Colin, Kyoko, Bruce, Saki, Keiko, Ei, Jo, Sticky, Psycho, Venus and Serena, GoGo, and Beah

March 10, 2013

Here are some of the promised pictures of my week in the company of the above referenced-humans and canines (the first seven are human, mostly, and the remaining six are dogs). The location is a small fishing village on the east coast of Thailand, overlooking the Gulf of Siam. As you will be able to see from the pics, I am working very hard to keep you entertained, at the expense of my own personal enjoyment; such are the rigors of a writer’s life…


Is it just me, or does Colin bear a strong resemblance to actor Mike Farrell?


Keiko takes her chances on the Coconut Tree of Certain Death


Three Japanese hams on the beach: Saki; Keiko; Kyoko


And then it is Saki's turn to challenge the CToCD...


The guest house sleeping area


Sunset from the balcony of the main house


Yours truly, in the main house, living room


From the main house to the studio and the guest house


Saki-chan making supper


...and playing the stand-up bass in the stairwell


Keiko's lovely supper!


Colin and I compare belly sizes; his is due to a pillow, mine is from chocolate chip cookies...


Ei models a Cambodian silk scarf


Psycho contemplates flip-flops


Keiko and Kyoko ham it up on Lang Suan bridge


Sticky and the Williams twins, let them lie...


...even if they are not exactly sleeping!


The main house, beautiful even from the back side


Kind-faced Beah, loves strange humans (strange dogs, not so much...)


Saki rounds up the herd the civilized way, by bicycle


In a house full of dogs, it is best to have a backup copy of notes for the next book


Keiko, dressed for formal supper (the rest of us dressed like beachcombers!)


GoGo guards the entry to the studio, a veritable Cerberus...


A fine collection of works by noted English sculptor, Colin Cotterill


The main house, viewed from the guest house through the bougainvilleas


Colin Redux, February 2013

March 1, 2013

Since last year around this time, the Cotterill Compound, then home to one amiably irascible mystery author and six rambunctious dogs of dubious breeding, has morphed rather dramatically in several dimensions, not limited to those of time and space. One year back, I stayed in what was then the main house, a large detached studio apartment with a big porch overlooking the Gulf of Siam no more than twenty meters to the east. A two-car carport, a semi-outdoor washroom, and a nicely-appointed maid’s quarters completed the suite. There was, however, no maid in sight, and none on the horizon.

A one-room artist/writer studio, a few steps away, housed volumes of Colin’s books in several languages, award plaques from various writers’ organizations, and an artist’s desk piled high with drawings (both finished and otherwise), rendered in a style that can be much easier illustrated than explained (however, if you are reading the Braille edition of Mysterious Orientations, there is a bit of Gahan Wilson in the characters, more than a bit of Charles Addams in the quirky humor–there is a reason why his UK editions are published by Quercus–and overtones of Maurice Sendak or perhaps Ed “Big Daddy” Roth in the expressions of those individuals caricatured by his sharpened quill).

The day I left, ground was broken on what would someday be his new house. I got to see the architectural drawings of the place, and it all looked very two-dimensional to me: no color, no texture, just a bunch of geometrically-oriented lines that looked for all the world like, well, an architectural drawing.

So, you can begin to imagine my surprise, when I arrived this year, upon seeing a large edifice of yellow and white concrete, red tile roof, and broad expanses of glass. Barely two weeks finished as of my arrival in January, it looked to be an integral part of the grounds, as if it had been secretly in place the whole time.

A few other additions rounded out the roster of changes: Ei and Jo, the Burmese couple serving as housekeeper and jack-of-some-trades respectively, and Kyoko, Colin’s new wife, fresh from Japan!

Add to that mix a pair of Japanese guests: Saki, visiting me from Tokyo for a couple of weeks of her annual holiday; and Keiko, a long-time friend of Kyoko’s who flew in from Singapore on her way home to Kyoto. The boys were seriously outnumbered!

Stay tuned for the photos, or better yet, pick up a copy of GQ, the Chinese edition, which will feature Colin’s new digs as one of its “Foreigners’ Homes in Thailand”, coming soon to bookshelves all over the Middle Kingdom!

The Sihanouk, Cambodia, Photo Dump

February 22, 2013

I taught this young lady (above) how to eat Oreo cookies American style. She learned only too well, deftly separating the two chocolate cookies, licking out the creme filling, and then handing the two cookies back to me before reaching for another one from the package and repeating the process…

My hotel; across the street from the beach, and $22/night, double


Jumbo prawns, fresh from the grill, 50 cents apiece...

Jeeps through the ages...

This is Frank. Frank is a bit fuzzy around the edges. He says it is due to my ineptness as a photographer. I think it is due to the fact that many 50-cent beers blur his lines. The truth undoubtedly lies somewhere in between…

Kimleng and the Cambodian Silk Scarves, Part 3

February 21, 2013

I had not even posted pictures of the scarves here in Mysterious Orientations before queries started trickling in: one from the UK, two from Canada, one from Tennessee, another from Japan. All of this transpired after I left Siem Reap, so as of Valentine’s Day, I had not had a chance to tell Kimleng about it.

As it happened, however, I would see Kimleng one last time this trip, as the only bus I was able to find north from Sihanoukville was bound for Siem Reap. She and two of her brothers met me at the bus station, where an undoubtedly bedraggled figure awaited them. She had secured a hotel room for me at the nearby Mandalay Inn, not that I got a lot of use out of it; she and I sat up on the front porch of her shop, chatting until the wee small hours of the morning. Occasionally a customer would drop by for a Coke, a pack of smokes, or a fresh coconut, hand husked by Kimleng with a speed and strength that belied her small stature.

At one point, an English fellow named Morgan brought a guitar over, and the two of us put on an impromptu show for Kimleng and her customers, handing off the guitar to one another after each song. After he left, Kimleng mentioned in passing that it was the first time she had seen or heard anyone play the guitar in person. On TV, of course, but never before in person. Morgan was quite talented, and he wrote some great tunes; he was, however, close to passing out, and although I gave him my business card, and we parted with promises to get in touch, I haven’t heard from him yet. I hope he writes; I would really like to write and/or perform with him again.

I had to be up at 6am for my bus/minivan ride back to Bangkok. Kimleng walked over to the bus station with me, and we said goodbye for the second time of my holiday, after which she hopped onto her mom’s scooter, and went off to school.

As of this writing, enough of the scarves have sold to pay for all the ones we have already bought, and we have perhaps forty left; when I get back to Japan, I will send her an order for a bunch more, and perhaps try a couple of different materials and/or designs. And then we will keep our fingers crossed!

What Happens in Sihanoukville, Stays in Sihanoukville (Mostly…)

February 21, 2013

While I was in Siem Reap finalizing details of the scarf venture with Kimleng (see blog posts entitled “Kimleng and the Cambodian Silk Scarves, Parts One and Two), I got an email from my friend Frank, a fellow Maritimer who teaches biology in a Shanghai high school. He had some time off around Chinese New Year, and he was interested in joining me for a few days in Cambodia. I had been thinking to go north to Laos, but I am nothing if not flexible when it comes to strange travel suggestions–and so it was that I found myself (in the company of my new brother-of-the-road, Doug) meeting Frank’s flight at Phnom Penh International Airport. Frank had evidently taken full advantage of the free libations aboard the plane, and thus was in full-on holiday spirits (or vice versa, haha) when we met in the exit hall.

The dusty, bumpy, and altogether too-long bus ride to Sihanoukville, on Cambodia’s southern coast, put paid to his high spirits (and Doug’s and mine), the cute and loquacious Cambodian girl seated alongside us notwithstanding. By the time we got there, Frank wanted nothing more than a shower, a beer, and the beach, in no particular order.

Doug surveys truckload of chickens also bound for Sihanoukville...

Sihanoukville is well known among old Asia hands for its party atmosphere, some of the finest Western food in Cambodia, 50-cent beer, and its ladies of, um, less than Presbyterian levels of virtue. It seemed that all of these could be found in abundance at every turn. And, as Frank might say, given that he can rarely resist an awful pun, the girls were in a-bun-dance.

The party atmosphere had bubbled to a high rolling boil by the time we got there, thanks to the synchronicity of spring break and the Chinese lunar new year. Virtually any excuse will suffice to throw a party in Southeast Asia, and this the Cambodians excelled at: fireworks galore; barbecued baby squid en brochette; fruit trays in a riot of colors; and kids running around everywhere.

Golden Lion Circle; note four people on motor scooter!

The food was a cornucopia of excess, with restaurants representing the four corners of the world (that is really a weird expression, when you think about it…): Greece; Italy (several entrants); Poland; Russia; India; France; Thailand; China; I know I am missing some. Those so inclined could secure a real American breakfast (a rarity in SE Asia outside the pricey hotels that cater to Yankees): bacon; pancakes with real maple syrup; eggs over easy; sausages that would hold their own against anything in a Brooklyn deli.

Great eats, and some more of that 50-cent beer!

Roasted peanut vendor (peanuts were roasted, not vendor...)


Burgers, BBQ, Pizza and (of course) 50-cent beer!


Gilligan's Ireland...


The 50-cent beer had every attribute you might expect: it was 50 cents, and it was beer. Cambodia runs on the US dollar (even the ATMs dispense funds in US currency). with 4000 Cambodian riel to one dollar. There are no coins used, either US or Cambodian, so if you buy a 50-cent beer and pay with one US dollar, you will get 2000 Cambodian riel in change. Because riel notes go all the way down to 20-riel denominations, you can easily see that it would be little problem to amass a prodigious quantity of Cambodian notes, with which you could not buy so much as a can of Coke (which typically costs more than a can of beer, by the way).

Remi sports lates fashion accessory, necklace made of beer pull-tabs...

Last but not least, there were the sun-bronzed Cambodian beach bunnies–easy on the eyes, friendly and flirtatious to a fault, and present in numbers to boggle the minds of libidinous Western males. And that’s really all I am going to say about that, because, as I promised to Frank and Doug (particularly when it comes to chronicling events in a blog), what happens in Sihanoukville, stays in Sihanoukville…


The Siem Reap (Cambodia) Photo Dump Part 2

February 13, 2013

Sweet little restaurant


Kids jump into river from fishing platform...


Tropical fruits a-gogo!


Is this woman renting a room in her right breast?


Up the steep staircase the hard way!


Ewa, Michal, and Doug


Kimleng and me (eyes closed)


Hotel room sign; see #3, sad that there is a need for that rule...


Latin name: Plantamus Unknownicus


Silk farm: mulberry plants, whose leaves are silkworm's fave!


Silkworm larvae


Silken thread


Claire de loom...


Part way there...


Kimleng's first french fry ever in her life, seriously!


The Siem Reap (Cambodia) Photo Dump, Part 1

February 10, 2013

A day at the lake, where tiny fishies nibble at you relentlessly

Doug Davis, mere moments before the hammock malfunction...


Kimleng's bro, aka "Number 3"




Number 5 (front), Number 4 (LR), Number 3 (RR)


Number 5, in living color!


Chrissie (UK) and Kimleng, Same Same...


"Same Same, But Different", popular SE Asian saying...


Kimleng made Cambodian supper for a crowd; delicious!


Silk weaving, Siem Reap


Do not, I repeat, do not, run into this guy!


Flower girls Kimleng and Ewa (Poland)


And one flower boy, channeling his inner femininity...


Buddhist cemetery, outside Siem Reap

The next group of pictures are of a village on the edge of huge Tonle Sap Lake, which can rise enough in the rainy season to make the stilt houses appear to be floating on the surface of the lake. Other houses are tethered, and simply rise and fall with the water. Just now we are at the end of the dry season, and the river is barely navigable by the tour boats that take visitors into the heart of the village, and out onto the lake to watch the sunset.