she does smile. I asked Mook yesterday what her name meant, because most Thai nick names have an English meaning. Nok meaning, bird and Ped meaning, duck as two examples. She just waved her hands, said, “No meaning, Mook may suay” the latter part translated to, Mook is not beautiful. I don’t concur with Mook, I think she is one of the beautiful souls that Henry Miller talks about in the foundational quote that inspired Thailand Footprint’s creation. If you can forget yourself long enough the Mook’s of the world are everywhere. I was told later by her waitress friend, Da that Mook may mean a small seashell, like those you would find in the sand at the beach. The grace, humility, positive attitude towards work and inner beauty of people like Mook is just one reason I love Thailand.

Mook, my waitress, brings a a soda water ...

Mook, my waitress, brings a a soda water ...

Yesterday I spoke with Mook about how someone snatched my gold chain off my neck at that very restaurant, two days ago – it was Mook’s day off and she wanted to hear all about the big story she had missed out on. So I told her: as I sat at my table alone, drinking coffee, somewhat preoccupied in thought, a man had aproached me and in the blink of an eye yanked off the gold chain I wore around my neck.  A chain purchased for $100.00 in a Kalgoorlie, Australia gold shop after an 8 hour train ride from Perth, W.A., 12 years ago. It had great sentimental value as that purchase came just one day before I met my wife, Ratree, for the first time.  I chased my assailant as quickly as I could, yelling, thief! Police! Repeatedly. The calls did not go unanswered. Four good Samaritans, three of whom are Thai motorcy taxi drivers, answered the calls.  One of those three was a large, strong Thai man with five Buddhist amulets dangling on his chest. He was most responsible for pursuing, capturing and holding the man for the police that arrived shortly thereafter amid a gathering crowd.

The man I call, Good Sam. He was most responsible for capturing the gold snatcher ...

The man I call, Good Sam. He was most responsible for capturing the gold snatcher

One small, very Thai detail: this man who stole my gold chain was a cross-dressing katoey as they are known in Thailand. There are many. And some steal often. The amazing thing was, the transvestite thief could sense the jig was up as the police arrived so he tossed the gold chain on the restaurant floor and then pointed at it, pretending he had helped find it. It was a good ploy on his part as the man in brown that talked to me in English soon after said it would be difficult to press charges with the evidence not found on him. I was so relieved to regain my object of sentimentality that I was okay with that. They did take his picture, 5’8″  150 lbs, red lipstick, real shoulder length black hair and common yellow house-dress. This is Thailand too. Did I mention the restaurant is located just 25 yards from the beach?

The view from Deutsches Haus restaurant on Beach Street ...

The view from Deutsches Haus restaurant on Beach Street …

As I recapped the story to Mook, which was still very fresh in my mind, she smiled the whole time and seemed genuinely happy, which made me happy to see that. Mook repeated in English several times, “You lucky. You very lucky.” On that point, I had to agree with Mook. I am lucky. Lucky to have lived for as many months and years in Thailand as I have. Lucky to have had so many small moments fill my jug. If I am really lucky, that jug is only 2/3 full.

Because I cannot think of a better place to fill the last third of life’s jug than Thailand. A country where lucky is defined as having a man wearing lipstick and a dress, snatch and break your cherished gold necklace. Stirling Silliphant got it right, “Even the small adventures are memorable.” Just another day of collecting seashells (and an occasional pearl, for the lucky) at the beach, in Thailand.

The beautifully smiling, Mook.

The beautifully smiling, Mook.

CityLife

This post was also published at Chiang Mai City News on Valentines Day 2014 and may be seen there by clicking the above banner

13 Responses to “Never Go To Thailand … and the reasons I love it … Mook, the smiling waitress, and Good Sam are just two …”

  1. scholes346

    Great post Kevin, I really enjoyed that.It really gets to the heart of the matter about why we love Thailand. I do have one problem though. Every time you write a post you recommend further books to read and my list is ridiculously long. As one book is read two books get added. By the way I have never worked out how anyone can review a book without reading it. The other day I noticed a business whereby they will flick through a book and give a star review for a fee. What the hell is all that about… crazy. Anyway I am glad you got your gold necklace back.

    Reply
    • Kevin Cummings

      Trevor, Understood. My TBR pile is becoming unmanageable as well.

      It seems that gaming the system is part of the system these days. The games that are always the most fun to play in, basketball or football, are the ones where everyone plays by the same rules. Cheers.

      Reply
  2. Patrick Cooper

    Kevin, this was very enjoyable and insightful. Living in New Orleans I can relate to your feelings about Thailand. We have one of the highest (if not the highest) murder rates in the U.S., but the richness of the culture makes up for the danger. As my girlfriend Valerie says, “There is a surprise around every corner”. Sounds like that fits for Thailand as well. Glad you got the necklace from such a colorful thief!

    Reply
    • Kevin Cummings

      Thank-you, Pat. I still remember my lone trip to New Orleans. Ratree still talks about those French donuts. I can even spell the word now: D-O-N-U-T-S. We hope to hear you play in Norlins one day. It’s on the bucket-list …

      Reply
  3. Timothy Hallinan

    Yup, Mook is Thailand. Happy those taxi drivers chased the katoey and happy you got your necklace back. This is probably pushing my luck, but in 30 years I’ve never had anyone approach me with bad intent, other than to sell me those infuriating wooden cricket noisemakers. But you know what? I’ll manage to put up with that somehow

    Reply
  4. chris ferreira

    I have been to Thailand and I loved it. What an amazing place. I think no matter where you are in the world there will be crime. I think the crime here in South Africa might be worse than in Thailand.

    Reply
  5. Todd Carnes

    Thanks for a great post. Having been to Pattaya & Phuket several times myself (and Bangkok once), I could really connect with the story. For the record, I too think Thailand is an awesome place. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Kevin Cummings

    Thanks, Todd and Tim Hallinan too… Amazing Thailand was one marketing campaign that was never over-hyped. It’s all true. The good and the bad … but it’s all amazing …

    Reply
  7. 100101101

    Just a Thai stumbled upon your blog.

    Most people when talking about TH they know only BKK, Phuket, or Pattaya. They might love to visit these places but I have to admit that at the same time they are also notorious about sex tourism, scam, etc. Even my friend from the university who live in Pattaya since her husband is a local politician there said she would not recommend anybody to walk freely during the night there.

    Glad to know that your story end well. I have to say that you seems to be really good looking things in positive way. Actually I think it’s crucial to live happily in this earth, no matter where you are. You cannot expect your life to be always full with roses. Sometime they are thorns near that roses and they can surely hurt you. But if you only look at those thorns, you will never see roses near them. 🙂

    Thailand is like every country in the world. We have both good and bad things, also good and bad people. Hope you see the firsts wherever you go.

    I live in Chiang Mai. If you haven’t been here (but I’m pretty sure you did since you visit TH for years) please take my reply as an invitation.

    Welcome and be our guest again (in case you are not here right now) anytime you’d like.

    PS. Almost forgot. “Mook” มุก = literally mean Pearl. But what Da told you is also right. Sometime we called glistering seashell as Mook too.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: