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Thai Girl Tattle: That Sad, Sad Shirt!

On a family day out, the uncle of Andrew Hicks's Thai wife, a quiet, dignified man, asks interesting questions about what it is like to live in England. Do they cut the wheat with sickles and how many buffaloes do people usually have?

"Apart from going to Chonburi to cut sugar cane,'' says Andrew "he has hardly ever left the village.''

Andrew presents unforgettable, deeply moving word portraits of the real Thailand. For more of his accounts of life there please click on Thai Girl Tattle in the menu on this page.

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Just for fun, I got my caricature done in MBK in Bangkok for eight hundred baht, which is a bit over ten quid. I gave them an old photo and they took a digital shot of me and I collected it a week later. When I showed the original caricature to my son, Mike, he said, 'Yeah Dad, it's great, but have you really got a shirt like that? Blue palm trees are just so sad!'

I had to confess because the sad evidence of the shirt has unfortunately been captured on film, though I categorically deny the existence of the trousers. Yes, I do have such a shirt and I've even occasionally dared wear it, like on the first occasion we took a family trip to the Khmer temple of Khao Phra Viharn just across the border in Cambodia.

We'd asked Cat's uncle, Puyai Baan, the village head to take us in his smart new Mazda pickup.

'Yes, Cat,' I said, 'It's fine if some of your family come too. We can make a party of it.'

But as we pulled up by the road to meet an aunt or two that Cat had invited, men, women and children came running. Puyai, good natured as he always is didn't seem to mind very much when they all climbed into every available space in the back of the small truck. It was desperately hot and they were exposed to sun and wind for the long journey of two hours, but not only that, they were packed in like sardines... there were twenty one souls on board all told.

It was a great day and we stopped for photographs at the bottom of the great stone stairway, almost a thousand years old, that goes up to the temples, and there I was caught on camera wearing the sad, sad shirt that's now in the caricature.

Next to me in the picture stands one of Cat's uncles. He's a quiet, dignified man who asks me interesting questions about what it's like to live in England. Do they cut the wheat with sickles and how many buffaloes do people usually have?

Apart from going to Chonburi to cut sugar cane, he has hardly ever left the village. It was therefore interesting for me to be with him as we walked up through the ruins. As he stood at the top looking out over the cliff at the hundreds of miles of Cambodian jungle and mountains spread before us, he who had never seen a mountain before, stared down at the terrifying drop of eight hundred feet to the ground below and gazed in silent awe.

Everyone enjoyed the visit but attention spans were limited and we soon wandered back to shop at the stalls on the Thai side and then sat down to eat. It's traditional that the older man of substance picks up the tab, so I of course paid for the car, the entry fees and the food. It was a day everyone, especially Cat's uncle will always remember.

So for me, the feeling of having given everyone a good day out was ample reward and anyway, things like this in Thailand are never very expensive. It didn't cost very much and I can hardly say I lost my shirt.


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