Daily Archives: July 14, 2005

Five Things I Like About Bangkok

A disabled lottery ticket seller in Bangkok

First impressions are sometimes misleading. For example, landing at Don Muang International Airport, it feels almost like you have arrived at a third-world country.

What more, when the 30km drive into the city reveals further bizarre traffic jams, dusty roads and almost a gluttony of drab and monotonous buildings. It almost feels like Kuala Lumpur’s Jalan Pudu or Chow Kit.

But, if you smell the air a little deeply, (provided the carbon monoxide and lead do not get to you first), Bangkok can be a very fun city. As a traveler, I have been to many places worldwide, but Bangkok is still my favorite destination. To me, nothing beats Bangkok!

The capital city of Thailand, Bangkok or better known in Thai as Krungthep Maha Nakorn (กรุงเทพมหานครฯ ), is the centre of the Thai cosmos. It is Thailand’s administrative, cultural, religious, and economic hub. No other city comes close to Bangkok. Even regional cities such as Chiengmai or Hatyai are at least 1/30 the size of Bangkok.

To cut things short, here are five things why I LIKE Bangkok!

1)Kwam Sanuk (ความสนุก ) – Enjoyment or Fun
Krungthep Maha Nakorn is a city of all possibilities. If you are religiously inclined, there is the highly-revered Emerald Buddha or the Santa Cruz Church, and if you like shopping, Jatujak is a shopper’s paradise. Basically, Krungthep is all about having fun. The city never sleeps, and having fun knows no time limit.

Even, if you decide to get a little naughty, there are ample choices for you — Soi Thonglor for your beer binge, Soi Patpong for the girly shows, and also, Suriwongse for those brown tight muscular guys! Hey, it’s also bang-cock. At least Theravada Buddhism does not equate pleasure with sinfulness.

2) Mai Pen Rai (ไม่เป็นไร ) – Nevermind
Thais have few natural grudges. Easily contented, they lead a simple life and have few worries. When in Thailand, it is best for tourists catch the never mind bug. At least, you will be able to take things easily. If you are a jai ron (ใจร้อน hot hearted, direct translation), in Krungthep, it is only best to get jai yen (ใจเย็น cool hearted). At least then, everything can be a mai pen rai!

3) Jai Dee (ใจดี ) – Good Hearted
Apart from gem schemers, most Thais are good hearted by nature. If you are lost, Thais would go all out to help you find your way. This kind hearted nature is also extended to animals. Have you seen how the Thais take care of their soi dogs and cats (strays) — they may not be very clean, but they are well fed. Even Nai Luang (King Bhumipol Adulyadej) is jai dee to adopt the stray dog, Tong Deang (Copper).

4) Raka Tuk (ราคาถุก ) – Cheap Prices
Where can you get a decent lunch for only RM2.00 (B20)? Only in Krungthep, that is a possibility. Whether you are in Samut Prakan or Sukhumvit’s upmarket Emporium, food and generally many other things come cheaply. My all-time favourite dish is Kao Gab Moo (Rice with Pork and Salted Vegetables), and all less than B25. Even for a Malaysian, earning a normal Malaysian salary, my ringgit stretches a little longer when I am in Krungthep.

5) Phoot Thai Dai (พุดไทยได้ ) Able to Speak Thai
I reckon what makes Krungthep even more fun is when you have the ability to speak Thai. With the correct Thai accent (Passa Klang), you will get VERY far with Raka Thai (Thai prices). Forget about paying the Raka Tang Chat (foreigners’ price). Hey, I managed to enter Muang Boran as a Khon Thai. Nobody suspected, I was not a Thai. Unfortunately, I did not abuse my ability to speak Thai. Well, at least not at Muang Boran.

Listen to Thai Classical Music

At school today we celebrated our Golden Jubilee. As usual I got a bit click happy and took about 700 pictures which you can view in our online photo album. There are quite a few pictures I want to share with you over the coming days which nicely illustrate Thai culture. However, today I want to show you a couple of pictures of the school orchestra. The picture above is of a ja-kay and the one below is a kim. You can listen to these and other classical musical instruments in our sister web site at:


White elephant and Moose

Thai folks just love to import stuff! Imports are hi-so, they are cool. You can eat import food, you can dress to the latest import fashion using imported clothes. You can watch the 10m-Bt imported Chinese pandas chewing bamboo in Chiang Mai Zoo. Then you can drive away in your imported American gas-guzzler, or your imported Japanese shiny “jewel-box-on-wheels”. Of course, when you are back home to tell your folks about the adventure, don’t forget to use fancy imported words from Steve’s collection to complete the picture. 😉

But Thailand doesn’t stop here. Now they decided that their ‘home-made’ currency is just too… provincial. So now the image of His Majesty is pressed on the new 2Bt-coins in Canada. Yep, that’s right, folks. The white elephant teamed up with the moose.

I don’t know how you feel about this, but it’s strange to say the least. Isn’t the currency of a country considered to be a national symbol? Thailand is very defensive on any perceived offense on its national/religious identity – let alone anything that involves the image of the king!

The decision doesn’t make sense from an economical point of view either. Thailand surely has its own mint, manned with Thai workers. Yet, they chose to pay more than ten million dollars to Canadians to produce these coins overseas. That’s 400+ million Baht loss for Thai workers – not exactly pocket change (pun intended).

The bird flu and the tsunami still weigh heavily on the Thai economy; it needs all the captial influx it can get. I don’t think this is the best time for classy show-offs such as importing currency.

Regrettably, I wasn’t able to find an image of the new Thai 2Baht coin. Since they went to great lenghts and spent the taxpayers money lavishly, the coins must surely feature their overseas origin! I am still very curious about what do we get when we cross the white elephant with the Canadian moose. Time will tell.

Do you think that pressing the King’s face on coins in FarangLand is borderline lese majeste? So would I, if I were Thai. Bear in mind however, that the decision was made by Thai politicians/businessmen, and they didn’t see anything wrong with it. I still wonder though: how do traditionally patriotic Thais of the street reconciliate with the fact that their revered King’s image is created and pressed in a foreign land?

For those who don’t know, I should mention that any object featuring the king’s image must be handled with the outmost respect and caution. You can’t use an old newspaper page if the photgraph of the king is on it. You can’t stop a rolling coin by stepping on it – you’d step on the king’s image! You can’t put your bottle on a banknote either.

Also a bit of background on the 2Baht coin. You don’t see on the streets nowadays. It was made for special occasions such as the birthday of the Crown Prince; the birthday of the Queen Mother and HM the King’s 64th birthday. Other notable figures who were worthy of the honor are the father of Rama IX, and Rama VII.

With all respect to Canadians: the moose just doesn’t belong into this company… IMO.

The Bliss of Bangkok

An Oxygen Bar inBangkok where you can get a daily dose of clean air

After a quick series of shorty blogs posted this week, I thought I’d do the righteous thing and gives yous all, another one of those darned lengthy postings of mine. Looking through me notebook, it was pretty tricky having to decide on what to bore you with this week, and settled in the end to go back to one of me fave subjects of and that is the ‘Bafflement of Bangkok’.

Not long back, I mentioned the Thai ladies’ craze for walking around freezing cold department stores just to show off their lovely little babies to all the onlookers. Well, for all the childless ladies lacking such companionship they can always take a cute little mutt of a dog instead. We all know that women from all over the world can spend two hours in front of a mirror doing their make-up but here in Bangkok they spend another darned hour doing their pet-dog’s hair, tale and fur and not forgetting to stick in a big fancy bow on top of it’s head. All in order, the next stop is the nearest Mall where they can spend the complete afternoon walking around showing off their fluffy friend.

Well, the Bangkokians these days have gone for more than just a fascination for little dinky dogs. The Weekend Market is a haven for pet lovers wanting the likes of an enormous Madagaskar Cockroach or a Guatamalan Death-Witch Spider. As you could well have imagined the local authorities in charge have enjoyed arresting quite a few of these so-called pet-animal dealers and one was charged just last month for supposedly dealing in pet-tigers! Well, one of those would certainly deter any burglers!

There are plenty of energetic yearly events held in the country, we have the juicy ‘Miss Jumbo’ competition, the ‘As much as you can scoff durian’ festival’ and then we have just hundreds of big shows put on in the capital by the government aimed at supposedly helping the poor. Most of the nation’s male population however, wait in excitement, while dribbling at the mouth for none other than the ‘Motorshow!’ It’s that time of the year when all the men leave their loved-ones at home (of course their wives’ think their off to dinner with some important customer from Osaka) and go to ‘check the quality’ of the Motorshow Promo Girls. It doesn’t matter whether the guy has little more than 10 baht in his pocket he can stroll around for hours talking to all the Promo girls about the cars on offer while admiring their shockingly revealing attire! Without of course having to buy them a drink.

Now, these Promo Girlies are popping up everywhere and if you would like to check for yourself whether they are ISO 14001 passable, you need only visit any old fancy shopping Mall on your weekend off. These Promo Girlies can be found just inside the entrance wearing a three-inch long skirt, knee-length boots with an eight-inch heel and standing at the height of 6 foot 2 passing out lots of brochures on ‘Dry Deo Deodorant’ or ‘Flashy fingernail clips’. Once I had one of the darlings, who on promoting AIDS prevention, stick a contraceptive into my hand and when on returning home I was on the receiving end of a right shouting at by my girlfriend then, to the likes of ‘You scoundrel, why are you carrying one of them around, I knew I could never trust you!!’. Now that’s pretty bad luck.

Every four years in the ‘City of the 7-11 and Starbucks’ the capital’s folks have the dreaded task of having to elect a Governor to listen to the whims of the Bangkokians and ‘solve all their problems’ (of course easier said than done). As most of the former governors who after winning the election decided instead of having to go to the office every day and walk around the slums of Klong Tery, go instead to play tennis, start a collection of imported wines and enjoy the sites of the yearly Motorshow.

As for one of the last governors, every plan of his flopped or ended up in the garbage can. Glad they did. As for probably the worst environmental cock-ups he accomplished had to be about two years ago at Loy Krathong when he asked all the Thais to use artificial foam Krathongs instead of the traditional ones made from the banana tree. On asked why, he replied that the so-called banana tree Krathong was dirty and caused eye-pollution. “Nevermind” he said “I will order the local Bangkok authorities to collect up all the garbage foam Krathongs in the morning so as they won’t all float out into the ocean”. Sounded great but of course it didn’t work and instead it was reported that tens of thousands of these artificial foam Krathongs floated away down river into the Gulf of Thailand and never seen again. The next year it was a return to the traditional ways.

That year too he invited all the city folks to float their Krathongs from under Rama 8 bridge where a big pompous party was also put on too. Stevesuphan went too and what a farce that was! The lacklustre governor had failed to realise the strong current of the river and so 90% of the Krathongs, when on being floated, did a backward-flip instead and sunk to the bottom. This former governor got so cheesed-off that all his plans failed, quoted to the press in his last year “I won’t bother doing anything this year, it’s a waste of time trying to get anything implemented!” and that’s exactly what he did do and became famous instead for his cooking skills which he enjoyed showing off to a stack of reporters on a weekly basis. Bored of politics, he’s now a TV chat show host.

Talking about the local authorities. One of the most splendid well-thought out plans by the capital’s police over the years to boost their spending powers has been to ‘sucker some cash out of the foreign tourists’. Of course they had to find a legal excuse and so for a darned long time they enjoyed catching and fining millions of tourists who had dropped anything on to the sidewalk, from a 7-11 receipt to a cigarette butt. Of course there were a few big warnings and the ones on Sukhumvit and Silom Road read in English ‘Litter Droppers will be Fined 2,000 baht or $100’. It didn’t take a degree in mathematics to work out (then 25 to the dollar) that you would have to be pretty stupid to pay in dollars!

They were hundreds of complaints when the Rangsit police, who on realising that a lot of the foreigners were getting to know about these fines went instead to catch all the dumb foreigners who had just arrived in the country. So, there they were just outside the airport arrival terminal fining all the foreigners who had just 10 minutes before got off the plane in need of a quick smoke before they got the taxi downtown! Welcome to Thailand!

Bangkok has many an awesome site for the foreign tourist to gaze at in a state of disbelief and two of those have to be the capital’s manholes and electric lines. I can’t imagine just how many drunk tourists have fallen down one when returning to their hotel room, only to be found the following morning 10 foot under by some office workers. It would only make sense to put a warning sign up but then the construction workers would say “It’s your fault, you should have been watching where you were going”. As for the state of some of the electric cables around, many-a foreign tourist has had a right laugh at the cowboy-job of the capital’s supposed technicians who have arranged some of the cables to be hung just 3 inches above your head. Again, if you get electrocuted and drop-down dead, it’s your own fault for not keeping your eyes open!

And finally, to end my series on Bangkok, howabout the great BTS Skytrain. For all of you foreigners interested in meeting English teachers for some info on teaching in Thailand don’t even bother wasting your time contacting the likes of me and Richard, the skytrain is full of them. Its quite simple to spot the difference between a foreign teacher and a foreign businessman, just look at them. The Farang teacher usually wears a pair of trousers that are three inches too short for him, carries all his books in a Tesco-Lotus plastic bag, has a 6 baht biro in his shirt pocket and hasn’t brushed his hair for a week. As for the businessmen, they look respectable.

Then, there’s the bedraggled condition of some of the foreign tourists who look ‘even worse’. You can witness all the Thais step five foot-back when they see this big sweaty Farang who, on getting on the skytrain and reaching up to hold-on, fouls the air with natural body odour oozing from his armpits.

Flood Flashback

Street flooding. Ahh. The one thing I don’t particularly miss about Bangkok. Then again, if the city doesn’t flood, that means the country is not getting enough rain that year.

In my past post, I have mentioned my friends’ and my mischievous attempts to get our school flooded. But man, did I hate wading the murky water home. The grease, the dirt, and God knows what else that was on the street are now happily steeping in the flood water.

And there we went in our cheap rubber flip-flops, slowly wading through the street, relying on our memories and instincts as to where the curbs end. Everyone in a while, we had to get on our tip toes, or hop up to avoid the waves created by passing motor vehicles.

As soon as we reached home, the race was on to clean our feet and calves with plenty of soap and water. Additionally, to prevent further itching, an ample amount of baby powder was applied. I don’t recall having too much trouble after I rinsed off though.

One of the severe Bangkok flood back in the 80s, my dad, my brother and I had our little adventure out in to Soi Langsuan. At the time, the water would have come up to my waist so my nanny carried me out. I remembered the water was up over my dad’s knees, up to my brother’s thighs. Someone drove by in a pick up and sure enough my brother got his butt wet. LOL.

Flooding is just a part of the wonderful monsoon season we have. With it, traffic. Really really bad traffic. Yet another reason why this is the low tourism season other than a lot of rain, and crazy waves in the south.

But despite all of the inconvenience, I love the monsoons. And I miss it so.