Thai Pride.

Sawasdeekhap / Namaste / Welcome!

The fan on the external wall of the bathroom rattled in the wind. Its guards occasionally lifted an dropped with each passing breath outside. The inactive power let the blades of the fan spin around silently. Beyond the cubicle-shaped bathroom an air conditioner whined gently through the thin plastic doors. The shower unit to the left of the toilet pulsated hot water into the mostly cold feeling tiled room. Steam rose and applied condensation to the mirror over the cumbersome ceramic sink. Two towels, used in a rotation of beach bathing, swimming outside and showers within the room hung lifelessly from two polished metal pegs. They faced the sink, a sink surrounded by soaps, cheap bottles of fragrance and shampoos. Not the worst place to have a pooh on a toilet.

“Good times, bad times, give me some of that” –  (Edie Brickell – Good Times)

I’m in a land where music, dance, the arts (I watched a bizarre Hua Hin 2: The Musical at the Cicada market last night), and creativity really flow. There are more things that could be classed as unique, than that of most places that I have travelled. People here really embrace their nation with real love and care. No chewing gum on the streets and little litter. This is a place that really takes pride in itself. The fact that the market is named after an unglamourous insect is a sense of greatness too.

The people of Thailand are visibly in love with their nation. There’s a soft heartfelt passion for flag and monarchy. There’s not a touch of aggression towards it.  Pictures of the Royal hierarchy are throughout the land. Vajiralongkorn AKA Rama X has been on the throne since October 2016 by crowned only as of May 2019. His pictures and that of former flight attendant and now Queen Suthida are everywhere. The apartment we have has one, and one of the previous King and his Queen. Chakra, the weapon of Rama or Vishnu comes from an old Sanskrit word Chakri. It belongs to the Thai King. The monarchy therefore hold the position as the guardian of civilization. Lord Rama co-exists with Ayutthaya (the light of Thai civilization). The respect for the royal family here is tremendous. King Bhumibol Adulyadej composed around 48 pieces of jazz music. Now that’s a contribution to culture! Throughout the lands of Thailand there are countless places funded by the Royal House to improve agriculture, health, and the environment. Unlike many other Monarchs around the globe, here was a King dedicated to improving the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable. Thailand take their monarchy very serious and some of the laws reinforce this. I have no reason to insult these welcoming lands that I have landed upon, so I am unworried about the Articles 490 and 491 of the criminal code govern lèse-majesté. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Their gaff, their rules, as Al Murray’s Pub Landlord would say.

Actually, finding that it is illegal to leave the house without underwear, was my biggest worry! No commando today. Up there with shirtless drivers and vaping (electronic cigarettes). Totally illegal. I’ll just concentrate on showing my Wai greeting – and not my lack of underwear.  On top of this, my shorts must sit below the knee for visiting sacred sites. That’s not a problem. I carry spare trousers (winter ones) for such occasions. Putting your hands together and bowing slightly in the form of Wai, is similar to the hand greeting of Namaste in Nepal. This is great, because I prefer both over shaking hands and not knowing what germs or bogies are now on my hand from the person who shook my hands. The handshake was started to show vulnerability in that no swords could be grabbed easier. With the Wai, there is no chance a sword will appear and eye contact allows you to feel the genuine warmth of a greeter.

Unlike Nepal, the form of Buddhism is a little different. Theravada Buddhism is everywhere and clearly the dominant religion without being practical. A few million Thai Muslims help keep the meat industry rolling.  There’s an odd balance between meat and two veg here. That isn’t a comment on the nightlife, which is globally known for its liberal attitudes. Thailand, so far, is a swirl of saffron-clad monks and neon signs.  Very colourful indeed.  You cant kill. Yet you can eat that of something which was killed by others.  At shrines, fizzy drinks can often be seen alongside other offerings. All very different from the rocks, papers and carvings found within Nepal’s Buddhism. Very interesting contrasts, in my opinion. Here there is a real tolerance to people and their sexuality, choices and lifestyles. It seems very laid back and relaxed. People are people and that’s great. The world is a better place in the land of smiles.

Until next time.

Cinema Survival in China

RECOVERED FROM THE DEMISE OF HUBHAO.COM

(as true today as at the time of writing in April 2015; I watched Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, to the added soundtrack of snoring for 2 hours!!!)

The cinema, a place of magic, emotions and white-knuckle rollercoaster rides.  Often many battles are on-screen and increasingly as East meets West clashes engulf the big screen movie theatres.  Here is a guide to go in prepared and come out leaving no man behind.

  1. Some theatres sit on shopping mall roofs, others are slap-dashed onto the side of the road. Knowing the location and layout is important.  Research the journey time from the complex entrance to screen time.  Once in the scramble for seats can resemble something like Raiders of The Lost Ark.  Most times I have been to the cinema the screen has opened only ten to fifteen minutes like back home.  The difference here is that people arrive pretty much at kick off and five to ten minutes into tonight’s feature presentation.  Here a standard tut would suffice in the U.K.  Find something to bite your teeth into.  I go all-Jaws and choose the odd spectator who bugs me the most.
  2. Regarding queues, sometimes the lines (a loose definition at best) can resemble a snake (on a plane?). That is if the snake has been ran over several times by a large Monster Truck.  Ticket booths connected to numerous websites and social platforms are on the rise – thankfully.  With respect to prices, a 3D movie including recyclable glasses costs 35RMB at Xingx International Cinema, or 25RMB for a regular movie.  You must join the free VIP schemes starting from an investment of 500RMB (all this money can be used on snacks and tickets).  Just be prepared to scramble rather than queue.  Add extra padding to the elbows and stand tall for extra swipe – or study under the guidance of Bruce Lee’s gym.  Be ready.
  3. Vending points and snacks make up a good element of the cinema going experience. In China Pick ‘n’ Mix is replaced largely by a lack of choice.  Considering outside beyond the entrance to the flicks, snacks are commonplace, inside the demesne of the cinema, snacks can be limited to slightly sweet popcorn and one flavour of QQ candy gums.  The dispenser or a red and white labelled effervescent drink looks worn and is in actuality out of order.  Verity be that water is for sale here.  Salty popcorn is a rarity.
  4. Trailers often hype up the movies massively back home in the U.K. I think almost every film I have watched has been based on seeing a trailer in the movie houses.  com is your friend now.  Oddly no promos or commercials for unrelated products preluded the movie.  If you want an advertisement fix, you need to head to any major shopping mall and take a wander.  Your senses will be bombarded and you may suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in response.  All because the cinema didn’t play the latest Calvin Whatever’s underwear advertisement.
  5. The lack of pre-movie trailers meant that a screen full of rules didn’t slam on the screen in your face. There was no warning.  Copyright warnings didn’t follow.  Pearl and Dean have no place here.  Amazingly, some cinema tickets display a rule about bringing Durian into the screen – and strictly no animals.  If you want a helping of rules then simply exit China for Germany, where there are too many rules in comparison.  The cost may be substantial.
  6. In the U.K. the soft rustle of popcorn packets and crunches of nachos can bet met with a stern “shhhh” or “hush.” Here in China the noises can be very loud.  Phonecalls can be pretty normal.  A phrase such as “ānjìng” may ruffle a few feathers, “Xiǎoshēng yīdiǎn” is literally quieter please and “Bì zuǐ!” is shut up – and much less polite.  These are also useful for teaching, which is just as well, because you’ll be teaching more than one cinema-goer.  I opt for the, “Néng bù néng ānjìng yīdiǎn?”  Quiet down a little.  Just don’t be a party spoiler and expect every noise – or cheers of excitement to dampen down.  Part of the experience is seeing people excited by what they are seeing in two or three dimensions.  Oh, and then there’s often a crèche of children playing at the front of the screen with the soft furnishings as behind them Christopher Waltz and co spook their menacing presence on screen with wraith.
  7. Phones are a bugbear of many a person. The piercing shrill of Nokia haunts me.  At the cinema, I recommend you place some earplugs in and just try to imagine the dialogue.  Otherwise, this is something you’ll have to get used to.  Adapt, make a long distance call, wake someone up.  Let them share your disgust at people making and taking calls in the cinema.  Join the dark side.
  8. Don’t expect to see anyone in the nip. High skirts are the norm for fashion here.  Some scenes face the chop faster than you can say, “Don’t feed them after midnight.”  Nudity and low dress cleavages are censored on television for popular shows like British yawn inducing Downton Abbey – so Tom Cruise and co won’t make out on the silver screen.  Overly sexualised films like Fast & the Furious 24 will always sneak by.  If you’re missing the nudity and beyond romance scenes, try recreating said scenes by doodling the scenes like Jack did in the epic don’t-go-by-ship yarn Titanic.
  9. Taking a large cut out of a mobile phone form, a bottle profile or the silhouette of the latest techno advance isn’t a bad idea.  Chinese releases of western movies often have added product placement.  Whilst you get more movie, you get pushed to buy the latest deoxygenised mineral waters.
  10. The latest Hollywood blockbuster might not be tailored for the Chinese. The sense of humour gap and subtitles (Lost in Translation?) can decrease a movie or even an entire genre demand. Whilst you may think Star Wars is great, spectators from more remote regions – and culturally different folk – far, far away may not.  Sometimes a movie can be released and cancelled in the same week or slated on the first day.  Time is money.  Act fast.  Get there, see it – or await the DVD release (downloads are now available to the more tech savoir-faire).

For further reading:

The History of Cinema in China – Retrieved from Wikipedia, 2015/04/21.

Lesson plan guidance – Retrieved 2015/04/19.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/film-news/10041924/Chinas-Iron-Man-3-milks-its-product-placement.html – Retrieved 2015/04/19.