Monthly Archives: June 2006

Level of Service in Thailand

After you have been in Thailand for a while, there are some things you start to forget about your homecountry. Things like the level of service given to you at petrol stations. I just take it all for granted these days. As I drive into a petrol station, someone usually leaps up from his seat and waves me to a particular pump. He then comes to my window and stands smartly at attention while he waits for me to wind down the window. I tell him which petrol and how much. He bows and then goes off to fill up my car. Another guy then comes and asks if I want him to empty my rubbish bin. He will also clean the windscreen or check the tyre pressure. When I drive away, they will stand to the attention by my door and bow or wai. All of this is part of the service. You come to expect this and don’t really pay much attention. And on the days when I don’t get 2 or 3 guys fussing around my car, I smile and say to myself, “It is not like it was as in the old days”. Now, I am not talking about the 1950’s. As that is probably how far you have to go back in America before you see that kind of service. It does still happen here in Thailand. It just isn’t as common as it used to be.

A few weeks ago, I was coming back from a trip with some FOBs (fresh off the boat). I stopped at one of my local petrol stations as I needed to get my car washed. Now, back in the UK I would never do things like that. Why waste money when you could wash the car yourself? But, this is Thailand and things are different. The car wash is automated. You drive up onto a kind of conveyor belt and are taken along for various washes and a blow dry at the end. Well, before I even started, two guys came up and started soaping the car down and using a high pressure hose to remove some of the dirt. They were soon joined by a third person. One of the FOBs speculated aloud that this was going to be expensive. I said “wait and see”.  A short while later I was up on the conveyor belt and the car was having a thorough wash and blow dry. At the far end we were waved into a parking spot where four new people started to wipe and clean the car. I told the FOBs to get out of the car so that the cleaners could wipe inside and also shake out the mats. So, how much was all of this? Surprisingly for so much service, it only cost 50 baht. That is about $1.30.

I know prices are bound to go up in time, but I just hope that one thing that won’t change is the level of service here. That is one thing that makes Thailand so special.

The Festival Of Phimai

The Isaan town of Phimai is situated about a forty-five minute drive north of the Provincial capital of Nakhonratchasima. It’s a quiet unassuming little town (mind you – the modern traffic has become particularly fierce) and in terms of landmarks has only two real calls to fame.


The first is the Sai Ngam “Beautiful Banyan” tree on the outskirts of Town. The second and most important landmark is Prasad Hin Phimai, which is an Angkor period monument situated in the middle of the town. Its style of architecture is similar and of the same era as other monuments in the region, namely Phanom Rung Hill in Buriram province and Khao Phra Vihaan on the border with Cambodia.

Although for most of the year Phimai is a fairly quiet rural backwater, it comes to life for five days each November when the “Festival of Phimai” is celebrated. During the five days, the normally busy but in the main quiet town is dominated by thousands of visitors both locals and the others from all across the country.

People gather to eat and drink, shop for handicrafts in the many markets that spring up in the town and in the main just let their hair down. The two centre point events during the festival are the sound and light show of ‘Vimainatthakarn’ at Prasad Hin Phimai and the longtail boat races on the Mun River.


Although I have always felt that Prasad Hin Phimai suffers by its domination by the town (much the same way the Allied War Cemetery is dominated by Kanchanaburi) it is in turn a superb location for the sound and light show. It highlights the restoration of the monument that was carried out about twenty years ago which was I am told initiated by her Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

The sound and life show, which is shown over three consecutive nights, is extremely professional and highlights the Khmer heritage from this part of the Kingdom. A mixture of classical dance, music and of course techno light takes the audience back in time. Again it’s the monument that really makes it work, together with the fact that due to their proximity the audience can intimately take in all the action.



Whilst the sound and light show satisfies the cultural aspect of the Festival, the longtail boat races on the Mun river meets the “fun” side of the five day event. The races are held by local and out of town teams who compete for a prize. Although its in the main a fun event, the boat teams still take the events seriously with many teams praying and lighting incense between races.


The backdrop to the races is a cacophony of sound from hundreds of people supporting their local teams, betting on the outcomes and with loud bands all helped on their way by a ‘Jumbo Jet” sized sound system. All in all a fun day out.

Although it probably sounds like a value judgment to say that the “Festival Of Phimai” doesn’t have the scope or sophistication of say a similar event in Sukkothai, it still highlights the historical importance of Phimai and how Isaan is gradually becoming a serious tourist destination.


Thailand Google Earth Quiz

Where is this?

I have talked about the wonderful program called Google Earth a number of times. In early June, this free program had a major upgrade and now shows the names of all provinces in Thailand as well as many place names. This now makes it much easier to identify landmarks as you fly around Thailand. Google Earth is not only a good tool for armchair tourists, but also for geography students. That is why we have started to use it at our school to educate our Thai students about famous and important places in Thailand. I have created a number of different quizzes for them to download and open in the Google Earth program. The first quizzes are for the junior students and just ask the simple question “What is this?”. The idea is to train the students to recognize objects from space. For example: temples, bridges, football stadiums etc. Other quizzes are more specific and ask for the name of each location.

Learn to recognize objects

What is this? 01 – recognize these objects from space
What is this? 02 – recognize these objects from space

Test your knowledge about Bangkok

Bangkok Quiz 01 – Grand Palace area of Bangkok
Bangkok Quiz 02 – Dusit area of Bangkok

Test your knowledge about Samut Prakan

Samut Prakan Quiz 01
Samut Prakan Quiz 02

You are welcome to use these quizzes yourself. Keep checking back as we will not only add more but there will soon be some informative tours with pictures of famous landmarks in Thailand.


Celebrating The King in New Zealand

Over the past couple of weeks Thai people all over the world have celebrated the 60th anniversary of the ascension to the throne of The King. My local Thai community held their celebration last weekend.

We could not hope to match the one million people who turned out in Bangkok, and our temperature was probably 30 degrees colder, but we had a good crowd in our recently opened Bot, which was fitted out with a new extra-large picture of His Majesty for the occasion.

My most significant challenge for the weekend was locating a yellow shirt. I thought that this would be a simple matter, but yellow has not been a colour of choice in New Zealand for some time (if ever) and I spent almost two hours trudging through shopping malls before I happened on a shirt that was not only the right colour, but did not have any tasteless illustrations. The time spent did pay off in the end, though. My Thai friends were impressed that I had remembered to wear yellow, and those of us wearing yellow were promoted to the front row when it was time to take photographs.

Our celebration was low key. We had offerings for The King, mostly of yellow flowers, a message to the King read by one of the women, music and dance from the cultural group, our usual Buddhist chanting, and then we stood to watch a video recording of The King addressing the crowd last week, and to sing the Anthem.

Not quite the same as being there, but at least we could share a small part of the excitement of this important occasion.

Long Live The King.

Good Blogs from the Past – 06

Wooden palace
The Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya

Here are some more good Thai blogs from this time last year.

As usual, I left the food blogs out as you can find them at Also don’t forget to visit the archives for the travel blogs at

There are some good festivals coming up:

  • Phi Ta Khon festival – 1st-2nd July
  • Grand Candle Festival – 5th-11th July
  • Ashana Bucha Day – 10th July
  • Tak Bat Dok Mai Festival – 10th-11th July

We have started to archive our festival blogs. Also, to add information about festivals coming up. You can take a sneak preview of what we have done so far here: