Nine years, what a surprise

Is what David Bowie might have written had he been dyslexic.

But it’s what I have written because I am astonished to be reminded that it is Pattaya Day’s birthday and it is nine years since I started this collection of nonsense. Initially it was an excuse to write, because I like writing; and then it was an excuse to share photos, because what’s the point of taking photos if you can’t bore other people with them? And here we are.

WordPress tells me that there is still an audience.

This in spite of a reduced frequency of posting and an endless repetition of articles on cameras, coffee and the various delights of life with she who must be obeyed. What’s wrong with you people?

Anyway, WordPress also tells me that the site has had 936,000 views, and it would be churlish to not try for the million; or at least ten years.

So, thanks for reading; and even more thanks for commenting, if you do. And to celebrate I will not post anything next week because I will not be near a computer.

March 24th, 2017|4 Comments

An afternoon with bureaucracy

After the snafu with Bangkok Bank, it was time to apply for a credit card with SCB.

First stop was immigration to apply for a letter of residence. After too many cups of coffee and generally dicking around some crucial administrative work, we left home a little late and arrived at immigration half an hour before their lunch break. Never mind, ten minutes is usually enough.

“No time, come back at 1300”, said the man at the desk.
Oh.

So off for some lunch, and after that off for yet another coffee to fill in the time before returning at 1300. A mass of people meant a bit of a queue, but the lady who served me was very smiley and helpful as she relieved me of the 300 baht with no receipt for the service that is officially free.

Letter in hand, off to Central where we present ourselves at SCB. The lurking manager checks the various bits of paper and clears us to talk to the bank clerk.

We offer copies of my passport to the clerk as required, but she apparently assumes these have been doctored and goes off to make her own copies. Back at the desk with the pile of paper which is co-mingled with reams of other bits of paper, she seems satisfied with the submission and we tell her we will now go to the bank to extract the required cash, so can we have my passport back? The “we will go to the bank” seems to register, but the passport request does not. Eventually, having raised voices close to Thai unacceptable level, she responds, and it is off to TMB to close an account which holds the required funds.

I have the upcoming conversation with TMB playing in my mind:

I would like to close this account.
Oh, why sir, we would be so sad to lose your business?
Because YOU wouldn’t give me a credit card, and SCB will, so I am going to give them all this money. Hah!!
This breaks my heart sir.

How it actually plays out is:

I would like to close this account.
OK, here is the cash.
Because YOU…oh…Thank you.

We are somewhat disappointed at the lack of confrontation (I say “we”, but it’s actually just me, my wife has no idea of the imaginary arguments that rage in my head. I need help) but go back to SCB and plonk a shitload of cash on the table.

There are forms to sign. There are more forms to sign. The clerk answers her phone. She disappears for five minutes. The clerk looks at her phone. The clerk starts counting the money and then stops to look at the phone of a colleague. More forms appear. The clerk looks at her phone.

She who must be obeyed has, over the years, often prompted me to be patient. But frustration takes over and I glance at my wife and suggest this is probably taking longer than it should. Surprisingly, she agrees, and suggests to the clerk that if she focused on the customer she was meant to be dealing with, we might be finished before the mall closes.

Emboldened, I ask the clerk how much longer, and she promises no more than five minutes. My wife indicates that if it is longer than that we will take our money and leave. This threat worries me a little because if I had to choose between a long-winded but completed credit card application and walking around in Central with a bag full of cash and little chance of a credit card, I would choose the former; so I am somewhat relieved when the clerk counters the threat by sticking our cash in a drawer.

The situation is clearly escalating to the level that Trump might tweet about it when, after seven minutes, we are done and I am assured I will get my credit card in two weeks.

I remain cautiously pessimistic.

March 23rd, 2017|1 Comment

Namaste

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March 23rd, 2017|0 Comments

A smokin’ good read

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March 21st, 2017|2 Comments

Amazon can fuck off

My oldest recorded purchase from Amazon was 18 years ago; so I have been buying from them for a long time. It used to be books, but in the last year or so it has been Kindle eBooks. An exception was made earlier this year when I purchased the Brian Bilston book for The Son. I chose the free “following day delivery” and the book duly arrived on his doorstep the next day. Another smooth transaction.

Today I was browsing the shambles that is my credit card bill and I noticed a charge from Amazon for 79 of her Majesty’s pounds. What impetuous, already forgotten purchase was this? After some rummaging around various places I discovered I had paid for a year’s subscription to Amazon Prime, a service that is of bugger all interest to someone living in Thailand. How could this be?

Based on the experiences of many, many other pissed off customers; it transpires that if you choose the following day delivery option, you are automatically given a free month’s trial of Amazon Prime. Checking back through my emails I did find a mail welcoming me to my free trial. As it was nestled within a barrage of mails from Amazon around that day (thanks for your order!, your order has shipped!, people who bought this book also bought!, have you considered? etc. etc.) I may not even have noticed it, and if I had; well, free trial, what’s the harm?

The harm, gentle reader, is tucked away in small print at the end of the free trial email. “At the end of the trial month, if you haven’t explicitly cancelled, you will be automatically charged 79 pounds for a year’s subscription because we have your credit card on file and maybe you won’t notice. Sucker.” I paraphrase.

As I haven’t used the service I never asked for and didn’t even know I had, I can cancel and get my money back, eventually. But I needed that 79 pounds for food, so now what am I going to do?

Bastards.

March 20th, 2017|13 Comments

Begorrah, krap

One of the things I like about living in Pattaya is the frequency of “events”, all of which offer the opportunity for photos. My favourite events are those where Thais and farangs come together to have a good time. Thais are the world champions at having a good time, and if the silly farangs want to organise something; then the Thais are quite happy to come along and raise the sanuk level.

And so it was with the St. Patrick’s day parade. St. Patrick, as we all know, is the patron saint of Guinness and projectile vomiting; and every year his life is celebrated by the excessive consumption, followed by the rapid egestion, of the black fluid. His favourite colour was green.

The Irish fraternity in Pattaya decided to have a small parade to mark the day, but the Thais heard the word “parade” and turned up in their hundreds to join in. There were more marching bands than I could count, floats and people dressed in all manner of outfits, only a few of which seemed to have much to do with St. Patrick, apart from a splash of green. It was a throng of good humour and all in aid of charity; so the whiners on Thai Visa complaining about the inevitable traffic jams can fuck off.

The Irish Ambassador to Thailand made an appearance and quite rightly looked and sounded very Irish. Here he is being badgered by a man with a green towel on his head who wants to swap the ambassador’s flowers for his snake.

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He started his speech in Thai, which is when I discovered that there is nothing quite as charming as Thai being spoken with an Irish accent. Assorted luminaries then stood for photos.

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Down below, the crowd was preparing for the parade.

Suits you sir:
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Mad hatters:
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Jilted admirer:
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Reverence and advertising:
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Objects in the rear view mirror may look less Irish than you expect:
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Catching the moment:
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Big hat:
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Small hat:
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The sign of the Patrick:
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Proud to be Irish:
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Sounds like a duck being strangled:
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Portable sound recording:
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King of snake:
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When Irish eyes are covered:
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I sentence you to twenty lashes:
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It was only then that Somchai realised he had forgotten to brush his teeth that morning:
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It’s getting hot in here:
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I see no ships:
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Wish we had worn green too:
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Having trouble opening my eyes:
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The mayhem in the staging area suddenly resolved itself, and the parade started at 1600 prompt, taking more than fifteen minutes to disappear down soi 4 to Beach Road.

Toot:
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More toot:
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Extra toot:
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Thump:
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Forgive me father for I am sinning:
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Carried respect:
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Look, that man has an Olympus!:
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Green creations:
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Talking of mirages, have you seen our new condo?:
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Mad Max Somchai, Fury Road:
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Keep your hands off my Hooter:
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Most enjoyable and I shall put the date of St. Patrick’s death in my diary for next year.

March 19th, 2017|4 Comments

Orphans

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March 17th, 2017|0 Comments

Not yet complete

December 2011 saw the launch of the most ambitious and expensive Pattaya condo development since Ocean 1 (not yet complete): Centara Grand Residence.

To be developed by the Tulip Group, who were also developing the Waterfront (not yet complete), the building would eventually be managed by the Central Group’s hotel wing, Centara. The project was launched in Central World and at the end of the launch weekend the sales representatives, Richard Ellis proclaimed a “dramatic sales response“.

Five years on and the project is, wait for it, …….not yet complete, and a group of owners have started proceedings against the developer.

Leading the unhappy investors is former Miss Thailand, Khun Boom, who obtained a 15 million baht discount on a 35 million baht unit in exchange for acting as the face for the development. Unfortunately the developer wanted her to be more than just the public face; and after several unwanted advances, Khun Boom cancelled her role and asked for her money back. Some was returned but the remainder had been “invested in Singapore”. Presumably the other 156 people filing the suit have not had any of their deposits returned.

The Central Group have been quick to point out that the mess is nothing to do with them as they only agreed operate the building once complete and that this was made clear in all sales contracts. So buyers should not have assumed any Centara involvement in the project. Silly buyers.

The developer has sent a letter to investors explaining why the project failed. The reasons given are:
1. Delays in obtaining approvals. The EIA submission was made in July 2013 and approved in October of the same year; this seems quite speedy by local standards.
2. Negative market sentiment due to political uncertainty. This place has been politically uncertain forever.
3. Lots of long words explaining why there were fewer potential Russian and Chinese buyers. Foreigner can only purchase 49% of units. Sell half to Thais and you are in profit already.
4. Sudden fall in the price of oil impacting the world economy. Rather scraping the barrel here (geddit?). Lower oil prices means lower steel prices and cheaper logistics which would partially offset the hundreds of lost condo sales to oil rig workers.
5. A negative outlook on real estate making it harder to obtain loans. But surely they had Finance in place at the start?

Still, those are the reasons given and it seems clear that the project is doomed. But wait! The letter goes on to say that “negotiations with a potential new investor are at an advanced stage”.

So, in spite of all the listed reasons why the project has failed, someone is prepared to pick it up again! Hooray!

But wait, the letter has a page 2. Always beware of page 2. The second page contains more long words explaining why the company must now declare bankruptcy, without providing words of any length as to what this might mean for the investors receiving the letter.

It then goes on to complain that some investors have commenced legal action which is “severely depleting management time which could be better directed towards the company’s stated directives”. So please stop fighting to get your money back and join the queue with the other creditors owed some 911 million baht.

I remain cautiously optimistic.

Not yet complete:

March 17th, 2017|5 Comments

Bangkok Bank bureaucracy

I recently renewed my visa. As part of the process I discovered that my cunning stunt of holding one million baht to cover both the financial requirements for my visa and providing me with a credit card was no longer viable. So it was off to Bangkok Bank to reduce the balance of the account to 400,000 baht, which would give me a more than adequate credit card cover of 200,000 baht.

“Good morning, I would like to reduce the credit limit on this card to 200,000 baht.”
Long pause while various people are consulted.
“Cannot.”
“Why not?”
“Cannot change credit limit on card. You will have to apply for new card. And it will no longer be extra special premium VIP card.”
“What is the minimum credit limit for the extra special premium VIP card.”
“OK, it can be the extra special premium VIP card.”
“Presumably I can keep this card while I wait for the new one?”
“Cannot.”
How long for the new card?”
“Maybe six weeks, new process, lots of forms.”
“So for six weeks I will have no credit card?”
“Correct, but maybe only four weeks. Can you manage for four weeks without a credit card?”
– My turn-
“Cannot.”

So I went to my new friends in TSB with whom I have deposited cash for a few years.

“Can I apply for a credit card?”
“Cannot.”

But the lady hinted SCB might be able to help. I have never even walked in the door of SCB; but worth a try.

“Good morning SCB, can I apply for a credit card?”
“Can. Get proof of address from immigration and fill in a form. Deposit 400,000 baht and get interest plus a credit card with 200,000 baht limit.”
“I love you.”

So that is what I will do; and once I have my nice new SCB card, I will be down to Bangkok Bank to cancel the existing card, remove my one million baht, and spend it all on cake*.

*Lenses

March 16th, 2017|8 Comments

Get your strap on

If I had 10 baht for every time someone has pointed in the general direction of my camera and proclaimed “I do like that!”, I would have at least 70 baht.

Only briefly ruing the lack of financial gain, I always launch into my usual spiel: “why thanks, yes, it is an Olympus E-M 1, probably the best…”.

They interrupt, “no, not the camera, the strap”.

“Oh”.

And indeed it’s a very likeable strap.

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“But Spike”, you whine in that annoying voice you sometimes adopt, “don’t you get a free strap with your camera?”

Indeed you do, but there are two things wrong with it. First, there is nothing worse than a wide, synthetic strap on your sweaty neck to make you have an even more sweaty neck. Plus, these free straps are free because they are smothered in advertising for the camera manufacturer. We have all seen the sad bastards wandering around with a camera, supported on a strap that tells the world that they made the mistake of purchasing a Canon 60D.

So for the last four years, my Olympus straps have stayed in the box and have used the lovely leather Barton 1972 strap. But four years of my sweat takes a toll and the strap started to disintegrate. So today a little box arrived:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now I am ready for another four years of people pointing at me and exclaiming their delight.

March 14th, 2017|3 Comments