Traffic on the tiled river, including the giant unicorn and suspicious pink flamingo

Traffic on the tiled river, including the giant unicorn and suspicious pink flamingo.

Last night we ate at the Waterfront restaurant. It offered a nice range of conventional dishes. Feeling especially mellow, I ordered a beer to go with my penne pasta. While the beer was standard Singha, the glass it came in had an exceptionally graceful design. We immediately wanted to buy some of them for home and enquired of the waitress. This is always a trap in Thai establishments. It creates an instant crowd of helpers. The waiter was soon joined by other waitresses, then the floor manager and his assistant. The assistant had the best English. According to her badge her name was Poo. “This is Poo,” the manger confirmed with a radiant smile.

Yes, I’m childish and I don’t allow for different languages giving words different meanings, but Poo? Many lines came to mind. Poo found in restaurant.  Much needed Poo. I am going into town and I take Poo. Poo was charming and helpful, with a beautiful animated face, but I couldn’t get through the conversation without a silly grin on my face. I had to stop looking at her name badge.

We like to have as much of a trip as possible prepaid – which reduces (but not eliminates) nasty financial surprises. But by doing this, you enter voucher land. Here, at the Merriment, we have to take our voucher ration book to be stamped and signed for each meal. We take different vouchers to the spa for a massage. When we move from here in two days’ time for our tour of Myanmar, we will again be awash with vouchers. Although vouchers make perfect sense they run counter to human nature. You step up to do business but there is no haggling and no cash. You pass across the voucher. The vendor’s face falls because, at a primary, subconscious level, you’re about to take the goods for nothing. Previously you paid for the voucher but that was a different deal at a different time. You handed over money and got a voucher in return. Done and dusted. History. But now you are seizing goods in return for a silly piece of paper. Everybody feels disappointed without knowing why. Can’t get no satisfaction.

The tiled river produces a passing flotilla of people, some of who greet you, while others push forward, faces set in default mode, looking neither left nor right. The kids are different. They don’t talk, but puff and gurgle past on all manner of blow-up water craft. There was a kafuffle yesterday when some kid’s pink flamingo went missing, presumed stolen. You’d think it would be simple to track down by the Merriment internal security force. There are many other sea creatures, including a shark, a green crocodile and a blue turtle, but the best is a huge white unicorn which takes up most of the tiled river when it comes past. It can hold up to five kids, plus the propellant father with his hand under its rainbow tail. When it passed this morning I asked the dad who’d blown it up. “Ve haf der pomp,” he replied. I wanted to know if he intended to take the beast home but the craft and crew had passed. Even deflated, it would fill a large suitcase. I could see them all arriving back in Holland and having to declare a deflated Thai unicorn and later appearing on a border protection program for light relief.

Thailand, if course, is the home of massage. On most massage menus is the body scrub, achieved by rubbing rough stuff all over the body to remove dead skin, along with plenty of live skin if the abrasive is too aggressive. An essential of the body scrub is an immediate shower to get rid of the grit and grime. The Merriment Spa body scrub would call for arrangements to be made with my bank manager but, on the other hand, the cheapie down the road has no shower. I therefore took a taxi into town to an establishment that the driver assured me offered both body scrub and shower.

When I arrived I was confronted by the usual floor-mattress booths divided by flimsy curtains, but the mamasan assured me that after my scrub (she’d directed me to a cell-like concrete room secreted at the rear), I would get my shower. The scrub was really quite good, even if a bit intrusive. Then I requested the shower. Naked, I crept across the slippery passageway into a tiny room with a barrel of very cold water and a dipper in the corner. Treating me like her grandchild, the scrubber scooped up dippers of water and poured them over me, taking great delight I my yelping. I emerged shivering, with the intention of imparting to the taxi driver the western definition of a shower.