Monthly Archives: January 2006

Karen People

Karen children wearing multiple brass rings around their necks pose at a village near Mae Hong Son province, north of Bangkok, Thailand January 30, 2006. These Karens are refugees who have been settling in Thailand for more than 12 years due to the political situation in Myanmar. As refugees, they are unable to work legally in Thailand. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

King Naresuan the Great

One of Thailand’s greatest heroes was King Naresuan, the warrior king. When he was only nine years old, he was handed over to the Burmese as a kind of hostage when his father lost a battle. It was traditional in those days to do this in order to keep the defeated subdued. Young Naresuan spent most of his informative years in Burma where his likeable personality and excellent fighting skills made him a favourite of the Burmese king. However, Naresuan never forgot his Thai roots. When an opportunity arose, he returned to Thailand where he declared independence from the Burmese. After a series of battles the final showdown came in Suphan Buri on January 25th, 1592. King Naresuan, who was sitting atop a war elephant, spotted the Crown Prince of Burma. They had been childhood friends. Both elephants charged towards each other. After several minutes of hand-to-hand combat, the Crown Prince was fatally stabbed with a lance. With their leader dead, the Burmese troops retreated and didn’t return to Thailand for a very long time.

This day is now known as National Armed Forces day and the event is celebrated every year in Don Chedi for just over a week. On Saturday I went up to Suphan Buri to meet Steve and his good wife. He showed us around his fine city and then took us to the fair in nearby Don Chedi. The place was packed with thousands of people. It was much like the temple fair we have here in Samut Prakan every year. Apart from all the food stalls, there were Thai dancing shows, singing, likay and boxing. However, the highlight was certainly the light and sound show which recounted the life of King Naresuan. This culminated with the spectacular elephant battle which you can see in my photograph at the top. It was certainly an impressive event and only cost us 100 baht each ($2.50).

Over the weekend I did visit a few tourist attractions in Suphanburi and I will tell you about these later. Strangely, you won’t find this province mentioned in the Lonely Planet. Yet another oversight as we saw some pretty amazing stuff. However, hats off to Carl Parkes, a regular visitor to our blogs, as we took along his Moon Publications guidebook to Thailand. He had several pages on this province which helped us greatly. Thank you Carl.

Old Patong:Our first trip from Patong Beach

Superman, Erik The Red and Michelle of Patong at Lenas hut Kata Noi.
Note the little hut/bungalows on the side of the steep hill behind us,
they were the ONLY accomadations in Kata Noi at the time!

Acquiring the Spirit Of Patong really opened new territories for us!

It was rare that I ever got on the Baht bus, Patong Patty would go into Phuket town every few weeks, mostly to shop for arms full of orchids at the big open market there.

After getting the scooter with sidecar, we ventured over the big hills that separated Ao Patong from the rest of the Phuket Island. In those days, there was only one road in, a few “dirt-bike only” trails went north to Ao Kamala or south to Karon Beach, but our little scooter was just a Honda Lead, with a sidecar made from the droptank of an old F86/F100 jet and it wasn’t really made to carry the extra weight of the sidecar & a passenger, but it was just right for us.

It was just powerful enough to barely make it over the steep hills between Patong Beach & Kathu, sometimes with Patong Patty jumping out as the centrifrugical clutch on the Lead started to whine, she’d often simply ease her legs over the side, standing up and giving the scooter a wee shove that was just enough to help it power up enough rpm’s to gain the crest of the hill, where I would wait for Patty to jump back in and hold on tight as we’d race down each hill.

The scooter being so gutless was actually a blessing, we rarely got up enough speed to get into trouble, only occasionally jamming on the brakes to avoid any and all of the following;

pedestrians having to immediately cross in front of a moving vehicle
water buffalo[s]
snakes[not ONE day went by that we didn’t see something slithering across ALL roads we were on]

and of course, ALL larger vehicles, which was everyone on the road!

especially other motorcycles…

We had been in a few rented jeep-like vehicles, to Naiharn beach and Kata and even little ideal Kata Noi, but this was our first trip with just the two of us and we were so excited!

Locals, especially children would giggle, smile and clap their hands when they got the first glimpse of the Spirit Of Patong. Funny how something as simple as a scooter with a sidecar, in a land where many contraptions were bolted onto motorcycles was so pleasant for all that saw it!

The scooter had no “gears”, but an automatic clutch, so we had to be careful going down those steep hills too!!

I rode the breaks slowly descending the steeper hills or dirt paths, sometimes Patong Patty would get out and grab ahold of the back of the scooter, acting as a human brake! We never crashed, but sometimes slide down a dirt path that a bike with a clutch would have just eased on by.

Anyway, we made it over the big hills, turned south just before Phuket town[it was still a bit scary for me to drive on the left side of the road, but I would just pull off if too many big trucks or buses were coming at us], towards Chalong Junction, where the road would go to Kata Beach or south to the gypsy village of Rawai and then west to beautiful Naiharn Beach.

At the junction, we stopped by the big Wat Chalong, although there was a Wat in Patong, we never seemed to go there, but seeing the golden spires of Wat Chalong, it seemed to pull us in automatically.

Being dressed for the beach, we naturally didn’t go into any buildings,etc, but met a young man there riding an arm powered tricycle! This hand cycle really appealed to me, we quickly swapped bikes, he riding our scooter all over the Wat grounds, while I tried to get his trike moving by arm power.

At the time, I was extremely strong, my arms and shoulders full of muscle from years of pushing wheelchair racing and basketball and walking with forearm crutches, but this young guy we met, maybe in his early 20’s had twice my strength, easily moving his hand powered trike with ease, something that I managed to barely get it moving!

After getting back on our bikes, we bid him ad eau, wai’ing and we headed towards Kata Beach.

There was another steep hill just before Kata, but it wasn’t like the big hills sheltering Patong Beach, the scooter made it up without a worry and we were able to look down at Kata Yai and see all the way north to Karon Beach too!

There was only a small village in Kata in those days, a few bungalows near the south end of the bay, we had lunch there, then went over the steep little dirt track just to the south to the ever scenic Kata Noi.

We had a greenspot at Lenas little shake, the only place on the entire bay then and headed back up the dirt path and home to Old Patong.

The day had been full of excitement and fun for both of us! We washed off the bugs from both the trike and ourselves and were quite sunburned and tired. We learned to wear hats AND sunblock after this trip!

Chinese New Year

Today saw the start of the Chinese New Year. It is on days like these that you clearly see how many Thai people have Chinese ancestors. A lot. Just walk around the market area of Paknam and you will see many of the smaller shops closed for the holiday. It is fair to say Chinese people are very hard workers and this is the only time you will see the shutters of these shops closed during the day. For many people in Thailand, this weekend was dominated with the sound of firecrackers. These are extremely loud and are supposed to scare off evil spirits. I would think they did a  pretty good job.

I took these pictures this morning at a Chinese shrine in Suphan Buri (a couple of hours north of Bangkok). The place was packed. There must have been a thousand people. Judging by the number plates of cars in the car park, this must be a pretty important shrine as some people had travelled far to get here. We weren’t the only ones with Bangkok number plates. I didn’t get a chance to enter the building itself as there were so many people in the forecourt shrine. The air was chokingly thick with incense smoke. Not altogether unpleasant. People lit their big bunch of incense and then walked to the shrine with the sticks held up high. The tables in front of the shrine was jam packed with a feast fit for a king – or in this case, for gods and dead ancestors.


In The Nation newspaper this morning they had a few do’s and don’t for the Chinese New Year. I want to share a few with you:

  • Wear new clothes, preferably red.
  • Give red envelopes containing money to children.
  • Keep your rice bucket fall as it symbolises abundance in the coming year
  • Don’t wash your hair or sweep the floor as you might sweep/wash away your good luck.
  • Don’t use or carry sharp object as these will pierce any good fortune coming your way.
  • Don’t talk loudly, speak badly, say the number four  or mention death.
  • Don’t drop your chopsticks or break things.
  • Don’t borrow or lend money

A happy new year to everyone. See you at the next new year celebrations which is coming very soon!

When he was still young…

“You watched “Long Kong?!”
“YEAH!! So scary and disgusting!! Blood everywhere!”
“Aww.. I wasn’t brave enough to watch it, really”
That was one day after school when my friends and I were about to go home, one friend asked about a movie called Long Kong, and we discussed about it. Well, Long in Thai is “to try” and Kong is an “Art of the Devil.” It’s something about black magic such as Thai people have believed in since old times. I’ve heard and been skeptical about it for a long time already like..if it’s true or not ~ until…
“I never watch that movie but I have real story to share! Wanna know?” one of my friends said.
I didn’t want to at first coz I was quite scared to hear but I was also curious so I listened…
“Actually, it’s something that happened to my father and his friends. They were still young that time ~ like College guys, ya know?”
“One summer, they planned to enjoy a vacation al-together. They decided to go to take some adventure in a jungle somewhere west. They walked during the day and slept in abandoned cottages at night.”
“One night at one old old cottage, they were exhausted and couldn’t walk any further to find another better one so they got in and prepare to sleep.”

“One friend already slept coz he was completely dead tired but my father and another friend still had energy left to talk about that day a little.”
“While talking, my father glanced at the wall behind his friend and saw some kind of cabalistic writing so he told his friend to look at it, too.”
“Somehow, both of them looked at each other in the eyes and laughed for some reasons.. like they understood each other what to do with that writing.”
“My father went to his bag right away to find a pen..
Then he came back to his friend with a blue-inked pen in his hand.”
“His friend quickly took of his belt and pulled his trousers down a little ~ But not just that, he also pulled down his underwear and grabbed his penis close to my father.”

We all had our eyebrows knot..
“I know I know ~ it’s not what you guys think, c’mon!! My dad got married with my mum!! He’s not a gay!”
We smiled a little and got back to the look of curiosity once again..
She continued the story,
“My dad started to draw those writings on his friend’s johnson and laughed crazily….
Suddenly, the friend who already fell asleep had his eyes opened! He walked quickly to my dad and strangled him hard. My dad said that time he thought he was gonna die.. he really couldn’t breathe and couldn’t resist his friend’s strength.”
“The half-naked friend then pushed that strangling friend away and shaked him hard..’BE AWAKE!!! WE ARE YOUR FRIEND!!! BUT IF YOU ARE NOT OUR FRIEND~ GET OUT OF OUR FRIEND NOW!!!'”

He kept on shaking more and more.. and went to wash his johnson.

“That friend let my dad go at last ~ his friend fell onto the floor and passed out for a minute. Then my dad prayed to apologize to whoever it was that huanted his friend and they left that place early in the next morning.That’s all.”

– – I got shocked a little after hearing that.. it was true ~ it was real and it was way scary. However, that friend might just had such a nightmare, which made him do that.. but whatever reason it was, I think I now learn to respect everywhere I go and everyone I see and don’t see… Don’t you?!