Daily Archives: August 23, 2005

Helicopter Tour of Bala-hala Forest

22 August 2005, what a fine day! I was really excited when being invited to join the visiting team to the border patrol police field camp in Bala-hala Forest, which was royally registered as a southern rainforest district 2 on Sankalakiree Mountain between Thailand and Malaysia.

A Few years ago when I went to Las Vegas, my friends told me that I must take the Grand Canyon helicopter tour. However, after a tight schedule of meetings, crazy shopping and magnificent shows, I missed the helicopter experience …

But now… haha, I can only say YEAH!!! YEAH!!! YEAH!!!

The helicopter

Now, let me make a little introduction about Balahala forest!!!

Thailand lies at the crossroads of Indochina and Sundaic zoogeographic regions. It has a diversity of flora and fauna, including 10% of the world’s bird fauna, and possibly the largest subpopulations of tigers and elephants in Mainland Southeast Asia. It has over 200 fully staffed national parks, sanctuaries and non-hunting areas covering 17% of the country. Most of the largest and most intact areas lie in remote border areas, that in the past were areas of civil unrest and conflict, and avoided. This is partly why they are still good areas for wildlife now!

Balahala is a majestic forest in Thailand’s deep south. The area is a true rainforest, wet all year round, drained by several large streams that flow from high mountain peaks on the Malaysia border. The nature reserves comprise a wide biological diversity and home to rare wild water and land animals and plants. Tigers , elephants and nine species of hornbill and other animals share the forest with indigenous Sakai tribal people, denizens of the rainforest.

I will share with you my visit at the field camp and my new Sakai friend on our next date!

Pictures taken in the sky…

Bala-Hala Forest

Betong town

The vast area of rubber trees surrounding Betong town(a little blur because photo taken thru’ glass)

Bangkok Skyscape.

The Radiant Sky

Over the years the Bangkok skyline is changing for the better. This has been mainly due to imaginative architecture and use of colourful reflective material like glass, acrylic sheet and PVC.

Many of the buildings have blue and green reflective/refractive materials, which reflect the sky. This prevents the buildings from being eyesores. In fact, the structure seamlessly merges with the sky.

Despite being tall, Thai Wah and Thai Farmers Bank HQ have attractive presence in the city skyline.

I have attached the snap of a building under construction (in 2002 August) near the unique Elephant Building. The blue glass reflects the sky and brings forth the life in the up coming high rise.

Believe it or not! Some Thai Beliefs

After feeling rather stressed out of late running around like a beheaded chicken helping me fiancee to sort out precarious wedding arrangements, I thought that I’d brighten me heart up a bit and go back to write about perhaps my fave subject and that is ‘the people of the provinces’.

Well, our webmaster friend here Mr Richard has certainly put a lot of effort into giving yous all an indepth low-down on Thai superstitions and beliefs over the past few months. So, I felt that I ought to get into the act meself with some related stuff along the same lines – stevesuphan style. From what i see, Thailand is a boiling pot for a whole lot of hocus-pocus quack-wack beliefs which have nothing whatsoever to do with Buddhism. Then, as the 21st century kicks in and capitalism has reached every corner of the country it has left all the folk desiring a new Video Phone Nokia, a flashy new Honda Jazz or the latest Lap-top. To appease this suffering due to lack of consumer products the nation has been bent on ‘winning the lottery’ to relieve them of their awful existance.

Now, since most folks believe in predicting the lucky number in the thrice monthly Governemnt lottery a whole shab of sceething money making opportunities have arisen in regards to forecasting the number. One very well-known place for making-merit and so finding out the lucky lottery number of the week is here in my province of Suphanburi. Know it or not, Suphanburi is country-famous for two things to say the least one is politicians but most of all ‘Singers’. At the end of the day, I would have to say that the most famous person ever to come out of Suphanburi has to be ‘Phuangphuang Duangchan’, even more so than Carabao or a former PM as ‘Phumphuang’ (Pheung) holds ‘legendary’ stautus’. If you are a foreigner wondering to the likes of ‘Who the heck is she? Then let me say that she is the ‘Queen of Lukthung’, the girl that gave birth to sexy naughty Thai country music which you can watch 24 hours a day on Thai TV. She died about 15 years ago but the temple in which her ashes are found in Song Phi Nong district is a Mecca for folks to come pay respects on the hope of finding out the lucky lottery number of the week. Praying is done in front of this quite cheesy statue of her that is taken care of by the resident monks.

What on earth her dead body has to do with forecasting the lottery number is a complete mystery to me. Then, just a few months ago it was that time of the year again, ‘Ms Phuangphuang’s b-day’ and the media and thousands of folk arrived at the temple on the day of the lottery, to pay their respects to her statue and to pray that the lucky two-digit nuber of that week would once again fall on her actual birthdate. Sure, did I enjoy having a right laugh, ridiculing a few of the locals here “What kind of crocko-belief is that?, you gotta be pulling me leg!” and was absolutely flabbergasted the next day to read the newspaper headlines of ‘Phumphuang has done it again!’ and we see literally thousands of followers and monks dancing up and down in front of the camera celebrating their lucky win and praying to Phumphuang as if she were some Hindu Queen. Shiver-me-timbers! As for me, i’ll have to be a bit more careful with some of me words from now on.

This is just one example of forecasting the lucky lottery number but there are thousands of others. Even my previous next-door neighbours claimed that their pet fish would often swiffle its tail around in the bottom of its tank and lay marks similar to a two digit number. Each time I asked him to why he hadn’t won that time around, would reply “Ooooh, my fish was right but I myself was at fault as I was unable to make out the fish’s handwriting properly.

Just last week, the nations ‘Sangha’ (if you know readers pls help me trans this to English, I forget) like Buddhism Body of Thailand declared for the umpteenth time that monks producing Buddhist Amulets for financial gain are be stopped! Oh yeah, a lot of folks just love having a belief in a whole variety of Buddhist amulets even though, again, its not actually part of the religion. Now, some of these amulets are worth an absolute fortune with the most sought after ‘Somdet Wat Rakrang’ fetching mind-boggling prices, I mean up to 30 million baht. Of course these are an absolute hit with a lot of the country’s politicians as it is believed that, if worn, you will be protected from getting shot. ie. if shot, the amulet with its amazing powers will protect the wearer and the bullet will just miraculously vanish into thin air. Well, even if I were given a loan of one I doubt I’d try it out see if it actually works.

Then, for any single men lacking lowly on the ‘charming ladies’ scale there are naughty shaped amulets that when hung from the waist, of course under yer shirt, will soon be the cause for a whole string of lusty girls fighting to get their arms round you.

Then, just how many Buddha footprints are there in Thailand? Don’t get me wrong but my history book says that The Buddha was born in present-day India. If any of you readers should care to enlighten me on just how Thailand got to be the source of so many of these footprints I’ll more than happy to listen. Having resided at temples from time to time practicing meditation I’ve heard a lot of folklore tales which I never read about in any Buddhist book. One nun I knew once gave me the ins and outs of loads-a upcountry beliefs. Here is one for example “All you Farang and non-practioners of Buddhism are doomed for an after life of starvation as you never give food to the monks”. Well, according to her, it was Buddhist belief that giving food to the monks is like an investment policy ie. we well get back all the food we have given to the monks back in the afterlife. Now, I definetly never read about that in any Dhamma book. But I guess it’s a good story on getting people to give alms in the morning.

Then, for us men who feel that we’re are a little on the physically weak side, get yerself a sacred ‘animal tattoo’ from some well known upcountry monk, who, for just a few hundred baht will tattoo in a big fancy tiger or the what-not on yer body and you’ll soon be as powerful as the creature inbedded in yer skin. Just a few months ago, it was reported all over the press about the strange goings-on at one of the nation’s temples. It was reported that every one of the young lads who had recently got a ‘sacred animal tattoo’ from some monk there had terrifyingly started behaving like the tattoed animal itself. Golly-gosh! Some of the scenes almost had me in tears of laughter with all these fine lads, apparantly in some kind of hypnotic frenzy, running around the temples on all fours growling away at each other like intoxicated mad tigers. Up to your on belief but I for one will give that one a miss.

Then, we have the world-famous Nong Khai fireballs that amazingly just spring out of the Maekhong river on the last day of Buddhist Lent every year putting on a supposedly completely natural fireworks show. So incredible, that even a movie was made about this phenomenon just a couple of years back. Of course the locals have a lot of belief that it’s all true and darned sure its good for tourism but there have been quite a few sceptics too (as normal). Even one newspaper reporter who claimed that some of the fireballs were in fact gunshots from the Laotian side of the river was soon facing a lawsuit from the Nong Khai Authorities. In fact, it’s still a darned mystery and even most sceptics can’t work out ways on how to fake such a show. This was what the movie was about and perhaps some of it was true. As for me however, I’ll stay here and watch some fireworks show on Sanam Luang instead.

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What made him truly Thai?

A lot of popular Thai celebrities are half Thai, including actresses, models, singers, musicians, and athletes. The first year that I lived in Thailand, two international celebrities, who were both half Thai, visited the country. The Thai media made a very big deal out of these visits and the country was obviously proud of its “Thai children” who had achieved international success. I was talking to a coworker about one of these celebrities (a very well known athlete), who was half American/ half Thai. My coworker told me that when she lived in L.A. she used to go to the Thai temple and she often saw this guy at the temple before he became very, very famous. She went on to say that he was “truly Thai.” I found this very curious and asked how she could say that he was truly Thai when his father was American, he had never lived in Thailand, and he could barely speak the Thai language. I asked her, “What made him truly Thai?” She answered, “he feared his mother.”