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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Riff Raffles

Riff Raffles is another local book, published by Bangkok Books (ISBN 978-974-8478-05-0, 2007) and written by Kevin Meacher about his time as a Pattaya hotel owner.
There are many books written from the point of view of retirees out here in their Garden of Eden, but not so many from the working foreigner’s angle. Author Meacher has done this in diary form, and one can see the major items building up and finally coming together.
Although a slim book, Riff Raffles deals with author Meacher’s life running his 23 room hotel and expresses the differences right at the end of the book when he writes, “As for the Thai people generally, I have found them to be welcoming, friendly, good hearted and easy going. The real problems come when you are trying to run a business and it is here that some aspects of the Thai character really can cause problems. I think I have been here a sufficient period of time, and employed enough people, to have a reasonable basis for my feeling.”
Throughout the book he refers to his wife as “Mrs. Boss” the name given to her by his staff, though when reading about her and her ‘management style’ one is left to ponder as to who was the dominant force in the running of the hotel.
As well as getting a new hotel up and running in an existing building, author Meacher also brings the additional hassle of trying to have a house built at the same time. Whilst the building of the house runs overtime, and Meacher seems beset with every problem known, I must say I am yet to find a building contractor that can run to time. They all seem to have desk calendars marked in years instead of days.
In common with nearly every foreigner who lives in Thailand, author Meacher dislikes Songkran. “I managed to get through Songkran again without killing anyone, which in itself was an achievement. However, its degeneration into one huge water fight between foreigners from morning to nightfall is nothing but thoroughly unpleasant.”
The staff problems predominate in the book. No sooner does he get a full and trained complement than there is another wholesale walk-out. Individual walk-outs are expected, but in this hotel, there are too many multiples, which does make one wonder a little about the aforementioned management style.
It becomes very evident during the book that the author does get to the ragged edge at times and does need breaks away. “Mrs. Boss is always glad to see me go away and says the break is good for me, and due to my worsening moods of the last few months, she believes the savings on body-bags makes my absence cost effective.”
At B. 395 it is not an expensive read, but it can be a little depressing at times. The author seems to be one of those people who is just dogged by bad luck (or bad karma?) and you wonder if it is a square peg in a round hole? Perhaps a change of occupation might be beneficial for him?