Today I witnessed a re-enactment of the Ghostbusters film. Three men clutching metal canisters of poison arrived at my home and proceeded to pump their lethal gift into every nook and cranny,

I’ve been waiting for this for months, if not years. The first evidence of termite activity was a couple of years ago, with just a few traces in the bathroom. My landlord reckoned that a can of insecticide was the solution. They subsequently spread to the kitchen, bar area and my bedroom. About a month ago they launched a major assault on the bathroom ceiling, driving countless channels through it.

I’d got to a point where I was nervous about opening any cupboard, knowing there was a good chance that I’d be showered in termite sh*t. (They chew wood, then use the faeces to make tunnels through which they can travel without being exposed to light. These tunnels are often along the edges of doors.)

Eventually, about three months ago, my landlord agreed to get a professional exterminator to address the problem. However, nothing happened. It seems that the change of landlord has, at last, prompted action.

The exterminators started outside the house, drilling holes through the concrete border which surrounds the house and injecting poison. (Termites typically have large colonies underground, in sandy soil, and only invade houses during the rainy season – at least, that’s the theory.) More holes were made in pillars which support the house.

Then they came inside, spraying in cupboards, along skirting boards and into cracks in the parquet flooring. They drilled holes in the bathroom ceiling to inject more poison. Areas of the house I’d thought termite-free were revealed to have healthy infestations. The ghostbusters were, undoubtedly, very thorough.

They left after two and a half hours. I’m left with a house reeking of insecticide, with debris lining many of the cupboards, and the sound of agitated termites resounding from various colonies.

Still, it takes my mind of my other concerns.


My car means I have a new freedom, so I went to Rangsit last weekend to see the Simpsons movie. Most performances were in Thai, but there were three performances a day on the smallest of the 16 screens at the cineplex there. There was just a handful of people in the audience. I just hope the management don’t think that showing films in English is an unprofitable activity.

The movie itself was a bit of a disappointment; it lacked the complexity of the small screen cartoons – that is, not enough references to old movies and obscure cultural phenomena. Still, it passed the time.

I remember when I was a child film presentations in England would start with the National Anthem, and everyone would stand to attention. I’m not quite sure when that tradition was abandoned in the UK, but it still lives in Thailand. Actually, it’s not the National Anthem that is played, but a song about the King – and film of scenes from the King’s life, mostly showing him doing good works, is shown at the same time.

Last Sunday was the Queen’s birthday. This day also serves as Mother’s Day, so the restaurants were packed with families taking their mother out for a special meal. The temples were busy, too, with people making merit (i.e. bringing gifts for the monks) on behalf of their mother or grandmothers. However, that temple of commerce, Tesco-Lotus, was busiest of the lot. The enormous basement car park was full, and cars were parking on a piece of rough ground a little way from the store. Tesco-Lotus had a little shrine to her at the entrance, with her photograph in an elaborate gold frame, pots of flowers and lots of shiny blue cloth (blue being the colour of her birth day). People paid their respects as they entered.

Normally I avoid going to Tesco-Lotus on Bank Holiday weekends., but both fans in my sitting room had died. Still, upon seeing the seething throng, I decided it would be better to swelter at home than face the mêlée.

Fortunately, the weather isn’t too hot at the moment; it’s only getting up to 33 or 34ºC most days. Less fortunately, it’s also raining every day, albeit fairly briefly. The gardeners haven’t called for at least a couple of months, which means that the grass is getting rather long around the edges of the lawn. If it gets much worse I’m going to have to tackle it myself.


The Thai Baht used to be divided into 100 Satangs. One Satang is worth about 0.014 of a British penny – not a lot. In theory there are 1, 5 and 10 Satang coins, but I’ve never seen one. The smallest coin now encountered is worth 25
Satang. There’s a 50 Satang coin, too. Both are pretty well unusable. The vast majority of shops won’t accept them. Only Tesco-Lotus and a chain of department stores in Bangkok seem to use them. Anyway, the government has finally decided to phase them out; they were costing more to manufacture than their worth. Bizarrely, however, they have also announced that they are going to phase out the 1 Baht coin, too, leaving the 2 Baht coin the smallest. In
future, nothing can cost 1 or 3 Baht. (There’ll still be a 5 Baht coin, so 5, 7 and 9 Baht will be possible. However, I suspect shopkeepers will round every price up to the nearest even number, making things just that little bit more expensive.)

The 2 Baht coin rather elusive. I’ve only ever seen a handful of them. Of course, that could be because they are almost identical in size and colour to the 1 Baht coin. (The 1 Baht coin is 20 mm in diameter; the 2 Baht coin 21.75 mm.) More than once I’ve handed over a 2 Baht coin not realising it wasn’t a one. The government, realising the problem, has announced that it will change the colour of the 2 Baht coin from nickel to bronze. Quite how the problem wasn’t anticipated when the 2 Baht coin was first minted in 2005, I’m not sure. Still, better late than never.

There are images of these coins at


It was a Bank Holiday weekend here in Thailand, and now I’ve got my
car I can range far and wide. For my first long distance trip I’d
resolved to visit Khao Yai, Thailand’s first national park. It’s a
large area of pristine tropical jungle where wild elephants, gaur and
tigers freely roam. All commercial development is banned within the
park, so the local hotels cluster around the entrance.

Khao Yai lies about 2½ hours East of Ayutthaya (and a little North).
Though, if, as I did, you try to follow minor roads, it can take a
little longer; being stuck behind trucks trundling along at a
leisurely pace might have been frustrating, were it not for the
verdant green rice fields to either side. (And getting lost a couple
of times added even more to the journey.)

Ayutthaya is on Thailand’s central plain – hot and dry. Barely a
hillock disrupts the vast level expanse. So, as I drove East it was
somewhat strange to see limestone outcrops rising straight out of the
ground. Even stranger were the cement factories whose futuristic
pipework wouldn’t have looked out of place on the cover of some 1960s
science fiction novel, if accompanied by a similarly futuristic robot
or spaceman.

I checked in to a resort near the entrance to Khao Yai. There were
bungalows of various sizes and prices scattered over a large area, all
of them fairly basic.

Cottage at Rabiang Dao Resort

I had a hot shower, fridge, aircon, firm bed,
and a TV showing a handful of grainy Thai TV channels – that was about
it. Even though the price was comparable with a 4* hotel in Bangkok,
there was neither fancy soap nor shampoo – not even a kettle for
making tea. The decor was somewhat eccentric, too.

Inside the cottage - Santa and friend

After a long journey I didn’t feel like venturing out to find
somewhere to eat, so I tried the in-house restaurant. This was
probably a mistake. The food was pricy, and not particularly good.
But then, the local competition was from similarly pricy resorts.

Next day, the breakfast was no better.

A twenty-or-so minute drive took me to the entrance to the park. I
paid the 400 Baht farang entrance fee – plus an extra 50 Baht for the
car. (Thai people pay 40 Baht to enter.) There was then a long,
twisty drive rising up through the jungle. At first I passed through
deciduous forest in the drier valley areas, then evergreen forest at
higher, wetter levels. Being a Bank Holiday weekend, there was quite
a lot of traffic – but not enough to be irksome.

The enduring impression of is endless greenery, though there were a
few signs of mammalian life. I saw a furry sausage scuttle across the
road, an ape standing on the road, and a couple of deer. And I heard
the strange whoopings of gibbons (think of a chorus of demented swanny
whistles) and the background choruses of cicada and frogs. In the
south of the park there was evidence of the wild elephants (think
piles of brown, fibrous cannonballs on the road).

A highlight was a visit to one of the waterfalls, made famous by the
film “The Beach” in which Leonardo DiCaprio pretended to act. Of
course, this waterfall is nowhere near a beach – but that’s the
mystery of the magic lantern for you.

Heo Suwat waterfall from above Heo Suwat waterfall from below

Dinner was in a restaurant near the resort (I wasn’t repeating the
same mistake twice) – a place attached to a winery (the first in
Thailand, I believe). A perfectly delicious pizza (albeit with a
scattering of grapes on it), cooked in a wood oven, was accompanied by
a glass of Thai Shiraz and a fresh, green salad.

On returning to the resort, I found there was no water. After a day
in the jungle I was rather in need of a shower, but I had to retire
sticky. Still, I have major water supply problems in my house, so it
made me feel at home.

On rising, still no water. I headed for my rather grim breakfast
unshaven, smelly and grumpy. I was half planning on diving into the
pool with my bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap to render myself

Anyway, on my way back to my bungalow I had a nasty trip. My right
wrist broke my fall; and fortunately the fall didn’t break my right
wrist (though it took me a while to work out that it was simply a
sprain, rather than a fracture). I also badly grazed both my legs, so
I was horrified to find out that the water had been restored by the
time I returned to my bungalow. The sounds I made as I washed out the
wounds sounded like a dog that had been kicked hard. I’m sure my
yelping was audible across the valley.

The return trip to Ayutthaya was along faster roads (albeit with more
miles on the clock). And on the way I stopped at Chokchai Steak
House. Chokchai is a national institution; it was the place that
bought modern dairy farming to Thailand. Bottles of Chokchai milk are
on sale in every 7-11 and most supermarkets. And when I used to ask
my students to write about their favourite restaurant, a goodly
proportion would describe Chokchai. They (Chokchai, that is, not my
students) graze western-style cows (they look like Friesians) on the
rich grass around Khao Yai. The cows that don’t cut it on the
milk-bearing front (I believe they are called heifers) end up served
on hot iron plates with half a baked potato and a selection of veg.
Not that I had a tranche of cow – but the salad was jolly good.