Tuesday, September 25, 2007

T for Texas, T for ... Thailand?
A recent visitor, a native Greenwich Villager who nonetheless made the inexplicable decision to go to school at Rice University in Houston, made an observation during a hangover ridden Sunday morning as we blearily watched a three wheeled covered 'tuk-tuk' pass sporting a large, red and white "Hua Hin Detox Center" sign on its rear. He's a world traveler. No local yokel, currently residing in mainland China with his equally well traveled Dutch galpal.

"You know, Thailand reminds me more and more of Texas," he said. "I think there are some distinct similarities." We'd spent most of the previous evening at what can only be described as a Thai country music bar, a large, log cabin-styled affair virtually visually indistinguishable from its American counterparts save the neon beer signs for Chang, Leo and Singha instead of Coors, Miller, Pearl or Lone Star. Pickup trucks and choppers had jammed the dirt parking lot and there was even been a photo of Sitting Bull, or "Famous American Indian king," as I explained to a Thai companion. The music was Thai country, Issan province passion, provided by arguably the slickest hardest working house band I've ever seen. Four-plus hours of nonstop sweat, rhythm and soul with a lotta Santana stylings. No Willie or Waylon or Hank, but that's not what we came for. But It was nice to see Sitting Bull still looking solemn and stolid halfway across the world from his Hunkpappa home.

A week earlier we'd been at a local road rally where we'd chowed down on some world class ribs, swilled beer and watched Mad Max-type vehicles along with off-the-showroom floor hump and bump and roar over a mess of hastily constructed dirt obstacles while the emcees screamed encouragement and hyped for Chevy, Ford, Dodge and Toyota in Thai.

I could kinda see my friend's point. To stretch the point further I noted in a recent English language rag that Hua Hin recently enacted a "No Weapons Zone" ban for the "primary tourist areas." In other words: No handguns in the Hilton.

Other superficial similarities fall apart, though. No big hair, no big hats, few shitkicker boots except on occasional German touristas, no "big" anything except Buddhas and wats, and really - that part of the parallel also fails - little of the outright "Don't Mess with Texas" mentality that I picked up on while living there in the army and later during during more enlightening visits to the annual SXSW Music confab in Austin. Corrupt politicos, though. A no-brainer, though they exist everywhere, but certainly no one as purely shameful as Dubya, say, in Thailand despite the generals, exiled former prime minister and other rascals.

There's certainly a frontier, kinda Deadwood, Tombstone feel (I know, neither are Texas) certainly to Hua Hin. Sleazy speculators, myriad roadside taverns and eateries, hookers, hustlers, stray wild dogs, con artists, all despite the benign peaceful ambiance of a great little train station and the Royal Summer Palace.

Food for thought. Gonna go check in my Colt at the door, now, and eat me a mess of Khanom chin namya and maybe some of my favorite fried chicken here, from a sidewalk stand prepared by the world's oldest, homeliest ladyboy.

I call it Colonel Sandra's Fried Chicken. Fried chicken from a balding, aging transvestite probably wouldn't fly in Texas, but, that's another reason I'd prefer Hua Hin to Houston.

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