Daily Archives: May 12, 2006

Superstars & Sizzling Scandals

Now, the Thais have many loves; playing the lottery, watching TV soap operas, eating Somtum, jumping the queue at 7/11, gambling on the football, watching slap-stick comedy – but it could be argued that the national obsession with ‘superstars & scandals’ tops the list!

Pick up any old Thai newspaper these days and you can be sure to find the face of some scandalous superstar plastered across the front page. As for any serious international story – that can be found in the bottom corner somewhere at the back squeezed under an advertisement for anti-zit lotion.

Perhaps I’ve been here too long, as even I can be found scanning the press for the latest scandals! So, for all yous foreign readers who would like to know just what half the Thai population talks about all day, here today is a blog on just some of the most recent hottest scandals to hit the national newspapers.

(Beautiful File Foto of Kathleeya. Once Loved…….now loathed)

Let’s start with the biggest scandalous story of the past few months – Kathleeya Mac Intosh (Mem). Not just a mediocre TV presenter/actress, Kathleeya (boyfriendless) was a mega popular role-model for the country’s young girls. An idol for millions, she was glorified on TV and in the press as the ‘most decent Thai girl’ of the decade! She could arguably have been (still is) one the nation’s most influential women. So, what the heck did she do, to suddenly turn herself into one of the country’s most loathed woman in such a short spate of time? Here is the story.

Late last year, the nation’s folks weren’t so daft not too notice that Kathleeya was getting bigger and bigger by the day. Within no time at all the newspapers were full of gossip along the lines of ‘Kathleeya is Pregnant!’ Now, what a scandalous thing to even think, Katheelaya here, was the most perfect proper Thai girl in the history of Thai TV. Not long passed, and Katheelaya was on the TV blaming her weight on new medicine she had been taking and “No”, she told her millions of fans “Goodness gracious, me pregnant? absolutely no way!” On top of this, her family and best friends also got onto the steam-wagon and were seen on endless TV chat shows, ridiculing these myths. Time went past and one day to the shock of the nation, Katheelya in tears told the media “I’ve just found out that I am 5 months pregnant, Im so sorry – I didn’t know til this morning!” Of course, the audiences weren’t so stupid to believe such an excuse and she gained millions of enemies overnight. Lie – No. 1

Lie – No. 2: Just 2 months after she told the nation that she was 5 months pregnant, she flew out to California and gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. By now, her boyfriend, some super-rich Thai businessman, is also in the news with an array of excuses to why they had a baby outside of marriage! What a terrible thing – so un-Thai! Anyway, it all ends happily, and just last week Katheelaya and her boyfriend got married in pompous ceremony.

(‘Film’ Ratthaphum – just a nice friend or …..just a gigolo?)

Then, we have the scandal surrounding one of Thailand’s most popular singing superstars – Rathaphum (Film) who is also nominated for the ‘Biggest Bunch of Lies’ of the year award! It all started a few months back, when one of the local newspapers posted headlines along the lines of …… ‘Rathaphum (Film) suckered millions of baht from his former gay lover!’. Flabbergasted and disgusted at such headlines, Mr ‘Film’ is soon on the TV dismissing such rumours, Lie – No 1 “I don’t even know this man – never seen him in my entire life!” Anyway, the man in the story, another big business is soon on the TV and all over the newspapers admitting that he had given millions of baht worth of gifts to ‘Film’ before he made it famous. Such gifts included a couple of fancy cars and a spanking house! And “No” they weren’t actually gay lovers but just very close friends. He was darned angry with Film, and claimed that after Film had struck in lucky in the world of stardom he completely ignored his once very generous friend.

Lie – No 2, Film goes on to say “Ok I told a white lie, I did know him, but it is a scandal for him to report that he spent 7 million baht on me – he is a darned liar!” Unfortunately for Film however, his old friend had collected together all the receipts and loadsa fotos of all the gifts and was soon in front of the camera showing off the ‘proof’. There was no lie number three and ‘Film’ has done his best to stay out the limelight since.

Next, we have the story of one of Thailand’s most famous rock stars – ‘Mr Dag’ from the rock group ‘Big Ass’ (What kinda name is that!?) It hit the media’s attention that there was currently a young 16 year-old girl under the care of politician and head of Thailand’s ‘Woman and Girl Rights’ association – Paweena Hongsakul. The poor 16 year-old mother claimed that Mr Dag was the father of her newly born toddler! How scandalous, Mr Dag already had a serious girlfriend – wouldn’t been seen dead messing around with a 15 year-old! Now, Mr Dag never denied getting up to any naughty hanky-panky with the schoolgirl, but he did deny that the child was his. To get the truth of the matter, both sides called for DNA testing. Biggest headlines in the newspapers, just this week, were “DNA testing, proves Negative – Mr Big Ass himself…. is innocent!”

(Mr Dag and his buddies – hoping for no more girls’ school concerts)

Then, just two nights ago on the TV, on a late night chat show, was an interview with the girl. She had this to this “I want a new round of DNA testing, this is dreadful – impossible, Mr Dag is the father, I never played around with any other guy”. For now anyway, it looks like Mr Dag is off the hook, and Paweena Hongsakul could get herself into trouble once more for helping to fabricate some story! (Hong Kong Reporter & Paweena – was a pathetic scandal for a later blog!)

Just like in the world of entertainment in Farangland, it is a fact that some folks use the stardom of others to benefit their own careers. The juicy scandal lately concerning mega Asian pop star Thai/American Tata Young and her supposed half-sister reads very suspect….to say the least. It came to the attention of the media a couple of months back that a 16 year-old girl named ‘Sai’ had gone missing in Pattaya – her mother had filed a disappearance report with the police. A few days later the girl mysteriously reappears to the delight of the nation.

Next, when being asked fervently by the media to the likes of “Who is your father?” she bursts into tears and says “The same one as Tata Young’s”. The mother claimed that she had never told Tata’s father – ‘Mr. Tim Young’ that she had given birth to his child! As for the young girl, already 16, she is again balling her eyes out on the TV saying “I just want Tata’s father to financially help me and mother and accept the fact that he has another daughter outside of wedlock”. Sounds rather suspicious right! I mean, how come it took 16 years for the daughter and mother to come to the conclusion that they needed the father’s cash. What is even more suspicious, is the fact that this girl had spent the past year attempting to enter the world of modeling….but to no avail.

After all the media attention though, she has…..not surprisingly just won a couple of nice contracts! Perhaps, her and her mother shan’t be needing Tata’s dad’s cash after all. As for the Tim Young, he fled the cameras and flew off to The States.

Other hot sandals of the past year include a superstar having her naughty homemade movie circulated on the Internet and every market in the land. Another got sentenced for ten years behind bars for dealing in drugs and of course lots more…….juicy stories concerning that delinquent hip-hop star – Joey Boy. Anyway, it is wise to keep such sordid stories for another less family-orientated website!

I look forward to more new scandals soon…….

Portraits of Bangkok

Bangkok perhaps is the most photographed city in the world and many of these photos are in the internet in high resolution as well as in large size.

One group of photographs I find interesting is the panorama. Tom Riddle has in his site photos which cover the whole expanse of Siam Square to Mochit BTS Sky train station. In this photo you could see with clarity the National Stadium, MBK Shopping Complex, Siam Discovery centre and the unending run of the sky train. The serpentine curve at Victory Monument is clearly registered.

There is another panorama shot in a different web site where the area covered is the whole of Sukhumvit road from Vibhavadi Rangsit road to Phya Thai Road and Siam Square. The buildings recognisable with clarity are Ambassador Hotel (though small,with its unique circular structure)Landmark Hotel, Amari Boulevard Hotel, the Sheraton and Marriott Hotel, and further to the right Gaysorn Plaza, Anorma Hotel. Hyatt Erawan, Central World Plaza and Amari Watergate etc.

Every small Hotel, lane or by lane is captured. One has a feeling of being there. In case of photographs of restaurants, one could almost smell the food.

Another interesting feature is the documentation of change through these photographs. The single most interesting example being the demolition of Siam Intercontinental Hotel. You could first see the unique structure of the trapezium shaped roof of Siam Intercontinental in one snap (the roof was slanting and maroon-coloured), then, in another, the razed ground of its premises overlooking the Baiyoke towers, Amari Watergate, and the Double Diamond Towers. A temple complex to its right gives the snaps a sense of history. Now Siam Paragon has come up on the old site.

Baiyoke Tower has given photographers a sky-high vantage point. I have seen a panorama image of the Don Muang Express Way overtaking Central Plaza, Ladprao. This photograph has been taken from Vibhavadi Tower. As if the sky view were not enough, we have now Google Earth, which makes the Bangkok landscape more familiar. In one site I have seen soi 7 Sukhumvit with the outline of Amarii Boulevard.

Next perhaps we would be having real time cameras placed at MBK intersection or in every small restaurant like Peppermill or Beer garden. One could decide to go to these places when they would look most appetising.

Even the humble cottages with tin or GIC roof by the klongs beckon us with life.

Coming To Grips With Thai Buddhism

Inviting the monks home

When I paid my first visit to the Kingdom in 1977, I had a basic understanding that Thailand was a Buddhist nation. It was an understanding similar to my understanding that the first Atomic Bomb had something to do with uranium – in other words the harsh reality was that I knew nothing.

Of course there was no problem in that ignorance. Thais in general then as they are now are fairly easy about Farang indifference to their religion. This possibly has something to do with one of the great tenets of all schools of Buddhism, which is that proselytizing is frowned on. Of course Thais tend to be pleased when foreigners express an interest in Buddhism, but conversely can be dismayed at the sight of Farangs pointing their feet or treating Buddha images with disrespect. The stories of ignorant foreigners sitting on Buddha images and copping the full wrath of the law are legendry.

Now of course whilst to many foreigners, Buddhism in Thailand is just a colourful backdrop to their holiday in Thailand (and lets face it – Buddhist Temples and Monks have launched millions of beautiful photographs) other Farang’s have discovered that it is an opening window on Thai culture.


But in looking through this window many Farang including myself have sometimes ended up confused and scratching our heads. The growing influence of Buddhism has been one of the success stories in the west over the past 30 years. It has come about on one hand by the rejection of a materialistic explanation of life and at the other pole the rejection of an explanation of life based purely on faith. The emphasis in Buddhism on not accepting anything purely on faith and where the path in many respects is more important than the destination has a direct appeal to many westerners.

But once in the Kingdom the budding western practitioner of Buddhism occasionally will hit the confusion wall. He/She may have concluded that Buddhism is the great contemplative religion but subsequently is confronted by a devoutly Buddhist country that is highly intuitive but without a great deal of empathy with the contemplative path. In short Buddhism and its practice in Thailand tends to more felt than thought about.


What does the still interested Farang practitioner do in these circumstances? How to deal with animist practice and the not to occasional sight of sloth in the Sangha. Not only this but also the difficult path of understanding Merit making without out at times finding it a tad mercenary. My observation and solution is not to sweat it but rather in trying to see things from a Thai perspective. Just appreciating the enjoyment and spiritual fulfillment that Thais get from their living religion can be very enriching.

When I journey to the Kingdom, I now look forward to attending ordinations, Kathin and other ceremonies not only for their spiritual significance but also for the simple enjoyment of just being there.

The great paradox in my view is that whilst Thais have a great feel for Buddhism they quite often try to explain Buddhism to foreigners rather then give them room to feel it. Hence the sometimes fierce boredom of organised tours of Thai temples. I saw a classic example of this last year – not in Thailand but in neighbouring Laos but I hope the example is still valid.

As mentioned in a previous Blog, Luang Prabang is a stunningly beautiful town of 36 Temples. We visited many of these temples and were entranced by their beauty. At one temple we came across an organised party of about 30 French tourists. Although some of the tour party was attentive, the rest of their compatriots were quite frankly “templed” out. Several of the party remained outside of the temple having a smoke, whilst inside I saw a French woman sitting on the floor against a pillar, her mouth agape and gently snoring in the still warmth of the temple.

Today I still believe that their attitude would have been different if they were allowed the space to simply take in the beauty of the temples that they visited rather than instead being lectured about that same quality.

But no matter how well a Farang can learn to appreciate the Thai feel of Buddhism there will be times where an “East is East and West is west “ situation comes about. An example. About four years ago a village friend called Sahm was driving us back down to Bangkok. Sahm knows his way around Thailand the same way an experienced Taxi driver knows every street in London. As it was just outside the airport and on our way he asked whether we would like to visit the controversial Wat Dhammakaya with its famous/infamous golden “flying saucer” temple. We agreed.

Once at the boundary of the temple Farang and Thai soon parted company (culturally at least). My disquiet with the place started to grow from the moment uniformed guards made me surrender my video camera. Inside the temple complex I found the eerie quiet unsettling. The huge and somewhat crude Sala (as big as an airport terminal) that was being constructed with the wind howling through it was weird. Sahm on the other hand was entranced by the place – throughout the two hours that we were there, I was to hear him say repeatedly – “Big”, “Big”.

At the end of the day we were just two average Blokes – One Thai the other Australian, but we both observed in our minds two totally different temples. Who was right?

But in many ways Wat Dhammakaya was an exception in my experience of Thai Buddhism and over time have learned to accept what I perceive to be some of the idiosyncrasies of its practice in the Kingdom.


But getting back to the feel. I can remember a few golden hours that I once spent in the grounds of the Temple in the village of Ban Phutsa in Isaan. A cousin of Mali’s who had left the village a few years before had come back for a visit. He wanted to visit one of the village monks who was a childhood friend. We walked down to the Temple in the cool of the afternoon. Monk and friend were reunited and sat on the steps of the temple Sala yarning and smoking fat hand rolled cigarettes. I spent most of the time strolling the grounds of the temple and enjoying the beautiful sunset.

Finally it was time to go. The monk had walked back into the Sala and returned with a bunch of bananas, which he gave to me to take back to the house.

I don’t know what prompted the gift but I deeply appreciated the generosity and above all, its warmth.