Change in the air – v1.9.1 for iOS

Today we release v1.9.1 to the iTunes AppStore. On the face of it, not much has changed. There are a couple of minor fixes which you may not recognise, but the key thing is that it’s compatible with iOS 8. If you don’t intend to upgrade your OS that’s fine; but ultimately you probably will.

One thing you will notice is we’ve integrated a messaging feature. A key reason is because we needed a solution to alert all our users for a much bigger change, which is also rapidly drawing near … don’t worry, we won’t spam you 🙂

Keep a look out for any notifications coming through.

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Poh me chai farang keeno

We’ve all seen bad tourists. They tend to be loud, obnoxious and disrespectful of locals and their customs. They can come from anywhere, though certain nationalities seem to have worse reputations than others.

In Pattaya I saw quite a lot of these types around. I don’t know how much of a bad tourist this guy was, but he was bad taste.

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On meeting my friend’s new bride the first time I asked her if she had taught him any Thai. She said he was lazy and had only learnt one phrase, but I should learn it too.

Poh me chai farang keeno!

I have found it invaluable in both getting a laugh from locals and also disassociating myself from those dodgy tourists mentioned above. It’s translation?

I’m not Western birdshit.

A Thai Wedding

I recently attended a wedding in Thailand, held in the bride’s village near the Laos border. It was an event the whole village (pop. 150) was involved in.

There were monks …

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… a procession …

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… home-made guitars …

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… food …

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… and more food …

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… dancing girls …

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… and the town drunk.

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The hospitality of the people was incredible and humbling. They had little, but gave everything.

The following evening they hosted another dinner for those visitors who remained. Once again, everything was wonderful. Those are oxen walking by the table.

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By this stage I had become reasonably proficient in greeting people (hands together in a bow, sar-wah-dee karp), explaining that I couldn’t speak Thai, saying that I was pleased to meet them and the like.

At the end of this second dinner about a dozen of the villagers lined up to say goodbye. None could speak any English. In fact in the whole village there was only the bride who could speak it, and she has only been learning for a year.

As I edged along the line I quickly brought out my iPhone and searched for a couple of phrases I thought appropriate. I hadn’t time to rehearse them so I chose to just play them.

ah-ha alay-ee mar kop kun

As one they laughed on hearing my praise of the dinner, and replied that it was their pleasure.

par-teh kon kun soey mark

Their smiles grew broader and they nodded in glee as I told them that their country was beautiful. Some little children tip-toed and strained in wonderment at the iPhone.

kon lie par-teh kon kun nar lark mark

Their reaction was one of delight. They all edged forward, laughing and wanting to shake my hand. My friends, now getting into a van, turned on hearing the commotion. A young guy in front of me struggled to say something, while the new bride at my side translated.

‘Oh, you very popular in my village. They want you come again.’

As we drove slowly off, chickens and dogs scurrying out of harm’s way, a friend asked me what I had said.
‘That the people from their country are wonderful’, I replied. And they are.

Ladyboys

Any talk of visiting Thailand inevitably raises the subject of Ladyboys, or, as they are called in Thailand, Kathoey. They are those peculiar creatures who deign to be women, but only go halfway. So for appearance’s sake they are women, until such time as you realise that south of the hipline they are not. By which stage it is probably too late.

That said, some of them are incredibly striking. They strut, shimmy, pose, prowl and preen better than most women. Understandably they tend to be slightly longer of limb, so when turning on their (very) high heels, mane arcing and ivories flashing, they look like catwalk models. Full-breasted and buttock-curved (how do they do that?) many actually seem to be über-women.

A closer inspection (not too close!) sows the first seeds of doubt. Is the jaw a little too square, the voice a little too croaky? A quick check for an Adam’s apple is sensible, but that’s not a certain thing. Apparently there is reduction surgery available for that.

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In one bar we visited there were some quality hijinks going on, involving soap suds, nudity and whips. A poor chap was getting flailed in a bath by half a dozen go-go dancers; the rest of us sheltered our glasses from the flying suds. I began to take some covert photos from waist level (taking them wasn’t allowed) and managed a few shots before I was caught. Two waitresses yelped around me, grabbing at my camera and calling for the management. Bouncers edged forward.

The manager arrived quickly. Slender and elegant, she stretched forward her painted hand and demanded I hand over my camera. I protested that the shots were so blurred as to be unrecognisable, but she wouldn’t budge. ‘Delete!’ she ordered, her sable hair shaking with anger. Giggling stupidly I deleted the photos one by one, while she got more and more cross. It wasn’t so much the alcohol making me laugh, nor the antics carrying on immediately behind. It was the fact the manager had a beard.

Walking Street, Pattaya

Last night I went to Walking Street in Pattaya. As its name suggests, it is a street only for walking, at least it is after 6pm.

Keeping the cars and motorcycles out allows for scenes like this.

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As you would expect, there is plenty of alcohol on offer, and after a few hours, Walking Street looks a little like this.

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What else is on offer? It all depends on what takes your fancy.

There’s the wholesome…

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The slightly less so …

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… and the sketchy.

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Helpfully, a number of the bars provide clues as to what is on offer inside.

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All in all, a fun night out the whole family can enjoy.

Tassels and Contretemps

A while ago I went to see a show in Fremantle, Western Australia. The Street Arts Festival was in full swing over the weekend, and in the evening they had a grouped performance, which saved having to go and see the individual acts during the day. Some of the acts were very good (The Blackstreet Boyz, Nick Nickolas), but the one which sticks most in my mind is Trixie Tassels, from the Sugar Blue Burlesque troupe here in Perth. Her dance, to a thumping version of the Peter Gunn Theme, featured a set of twirling tassels which were attached to her breasts. The tassels were aflame. It was glorious.

Flaming tassels

This is all background, but it helps to set the scene, and partly explains the enlivened state I found myself in after the show. The other part can be explained by alcohol.

I was at the bar talking with friends, and noticed, quite close by, a very attractive Japanese girl. I convinced myself that she was looking over at me.

Perfect, I thought. I reached into my pocket and took from it my iPhone, started Lingopal and set it to Japanese. A couple of clicks later I had the phrase I wanted, and I walked up to her. I had expanded the phrase to fill the screen and simply showed it to her. She burst out laughing, said something in Japanese and tried to take my iPhone. Sensibly I didn’t let it go, but instead allowed her slender fingers to entwine around mine. She was still saying something, giggling. It was highly alluring.

Some people call it a sixth sense. A presence, a feeling – what you will; I felt it. I turned slightly and found myself looking at a rather agitated gentleman, who made it very clear he was the young lady’s boyfriend. A shrug of the shoulders seemed sufficient by way of apology, but it did get me thinking that perhaps we ought to have a category with such lines as “Sorry old chap. Take it as a compliment.”