Saturday, January 31, 2009

CNY 2nd Day

What do Thais do on the second day of the Chinese Lunar New Year? Chinatown some say. For a good lunch and all the festivities. Lion dance procession in the middle of road without regards to traffic. See…. Thailand is a place where you can do anything you want, anywhere and anytime you want. It was like Chingay plus mob rolled into one.

And in the night, all relevance to the Chinese tradition would have been disconnected. Its Coyote time. In fact, its Coyote time all the time for some. Who says beware the recession coming? Look at them party and splurge on alcohol. Gong Xi Fatt Chai.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Do Thais Celebrate Chinese New Year?

On the eve of CNY, I received a bunch of promotional SMS from a bunch of night clubs. Yes Thais do celebrate. It is just another occasion to get drunk. Drown yourselves in alcohol and have your faces engulfed in the no bra cheongsam chests of this beautiful Kingdom. Yipeee…..

Well, that’s what most will be up to. But for a large handful of scattered Chinese who have not lost traditions, altars will be set up for prayers. The Chinese came some centuries ago to work the land into economic upturn. Most started off as coolies working hard in construction or as laborers in factories and such. Without the Chinese women imported from their land, they paired up with the natives and cross marriages transpire from then till present. The Chinese then promoted their own social statuses by working hard and exercising their business mind. Soon, they were big owners of successful corporations and businesses such as large scale rice mills which are still now family oriented and handed down from one generation to the other.

The Chinese traditions had been handed down as well but many of the current generation had conveniently forgotten the practices. Ask some Chinese Thai and then you will see they no longer know what steps to be taken, how many joss sticks to burn, how many times to pray and which direction for prayer (actually, I have forgotten too). Sounds like a dying culture ain’t it? But as one walks the streets of Bangkok, the hidden scatters of Chinese practices will be revealed one street after another. Give another fifty years or so when all the Teochew speaking old folks are gone, will the loud continuous bangs of fire crackers still be around to mark the turn of the Chinese Lunar Calendar? Maybe yes, maybe no, yes and maybe but could be no. It is the auspicious first day of the New Year today, it is just another day. We are working in the office now.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Plan?

I had this shoved to me in SCB bank one day. For one that don’ read Thai, I really don’t see how can one be happy when one knocks people down, or one gets knocked down riding a bike and have the life crushed out of one’s body. If Thais wanna sell insurance to foreigners, I suggest they change their tactics. Have English for Buddha’s sake.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thailand wants to correct Wikipedia – What a Joke

Recently spotted on The Nation. I think the writer meant this as a joke or either as a sarcastic report for the tourism authority and TOT. What’s there to correct? It’s all the truth there, especially the nightlife featuring beautiful and available women part.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

End of Season Marker

The end of cold season has always been marked by a rather strange phenomenon here in Bangkok. How do I know the winter is over? Every year, the last burst of cold will be felt in January which will be followed by a few days of fogy mornings. After this climatic event, it will be warm to extremely hot season for the next few months. Fog, mist from water vapor or smog from car exhaust? Sometimes I can never tell.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

MacIdiots Thailand

In Thailand, we have a new item on the menu in McDonald's. No, it is not MacIdiots, it is Shake Shake Fries (Fries put together with tasty powdering sprinkled to be shaken in a paper bag). Rather delicious but getting one order can present quite a challenge. Twice I ordered “Shake Fries” and they gave me “Cheese Fries”. At first, I thought I was the idiot who ordered the wrong item and not remembering it. But after the second incident, I realized something. There are MacIdiots here, other wise known as “dek-serve” (young server).

When one unfamiliar English word comes before the word Fries forming two words in total, it means Cheese Fries. If two unfamiliar English words come after Fries forming three words in total, it means Fries Shake Shake (aka…. Shake Fries). Fries Shake Shake, or Shake Fries? Oh for the love of Buddha… Shake in the sentence means I want shaken Fries, not CHEESE! They told me I should have said Fry Chake Chake, or Chake Fry, notice they don’t have the S sound within. They way the Thai tongue is made, they can’t pronounce the S within certain words. Neither can they recognize it. It is like they have a low pass filter connecting their eardrums to brain or something.

I was conversing in Thai the whole of the two incidents, only the Shake Fries I said in English. If an Amoeba could listen, their intellect levels could outmatch that of the “dek-serves”. Fries Shake Shake - new item, MacIdiots, always been around.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tripping the Middle Earth

I see it as the middle of Thailand, a region covered by Phitsanulok and Petchaboon. These highlands lay between the two major arteries leading to Chang Mai up north and E-San north east. Not so well heard of as I was told, it had only grown in popularity following the stir of emails forwarded from one to another in recent years. New to me as well, I have found yet another hidden charm that I have always been seeking. A region that is cool throughout the year with a maximum of 25 in the hotter months of mid year. The drop in mercury to 0 with the formation of frozen trinkets of dew this season. The narration of the land told by the seasoned voice of the old man. I sipped the hot coffee between breezy chills.

Such a place had always exists. Land that used to cost 40k per rai had now inflated to 4mil per rai with the influx of the touristy hordes. Who buys the land I asked. The richness of Bangkokians fuels the property market I was told. I don’t see no five star resorts there… yet. Only plenty of high scenic spots cleared by the farmers to reap the money from the campers from Bangkok. And interestingly, not a single farang for miles on my trip. No big restaurants, no Starbucks. No Seven Eleven, and no big shopping malls. The driver told me electricity and water only came in recent years. Even now, for the campers on some well serviced grounds to enjoy a warm bath, they have to pay 40 baht. A fee for a bucket of boiled water to be laboriously carried up and down the mud steps, delivered to the small mucky concrete enclosure called the toilet.

The cold greeted an unprepared me dressed in only shorts and polo shirt. How could I know the climate was as such. This place is nicknamed the Switzerland of Thailand by many. Still she remained now as an undiscovered spot of paradise un-smudge by the smear of foreign tourism. In the night of 8 degrees, I had to bath in what seemed like water of 0. Whatever body appendages you can imagine I have shrank to a nano mass of something you could never imagine. Darn, it was really really cold. It was even worst in the night when I had to just visit the toilet to release water. The walk to that darn hole, I had to climb over a small hill. The 50 meters felt like 500 as the wind seized every strand of whatever pathetic leg hair I had. I could have just opened my tent, stick out whatever that was necessary and did it. But other then having a civic mind, it was impossible to do that in such cold conditions - cannot find.

Just 20 years ago when the driver was a child, the Thai soldiers were at war with the communist. Shootouts happened everyday. Friends and relatives commonly died in the crossfire. And so he left to find a life in Bangkok, and now he works as a guide bringing many back to his hometown. Nearby Lan Hin Taek, full of natural rock trenches. The communist hid there well, the causalities of war too many. A wall was put up in memory of those who fought, and perished. The echoes of the dead still lives among the fractures of mother earth.

The roads in middle Thailand is not car friendly, I saw Honda Civics naturally low scraping earth. It is made even worst by the so many constructions of upcoming projects trying to cash in on the regions’ growing reputation. When it rains disasters will happen. Mud slides and land slides of every scale destroying everything in their path had taken place before and will happen again. So huge the extent of these natural calamities that only recently, an entire village with many lives was taken. The driver told and pointed as we passed the tomb for many. The eyes only see the camouflage of new foliage so green and fresh. The agriculture so bright and welcoming, the dark mountain of mass murder stands in the short distance.

Drive there if you will, but only to your destination for your stay. Engage the “two rows” I would recommend, and have them bring you around this Khao Kho region. Natural attractions aplenty but die your car will if your own you drive, especially Civics. I had asked and was told that it only cost 1000 baht for the “two rows”, all to your own troop of holiday seekers.

I traveled with a bunch of old folks, all grandmas and aunties from around gig’s local very average village. I was the only guy in the van excluding the driver. Where were the husbands and the men of the family? All gone by now, not dead but with the other woman. They were corny as hell as usual. I told them I did not have a good sleep, the ground was hard. They missed the word ground on purpose and commented how did I get hard? The night was so cold, they don’t believe I could have gone hard.

Tents at 200 baht per night inclusive of the blankets that so many had rolled in. Washed them had they I wonder, but too long I will not ponder. Mundane accommodations for two, but you can squeeze as many as you will in at 1500 baht per night. All lodging were inclusive of the morning mushroom and pork “kao tum” (boiled rice) made so delicious by hunger and the cold. No warm water for bath and I took the water from the same tank and using that same scoop as that used to flush the toilet. A holiday to be at the most basic Thai ways.

Not much more of chances at theses prices the near future to come I foresee. The Bangkokians are buying up the farmlands, turning them into an attempt at grand resorts which will be overpriced like so many other destinations already so. Farang to Thai ratio 1 is to 1000. Plenty of potential mountain wives for the farang picking if you ask me. And if the encroachment of culture with the cross marriages so common in Chang Mai and Chang Rai were to come about, classy and pricy hideaways will ensue altering the culture forever. Tap the potential if a rich Bangkok boy I am, but sadly I am no Bangkok boy and money no enough I am like many. Gosh… the opportunities in this land. Curses the shit job and life I am. Buddha, Jesus, Toa Peh Gong and whatever up there, heaven help me.

Full photo sets here under Petchaboon Jan 2009.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Last Cold Spell?

It is January, meaning the winter months should be over. The searing heat of April will approach to welcome the next big long Songkran holiday that every Thai is looking forward to (Thais love long long holidays, me too). The past weekend had Bangkok experience night temperatures of 16 degrees. Me in Khao Kho, without any wooly clothes and totally unprepared in only polo shirts and shorts, was a frozen block at 8 degrees.

Just look the thermometer I snapped in the morning. 10 to 11 depress. As I walked around, the wind chill was even worst. Newspaper reported some areas in the north had frozen dew in the morning, and temperature is expected to drop to 0 on some nights there. Amazing.

Thais tell me, it is like that before winter is over. This could be the last cold spell, last burst of chillness before the cycle repeats. The heat will arrive then rain on in May and cold again as November draws closer. The land of three seasons.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Guide - How many Thai Girlfriends can you have?

A Thai man told me, 3 is the magic number. Normally, 1 is enough for men. But for Thai men, 1 is a number too small, so must have more. If have 2, you will get headaches because eventually both will discover each other through some careless acts for sure and they will cat fight everyday. You get 2 headaches with 2 Thai girlfriends.

So add 1 more to make 3 they said. With 3, 2 original ones will gang up and fight number 3 (this actually really happened). So in your pie of Thai girlfriends, 2 will be happy and 1 will not be. 2 happiness overrides 1 headache. With 4, they will pair up into groups of 2. 2 will fight 2, which mean you have 2 groups of happiness canceled out by 2 headaches. 0 happy.

What about 5? If four gang up to override one headache, it is fine, but this will be unlikely to happen. You may get 2 in a group and 3 in the other, so again 2 happiness group and 2 headaches equals 0 happy. Or they will split into 5 individuals which equals 5 headaches, or 3 groups of 2, 2 and 1 equal 3 headaches which happiness of 2 by the 2 groups cannot override. Try 7 or 10 and working the formula itself will give you a migraine.

Thai men (gig scientist) had methodically researched the myriad of possibilities factoring in complex scientific quantum mechanical formulas combined with Newton's Third Law to come out with the magical number 3. Trust them.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Home Phu Teoy

Relying on GPS to get here was a disaster. But in the end, I found this jungle resort. Popular and very well known to Thai people, it is a spot good in winter months where temperatures of 20 are enjoyed throughout the night. Accommodations of many styles are located throughout this resort all for the same price. Therefore it is wise for anyone planning a trip here to pre-tell which rooms are desired in order not to be located in the deep jungle units without good views. The best I saw was units 5 and 6 which exhibit overhanging balcony overlooking the meandering river.

Why the Thai families love this place is because anyone who comes here will be treated like farmed pigs. We got fed 5 meals a day (breakfast, lunch, tea time, dinner, supper) in different parts of the resort. This place is huge and the owner made the meals setup in different areas to enforce long walks (really long walks). His concept is that walking is good, walk and breathe the fresh air his concept. For me, it was more like hungry animal need to go though many bush, smell food source and locate reward. What’s laid out on the table is then what you get to consume. Force feeding only, no ala carte orders. Which is why for someone who really wants a holiday to not think or make decision of any kind (aka lazy people), this is the place. Just relax and rot, but do lots of walk. The meals were just normal, stuffs you could buy for less then THB$50 for two in the market. I am sure they could do better and for this, Home Phu Teoy is a wee bit overpriced if judged.

Two swimming pools are located herein, on opposite sides of the world. One sits next to the reservoir where we had tea time force fed snacks. There are plenty of boats here for anyone to roll or paddle. In the afternoon when the sun shines strong, it is good for a swim in the blue pool surrounded by all shades of green. After snacks, you could spend an eternity to explore the area and then be greeted by dinner time next. I chose to drive all over the resort in my car (aka lazy… but smarter plus contribute to pollution).

There are shows in the night on some days when occupancy rates are high. Mine was such a night. We were lead to the open air amphitheatre in the cool darkness of night before forced fed dinner. A 20 minutes show which I could summarize as follows.

Part 1. Big bad Jap came make salves many many built bridge.

Part 2. Bridge finished and happy everyone (except for many many that died). So celebrate with fireworks many many also.

Part 3. Farang send aeroplane many many come from sky, drop bomb also many many. None hit (aka idiots with lousy aim).

Part 4. Flash big big with loud loud boom sound. Then after smoke clear we saw bridge broken broken.

Part 5. We then proceeded to walk to dinner 10 minutes away.

After the meal of inferior quality, the night was heard with insects of many kinds. The gecko croaked loud near the table where I worked on my laptop out front my room. The environment was ideal for concentration and inspiration. I typed and worked away as the wild dog snooze away in a cuddle up round for warmth by the cold concrete wall behind.

This is an old resort of more then 10 years old. A very popular resort with the Thais. What’s my verdict on this I’ll be kind. It is good for a weekend if you don’t mind what’s pricy for the standard. THB$4,000 in all, a packaged I booked long way ago in April of 08 during the Thai travel fair. One more thing, don’t rely on GSM – GPRS – GPS – online Google Maps on mobile 100%. And especially assholes who GeoTag the location on the wrong side of the river.

Full photo sets here under Kanchanaburi Jan 2009.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Using GPS and Google Maps in Thailand

We live in amazing world of technology now. I went to a resort last week and all I had to do was to enter the destination into the online Google Maps Java App and it did the routing for me. Drove happily on and on following the purple line on the map and it lead me through the jungles of Kanchanaburi towards my destination.

Note the keyword… ONLINE Google Maps. Deep into the mountain roads, no more GSM. No more GSM means no more GPRS. No more GPRS means no more Google Maps. Only one blue GPS dot – me, on blank screen. Halleluiah. My brain was as empty as the blank screen. I had to drive all over to very high spots to get GSM – GPRS – Google Maps. Further readings of the route revealed that some asshole GeoTag the resort on the wrong side of the river. Halleluiah number 2. There was only one bridge that my car can cross the river, 1 hour’s journey back. Halleluiah number 3. All road labels in Google Maps are in Thai, no way to change the language. Halleluiah number 4. Follow alternative road to some famous well known landmarks to get back on track, but was lead to off road tracks only accessible by 4WD. Halleluiah number 5.

Google Maps on mobile phones, I am sure Google can do better and have offline maps (please…). GeoTags by independent individuals on the World Wide Web, cannot trust. Lost for 2 hours in the midst of buffalos, cows, chickens, rice farms and roads full of portholes.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Fiery Start to Two O O Nine

Two Singaporeans died so far. And I was not even aware of the story until Ant called from Singapore on New Year’s Day. The thing about Thailand is that, 99% of pubs are death traps. Does a pub need to be inspected and scrutinized by safety authorities like in Singapore before opening? Yes and no and no one really knows. Do we have great big fire exits like in Zouk? So far, I don’t see any. Then fire how? Down the Chivas all in one and get drunk before you feel the agony of suffocation and fire which kills you.

Any shows in Singapore especially involving pyrotechnics will have to be strictly studied before endorsement. But here, we can do crazy things like setting of fireworks indoors and go – the Roof, the Roof, the Roof is on fire, we don’t need no water let the moxxxxfxxker burn! Burn moxxxxfxxker, BURN!!! Well it really happened. Like the many engineering work and planning I encountered, this again exhibits the short sightness so deeply inbreed into the Thai culture.

No worries and lets get by so far as nothing happens. And if something happens, worry for five minutes then no need to worry anymore because it already happened, so no point crying over spilled milk. Such is the attitude we must accept. Just look at your Bangkok office, I bet you only have one stairwell, one exit and no emergency escape route. Fire how? We BBQ. Look at the street vendors that lined the streets out your office. A hundred people can die from contaminated food and the hospitals will trace the case to the vendor. But by then with no registration or license to sell food of any sort to locate the owner how? Nothing. There ain’t any effective measures against anything here in Thailand. We live at our own risk us foreigners. Sue someone? I doubt it works. You sue, they say no money and give you their daughters instead.

Contingency planning is not a priority in most aspect of everything Thai here. Maintenance is considered a luxury that not many Thai businesses bother. Professional skill set and conduct are considered unnecessary by the majority workinghood of the Kingdom. Such a mess thus many ask what I am doing here. In chaos, the opportunist will find the order.