A quick look inside

Talad Phlu, in ages past

My partner, Maiyuu, is the stoic type.
Maiyuu lost his Mum when he was just 15.
His Dad has died a few months before. After his parents died, Maiyuu moved in with his grandmother, who lived in the same family housing compound. He left home a few years later. Accompanied by two or three school friends, he travelled around central Thailand, taking up casual work.
Maiyuu, as regular readers will know, is socially retiring. You might even call him reclusive. He can’t be bothered with friends, rarely contacts family. Nor does he work.

Perhaps Maiyuu, who hails from Chon Buri, would simply prefer to be a mae ban (housekeeper, cook).

There are plenty of them in the inner city, where wealthy Thais pay them wages of as little as B4,000 a month.

I don’t pay Maiyuu a wage, as I regard him as my partner. However, he does have his uses, even outside the kitchen.

Maiyuu and I met at a coffee shop in Silom, through his boss - a hi-so, overseas-educated Thai called Giant. He suited the name: Giant was 184cm tall.

Giant introduced me to Maiyuu, who was new in town. He had nowhere settled to live, and was busing in to work every day from a remote spot.

‘Can he move in with you as your Thai helper?’ Giant asked.

And so a match was made.

I still keep Giant’s number, just in case I need to hand Maiyuu back. So far I have not dared call.

Maiyuu doesn’t head outdoors much, but when he does he is under instruction to have interesting adventures, so I can write them up on this blog. Take the time that a wily taxi driver tried to con him into buying B200 Buddha charms.

Maiyuu is wise to such tricks and is sceptical about most religion, but the taxi driver didn’t know that. That story is hereTry another odd taxi tale here, or here.

Old men in the market
Life with Maiyuu, who went through an aggressive home-cooking phase, is not without its moments of drama. 

Try the story about the night loyal reader Ian came to dinner to our humble, window-less apartment in Talad Phlu: see hereand here.

Talad Phlu, an old Thai market on the Thon Buri side, had its charms, including a railway line (see top image)  which would start up in the early hours of the morning. For a quick retrospective, try here.

Sometimes, the money would run out, even for a taxi ride home from work, and I would be forced to prevail upon the generous traders in the market. See here.

The apartment, one of the tallest in the area in those days before the skytrain crossed the river and brought "development" in its wake, was popular with young women of the night. They who would totter out to work wearing garish make-up in the early evenings. 

In more local colour, volunteer firefighter teens waited for action at a makeshift station under the bridge opposite, while local masseurs invented new ways to thrill foreigner customers. When inspiration failed, they could always howl at the moon, here.

Noisy Chinese neighbours rented two rooms on our floor, effectively hijacking the hallway as their own personal child-rearing space, while upstairs, Maiyuu's childhood friends, who had moved in before us, gambled feverishly. 

On my days off from work, I taught English to youngsters in the market. They, in turn, taught me about the history of the market, including its ghosts

A canal runs through the market, and a dilapidated pier was a popular local meeting place for kids from the nearby school looking for somewhere to swim or dodge class.

About 10 minutes from our home in Talad Phlu, I befriended a yellow-shirt trader from Esan who ran her own corner-side shop in Pin Khlao. 

The shop in Pin Khlao
The shop served as a local drinking hole and base for riverside adventures, including exploits with bad-boy Kew, a young trouble-maker and serial story-teller whose friendship I could never seem to shake.

Try this tale, as he attempts to line up a foreigner friend with a "working girl", or this one, about his mother, whom Kew told me gracelessly was dead, no doubt to elicit sympathy, but who still managed to answer the phone to my calls.

Eventually Maiyuu and I decided to sample inner city life, and exchanged our run-down apartment in Thon Buri for a smarter place on the Bangkok side of the river which straddles a Klong Toey slum on one side and the smart homes of Yannawa on the other:
On the slum side, Thais live in tin shacks on a large piece of vacant land. They light fires at night to burn rubbish and keep warm.

For the first time, my partner and I would visit the tourist sex district together. Most of my adventures, however, took place in the adjacent slum community.

About six months after our move, I befriended a young drinker called Ball. His mother and I did battle with his teen alcoholism (by enabling him, more often than not). Unsurprisingly, he seemed unable to hold down a job

Site of the old ya dong stand, by the wall graffiti

When he turned 20 we also had to contend with military conscription, in which Ball pulled a red card, obliging him to serve two years. Fortunately for him, Ball's partner had recently given birth to their first child. After escaping from camp several times, the army gave up trying to control their young charge. 

His superiors turned a blind eye while Ball quietly "served" his two years from home - trading his uniform for civilian duties as a doting father.

Ball wasn't the only sad cause from the slum I tried to help. Take the noodle venture which a wily grandmother set up outside her home. Forever in financial dire straits, she calmly took thousands of baht I offered as a loan to get her started and help support her three grandchildren. 

Wan, as she was called, calmly converted it into a "gift", but made sure she thanked me for my generosity. "You can afford it, so it's good you are making merit," she said. Charming.

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