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Monday, March 11, 2013

My Time as the Bodyguard for the Healer of the Governor of the Princess's House of Thailand

Then the day arrived when we probably got as far as a serendipitous foreigner could possibly go in the winding, spiraling government circles and ruling high horses. We were invited to the princess's house. Now, a word of explanation: We were not going to meet the princess of Thailand herself. This would be an honor only bestowed upon the most deserved and celebrated.
Ah, for you must know the political attitude of the Thai people. Nearly Thailand alone, out of all the countries that I've traveled to, seems to respect and hold in their hearts and mantle shelves a place and a portrait of their beloved King whom they esteem with the highest respect and devotion. In this respect, it was like stepping into an age past when having a leader meant a legitimate reverence that was due. Nowadays, being leader just means you will have a party of grumblers, whiners, and just plain bitchiness nibbling at your back, nothing of devotion. It doesn't matter which side is leading, Obama, Bush, Clinton, the other Bush, the complaints will start and never stop because everyone is an expert,.....especially at complaining. Democracy is great in that we will choose our own leader, but not so great in getting anyone to follow the leader after he or she is chosen. (Maybe the same could be said about our marriages too). I don't know, my ignorance may tarnish the truth a bit, but it seems to me from looking at the annals of history that the greatest kingdoms were just that because the people had a deep-found devotion to the person who led. This could be the greatest or the worst thing.

But enough soapbox; there are enough home-rigged soapboxes on the net already. Before many of you get paranoid and state that I am advocating blind dictatorships and fascism, or some such nonsense. But the truth is, things fall apart when...well, things fall apart and nobody can unite under any authority. Even stating this, it sounds anti-American. But if America is only about revolution against an authority figure...then it is only a mere movement of a swift 200 years, and not a lasting country.

But in Thailand, it seems that everyone loves and respects their leader. (It seems. My observation was short-sighted, I'll admit.) Every single house that I went to had numerous and very large portraits of the king in his very long reign. However, his reign, the longest current monarchy in the world, was not without coups and a few question marks. But it seems that the majority consensus is that he is a good king, or even a great king. And at age 86 one of the oldest monarchs as well. Older than the Queen of England.
And you can hardly step a few feet within Thailand without realizing what he looks like. A man who looks more like a botanist than a ruling monarch. His picture is all over billboard signs and their money. (Of which it is an illegal offense to step on any money). Even going to the cinemas in Thailand, is a cultural event to sit through, instead of watching just previews before the main viewing, you get to experience a full national anthem with a bunch of footage of the king designed to capture his and the nation's splendor.

So to mix in any circles of the king or his royal family was among the highest honors that a Thai could hope for. He currently has 4 children, the oldest of which is the princess at a ripe age around 60. And the house that we were going to was hers. Well, not her only one. I am sure that she had many houses spread around the various provinces of Thailand that she would visit on her exhausting tours across the nation. But she was coming very soon, the next day, in fact, to the province of Trat and the ruling family of that province. The King, as of late, has been sick and so doesn't tour like he used to, so these visiting honors were conducted by the next generation.

However, the house that the princess was to visit was also holding a few sick people, so they called Nina and requested that she come immediately to conduct her amazing acupressure to the matriarch of the family. Nina had already been there before, at some point in her sojourn at which I am not sure when and won the hearts and admiration of this ruling family, which was no surprise. So they asked her to make a 2nd visit the day before the princess was to arrive to get the elderly mother in tip top shape to properly host the Princess of Thailand.
This required us to cross over from the island via ferryboat and back to the mainland where the city of Trat sat as the provincial head of the region. I rode for the long haul, once again, in the back of the pickup truck. Not necessarily the most proper way to visit a Princess' house and the head family of the province, knowing that my hair was going to be ransacked by the wind. But it was Southeast Asia, so at least I had on a shirt.

Nina laughed and joked with both Jeorgen and I, about us being her own private bodyguards since day one and throughout all our adventures together to various people that she met. But she joked with us even more so now, for we were going probably where most visitors would have bodyguards. I told her that she could indeed call me that. In fact, I insisted that she did. And I am sure that she had to tell them something impressive for, the fact that I had really only known her for 5 or 6 days now, and she was trusting me to be led behind Thai government buildings. What? Tell the family that I was some straggling backpacker that she only met on the ferryboat? Don't be ridiculous. I don't know what she told the family, it being in Thai and in private, but I hope it was that I was her bodyguard or maybe it was that I was her autobiographer. Which I am actually now turning into.

We got to the main government building of the city and picked up this lady of some high security office, who seemed to be good friends with Nina, as half the people she met did, and we had dinner which was paid for by this robust-looking, smiling and jovial security woman. Nina said that this lady was the governor's bodyguard just as we were her bodyguard. She never stripped searched us, just bought us food and smiled very big at us.

Next stop was the Princess' mansion, which was more like an old-fashioned mansion that you will find in some sleepy, small Southern U.S. town. They had the front porch with screen doors going and the air was thick and humid like back home. Though, before we pulled into the drive we had to pass a security booth, like a sentry man with a machine gun, who checked the car out and directed the parking. The security lady and Nina headed to the front of the house, we were told to sit under the house. Here, the house was raised up a level where cars could park underneath. There were military personnel scattered about the places, some jeeps, cars and motorcycles all local militia. But they conducted Joergen, the driver, the cousin, and I to a couch in front of a TV that was underneath the shade of the house. And I figured that was going to be as far as I would see of the princess' house, and I began to get engrossed in some awful Hollywood movie with Nicolas Cage in it that was dubbed in Thai, when we were beckoned. Well, Jeorgen and I to the front porch.

There she was. The aged matriarch of this governing family. An elderly female who was dressed like a front-pew sitting church lady. She had Nina at her feet and a member of her family at her side. And house servants flitting about the place with glasses of water and other such stuff.

They lead Jeorgen and I across the patio to the opposite side where empty wicker chairs sat. That was after we greeted this regal lady. Jeorgen did this by making his bow extra low and his clasped hands extra sincere, which he was really good at. I had forgotten this essential slowness and I had run back to the lady to carry out the full custom in delicate sincerity. A quick bow doesn't cut it when dealing with governing families, and I was block-headed to forget it. But the family probably took no notice for I was just a tall, blond “farang”.

When we shuffled over to the other side of the large, spacious porch, one of the servants brought us water and a bunch of snacks on the table before us. We dined on these cookies and cakes, and talked low among ourselves not wanting to interrupt what was going on. Nina was massaging this old lady's muscles and tendons and she was crying out what sounded like all kinds of nasty things. I don't know how Nina found the confidence to go pinching this important lady's arm flab and sore tendons. I don't know what was said in Thai but it sounded like strong reprimands issuing from the lips of the woman who once probably commanded legislatures, bureaucrats, and military captains, and if she had never commanded them, her being the wife and mother, she probably commanded the people who did command these people. I mean, I suppose this was the type of thing that would get people beheaded in some other time and place. Somebody going up to a ruling power and pulling on their hamstrings and arm nerves making them shout in angery and pain. But Nina was well-respected with this family and this wasn't her first session with this lady.

Jeorgen and I sat complacently wondering about the Princess's visit. When the son of the lady, I think the youngest and therefore not the one in the government seat now, came over to us and introduced himself to us. He was a pharmacist as an occupation, though he's stopped practicing to take care of his ailing parents. A very nice man who looked in his 50's or so.

We departed the Princess' house on good standing with the governor's family and crossed back over the waters and waves til we returned to our stay on the Island of Chang.

More to follow....


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