China Crapping

In 1993, Longman’s Dictionary of English Language and Culture was banned. Its entry for “Bangkok” described Thailand’s capital as a city known for its Buddhist temples and “a place where there are a lot of prostitutes”. Thai authorities said that the publication had eroded the good moral standards of the Thais. The Thai Foreign Ministry had demanded that Longman delete the offending reference but only received some clarification not amounting to an apology.

I’m not sure how many people have been sabotaged by such a description from an authority on definitions, but certainly, an entry like that would not only have ruffled more than a few Thai feathers. Imagine how our Farang guys visiting Thailand regularly are going to explain to their wives. Imagine what the guys and girls at the office would think when their boss goes to Thailand on holiday yet again. Sadly, Thailand already had a reputation and Longman’s Dictionary baldly reinforced it.

But let us not forget that it’s perfectly possible to avoid the places that you see above. Bangkok is a favourite shopping destination for many Asian women. The city is also the true hub for medical tourism. Thailand earned a whopping US$4.31 billion in revenue from medical tourism in 2013. High profile private hospitals in major cities pamper tourists with VIP treatment at affordable rates. In comparison, Singapore’s highly regulated medical tourism sector brought in only a tiny US$216 million. It is unfortunate that prostitution attracts far more attention than ornate temples, shopping centres and high tech hospitals.

But make no mistake, it is an issue and a very big one too. Over the last 30 years, I’ve not had a single Thai friend who would qualify as a full-fledged prostitute, but there are more than a few “borderline” cases from social classes ranging from farmers to accountants. I have literally written books on the culture and mentality that spawns and propagates this industry. There are apologists and other folks in denial who claim that prostitution represents only a tiny, insignificant part of their glorious culture. Sure, these folks may be antique collectors, muay Thai enthusiasts or meditation junkies, but I still beg to differ. Looking objectively at the social phenomena which contribute to the oldest profession in this country, it is difficult to conclude whether Thailand deserves its reputation.

Now let’s shift our focus to ugly Chinamen (women) crapping in public. Be warned that what you’re going to read next may affect your appetite or your ability to hold down a heavy meal.

I first visited China in 1995 and as my father had already been there to visit our relatives long before that, I was mentally prepared for the adventure. One of the most shocking things for the average Singaporean would be the public toilets. One would simply crap into holes in the cement floor. Sometimes, the holes are housed in cubicles but there are never any doors. There is usually a big drain under the hole. Once in a while, the drain would be flushed. In winter when water supply is low and when the shit gets viscous, it could pile up like ice cream and extrude from the hole. People would gladly crap in the open when they see that.

Then, in 1997, I travelled on the Silk Road from Beijing to Kashgar. I took public transport all the way on my month-long sojourn. It was summer and flies were all over the place. The smell of the toilets was stronger and travelled further. I tried as far as possible to “keep” it for the hotel, but when it was not possible, I was somewhat relieved that there was no toilet in sight. Whenever we were given a toilet break on a long bus journey, people just peed and crapped by the side of the road. It was such a pleasant experience compared to crapping in a house of shit and flies.

On the 18-hour journey between Lanzhou and Jiayuguan, the bus stopped several times in the middle of the Gobi Desert and we disembarked, men on one side of the bus, women on the other side and left our excrement on the road. At some small outposts in the desert, the owners of teashops would lock up their toilets to prevent travellers from using them. Need to relieve yourself? Do it on the sand. In China, crap like the Chinese do. Everybody was baring his butt and the whole thrill of voyeurism was completely lost.

Now let’s get back to Singapore where the culture of crapping in the open is completely lost after mobile toilets became available to our army boys. I suspect that little has changed in most parts of China outside the coastal cities. Having read all this, would you be surprised that some of the millions of folks who travel this way on long-distance buses in China might find it perfectly natural to crap in the open?


Mr Calvin Cheng has NEVER seen this – just as a meditation junkie might declare that there is no prostitution in Thailand. Somehow I’m not surprised. It makes the ivory tower analogy so appropriate. Or is it simply another case of 睁着眼睛说瞎话? Seriously, do only mentally ill people in China pee and crap in the open? I’m sure we know better, especially people like me who had to crap like a mainlander for a month. Mr Cheng owns us an apology. He is insulting all the perfectly sane people who leave their trails outside the filthy toilets all over China.

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A Spellbinding Tale?

Twelve years ago, ATV actress Erica Choi (蔡曉儀) suddenly disappeared from the entertainment scene after returning to Hong Kong from a promotional tour in Thailand.

Erica was one of ATV’s leading actresses in the 1990s, and her last project was a guest appearance for the ATV drama Law 2002 <法內情2002>, which also starred Anita Yuen (袁詠儀) and Felix Wong (黃日華).

Erica’s mysterious disappearance led to many conspiracy theories. Rumors said that Erica was mentally unstable and was struggling with a mood disorder.

“Yes, something crazy did happen that year,” Erica confirmed in her interview. “When I was still with ATV, I traveled to Thailand to do some promotion. I met a Thai-Chinese, who pursued me, but I rejected him.

“Afterwards, someone cursed me with black magic. I lost control of my emotions, and I felt like dying. I was always feeling down, and I also attempted to commit suicide several times.”

In her first suicide attempt, Erica tried to swallow pills, but her family members saved her just in time. In her second attempt, she tried to slit her wrists with a knife, but fortunately, the knife was too dull.

According to a report on Jayne Stars, Erica spent some time recovering in the hospital and under the care of her family.

“My elder sister was there to support me in my darkest times. She cried a lot because of me. She was also my economic support in the last few years.”

Asked why Erica chose to disclose such a private matter in her life to the public, she said, “I want to share my experiences. I want to say that even if you’re faced with difficulties, you must clench your teeth and work through it.

“Circumstances will change with the passage of time, and you will eventually see your sky. We should not give up when we are troubled. After suffering comes happiness.

“I am ready to make a comeback,” the 42-year-old said in a recent interview. “I will face my life positively.”

shutterstock_158372336 (1) (640x427)

This story should sound familiar to many of those who have read my book, Spellbound in Chiangmai. Folks who have been charmed by a friendly stranger into buying over-valued gems tell their friends that they couldn’t have done something so stupid if the swindler hadn’t used black magic on them. Businessmen who have put their life savings into a botched investment in Thailand insist that their evil competitors must have cast a spell on them. Respectable gentlemen (or ladies) get duped into doing silly things by bimbos who have only half their IQ. Why? It has to be black magic. I have this to say. Thai black magic is seriously over-rated.

The science and art of the “occult” is something that is exclusive to an extremely tiny group of unworldly practitioners who do not unleash their powers at the request of any Patpong girl. What these “victims” suffered from was simply a serious case of hallucination. Most of us in Singapore who had a rather sheltered upbringing tend to equate friendly, seemingly altruistic behaviour with honesty, responsibility and commitment.

I hate to speculate on Erica Choi’s case (even though I definitely won’t get sued for it), but the story behind all this “black magic” might be a good source of inspiration for any new movie she may contemplate starring in.


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Just Protest

PM Yingluck Shinawatra’s position has become decidedly shaky after rice farmers, supposedly her supporters, started blocking roads when China cancelled its deal to buy 1.2 million tonnes of rice from Thailand. Many rice farmers who had already sold their rice to the government but who were yet to receive payment are now left in the lurch.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban blamed the farmers’ predicament on the government. But whose fault is it really when the government’s caretaker status restricts its options for raising funds. The law prohibits it from making any deal that could create a debt burden on the new administration. As such, it is struggling to find 130 billion baht (S$4.9 billion) to pay farmers for the current crop year. All those who block the elections and keep the current government in caretaker status are the ones the rice farmers should confront. Block roads and join in the protest? That will only ensure that they don’t get paid.

About a month ago, a Singaporean friend of mine, GS, joined in the protests. GS proudly shared his photos on Facebook. I’ve already given up trying to talk sense into him. With his current thoughts, orientation, inclinations and political affiliation closely aligned with his girlfriend’s, I consider him “spellbound” and hopeless. When another friend asked GS why he wanted to kaypoh (to the extent of risking life and limb) with another country’s politics, he simply replied that the current government is corrupt and he wanted to help Suthep Thaugsuban get rid of it.

And that’s the same answer you get from all the Democrats and their supporters on the streets. Of course, amongst the latter, you will find those who simply can’t stand Thaksin’s face. Again, allow me to get back to my moral high horse analogy. When these folks appoint themselves as prosecutor, judge and executioner, it’s so easy to jump on the bandwagon and adopt a Hollywood perspective of good vs evil. There are also many Farang faces among the demonstrators. I wonder if they’re also following their Thai girlfriends like GS.

Get the Democrats to weed out corruption? Appoint a council? Enforce good governance? Why not whitewash with ink?

Below is a picture of former Thai PM Chuan Leekpai. During his time, he was regarded as one of the least corrupt Prime Ministers (albeit ineffectual) Thailand ever had. Having spent quite a bit of time in Thailand back then, I could tell that as an individual, Chuan did have popular support. But not the Democrats. Let’s see why.

1. In 1999, Rakkiat Sukhthana, Health Minister (appointed), was charged with taking a five million THB (125,000 USD) bribe from a drug firm and forcing state hospitals to buy medicine at exorbitant prices. After being found guilty, he jumped bail and went into hiding.

2. Suthep Thaugsuban, then Minister of Transport and Communications (elected), whose brokering of illegal land deals caused the fall of the Chuan’s first term (1992-1995) as Prime Minister, was linked to abuse of funds in setting up a co-operative in his southern province of Surat Thani. His son was also involved.

3. The “edible fence” seed scandal, in which massive overpricing of seeds distributed to rural areas happened. The Deputy Minister of Agriculture was forced to resign.

4. The Salween logging scandal, where up to 20,000 logs were felled illegally in the Salween forest in Mae Hong Son. Some of them turned up in the compound of the Democrat party’s office in Phichit province.

5. Sanan Kajornprasart, Interior Minister, as well as 8 other cabinet ministers were found to have understated their declared assets. Sanan was later barred by the Constitution Court from politics for 5 years.

6. Chuan himself was found by the National Counter-Corruption Commission to have undeclared shareholdings in a rural cooperative.

Thaksin corrupt? Look who’s talking.

Of course, the Farangs and people like GS have girlfriends to humour and they don’t let the facts get in the way of their opinions. To them, Thaksin is the most evil and corrupt person in Thailand – because their girlfriends said so. To me, he is really the lesser of two evils. But the fact that Suthep’s supporters didn’t leave him in disgust even when he threatened to kidnap the Prime Minister and members of her family goes to show that too many Thais don’t care about right or wrong when hatred fills their hearts.

If you visit Thailand during a beautiful season, away from the madding crowds, it may look like paradise. If you befriend someone in his best of moods, you can’t help thinking you’ve made a friend for life. If you happen to visit Thailand when savages take the stage with no regard for the law or even basic human decency, cheered on by clueless foreigners who need to humour their girlfriends, mistresses etc, you may never want to come back again. I’ve been through many ups and downs in the Land of Smiles as I contemplated settling down. This is why I’m procrastinating.

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Not Skiing For Singapore

Born Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson on 27 October 1978 in Singapore, Vanessa Mae started her career as a new age violinist in Britain when she was still in her early teens. I remember seeing her on TV some 20 years ago. Offering more eye candy than music, it was clear to everyone that she could never have made it in Singapore. Concerned parents and other moronic moralists would have complained about her skimpy costumes, her provocative moves and what’s more, she was seriously underage to boot.

To me, she was more an “entertainer” than a musician. I guess I was probably paying more attention to her sexy costumes than her music. No, I didn’t buy a single one of her albums. I guess I didn’t really like the sound of her “techno violin” but frankly, I had nothing against her. Not so for those in the media. As expected, local DJs gave her a hard time. Our local media also panned her performances. For someone so young, I thought she handled her critics pretty well.

In April 2006, Vanessa-Mae was ranked as the wealthiest young entertainer under 30 in the UK in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006, having an estimated fortune of about £32 million stemming from concerts and record sales of over an estimated 10 million copies worldwide. Yes, the critics in Singapore who made some dire predictions for her may have to eat her violin. Anyway, she quietly retired and did not release anymore albums after 2006.

In 2009 Vanessa Mae took up residence in the Swiss alpine resort of Zermatt. She also took up competitive skiing and she will represent Thailand in the 2014 Winter Olympics as an alpine skier by the name of Vanessa Vanakorn. Vanakorn unofficially qualified, under a second set of provisions for Olympic hopefuls, and the Thai Olympic selectors have accepted her bid to represent the country as her father is Thai.

It would be interesting to see how someone with a totally Farang upbringing can represent Thailand. Even more amazing is how Thailand can recruit skiers without spending millions of dollars and going on scouting missions to China. Sadly, in spite of all the role models we have in our closely-watched teachers and leaders, we are still turning out brats and bullies.

I’m curious about whether she’s taking up Thai lessons now, but seriously, I’m more curious about her skiing outfit.

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Blasts In Bangkok

Genius has its limits. Stupidity knows no bounds.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who is overseeing the response to the protests, questioned why organizers changed the rally’s route to pass by the abandoned buildings where the bombing occurred. It’s amazing how many stupid supporters this guy (Suthep) has.

Nobody is perfect. Pick the lesser of two evils.

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Miss Bangkok: Memoirs of a Thai Prostitute by Bua Boonmee

Born to an army sergeant major in Isan (Northeastern Thailand), the author Bua had a happy childhood growing up among military tanks and trucks. She had no money for toys or even colour pencils while her mother gambled away her allowance and her father squandered money at watering holes on payday.

Before long, her parents were fighting and she would hide in her neighbour’s house. Her mother’s gambling habit grew worse. When she was 17, her father found a lover and her mother decided to leave him and take her and her sister to Bangkok. After having settled down in the Thai capital, her mother sold som tam (papaya salad) on the streets. A bartender by the name of Chai tried to hit on Bua. Her mother opened doors for him and urged Bua to marry him even though Bua had no feelings for him.

Bua and Chai got married and she only found out that he was a nut case who was very loving one moment and downright abusive the very next minute when she was pregnant with his child. Bua was beaten up whenever he suspected that she was having an affair. Bua decided to leave him and she left her son with her father in Khorat.

Bua went to work as a bartender, then a hostess at an upmarket nightclub. A wealthy Japanese businessman by the name of Hiroshi became enamoured with her. He showered her with money and gifts, hoping that she would agree to be his mistress. She rejected him, but he patiently courted her, thinking that she was a shy virgin playing hard to get. After three years, the amazingly generous and patient Japanese man gave up and stopped supporting her. Bua had to abandon her classy apartment and move into a shanty hut in a slum.

Then, she met a motorcycle courier by the name of Yuth who was “more attractive than Chai”. She found him “sweet” and “affectionate”. In spite of the tremendous restraint she showed in rejecting the wealthy and mature Hiroshi’s advances, she wasted no time in jumping into bed with the vocal and showy Yuth. Shockingly yet predictably, he turned out to be another wife-beater. She wanted to leave him but discovered that she was pregnant (again). She gave birth to two of his children and while he doted on them, he refused to work and the family eventually drifted into financial dire straits.

Bua tried to work as a hostess again, but at 29, she was deemed too old for the upmarket establishments catering to wealthy Asians. Realising that her “market value” had plummeted, she was recruited into a Patpong gogo bar by another Isan girl by the name of Nok. Yuth was agreeable to her prostituting herself as long as she only slept with Farangs and not Thais. Bua received her thong bikini and started dancing on stage, trying to get horny Farang men to bring her back to their hotel rooms.

Nhim, the mamasan at the gogo bar, ran a tight ship with strict house rules. Bua was regularly subjected to the indignity of having regular blood tests and her vagina douched at a VD clinic.

Before long, the inevitable happened. Bua met a then 35-year-old engineer from California by the name of Jack. He not only gave her orgasms, he even took her shopping. Bua was in the habit of telling her clients about an abusive ex-spouse to gain sympathy. She lied to Jack that she was a single parent. After Jack left Thailand, he sent her a long love email. She looked forward to the day Jack would book her on the next flight to California.

Jack visited Thailand frequently, but he seemed contented to remain a regular customer in spite of their apparently romantic relationship. As expected, Bua’s mother welcomed Jack with open arms but discreetly warned her not to get emotionally involved. Bua did not tell him that she was still living with an abusive husband and two children. She became confused and ambivalent. One moment, she was doubting his sincerity when he didn’t seem to mind her sleeping with other men in his absence and yet another moment, she was hating him for being possessive when he wanted her for himself only.

One day, Bua received an email from a certain Sarah – Jack’s fiancee! Emails from Jack stopped after that. She realised that she was not the only liar in the relationship.

Bua’s sister Nang found herself a Norwegian boyfriend and married him. She was instantly inundated with requests for money from family members to distant relatives. Nang offered Bua a means of escape from her unhappy marriage, but she couldn’t bear to leave her children. Seeing that the two of them were so attached to their father, they would hate her if she took them away. Bua ends the book with hope that she would one day meet a Farang who could rescue her from prostitution. Ironically, prostitution is her only way of finding him.

I finished reading this book in a couple of hours. It’s really very “light” compared to the classics that I often have to pore over word for word. I’m not sure if Bua had used a ghostwriter, but the language is simple, fluent and unpretentious. I can’t say that I’ve learned anything new from this book, but it does offer a complete story with an insider’s view of how a typical Thai bargirl came to be.

However, I take issue with Bua’s understanding of the Buddhist concept of karma. She wrote: “I have come to the conclusion that I must have done some terrible deeds in a past life to warrant such a terrible present”. It seems pretty obvious to me that the mess she found herself in was largely the result of her imprudence in this life. Suffice to say that she has not won my sympathy.

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