Tanks For The Memories


Well, honestly. This has got to be the most boring coup I've ever been a part of.

I know they said it would be peaceful and bloodless---Thailand's nickname is, after all, the Land Of A Thousand Smiles---but I was hoping for just a little more excitement. Unfortunately, it seems to be business as usual. No protests! No conflict! No curfews! Why, it's all just too civilized. I imagine it would be fairly similar if England were to stage a coup. More polite, even.

---"I say, old chap, would you mind terribly if we ousted the PM?"
---"Oh, goodness, no, my dear fellow, but it's frightfully nice of you to ask. Please, go ahead."
---"Splendid, we shall begin at once. Awfully good of you to agree."
---"My word! You're most welcome! Anything we can do to help?"

And then they'd make the whole thing into a movie starring Hugh Grant.

When we arrived in Bangkok yesterday afternoon, we did see a few tanks on the streets---with yellow ribbons tied around the gun barrels to signify an allegiance to the King---but the gravity of the scene was compromised a little by the kids climbing up on the wheels as the soldiers looked on and laughed. The buses were running as usual---though an armed military official got on a few times in the countryside and looked suspiciously at everyone---and the border crossing from Cambodia was a piece of cake.

In fact, it was the getting out of Cambodia, not the getting into Thailand, that was the most hair-raising part of the whole trip.

We took a share taxi to the border with an Israeli couple, May and Oren, whom we'd met in an Internet cafe. Actually, it wasn't so much that we'd "met" them, it was actually more that I'd accosted them after I heard them talking about how to get to Bangkok. Traveling tends to make you far more gregarious than you are in real life; you'll talk to anyone if they're talking English. And because the tourist bus service from Siem Reap to Bangkok is often corrupt and unreliable, Sean and I had decided to bypass it in favor of making our own way. With four of us in the share taxi, we'd get to the border in three and a half hours (as opposed to seven on the bus), and it would work out as only a dollar more expensive each.

But, my god, this taxi. It was a souped-up Toyota Camry with enormous tires, and it had probably been green at one point but it was so completely covered in mud---even the windows! the windows were covered in mud!---that you honestly couldn't tell. As the largest, Oren sat in the front and snagged the only seat belt, while I squeezed between Sean and May in the back, giving me the best seat in the house for each and every one of the two hundred head-on collisions we very narrowly avoided.

Our driver seemed constantly to be flirting with death. As well as lighting up a cigarette next to the tanks of compressed gas at the petrol station, he drove at a fairly steady 80 miles an hour---no, really, I saw the speedometer---on the pothole-ridden dirt road, swerving around cows and pedestrians, laying on the horn liberally, stopping a few times to yell obscenities at motorcycle drivers he'd almost killed, and generally just trying to run everyone else off the road. Before we'd set off, I'd warned May and Oren---font of information that I am---that it was probably going to be quite bumpy. Twenty minutes into the journey, we hit a few potholes on the road out of town. "Is this the bumpy?" asked Oren, panicked. An hour later, when we were all bouncing around like popcorn, clutching each other and screaming as our heads hit the roof time and time again, he turned around to face us with a look that said MY GOD, HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO INNOCENT? "I think this," he said, "is the bumpy."

You know how when you're in a car with someone you don't really know very well, and you're sitting in the back together and you try and keep some space between your thighs and their thighs because otherwise, you know, YOUR BUTTS ARE TOTALLY TOUCHING? Well, that wasn't happening in this car. We were thrown around so much as the driver dipped and swerved and dodged, that all attempts at proper car decorum were thrown out within the first five minutes of the journey. Right after we'd hit a pothole so hard that the windshield had shattered and the handle Sean was holding onto had snapped in two (a shame, since it was the car's only safety feature), my phone beeped to signal I'd recieved a text message. "It's from God," said Oren. "He says get out of the car while you can."

Once we'd reached the border and paid the driver---"how does he make any money?" asked Sean. "He'll have to pay for a new windshield, new shocks, new tires, and probably a few funerals!"---we clambered out and made for the border. There was a brief moment of panic when the customs official looked at my passport photo, then at me, then at the photo again, then at me---it was taken back when I used to brush my hair---but we made it through alright in the end. Having learned in the car that one of Oren's gigs as an actor was to dress up in a clown costume and entertain the children on Air Israel flights, I craned my neck to see what he'd put in the "occupation" box on the entry form. I swear, I would have given my firstborn child to have seen "clown on a plane" in there.

So now we're in Bangkok, where the beer is cheap again, the Internet plentiful, and the pad thai the most authentic I've had. But apart from the clusters of soldiers at the ends of streets, and the odd army vehicle or barricade here and there, you wouldn't know the city is in the middle of political turmoil. And since we don't have a TV anymore---hell, we don't have a toilet anymore, that's what paying $6.76 for a room will get you here---we're actually pretty clueless. Which I suppose means I won't be saying "this is Holly Burns, reporting for CNN, live from Bangkok" anytime soon. Just as well, I guess. I'd probably have to brush my hair.

Sep 22, 2006

“It’s from God,” said Oren. “He says get out of the car while you can.”

Have you ever tried to laugh silently in an attempt to convince your co-workers that you are very busy with Important Company Business, certainly not reading Holly's blog, & instead they just think you are having some kind of seizure?

Me neither.

Sep 22, 2006

"Clown on a plane?"

That may just have to replace "Snakes on a plane!" as my favorite child-friendly expletive.

Sep 22, 2006

Gah. I think there would be a serious flaw in Asian cuisine if the pad thai in Bangkok WASN'T the most authentic you'd had.

Mmmm...pad thai. I recently learned how to make it--authentic! with the purest ingredients!--on Alton Brown's Good Eats show on the Food Network.

Am hungry now.

Sep 22, 2006

Glad to hear that you made it to Bangkok safely, Holly! I got a good laugh at your description of the coup. Aren't Thai people the absolute nicest people in the world? I've been all over the planet and I've never met a friendlier group. I could totally see them plotting the world's politest coup!

If you have a chance, head over to Bangkoker (BKK) on Samsen Road. They have the coolest and most incredible assortment of graphic design, slogan, and architectural concept t-shirts you've ever seen. Most of them are handprinted on high-quality cotton. Last time I went to Bangkok, I bought a ton of these for $5.00/each and shipped them home. When I get back to NY, I sell them to all the wanna-be hipsters on E-Bay for as much as $45.

Sep 22, 2006

And did you make plans to spend more time with May and Oren? They sound like great fun.

Sep 22, 2006

Am now desperately seeking pad thai.....mmmmm...thaiiii foooood. So glad you guys made it, I was a bit worried that you'd come up with some terrifying story of being shunted about in a mud-coated cab with a clown on a plane....wait a minute, here - Ok, seriously: How do you always manage to meet such cool/interesting people? Or find patio furniture on the street, etc? How DO you do it? Happy travels and love the photos! One of my personal favorite weddings of those I've done was an all-Thai crowd - they are THE nicest people, seriously.

Sep 22, 2006

It sounds as though the dispute over the mango color was more violent than the coup. What I want to know is this: while you were being mercilessly jostled about the cab, did Sean suddenly turn to you and admit, in a last-words kind of way, "My darling, you were right! A mango IS xxxx-colored!" Furthermore, if that scenario (or one like it) did indeed occur, WHAT WAS THE COLOR?!? The Internet is dying to know!

Sep 22, 2006

If you were a reporter for CNN, I might actually be able to stomach watching it every once in while ...

Sep 22, 2006

An Air Clown? God help me. Because in an airplane, YOU CANNOT GET AWAY. Clowns are evil. Our family has not a phobia a deux -- it's all six of us! We are scared of clowns!

Sep 23, 2006

I'm glad to know you are safe and paying less than $1 for beer again! Maybe Oren can be the new PM of Thailand and scare the children off of the tanks with his clowning. Also, "tanks" for the follow-up punny title. I hope this will remain a regular feature of future Thailand posts.

Sep 23, 2006

Wait--isn't there ACTUALLY a polite coup going on in Britain? Something about asking Tony Blair, VERY NICELY, to resign?

You just can't find a good coup anywhere these days.

Sep 23, 2006

I think you should sell NBB t-shirts on cafe press with an iron-on transfer of you taking a photo of a soldier. The back should read (in glitter letters, of course), "Well, honestly. This has got to be the most boring coup I've ever been a part of." Either that, or Thailand should market said t-shirt as to promote continued tourism.

Awesome post as always. Have you had a GREEN papaya salad yet?

Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 23, 2006

I forgot to mention that as well as being a clown on a plane, Oren has A LICENSE TO DRIVE A TANK, something he procured through his compulsory military service in Israel. We thought it would come in FAR more useful than it has so far.

Sep 24, 2006

Why was I thinking that the coup is fresh material for Eddie Izzard?

Sep 24, 2006

I've been flying all the wrong airlines, clearly. A clown on the plane would be so much more entertaining than the "in-air NBC" I've seen approximately 978 times on United.

Sep 25, 2006

“It’s from God,” said Oren. “He says get out of the car while you can.”


Maxine Dangerous
Oct 04, 2006

Like many others, the text message from God made me laugh really hard. But only on the inside since I'm still at work. Which means my eyes temporarily bugged out like one of those potato-looking squeezie stress dolls and my brain hurts from the pressure of Unreleased Laughter, but at least I'm smiling. :]