And here’s another load of mini twitterings that are not large enough for whole articles…
Three weeks ago today I was in Northern Thailand, in Mae Sot – a small place on the Burmese border. My twelve days of helping with the Road to Mandalay Rally had come to an end, and I was preparing for a long 900km drive by starting with a very early breakfast.
I was joined by a gentleman named Philip Young. As the head of the Endurance Rally Association, Philip was preparing for a long day of negotiations, in order to get rally and organizers’ cars, crews and personnel across the border and onto the narrow 160km road that leads from nowhere in Burma to somewhere in Burma. (The road is so narrow that the direction of traffic alternates on consecutive days!)
Philip and I were joined by two other people, and we chatted for a while about rallying in general, as rally people do. It wasn’t until I said I had to leave that Philip realized it was my final day with the event. His thanks were genuine, timely and much appreciated.
The next day, to help solve a problem (details are sketchy) Philip jumped on the back of someone’s motorcycle in Burma, and met with a accident, sustaining a serious head injury. With medical facilities in Burma being somewhere below the average of a third-world country, Philip was moved to a hospital in Bangkok. Sadly, yesterday, he succumbed to his injuries.
Philip was a larger-than-life character, and I’m proud to have known him. He organized countless endurance rallies over 25 years, and himself held records for driving in endurance events.
I think it would be fair to say he had a presence. You knew when he entered a room, or arrived at a rally control. It was this presence that allowed him to negotiate with governments at the highest level, and to achieve the impossible – like opening the Thai-Burma border to the passage of rally cars.
He will be missed. Many competitors spoke about “Philip’s rallies” as though he was the sole organizer. He wasn’t, and ERA has some competent people, who no doubt will continue without him. But for sure, endurance rallying will not be the same.
That is the question.
You see, every ninety days, or thereabouts, I have to report to Immigration somewhere in Thailand, but preferably in my own province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. Despite the fact it’s a 150km round trip, it’s no big deal. I have many other reasons to go to Nakhon, so I can kill a number of birds with one stone.
In any case, I’ve read it will soon be possible to do this on-line. In fact, the system has been implemented, and is available, but doesn’t yet work. The logic of introducing something that doesn’t work escapes me. In fact, I can’t quite figure the logic of an online system. If the idea is to prove I’m still in Thailand, then how can this be done online? I could be filling out the form from anywhere in the world. And dare I ask, what is the logic in this reporting scheme anyways? No, best not.
But the thing that totally confuses me is that everytime I go, I have to present a completed form called a TM47. The nice Immigration people (and I really mean that… they are super-friendly and helpful) always give me a blank TM47 as I’m leaving, so I can get it filled-out for my next visit.
Except every time I go, the form has changed. It’s still called a TM47, but it’s not the same TM47 as it was ninety days ago! I never have to complete a new TM47, the Immigration people do that for me by copying from the old TM47. I just sign the new one. But I find the whole process quite bizarre.
As they say in the expat forums – T I T. This Is Thailand.
As I mentioned in one of my articles about being up north, it was cold. Especially early morning. Luckily I’d packed sweaters.
If you’re reading this during a northern hemisphere winter, you’re probably thinking it couldn’t have been that cold, but it partly depends on what you’re used to. If 30degC is your norm, then even 20, or especially 15, feels cold.
But in the northern mountains it’s colder. Frost is not uncommon. The morning I was in Pai, I had breakfast in a windy, open-fronted restaurant where the temperature was just 8degC – and that’s ignoring the wind chill factor.
Anyways, I figured if the dogs need coats, it must be cold.
Talking of Pai, I was stuck there because I couldn’t buy fuel at 9pm. The gas stations close at 8pm, or something like that. Pai is on the only road that runs between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, which means it’s quite busy, even at 9pm.
My mind, which I think we’ve already established works differently than Thai minds, tried to find some logic in this early closing schedule… and of course, failed. Miserably.
All PTT gas stations also have 7Elevens on the premises, presumably so travellers can stock up with food and drink. In Pai, the 7Eleven was open, even though the gas station was closed. No, I’m not going to mention the “L” word again.
So I went in, to inquire if there was anywhere I could buy Diesel. Of course, the answer was “No”. But it made me wonder why some budding entrepreneur doesn’t buy fuel by day and sell it by night. I’m sure that would be illegal, but hey … T I T.
So, next morning, with both Bert and myself fueled up for the day, we continued on to Mae Hong Son, and thereafter to Mae Sot.
Now; we established a while ago that Ms. Chuckles – my GPS lady – sometimes has brain fade, and my instinct told me this was one of those days. As we headed out towards Mae Hong Son, she announced – as she often does early morning – “Make a U-turn if possible.”
“The silly b*tch needs another shot of iCoffee, or whatever she has for breakfast” I thought. And sure enough, she eventually settled down and seemed happy that we were all heading in the right direction. But I still wasn’t 100% sure – until – as we’d completed a “Turn right in 100 meters” command, there was a sign telling me how far to Mae Hong Son, and Mae Sot. “Ha! Right road” I thought.
I wish I’d taken a photograph, because it was only after passing the sign I realized there wasn’t a word of English on it. I’d somehow managed to read it in Thai, without initially noticing. Progress is being made.
If you’ve been a Twitterings reader for a while … (what would that make you? … a Twiteree?) … you may recall my article about green lights at night in the bay next to where I live. Later, as I mentioned in another article, I discovered they were on fishing boats and were used to attract shrimp and squid. So far so good, but…
They’ve disappeared. I can’t remember the last time I saw one … and there used to be hundreds. It’s certainly more than six months since I last saw one.
I was reminded by seeing these strange bulbs on fishing boats a little further north. Are these the things that emit the intense green light? Have the fish moved to another part of the Bay of Bangkok? Are they seasonal?
Sorry. I only have questions. Answers, on a postcard, to… Twitterings, Thailand.