Ralph Reports from Overseas

1a ralphGoodbye London…Hello Thailand

By Ralph McAllister

What a great way to finish a London visit .

Peter Brook and, at 89, showing that he still has much to offer, took over the Young Vic with his latest production The Valley of Astonishment and astonished we were.

Three actors and two musicians looked at the condition of anaesthesia, with simple stories and music presented on a small thrust stage.

It was  a compulsive and fascinating evening showed,yet again,that less can be more,and that clutter is for short attention span receivers.

Of course if,as they should,bring it to Wellington ,it would be placed in the cavernous St James and would be lost in the rafters.

Sigh.

After sitting on the tarmac in Dubai waiting for someone to give us back our air con, I would happily have floated on the heat and anger waves back to London.

You should try coping with 45 degrees outside the plane, combined with the heat from 300 bodies inside.

On the other hand,don’t try it. If you have a choice.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Bangkok and the resort town of Chiang Mai have seen some changes, but some things stay the same.

Another military takeover was less than evident this time in Bangkok, compared with two years ago when I was there and bullets did fly round the corner from my hotel

Largely, peace remains as locals go  around making their living and the army keep a low profile.

Chiang Mai was in the grip of a four day Buddha festival, a bit like Lent with humour.

I took the opportunity to pay my respects to a friend who died last year, where his remains lie at the local temple.

We took our flowers,candles and buckets (literally) of food to the monk who offered prayers, then let us sweep the dead leaves away from Tim’s monument.

It was a simple and curiously moving ritual and I was struck again by the similarities with our own Maori rituals.

If you want a gentle experience of Thai life you could do little better than spending time in Chiang Mai.

They serve some of the best padthai you can dream of, for the princely sum of 3 to 4 dollars.

My favourite pub is Thai One On owned by friend Tony who looks after his Thai staff so well that they have become his family and they then spill their family feelings on to you, the customer.ralph and friends

If you want a gentle read, the best bookshop is ‘On the Road Books’ where Rob and his Thai wife offer great deals in second hand books, many of which are picked up by Rob at car boot sales in his yearly visit to England.

He will give you half your money back when you return your purchase or credit it to your next purchase — a great scheme for people who like to travel light.

I am almost finished reading GOLD by Christ Cleave, which Rob sold  to me, a gripping story of fierce competition between two female cyclists, but more so an examination of success and failure, the price of friendship and loyalty amongst the two women, their coach and the champion cyclist husband of one of them.

Warmly recommended.

The changes?

  • Shops lose and gain identities.
  • Your favourite travel agent becomes a sushi restaurant.
  • Massage parlour becomes  a tattoo shop.

But the warmth of the people is as constant as the heat. ( and today it’s a mild 31 )

Next from Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, call it what you will.