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How I Got To Thailand

How I Got To Thailand

HOW I GOT TO THAILAND By Andrew Biggs One of my earliest observances of Bangkok life was made from the second floor of a Khlong Toey guest house, from the window of a room festooned with linoleum and cockroach. Looking down upon the street, there was a group of Thais sitting on a frayed bamboo mat in a rough circle, and inside that circle were plates of food with forks and spoons sticking out of them. There was an ice bucket and soda water bottles and a bottle of local whiskey, p

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The Top 40 Farangs

The Top 40 Farangs

THE TOP 40 FARANGS By Andrew Biggs I see the Thailand Tatler Top 300 Expat List is out on the streets. It’s actually called “The 300 List”. It comes out every couple of years and resembles a Billboard Hot 100, with the Bill Heineckes of the world shooting to number one while hapless NIST English teachers hover around the 290’s like a Backstreet Boys comeback single. It was back in 2007 that I received an email from Thailand Tatler informing me I’d been “selected” as one of Th

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The Farang Accent

The Farang Accent

THE FARANG ACCENT By Andrew Biggs All around my Los Angeles neighborhood are hand-written signs tacked onto lofty palm trees: “ACCENT ELIMINATION”. The two words are followed by a local telephone number, which to my surprise doesn’t begin with 555. Accent Elimination – how intriguing. A long, long time ago I was here in Southern California as an AFS foreign exchange student. This was pre-Crocodile Dundee, and Americans had next to no knowledge of Australia … but they did love my a

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Sabai Dee, Somtam

Sabai Dee, Somtam

SABAI DEE, SOMTAM By Andrew Biggs This week I enjoyed a delicious lunch at Suan Dusit University, my host being none of than the Dean of the Faculty of Education. We ate at the university restaurant, which doubles up as a training ground for hospitality. Despite our lofty stature we chose to eat traditional Thai food. The Dean had pad kraphao while I ate rard nah. We also shared another dish. “It’s a specialty of the restaurant,” my host told me. “You’ve got to try it.

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The Circle Of Nakhon Pathom

The Circle Of Nakhon Pathom

THE CIRCLE OF NAKHON PATHOM By Andrew Biggs Greetings from Nakhon Pathom! This week your favorite columnist finds himself in a hotel room for five days in this little town just west of Bangkok. “Little town” is hardly a good description, though it was certainly that way when I first visited here a quarter-century ago. Bangkok has since extended her tentacles, swallowing up the likes of as Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi and Minburi. Over to the west is a motley crew of smallish

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Pokemon Goat

Pokemon Goat

POKEMON GOAT By Andrew Biggs It has been a week of addiction and idiocy, as your columnist comes to grips with one of the grossest wastes of time he has experienced since standing in line for Krispy Kreme donuts when they first opened here in 2010. Pokémon Go has been in Thailand just two weeks and already there have been reports of players crashing cars on Sukhumvit, walking into the path of oncoming semi trailers, and finding themselves under the wheels of Northern-bound buses.

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Brisbane: A City With Tickets On Itself

Brisbane: A City With Tickets On Itself

BRISBANE: A CITY WITH TICKETS ON ITSELF By Andrew Biggs My good friend Tony Preece is going to sing at the Lord Mayor’s Senior Cabaret Concert at Brisbane City Hall this Sunday afternoon. The concert is billed as featuring “famous Brisbane singing stars of yesteryear.” I had no idea Brisbane had such performers outside of the Bee Gees, and I know they’re not taking the stage. Nevertheless I am thrilled to have a friend who is a famous singing star of yesteryear. He’s going to

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Up, Up And Away

Up, Up And Away

UP, UP AND AWAY By Andrew Biggs Nong Max was born into a rural Thai family 15 years ago in the far north-eastern province of Nakhon Phanom. That province is 750 km from Bangkok, which makes Nakhon Phanom about halfway to Macau in China. It’s not exactly on the tourist track; Ho Chi Minh did hide out there, plotting the Viet Minh independence movement, from 1928 to 1931 in a small under-the-radar village called Ban Nachok. I once visited his home there and while historically s

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Kicking Musical Kids Where It Hurts

Kicking Musical Kids Where It Hurts

KICKING MUSICAL KIDS WHERE IT HURTS By Andrew Biggs This week your favorite columnist met up with Somtow Sucharitkul, Thailand’s famed composer, conductor and lapsed horror writer at Emquartier for lunch and a chat. The last time I saw Somtow was at his inner-city residence where he lent me a book from his formidable collection about life at Eton School. “Be sure to return it,” he said in what remained of an Etonian accent, albeit beaten down by the ravages of time plus a stint i

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A Most Irresponsible Student

A Most Irresponsible Student

A MOST IRRESPONSIBLE STUDENT By Andrew Biggs The older woman appears at the classroom door five minutes into the lesson, staring blankly at us all. Her hair is short and held back by a colorless hairband. Her faded clothes compliment her displeasure, and there is a permanent downturn at both ends of her mouth. It is difficult to discern whether the blank look is one of disapproval or disinterest. We are about to find out. Our lecturer pauses mid-sentence, then glances over to

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Purging the H-Word

Purging the H-Word

PURGING THE H-WORD By Andrew Biggs This week sees the rounding up and hauling away of unsavory animals from the middle of Bangkok and no, that doesn’t mean a coup nor a police raid on Nana Plaza. Lizards, dear reader … lizards. Lumpini Park’s famed monitor lizards are once again being captured, bagged and sent, so officials claim, to “a wildlife breeding center near Ratchaburi.” That sounds suspiciously like code for “factory that processes meat for Chinese dumplings”, doesn’t it?

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Squabbles At The School

Squabbles At The School

SQUABBLES AT THE SCHOOL By Andrew Biggs Running a language school, where the students on the weekends are predominantly little kids, can be daunting at times. You are forever putting out bushfires. Like two weekends ago, when Somsak had a long face throughout Saturday. Something was definitely not right. His happy-go-lucky nature took a definite nose dive to the point where it started to affect everybody else at the school. It was one of those situations where I had to take

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The Pendant

The Pendant

(First published October 20, 2016, the week after HM King Bhumibol passed away) THE PENDANT By Andrew Biggs I received the royal pendant almost 10 years ago; a small, metallic pin shaped in the insignia of His Majesty the King. It was presented upon completion of my services for the 60th Anniversary Celebrations of His Majesty King Bhumibol’s Accession to the Throne. The brooch is small and elegant in its triangular form with an emerald green background. The pendant cam

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An English Lesson On Womanising

An English Lesson On Womanising

AN ENGLISH LESSON ON WOMANISING By Andrew Biggs I am at the end of my little English lesson. Are there any questions? “What does ‘womaniser’ mean in English?” tweets one young lady. Well that certainly came out of the blue. On this overcast Tuesday afternoon I was expecting something a little easier to answer such as the difference between “house” and “home”, or how to translate kreng jai into English. (The kreng jai question is actually not easy at all to answer succin

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Idiots In Uniform

Idiots In Uniform

IDIOTS IN UNIFORM By Andrew Biggs I was witness to a seething mass of white shirts while sitting in Ekamai traffic this week. Yes, white shirts. They can be more dangerous and violent than any pack of red shirts at Ratchaprasong or yellow shirts at the airport, especially if you happen to be on a bus on Sukhumvit Road minding your own business. They are students. Male students, running down Sukhumvit Road not unlike stampeding buffalo. Those at the front they were carry

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Paying The Price Of Fitness

Paying The Price Of Fitness

PAYING THE PRICE OF FITNESS By Andrew Biggs This week I did something as perennial as tulips blooming in the Dutch spring. I decided to head back to the gym. I need to get all buff for my flight home to Australia in late December. That’s pathetic, I know, but allow me to have my dreams! I am a fitness center’s dream member; I pay an obscene amount of money annually then hit the gym for exactly two and a half months, only to peter out and disappear, freeing up valuable locker-room

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Buddhist Hot Air

Buddhist Hot Air

BUDDHIST HOT AIR By Andrew Biggs The billboard rises, like a Buddhist temple, up ahead on the right-hand side of the airport highway. “BUDDHA IS NOT FOR DECORATION,” it shouts at me alongside a decoration of a Buddha’s head with an ugly red cross on top of it. Why desecrate a Buddha’s head with an ugly red cross on a billboard that tells us not to desecrate Buddhas? “That billboard is on the wrong side of the highway,” I announce to my Thai colleagues. “Surely if they want to warn

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Lamb Cream

Lamb Cream

LAMB CREAM By Andrew Biggs There was a time when, upon returning to Thailand after a trip home to Australia, I would dole out small assorted gifts and souvenirs to my staff. This is an established tradition in Thailand and one any expat working here, legally or illegally, should abide by. Gifts do not have to be expensive unless the recipient is especially endearing … or willing to continue to ensure your dark secrets remain safe. Other than those key staff, a little token of appr

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Sick To Death

Sick To Death

SICK TO DEATH By Andrew Biggs It was a perfect storm of diseased relatives and lovers. The first phone call came at 5.30 am, a time my consciousness was battling the effects of sleep and three quick chardonnays prior to bedtime. It was Chai, my driver. “I have to take the day off. Banana is sick. She’s nearly dead … she’s got a temperature and she’s shaking! I must take her to hospital.” “Okay,” I said, as I went back to sleep. Two hours later I awoke. It wasn’

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A Spiritual New Year

A Spiritual New Year

A SPIRITUAL NEW YEAR By Andrew Biggs I had a special New Year’s celebration. I did something I never thought I would ever do. It all began with a drunken question from an equally-drunken friend back in early December at an Ekamai establishment. “So what are you planning for this New Year’s Eve?” I paused before answering. I was onto my fourth vodka-tonic so I was ready to drop a bombshell. Only I couldn’t think of any bombshell to drop. “What am I doing this New Ye

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Daddy, No Sugar

Daddy, No Sugar

DADDY, NO SUGAR By Andrew Biggs My heart goes out to Anusawn Chirapongse, the high-ranking government official who inflicted grievous bodily harm upon a Greyhound Café waiter. “Grievous bodily harm” may be a little over the top. He slapped him after he summoned the waiter, who came over, gave Anusawn a deferential wai, bent down and said: “Yes, Pa?” slap “Don’t call me that!” Anusawn snapped back. Anger is a short madness, and we are all guilty of it. Only this week

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Austcham And Ads

Austcham And Ads

AUSTCHAM AND ADS By Andrew Biggs That unexpected fire at the Thai Belgian Bridge caused havoc with the inner-city traffic last Wednesday. That was the evening of Sundowners, the monthly meeting of Austcham (the Australian chamber of commerce) at the Grand Hyatt Erawan. It was also the evening Austcham was having its presidential elections but how to get there? The short journey from my office at Phrakhanong to the Hyatt by car would have taken more than an hour. I decided t

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Great Moments In Thai English

Great Moments In Thai English

GREAT MOMENTS IN THAI ENGLISH By Andrew Biggs This week environmentalists cautiously hailed a victory of sorts, as the government agreed to set zero the proposed Krabi coal-fired power plant. Don’t worry, dear reader. It is not necessary to understand that first paragraph. I was just testing you. Or rather, I was testing myself. For the last few days I have been trying to create a grammatically-sound English sentence using the phrase “set zero”. Contrary to what you may be t

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