Well, at least 2023 shouldn't be boring
We are only halfway through the first month of 2023 and on the local news front we have already been treated to enough controversies, allegations and head-scratching explanations to keep us going for the entire year. For comic relief there is even a hint of a sex scandal.
The amount of money spent on the new nameplate for the railway station at Bang Sue has raised a few eyebrows. However we have been assured by the SRT that everything in the 33-million-baht contract is squeaky clean, alas unlike some of the ancient rolling stock that trundles up and down the SRT network.
But at least the trains are actually running in Thailand, unlike England where rail strikes seem to have become a national sport.
There have also been allegations about dodgy goings on in the upper echelons of the National Parks administration. Considering these parks cover an estimated 30% of the kingdom it is not beyond the realms of possibility that someone, somewhere might be up to some form of jiggery pokery. There have been allegations of malfeasance, misdoings and simple straightforward crookery, possibly featuring stuffed envelopes. Interestingly many officials mentioned in this case seem to be suffering a collective case of amnesia.
So it looks like we could be in for an entertaining year. We await with anticipation assorted crackdowns, contradictions and cock-ups, accompanied by the usual half-truths and prevarications. There may even be a few people transferred to inactive posts.
Khao Yai pioneers
I was surprised to read that there are as many as 156 national parks in Thailand. The first one I visited and stayed at overnight was at Khao Yai back in 1970. It also happened to be the first national park in the kingdom. I was with two Post colleagues and recall lots of waterfalls, being bitten by weird-looking insects and limping along jungle trails. I was not exactly Jungle Jim.
On one such trek, we stumbled across a golf course, somewhat neglected but picturesque. So we had a quick nine holes, or it would have been quick if I had not spent most of the time hacking the ball out of the adjacent jungle under the watchful eyes of puzzled monkeys. The green fee was ridiculously low, something like 100 baht, and we had the whole course to ourselves.
I didn't really appreciate at the time how lucky we were.
Three hundred peaks
The most enjoyable national park visit was in the late 1970s when colleague Tony Waltham and I spent several days at Khao Sam Roi Yot (Mountain of 300 Peaks) on the coast of Prachuap Khiri Khan, 60km south of Hua Hin. It was not a well-known park and we were the only visitors.
It was a wonderful experience and we were helped by a friendly park official who acted as a guide and cook. He took us on a couple of exhausting but rewarding treks across the mountains and we didn't see a soul. We also ventured into the impressive Phraya Nakhon cave in which surreal shafts of sunlight create quite a marvellous effect.
On the final morning, we found a small sandy beach where courtesy of friendly shrimp farmers we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of crab and dancing prawns (Goong Dten) fresh from the Gulf. Absolute heaven.
Important dog news. After assessing 1,000 dogs, scientists at the University of Helsinki in Finland have named what they consider is the most intelligent breed in the world. No, it's not the legendary Bangkok Stray, worthy breed that it is, but the Belgian Malinois.
Runners-up were Border Collies while the Hovawart, a German breed took third place. The dogs were set various tests and the Malinois led the pack by a wet nose.
The Malinois, which looks similar to a German Shepherd, make good guard dogs and are popular with police forces. They also guard the White House and one such dog, Hurricane, was awarded a medal for bravery after being badly injured while taking down an intruder when president Barack Obama was in residence in October 2014.
Even more clever
Impressive though the Malinois are, my vote for the smartest dog still goes to Rex, the Irish Wolfhound which I have mentioned before in this column. A reader some years ago told me about his friend living in North London who owned Rex.
After working Saturday morning, the dog's owner would spend the afternoon drinking in one of many pubs in Hampstead. Every Saturday Rex the dog would leave the house and catch the bus by himself (a Routemaster with an open door) and get off at the correct stop. The dog would then embark on a pub crawl, poking his nose into every watering hole until he found his master. He was rewarded with a half-pint of beer.
Not so clever
My own hound is a temple dog given to me by a Chaiyaphum monk. The dog might not be as bright as the Malinois, but he is pretty alert if there's any chance of food in the offing. The hound is also a good listener and never contradicts me… well, not a lot.
It only seems appropriate to conclude with the following sign spotted on the door of a veterinarian: "Be back in five minutes. Sit! Stay!"
Bangkok Post columnist
A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.
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