Sunday, July 1, 2007

Monkey Time
It's back to school time here in Thailand. The only reason I know this is due to a Saturday sea cruise I took with some coworkers, and a German kung-fu master who resembles Lee Marvin and an Australian industrial safety inspector with a passing resemblance to John Belushi.

Children were also aboard our Gilligan's Island type vessel, a small, seatless, blue and orange (Ed: GO BRONCOS!) fishing boat seemingly powered by a low end Sears lawnmower engine. But as the kids were either too young for school or attending Hua Hin's one small international school, they were spared the direct, personal humiliation and frivolity unfolding on the pristine beach where we gently bumped sand after about 50 minutes of ocean, beers and watching jellyfish. I'd say we docked, but there was no dock.

What greeted us was a long line of largely unoccupied beach chairs, some quaint ramshackle eateries, a dwarf selling Bob Marley headbands, and about 12 young scrawny Thai men in swimming trunks doing pushups in the pristine white sand as an older, larger guy screamed what sounded like abuse at them with a bullhorn. About 15 seconds later, another bulkier guy in yellow brief Speedos began slowly rolling over them from right to left. At the end of this homoerotic log rolling he stood, raised his arms and chanted something incomprehensible and then repeated the process from left to right as his submissive minions squirmed and giggled beneath his weight.

Welcome to Paradise. It was like some kind of John Waters warped take on a 1960s Beach Blanket Bingo movie. I watched slack jawed as the submissive whatever-they-weres joyfully sprang up after being rolled and joyfully clapped their hands and chanted a song of sorts at the sound-distorted behest of Mr Bullhorn.

The rest of my party weren't as stunned. They'd seen this sort of thing before. They'd also seen what popped out of the tropical growth shortly therafter: a group of blindfolded teenaged boys and girls in school uniforms with garishly painted faces and large vegetables jammed in their mouths. They were being led by older students who giggled and teased them while making them do vaguely disgusting things with the vegetables and each other on two large, long blocks of ice. Apparently it's an annual, generally harmless Thai educational ritual intent on forging bonds, group identities, and an appetite for sandy wilting cucumbers, brocolli and large, semi-nude men hurling invectives and their oily bodies on you.

"Oh, yah, the schools initation," Klaus, the Kung-fu guy yawned. "Every year, the same." He was not without a sense of humor, however. Later after we returned to the beach from which we'd begun and lounged some more he and his French wife were on the obnoxious receiving end of an uptight German tourist couple upset because Klaus's 3-year-old daughter had been fiddling with some shells they'd collected and compulsively stacked in an orderly row on a lounge chair. "Ach, fucking GERMAHNS!" Klaus muttered. "The same all over the world."

Sunday saw me and two visiting friends from Shenzhen, G and J, plus their Thai "girlfriends" whom they'd wrested from the notorious 4-story Nana Sex Mall in Bangkok, at a Hua Hin tourist attraction nicknamed the Monkey Temple. A couple ex-editors of mine who'd been here previously had recommended a sojourn to the Monkey Temple where dozens, perhaps 100 or more rhesus monkeys are free to scamper, frolic and beg to be fed buckets of peanuts, raw corn and bananas by unwitting visitors who pay 50-100 baht for the privilege of the possiblity of contracting saliva- and incisor-transmitted primate-borne diseases.

"Go see the Monkey Temple!" one had urged in an e-mail after I'd confessed that while Hua Hin seems very relaxed, I was drifting into some kind of tropical malaise missing C and others in SZ and HK. "And the Thai hookers are very friendly. Remember, Everything's Better with Monkeys and Thai Hookers!"

Well, here I was with two of one category, though not with me, exactly. And an uncountable number of the other. I'd begged off on a food bucket, content to watch G try his hand (or not to lose his hand) at feeding the hairy little buggers, some of which were actually quite hefty, strong and disturbingly agile. "Christ!" G shouted, swatting at a large alpha male crawling and pawing at his wallet pocket. "He's trying to pick my pocket!"

I wondered if the monks - who watched impassivly in their saffron robes - had trained the thieving, tick-ridden bastards in order to enchance the take at the largely vacant souvenir counters. There were also two large chipped, faded green plaster dinosaurs perched next to a small grouping of sacred gold painted Buddhas. The significance, if any, escaped me and as I pondered it ("Buddahsaurus...?") I heard G cursing again. I turned to see another hairy primate on his back while a second clung to his right leg, grasping for the blue plastic bucket o' monkey chow. Visitors were delighted, photographing his discomfort while I urged him to remain calm and quelled the urge to yell, "I told you so!"

He finally dislodged both without a scratch. "Now at least I can say I got rid of a monkey on my back," he joked. His "girlfriend" took his arm and nuzzled him for a moment and he smiled.

"See?" I said. "Remember? Everything's better with monkeys and Thai hookers, right?"

1 comment:

John said...

Glad to see you are getting in some culture!