Daily Archives: December 19, 2005

Mon Ami Mon

My Mon friend, RE, is finally free to go to Norway to join her daughter. And this must be the best ever new year she will be celebrating, in Oslo.

I first met RE in a guest house in SangkhlaBuri (in KanchanaBuri province bordering Burma) 2 years ago. RE, a Mon refugee, was the manager of the guesthouse. After many days of traveling in Thailand without able to speak to someone in English, I was surprised to note that RE has a good command of English. I was pleased that she could share with me about the going-on in Myanmar while I spoke about Malaysia and Singapore. Burma got independence from the British in 1948 with many racial issues unresolved. (On a side note, 1948 seems to be a not-so-auspicious year. Another example is the partitioning of Palestine which is still a big political problem to solve). RE resembled my late mother in look and character. Both are of small built but with strong determination and courage.

RE has a daughter, MI, who was about 20 years old then. Her father is an Indian Muslim and so is she. MI also spoke good English and has been attending some courses to prepare her for migration. I later found out the MI was RE’s adopted child.

As refugees, life is tough and I felt sorry for both of them. Malaysian got independent from British in 1957 but since then we have been lucky to have progressed rapidly in terms of economy with little natural or man-made disasters. I can’t image what my life will be had I been born in Burma. But like the Thais, the Mon wears their smiles despite of difficulties. What RE has was her daughter, an aged mother, a few old and worn-out English books and some good volunteer farang friends. On my return to Kuala Lumpur, I subscribed a year of Readers Digest from BKK for her to keep her abreast of the outside world.

We kept in touch with emails and telephone calls. Once she told me that a refugee family needed some financial help because the sole bread winner fell off from motorcycle and was hospitalized for months. I sent 2000 bahts into her account.

MI finally got accepted to Norway 1 year ago. A farang friend who worked for NGO in BKK came to Kuala Lumpur and I passed 100 Euros for MI. RE was upset that I gave MI money when she found out later. 100 Euros got MI a mobile phone to call the mother, I was told in email.

Early this year moved to BKK to work in a Language school. But she has to enter Thailand officially and legally to apply for the work permit. A passport was made and RE has to travel to ChiangMai to have her passport stamped in CNX airport. The plan is that if she works in BKK, she has to leave Thailand once every 3 months. I have offered my house in KUL or my daughter house in Singapore as her temporary refuge if there is a need. I met RE again in June 05 when I dropped by her office in Sukhumvit area.

In August 05, we got news that she was arrested in ChiangMai. Her email was not replied and mobile phone not answered. Emails among her cycle of friends were flying around from UK, Europe and Asia looking and asking about her whereabouts. After a few weeks, we found out she was safe. I was really worried as one of her sibling is wanted by the regime in Yangon.

Her friends in volunteer organization operating in Thai Burma border have all the while trying to get her into Norway or UK. Last month, she was finally offered a 3-month Visa to visit her daughter in Norway.

We spoke on the phone before she left and I could hear her tears as we spoke. I got an email last week from MI that she and the mother has been united in Oslo. They are finally FREE. Although it is unlikely that I will ever see RE again but I am happy not being able to see her, in sorrow.

Siam Ocean World

On Sunday, I went into Bangkok to visit the newly opened Siam Paragon shopping mall. In particular, I wanted to see the much publicized Siam Ocean World which is supposed to be the biggest in South-East Asia. My previous experience of a large aquarium was at Underwater World in Singapore. I was curious to see whether this new tourist attraction could live up to their claims. In brochures, they say that they have 30,000 marine animals and 400 species. This is a lot as the one in Singapore apparently has only 2500 marine animals. Even the new Underwater World in Pattaya has more as it has 4000 marine animals.

Before I arrived, I wasn’t too sure how popular Siam Ocean World would be. The price is relatively expensive at 450 baht for adults and 280 baht for children. There isn’t a foreigners price which makes me really appreciative. Two thumbs up from me. However, I now feel sorry for local Thai people who won’t have an opportunity to experience Ocean World because of the price. Maybe they could do a discount for Thai people? (Woops! It looks like I am suggesting a two priced system! I’d better retract that before anyone gets any ideas.) Underwater World in Pattaya is cheaper at 360 baht. However, I am boycotting that place as they have a two-priced system. Thai people are only 180 baht there. Funny that I’d rather pay more money to go to Siam Ocean World only because it charges Thais and foreigners the same price.

At the ticket office there were no queues at all. I went straight up to the cashier. She gave me a brochure in English and I then entered the aquarium. The place was packed! There were so many people that I had difficulty in approaching any of the glass windows. I was really surprised. There must be more affluent Thai people than I first thought. I had seen a report in the papers recently that speculated that 20% of visitors would be foreigners. I laughed and said it would be far more. I was wrong. The majority were indeed Thai people with their families.

Siam Ocean World takes up two floors in the basement of Siam Paragon. According to my map, the journey took me through seven different zones: Weird and Wonderful, Open Ocean, Deep Reef, Rainforest, Rocky Shore, Living Ocean, and Sea Jellies. Some of the marine animals that could be seen included: Seals, Blue Ringed Octopus, Ragged-tooth sharks, Stingrays, Leafly Sea Dragons, and Giant Spider Crabs.

It is very difficult for me to compare this to Underwater World in Singapore. I was last there quite a few years ago. A visiting friend from Singapore told me that Ocean World here in Bangkok is far better. That could be true. There was certainly plenty to see and do. Apart from gazing at the fish as they swam by, you could also look up information about the marine animals on various computers. There was also opportunities to see sharks being fed (1.30 p.m. and 5.30 p.m.), and have lectures in amphitheaters about the different fish you could see. At one place, you could ask questions to a diver on the other side of the thick glass (see top picture).

The highlight of any visit to an aquarium these days is the glass tunnel. As you walk down the tunnel you are surrounded on three sides by sharks, stingrays and schools of fish. I must admit I was a little disappointed at first. In the first part of the tunnel the water was brightly lit from above. This was for the benefit of the people who had paid an extra 150 baht to have a ride on a glass-bottom boat. All good for them but it made it difficult for us to see. However, a bit further on it was far more impressive. Though I am thinking that Underwater World in Singapore had more fish swimming around. I remember being impressed by the stingrays and sharks swimming above my head. Not so many here. Also, at Singapore they had a 83-metre-long moving travelator which made it easier for you to have un-obstructed views. The tunnel here seemed shorter as it was over all too soon. Though, of course, you could fight the crowds and walk back to do it again.

In conclusion, I would suggest you make a visit to Siam Ocean World if you are in Bangkok. The location is convenient (you can walk straight in from Siam Square sky train station). When you have finished you can then go shopping or eat in the large food court. You can easily spend a couple of hours here.

UPDATE: Siam Ocean World in Bangkok has now gone down the road of a two price system. I said before that 450 baht was relatively expensive for a tourist attraction in Bangkok. It is now a whopping 850 baht for foreign adults. 650 baht for foreign children. This is NOT worth the price any more. I suggest you stay clear.


Selamat Pati and Sawasdee Everyone!

I have been a member of Thai-blogs for a while, but due to my laziness, this is my first blog ever! I have been living in the UK for the past few years, and just escaped the wet winter for my project in sunny Southeast Asia.

I am a puppeteer, and “Dalang” is a Java-Malay name for what I do. A Dalang live his life by telling story from the past, the present as well as the future in order to connect people wih their roots, with one another and with their humanity. This is what I could contribute to this Thai-blogs.

When people speak of Siamese/Thai culture, they often left out its connection with the Java-Malay culture. In fact, the Java-Malay influences have embedded in Siamese/Thai culture (food, costumes, music, theatre). Dalang is also the name of the 17th century Ayudhaya literature based on the story told to two Ayudhaya princesses by a lady-in-waiting from the kingdom of Patani. For centuries the love story of Raten (Prince) Inao and Ratu (Princess) Busaba has inspired many Siamese writers, musicians as well as painters. Many Java-Malay words still exist in modern Siamese/Thai such as Bu-nga (flower), Bulan (moon), Bu-nga Rampei (potpourri) or Likey. The name of places (especially BKK and surrounding area) are also of Java-Malay origin.

The modern Thais are related to the Javanese and the Malay as much as they are to the Laotian and the Tai/Dai. Even the royalties are of no exemption. One of the wives of Rama II was a grand daughter of Sultan Sulaiman of Singora (Songkla). Sulaiman himself was a Javanese of Persian origin who fled the 16th century Javanese-Dutch war. He founded the sultanate of Singora and probably married the local Malay from Patani kingdom. His great grand daughter was Chao Chom Manda (princess mother) Riem, whose legendary Massaman Curry inspired Rama II to compose a poem for the royal barge procession. Chao Chom Manda Riem was the mother of Rama III. Her cousin, Pranang Rampei (Queen Thepsirindra) was also Rama IV’s wife and King Chulalongkorn’s mother.

This is a short introduction of myself and the story connected to my blogger name.

Siamese Cats Club

Driving to Amphawa District , you will find “Baan of Siamese Cats”. This place is very interesting for cat-lover especially Siamese Cat.

We had a chance to visit Siamese Cat Club where also locates in Samutsongkram province. The fee depends on your donation for cat food. Mr. Preecha Pookkhabutr is the owner is the cat-lover and he is the founder of the Siamese Cat Society. He will be your host and educate you about Siamese Cats. There are more than 80 cats for you to explore but you have to stand with the unpleasant smell.

He educated us about the significant characteristics of various types of Siamese cats. His inspiration is educating people to know about Siamese cats such as “Vichienmas Cat”, which most of Thai people call it as “Bluish Gary Cat” or “The nine-point cat”, which impact the information about Siamese cats. He thinks people should be educated about the proper names of these cats.

There are 23 species of Siamese cats: 6 are unlucky cats which traditional Thai people recorded on the leaf of Urticaceae, which indicates that those unlucky cats should be release and forbidden to have them as pet; 17 types of cat are lucky cat, which their origin are from Ayudhaya Era such as “Vichienmas”, “Nilrat”, “Wilas”, “Supaluck”, “Khaow Manee”, “Kon Ja”, “Karawek” and so on. At present, there are only 5 of them left to see i.e. “Vichienmas”, “Supaluck”, “Kon Ja”, “Korat Cat” and Khaow Manee”.

Thai belief on lucky cat is Traditional Thai prefer to raise these 17 types of lucky cats so that they will support the owner’s progression – career, famous and financial status. Most of the owners were the noblemen who aimed to get higher rank in government hierarchy. In ancient time, there was no any civil/ people to have an opportunity to raise these cats owing to the very expensive price and very rare to find. Thus, most of the 17-lucky cats were raised only inside palace.

The reason of extinction of Siamese cats began on BE. 2310 since Burma attacked Siam in second time. Burmese knew that the price of the cats were very expensive so they took the cats with them to Burma. However, cats’ nature is “home-lover” so the cats tried to get back to their homeland but it is very long distant to get back and finally they died and extinct.

The significant feature of “Vichienmas” cat (Seal Point) –having bright blue eyes, cream color and will be more intense when the cat grows. It is very famous among cat-lovers. It costs approximately 5,000-6,000 baht.

The original source of Korat Cat or Bluish Gray Cay is Korat or Nakorn Ratchasima province. Traditional Thai prefer to use this kind of cat for the raining begging ceremony. People believe that Korat Cat will bring lucks to the cat’s owner. Korat cat’s features are greenish eyes and color of its hair is cloud-like color.

Konja Cat of Black Cat, it will have no any white color on it. It has yellow eyes, which look like a color of blooming lotus

If you want more information about Siamese Cats, please do not hesitate to visit Uncle Preecha at Amphawa District or call him at + (66) 034 733 284 everyday.