Back Home in Bangkok, Part II

After Part I

November 14-23, 2004

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Something unusual is happening to the hotel formerly known as Sofitel.

Now for some visual overkill:

Monday, November 15, 2004

This is a shopping complex ... well, it will be one when the tenants finally bring in their inventory. Yes, the builders are still adding the finishing touches, but it looks like it is now pretty close to moving day. To position it, dear reader? ... OK, It is about a 5 minute walk from our current place; it is located on Silom Road just east of the fly-over expressway.

Actually, Sun Square is a typical Thai/Chinese 'style-and-pile' set of shops and living quarters. On the ground floor (see the steel roll-down fronts) is where the day to day business takes place. Above the shops (on two, three and sometimes four floors) is where the owners live. (*)

Watcharee knows that I am crazy ... but, I am thinking of buying one of these units. No, not to rent it out ... but to live in it. We could park our cars in the 'shop' area and live in the above 3 or 4 floors. The location is perfect: good public transportation, lots of multi-star restaurants/hotels within walking distance, and the shopping will be a piece of cake. (**)

Sigh ... more likely, this is just one of my fantasies that will not work out. Maybe everything is already rented; or nothing is for sale; or the builders only want cash registers in the place; or nobody wants a garage next to their fish shop.

(*) Watcharee's Chinese cousin has a similar work/living arrangement at a place located about a 20 minute drive from us. Though she does keep her garage on the ground floor; giving the next two floors to her printing presses ... floors 4, 5 and 6 is where the family allows itself to eat, sleep and have fun. Not being retail she doesn't have to worry about the casual walk-in trade.

(**) But there is no swimming pool ... and no view of the river ... and maybe people will bang on our door asking when we'll open for business. I guess Watcharee is right. But, stick around ... who knows.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

It has been almost five years since I've last seen my friend, Shen Dan, and his wife Jill. That was in Taipei, where they now live. On that particular trip back in 2000 Linda Santarelli and I visited both the PRC and the ROC. Keen readers can explore our wanderings ... those who want to go to the chase can just click on Dan and Jill.

And, it has been more than five years ago since I last saw Dan in Shanghai, his home town ... and the city where we first met. Like the readers above, you can watch Linda and me meander about Shanghai or you can just left-click on the core face photo. But, I do recommend the full tour ... Shanghai can't be beat as a world class city; and you have to see this hotel: with rooms above the clouds.

But, it was more than 21 years ago when I first met Dan; we met at the Shanghai Overseas Seaman's Club in 1983 (*). Yet over these past two decades we have kept in contact either by snail mail, e-mail or visits. All of the visits have taken place in Shanghai, save for the last one which was in Taipei. Jean Marks was with me on most of the trips to Shanghai ... all the early ones; my children were with me on one of the trips to Shanghai; Linda was with me on the last trip to Shanghai and the one trip to Taipei.

Since there is a pretty good chance that Watcharee and I will go to Shanghai in January 'Dan'"(**) has been keeping me up to date as to what is new in his city. Unfortunately, he will not be there when we go to Shanghai. Perhaps we'll be able to see him in Taipei on our way back to Bangkok. I hope so. If not, we'll make a special trip to see Dan and Jill a little later. He is a dear friend.

Yesterday Dan sent me these photographs: of him and his wife and a photo of where we first met.

(*) Before the big USSR/China tiff in the 60's the Shanghai Overseas Seaman's Club was the Soviet Consulate in Shanghai. Now that the USSR is no longer around I think the Club may have reverted to Consulate status (this time, Russian). In the photograph the Shanghai Overseas Seaman's Club is to the right of the bridge. The brownish building just to the left of the foot of the bridge is Shanghai Mansions: our hotel in 1983. From the current picture it looks like the hotel is now sporting an advertisement for Bayer on its roof.

(**) When we first met the Chinese transliteration of his name into English yielded Daniel Sun. Later improved transliteration turned him into Shen Dan. To me he is always Dan, my friend.

PS: Too cool ...

Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller: "I was just smokin' a cigarette
and someone takes my picture and it all blows up."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

This from the November 22, 2004 issue of TIME.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Four years ago, almost to the day, I noticed that the old Christian Cemetery on Silom Road was doing double duty as a laundry room.

I think that I revisited the place a couple of years ago ... when a number of the graves had been 'uprooted' .... but, for the life of me I can't seem to GOOGLE it.

Anyway, now it is pretty barren save for the tomb of Xavier and one other unnamed 'soul'.

PS: Via pure grunt work I found the last time that I visited the Christian Cemetery on Silom Road. It was on January 14th of this year ... and, at the time I wrote:

"The Christian cemetery adjacent to Silom Road seems to have had some visits from 'body snatchers'. The absence of bones and teeth suggest that the intruders were not just looking for gold."

The photos are here.

PPS: I wonder why my internal GOOGLE missed it.

Friday, November 19, 2004 (pre-journal)

Reader L. Muncie of Wateringbury, Kent, UK writes:

"As a young plane spotter I have not had the opportunity to ever see the earliest version of the Boeing 747; the one that had a small lounge upstairs, reserved, of course, for first class passengers. Do you have any photographs of one of these flying dinosaurs?"

THOCBDC was able to find a scale model of this extinct species (sporting the livery of British Airways (*)) in the lobby window of a travel agent on Silom Road, right here in Bangkok. Due to reflections from the glass you might have to squint a bit to make out its dated interior.

(*) Hmmm ... how did it go? First there was B.O.A.C. and B.E.A (**); then British Airways; then British; now BA. Have to ask Andy about this.

(**) British Overseas Air Corporation and British European Airways.

Saturday, November 20, 2004 (pre-journal)

From this morning's breakfast edition of the Bangkok Post:

Theft suspects' sex organs cut off

An angry painter cut off the sex organs and earlobes of two teenage boys he accused of stealing more than 50,000 baht from him in Talat Phlu district of Bangkok on Thursday.

The grisly revelation came after one of the boys, Jareh Nomai, 15, was found staggering about near Wat Mai Yai Nui School, wearing a pair of blood-soaked shorts.

Manit: What I did befitted their crime - KOSOL NAKACHOL

The boy was taken to Suan Phlu police station where he asked police to rescue his friend, Kitti Udonpool, 14, locked in a house owned by a man identified as Manit Simathammatharn, 40.

Police found Mr Kitti and took the two boys to the Police General Hospital.

Police said Mr Manit admitted severing the boys' penises and earlobes in a fit of rage after they allegedly stole his money.

He claimed he took the boys in, gave them a place to stay and fed them. Later, he discovered the boys had stolen 130 baht and he told them to leave his house.

On Nov 12, he woke up to find another 1,000 baht had gone missing along with his ATM card. He checked with the bank and was told 50,000 baht had been withdrawn via the ATM from his personal account.

Mr Manit said he filed a police complaint. He also found evidence from the bank that the boys had made the ATM withdrawal of 50,000 baht.

Mr Manit said he tricked the boys into coming back to his house by inventing a story that the real thief had been caught. The boys returned on Nov 17 and he asked Mr Kitti to buy him some glue, leaving him alone with Mr Jareh in the house.

He persuaded Mr Jareh to handcuff himself to prove his innocence, and put the boy in a room. When Mr Kitti came back with the glue, Mr Manit locked him up too.

Mr Manit said he decided to cut off Mr Jareh's left earlobe before severing Mr Kitti's penis. He then thought the dissection was out of balance and cut off Mr Jareh's penis as well. He threatened the boys to confess to the theft or their organs would never be re-attached.

Mr Manit gagged the boys whose painful cries alerted the neighbours. He then threw the severed organs into a canal near Wat Mai Yai Nui temple. He insisted what he did to the boys befitted their crime.

"There's nothing they deserved more for stealing the money I saved," he said. He was saving to pay for an overseas holiday. He also planned to press theft charges against the teenagers.

Charoen Nomai, 41, Mr Jareh's father, said his ninth-grader son faced suspension from school because he skipped classes often. Mr Jareh ran away last week and Mr Charoen said he was aware his son had spent time at Mr Manit's house.

Pol Col Sucheep Penkitti, superintendent of Suan Phlu police, said police had arrested Mr Manit and seized as evidence a knife, a pair of scissors and two razors.

Mr Manit was charged with assault endangering life, torture and unlawful confinement.

Sunday, November 21, 2004 (pre-journal)

Reader Andy P. from the UK writes in reply to my posting on British Airways' historical 'livery':

"Until 1939 it was Imperial Airways then the only two real air outfits operating in British skies tween 1939 & 1945 were the RAF & Luffwaffe.

Though the US army & Navy airforces operated out of the uk they didn't "operate" in Uk. [g]

I think BOAC [far flung places] and BEA [locals] must have been set up in 1948 when we seized the commanding heights of the economy!

Heathrow as a tent in a field also started around this time,

BOAC & BEA were merged and in the early 1980s was sold off on the London market as British Airways. plc

They are still British Airways."

Reader H. Saltman from Delhi, India, writes:

"Do you have any photographs of the rails leading in and out of the Sala Daeng Skytrain station in Bangkok?"

Yes ...

Monday, November 22, 2004 (pre-journal)

The following is from the travel guide, Travel Fish. It offers a brief description of the Christian cemetery on Silom Road (*); of more importance it speculates as to why the place is being 'de-cemetery-ized'. Follow the money!

Christian Cemetery
Silom Soi 9

Return of the living dead

This historic cemetery spanning Silom Soi 9 is now in a pretty poor state, with the remains of those buried here slowly being relocated following the introduction of laws forbidding burials within city limits. Many of the graves are open or have been smashed, though some such as the Xavier Crypt are still intact.

Given the value of the land, it's not difficult to imagine there being ulterior motives for the change in regulations, particularly as dead continue to be buried in other parts of town.

(*) Click back a few days if you missed seeing it.

Monday, November 22, 2004

You know you are getting older when the most exciting day of your week is when you take your auto to the car wash.

And, when you can remember where you were 40 some years ago when JFK was assassinated in Dallas (*).

(*) I had just finished a Socratic session in strict liability law at Berkeley ... (William Prosser was the seminar torturer ... and if you do not know who he is you are not a lawyer) ... when the news flashed on CBS ... on one of the San Francisco twist-the-dial channels (pre-cable). We were in the law student coffee-smoking-bitch-about-law-school hole of a room with a zappy prone B&W Zenith TV when we got the news. Frankly, at that point most students could have traded anyone's life for a notch up in class standing, a better job on the Law Review, a job offer at Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro or an overnight with one of Cal's cheerleaders.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Despite having to host one of the most boring conventions in Asia, the Shangri-La Hotel still manages to put a good face on the buffet table.

Watcharee and I spent the better part of the day at the Thai Immigration department: applying for my next year's extension of my Non-Immigration visa. I get to pick it up on January 4th. In the mean time I am bound tightly to Thailand. We were planning to visit Shanghai at the end of the year ... but, I guess we'll spend New Year's Eve here in Bangkok. Hey, that is no hardship.


It has been eons since THOCBDC has visited any of the great Thai dailies. This morning's breakfast edition of The Daily News carried on its front page (tastefully, beneath the fold) a photograph of a husband holding the severed arm of his wife (*). During a marital tiff he cut her arm off and tossed it into a rice field; after chopping off her head he lobbed it on to the roof of his house; the remainder of her body he flushed into the swift current of a neighboring river.

(*) Darkroom under-enhancements were employed by the sensitive editors to lessen the breakfast gag for kids about to leave for school.

PPS: The whacky world of goD sold by E-Bay!

"Virgin Mary, Full of Grace ...".

"Allahu Akhbar ... Allahu Akhbar ...".

"Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, they should make themselves tzitzit (fringes) on the corners of their clothing ...".

'Virgin Mary' sandwich sells on eBay for $28,000
Online casino gobbles up grilled cheese icon
Tuesday, November 23, 2004 Posted: 6:29 AM EST (1129 GMT)

HOLLYWOOD, Florida (AP) -- A woman who said her 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich bore the image of the Virgin Mary will be getting a lot more bread after the item sold for $28,000 on eBay.

The grilled cheese sandwich sold for $28,000 on eBay. The buyer, an online casino, will use it to raise money for charity., an online casino, confirmed that it placed the winning bid, and company executives said they were willing to spend "as much as it took" to own the 10-year-old half-sandwich with a bite out of it.

"It's a part of pop culture that's immediately and widely recognizable," spokesman Monty Kerr told The Miami Herald. "We knew right away we wanted to have it."

Photos posted on eBay show what can be viewed as a woman's face emblazoned on the sandwich, a bite taken out of one end. Bidding closed Monday.

In a statement, CEO Richard Rowe said he planned to use the sandwich to raise money for charity. Kerr and Steve Baker, CEO of GoldenPalace's management company, Cyberworld Group, flew to south Florida on Monday to make arrangements for a sandwich handover from its owner, Diana Duyser.

"I would like all people to know that I do believe that this is the Virgin Mary Mother of God," Duyser, a work-from-home jewelry designer, said in the casino's statement.

The online auction site initially pulled the sale, saying it didn't post joke items. The page was restored after the company was convinced that Duyser would deliver on the bid, said eBay spokesman Hani Durzy.

Duyser said she took a bite after making the sandwich 10 years ago and saw a face staring back at her. She put the sandwich in a clear plastic box with cotton balls and kept it on her night stand. She said the sandwich has never sprouted a spore of mold.

Next: Part III

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