Your average city in Scotland is pretty dull when it comes to wildlife – a fair few dogs, the odd cat, an urban fox if you’re lucky and, of course, the greater bearded jakey. It’s much more fun down here, strange beasties lurk around every corner. To be fair most of them range from annoying to downright satanic, but it’s worth having a quick Attenborough-style look at them. If nothing else it’ll be preparation for anyone who plans on visiting…
The Mosquito (midgus malevolentus)
AKA the bane of my fucking life. Mozzies are ever-present in Thailand due to the hot, humid conditions. From the day you arrive till you step on a plane out of here you will be hounded by them, constantly discovering new welts and spending your nights in a frenzy of scratching. Outdoors in the evening they’re an ever-present threat and even indoors, with the very best of netting on your windows, you’ll soon realise that they’re wily little buggers who can flit in through the briefest opening of a door.
Of course there are steps you can take too minimise exposure. First off there’s the frankly laughable guidebook suggestion of wearing long trouser and long-sleeved shirts whenever outdoors. Have these authors ever set foot in the country? Have they any fucking idea how hot it is down here? I end up coated in a thin sheen of sweat just from the ten minute walk to my school for god’s sake.
The more sensible suggestions include burning incense (you can get special mozzie-repellent stuff) around your table, using chemical repellents (they work, possibly neurotoxic in the case of DEET though), eating a metric assload of chilli each day (they hate it and can smell it on you) or, as an extreme measure, altering you genome (apparently some people are genetically more attractive to midges, me included it would seem).
At the end of the day, though, you’re best just to be prepared for the bites and to just grit your teeth and bear it. Oh, and a fan while you’re sleeping works wonders to stop ’em landing on you.
The Cockroach (mankus disgustoria)
These guys are harmless really but my god are they minging, really fucking rank. The first time I saw one, in the bathroom of my flat, I damn near did the stereotypical cartoon woman thing of jumping up onto the toilet seat and screaming. Me a seasoned traveller and all. The more upmarket hotels should be relatively roach-free but if you’re staying in a hostel, house or flat they’ll always be close by.
Thankfully there are a couple of methods of keeping them at bay. The first is currently in use where I live: kittens. To them the roach is little more than an amusing toy, something to be kicked from pillar to post until it stops squirming and becomes, apparently, invisible to felines. The downside to this is that you’re left with a sea of roach corpses on your floors, corpses which inevitably attract armies of ants keen for their daily protein fix. Cue a swarming mass, followed by a scattering of exoskeletal remnants, inevitably to be stepped on barefoot as you stumble through the dingy kitchen for breakfast. Ach, it’s better than when they’re alive I suppose.
Second option is straightforward – slip the bastards a dose, you can get plenty poison around here. Once the kitties leave in November I’ll be going down that route I assure you. I may be something of a Buddhist these days but my ex-Father in law, who gave me my in-depth introduction to pure, philosophical, non-religious Buddhism, assures me that Buddha would have been down with violence in cases of self-defence.
Is this really self-defence?
Damn right, I’m no mind-body dualist so I firmly believe that mental harm is no different from physical. These beasts torment me in the form of extreme scone-nippage and so they deserve nothing less than Total War-style retribution. They brought it on themselves by being so fucking creepy. They do it deliberately.
One important note. If you do happen to encounter roaches in day to day life do NOT, under any circumstances, step on them. If it was a female there’s a good chance you’ll end up trailing fertilised eggs all over your abode via the soles of your shoes (OK, you don’t wear shoes indoors here but you know what I mean). You really don’t want that.
Rats (rattus fattassus)
To be honest I don’t really care about these fellas seeing as I used to own one, albeit briefly. In the West we automatically associate rats with disease, poor hygiene, low standards, all that jazz, but here they’re just a part of life. Okay, the first time you see one darting across the pavement in front of you it might give you the heebie-jeebies but after a while you’ll settle down. We’re not talking New YorkCity subway rats here, the ones that beat up policemen and eat their horses, these are just your average vermin. I saw one scuttle across the floor of the restaurant (stretching the definition of the word here) where I was eating my dinner today and scarce raised an eyebrow.
If you don’t want them around you then just abide by basic rules of hygiene and you’ll be sorted. And keep in mind that if you find yourself down on your luck then they’re apparently hearty eating…
Geckos (sprinticus daftus)
I fecking love geckos, they’re one of the coolest of all lizards, symbols of luck in Thailand, they eat bugs and I’m definitely getting a tattoo of one soon. Not much to say about them to be honest, their innate coolness is self-evident to all but the strangest of human beings. You’ll see them absolutely everywhere, on every surface outdoors after dark and they’re almost as common indoors. I held an inch-long baby one in my hand today, it was crawling around in the living room and I felt obliged to rescue it from a ferocious feline fate.
Fireflies (pixicus inflammatoria)
They’re named after the best TV series ever (definitely not the other way round) and their asses glow – ’nuff said.
That’s all for our brief tour of Surat Thani wildlife. There are other denizens of these streets of course – stray cats and dogs, ants, big ol’ hairy spiders and elephants. Yes, elephants. During this season they’re brought down from the hills up north where they normally work – it gets too rainy up there to do anything at this time of year so the owners bring them down here and sell food to locals and tourists alike who, in turn, get to feed the elephant. Elements of cruelty going on in the way they’re treated but I’d rather make sure they get a feed (Any idea how much an elephant eats a day? We’re talking Rick Waller portions) than get all high and mighty about their cunty owners and watch the majestic beasts starve instead. Plus I swear they actually smile when you feed them…
And let’s not forget that I’m just talking about the bestiary within the city limits right now – I’ve not ventured out to the land of parrots, tigers and assorted face-eating wonders yet…
PS – Since writing this post I’ve been to the famed Monkey Training College. That deserves a post of its own so I’ll skip my new primate pals for the time being, although I promise tales of poo-smearing, juvenile monkey-sex and wanking in the near future.