Thailand Can NOT Catch a Break: Monk Pimp-Slaps an Expat

No, you didn’t read that sub-title wrong. A Buddhist monk delivered a series of slaps to a farang. It’s not clear whether the slaps were issued because the victim was a grown man wearing capri pants. But seriously though, it’s pretty well established that the slappings were delivered as the result of a communication mishap in which the monk heard one offensive word, but the victim says he said another (non-offensive) word–apparently corroborated by nearby witnesses. The story is here.


This is a minor incident, except that… well, it was  Buddhist monk. When men of peace get all slappy people start to wonder if there isn’t some greater underlying anti-farang sentiment. I mean, a monk is the last person you expect to slap the snot out of a person who’s just sitting there, and–if they are the last–that means that all the other Thais have been slapping around foreigners already. For the record I only got pummeled about the head and neck in the Muaythai gym, so it was in context.


There’s good reason why Thailand is one of the most beloved tourist destinations in the world. The people are awesome. The food is delectable. It’s easy to get around to see the country’s many impressive sights and serene beaches. It’s laid-back, and, unlike some tourist destinations, it’s a country that’s eager to have you whether you’re a poor backpacker or a wealthy industrialist.


However, lately Thailand cannot catch a break on the tourism front. First, the country is under martial law. I can say from experience that there isn’t much evidence of change if you’re a traveler. However, it probably still keeps some people out. Some governments even issued warnings to citizens out of fear that violence might erupt if citizens tire of the situation. “Martial law” doesn’t exactly scream safe travel destination.


Then in September (around the time I was last in Thailand) a couple was brutally murdered with a hoe on Koh Tao. This might have been even worse for the tourist trade than the martial law. For one thing, it got a lot of press because the couple was really, really nice looking, making it easy to plaster their faces across every media outlet in the world. For another thing, they were killed with a hoe. Who kills someone with a hoe, really? The only way it could have been worse was if it was murder by Garden Weasel (as seen on TV.) (I’m not saying that if it had been an ugly couple that got shot or stabbed with a knife, that the effect on tourism would have been minimal, but…)


As it was, it resulted in the need to put out a new tourism video entitle “I hate Thailand”, that oddly makes Western tourists seems like even bigger pricks than they (we) really are in an effort to attract tourism.

All that said, you should go to Thailand.

Robot Karateka Threat Underwhelming

Worried that Terminator-like robots may kick humanity out its pole position among sentient beings? You can sleep well tonight. A news report today suggests that the Karate Kid’s kicking dominance is not yet under threat by Robo-karateka.  In other words, Ralph Macchio can still out kick the state of the art karate robot. The Cobra Kai’s plans to achieve world dominance via a fleet of Karate androids have been thwarted for the time being.


Indonesian Snake Massage

A Python, but no massage

A Python, but no massage

What could be more relaxing and luxuriating than laying on a massage table and having pythons heaped upon one to slither and writhe their way around one’s body? Many people might answer that question with replies like, “being set on fire”, “a prostate exam”, or “a pop math quiz.” Yet, some people dig this unusual form of therapy, and are willing to pay big bucks for it.

If you’ve traveled in the third world, you know that there are ever new and innovative attempts to bilk tourists out of cash. However, there has to be something to a weird idea for it to really take hold. Consider the ubiquitous Southeast Asian “fish massage.” I’ve tried it. It isn’t really a massage, but it does involve fish–namely little fish that eat away one’s dead skin cells to exfoliate and tickle at the same time. I don’t know if the fish massage does much good, but it feels weird, has some novelty to it, and is a good way to both get off one’s feet and experience ten minutes without someone trying to sell one something else odd and questionable.

Will the python massage (no, that is not a euphemism, innuendo, or a phrase from bad erotica) survive? I believe it will. Why? Because behind every insane idea there are drunk backpackers with Type-A personalities challenging one another to “go for it.”

The Force of Nature

This video begins on the peaceful banks of a river in a nondescript Japanese town. The first minutes of footage is unremarkable except that the water level is quite low, but as it might be in dry season or low tide. Then there is a shrill siren and an urgent warning by loudspeaker–events that will replay periodically throughout the video. Twenty-five minutes later, the camera is fixed on throngs of people trapped on a rooftop across the river. Dawn slinked in and it would be too dark to see these rooftop refugees, but they are silhouetted by the glow of the fires that rage in the background. In the footage in between, one sees houses and ships being carried by the water as if they were a child’s toys washed away by an overturned bucket of water–but brown, debris-laden water that is roiling and churning. Eventually, we see the river reverse its flow.

Someone posted this on Facebook yesterday. I watched all 25 minutes of it. Who watches 25 minutes of shaky, hand-shot home movie? Not me, normally, but I was compelled by the force of nature. They say that one of the things that differentiates humans from even our closest primate brethren is that humans routinely achieve the identical physiological state emotionally from remembering tragedy as from experiencing it first hand–or sometimes even through being exposed to them remotely.

I thought about this force of nature, at first in the literal sense–a pedestrian bridge swept away and freighters swept up a normally unnavigable river. Then I wrote the first 1,000 words or so on a short story entitled The Ghost Ship Onryō that was inspired by watching the tsunami and remembering the news stories it triggered. The story is quite dark, as matched my mood for much of yesterday. Such is the force of nature, to compel me to change my plans and to morph my emotional state through ripples that continue to expand years after the event.