And once again, I'm pulling myself up from the swamps by my bootstraps.
I'm off to Thailand and, true to form, it's work. I had hoped for a semi-permanent position as of October, after we expect to be done in South Africa, but no. Now, it's four weeks in northern Thailand, in the country's second hub after Bangkok, Chiang Mai. I'm supposed to do some aggregation, cultivation, sanitation and expensation (wouldn't rhyme) on the web environments HDNet operates. I expect it to be fun.
And I'm told electronics are cheap. I can't wait.
A romantic drive
Yesterday, finally, I was able to convince Betsy to eat at Apadana, the quite good but also quite expensive Persian restaurant in Johannesburg. That is, she said "You can choose where we'll have dinner tonight, I'll pay."
But it was not meant to be. The restaurant was being turned into yet another carpet seller while a bit of the venue had already been turned in to a video rental den. We contemplated the, also not too cheap, Lebanese restaurant next door, but I wanted to ask the decidedly Persian looking employees of the video store what had happened to the restaurant.
"It's closed." Now that was a surprise.
But it had also moved, to the Brightwater Commons, and had become a Persian/Arab restaurant. We headed out.
And, really, we shouldn't have. Due to a police road block during rush hour, it took us 90 minutes to drive less than 10 kilometers. But we made it to Sahara, without even the police taking a notice of us.
But, Persian/Arab my ass. All the dishes seemed Lebanese and the two male proprietors appeared Turkish. Except perhaps the lady of the house; a quite sweet looking, finely sculpted, dark haired cutie who mostly took care of the fire, to keep the place warm.
When we complained about the lack of bread with our starters, the inevitable happened: "But where are you from?" The cat was out of the bag. They were indeed Iranian (but from Bandar-e-Anzali, which makes it likely that, ethnically, they're Turkish).
We ended up talking to the lady of the house, who had lived in The Hague for five years and spoke reasonable Dutch. And we got free bread, after the gas supply was restored, and chips. And, next time, we would have to ask for Persian dishes and she would make them on request.
On the plane
The flight to Thailand is with Thai International Airways. And, it's true, it's good. All economy passengers have a personal video player with more than 30 movies and many more series and CDs to spend your time with. But, maybe not too surprisingly, most of what's on offer is utter crap. The food is quite good, with cognac to wash it down.
I've increased the number of countries and places I've now seen quite a bit while on the flight. It started with what I think were the Iles Glorieuses, just off the coast of northern Madagascar. Then I saw the capital of the Seychelles, Victoria, and later, with the full moon high up in the sky, illuminating the sea, making it look like a black diamond, we flew over Male and other islands in the Maldives. But it didn't stop there.
We got to see, well, if you were sitting next to a window on the right side of the plane, which was the right side, and were looking out of the window as well, which I was, you'd also have spotted Colombo, the largest city but not the capital of Sri Lanka, and some of the Andaman islands.
On the Thai
The Thai language is a tonal language, like Chinese. The Lonely Planet gives one great example of what this can result in: "Mai mai mai mai mai" (I'm leaving out the accents, which denote the tone), which means "new wood doesn't burn, does it?"
In northern Thaiand, there's an area called 'Sukhotai', meaning rising of happiness, dating from around the 12th century, which is considered to be the birthplace of Thai culture. In central Afghanistan, there's a place called 'Surkh Kotal, some 1000 years older, but named by the Kushans, who ruled what is now Afghanistan at the time. They, as the Thai, were Buddhists. I've forgotten what Surkh Kotal means, but I think 'Surkh' is a word for 'Red'.
Still, this almost is too much of a coincidence.
Kanchanaburi, north west of Bangkok and not nearly close enough for me to visit, is the location of the one and only former Bridge over the river Kwai.
Thailand used to be called Siam. And, indeed, that's where the original Siamese twins came from.
And Bangkok is home to what might just be the most notorious prison on the planet, the Bangkok Hilton. A few years ago, I read a book on a non-Thai fighting for survival there. On Bangkok's airport, i found multiple books with exactly the same subject, but written by different former expat prisoners. All were imprisoned for drug trafficking.
If you're thinking of going to Thailand, read this book, or any other like it. You will stay away as far as possible from anything even only resembling drugs.
Thailand has a reasonable claim to being home of the first agriculturalists as well as first metallurgists, out dating Sumeria by a few hundred years. Does that mean Thailand should be considered as the birthplace of civilization?