Tales from Abroad (Part whatever…)
Long standing readers of The Trash (dog help you), may recall that a few years ago I decided I needed a hobby. As a teenager I tried carving things out of balsa wood as well as collecting matchboxes, but like most things I quickly lost interest, particularly when what I thought was going to be the Statue of David turned out to be something resembling a sex toy for an adolescent gay teen yet to reconcile or at the very least recognise his sexuality.
A few years ago, I attempted to rekindle some romantic notion of collecting things, and with thanks to some fairly frequent employer funded air travel at the time, I began collecting those envelope sized motion sickness bags they make available in the seat pocket in front of you.
At first glance it had all the makings of a legitimate hobby. Were they different and unusual? Why yes. Most carried the airline’s insignia and some even included instructions for usage. Some were made from glazed paper, impervious to liquid, while others, usually from the low cost airlines, were made from comparatively porous material in the form of uncoated recycled paper.
One bag from one particular Asian airline, included instructions as to how to carefully fold and dispose of the satchel after use, making it both functional and disgusting.
Were they east to obtain? Yes. And portable too. Which made them easy to collect, categorise and store.
Were they practical? Most definitely. While not partial to motion sickness myself, I would occasionally carry one or two around, just in case someone else might find themselves in need of one.
Once, for instance, in a former job, I handed one to the receptionist who on this particular morning looked rather pale.
While she stared blankly at the Air New Zealand logo, I whispered reassuringly “for your morning sickness,” after finding out from a co-worker that she had recently fallen pregnant. She didn’t really say much at the time, and looked up with a vacant expression, which I took to as a small measure of gratitude.
On another occasion I gave one to another colleague who turned up to work grossly hungover. “Just in case you need it,” I said.
While not without its charm, collecting vomit bags soon lost its appeal. Particularly when the escalating costs of fuel forced many airlines to make significant cut backs. Just like those little complimentary toothbrush and toothpaste packs, disposable razors and shaving foam packs, as well as complimentary newspapers and magazines, branded vomit bags have all but gone from even the most luxurious of airlines.
Most, if any today, just carry a dull little paper bag, which like many other aspects of modern flying, takes the fun out of something that takes the fun out of flying.
More recently, you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve taken up a new hobby which is both exciting and unusual.
Now, while I wouldn’t really call myself an “Arms Dealer,” or even an “Arms Smuggler” by any stretch of the imagination, you would be amazed at the sheer scope and range of what some might call lethal weaponry you can buy overseas. I realise that it might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but when you’ve been to Bangkok as many times as I have, visiting the same old bars, temples and shrines soon loses its appeal.
Obligatory souvenirs like silk scarves, buddha statues and wooden elephants are ten a penny but for the more discerning visitor I recommend a visit to the old city of Rattanakosin, just outside Chinatown.
While not exactly on the tourist route, presumably due to the ever-present, foreboding sense of imminent danger, here you can find everything you need to seize control of a small nation. If you’ve ever fantasised about becoming a member of SWAT or the riot police then this place is for you.
A street length of stalls peddle wares from military uniforms – from basic black with “POLICE” emblazoned on the front – to military fatigues in a variety of shades and patterns, to bullet proof vests and holsters.
Sure, in other markets in and around Bangkok it’s not uncommon to find stallholders selling BB guns, knuckle dusters and the occasional banned laser pointer. Here however, you can buy industry strength weaponry including assault rifles, handguns and tasers. All sold out in the open as if it were a fruit and veggie market.
Purchasing a handgun as a keep sake did cross my mind, and as I admired one particular vendor’s range of hand guns, he handed me a Glock 19 to get a feel its weight and fit for my hand. “Standard issue for Thai police,” he said proudly while demonstrating how to aim and reload it.
Casually turning my attention to another weapon he said “This one James Bond gun.” Oh, a Walther PPK I said, hoping that he might be impressed with the only thing I knew about guns obviously from the movies, and he shot me a look of complete disinterest.
You can buy a police issue taser gun for $70 from the Rattanakosin market, a flick knife for $25 and a set of five star shaped throwing blades (the type Ninja’s use in the movies) for the same price.
A telescopic baton, the type used by riot police, will set you back a mere $5 or you can upgrade to the more expensive model at $15 which has a rubber handle for greater flexibility and mobility. “I think I quite like this one” I said, making a striking motion with the premium model. The seller, who by all accounts, lost interest in dental hygiene many years ago, nodded in agreement offering what was left of his teeth as a smile.
I neglected to enquire about stun grenades or the availability or a rocket launcher, an oversight I later regretted, but catching a glimpse of an assault rifle to my right I got the impression that pretty much everything here was on offer, save for say an incendiary nuclear device or biological weapon, (but then again you never know if you don’t ask).
So I settled for a couple of cans of capsicum spray and decided to call it a day. Quietly confident that this could be the humble beginnings of a new hobby should one day I decide to mount a military coup in New Zealand or some such place that needs it.