A Sleepless Night In Paradise


I recently picked up a book on my travels called “The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer.  The title conjured up visions of a fantasy world dealing with the star wars saga.  Not an ideal read but in South America where there’s a shortage of English books I was so desperate that any pulp fiction that happened my way was gleefully read.    Amazingly the book was a well written, factual account of the Bush administration and its rendition policy.  I carried this precious item all the way to Thailand where I had decided to take up residence on a beach and enjoy every written word.     On arrival I settled in under an umbrella and began to read.  The unsettling account did nothing to endear me to the American  administration or its main players.

At the same time new occupants moved into the apartment next door to ours.  They were American.   Now I have good friends  originating from the states who are articulate and politically aware and therefore I should know better than to stereotype.  However, having travelled for many years I have found that the average package tour American tourist tends to conform to a certain type.   Insular,  brash , loud,  abrasive, always talking about money, likes to share their conversations and thoughts with anyone in near proximity.  The latter is of course done effortlessly as they have a volume controlled vocal chord switch that is permanently set to loud.   Their dress sense is  ….. interesting. Knee high socks, colourful tops that hang artfully to cover the beer belly, shorts, loafers and squishy hats.  With, of course, the obligatory camera hung around the neck.  The only nation that could possibly outdo the American in this area is the British package tour tourist with their white pallor, even squishier hats, baggy shorts, ankle  high socks and sandals.

Forgive me, if I briefly digress as this story may illustrate my point.   Sometime ago I travelled to the outback in Australia – Cooper Pedy to be precise.  Where men are tough with leather  hard skin and flint stone eyes, have very few social skills and are probably hiding from the law.  All seeking opals that will make them rich.    It was my misfortune to end up on a tour with, yes you’ve guessed it,  a bus full of Americans.  Cameras whirred, shouts of  ”GEE, AW MY GOURD, GODDAMMM”  punctuated the air throughout the guide’s commentary.  Descriptions of breakfast, Norma’ s bowel problems, Hanks piles and other trivia were belted out during the guide’s silent moments.   I suspect these were due to him having a quick drink in order to fortify himself for the rest of the day.   When not talking, they applauded.  Every marvel, site, piece of information that was imparted or pointed out by our host was met with enthusiastic clapping.  Everyone was having a great time apart from me.

Finally we stopped at the mining field where two Finnish guys demonstrated how they prospected for  opals.  This sophisticated technique consists of lowering one person down a hole no more than 2 ft wide whilst standing upright in a bucket with a rope tied to the handle.  The other end of the rope is attached to a hand winch.   Once the bottom of the shaft is reached he then takes said bucket, crawls along a hand dug 2 ft tunnel, fills it by hand and sends it back to the surface.   After working in a dark, airless,  baking atmosphere for hours he swaps places with his partner.  Punishing stuff.  To be able to endure these kind of conditions these guys had to be well hard, not give as shit about social graces and be, as far as I was concerned completely insane for risking their lives every day over a bit of rock.  So imagine their expressions when the Americans in a show of joint solidarity gave them a round of applause.  Disbelief coupled with a look that said you of bunch of wankers.   It was a priceless moment.

Anyway, back to Thailand.  So here I am reading an appalling account of American behaviour when eight American females, aged about 24, move into the apartment next to ours.  What you need to know at this point is that the apartments are designed for a maximum of 3 people, they magnify sound to such an extent that the slightest whisper from the other side of the wall sounds like someone is talking into your ear and the owners were not aware of the overcrowded situation. Marry that with the behaviourisms already described (all 8 conformed), the consumption of several bottles of Whiskey before they went out and you have the makings of a sleepless night for all their neighbours.   I won’t go into the depressingly shallow conversations I endured  – suffice to say that it  was inane, peppered with obscenities, shagging was on the agenda, they planned to get hammered and that they were teachers in training (god help the education system).

Throughout the night they staggered backwards and forwards from the beach, throwing the weak stomached into their room leaving them to  vomit the night away whilst they went back for a top up.  Finally about 3 am in the morning the ones left standing settled on the porch with a couple of Thai’s who claimed to be big shots in the bar scene.   Now if you have been to Thailand you will know that Thai men often exaggerate about their status and will claim to own or run an establishment.  This is as likely as Thai prostitutes claiming their husband (who, by the way had a great job) died in a car crash.  Therefore,  they had to go on the game to support their kids.  It amazes me how many men who fall for this line.

Having established that the Thai guy was “godamm amazing at speaking English” and “should teach it himself” he proceeded to regale them with all the swear words he knew.

“Best one is what English speak – my favourite but don’t understand.  What is  fucking mal pet mean?”

“Mal pet, mal pet, mal pet” the Americans chorused “Never heard of that before”.

Translate mai pet from Thai to English and you get – not spicy. I guess “you not fucking spicy” could pass for an insult as in you’re not hot but does seem a bit convoluted.   They all pondered the meaning of this for at least ½ an hour.  Delirious with lack of sleep, I flung back the sheets, leaped out of bed and wrenched the door open.  “Muppet you fuckwits, fucking Muppets”  I screamed.  Of course this all took place in my head as I was far too light headed from sleep deprivation to move.

Several hours later the last of them hit the sack and the whole neighbourhood cried in relief before  they tried to get some sleep.  Unfortunately, an hour later the owner appeared and woke us all up as he hammered on their door demanding to know how many people were in the room.  Four, he was told.  Then why he replied were there 8 pairs of shoes outside the door.   Smugly satisfied  that the Americans had just admirably demonstrated what fucking muppets were, I got up and went for a sleep on the beach.

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