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  1. #1
    splendid and tremendous
    somtamslap's Avatar
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    Skint in Thailand/Going native

    Hi Folks,

    This is a follow on from the Samui bar owner thread which I started a while ago....

    Not so many moons ago, I was skint. Not skint as in "oh woe is me, I'm down to my last 200,000 bt in the bank" I mean S-K-I-N-T.
    I'd just come out of a 3 year love hate relationship with the pub that I had leased and to be honest it had left me in pretty bad shape, physically and mentally.
    Owning a watering hole in such an environment is a very demanding vocation, you simply MUST get pissed and get pissed I did.

    Anyway, the pub was gone, but I remained, barely. The place was full of people like me, wethered souls with deep suntans, swigging from empty bottles of Chang which had been finished half an hour previously thus taking on the effect of a comfort blanket.

    My dwellings at the time were pretty dire too. 2000 bt a month in a really shitty part of town. I remember thinking to myself " Why didn't I just stay for 2 weeks like normal people???" Going home was out of the question " How much is a plane ticket????" Anyway, plane ticket money would've been pissed away had I had it.

    A friend and I were sitting at a bar one afternoon imbibing weak tea and cigarettes ( he was in a similar situation to mine, actually worse ,come to think of it) and we got chatting to a guy whose brother owned roughly 100 rai and was starting a housing development on the Island. Jokingly ( I think!) , I asked him if he could use a couple of labourers. He responded in the positive and we made plans to meet at his brother's office the next morning.

    So, to our surprise, at 9.00 the following morning we were briefed with our job responsibilities. We were told we would be clearing land at 800 baht a rai - "Yep, why not". I think the reasoning behind us accepting was a rai a day should keep the wolf from the door. Basically, we thought we would be mowing the lawn.
    We were given strimmers with huge metal blades and a machete each, unaware that we'd be using these tools for the next 10 months!

    We started in December. Christmas was spent hacking down the first rai of a 10 rai plot, this took slightly longer than initially anticipated. Firstly, we had to overcome the fear of snakes, scorpions, wasp nests, red ants, monitor lizards, falling cocnuts, falling coconut branches, blazing hot sun, torrential rain and very awkward footing ( we were working on a mountain), then we could get on with the job at hand.
    So the first 10 rai of virgin jungle took us a month to clear. Do the maths, thats crap money.

    The next few months we spent working with a group of labourers from Issan. Most of them were being paid between 150-250 bt a day and boy could they save it. Breakfast, lunch and dinner normally came from the land. Papaya's, banana's, snakes, monitor lizards (if they were lucky) ants eggs ( they have an amazing way of separating the eggs from the nest) and of course good ol jungle rats.
    During these months my friend and I moved into a small house within walking distance from the camp in which the Thai workers dwelled.
    Day after day we'd go up the steep roads of the mountain in a jeep with our new friends. Once we got to our work destination, first on the agenda was usually breakfast, which involved one of the chaps searching around for a suitable coconut tree. Once located he'd shimmy up the tree (often 50 foot +) andthrow down our breakie. I became pretty skilled with the machete as far as preparing a coconut went, firstly for drinking then for eating.

    The rest of the day would be spent sweating and I mean sweating.....

  2. #2
    splendid and tremendous
    somtamslap's Avatar
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    .....One of the most common comments from my Issan friends would be, " Aren't you hot? Why aren't you wearing baleclavers, longsleeves and jeans like us?" How they dress like that in this heat, I will never know. I tested the baliclaver once and lasted about 1 minute before hyperventilation forced me to take it off.

    The end of the working day, as in most jobs, was the best part. We would slowly drive down the mountain looking for dinner. Prize catches include King Cobras and Monitor Lizards but a simple rat or 2 would suffice.
    Once back at the camp ( the small hamlet consisting of 20 or so tin and wooden shacks) the Ya - Dong ( Lau Kau with herbs) would be cracked open and small pots of sticky rice would be produced to accompany the catch of the day. In general, lights out would be at around 9 ish, in preparation for another hard day up the mountain.

    By now, my friend and I had 6 months of this under our belts. Any problem I had with drink and reckless living before had all but gone. Don't ask me why we continued to work like this for so long. Firstly, it was money ( bad money yes, but money all the same), but its amazing how one can adapt to situations and environments. The people we worked with made the experience what it was. I was humbled by them in so many different ways.

    The next four months were just as sweaty, but the beer gut had been replaced with a firm stomach and my fitness level was the best it has ever been - walking up near sheer drops with a machete and a strimmer will do that for you, as well as running away from insects and reptiles.

    Injuries sustained include:
    1 Scorpion bite
    2 Red ant nests on the head ( worse than the scorpion bite)
    About 30 wasp stings
    Trench foot/ Foot Rot
    Severe dehydration, my lips went numb

    At the end of the 10 months the company we were working for had to let us all go due to complications of sorts.

    Working there at times was sheer hell. When you have sweat in your eyes and a red ant eagerly biting your left testical without a free hand to swat it, the sweat nearly became tears.
    But alas, I walked out of there a better man.

    Now, as I sit on my balcony overlooking the lush green rice fields and mountains of Issan, my wife expecting our first child, I can't help but break into a smile.

  3. #3
    Not an expat
    Fabian's Avatar
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    How do you manage to get ant nests on your head?

  4. #4
    Tonguin for a beer
    Bung's Avatar
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    Well there will be plenty of people here who will slag you off but I applaud you. Most people would have called up a loan from home and run. Hard work never hurt anyone and a good life experience. You have a pic of a rig in your avatar, did you work in oil and gas? You sound like you are back on your feet now so good on you. At least you weren't working like that in a prison farm but still free.
    Fahn Cahn's

  5. #5
    Tonguin for a beer
    Bung's Avatar
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    ^^ I've had that happen to me (well, a bunch of them falling down on me when cutting down branches). Ferocious little buggers and It is not nice

  6. #6
    Thailand Expat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bung View Post
    Well there will be plenty of people here who will slag you off but I applaud you. Most people would have called up a loan from home and run. Hard work never hurt anyone and a good life experience.
    100% agree. I was thinking what an idiot you were (and you were!) but was impressed with the way you got out of the situation. Well done.

  7. #7
    Have you got any cheese Thetyim's Avatar
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    ^
    Agreed.
    He can write as well
    Would make a better book than the usual western boy meets asian girl disaster

  8. #8
    Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb
    Sir Burr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabian View Post
    How do you manage to get ant nests on your head?
    Those big, red ants stitch leaves together to make the nest. If you shake the wrong tree, or, cut the wrong branch you get showered in ants. Hard to see, too.

  9. #9
    On a walkabout
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    Great story and well written.

    One would imagine that you could have used that bloke on your avatar and to clear the land though . Less painful

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. #10
    Thailand Expat AntRobertson's Avatar
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    Great story and well written
    Ditto that, great read!

    Tell me though, what's it like to be bitten (stung?) by a Scorpion?

  11. #11
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    Nice read. Just glad that I have never been in that situation.

  12. #12
    splendid and tremendous
    somtamslap's Avatar
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    Cheers for the replies.

    Yes, it wasn't a particuarly desirable situation to be in, but the past is the past.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabian
    How do you manage to get ant nests on your head?
    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Burr
    cut the wrong branch you get showered in ants.
    Just like that.

    Quote Originally Posted by AntRobertson
    what's it like to be bitten (stung?) by a Scorpion?
    Tres painful. Like a really really nasty wasp sting. My arm ballooned, looked like Arnie for a minute or 2. Went to the pharmacy they gave me Aloe Vera of all things - gee thanks love.

  13. #13
    The cold, wet one
    November Rain's Avatar
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    Not sure if I believe you or not, but if it's true - kudos to you. Even if not, you're a bloody good writer.

  14. #14
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    Deck Ape's Avatar
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    I think that shower after a day of good, hard work is the best feeling in the world.



    where's the samui bar owner thread?

  15. #15
    Thailand Expat
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    Nice read.

    Those red ants are fookin murder - I got covered when being Tarzan up a coconut tree. I must have jumped from 15 plus feet to try and escape the bastards. I go to Lotus now for my coconuts.

  16. #16
    Knows fok all
    daveboy's Avatar
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    A good read thanks

  17. #17
    Knows fok all
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deck Ape View Post
    I think that shower after a day of good, hard work is the best feeling in the world.



    where's the samui bar owner thread?
    https://teakdoor.com/living-in-thaila...bar-owner.html

  18. #18
    splendid and tremendous
    somtamslap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by November Rain
    Not sure if I believe you or not
    I didn't quite believe it at the time either.

    Thanks for the nice comments folks!
    Last edited by somtamslap; 25-09-2008 at 09:11 PM.

  19. #19
    anonymous ant
    tsicar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by somtamslap View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by November Rain
    Not sure if I believe you or not
    I didn't quite believe it at the time either.

    Thanks for the nice comments folks!
    so how did you eventually get yourself out of the shit?
    it is easy to get into the shit in thailand, but must be one of the hardest places to recover from it.

  20. #20
    splendid and tremendous
    somtamslap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsicar
    so how did you eventually get yourself out of the shit?
    Tin opener + can of worms =

    I moved to the edge of Issan, Pak Chong with the dwindling funds I had. I had one option......

    I don't want to belittle the Thai education system more than it already is but I virtually walked off the mountain and into a school and have been very comfortable since...

  21. #21
    Tonguin for a beer
    Bung's Avatar
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    I just read abook called "Shantaram" about a guy in India. Wonder if a similar story couldn't be written about a life in Thailand? Somtamslaps tale seemed to echo a small part of it.

    You should expand and embelish it.

    *Runs off to Samui bar owner thread*

  22. #22
    Thailand Expat AntRobertson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by somtamslap View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by tsicar
    so how did you eventually get yourself out of the shit?
    Tin opener + can of worms =

    I moved to the edge of Issan, Pak Chong with the dwindling funds I had. I had one option......

    I don't want to belittle the Thai education system more than it already is but I virtually walked off the mountain and into a school and have been very comfortable since...
    Have you met Smeg yet? No? Well you will!

    Really is a great story though.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by somtamslap
    I moved to the edge of Issan, Pak Chong with the dwindling funds I had. I had one option...... I don't want to belittle the Thai education system more than it already is but I virtually walked off the mountain and into a school and have been very comfortable since...
    did you shower and shave first?


  24. #24
    Custom Title Changer
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    Great story and excellent writing.

  25. #25
    Thailand Expat
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    Nice tale.

    My mate was cutting his hedge and cut open a red ants' nest. Luckily, his garden backed onto a lake, so he just threw himself in the lake to stop himself being eaten alive by the pissed off ants.

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