Monday, 23 March 2009

Son Of "Wot I Done On Holiday" - the return

Things I enjoy doing on holiday but am slightly ashamed of include hanging around foreign supermarkets. NOWHERE do you get a better idea of what a nation's preoccupations are, and what it considers essential and/or exotic. Thai supermarkets (based on many years of keen observation while Mr F drags his feet behind me wailing "I'm booooored") have vast amounts of hair products - not surprising when you consider that all Thai women have sleek and glossy raven locks. Very little for frizzy hair, sadly for me, as I routinely turn into Harpo Marx two seconds after leaving the air-conditioning in my room, and nothing short of WD-40 or a bag will stop this. All skin products, including baby lotion, promise "extra whitening!" as oddly enough my leprous pallor is considered as desirable in Thailand as a golden tan is here. What we consider exotic (ie lemongrass, fish sauce etc) they consider deeply boring and mundane, so there are aisles full of fantastically cheap "staples" for those of you who, like me, would rather come home with a suitcase full of dried shrimp paste than souvenirs. What we consider mundane is classed as extraordinary foreign delicacies (ie Paul Newman salad dressing, Dolmio sauces, etc). And nowhere else have I ever seen Vanilla Mint Listerine, so I had to buy some. Odd, but palatable. I have a secret suspicion that if I chilled it and added vodka nobody would notice it wasn't a cocktail.

So as I was clearing out my handbag last night (big red one has pretty much broken my collarbone) I found the flyer for BIG NIGHT THAI BOXING AT STADIUM NEXT TO TESCO. Sorry to disappoint you all but this was Ban Niang beach, Khao Lak, not a Tesco near you. We didn't go, mostly because the last time I was persuaded to go to a Thai boxing match it was so hot and the fumes of Tiger Balm were so strong that I actually passed out. There are better ways to spend an evening than being driven back to your hotel in the open flatbed of a pickup, with your head between your knees weeping "I'm not on drugs! Please don't send me to the Bangkok Hilton!". What caught my eye this time round, on the flyer this is, was the thumbnail bio of each contender - under their names were their taglines, which mostly said things like "King of the ring!!" and "Born to fight - born to win!!" My favourites, however, were "The elbow specialist!!" and (on further investigation of the website) "The knees that knocked a hole in the sky!!", at least one of whom (guess, go on) is probably an osteopath or something. Or should be.

And finally - I do spend a lot of my time on holiday people-watching - I have come to the conclusion that there are certain sartorial choices no adult male should ever be allowed to get away with.
1) Crocs on any male over 6 years old, especially in natty shades of lime green, acid blue or hot pink.
2) Hair accessories, especially alice bands. Want to play with someone's hair? Get a Tressy Barbie.
3) Short shorts anywhere but a sports field/court. Makes any man, no matter how young or attractive, look like Donna Summer on rollerskates.
4) Any t-shirt that proclaims you to be a Breast Inspector, or that tries to do your chat-up for you (ie "If I Said You Had A Beautiful etc etc")

Yes I know I'm a fine one to talk in my custom-hacked Comic Relief Morecambe and Wise t-shirt and lost property box sunglasses...

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Wot I done on holiday

Hurrah! Back at last. I only brought home 8 of the books I took with me, thus freeing up suitcase space for red/green curry paste, cheap fags, a bottle of Maekhong whisky (which, like Metaxa, ouzo, Fernet Branca, slivovitz and the totally indefensible Vanna Tallinn, is nice on holiday but not at home - but do we ever remember this?). Imagine my surprise when there didn't seem as much space as I was anticipating. I can only assume that my clothes expand and thicken mysteriously over the course of a fortnight. Something to do with humidity I expect. Or large amounts of curry paste.

You'd think at my advanced age (ahem) I'd have learnt a few things about holidays, but here are some I seem to have forgotten. Maybe the advanced age has, in fact, something to do with it.

1) When your accommodation is next to a "lagoon" (landscaped, hence the inverted commas, or not), you can bet your bottom dollar there will be mosquitoes. Therefore, when stepping outside to admire the sunset or have a fag, you should really consider use of repellent spray, or not be surprised when you get relentlessly bitten.

2) Just because you haven't ever had a stomach ailment on holiday before, there is no reason to get complacent. God made Imodium for a purpose. That freshly-grated green papaya salad may have seemed a good idea at the time, but its reappearance will be more rapid than you can predict. Mostly unchanged due to speedy transit. On the plus side, it was delicious, at least the first time round.

3) If the management of your hotel deems it necessary to inform all guests, on a more or less daily basis, that IT IS NOT HOTEL POLICY TO ALLOW GUESTS TO PRE-RESERVE SUNLOUNGERS, then you probably have a pretty fair idea of the predominating nationality in the resort.

4) Never underestimate the fun you can have with a badly-translated menu. Classic comedy menu items I failed to order included Caption Morgan rum, cream de mont, fritted ice cream, and pork fitter (presumably what you put under "Occupation" on your passport if you are in fact a porn star). Once in France I was tempted to order "Small Chirttling Savage", but since it was a starter portion of andouillette I gave it a miss.

On a lighter note (I actually had a lovely time!) I have never seen as much wildlife in one go as I did on this holiday. Part of the charm of being further away from built-up areas is the sudden appearance on your verandah (oh yes) of things like kingfishers, mynah birds, black swans, giant snails (5 inches across, damn, I didn't have any garlic butter), a monitor lizard 2 feet long, and on one memorable evening outside a bar, an aptly named Slow Loris taking half an hour to cross 10 feet of telephone wire.

Photograph courtesy of the National Geographic as my camera is appalling. Apparently they are an endangered species, so look your last on all things lovely every hour.

Tune in later for a further instalment, in which I unravel the mysteries of unseemly holiday clothing, how to be completely British on holiday without resorting to tattoos, sunburn and bad behaviour, and unfortunate names for Thai kickboxing champions.