brain farts

Misadventures in Karaokeland

Posted on: September 5, 2005

Since my dad was busy for the night, I fulfilled my daughterly duties by accompanying my mom to a party on Friday at Acoustic Place, located along Soi Langsuan.

I’m never really good at these social function shindigs. I guess schmoozing just isn’t my thing. Of course, the fact that everyone there was at least thirty years my senior probably had a thing or two to do with the whole hum dee dum dumness of the night…

It was a rather diverse group. There was an ex deputy governor of Bangkok; a personal physician of the youngest Thai princess; a bunch of politicians, all of whom came with their pot bellies and smarmy smiles in tow; another large handful of French/German/Spanish/Italian-speaking diplomats (I spoke briefly with the French-speaking one, but VERY BRIEFLY, as you will soon see); filthy rich, newspaper-headlining businessmen with more European cars and houses than they know what to do with; a former Miss Thailand runner up who didn’t do much the entire night besides flash her procelain veneers, nurse a flute of champagne, and munch prettily on a leaf of lettuce (really, ONE leaf of lettuce to sustain her the entire night); and a drag queen!

Just kidding. About the drag queen part, I mean. Still, I wish I weren’t, because things would have been more fun had one been present. At least there would have been someone INTERESTING to talk to.

All in all, it was boring, boring, boring.


Admittedly, things DID pick up a bit when everyone started fighting for the stage. Well, not really — it was all rather civilized, I’ll have you know — but everyone knows that if you put a Thai — or any Asian, for that matter — within scrambling distance of a karaoke machine or microphone, chaos is highly likely to ensue.

Here’s how the karaoke session went down:

A Khun Ying-type figure took — well, lunged for, more like — the mike first, and swiftly launched into a somewhat tolerable version of that Chinese song I hear EVERY SINGLE GOD DAMN TIME I have dim sum at any random Chinese restaurant in the city, Tian Mi Mi. Besides the fact that she sang through her nose, all went well until…

She started singing Leo Sayer’s I Love You More Than I Can Say. Now, as a music lover, I’m generally pretty cool with any kind of music that gets thrown at me. Punk rock? Turn it up. Britney Spears? Oooh, yes, hit me baby one more time, please. Ska? Hell, yeah. Jazz? Sure.

As for oldies, why not? My dad raised me on Elvis and the Beatles, after all…

But for the love of all that is holy, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to Leo Sayer’s I Love You More Than I Can Say the same way again. This woman totally ruined it for me. While completely butchering the song, the entire restaurant was fored to endure three hellish minutes of the most cringe-worthy wailing ever. Dare I even say alley cats are more capable at busting out tunes? In fact, I almost thought they were going to pluck a few alley cats from outside the restaurant and have them croon on stage as chorus girls…

You know, so that they could meow during the “Whooooah ooooohhhh yeaaaah yeee yeah” parts and save us from having to listen to a woman in a hot pink dress and fake Manolo stilettos who could make even William Hung cringe.

Too bad there aren’t any alley cats in Soi Langsuan.

My lips did some serious twitching during that song. You’d have to be made out of stone to keep your lips dead calm throughout the entire duration of that piece; kind of like how you’d have to be made out of stone to not have a slightly giddy reaction upon hearing the new Mr. Darcy — Matthew MacFadyen — say, “you have bewitched me body and soul” (and shut up, I know that reeks with cheeziness, but HELLO, will you look at the man when he says it??) in the trailer for the new Pride and Prejudice film, in which he stars alongside Keira Knightley (that lucky, lucky girl; first Orlando Bloom, then Clive Owen, and now Matthew MacFadyen?).

Not wanting to embarrass my mother (or myself), I made a somewhat strenuous effort to guzzle my fruit punch throughout said three hellish minutes. This managed to work out fantastically, for my laugh remained firmly tucked within my throat.

Unfortunately, fruit punch didn’t help much with the next song.

You see, down went the khun ying, and up went one of the aforementioned politicians. He chose another oldie: the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive. This was all right with me…

Until he got to the “Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive!” part, after which things only managed to get painful. Excruciatingly painful.

It took all the concentration within my very being to not send my dinner spraying onto the face of the elderly gentleman sitting aross the table from me. When my concentration began to fail me, I was thus forced to shove large chunks of cantaloupe into my mouth so as to disguise my twitching lips with some furious chewing and grinding (you’d think I were downing a slab of steak). Like the fruit punch before it, the cantaloupe fortunately managed to hold me down.

Then one of the diplomats went up.

He was pretty fond of Elvis, which immediately marked him as HELLA COOL in my book (because damn, did the King know how to boogy or what?), but unfortunately it all went downhill after that.

His pseudo-baritone didn’t bother me that much. Nor did the sideburns — I am not even kidding; I wish I were, but I swear I’m not…

His hip shaking and gyrating, however, did.

Yes, HIP SHAKING and GYRATING. As in, “The band was jumpin’ and the joint began to swing ” — hip thrust — “You should’ve heard those knocked out jailbirds sing, let’s rock!” — gyrate, gyrate — “Everybody, let’s rock!” — thrust, thrust…

Talk about scandalous. I had to flee to the ladies’ room after that, and all I have to say is that if a laugh a day can keep the doctor away, then I sure as hell don’t expect to be visiting my physician for a good year or two.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention my little encounter with the French-speaking diplomat. When he turned to talk to my mom after dinner, she went and totally embarrassed me by going, all nonchalantly, “Oh, my daughter can speak some French, too.”

No, no, nooooo. Everyone — EVERYONE! — knows that three years of God awful high school French, the occasional channel-surfing to TV5, and the obsessive watching of Amelie does not mean one will be able to parlez Francais avec aplomb!

Well, not me, at least.

So, smiling, he turned to me and went, at a rate of about a thousand words a minute, “blah blah blah Francais blah blah blah.”

And I, not catching a single word he’d said — because, um, as if understanding a French person speak French isn’t difficult enough already, I’d just heard a THAI person speak French in an accent that DID NOT SOUND FRENCH AT ALL (it could have been Swahili for all I knew) — just shifted my feet, plastered on a slightly constipated smile as I silently cursed myself for the one thousand two hundred and fifty-seventh time for not choosing Spanish as my foreign language option back in high school, and went, “Excusez-moi?” even though what I really wanted to shout was “Au secours!”

Not one of my greatest moments. I know.

He repeated himself, and maybe the spector of Madame Beatrice (my PMS-prone high school French teacher) was peering over my shoulder, because I was just barely able to pick up, “CanyouspeakFrenchwell?” (all was said en Francais, of course), to which I managed to reply, “Ah, oui. Un peu. UN PETIT PEU.”

Other than that, the evening was pretty standard: smile, wai, smile, wai, smile, smile, insert impressed “oh!” when someone spouts a personal achievement or proudly proclaims that their child is currently studying Art History at Oxford, even though, according to the Thai tabloids, said child is currently going on their seventh year of undergraduate school and is having much difficulties in graduating, mostly because of all the hard partying they’ve been doing in between their monthly visits to Saints Tropez and Moritz.

But what do I know?

Like I said, it was a rather uneventful night.


I spent the weekend in Pattaya a few weeks ago; there was nudity, stunningly gorgeous transvestites, and lots of overtanned, crispy red farangs! Just your typical Pattaya vacation, really. I’ll blog about that…soon (really!).

P.S. I had to turn on word verification for the comments. Sorry for the hassle, but it’s to prevent spamming robots from leaving ads on penile dysfunction and all that…unless you WANT to see those ads, in which case let me know and I’ll turn off word verification again, though a trip to your neighborhood urologist might prove to be more helpful. ;)

Currently Reading: STILL 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. I’m currently on page 826, stranded somewhere along Iipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, which is apparently popular for its “gorgeous bodies, dental-floss swimwear, and attitudes to match.” I don’t have any dental-floss swimwear (thongs don’t sit well with me; hee! Pun not intended), so I guess I won’t be visiting Ipanema Beach anytime in the near future, huh.

Currently Playing: Take Your Mama Out by Scissor Sisters, because they sound like what Pink Floyd, David Bowie, and Duran Duran would sound like if you rounded them all up and stuck them in a big ol’ blender. Basically, really kick-ass awesome.

17 Responses to "Misadventures in Karaokeland"

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Haha, Karaoke stories always amuse me. I forgot how obsessed Asians were with Karaoke until I went to Thailand last month. My American friend was shocked, SHOCKED! Everywhere we went Karaoke, Karaoke, Karaoke. This and other things just makes me realize that American culture is SO boring. =P

We both had been to a musical nirvana. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t trade my for what you’ve just been through hehehehe..awww~ :)

But yes! Lollapalooza was really neat.


God, I love your posts, you should write more often.


(a diplomat who speaks french…)

u r back! thanks to the japs who invented karaOK, hehe.

reason for invention, “nothing better to do (while waiting for the easing of traffic)”

now, “a platform for instant/temporary fame(minus the fortune)”

but it’d be soothing, only if, everyone knows their stuff, it’s one heluva circus to u, i m sure….hahaha.

A few weeks back I went to a karaoke place with some friends from out of town and stunned them with a superb rendition of Superman.

The audience applauded wildly, underwear was thrown on stage and I was carried around on my adoring fans shoulders for a number of minutes.

It’s all true (except the bits about the audience), so do I get a ‘oh!’, or does your mum need to be present?

So you have survived another stellar night in Thai society, but how long can you keep up your defenses? It can only be a matter of time before you rush the stage, grapple with the poofy hair on the khun ying, hold up the mike triumphantly and belt out some…Hanson? I guess I should not talk, since I found myself whistling to the the Bee Gees’ “How Deep is Your Love” at the grocery store today.

The two things I want to know are: how much alcohol was consumed before you were treated to this spectacle? and: Who got the most plastic flower garlands in the end? ;)

ps: I like Tian Mi Mi, but only Teresa Teng’s version. I got accustomed to it while growing up, so, just like the look krung music, I don’t instinctively try to pop my eardrums out when I hear it.

pps: I heard “I Love You More Than I Can Say” for the first time in ages over the weekend while visiting a friend in Chicago. Coincidence? Or a vast conspiracy?

px3s: Hope you had a swell Labor Day, even though it has no bearing on life in Thailand whatsoever.

px4s: One of my Korean classmates was livid that the “1000 Places” book has no listings on Korea.

I remembered going to a party like this a few months back. It was my dad’s and his colleagues’. Fortunately I managed to leave the place just before my dad went up the stage. :)

Once we decided to and spend a few quiet, relaxing days in a secluded beach on Koh Samet. Unfortunately a small convention of Thai businessmen/women were also staying there and for three nights we had to endure wailing karaoke… Christ it was BAD. I hadn’t known until then that one of the pre requisits for singing karaoke was that you have to be tone deaf (I’d be so good at it), or good at over doing your vibrato. Ick.

thanks for voting!

any news about the book?


even though i had french classes for 6 years, it is still zhvery zhard to zpeak zfrench. :D it’s the same as following asians talking in english. they love to go up and down, down and up with their accents. In Malaysia it is heard to understand what they are saying.

thank god, karaoke is not that trendy in holland. my dad loves to sing (and he thinks he has a lovely voice that is the worst part) *runs for live.

take care! :)

Good to hear from you Lynn.

That reminds me of a something I was thinking about today.

I went to a bar doing Karaoke last weekend. This place was hopping so we decided to check it out. I have to say that most of the patrons were really good. These are the kind of people that practice up for the big weekend.

Anyways, a Beastie Boys song comes on “Fight for your Right to Party”
The people who were singing had the thickest Maine accents.

The line goes something like: We’ll kick you out of the house if those are the clothes your gonna wear, we’ll kick you out of the house if you don’t cut that hair.

Substitute Weyaa and Hayaah. My brother in law was dying laughing.

sounds like an exciting nite! haha! anyways i was back in bangkok for a few days in august, but didnt have any chance to meet anyone at all. was quite bz helping out my mom with her work and all..i tried calling you but….it seemed that you didnt pick up the fone or sth! i think..i should be back around december….i hope…cross my fingers twice. i am getting sick of japan! arghh!

Sorry for the belated commenting! I’m also more sorry to hear about your perils in karaokeland haha. I think there is an unwritten rule somewhere that Thai adults must all sing the typical Chinese or (unfortunately) English classic ballads. I hope this doesn’t mean that once we reach 40 we will be taking part and worse yet.. enjoying it!

About francais… So you didn’t have a completely 100% fluent chat en francais with your mom’s friend? Haha… if only real French people spoke at the rate of the actors in high school textbook video lessons, life would be a lot easier!


heya….its been a while since i commented on something. just been back to bkk a few weeks ago and have been so busy working. i defintely know how u feel about going to social functions in thailand. i absolutely hate it but in thailand it is important to have these types of connections. i’m sure u will get used to it as i have… to u soon na…take care ja


hahaa old asian folk singing karaoke is always great. cant hate too much because im sure we’ll be in that position in lets say 20 or 30 yrs??

oh and everything u said made sense =) some people are just crazy… not like us haha

What is it about that Leo Sayer song that makes it so popular in Southeast Asia? If Khun Ying had given it the traditional Chinese treatment it may not have been so bad. Check out this Khmer version, very cool actually!

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