Weird and wonderful stories selected from the 500 featured in Volume 5, compiled and edited by Stuart Lloyd
Laughed ourselves hoarse
On Samui, we had a little hotel next door to a Thai village. Our guests had been feeding the neighbour’s dog, so she sort of adopted us as her home, literally camping on our doorstep. Then one day she had puppies! This wouldn’t do anymore. So I decided I should tell the village that their dog had had puppies and they should please take them away now. In my broken Thai I summoned up the phrase. Unfortunately, I’d pronounced ma and ma wrong. One means dog, the other means horse. So I’d actually told them: “Your dog has had 11 little horses.” They fell about laughing.
The crew on one of the bigger containerships discovered that it was often a nice thing to be able to microwave a snack during those long night shifts -- especially the burgers with no salad from MacDonald’s were consumed in high numbers. During a stop in Tianjin, north China, they sent a couple of guys to a McDonald’s to buy no less than 300 cheese burgers and 300 hamburgers. It took a while to explain to the young Chinese girl that they wanted THREE HUNDRED of each, not just 3, especially because she spoke just about no English. After a few minutes she got the point and then looked up from the counter with the everlasting words: “Eat here or take away… ???”
I was a very young manager of an infamous hotel in KL. Having just arrived from the UK and armed with my Diploma in Hotel Management I reckoned I was ready to handle any situation in a hotel environment. Wrong!!!
They don’t teach you how to run seedy nightclubs, massage parlours and bowling alleys in hotel school.
When I arrived at the hotel all the security officers were dressed like gangsters -- black suits and white shoes. I was told by the owner that they were in fact gangsters but as they were on our payroll they would keep all the other bad hats out of our hotel. Another learning experience!
As the only ‘matsalleh’ (white man) in the hotel I was ‘king’. I should clarify that I was originally engaged as the hotel’s F&B manager but when I arrived I was told that the GM had locked himself in his room and was drinking himself to death. After a few years at this hotel I could understand why this might have happened to an ‘old’ man in his 50s.
I started to introduce the types of controls and systems which Int. Hotels had in the UK but this of course was not something the local Mafia within the hotel were too keen on. One night at around 2am on my way home from a big night out I decided that it would be an appropriate occasion to conduct a spot check on the car park pondok (office) and count the cash. Big mistake!
You see, the car park office is next to the seedy Chinese Cabaret where all the hookers and pimps hang out at this hour of the morning. Unfazed, I went about my cash count and within one minute the little pondok was crammed with four evil-looking Mob Monsters who proceeded to tell me in broken English that I had no business being here and disturbing their rice bowl.
To get their message across clearly, one of these guys held a knife to my private parts and told me to leave matters alone or next time “OFF THEY COME!” This was followed by a few punches to the body and yours truly left badly shaken and standing in a pool of what must have been my own piss.
My clean-up crusade continued (hey, I’m Irish!) and I continued to annoy the local Mafia and disturb their rice bowl. The next warning came in a letter form - the envelope was delivered to my office by hand and ‘To be opened by addressee only.’ The envelope contained a bullet and a type-written note stating: ‘If Pope Paul can be shot, you no problem. Leave the hotel now and go back to your country.’
This I must say scared me. The local police confirmed it was ‘Very Serious.’ And my dear beloved boss suggested that I might take a holiday in Europe for a few weeks, which I did. I returned and decided to give up on the police work around the hotel.
This was one of my better decisions, and life from then onwards was extremely pleasant. I got myself a VIP pass to the Chinese night club, learned to play bowling, and discovered the joys of massage parlours. And I still have both my balls!
In Hong Kong my husband wanted to order ‘tofu’ but instead in mangled Cantonese said something like “dofay” which roughly translates as “I like to eat underpants.”
During the early 80s X went to the Philippines and set up a gold-mining company down south in Mindanao. He had the right family connections and secured the necessary permits so everything was in order. The trouble started when he hit gold big time. But soon large quantities of gold, which were kept in storage and amassed for a couple of weeks before on-selling to Chinese traders in the area, went missing. Fingers were pointed. As were guns. Soon two of his staff were dead, shot in the head, and he was told in no uncertain terms that he was next. X had no choice but to clear off immediately, leaving God knows how much unclaimed gold behind.
Putting out a fire with gasoline
An expat auditor, brought in to work on a restructure of one of Asia’s major petro-chem companies, deposed the CEO in order to get the company up and running in the right direction after a $3.7 billion collapse.
Shortly afterwards he was charged with work permit breaches for operating out of offices which were not the headquarters of the petro-chem company. It carries a month’s imprisonment as penalty. He is also facing charges of fraud and embezzlement brought by the former CEO, which he disputes. He’s not taking any chances … a team of bodyguards has been brought in around the clock for he and his colleagues, and his driver is trained by the SAS. A live grenade was once found in a bin on his floor, and he occasionally wears a bullet-proof vest for field meetings.
You cannot be serious
An Aussie guy I know was a high-octane Hollywood executive, and came on a trip to Cambodia a few years ago, and was on a tour of the slum areas of Phnom Penh, where he saw sick young orphans wading ankle deep in garbage, scavenging for food. In the middle of this, his phone
rang. It was a call patched through from his Hollywood office, and on the line was one of the world’s biggest stars, let’s say in the $20 million plus per movie league. A VVIP.
The star was pissed off, and ranting, because he’d just got on his private jet in Tokyo, heading to LA, and Sony had not provided its latest PlayStation games on board and this was just unacceptable. “My life is not supposed to be this difficult,” were the words, I believe he actually used.
As my buddy surveyed the shit pit around him, he had this massive epiphany. He flew back to Hollywood, gave up his $1m a year job, and now runs an NGO in Cambodia helping underprivileged kids. And I don’t hear him complaining.
Before Yakuza me, take a look at yourself
In 1995, I was asked to escort a woman from Bangkok to Japan in exchange for USD800 and round-trip air passage to Los Angeles via Osaka. She was a former Thai national who had become a US citizen just in time to divorce and return to Thailand as an outcast. I felt very sorry for her, since my own first wife was a Thai who had become a US citizen the year we filed for divorce.
Unknown to me, this woman was a Thai who had worked in Japan as a hooker (I suspect for the Yakuza) and been caught trying to enter and kicked out before. While she had a US passport, it wasn’t hers. The local talent had put her photo in it.
Copies were given to two women and they and the male officer looked at it and started laughing out loud. I guess that there was no way of flushing out the truth when giving what they felt was a false statement. Not knowing the truth, I was livid. First, they gave my friend the third degree, now they’re ridiculing me! I screamed at them, “Hey! Do you want me talking about you to your face in French or Spanish?” Their jaws dropped, they were catatonic for a couple of seconds, and then became the most polite people you could imagine. I guess I’d passed their lie detector test.
They allowed us to sleep in the same cell ($400 a night for two people).
On the flight home, I asked, “Honey, why did we spend the night in jail?” She replied, “Wait for Bangkok.” The stewardess asked if I wanted coffee or tea. I shouted, “No, I want brandy!” She brought me a beer glass full of cognac.
The Thai mafia was waiting for us at the airport and walked her through. My friend came clean that her first husband beat her, and her mother-in-law had adopted her baby and she had fled to Japan and was trying to return. In November, we married. In December, she succeeded in getting back into Japan. I spend all my lowly teacher’s salary shipping her things to her. After that, I only heard from her when she needed something.
Finally, in August, she called to say she was never returning to Thailand. I cried. Ain’t love grand?
It was Singapore in early 60s: D had been to a fancy dress party, had quite a few drinks, then driven home in his little mini. He came roaring down Bukit Timah Road, didn’t see this cow, and went straight under it … the cow straddled in ungainly fashion with two front legs on one side of the car, and two back legs on the other side. The police came along to be greeted by the surreal sight of this European dressed as a fairy with this cow stuck over his bonnet.
Doing a deal in China, my prospective clients asked me what my fee was. I said are we dealing Western style or Asian style? They asked what difference does it make. I said if we’re dealing Western style my fee is US$200,000. Full stop. If we’re dealing Asian style, I’ll tell you my fee is $500,000, you’ll ask for $100,000 instead and we’ll waste 3 months on acrimonious bargaining before we finally agree on $200,000. So what’s it to be then? They sheepishly agreed to go the Western route.
There were two Finnish guys who were about to take a taxi (not a meter-taxi, but one of those Thai-style pick-up truck taxis that roam around the streets of Pattaya and so many other South-East Asian cities). Their intention was to take the taxi from South Pattaya to Naklua. Now, depending on the exact location this trip would be about 3-10km as Naklua is, if not a part of Pattaya, then at least the very next city to north of Pattaya.
Enter the scene: hail a taxi to halt and conversation goes something
“You drive to Naklua?”
“Ehh, Chiang Mai?”
“No, no ... not Chiang Mai! We want to go Naklua!”
“Yes, yes. I know Chiang Mai.”
At this point it might be worth educating you, dear reader, that Chiang Mai, the former capital of Thailand is located in North Thailand, nearly 1000km from Pattaya. As the other Finn turns to his buddy saying: “Is this guy an airhead or what? Let’s get another taxi.”
His friend states: “Well, what`s the rush? After all, we`re on a holiday, aren`t we?”
So, what eventually happens is the guys jump in the taxi, make him stop by in a nearby market where they buy a thick mattress, some beer and two bottles of Mekhong (a very low quality Thai whisky). The other guy jumps in the back on the mattress and the other one on the co-driver`s seat in the front. And off they travel overnight to Chiang Mai, drinking whisky and praying to the God that their drug-affected taxi-driver to not crash or do anything stupid.
Entering Chiang Mai, they ask the driver to drive straight to the airport where they pay the driver and immediately buy flight tickets to Bangkok and take a meter-taxi 127km back to Naklua.
At the Oakwood Apartments (now Ascott Makati) in Manila one night, we were fast asleep when we got a call: “Rebel soldiers have occupied your apartment block, but stay where you are and don’t attempt to get out, whatever you do.” Oh, OK.
There were about 11 Aussies in the block, including the female Ambassador and her family, plus Federal Police Officers.
The 320 rebel soldiers had got in as part of their ‘Plan Charlie’ and were wiring C4 explosives throughout the place, and they could actually watch them assembling bombs out the front of their building. We hugged and cried and shivered and sweated with fear. Meantime the Marines and the police surrounded the place, and negotiated.
Finally by 8am we got the message: “They’ve agreed to let all foreigners leave the building. Take nothing. And please don’t trip over any wires on your way out.” Claymore mines had been planted, with rebel snipers on the roof.
We were relieved to say the least, and surprised because we assumed we were being targeted as foreigners (especially with the diplomats in the block). They bussed us away from the scene with haste, with just the clothes we had on. A few hours later, the rest of the residents were also allowed to leave without any violent incident.
It became known as the ‘Oakwood Mutiny’, and was a protest about corruption of the Arroyo government of the day, part of a larger looming coup plot. By 11pm that night, the rebels had all surrendered and returned to their barracks under a peace deal.
My ride is here
Our neighbours had a dinner party one night, and I met this American guy who was promoting arts and fabrics from a particular hill-tribe near the Burmese border at Sop Moei. I didn’t know the place. “Where’s that near?” I asked him.
“Nowhere,” he replied. “In the rainy season it’s a 3-day elephant ride to the nearest 7-11.”
This English mate of mine had fallen for a bar girl in Pattaya. Over repeated visits he decided to set her up with a house in her province, Isaan, on condition that she doesn’t work anymore. Fine. Perfect. Agreed.
A really nice house was then built. He had to return to the UK, and called daily, but got a bit suspicious when she never seemed to be home when he called but she was always “at home cooking” when she called him.
So, unbeknown to her, he flew back to Isaan without advising the exact arrival date. He arrived home to an empty house. He called her family, pretending to be calling from the UK.
“Yes, yes, she here, maybe out back on balcony.” From where he was standing, clearly she wasn’t. He left a message for her to return call.
“Yes, I’m home cooking now.” She was lying.
He called the builder/developer and said he’d like a few modifications done. The next day, two bulldozers turned up and flattened the lot. He hopped on a plane back to the UK having learned his lesson.
We had arranged a trade mission to China, and were briefing all the Australian businessmen and entrepreneurs about Chinese customs, that they should dress and talk conservatively and avoid certain mannerisms. One of the guys, an Aussie winemaker of some note, starts out his presentation: “Did you hear about the bisexual donkey? He had a ‘he’ in the morning, and ‘haw’ at night!” The buyers thought this was hilarious (but whether they understood through the translator or not I’ll never know). The following morning he received a massive order for 15.5 thousand cases of wine!
Stand by your plan
I’d bought a condo off-the-plan in Bangkok. As it was the penthouse suite, I’d asked for a few customizations of the floor plan and materials and fixtures. Denied. But within a year or so, the developer ran into financial difficulties. The other owners were withdrawing and asking for refunds.
I took it as a chance to step up my demands. So we said, “Look, we are standing by you, so you must give us these materials instead.” OK.
The construction continued for another year before more financial difficulty. More owners bailed, much unrest etc. Again I went to him. “We believe in you and this project. But now what we need is for this footprint instead, plus a special bar counter which runs the length of the lounge room, in marble, and so on.” Approved. And that’s how we finally got to live in our dream home on Sukhumvit Road.
Brand name hotel
Arriving into Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, one time, the officer handed my form back to me. “No hotel, no address, cannot.”
Not having easy access to these details, I grabbed a pen and filled in the details as carefully as I could:
“Some Hotel. 123 Fake Street.”
“OK now, sir,” he said, stamping and waving me through.
Stu Lloyd has been a storyteller for over 30 years, firstly as a copywriter and creative director, then as a travel writer (he’s visited 70 countries and counting), military history specialist guide through Southeast Asia, and works with Fortune 500s in Asia on innovation and strategic storytelling skills development. He was once described as “the perfect storyteller!” by The Telegraph, UK.
For more on Stu Lloyd and the other books he’s written, visit
A moving scene
After a day’s sailing outside Pattaya, we were driving back to the hotel down a backstreet when suddenly from out of nowhere – BANG!!! – a youngish Thai kid rides his bicycle into the side of our car. Shit! We pull over, and I see him lying in the road, bike mangled, bleeding from various wounds. Some villagers pull him over onto the driveway of the temple.
I get out to check he’s OK, take photos of the debris, scene of the accident. The police arrive (the station’s only 300m down the road). They also take photos of the impact place, the debris, etc. We explain he suddenly bolted away from his friends and hit us side-on.
The police say we’d better drive to the station. Interviewing and statement taking ensues, with the ‘help’ of a cutie from across the road as translator. “How much do you like children?” she asks.
“Well, I do, except for the stupid ones who don’t look where they’re riding,” says K. She’s fishing for us to see how much we might want to pay.
“It’s not my fault I’m not paying him anything.”
Then the senior police guy starts his housekeeping questions. “Address.”
K gives his Bangkok address. “Oh, hi-so,” says the policeman. “Do you want to buy some beach land, I can get you a special discount?”
“How much do you like children?” asks the translator again.
“Ok, we will keep your car,” says the policeman.
“No, that’s not the law,” says K, not knowing the law but the police all look at each other, as if to say, any of you guys know the law?
“That’s got nothing to do with the facts of the case,” asserts K, whose phone rings at that point. “OK, J is on his way,” J being a helicopter pilot friend of his who lives locally.
J arrives, and -- in local dialect -- breaks the ice with the police. By now the kid’s mother is there (arriving at the police station on a motorbike with no helmet, but that’s OK apparently). All she’s interested in how much she might get. Finally it’s agreed. K will pay a 1,500 baht “towing fee” (er, we drove from the accident scene to here) and get his car back.
“Sign it, quickly,” says J of the proffered ‘receipt’. The copper pockets the 1500.
After 2.5 hours of interview at the station, as we’re walking out to the car, the policeman asks, almost as an afterthought: “Have you been drinking? And how fast were you going?” K dismissed this crazy line of questioning with a laugh. Then we promptly headed for the Tahitian Queen to drown our sorrows and have a chuckle over it.
Fast forward one month later. K says, “You’ll never believe it. I’ve got a court summons for that accident. It’s all my fault apparently and the police say we hit the kid at the intersection (the intersection being 1 km down the road).”
“What???” I say. “But what about our photos? What about their photos? And the statements?” Counted for shit, apparently. And as a passenger and witness, not once was I asked for ID nor a statement.
K gives his Bangkok address. “Oh, hi-so,” says the policeman. “Do you want to buy some beach land, I can get you a special discount?”
“How much do you like children?” asks the translator again.
The waitress in a Bangkok restaurant came to take our orders.
“I’ll have the daily special,” I said.
“Yes, me too,” said my buddy.
You guessed it – we ended up with three daily specials – one for me, two for him!