My Thai-born French daughter is worried about my getting killed out of cultural misunderstanding.
Saturday night, she took me out for a Japanese dinner to celebrate my thirty-eight years (and two days) of sustained non-residency in Thailand, and a good thing she did: I was about to blow a casket over the deafening music washing through my house since five o’clock from the terrain vague at the back where, for the second weekend running, whole chunks of shanty houses were being torn down at Wagner volumes, except it was lousy local yodelling.
By the time we came back, silence reigned and we watched TV and by midnight my Cinderella went back to mummy’s and by two am, as usual, I was out for the count.
Only to be woken up at 7 by Esan fare at full blast.
I took refuge on the other side of the house, all windows and doors shut down, to read the Bangkok Post on the front porch, but then, unable to stand the racket any longer, got dressed, went round the block, entered the terrain vague and walked over to the source of the din.
A couple of guys in the open air were dismantling this and that, but the deafening noise would prevent any parley. So I went into the hut where the sound came from and, seeing it was empty, with a TV cum sound system with baffles turned in the direction of my kitchen five yards away across a low wall, unplugged the damn thing and came out to glorious lack of sound. I then told the middle-aged chap next to me up in the air that it was all right to listen to music but not at deafening levels; he kept nodding his head in assent and the other fellow further along actually apologized as I left.
But then, perhaps ten minutes later, a young man on a motorcycle came to my gate, of the type Thais call a jikko, a hooligan, under thirty, IQ included. He started to berate me, saying he was the owner of the huts that were being dismantled and that he was leaving soon, so there – or that’s what I understood, given that he wasn’t very articulate. At one point, he kept shouting Nan ban koo, That’s my fucking house. Third time around, I raised my voice and shouted, Nee ban koo na mueng – answering in kind, And this is my house, you fucker. That shut him up for a moment. What to make do of that athletic farang who knew the lingo, bloody hell? In a normal tone of voice, I told him I’d gone to bed at two, been woken up at seven and had a right to feel unhappy, no? I too had loud sound systems but kept them at low volume at all times not to disturb neighbours. Eventually, he left, with an irrelevant parting insult I can’t recall.
When I told my daughter this, she blamed me for having walked into that hut and plugged off the sound system without asking for permission first. That’s what the fucker meant by ‘Nan ban koo’. I was exposing myself to being shot or worse.
Which reminds me of another happening at the very same place some twenty years or so ago. At the time the former-orchard terrain vague only had one hut, which happened to be precisely where the jikko’s hut stood, and from my kitchen I had a view of its back room and so, one evening, witnessed the occupant, a plain cop called Somkit, punching his wife and she seizing a mega knife and he grabbing her by the hair and dragging her into the front room and I hearing punches and knocks so that I ran over to the police station five hundred yards away to disturb a ring of officers having dinner together only to learn they couldn’t possibly intervene in a dispute between man and wife.