December 8, 2023

Actually, the EMA lawyers and staff had a grand time (like they did in Hong Kong a few years back) during their sojourn in Thailand, what with the big and spacious rooms at the 88-story Baiyoke Sky Hotel in Pratunam, the bounty of buffet and street food, revenge shopping at Siam Center, Paragon or Square One, mango rice or the precious time to relax.
We tasted the most popular Bangkok beer brand Singha, a pale lager since the 1930s at the hotel bar.
Their tours included the mandatory visits to the temples, a unique part of the heart and soul of the country and true, one gets stunned by the visual artistry they evoke. The elephant sanctuary shows, the river tours etc. were all pockets of joy for the tourist in them. For the adventurous, daring and hungry eaters in the group, a taste of exotic delicacies was had starting with “crocodile” (although for professional courtesy, lawyers should not be eating their brother “buwaya” (joke of course); barbecue; cobra meat, fried insects – bamboo worms, red ants, crickets, scorpions, spiders, bugs bought from the hawker’s pushcart, in the streets or the high-end mall’s food courts. Fried, tasty, greasy, cheap like chicharon bulaklak and best to drown it in beer. For the faint-hearted members, McDonald’s and KFC would do.
What was not fun was how the taxi drivers including their “tuktuks” scammed their passengers, especially if they were not “native-looking” or were tourist-looking whom they could smell 10 feet away.
From the airport to the hotel, the “kontrata” charge was 600 baht, when using the meter only costs 300 baht. Ukis ti saba! Only one out of 10 trips we took was an honest ride and I can only shake my head in disgust.
Shopping though is the same here as one has to or needs to bargain or make “tawad.” A disappointment also is that of its cleanliness. This was probably my fifth trip in the “Land of Smiles” but it seems to be going through urban decay and may end up as a “land of frowns” if nothing is done by the King of Siam and his government about it.
Without intending blasphemy, let me paraphrase a prayer for tourists which might have helped us had we not experienced the scams of the Earth first and the lessons later.
“Heavenly Father, look down on us your humble, obedient tourists who are doomed to travel, taking pictures, selfies, videos, and buying unneeded souvenirs.
We pray that our bags be not lost and not overweight, and if overweight, goes unnoticed.
Give us this day the divine guidance in our selection of hotels, cab and van drivers, tourist spots, shops and cafes.
We pray that our mobile phones and their free WiFi, Viber, Messenger, and WeChat work.
We pray that the salesmen, drivers, hotel staff, and everyone speak basic English.
Lead us to good, inexpensive restaurants where the wine, bottled water, and Coke is included in the price of the meal.
Give us the wisdom to tip correctly in currencies we do not understand.
Make the natives love us for what we can contribute to their worldly goods.
Grant us strength to visit the temples, museums, cathedrals, palaces and be excused if we skip on historic monuments.
Give us time to take a nap for a few as our flesh is weak.
Protect us from bargains, counterfeits, and fakes we don’t need or cannot afford.
Lead us not into temptation into looking at pretty “men” or “women” and comparing them to whoever we are with.
Save us from making fools of ourselves in the bars at the red light district.
Forgive our trespasses as we do not know exactly what we are doing. And when our trip is over, grant us the favor of finding someone who will look at our holiday pictures, selfies and videos and listen or read our stories in this column, so our lives as tourists will not have been in vain. Amen.”
And while we are it, a prayer for Law students who were left behind because of school examinations:
“Our professors who art in our Law school; Allow be thy name when the examination results come; Give us this day our last chance to pass as we forgive those who copy from us; Do not lead us into cheating but deliver as from failing. Amen.”
Finally, for JP Avila in Campo Filipino barangay, Peter Wasing in Dizon, Karl Gabaen in Pucsusan, and other candidates facing judgment tomorrow in the BSKE, “your will be done!”