I picked up Nam at Kansai Airport after work on Friday and she told me of her plight coming through immigration. Apparently trying to crack down on the number of overseas students completing doctoral studies at Japanese universities, Immigration decided to single her out for questioning.
Considering the number of drug smugglers and Thai nationals about to enter Japan as sex slaves on tourist visas, on the same flight, it is remarkable that Immigration can single out one of the few with legit credentials, like Nam.
Even more amazing is the intelligence of the questions asked:
Immigration Officer (leafing though Nam’s passport): I see that your student visa has expired…
Nam: Yeah, you see, they stamp “EXPIRED” on the old one when you renew it. The current one is on the next page.
Immigration Officer: Oh.
Immigration Officer (noticing that Nam lived in Nara prefecture last year, as evidenced by her student ID): So, is Osaka University located in Nara?
Nam: Uh, no. Osaka University is located in Osaka.
Immigration Officer: Oh. OK, you’re free to go.
I don’t know about you, but I:
A. Feel safer already, and
B. Am sure happy to see my tax yennage being spent to keep geographically-challenged fucktards employed by the government instead of, say, McDonalds, where they might screw up my order of large fries and a shake.
This is a fairly common sight on the dusty roads of the Thai countryside:
Men riding on the top or other exposed areas of a vehicle often wear full bank robber hoods to block the sun; the heat underneath is apparently preferable to the killer rays of the midday sun (I can attest to the discomfort caused by prolonged exposure).
It’s hard to tell how the cows feel about it all. Maybe it beats grazing in some hot ass ditch on the side of the road; who knows?
Here’s a couple of interesting signs I found on the trip:
This is actually the best “slippery when wet” warning illustration I have ever seen. Seen outside a public restroom at a highway rest stop on the way to Mahasarakham.
Likewise, this is the best “Caution: Falling Durian” illustration I’ve ever seen. I came upon this sign in the middle of the jungle at the backside of a roadside fruit stand/cafe. Awesome.
On the return trip from Nam’s hometown of Mahasarakham to Bangkok, we made our first stop at Buri Ram (the “City of Happiness”). It’s located in a quiet province which was an important district of the Khmer empire during the Angkor period, and contains numerous Khmer ruins. There are three of four very well-preserved Khmer temples, and we visited one at the Phanom Rung Sanctuary. It was built during the 12th century and is set on top of Phanom Rung Hill. According to the pamphlets I picked up at the museum, the sanctuary is dedicated to the God Shiva and symbolizes Mount Kailasa, the heavenly abode of Shiva.
Unfortunately, we did not make a full tour of the ruins and limited our excursion to an hour because it was ridiculously hot that day; the air was dead still and my brain went into meltdown. As such, I didn’t take any serious photos, which is good, because I suck at those anyway. Here are a few shots I took with one hand on the camera, and the other wiping sweat from my brow (click on photos to enlarge):
Nam taking a break on an ancient Khmer windowsill.
Taro kicking it on an ancient Khmer stoop.
That’s me practicing ninja jumps over ancient Khmer walls.
Me and my baby… in front of ancient Khmer ruins.
The following has been transcribed from a crumpled paper napkin that I found the pocket of my jeans when doing laundry from the trip:
Disposable plastic lighters pass from hand to hand, borrowed, stolen, sometimes even purchased. You might think that you can tell a lot about a man from the color and type of disposable lighter he buys. For instance, the piezoelectric “clicker” type lighting action could very well be more appealing to lazy people than the old-school flint roller-type mechanism. Also, transparent plastic construction might be more suited for control freaks than solid colors since butane levels are always visible.
However, even though a red plastic Mini-Bic may very well indicate a proclivity for raunchy anal sex with French sailors, it may just be all that the liquor store had on the counter.
What was I doing at the time? People-watching in a musty cafe filled with disgusting Europeans (and by disgusting, I mean sweaty, hairy female underarm disgusting) and unbelievably obnoxious Americans. I couldn’t help but sneer a bit. Ah… it was truly an awesome trip. I simply refuse to accept that I am sitting at my desk at work again… That should get me through today, at least.
I started viewing the photos I took last week in Thailand and didn’t really intend to start editing yet, but this one sparked a memory. I took this shot out the window of our truck as we passed by – the little boy was washing off the sidewalk and brandishing a mysterious ping pong paddle.
The Thai-Cambodia border was really just too hot to be pleasurable this time of year, and I was glad we put off our trip to Angkor Watt until next time, preferably in December or January when it’s cooler.
I’m finding the few pictures of me quite entertaining because my trademark black t-shirts are all encrusted with salt rings. No wonder all those fuzzy forest animals were so friendly… I’m a dependable source of iodide! Ah, but that’s a different story…
My friends, I just came back from a most excellent vacation. It was so good, here I am writing about it instead of answering the 1,106 e-mails in my inbox, for fear I will forget the highlights before having a chance to write them down. Just a note before I start: Between the auto-downloaded TV torrents I previewed last night and the ever-dull CNN feed before work today, it is apparent that the only significant news I missed during my respite is that JACK BAUER HAS SINGLE-HANDEDLY INVADED CHINA (presumedly to direct attention away from historic Japanese atrocities by creating a new American one), and that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
OK, so the big news for this trip is that the girl and I got engaged!
I went shopping for an engagement ring and T (who I met up with on Khaosan Road) introduced me to the shop where he bought his a few years back… To make a long story short, I was able to buy a totally awesome ring without having to mortgage my left nut, via my superior skills of mental ninja persuasion (“These are not the droids you are looking for…. now give me a 70% discount, imperial scum, and there shall be NO VALUE ADDED TAX, EITHER!“). I proposed to the love of my life the very same night, and the facts that we were completely hammered on cheap cocktails and that she said “yes” were completely separate issues, I assure you. I awoke the next day a very happy man, greatly relieved that being engaged to your girlfriend of twelve years is much like having a girlfriend for twelve years, except with a really nifty ring (although to cover my bases I should probably acknowledge that there may be a bit more to it than that). Hey, I have to leave a few nuggets of wisdom for the shorties, so that’s that.
After a couple of days in Bangkok we (me, the girl A.K.A. Nam, T, Go-kun, and Nutty A.K.A. “T’s ex”) went on a roadtrip to Nam’s home province of Mahasarakham. We are planning on moving there next year, so I was mainly there to do two things, scope out business opportunities, and to ask for Nam’s hand in marriage.
We arrived on the night of her father’s birthday party, so I held off on having the big talk for a few days since things hadn’t gone so well when Nam tried to talk to him alone previously. I decided on a head-on, no-holds-barred strategy early on and just decided to wait for the right moment. Also, luckily, I had the foresight to present him with not one, but two bottles of single-malt scotch for his birthday, so everyone was quite amicable when the moment came. I know by now I must seem like a real bastard for solving all my problems with booze, but what can I say? Alcohol is legal, beeeyotches (Note: Kids, do NOT try this at home or without parental supervision. The intentional misuse of alcohol is for RESPONSIBLE ADULTS ONLY.). And, more to the point, her parents agreed to our marriage! (Note to shorties: Wuteva works, works. Wut. Eva.)
Photos shall follow in the days to come. During this trip, I took one of the best photos I have ever taken, and I’m extremely proud to admit that I took it completely by accident (the miracles of modern technology and worn out shutter releases, et al). And now I must return to my unread e-mails, which from the look of it are fornicating like fuzzy rabbit-monkeys on crack, in heat.
I’m off to the airport tomorrow. I may update when I’m Thailand. Or, I may just lay on the beach…
Nam should apply for an account so
she I can use Mahasarakham University’s new wireless network. “The areas which people can use this service are Computer center, MSU Plaza, Academic Resource Center (AREC) and Borromrachanakarin Building.”
I wonder if her brother can use any parts from my computer graveyard in his new net cafe.
Last year, a trip to the vet ended in death for Nam’s pregnant wienie dog mutt – her family suspected that the vet sold off the litter, but couldn’t prove it. I was dismayed to stumble upon a similar story of neglect here… It also infuriates me seeing animals for sale kept in small cages on the side of the road when traveling around SE Asia. Oh well, maybe sometime I’ll be in a position to actually do something about it.