I ran across an old Dear Abby column the other day, that I can not find now, where a reader wrote in asking for advice about her marriage. She said she’d twice walked in on her husband masturbating in the bathroom and wanted to know what she should do. Abby’s suggestion was succinct: knock.
If everyone’s problems were that easy to solve, advice columnists would be out of a job. Fortunately for them their careers are safe – there are just too many screwed up people in the world clueless about why their little lives are so fucked up. Nine times out of ten, like Abby’s reply, the answer is simple: Your live sucks because of you.
Of course it is always easier to lay blame elsewhere. No matter how many mistakes we make, when it is someone else’s fault then it is out of our control to do anything about. I guess that is human nature. And since that train wreck isn’t my life, go for it, blame whomever you’d like to paint as the bad guy. But do everyone else on the planet a favor and keep it to yourself. ‘Cuz when you go out of your way to share your sad tale and cast aspersions on everyone else unfortunate to have been part of your story, you end up looking like an ass. No one else is gonna buy into your self-delusion. Especially when we’ve heard the story before.
Some time back I ran a post, Dear Ann, sharing an email I received from someone who fit the above perfectly. Many of you pointed out the inconsistencies in his tale, the obvious errors he’d made if any part of his story was true, and the heavily biased slant he used in the picture he painted. If it was sympathy for his plight that he’d been expecting, well, I’m sure he ended up having a lot more people to blame for his unhappiness. His though was the shorter of two similar emails I received. And his came in second. Since it took less work to decipher, I ran with that one first. Now, and giving Ann’s sis her shot at billing, I’d thought I’d share the other.
This one almost got deleted because it arrived in the form of a press release (or at least in the form of a press release from someone who has never written or read a real press release before). I get a lot of that type of spam posted as a comment, and I usually delete it without bothering to read it first. The headline on this one caught my attention since the subject matter was dear to my heart (or possibly a lower part of my anatomy), and it peaked my interest since it was touting a book that I should have heard of before – at least by mention on one of the forums if nothing else – and especially since this was about a revised edition leading me to believe the book had been around for some time. But then by the third (short) paragraph my bullshit detector started screaming.
Before I get to the second part of this strange tale I’ll give y’all the same introduction to it that I had, hyperbole and all, except I’ve removed all the links (and boy were there lots!) to where you can purchase your very own copy. I will note that just in case you didn’t figure it out after reading the following, the author’s great novel is self-published as an e-book. Undoubtedly by the same firm who will ultimately be responsible for Boo Hoo’s long promised tome.
THE BOOK THAT OUTRAGED THAILAND AND PROVOKED DEBATE ACROSS SOUTH EAST ASIA
HARD COPIES AVAILABLE SOON.
The Twilight Soi Final Revised Edition
Now For Sale $US9.99
in all major digital formats.
MEDIA ALERT MEDIA ALERT MEDIA ALERT MEDIA ALERT
THE FINAL REVISED EDITION OF THE TWILIGHT SOI IS NOW AVAILABLE FROM ALL THE WORLD’S MAJOR ELECTRONIC PUBLISHERS AT US$9.99.
The Twilight Soi dwells on the dangers of one of the world’s most beautiful and intoxicating cities, Bangkok. It is named after one of Bangkok’s more infamous small streets, or sois as they are known.
Soi Twilight runs off the main thoroughfare of Surawong in the centre of Bangkok’s oldest entertainment district Patpong and is known to gay travelers around the world. It is here where touts from go-go boy bars such as Ocean boys, Bangkok Boys and Classic Boys hustle for the attention of local and international tourists.
This revised edition of The Twilight Soi became necessary because the first edition was published prematurely under extremely stressful circumstances, including numerous death threats.Surrounded by hostile neighbors and with his house filled with cameras, the author hoped that the hostilities and high level of surveillance he was enduring would come to an end once the book’s publication was a fait accompli.
Instead it sent events spiraling off in the opposite direction, leading to the burning of his house, the theft of thousands of dollars from his ATM card and the loading up of his laptop with under-age pornography in an attempt at entrapment. The author was forced to flee Thailand and Bangkok, that city he loved so much.
And so the original optimistic ending entertained in the first edition proved incorrect.
Instead the Cambodian government allowed some of the most corrupt elements of Thai society to pursue a foreign citizen on to their territory in order to discredit the author and block the publication of this revised edition. Instead of discrediting the author the fact the his opponents were stupid enough to pursue him across national borders opened up of a can of worms, including the exposure of the mafia links between the Bangkok go-go bars and the more conservative Pnom Penh gay bars and massage parlors. The final chapter is set in Pnom Penh.
The Twilight Soi exposes how a lying, thieving and deceitful go-go boy, the lethally charming, at times wonderfully entertaining and by now famous Aek, became a national and cultural icon in Thailand and across Asia for so successfully cheating a foreign tourist.
While at first resentful, in the end the author became amused at the quirk of fate which cast him as the demon and a previously unknown go-go boy as a hero, symbol of sexual liberation when he was verging sixty years old. In their own days of the 1970s they themselves had regarded themselves as social and sexual pioneers.
“Move it like Aek’’ and endless songs referring to Aek’s buffalo were disco lines which referred to a “fuck show’’ where Aek put himself up for auction within days of being bought a new car. He became a symbol for the fact that money cannot buy love, a finger in the face of the values of an older generation which hold truthfulness and loyalty as qualities to be admired, an “up yours’’ to foreigners stupid enough to fall for the love stories of Thai sex workers and who then dare to complain about being robbed blind.
The Twilight Soi is sub-titled ”A Cautionary Tale” in the hope that other tourists do not make the same mistakes as the author; and do not fall victim to the routine theft and pillaging of foreigners perpetrated by many of Thailand’s famous sex workers.
INTERESTED BOOK REVIEWERS AND MEDIA OUTLETS CAN REQUEST A COMPLIMENTARY COPY BY CONTACTING THE AUTHOR AT:
ALL MEDIA REQUESTS FOR INTERVIEWS OR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION SHOULD ALSO BE MADE THROUGH THIS SAME EMAIL ADDRESS IN THE FIRST INSTANCE.
Now available for sale at a a price of US$9.99 at:
Barnes and Noble (Nook):
ReaderStore (Sony eReader):
Google ebookstore: within 2-3 weeks.
Through Ingram Digital: it is also expected to be made available to over 32,000 eBook retailers, including
INTERESTED BOOK REVIEWERS AND MEDIA OUTLETS CAN REQUEST A COMPLIMENTARY COPY BY CONTACTING THE AUTHOR AT:
ALL MEDIA REQUESTS FOR INTERVIEWS OR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION SHOULD ALSO BE MADE THROUGH THIS SAME EMAIL ADDRESS IN THE FIRST INSTANCE
If you can’t wait to read this tale, it’s now available at a discounted price wherever self-published e-books are sold. In the old days, books such as this were printed by vanity presses – if you were willing to pay the costs these small print shops would gladly run whatever number of books you wanted and were able to pay for. Those costs kept most of these novels from ever seeing the light of the day. With e-books, now anyone can be an author. That’s cool, except the publishing industry evolved the way it has over the last two centuries for a reason. And they’ve come up with some great ideas. Like having an editor work with the author to avoid little things like long incoherent sentences, speaking of yourself in the third person, and rambling narratives that skip back and forth through time like your brain on a bad acid trip. Reading this author’s writing leads me to believe the only assistance he had was that provided by that bad hit of acid.
In his press release, the author seemed to be claiming nationwide fame for his story. Again, I’d never heard his specific tale and since he mentioned Ocean Boys, whose run was somewhat limited, it had to have happened not in the old days but quite recently. So I turned to Google, looking for more info.
The book, or parts of it – I couldn’t tell you which since there was only so much of the tale that I could sit through – is posted on line in several places. If you can’t wait, scroll down; I’ve added a link in bold at the bottom of this post. To give you a taste of what to expect of his tale, after proudly claiming ‘81.358 words and rising’ it starts with the following ‘Dedication:’
“This book is dedicated to Aek and Baw from Bangkok’s Soi Twilight – to the people I thought you were and the people I hope you will become.
That you both wanted to kill me after the hundreds of thousands of baht spent on both of you, and the similar amounts deceived or stolen, was a unique learning experience. Neither of you had ever been on an air plane before you met me; yet there was no gratitude. The vicious end games played out before an easily manipulated public were something to behold. Thank you for the experiences you gave me, some good, some bad, some positively evil.
While you have made me more than angry at times over the ultimately quite large amounts of money either tricked out of me or directly stolen, accompanied by a blizzard of vilification and outright lies to conceal your own crimes, I sincerely hope that further down the track our memories of each other will be kinder.
No guest of any country, however naïve, elderly, stupid or drunk they may be, should be subjected to the systematic removal of their money and assets as if it was a blood sport. Hopefully this book will highlight some of the more dubious practices of Thailand’s go-go boy industry and contribute to its reform, moves which would improve the country’s image as a whole.“
The dedication goes on to name specific bars, with one being accused of “dirty tricks and thievery” and another “where under-age boys can be easily bought or arranged for,” before bringing up the countless death threats the author received, once again, and the beginning of his claim that his experiences with a bar boy from Soi Twilight became a nation-wide sensation.
His tale is not unique, though it does have a few odd twists. An alcoholic, 58-year-old divorced father of three Aussie facing a mid-life crisis decides what his pathetic life needs is a change of venue and moves to Bangkok (having never been there before) where he meets and falls in love with a bar boy who rips out his heart while emptying his bank account. Thanks to a total lack of understanding of Thai culture, he goes on to make every possible mistake a farang can – including a few most pass on such as becoming a yaba addict – and then believes the entire country teams up to ridicule, harass, threaten, and spy on him. (Yes, drugs will do that to you.)
It’s a sad tale made sadder by its telling. The author’s paranoia, schizophrenia, and visions of grandeur make it obvious that as much of a carthasis writing his story may have been, those hours would have been better spent in lengthy sessions with a professional mental health worker. In fact that, instead of a commercial sex worker, would have been a better choice of person to turn to from the start. I should note that he did avail himself of the assistance of a psychologist, but out of all the issues and addictions he’s suffered through that was the one he managed to beat.
The author offers his story as a ‘Cautionary Tale’. Though his misguided warning to tourists and expats to not: “fall victim to the routine theft and pillaging of foreigners perpetrated by many of Thailand’s famous sex workers” misses the mark. The caution should be that the grass is never greener on the other side, and that the problems with your life all stem from what resides in your soul; a change in location never rectifies the underlying problems but can – when you choose to move to a foreign country with a completely different culture than you are used to – be exasperated by immersing yourself in a world with which you are unfamiliar. But then Pattaya is filled with those who provide that example already.
At one point early on in his book, while jumping back and forth from subject matter to subject matter and using a time machine with a faulty dial, the author – as a journalist – notes, “Narrative structures have an inherent beauty all their own.“ And then sets out to prove the opposite. The structure he uses bothered me until I re-read the opening chapter as a purposely designed tale structured to illustrate the teller’s drug and booze addled mind. Though not his intent, I suspect, he made some of William Burroughs’ work look positively linear. His biggest problem, however, is not in form but in the details.
Even excusing him for putting the faulty recollections of an impaired mind to paper, the fantasy he spins is so far from reality you have to wonder how he ever managed enough clarity to find his keyboard. But then those parts of his story are the train wreck that urges you to keep wading through the morass of his rambling prose, even though each incident is covered again and again and again and again until you want to slap him upside the head and scream, “I got it already, enough!”
In the first chapter, prior to writing anything that would make you care, he flashes back to his younger days in Australia when he worked as a male prostitute and treated his elderly customers with contempt and disdain. Where this could have provided some insight into his character for the reader, or – even with the differences in cultural – some insight into the minds and motivation of the boys he hired in Thailand for himself, the author instead uses it in a ‘what goes around comes around’ manner to justify what he claims happened to him as some sort of cosmic punishment. I guess the universe and fate are easier to blame than to accept that when you act like a miserable cunt and run around with a ‘kick me’ sign on your back, someone will.
If this had been written as a novel, allowing the reader to suspend disbelief, the outrageous claims the author makes could be overlooked, at least to those predisposed to buy into the flight of fancy that this author, along with Boo Hoo, seem to prefer where bar boys spend their days getting raped and all ultimately die from AIDS. The Red Shirt’s turning downtown Bangkok into a camping area could have provided a worthy backdrop to his tale, but instead receives just a quick mention as an excuse for why the author had to fork over another few thousand baht to his Boy Special. And the country-wide waterfight celebrated as Songkran could have provided an exotic setting for his grand denouement perhaps even serving as a metaphor for washing one’s sins away – or, god forbid, renewal and a new beginning – but instead becomes the setting for an entire district to rally together to ridicule the author:
“He had always been fascinated by mob behavior, and as a news reporter was often the one sent to cover potentially dangerous crowd behavior, but what he was to witness in Bangkok went beyond anything he had ever experienced. The vitriol directed against him personally, with chants of Buffalo Go Home, Buffalo Die and various cat calls and insults including geur, meaning stupid, and drug driver, surrounded his house for days during what was meant to be the happy time of Songkran, the Thai New Year. As hour after hour passed his irritation began to rise; and he turned up the stereo in order to drown out their voices. The taunting was amongst some of the most crass, tasteless and cruel behavior he had ever witnessed.
But the scenes around his house were as nothing compared to what he was to witness when he ventured down to the main avenue of Silom, where thousands of people danced and cheered Buffalo Die, Buffalo Go Home. Cries of Aek! Aek! Aek! would rise up in waves as the happy, dancing, water drenched crowd cheered for the go go boy who had lied, cheated, thieved and betrayed him on every level.”
I’m not sure how the infamous ‘Buffalo die” phrase became, not a plea for funds as usual, but a derogatory cry specifically aimed at the author, but claim it as his own he has. He says everyone in his neighborhood used the phrase against him, and as he alluded to in the above portion of his story, claims it – and his story – became so well know it was the subject of television and radio shows, the basis for a popular tune (or possibly several) and that even when he walked into one of his favorite gogo bars, Hot Male, the DJ would announce his presence as such and then begin to play “appropriate songs ridiculing him.” He also states that “radio and later television commentary ranged from comments on his over tipping, even down to how much he had once tipped a taxi driver, 50 baht, less than half the price of a cup of coffee in Sydney, or his need for a shower and whether or not he had ever heard of cologne.”
Even the authorities supposedly got in on the act. The author claims that “One morning he noticed a policeman reporting how much he had just taken out of the ATM machine.” Harassed by the police he eventually fled to Cambodia (the part of his updated tale that required the ‘recently revised’ claim in his press release, where again the locals, working with their Thai neighbors, attempted to set him up in drug stings and made his life a living hell. All on behalf of a bar boy who ripped him off for thousands of dollars.
If the author’s tale was an attempt at Gonzo journalism, I would applaud his efforts. Fear and Self Loathing in SE Asia would surely have been a better title for his book. Even if his intent was an overblown fictionalized piece of yellow journalism meant to shock, you’d at least have to give him points for being so successful at that. As a piece of non-fiction, however, his story is just too preposterous. Especially to those of us who frequent that world. The sad thing is that I think he actually believes his own press.
We all tend to view the world through our own experiences. Reading someone else’s take on a locale you know – in this case the sois, the bars, and scarily even some people that many gay men who frequent Bangkok will find familiar – opens you to a different view and allows you to consider, and possibly reconsider, your opinions of that place. Or reaffirms your own bias. Usually. In this story, the places are familiar, the actions of those who people his tale however are completely foreign, and I suspect the result of a very disturbed mind.
You can find more of his book than you need on line at a blog he published, which ironically is dubbed as a ‘coherent draft’ in its address:
As a book review my advice on this effort would be to stay the hell away. But if you can struggle through its odd pacing, as someone’s attempt at painting yet another version of the ‘bad bar boy’ genre, it is hard to put down as it certainly trumps the outlandishness of previous efforts to turn a world so many of us enjoy into a puritan’s version of hell on Earth. If nothing else, it sets a high bar for Boo Hoo to aim at.
And if Dear Abby needed to address this story as a letter to her advice column I think she’d once again be succinct in her reply: Get Professional Help. Now.
[The graphics used in this post are all from Dylan Ricci’s body of work; a link to his website can be found by clicking on the post ‘Dylan’s Boys’ below.]
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Generally, I’m an upstanding citizen. My moral compass may have a slightly different north than yours, but – within reason – I’m honest, loyal, trustworthy, and all that other good stuff the Boy Scouts wanted me to be. As long as you overlook the gay thing. In business, I have a rep for being both honest and fair. And while many have trouble working their little minds around it, I say what I mean, shoot straight from the hip, and my word is sacrosanct. That doesn’t mean I won’t take advantage of a situation when it is to my advantage to do so, but even then it depends more on the person I’m dealing with than it does on the profits I may make. I take great pleasure in scoring a win against blowhards and know it alls. Fleecing the exceptionally stupid too appeals to me. Everyone else is safe. Okay, so maybe my moral compass’ north is where south is on yours. But my friend Noom tells me I’m a good man, so that’s what I’m going with.
I’ve written before – more than once – about the scams that await the unsuspecting touri in Bangkok. Each time I’ve done so I’ve pointed out that the best way to avoid being scammed is to reign in your greed. Greed plays an integral part in any scam. The chance to get something for free or at an unbelievably low price is what makes you overlook all of the warning signs that would otherwise tell you to flee. So when I say ‘exceptionally stupid’ I really mean ‘greedy little bastard who should know better’. And to a lesser degree, since all of the traditional scams in Bangkok are so well known, anyone who doesn’t do just a tiny bit of pre-trip research and then for failing to do so falls victim to a scam has it coming. Walking blindly into a scam that everyone knows about is stupid.
Now you may consider the locals who run these scams to be dishonest. I don’t. There may be a good deal of subterfuge involved, but when it comes down to it – when your money becomes their money – seldom are you getting anything less than what you agreed to. Take the Grand Palace Is Closed Scam for example. Yes, the Grand Palace isn’t closed, but the 50 baht tuk tuk tour of several wats is a real bargain; you get more than what you pay for with that part of the scam. Yes, the professional gentleman you happen to meet while touring one of those wats who clues you into the money you can make by buying gems and jewelry in Bangkok and then reselling them back home is a lying sack of shit. But then if you take business advice from strangers you meet on the street . . . well, I guess it’s your call whether you are greedy or just plain stupid. And then when you are delivered to the huge jewelry store where you are offered incredible savings on expensive pieces of bling of which you have no knowledge as to its value . . . seriously? Minus greed at work, would you make a purchase like that back home?
The part of that scam where money exchanges hands is the purchase of jewelry. Where the unsuspecting feel they’ve been scammed is in that they bought a piece they were led to believe was worth a few thousand dollars that they were getting for a few hundred when its retail value is much lower. I’d agree it was a scam if you were sold a piece of glass instead of a gem, or the metal was plated instead of real gold or silver. But that’s not what happens. What happens is your greed allows you to grossly overpay for a cheap piece of bling. And whose fault is that?
Ditto for the suits for 99 baht tailor shops where your custom tailored clothing doesn’t include even a single fitting. You paid a cheap price for a tailor-made outfit and you got a cheap outfit worth every penny you paid. That’s not a scam, that’s greed and stupidity at work. And an Indian tailor. It is no different than paying $100 for a $10 fake Rolex. The vendor cleaned up, but you agreed to the price. And I don’t consider that dishonesty on the part of the vendor.
So it’s not surprising that I found myself one day while visiting the Weekend market helping a vendor who I’d done business with before to scam a touri who was just asking for it. When in Rome, do as the Romans do they say. It just so happens I was in Bangkok instead so I decided to go native. And fleece a touri.
The vendor is a little old Thai lady who speaks no English. Her small shop is filled with dazzling displays of cut gems and a little bit of finished jewelry. She also sells rough (un-faceted / un-polished) gems. The first time I bought from her the initial price per gram she quoted by using her calculator was laughable. So I did. And then promptly pecked out a figure as ridiculous as hers has been. Which gave her a good laugh too. Game on.
I enjoy bartering with Thais. They have a good time with it and seldom get angry as long as you are working toward a common goal. No claim to buttress your price is too outrageous. In fact, you’ll gain points – and a lower price – for originality. Using the sick or dying relative card before they get the chance to is greatly appreciated too. In this case, once she realized it wasn’t just for the sake of haggling but that I knew the value of what she was selling, we came to a price with which we were both happy. And we were both happy with each other. I’ve visited her tiny store on every trip I’ve made to Bangkok since then, and as soon as she spots me she pulls out trays of treasures she knows I’ll be interested in. Which means, I’m sure, regardless of the great deal I assume I managed to barter for on that initial visit, in her mind I payed far more than I should have.
On one visit, a middle-aged touri from Brazil was busy inspecting a tray of cut green stones while the old lady and I were busy cracking each other up with far-flung prices and tales of woe. I never understand her stories, I doubt if she understands mine. But the general gist is obvious from the vocal tones we use and the faces we make while taking turns punching out new numbers on her ancient little calculator. The lady from Brazil was impressed. And then, assuming she could speak English in front of the vendor without her understanding what she said, asked me if the woman was a thief or if she could be trusted.
Huh. Now you could ask me if a price was fair, you could ask me what the value of a stone was, you could ask me if I thought a particular stone was a bargain at the price you were haggling toward. Asking me if someone I like is a thief isn’t a good move. And then compounding your error by showing your greed and stupidity in one fell swoop . . . okay, so maybe my moral compass’ arrow fell off a few years ago.
I told the touri that I’d been doing business with the lady for years in reply to her question about the vendor’s honesty. Then, holding up the stone she was interested in she asked me, “Is this emerald real?”
Not that I’m that pedantic , but usually when I get the ‘is it real?’ question my reply is, “No, it is a figment of your imagination.” This time I shot a quick look at the old lady. Who managed to keep a straight face while her eyes implored me not to kill her sale. She does not speak English, but does know the English names of stones and undoubtedly knows the difference between an emerald and a piece of tourmaline. Taking advantage of someone’s stupidity is one thing, purposely mis-identifying a stone is another. I asked the touri what the vendor had told her and her reply was, “She doesn’t speak English, she just used her calculator”
The vendor had not said the stone was an emerald, the touri had decided it was. Emeralds are not native to Thailand. You are not going to get a good deal on an emerald in Thailand. You would though in a country where they are mined. Like Brazil. Idiot. “How much does she want?” I asked.
In a low whisper to not alert the gods to her good fortune, her eyes filled with greed, she murmured, “She only wants 2,000 baht!”
The old lady followed our conversation, her eyes moving from one of us to the other as we discussed her goods. That piece of tourmaline, had it been an emerald, would have sold on the wholesale market for at least five grand. U.S. dollars. Using the same clandestine voice, I told the touri what she wanted to hear, “At 2,000 baht for an emerald of that size, it’s a steal.”
And it would have been. But for a piece of tourmaline it was about ten times higher than what it should have been at retail. The Brazilian woman quickly handed over her cash and scurried away quite pleased with the deal she’d just pulled over on the stupid old Thai woman. She knew she’d just been part of a scam but thought she was the scammer. When she’d cleared the area, the vendor let loose with the epitome of a Thai smile (which you may just want to keep in mind the next time you are on the receiving end of one of those glorious face-wide smiles). And then offered up a tray of rough that I always buy a few pieces of with a nod and, not surprisingly, one of the few English words she knew, “Free!”
Not only did I get to participate in a scam on the side of the scammer, I got a cut of the profits too. Now whenever I visit her booth the first thing she does is pull out her tray of tourmaline to offer to me, a joke so that we can both have a laugh and remember our day of mutual good fortune. That woman from Brazil, on the other hand, has probably been busy telling everyone she knows about how dishonest Thais are and of the gem scam she got taken for during her visit to Bangkok.
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They say a picture is worth a thousand words, even though for some the only words that spring to mind are, “Holy Shit!” Every picture tells a story and the internet, being the visual medium that it is, often puts the onerous on the viewer; ‘Caption This’ is a well used meme whether soliciting the funniest one liners from surfers or just allowing the viewer to read into the photo what he will. While I don’t usually mind doing that job for you, sometimes the choice of captions are too numerous, sometimes the photo leaves my brain in hover mode, and sometimes the picture just speaks for itself. And then there are the times when I’m too lazy to post and rely on a few well chosen pix to do my job for me:
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Dinner, for me, at the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai means Wat Phan On. The perimeter of the courtyard is lined with food booths, with just about any local market food you can wish for and all at incredibly cheap prices its the best way to start off an evening at the market. Out of all the wats in the area, Phan On has the biggest selection of food and there are lots of tables so you can sit down to gorge yourself too. I try something different on each visit, but always finish off with fried bananas. The lady who usually runs her booth there drizzles the piping hot fruit with a coconut icing that is to die for. Unfortunately she isn’t always there. That means a sad face and a quick jaunt across the street for a more run of the mill fried banana dessert (though being served in a small bag makes for a great treat to munch on while you wander through the rest of the market – at least until you hit another food vendor’s booth offering something too delicious to pass up).
Wat Phan On with its golden chedi and matching Buddha sitting under the tree is a more picturesque temple for dining. The one across the street is dark, small, and as soon as you get your food you want to leave. Even just walking down the street during the day Wat Phan On grabs your attention while it’s slatternly neighbor offers nothing to recommend a visit. Even a quick one. Even its sign on the dirty plaster wall suggests a temple in dire need of some attention. But then even the crummiest looking temple often holds a surprise or two, so late one afternoon strolling nowhere slowly I finally decided to drop in and check out Wat Muen Larn. Its hidden surprise was that it was exactly as advertised: falling down and headed for despair.
Wat Muen Larn’s claim to fame is that it is old, that it is built in the Lanna style, and that it has a minor reputation as a place for traditional Thai massage. In a city filled with old temples built in the Lanna style, and with more traditional massage shops than 7/11s that’s not saying much. That Google returned 1,930,000,000 search results was impressive. Until I noted 192,1500,000 of those were because the search engine preferred results with either the word menu or learn in them. Narrowing the search down, the wat’s name appears in long lists of temples in Chiang Mai and in an two sentence article that mentions the massage thingy again, repeated a few hundred times. On the plus side that means this article will undoubtedly become the #1 result for future searches, though I may have been the first, and last person to have ever searched Google for info on Wat Muen Larn.
Of the red roof / white wall school of Thai temples, and badly in need of a bath, the wat has a small wiharn, a small ubosot, a medium sized chedi with another smaller one next to it, and a tiny library. It also has the only dog in Thailand that has ever barked at me. Which considering how lethargic dogs are in Thailand could be a unique enough of an experience to recommend visiting the wat. There is also a lot of construction and renovation projects within the compound, begun in what looks like maybe the 1980s and still waiting for either funds or interest to see them completed.
Most of the paint, at least on those architectural details that were ever painted, is faded – a saving grace to my eye ‘cuz I like taking pictures of old weathered doors. And tucked away toward the back of the small compound is a set of doors and windows painted bright red and heavily decorated with gold leaf – not an unusual sight at Thai temples but considering how run down and beat up this wat is they look like they were pilfered from the much more ritzy Wat Phan On across the street. Which combined was reason enough to write an article about Wat Muen Larn.
Oh, and to warn you about the dog.
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