Life in Phuket

Ariel writes: Being in Phuket is great for a lot of reasons. The people are really nice and hard-working. The food is good and cheap. Lunch for two is about $3-$5 and a fancy dinner for two is about $15. The only thing to watch out for is some dishes are SO spicy, they are barely edible.

There are a few superstores with everything you can imagine. There are fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere and they are cheap. There are also many European restaurants. Europeans have a much bigger impact on Phuket than the Americans because there are so many more of them here (tourists as well as ex-pats).

Bakeries are pretty commonplace here as well. They have really good pastries, bread and coffees. Swensens, Baskin Robbins and Haagen Dazs can also be found here. We have been going quite oftenJ.

Phuket, Thailand, what a place. As Ariel already mentioned there is a strong European presence here while Americans are rather few and far between. We don’t have a problem with that. This is also reflected in much more English press than one would see in bigger places without many “farang” (foreigners) such as Taiwan or Korea.

But in case we forget, Phuket is still a small place with some rather strong rural beliefs as evidenced by the following article found in today’s local paper: The Phuket Gazette, which I found tucked away quietly on page three without any fanfare. Except for my comments in parentheses I quote in full, and I mean in full;

A Job For Ghost Busters

SAKHON NAKHON: Old beliefs die hard in the villages of Kusumal district, where a wave of ghost stories spread panic this month. Villagers said that four monks, on a walking pilgrimage, awakened ghosts and took magic oil from dead bodies (of course, this must happen all the time). The monks, however, were not well-practiced in black magic, so they couldn't control the awakened spirits.

Among the ghosts brought to life were female vampires (!) Phii Pob, flying vampires Pii Kra Sue, and headless ghosts Pii Hua Kard. Wiroj Tunglaka, aged 51, fainted and died for no reason and the people believed that the headless ghost caused up to 10 similar deaths (had to be him). They also said that a van came to the village and was used for kidnapping people, especially children.

The kidnappers were believed to be flying vampires (if these dudes could fly, why were they driving an old Chevy van??). These ghosts were also into extortion: they carried guns and told the villagers that if they wanted their children back, they had to give them 10,000 Baht ($250) in ransom, or the kids' eyes would be gouged out. (Yuck). The village leaders warned that the villagers should be wary of talking to strangers because they might be the ghosts that eat human kidneys and liver (!!!).

I found the classifieds to be equally illuminating. One ad in particular caught my eye in blazing capital letters:

CHEF WANTED because of motorbike damage.... (!)

One of the pleasures of being a native English speaker in Asia is the crazy English you come up against every single day. As I write this I am wearing a T-shirt just bought here that proudly proclaims, “I’m for 3 and Anything but 24.” Now if anyone can explain this to me please send us an email.

It reminds me of the time in Taipei many years ago when I was teaching English to a classroom full of eager kindergartners. I came into the class and almost lost it when I saw a little girl with pigtails proudly wearing a shirt with a huge American flag in the shape of a fist with the middle finger raised. If that wasn’t enough it boldly shouted, “TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE.”

As we are living on the hard in a service apartment this month we only have a microwave to cook with. We are eating out twice a day. In Thailand when it comes to pay the bill, one does not say, “Check please,” or “Can I have the bill please,” but a weird amalgamation of the two; “Checkbill.

” You finish your meal and when you wish to leave you catch the waiter’s eye and say with confidence those two magic words, “Checkbill.” He will answer immediately, “Checkbill!” and dash off to write it up. I always think to myself, yes, check Bill and see how he’s doing, will you?

The last ad that caught my eye was this one about the “German” cafe, Haagen-Dazs:

"Offers the German (!) ice cream brand, the Haagen-Dazs. Haagen-Dazs is world renowned flavor that becomes the symbol of the finest sweet necessities." I guess that says it all.

Another funny thing happened when we checked into the country with customs. As is normal when you sail a boat to another country, you have to see customs, immigration, port authority, etc. The forms we had to fill in for customs asked us in English, “How many taels of opium in cargo?” A “tael” is an ancient Chinese measurement of weight, similar to an ounce. OK, but opium? What’s up with that? I guess their forms haven’t been updated in the last 150 years or so.

Lastly, on the language thing, Thais are very friendly people and are not afraid to talk to us about anything. Ariel is ALWAYS assumed to be my Thai “girlfriend”. No matter where we go, even if it is a place we’ve been several times to in the past,they will always skip me, look at her and launch into Thai, “Dee jai thee dai phob khun liew khwaa, liew saai throng-pai!” I don’t mind. She is getting “Thai- red” of it.

I always have to explain that Ariel is not Thai and therefore does not speak Thai. This continually throws them off balance as they take a second look at her and invariably say, “You look same same Thai people!