Tag Archives: Thailand

Meteors over Bangkok

Bangkok meteor

Bangkok meteor

Although this website is supposed to be a blog as well as a review/rant/whatever-I-find-interesting kind of a site, I don’t actually ‘blog’ all that much. It seems a bit self indulgent and really, exciting though my life is, who cares what I am up to outside of family and close friends? Occasionally, however, things I find interesting happen to me or near me and this is one such case.

Less than two months ago, a meteor was spotted over Bangkok. You can see it in the picture above. Sadly that happened at 8:30 in the morning, when only the gainfully employed or insane are awake. I live in Bangkok and I missed it.

Last night, the Mrs and myself were relaxing at home and out of the corner of my there was a bright flash. At first I thought it was lightning from an approaching storm – it is the end of rainy season here and storms with lightning are common. Mrs Wordofward is more alert than I am, especially on a Sunday, and she said it was a green/blue flash that lit the sky. I grunted in a vaguely interested way and then social media started going a bit crazy about it.

Apparently we are in the midst of the Taurid meteor shower and this year is a good ‘un. There are supposed to be more meteors and I am now glued to the skies. Which is going to be dangerous in a place where pavements are full of stray dogs, missing manhole covers, people cooking with oil and coal, and tons motorbikes, but I will chance it. Here is a video. You will see why I think this is worth a share. Bring on the meteors!

 

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Australia, Morocco, Thailand. Three true travel stories

BookcovertraveltalesI haven’t done this for a while, so it is time to publicise one of my incredibly cheap books. “Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories” is a collection that costs a pittance and seems to entertain. I usually give the blurb I wrote but instead I thought it would be nice to include a couple of reviews written on the US Amazon website. I promise I don’t know them. They are ‘Top 1000 Reviewers’ and I should be so lucky to know such important people.

A review:

“Some young folks hit the backpacker trail to gain self-enlightenment and seek spiritual awareness and save the world. With admirable honesty, the author admits that (at twenty-one) he was looking for fun, with the emphasis on avoiding boredom, staying drunk, and getting laid. Not surprisingly, he had more luck in the first two areas than in the third.

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing this as a stoned-and-stupid Spring Break saga. This man is a professional writer and a damned good one, and he knows how to tell a story. He also has a keen eye for the absurd, even when he’s looking in the mirror. The first (and longest) section recounts an adventure in Australia when he and three friends try to earn traveling money picking pears. Unfortunately, the beautiful farm of his imagination (think A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL) turns out to be an “outback gulag” and the friendly, generous rural inhabitants consist of a hostile, dishonest farm owner and a pair of hard-working (and hard-drinking) Albanians.

The second story involves getting stranded in the Atlas Mountains during rainy season and taking a hair-raising ride back to civilization (or closer, anyway) in a van packed with Berber tribesmen. Why are the windows covered? “Il est preferable de ne pas regarder.” (It’s better not to look.) The third finds our hero living in Bangkok with his American-educated Thai fiancee Nim where he experiences a strange (typically Thai) overthrow of the government. The Prime Minister is unpopular, so the military steps in, sends the police home, the King okays the deal, and Happy Hour goes on. (That was in 2006 and the former PM is still in exile, but his sister is now PM!)

My only complaint about the book is that it is far too short and I wasn’t ready for it to end.”

Another glowing review:

“‘Ladyboys from the Mambo cabaret strode confidently down the cracked pavement on ridiculously high heels. Further down the road, another elephant mingled with the traffic. “Everything looks pretty damn normal,” Chris said.’ Funny stuff from 3 “paid holidays” focusing on the highlights (or lowlights depending on one’s perspective) of the author’s encounter with a giant Australian spider covering his chest nipple to nipple, riding along with a vanload of Moroccans as it teeters on the edge of a waterlogged roadway, or surviving what is (hopefully) a bloodless coup in Thailand while being serenaded at a downtown bar. So, all I have to say is what three destinations are we headed off to next? Very entertaining book!”

You can buy Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories here and I’d be ever so grateful:

 

 

 

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Australia, Morocco, Thailand – Three True Travel Stories

I haven’t done this in a while, so please show some support. I have just moved back to Bangkok and need some Somtam money so thought I would plug my travel book: Australia, Morocco, Thailand – Three True Travel Stories. I have a few reviews on the Amazon UK site but only one on the Amazon US site. You can buy it by clicking this link here that you are looking at now.

Fortunately the lovely lady who wrote the US review was very nice about it. So instead of my usual blurb, I will just post her 5 star review. My dearest American buddies, a few more reviews would make my day. Thanking you in advance. Here is the review of Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories:

A belly laugh from start to finish!

Some young folks hit the backpacker trail to gain self-enlightenment and seek spiritual awareness and save the world. With admirable honesty, the author admits that (at twenty-one) he was looking for fun, with the emphasis on avoiding boredom, staying drunk, and getting laid. Not surprisingly, he had more luck in the first two areas than in the third.

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing this as a stoned-and-stupid Spring Break saga. This man is a professional writer and a damned good one, and he knows how to tell a story. He also has a keen eye for the absurd, even when he’s looking in the mirror. The first (and longest) section recounts an adventure in Australia when he and three friends try to earn traveling money picking pears. Unfortunately, the beautiful farm of his imagination (think A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL) turns out to be an “outback gulag” and the friendly, generous rural inhabitants consist of a hostile, dishonest farm owner and a pair of hard-working (and hard-drinking) Albanians.

The second story involves getting stranded in the Atlas Mountains during rainy season and taking a hair-raising ride back to civilization (or closer, anyway) in a van packed with Berber tribesmen. Why are the windows covered? “Il est preferable de ne pas regarder.” (It’s better not to look.) The third finds our hero living in Bangkok with his American-educated Thai fiancee Nim where he experiences a strange (typically Thai) overthrow of the government. The Prime Minister is unpopular, so the military steps in, sends the police home, the King okays the deal, and Happy Hour goes on. (That was in 2006 and the former PM is still in exile, but his sister is now PM!)

My only complaint about the book is that it is far too short and I wasn’t ready for it to end. The author writes science fiction, but I sincerely hope he will take a break soon and give us some more non-fiction. I also think that a snappier title and more interesting cover art would keep this very good book from being overlooked.

Just on the off chance I haven’t linked to my wonderful little book enough here you go:


 

 

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Goodbye London!

goodbye_londonWell, the time has come to move on once more. I feel like Bruce Banner, always on the move but without the rage and government agencies after me. (He was the Incredible Hulk in case you missed the reference.) Or the Littlest Hobo but without being a dog. Or – whatever. I get restless and need to move occasionally.

While it is fun to change scene/city/country/continent there is always an element of melancholy as you are leaving friends and possibly even family behind. When I was younger and moving to Australia or Hong Kong or wherever, it was a bit worse as flights were longer and there was no internet and people are shite at writing letters. Now it isn’t quite so bad. Thanks Facebook, you are keeping me in touch everyone (and in return here is all my personal data). Also email and Skype and all that stuff. The modern world is bloody marvel.

It is with sadness that I leave but also some excitement. Working in TV with a bit of freelance writing on the side was great and it paid for a degree and a shiny new pair of lasered eyes. But I find writing full time more satisfying and London is too goddamned expensive. So I am returning to a life of journalism, while focusing on my legendary websites. I will also be working on more kindle books, which is ridiculously good fun and is already making me an increasing amount of money.

So I bid you farewell London and all my wonderful friends and family. I will only be 12 hours away by plane or a few seconds by a click of a mouse. I will visit lots. If all goes well maybe I will spend half my time there and the other half in the tropics. (Now is a good moment to buy one of my books, by the way.) It all depends on numerous factors and most importantly, what Mrs Word of Ward wants to do. She is in charge after all.

So cheers, London and farewell Blighty! I will see you soon but for now – mine’s a Beer Chang.

 

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eBook Self Promotion

Well folks, it is almost Christmas and in the spirit of giving, buying things online and capitalism generally, I deem it a good moment to plug a book. Buy my book! Thanks.

RIGHT NOW AS I TYPE THIS BOTH MY EBOOKS ARE FREE! If you miss the promotion, I should point out that they are both at the minimum price you can charge for an ebook. Which is pennies. Or cents.

What I would really like from you dear readers is a review or ten. Especially from you lovely non-UK types. Trust me, a review really, really helps. Unless you are mean in which case – move along.

My travel book: Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories is a collection of short travel tales of near peril. At this particular moment it is #1 in Essays and Travelogues on Amazon UK! It cannot be higher. (I have a screenshot to prove it.) And it’s free. So get it and review it. Here is the blurb:

Jason Ward tells three true stories of fairly perilous travel.
While backpacking in his early twenties, he decides to give fruit picking a go. Even without the spiders, snakes, and a plague of locusts, things turn out pretty badly.
A trip into the Atlas Mountains with his girlfriend turns out less than romantic when flash floods threaten to wipe out the town. The only escape option is a van full of Berber tribesmen and a waterlogged road on the edge of a cliff.
After moving to the peaceful paradise of Thailand, Ward goes to a local pub near his Bangkok flat. That evening there is a military coup. In Bangkok. So why can’t he see anything?
These stories are filled with humour and dollops of fear. Recommended for those who enjoy travel stories or just like reading about someone being mildly terrified in foreign countries.

For US readers:

For UK readers:

Thanks you wonderful people. I will soon be back talking about inane stuff as usual.

Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories

Travel book cover finalI have an exciting new book! It is called ‘Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories’. Not the catchiest of titles, I’ll admit, but I want people to know what they’re getting. Three true travel stories where yours truly was in peril. In three different places. Here’s the blurb:

Jason Ward tells three true stories of fairly perilous travel.

While backpacking in his early twenties, he decides to give fruit picking a go. Even without the spiders, snakes, and a plague of locusts, things turn out pretty badly.
A trip into the Atlas Mountains with his girlfriend turns out less than romantic when flash floods threaten to wipe out the town. The only escape option is a van full of Berber tribesmen and a waterlogged road on the edge of a cliff.
After moving to the peaceful paradise of Thailand, Ward goes to a local pub near his Bangkok flat. That evening there is a military coup. In Bangkok. So why can’t he see anything?

These stories are filled with humour and dollops of fear. Recommended for those who enjoy travel stories or just like reading about someone being mildly terrified in foreign countries.

If you like travel stories please give them a go. Also, if you like them, please leave a review, they really help and I need to eat. If you don’t like them, then move along, nothing to see here.

For UK customers:

For our American cousins:

The book costs a pittance. Which is a bargain!

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Thai Modern Art arrives in London

London is one of the world’s great art centres. Lots of art fans are currently descending on the city from all over the globe to take part in or see the colossal Frieze art fair. This is a great event but visitors should know that there is a lot more to see. Most of London’s established art scene is in the West, North or middle of the city but huge amounts of exciting new stuff is coming out of the East. An area of hip and trendy struggling artists, writers, musicians and unemployed.

In the depths of East London there is a mini hub for all this emerging art called Vyner street. The first Thursday of every month there is a bit of a party with the collection of galleries that line the street opening late to admit lots of excited and slightly inebriated art fans. It’s good fun and cultural to boot.

Of particular interest is an exhibition of Thai modern art called Origin-Originality at Forty7 Gallery, 47 Mowlem Street (Off Vyner St). You don’t get much Thai modern art in the West, so this is an ideal opportunity to see some and buy some. It will be worth millions soon. One of the artists has already featured in a Christie’s Auction, so you’d better get in quick as Southeastern Asian art is very ‘in’ right now. This exhibition looks great, the art is intriguing and the whole thing is on from the 4th-14th October. It is curated by the superb Nim Niyomsin. If you are here for the Frieze art fair or just like art generally, you should check the area out. It’s where it’s at.

Here is a link that will tell you all you need to know about the background to the exhibition, the artists involved, and where all the excitement will be happening. http://www.origin-originality.blogspot.co.uk/ There is also info at the bottom of this page.

Here is some of the art:

Maitree Siriboon

Peerawayt Krasaesom

Tatiya Udomsawat

Here are some details:

Public Opening: Thursday 4th October 2012 (First Thursday), 6-10pm
Exhibition Runs: 4th -14th October 2012
Opening Hours: Mon-Tue: By appointment, Wed-Sun: 11am-6pm
More information please contact:
Nim Niyomsin
[+44] 07999 064254

Forty7 Gallery
47 Mowlem Street (Off Vyner St) London E2 9HE,http://www.forty7gallery.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

About First Thursdays and the area including Gallery Forty7:

http://www.firstthursdays.co.uk/galleries/forty7-gallery-7coco

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The slow boat to Luang Prabang. Part One.

Our journey began in the mountains an hour outside of Chiang Rai, Thailand. My group consisted of myself, my wife Nim, my mother-in-law (Nim’s mum), her friend, a guide (who happened to be a student of Nim’s mum and was a local Chiang Rai businessman), and another guide who was from Laos. A lot of guides I know but they also happened to be friends, so it was pretty relaxed.

The view from our balcony. It is a bit hazy.

We were staying in a resort owned by another student of my mother-in-law (he was also tourist police so we felt pretty safe) called the Maenam resort and a bloody nice place it was too. Our balcony overlooked undulating jungle covered hills and fields. It was downright peaceful and relaxing. The view was hindered somewhat by the fact that half the mountain was on fire due to the annual slash and burn but It was beautiful there despite the smoky haze and falling ash. We drove two hours from here to town of Chiang Kong and had a quick breakfast of crispy pork, rice and chilli (awesome) before hitting the local market. We bought a chicken (a dead and cooked one) and some sticky rice and we were good to go.

The first stop was Thai customs which consisted of a small building by a dusty track that led to the river. It took about a minute to be allowed out of the country. Then, there before us, was the mighty river Mekong! Stretching from Tibet to Vietnam via China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. We jumped on a tiny and unnecessarily low boat that took us across the sluggish, brown (but mighty!) river. A perilous minute later and we were in Laos. I love travelling overland, it seems a lot more civilised than all the shite you get at airports. The next step was to get a visa at the Laos border office. This took about 10 minutes and for no reason at all included two queues – one to get the visa and one to pay for it. You are supposed to have a passport photo but for the unprepared, like myself, they will scan your passport for $1, which is actually cheaper than if I had gotten a passport photo in the UK. Fortunately the windows are next to each other and I didn’t actually have to move. The visa took a couple of minutes, during which time the border guards chatted to my Thai wife. It was either because they were curious about her having married a farang, or because they were chatting her up. Either way, it made the process fast and friendly.

Ahead of us is Laos. Thankfully our vessel was just up to the job. Just.

 

This is an international border crossing. Laos style.

 

The throbbing metropolis of Huay Xai. Pretty much all of it.

We were now Laos, in a small town called Houie Xai, although the spelling varies (Huay Xai being another). My mum actually came here in the 60s during the war. Officially the war never visited to Laos but that, excuse my Laotian, is well known to be bollocks. In fact war did visit and it overstayed its visa and behaved pretty badly throughout its stay. My mum hitched rides all over Laos with either aid workers or CIA agents (sometimes the same person). When she was there the town was called Ban Houie Sai. It is a tiny place that now seems to exist purely for the border crossing and as a place to buy tours and Beer Lao. From here we were driven through the brown and dusty streets to the pier where our ‘luxury boat’ awaited.

I may be a soft city type but it wasn’t that luxurious. But it wasn’t too bad either. A better term would be simply ‘boat’. It was about 80 feet long and there were probably about 100 of us. There were two seats on each side separated by a narrow walkway. This averagely luxurious vessel was to be our transport for the next two days. I could smoke and they sold large chilled bottles of Beer Lao, so I was confident I could survive the trip.

Our fairly magnificent averagely luxurious boat.

First off, here is my advice if you are going to do this trip:

Arrive a bit early. Although it is supposed to be allocated seats, it isn’t. This is Laos and nothing is that organised. The boats vary, but on ours the first half of the boat had quite comfortable seats with a cloth covering and the second half had plastic.

Try and sit on the left hand side as you are facing the front. Or the ‘port’ side if you are a nautical type, you salty sea dog. This way you will avoid most of the sun. We were in plastic covered seats in the sun and it became a tad uncomfortable in the sweaty buttock region after a few hours. Sadly there are no photos of that.

Bring a pillow. A huge group of Scandinavians got on all carrying pillows. At first we mocked them (in a friendly way) and dubbed them the ‘pillow gang’ because we are so damned witty. Four hours later as my arse fused to the seat, I realised they were pretty wise. Bastards.

Bring a jacket or something warm. This may seem laughable at first when you are sitting in 35 Celsius sunshine but by the end of the first day, it can get downright chilly. The early hours of the following day are definitely brisk and bracing and other alliterative cold words like brrr (both alliterative AND onomatopoeic – woohoo). Then it gets bloody hot again.

Bring some food. You can buy pot noodles, crisps and biscuits on board but you will envy those with the foresight to bring baguettes. Or a chicken.

Wear thick sandals, shoes or preferably Wellington boots as the toilet can be a bit iffy and there are lots of bad shots on a swaying boat. The toilet on the second day was much better, so the unpleasantness seems a bit random. Good luck.

Owing to lots of photos and general waffling I have decided to split this up. Excitingly in the next installment – the actual trip…

The Mekong River

 

 

 

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Back in Bangkok

Well we are back from Koh Chang. Quite frankly it was awesome. I miss being able to jump on a bus and be on a stunning tropical beach a few hours later. My life has taken a wrong turn somewhere and I surprisingly find myself as a thirty eight year old non billionaire. I was supposed to be rich, with time on my hands and easy access to a beach. What the balls went wrong? Fingers crossed for forty.

I will write about Koh Chang soon. With photos in case I am dull (unlikely I know, you avid reader you). The reason I am not writing about it now is because I am on my iPad and I haven’t gotten round to transferring photos to it yet. I love this device but having to use itunes to do any-bloody-thing is a definite minus. I would have brought out my laptop but unlike my beloved iPad, it seems to have a problem with connecting to any wireless outside of England. It’s either due to racist software (nanny state pricks), or simply vista. I suspect the latter although nanny state firewalls might be a factor.

I can look at porn in London for fuck’s sake (I did a check for journalistic purposes), but I can’t log onto wireless in Bangkok to check my emails. There is something wrong there. I can get a ‘local’ connection but I don’t even know what the fuck that is.

In a couple of days I will move from the suburbs to a hotel which will hopefully have wireless my suspicious operating system will trust. Then it will be a glorious technicolour wordofward once more! A wordofward where you can marvel/find pretentious the writings within or look at the pretty pictures. A wordofward with choice. With freedom for all. Unfettered by Microsoft paranoia or Apple self importance. Or, as I said, pretentious shite.

Ghosts, spirits and demons of Thailand

(This was an old article I wrote for a magazine but I thought it was interesting, so here you go.) Although over 95% of the Thai population are Buddhists, there is also a strong belief in Animism or spirit worship. Ghosts and spirits (known as Pii) abound and are found everywhere from offices and homes to haunted trees and fruit groves. While some spirits are more general presences, there are a lot of specific ones, and some are so well known they have been filmed on numerous occasions.

The Legend of Nang Nak

The Legend of Nang Nak

Probably the most famous ghost is that of Mae Naak (also known as Nang Naak). It is a story of a young woman who falls in love with a man called Maak who lives in her village. Shortly after their marriage, he is conscripted and has to leave his now-pregnant wife. Sadly, she dies during childbirth before he can return. Her spirit, however, is too strong to rest and when her husband returns both Nang Naak and the ghost of her child pretend to be human. The deception was an understandably difficult one to maintain and Maak soon discovers the truth and flees in terror. She then proceeds to terrify the village in her pursuit of Maak, often killing those who get in her way. Maak eventually seeks refuge in the Mahabute temple. Even there, the monks cannot quell her spirit until a gifted young monk from a distant province manages to defeat her. Her spirit is imprisoned in a ceramic pot which is then cast into the river. This gory tale has been the subject of several books and films.

Like the ghost of Pii Phum Phuang, Mae Naak is now one of the numerous spirits that give out lottery numbers. Pii Phum Phuang was a popular country and western singer who died in 1992. A shrine has been dedicated to her in Supanburi where hopefuls can visit in order to get winning lottery numbers.

An exceptionally gory looking ghost that, like Nang Naak, has been thePii Krasue subject of movies, is called Pii Krasue. This is another female ghost that consists of a floating head with entrails dangling below. It is a particularly nasty entity that is fond of fresh meat and has even been credited with sucking out the unborn foetuses from pregnant women.

The town of Puthamonton is famous for a haunted bamboo grove that is actually located in the Buddha park. There are, therefore, a lot of monks praying and meditating in its grounds and there have been stories of novice monks getting possessed and requiring exorcism.

Even the new airport Suvarnabhumi was reputedly haunted by an old blue-faced man known as Poo Ming. Before its opening, the airport was plagued with tales of not just the old ghost but also the sounds of footsteps and traditional music – all without a readily explainable source. Poo Ming reputedly possessed a young luggage operator and had to be exorcised by a monk. The airport was finally cleared of ghosts and blessed by 99 monks after a nine week period of rites.

If you are bad you may end up as a ghost known as a Pii Praet. This usually happens to you if you are disrespectful to your parents or are involved in corruption of some kind (especially in relation to a temple). A Pii Praet ghost is taller than a palm tree with hands as large as the paddles of a rowing boat. It has such a tiny mouth that it is permanently hungry and it wanders, wailing, hoping for food. It can only receive sustenance when someone gives food to a monk and asks for it to be sent to the permanently ravenous ghost. The Pii Praet is in a kind of perjury, waiting to be reincarnated.

Naga fireballs

Naga Fireballs

In addition to the numerous ghosts wandering the land there are spirits and demons to be found everywhere. To describe them all would require a novel and in fact, some such works exist. Some are debated and some are just taken as a part of everyday life. For example, the Naga fireballs of Nong Khai – a phenomenon where a series of fireballs rise from the Mekhong river on the evening of the full moon in October, soundless and silent, and then disappear after seven or eight seconds. The fireballs have split the beliefs of those who believe that they were created by mythical serpents and those who trust a more mundane scientific explanation.

In more rural areas it is believed that a spirit known as the Pii Gong Goy can suck a man’s feet dry, and that Hopea trees and certain types of banana plants are haunted by beautiful female ghosts that often appear on a full moon.

There are, of course, ways to combat some of the ghosts and spirits that seem to pervade Thailand. ‘Yan’ is the drawing of religious and mystical symbols on houses, cars, and public transport. Some amulets are understood to have tremendous protective powers, as are certain tattoos. Most places are blessed by monks and offers of food and drink are to be seen everywhere outside places of business and also residences.

While some of the local beliefs and superstitions might be hard for a Westerner to swallow, it should always be remembered that the belief in ghosts and spirits is a pervasive one in Thailand. To a greater or lesser extent, nearly all Thais believe that there are ghosts out there, so beware and pay respect.

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Welcome to Hell by Colin Martin

I wrote this for a magazine in Bangkok. Might as well chuck it in here!

Welcome To Hell – One man’s fight for life inside the Bangkok Hilton

By Colin Martin

Welcome to Hell

Welcome to Hell by Colin Martin

Go into any western bookshop or airport in Thailand and you will come across a plethora of books penned by expats. These books generally fall into three categories. The first is the gritty detective novel featuring a world weary Western detective and his Thai girlfriend/wife who may or may not play an active role in the usually predictable tale. The second is a personal description of someone’s experiences in Thailand as a teacher, bar owner, punter or barfly. Colin Martin’s ‘Welcome to Hell’ falls firmly into the third and smallest category – Westerner ends up in a Thai prison and has a thoroughly unpleasant time.

Unlike some others in this latter group, Mr Martin claims that he was innocent. This alters the angle of his woeful story from a simple recounting of how horrendous prison life is and becomes a tale of injustice and frustration. A surprisingly enjoyable one.

Synopsis

Colin Martin worked in construction, had his own small business, and was married with kids. An almost clichéd idyll that makes the subsequent fall all the more compelling. In a nutshell – he sees an ad in a newspaper for a Thai-based company that needs some men to work on a nearby oil rig. After several meetings he ends up agreeing to supply the men and pays the company a large sum of money as a guarantee of good faith. Here begins the downfall. The company is fake and he loses all his money, his company, and his wife leaves him. Martin’s series of catastrophically bad decisions doesn’t end there though.

Rather than return to Europe with a lesson learned and his tail between his legs, he decides to stay in Thailand to try and find the men who conned him. He can certainly hold a grudge, as he ends up staying for three years. He even marries a local lady and has a kid. Eventually he finds one of the men involved and gets the address of another. After tricking the main con man into a meeting he ends up scuffling with the man’s bodyguard and kills him. He is then arrested and the police torture him into confessing to murder. The second half of the book describes the aforementioned ‘awful time’ as he languishes in prison for the next eight years.

Review

As I said, this is an extremely readable book that I read in one sitting. It is certainly one of the better novels written about Thailand, even if it is not particularly flattering. While the prose is hardly up there with Greene or Orwell it is simply and entertainingly told. If you felt like a bit of morbid entertainment while lying on beach, then this book would fit the bill. The actual tale itself is, in fact, best read in this frame of mind.

A few things gave me pause for thought, however. Firstly, I did feel sorry for Mr Martin. He is either far too trusting or far too naive. People seem to take advantage of his nature throughout the book. For example, he asks all the men he hires to bring a £10,000 bond with them and they all agree. None of the thirty men do. Not one. He is forced to then foot the bill. When the money is not forthcoming from the company he still goes ahead with everything. He never seems to truly question the fact that he is spending vast amounts of money for the privilege of being hired. Well he does a bit. Just not enough. Later, after his arrest, his brother sends him money to post bail. Despite three years of experience in Thailand, he gives the money to his Thai wife who comes from a poor provincial village, is much younger than he is, and who has a family to support. Unsurprisingly, she runs away with the money.

I occasionally found him hard to empathise with as a person. Amidst constant claims that he is just an innocent, family loving, businessman, there were details that niggled. On the first page he talks about an incident where someone is humiliated and if it had been him, he would have ‘smashed the guys face in’. When he finally meets one of the con men he head-butts him. He then beats a bodyguard to death, which is pretty extreme for a mild mannered businessman. Maybe I am being too harsh and he is simply an innocent guy that has been pushed too far.

I was mildly confused by some of the details of his crime. I won’t ruin anything for future readers but there are also some strange goings-on with a supposedly unconscious man disappearing and then turning up dead. Again maybe I am being too harsh.

Final conclusion:

I feel I should reiterate at this point: this is a highly enjoyable, easy to read, perfect beach book. The writing style is straightforward and compulsive. It will confirm anyone’s suspicions that life in a Thai prison is horrendous but there are some touching points in the story. There are also examples of some true acts of human kindness that help our protagonist survive his ordeal and help counterbalance his tale of woe. Some people are genuinely nice after all. Recommended.

You can buy Welcome to Hell by Colin Martin by clicking on this link. 

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