It's about on Friday21st and I'm sat in a fantastic olde world Bangkok - I'm sure Fu Manchu is going to walk in the door any moment (ok I know he's Chinese but you get my drift). Got here after collecting my son Elliot, who flew here unaccompanied overnight and everything has run smoothly so far, although when I called Tommy (my driver) who was late this morning, and who was due to meet me at Nuan Thip pier on the mainland, he was asleep in the service station. Thailand time...
There is quite a lot to share in this post, not all of it about the location as I want to tell you also about two remarkable women I met two days ago. It's also worth noting that at the time I had just finished reading the Celestine Prophecy, which is quite a famous book, but if you've not read it, it is a story involving as it's central theme that concidences just don't happen - they happen for a reason.
I met a lady called Jane who worked at the hotel. Jane is the name given to her by the hotel owners along with all of the other staff. I first met her when she was part of the group of hotel staff who tried to get me to go out one night, which I declined at the time. Anyway, I was cleaning up on the beach and happened to be at the end where there is a shrine and I saw a lady praying and as she came out, I saw it was Jane. In the next hour or so I discovered that she had been offered up by her Mother to wed a man three times her age. She had her first child at 14 and three in total by the time she was 19. She upped and left with the children at 22 and headed for Bangkok, before eventually ending up at this hotel. She is now 38, self-taught in English and heads up the housekeeping, gardening and spa staff. Her purpose in life is to work to fund the children through University such that they won't have the life she has. A remarkable person.
The next person is a young women called Morgan. I'd noticed her around the previous day or so and she had that aloof air in a Germanic / East European sense (we've spoke about this and she thought I was one of 'those' western men described later). Strange that as I later learnt that her Mother was German and Father Czech! Anyway, I was wondering what a good looking, blonde single women was doing their on her own, so I decided to strike up a conversation (no seedy thoughts please dear readers). Turns out that she did some of her Healthcare degree in Bangkok and whilst travelling came across female Burmese refugees in the North. For whatever reason, they cross the border, in doing so they are in effect persona non gratis and end up in prostitution or some other profession. So Morgan set about an organisation designed to help these women. She has raised money, built a school and is now succussefully helping through education, many of these girls. She even gives them all a mobile phone and speaks to them all individually. She spends about 3 months of the year over here and the rest, fundraising in Washington DC where she now resides. All this and she is only 26....! FYI the web address is www.refugeeducation.com so if you want to send any spare change, I know Morgan would only too gratefully receive it. Another remarkable person.
Both of these experiences have reminded me how in fact almost all of my female friends, many on FB on no doubt reading this, are all strong people who have had a positive effect in one way or another in my life. I thank and salute you all.
I think also about the coincidence and something I've recently begun to think a lot about, is what more I can do to 'give back'. Jane and Morgan particularly, have got me even more determined to do something. Quite what it is yet I don't know, although there is something on the near horizon which I'll share another time.
It's a bit interesting (changing the subject) to see so many western men with Thai women. It's seen in some Thai quarters as a sign of status - surely exploitation of the worst kind though. I personally found it difficult to see, especially when you observe them running to the guys with an ashtray or feeding them at a table. Ditto Men with 'attractive' Thai boys - " we are an open society" was how a local described it to me when I asked how he felt. Make your own minds up.
On a lighter note as my stay at the hotel neared the end, I relented at went to the 'Kalaoke' and sang so many songs I can't tell you. But I clearly made an impression as I had to sing 'Lobbie Lilliams' and Angels on at least 3 occassions and was given copious amounts of Singha beer for the privilage. I was magnificent in my Liam Galagher stance (there were two mic's all adding to the rock god atmosphere) BUT when I did Uptown Girl by Billie Joel only to see all the lyrics had been 'politically corrected', it totally threw me.
One of the staff who was with us was called Sally and had taken a shine to me and was a really sweet girl. Turns out Sally was not what I thought and was in fact my first encounter with a Lady Boy. Her face, voice and mannerisms - well all is not what it seems in Thailand. I'm sure Elliot is going to have quite an interesting couple of days!
So I'm going to leave you dear readers as the rain 'pours' down outside our hotel and we're due to go out to the night market for dinner. Umbrellas won't save us. I'll write again soon ;-)