Archive for March, 2012

Thai Days: Google Street View Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai

March 31, 2012

Hugh Paxton’s Blog was rather excited (for the usual childish reasons) to learn that Thailand has just become the second South east Asian country to be Street Viewed by Google. Singapore was first. The Street View enables viewers to follow the streets of their choice and see what is happening and what the scenery looks like. Check http://maps.google.co.th/streetview

Some people become seduced by this experience and spend hours roaming the alleys and highways of Bangkok. I thought I’d save a few bob and take my daughter on a canal adventure, and then, after she and my wife were safely asleep, launch a furtive expedition into Soi Cowboy and other seedy districts to savour the sights and depravity then see whether I could street view my way into prominent tourist attractions free of charge – the zoo, some botanical gardens, temples and wats and so forth. I believe all this is possible.

But for some reason my computer keeps seizing up and the only street views I’ve managed so far today have been streets I’ve viewed through my very real taxi windows. I’ve had plenty of time to enjoy these views. Friday Bangkok traffic moves slower than resin oozing from a withered redwood.

I’ll have another crack at the Street View tomorrow. Unlike a real street view you can, apparently, skip the congestion and zoom around the city at will and at the speed of your choice. If Google wanted to be seriously authentic, of course, you wouldn’t be able to do anything of the sort. You’d have to stop at several hundred red lights, wait for that knackered cement mixer to be hauled away by an armoured personnel carrier, be pulled over by a traffic cop who issues a fine because its nearly lunch time and he’s short of 150 Baht for noodles and beer, listen to your Street View guide say “Where the f***K soi 39 gone now?” And you wouldn’t get anywhere near your planned and intended destination.

But Google routinely works magic. And a man can dream! Yup, I’ll have another go at Street View tomorrow. I’ll let you know if I see anything interesting!

Cheers from Bangkok!

Hugh

Brigitte’s Pick – a bit of magic: Ron’s Card Trick!

March 30, 2012

Hugh Paxton’s Blog’s always been fond of magic tricks. And this is a good one. Brigitte asked me if I could work out how Ron does it. I’ve tried and can’t. Any ideas, chaps?

Let the magic begin! Over to Brigitte (and Ron):

This one can make a complete fool of You. Good luck.
After you have thought about this for a while, pass it on to thosepoor unsuspecting friends you just love to pull something over on.

‘ Ron’s ‘ Card Trick. Performed by: YOU !!
Pick one of the following cards.
Don’t click on it; just keep it in your head.

Scroll down when you have your card,

Think about your card for 20 seconds in front of Ron.

Ron will attempt to read your mind!
Scroll down after 20 Seconds

The Great Ron Has Removed Your Card!

SCARY ISN’T IT?
Now scroll up and do it again, this will freak you out. Enjoy….

Namibia’s answer to a Thai fish foot massage: Tadpole attack from Christian Goltz

March 28, 2012

Hugh Paxton’s Blog reckons Namibia can rise to every occasion. In its way. And its way is frequently oblique, innovative and unexpected.

Fish foot massages are currently all the rage in South East Asia. Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia… indeed there are fish tanks full of feet left, right, north, south, east and west. It was a novelty last year. Now it is becoming the norm.

I posted something on the subject in Thai Days a few months ago. If you missed it, the deal is fairly straightforward. You hand over a few notes and stick your feet in a tank full of fish that originated in Turkey and they nibble the dead skin off your feet. It’s normally an agreeable experience.

If it’s a clip joint, the fish won’t be the real thing (they’ll have come from China) and may become aggressive in their attentions resulting in flesh bites.

Fish foot massage parlours have not yet reached south west Africa. And if they get around to it (which I doubt) they will face fierce (and free) local competition.

Thanks to Christian for the tadpole advisory! If you want a tadpole foot massage, his suggestion is that you visit Erongo.

Dope of the Day Awards: How not to get a job as a gardener in South Africa

March 28, 2012

Today, Hugh Paxton Blog’s prestigious award for human stupidity goes to a gentleman in South Africa. The man knocked on the door of a house in East London asking for work as a gardener.

He had dressed respectably for the interview, no doubt hoping to make a good impression.

Said the home owner “When I opened the door I was surprised because he was wearing our clothing.”

He was indeed.

The home owner’s shoes, his socks, his trousers, his belt and one of his fiance’s blouses. All stolen in a burglary committed by the job applicant.

Said the home owner “I could not believe the audacity of this guy. I detained him after that and called the police.”

Nuff said.

Petition time; Save the Sumatran Tiger From Extinction!

March 28, 2012
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Hi Hugh,

The Sumatran tiger is in danger of becoming extinct. This native Indonesian tiger is threatened by deforestation and the loss of thick plantation near the ground.

How many more species must be destroyed before humanity steps in? »

With less than 30 percent of the Sumatran tigers’ habitat located in protected areas, these tigers’ chance of survival is dwindling as more and more forests and plantations in Indonesia are being cleared.

There are only approximately 400 Sumatran tigers left on the planet. If Indonesia will not step up to protect them, what is next for these gorgeous and precious animals?

The least Indonesia can do is to start protecting the habitats that these tigers need to survive.

Tell Indonesia that it must step in to protect Sumatran tigers before it’s too late. »

kathleen.jpg Thanks for taking action!

Kathleen
ThePetitionSite

Save the Sumatran Tiger From Extinction
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Charlie’s Thai Green Currier blog: No more summer s£x: A parent’s plea

March 27, 2012

Hugh Paxton’s Blog just got this in from Charlie Clarke’s Green Currier, our friendly neighbourhood Thai Village blog. He’s suggesting that you stop having sex for the time being. I am in complete agreement.

Hi all

Clocks have gone forward, Spring has arrived (in Europe) and summer approaches. Beware…

An impassioned plea from the Thai Green Currier…

No more summer s£x: A parent’s plea

Enjoy! And have a good week!

Charlie

Brigitte’s Pick: Bear hug – Stoute beertjie!

March 26, 2012

From: Brigitte Alpers [mailto:imagine2@iway.na]
Sent: 26 March 2012 08:16 PM
To: Hugh Paxton
Subject: FW: Stoute beertjie!

Wonderful pictures from the zoo in Simferopol.

I didn’t eat all the honey! I hate you, Mum!

Did you eat all the honey? Are you lying again?

Yes. I may have eaten all the honey. But there was only a bit. I promise.

Ah, OK. What’s a bit of honey? Gimme a hug darling and we’ll say no more about it!

Brigitte’s Pick: Quite well said

March 25, 2012

Brigitte didn’t actually tell Hugh Paxton’s Blog who said it but she’s right. I agree. It’s quite well said.

START

Quite well said..

Kind regards
Brigitte

PO Box 9665 | 6 Trift Street
Windhoek | Namibia
Tel | +264 61 236 716
Cell | +264 (0)81 285 7255
Fax2Email | 088 643 723
Fax | +264 237 252
Email | imagine2

Japan Times: Helltoads

March 21, 2012

Hugh Paxton’s blog is bracing for the Call of the Wild. Frogs!

Before explaining this, I must first bore you with a BBC Award Winning Nature Writing Essay, called Helltoads!

Helltoads Essay starts:

 

I’m afraid this one has to read like a diary. It started on a date I can’t precisely remember, but it definitely began like this.

DAY ONE: Two blobs of stuff in a footprint in the mud with barely enough water collected to cover the base of either. The tops of the things sag in the sunlight towards the heel-print made by the shoe. In the day of the drain, this is what passes for standing water in our neighbourhood. Small wonder the Japanese student with me doesn’t know what laid these beaching jellyfish of eggs.

“Frogspawn,” I explain.

“Ah,” he answers. “From a frog?”

DAY ONE (later): There’s not much room in your average Japanese house and now there is less room than normal in ours. My wife, Midori, has removed clothes from one of our plastic storage drawers. It sits by the television filled with water. The coils of jelly have expanded.

DAY THREE: The pet shop has everything a pet shop should be inspected for before being shut down. Agama lizards, chameleons,  young sturgeon, pine martens,  chicks dyed blue and pink for the fun of it. Accessories. Bags of leaves to feed your rhino beetle larvae. Each bag of 30 leaves costs 180 yen. A bit more than a pound.

I ask the counterman whether there’s something special about the leaves, something added or subtracted.

“No, no,” he reassures me, “these are natural.”

I leave with 10 equally natural strands of pond weed. A snip at just under eight quid. As I said, there’s not a lot of standing water around. Pond weed-wise, tokyo’s a seller’s market.

DAY FOUR: Eggs hatching. Thin, brown things, leech-like, tentatively emerging. Our landlord’s agent phones to politely remind us that we are contractually obliged not to plant trees in the garden. This is unfortunate. We have just planted five Japanese maples. Midori asks, not unreasonably, why, given the aforementioned contractual obligation, the actual contract failed to mention anything about trees?

The agent says he’d understood that it was understood. He compromises. We can keep the trees but when we move, we must uproot them and take them with us.

“Perhaps the next tenants would like the trees?” Midori suggests.

The agent admonishes her for being selfish. “Not everyone likes what you like.”

Hard to believe anyone could dislike a tree. Not with the going rate for leaves.

DAY TEN: Three of our plastic drawers are now wiggling with exuberant life. We have borrowed two books on amphibia. The first largely confines itself to the sort of experiments that, when applied to humans, incurred stiff penalties at the end of the last World War. The second book has been written by someone who actually likes frogs. Refreshing. My wife and I read it together as the radio burbles away in the background about 50 kilometer traffic jams, catastrophes, and busy, dismal human affairs. There is something hypnotic about watching tadpoles. I have discovered that I can do it for hours.

“This is what we’ve got,” says my wife pointing to a photo. It’s an education, that photo.

DAY ??? No precise day what this is – I’ve let this essay/diary slip. We are now surrounded by water-filled plastic drawers – fifteen in all. June humidity fogs the air, and the rainy season is so close you can almost breathe it in. The tadpoles are unrecognisable. No longer the discrete little black blobs that wiggled so delicately, our drawers now bulge with brawling adolescents. They write and fume and gape their mouths, and thrash.

“Man,” says an American visitor, “That’s horror movie material. Frogs from hell.”

“You don’t know the half of it. Those frogs are’nt frogs. They’re gamagayru. Giant Japanese toads. When they’re fully grown you’re looking at a heavily muscled ambhibian the size of a cow pat. We’ve got 2,000 of them.”

“Wow,” he murmurs. “Biblical.” Then he poses a good question. “What are you going to do with them?”

FOUR DAYS LATER: The first arms are appearing. It’s an odd shock seeing those arms. Like having a young daughter who starts growing breasts. Tempus fugit. we’ve added some tanks, and more drawers, half-filled with stones and earth, half-filled with water that’s gone the colour of strong green tea. Our neighbours are intrigued. They have also started planting their own trees. Lord knows what the landlord’s agent will say if he gets wind of the precedent set by Operation Toad.

TEN DAYS LATER: The time has come for bold, mildly illegal, action. Japan’s civil engineers (and construction companies with dubious links to government ministers and yakuza cement salesmen) have an obsessional love affair with concrete. Tokyo has no real rivers left. Just drains. Small wonder that proud batrachian parents have to leave their offspring in boot marks. What is needed are ponds, and I’ll be damned if we aren’t just the people to dig them.

Our house, incidentally, is is surrounded by hundreds of cemeteries. cemeteries are the single largest local industry. The bootmark that began this saga was left in a muddy path through scrub between two cemeteries, one, somewhat incredibly, a multi-storey affair – a sort of final car park. It is in this area of scrub that we will commence digging, and it’s in these ponds that we hope future generations (and our generation) will spawn. As we set off, shovels on shoulders and with a horned moon sickle sharp in the heavens, we refrain from conversation. Midnight, shovels and cemeteries are a combination open to misinterpretation. The security guards though are not alert. They would rather stay in the entrance gate houses with sake and incense. They are frightened of ghosts and demons and gods in this cemetery town.

TODAY: Ponds dug, but not as many as initially planned. A bit of field research has found some perfect, if unexpected, release sites. The most unusual is an underground WWII aircraft factory staffed, if that’s the word, by Korean slave labour. It’s under our house. Several hundred meters under our house. No way we are sticking our toads in a cavern labyrinth. But cave seep leaks out from the hidden entrances. Nobody’s going to drain them. Ghosts of history keep these pools and permanent puddles safe. On the higher and more dangerous mountain ridges we’ve found springs. And more pools.

Invitations have been sent out to like minded friends.

“We are going to have a release a (small) giant toad party. Date uncertain but likely to be at the end of the month. Bring beer and panniers for carrying toads.”

As I write this, the drawers squirm and churn with amphibious life, impatient to be off.  I won’t miss their food and weed bills and that’s the truth.

And it would be really nice to get our drawers back.

Bassho, the Edo poet, wrote something that every Japanese learns by heart.

It is, apparently, the definitive haiku, although it suffers a bit in translation.

“A frog jumps into a pond. Plop.”

Bassho Edo Poet

Here’s one from my Japanese wife, also, I am sure destined to become a classic:

“A whole bunch of giant toads get kicked out of my damn drawers and then get hurled into a pond and spawn and if this happens again, Hugh Paxton I’ll…”

BLOG ED NOTE: That’s not quite how the BBC award winning essay ended. But Midori’s increasing ire with having no storage space has remained a fairly consistent theme. This year, in Thailand, Hugh Paxton’s Blog raised and released 10,000 or so tree frogs. Their mother had dropped her foam into a swimming pool. Obviously we had to rescue them, nurture them, remove storage drawers, fret about them,  then  release em or more accurately let them find their way and climb up and off at their own pace. We’ve just heard them begin to sing. Or squawk. The monsoon is a few weeks away yet. But mozzies? We haven’t been bitten this evening.

 

As I write this

TODAY:

Leonie’s View: Only in the Cape.

March 21, 2012

Leonie’s right. You probably need to know the place to get this one. I got it.

Over to Leonie!

FINALLY A NICE SOUTH AFRICAN STORY INSTEAD OF THE USUAL DEPRESSING STUFF ….

Only South Africans can appreciate this story (or those who’ve lived here a long time)

On Sunday I popped down to the local convenience store at the Engen service station to return some DVDs and pick up a few things. On the way I passed a scrap metal cart being pulled by a donkey. Whenever I see this sight I feel the same as I do at the scene of a car accident – I really, really don’t want to look but some awful compulsion always makes me have a quick glance to ascertain the state of the poor beast of burden.

I was standing in the check-out queue waiting to pay when my attention was drawn by a sudden burst of noise and activity outside on the forecourt. Through the window I saw that donkey and cart were pulled up alongside the pumps for “refuelling”. The donkey had its nose in the watering can generally used to top up cars, and the cart passenger was swabbing down the poor creature’s sweaty flanks with the squeegee thing usually used to clean windscreens and score a bigger tip. The driver and passenger were having an extremely loud and colourful conversation, none of which I could understand apart from the “voks” and “jou ma” comments, but which must have been extremely funny judging by the toothless guffaws.

The terrible misuse of the squeegee caused one of the (bored and almost lifeless) pump attendants to amble across lethargically to this comic tableau and confiscate the item. There followed an incomprehensible diatribe accompanied by lots of hand gestures which ended with the attendant shambling reluctantly back to the cashier window and mumbling a long story, at which the cashier shrieked indignantly and told him “nee man, hulle moet vok off”. She then explained to her intrigued audience that the donkey would only move away from the pumps if it was given some apples.

It seemed obligatory to donate the bag of apples I had just purchased for my son. This was met with huge toothless grins, much bowing and God Bless You Merrems. As I returned to my car I had the happy honour of over-hearing the donkey being told loudly that it must be the “most vokking fency-schmency blerrie vokking perd on the whole of the Cape-Flats, eating epples from vokking Woolwurths”.

 


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