On Christmas day we went to sort out our visa extension.
The government office is a small, one room building with one massive outdoor extension where you fill out a form with your name and passport number and telephone number, and get photocopies of your passport made.
While we sat outside with our blue biros and confused expressions, a woman came over and helped to fill out the forms, showing us which visa number needs to go in the little box and saying nonono when I wrote the date wrongly.
So, when we’d filled in the forms to her satisfaction, we thanked her and went inside to queue.
There were many Burmese workers renewing their work permits and a big basket of fruit with the logo of local company on it. A goodwill gesture, from them to the officials who were stamping the visas of the people who work in the factory.
A Burmese man made a space for us and smiled very happy that he could do this for us.
Our number came up and we found that we’d not enough money between us but Jayne had told us there was an atm there.
Well there wasn’t, but there was a bank just down the road a few hundred yards and so Nel stayed there, the only white person, while we walked down the hard shoulder against the flow of the three lane traffic while motor bikes came up the hard shoulder behind us. With the noise of the traffic just a few feet to our left, we had no idea they were there until the front wheel was past.
At the bank a security man with a gun was fixing one of the atm machines with super glue.
At home he’d be sacked for that.
At home you’d need to contact the supplier, who’d need to put the job up for tender to local contractors, who would need to demonstrate that their super glue license was up to date and get it stamped by the relevant governing body if it wasn’t. They would turn up several months later and find that their operative hadn’t been trained in now to glue that particular piece of plastic on that specific machine and his operating license had lapsed.
And I bet they wouldn’t have a gun and shades.
We paid the money and waited an hour or so while the pink shirted officials behind the front desk stamped and checked, and passed forms, and put down your forms when something else came up, and then picked them up again.
There were great teetering piles of forms and passports and not an inch of desk visible under it all. And not one computer in the whole office, as a consequence of this it all seemed to be running very efficiently.
There were blue plastic baskets of forms, and all the while Burmese people with an armful of passports coming to the front desk where the lady would drop what she was doing and sort out a problem, or take a concealed 200 baht from the bottom of the pile.
While we were waiting, the girl who’d been so helpful outside came and sat at the desk in front of the officials.
We’d assumed she worked for the immigration service. She didn’t, she was just being helpful.
Jayne and Nel cooked a big Christmas roast dinner for us and later we went to the fair and ate the worst tasting ice cream ever, and threw blunted darts at unburstable balloons.
These darts would bounce off the specially hardened rubber and ricochet off through the crowds of smiling children, at eye height.
Later on that evening we went and sat at the Leo bar by the side of the motorway, in front of the Central shopping mall by a huge Christmas tree, drinking beer and eating fish infused snacks while watching a band with a singer who was, in all likelihood genetically engineered from Michael Jackson and Brian May’s hair. Enormous fun.
Kevin and Jayne had to work yesterday. Jayne was gone by the time we’d got up and I’d been bitten, or abused in some way by something that had caused two huge water blisters on my ankle. I really, really hope they heal properly.
Kevin, and later Jayne both agreed that they’d not seen anything like that before. Hm.
We spent the morning doing not much in the overwhelming heat and when it was time for Kev to go to work, later in the afternoon, we went with him and met up with Jayne for dinner and then went to the cinema until they’d finished.
We saw Life of Pi in 3D, which is the first time we’d ever seen a 3D film and which distracted from an brilliant story, especially the Thai subtitles which seemed to be floating, bold and shining just in front of our eyes.
When the film was over we sat in a coffee shop until they finished work and came out to meet us.
There is a stall selling sugar free fruity desserts. Their slogan, written in foot high pink happy letters is ‘stressed is just desserts backwards’
I don’t know what it means but it seems to make sense, and we checked, and it’s true!
Central shopping mall is a terrifyingly four story high building, if you don’t like heights and you look over the handrail.
Each floor is high enough to accommodate two floors of parking spaces which are numbered from one to four in increments of a half, so you may park on floor two and a half, for example, or three and a half, or you might choose to park on an integer, and when there are no more parking spaces left, you park across the front of a parked car, completely blocking it in, but – and this is the clever bit – you leave your handbrake off so the car can be pushed out of the way. And this works well, until, as we saw, there is a row of perhaps five cars and yours is blocked by the third. This means you need to shift first the end car, enough to then move the second and third cars. And there may be another driver arrived back who you have just blocked in by moving the first, or second, or third car. This might lead to frustration, you’d think, outbursts of anger and even fights, but everybody just seems to take it in a relaxed spirit, and no officials with guns arrive.
I can’t imagine it working out at all well in Morrison’s car park.
We hadn’t eaten since lunch time so Kev and Jayne took us to a village, or a town, or perhaps you’d just call it a maze of narrow streets with motorbikes and street vendors and the tiny run down looking restaurants everywhere that is a Thai neighbourhood. 7/11 stores, which sell hot food but don’t seem to mind a man on a motorbike with a barbeque welded to it just setting up outside the front door, and I mean you have to walk through them close enough to get your hair set on fire by a scorched fish, or a burning pig’s face.
We ate wonderful curry for £2.40 for four of us and Kev said, and we’ve no reason to disbelieve him, that he heard the restaurateur (or canvas tarp, dirt floor and tables on a slant-eur) was enormously pleased to have westerners in her restaurant. He heard her telling her friend.
We were enormously pleased to be there.
We got back, had a couple of cold cold Leo’s on the balcony and played poker pool, a game of Kevin’s devising, he tells us, and we have no reason to disbelieve him, and which he based on a Thai game.
The rules are fiendishly simple. Each player takes two numbers from a bag which correspond to the numbers on the balls. These he keeps to himself and doesn’t disclose. The winner is the player who is the last to have his balls potted.
Now, each player takes one shot each in turn and may pot any ball, or he may choose to line up an easy shot and miss, because it’s his ball and he wants to get it away from the pocket, in which case the other players have to decide whether it was a crap shot, or whether he’s getting his ball away from the pocket, or whether he’s trying to lead you to believe that he’s trying to protect his own ball. Or he might choose a difficult shot over an easier shot, to bluff the other players, or to leave the white away from his ball, or he might be trying to lead you to believe that he’s protecting a ball when in fact that’s the bluff, or he might be trying to leave another ball in an easier position, or it might be a bad shot, or a bluff. And all the while you are also trying to figure out whether the other players are protecting balls, or bluffing.
As with all games, it is immeasurably enhanced by bottles of cold cold Leo beer, loud music and a non competitive attitude.
Kevin is a genius and we laughed like drains.