Monthly Archives: October 2007

Old Patong: The Beach Shacks Part II

An old pal, Gotland, the famous Swede who had several bars in Old Patong recently sent me this load of digital pix.

It shows Old Patong along the beach and newly built Soi Bangla [Bar Road] pictures of those fun beach shacks and shops before the bull dozer ran them over…

Look carefully at the pictures of a time when fun on the beach was open to any and all! These beach shacks were shelter and home and business to their many happy inhabitants for a little more than a year.

In those early days, the owners living IN the shacks/bars/huts and did quite well at that! Life was a true shangri-la in Old Patong, where a hammock or a grass mat was all you needed and a small oil lamp since there was no water/electricity to any of these huts. Naturally “business owners” got a “discount” on Signha and Mekhong, so there was great incentive…:-)

All provisions were hand carried or better yet, in Old Patong, the ice boy or the water boy or the motorcycle market would deliver needed supplies to anyone paying.

Old Patong, where clever capitalism flourished and the dreams of tomorrow lived today!

Note the several snap shots of our pal Gotland sleeping UNDER the bar, a common practice is Old Patong!

Later a lottery was held with all the members given a chance at the new shops that would be built along the newest road in Old Patong, Soi Bangla!

btw, here is PROOF POSITIVE that the SUBMARINE being built on the sandy stretches of Old Patong happened! Not only is this the very first submarine built in Thailand, it is the ONLY submarine made of ….cement! Ya Der German-Thai Technology in action!

Thanks again to Gotland, the happy Swede!!!

Rumor has it that Gotland is working on a book of his life and travels, Gotland was one of the people that made Old Patong the fun, happy place it was. We all look forward to his book.

Don’t Teach Your Child to “Don’t, Don’t & Don’t “!

(The following article is a brief translation from the Scoop Page of the Thai language ‘Khom Chat Leuk’ newspaper – with a little added commentary)

How many times have we have read in the newspapers about some teenager who has run away from home because of supposed-shame; that is – in regards to having had sex….?

Why? Because Thai parents constantly teach their children that ‘sex is wrong’. Parents believe that if their child has sex before the right time – ‘she’ has to been taught again. ‘She’ has to believe her mother. She must not have a boyfriend. She must not have sex. She must not bunk off school. If ‘she’ can not adhere to what her mother teaches her, then she will upset her mother and only bring shame on the family.

Thisan Nakhorn, Director of the Kanchanaphisek Home For Youth put across an good example of how a lot of Thai parents ‘teach their kids the wrong way’. When Thai kids are asked to express past experiences when they were in the wrong, they feel stressed. When they have had to confront their parents in such instance, their parents have given them no way out, no option. “Just don’t do it again!” “You are very bad”.

One girl from a well-to-do family of a decent social status had this to say “In the evenings I had to sit there and watch the TV with my mom and dad. If we saw any immoral behaviour committed by some teenagers then my parents would shout out that that they were very bad children. And they would teach that me I must never act like that! Otherwise, if I did, I would upset them very much and make them lose face”.

It was this very girl who would eventually run away from home after she became pregnant. Why? “I just didn’t have the guts to confront my parents about my pregnancy, they would have hated me and not accepted me anymore”.

Thisan had this to advise on teaching our children the correct way “If we teach our kids that so many things are bad – ‘Don’t have associate with this friend/that friend’ ‘Don’t go out at night’ ‘Don’t smoke’ ‘Don’t take drugs’ ‘Don’t have sex’ etc… then that is wrong. We have to give them other options and understand the state of present-day society. It’s best not to stand there and dictate orders to your children in some kind of old-fashioned way. Teach them what is right and what is wrong but do it nicely, don’t try and put fear in them”

Thisan went on to say “Give your child a chance. Don’t stubbornly teach them ‘Sex is very bad it will ruin your studies, ruin your future. Teach them instead that if they have a sweetheart to tell their parents, let them ask for advice and teach them about correct contraception. Let them feel that if they have done wrong – they will have the courage to say so, they won’t feel under pressure, they won’t feel worried and they will be able to face the facts about what has happened.

It has to be said that so many Thai children and especially girls are in a very pitiable predicament. If they are under 18 and become pregnant, they have no way out, no choice. They are not allowed to continue their studies (government policy). They have little chance of being able to bring up their child in a decent way. In fact, they are made to feel like criminals!

Let us, from now, teach our children ‘The Right Way’.

Culturally, Building A Better Understanding

The following blog/article was published in The Nation newspaper last Saturday. Here below, however, is the originally un-edited submission)

(Just a bitta innocent fun? Schoolgirls dressed-up as Nazis for their annual Sports Day)

In this glorious day and age of global education and communications, it has been widely hoped that a greater understanding between peoples of different races and cultures will appear.

Some very nice travelers before they set foot in Thailand, have a quick browse in their guidebooks or over the Internet about all those wonderful Dos and Don’ts of coming to Thailand and perhaps even catch up a bit on the Kingdom’s history. Alas though, there are others who are far too lazy to research any such things and can be viewed instead sat at the back of a Tuk-Tuk, with his muddy sandals planted on top of the driver’s head-rest. While the Farang is totally oblivious to any cultural violations, the driver is shaking his fist in the air complaining aloud at the complete lack of disrespect shown and just waiting to socket the tourist on the nose at the next red-light.

There has been much said and written about certain foreigners to Thailand and their lack of cultural understandings but not much vice-versa. There was however, the much publicized event of last week when a fancy Bangkok school decided it quite innovative to have 200 or so of their lovely little darlings kitted out, for their annual Sport’s Day, in some kind of German Nazi-style storm-trooping attire while carrying plastic rifles and parading around their playground doing a ‘Seig Heil’ salute. Rightly so, much criticism was unleashed against the teachers in charge, but this kind of scenario does indeed say a lot about the Thai education system. A system which hardly bothers teaching anything about modern history at all.

Besides just the Holocaust getting very little mention in any educational text book, you aren’t exactly gonna find that much else on even very recent relevant Asian history such as the events surrounding the Khmer Rouge, China’s invasion of Tibet or America’s Vietnam. As for Japan’s occupation of Thailand during the Second World War, well for some weird reason that hardly gets a mention whatsoever. In fact, history classes in Thai schools on the subject of wars, are nothing much apart from the same old glorious battles which Thailand fought and won hundreds of years ago, especially against the dreaded Burmese. This lack of anything positive taught about Myanmar has been reflected quite clearly of late, while a lot of folk have been completely indifferent to any of the streetly absurdities over there, just mention the word ‘Burma’ to a bunch of school kids and you can expect a pack of laughs in response. On the other hand though, it has to be said that most Western kids are totally naïve too to innumerable historical shambles and are also the victims of ‘subjective teachings’.

(Just a bitta fun? Wearing a nice pair of Adidas Buddha sneakers)

Going back to the above Sport’s Day fiasco, many a foreigner will rightly claim that the Swastika is actually Hindu in origin (The Thai greeting ‘Sawasdee’ originates from the word) and so Thais can be forgiven for their lack of cultural sensitivity in respects to the Westerner’s connotation of that sign. In fact, there is plenty of Swastika paraphernalia on offer in Bangkok’s Weekend Market. Then again, the land’s clothes market stalls are blatantly full of quite offensive English language t-shirts bearing well-known four-letter words plastered on the front which would have your dear grandfather spitting out his false teeth in shock and horror. Foreigners are readily taught in their guidebooks to Thailand to be culturally sensitive, but unfortunately Thai kids are not taught by their teachers, television or the Cultural Ministry that perhaps wearing a thumbs-up t-shirt with a big mug shot of Osama bin Laden on the front is not suitable attire for wearing anywhere, not just New York.

Turn the tables on the Thais however, and do as a couple of infamous Western companies have done of late – produce Buddha g-strings, dog jackets and sports shoes and the Thai Press and the Cultural Ministry will be up in arms delivering letters of well-worded complaints to respective embassies calling on their authorities to take immediate action against such cultural insult. Perhaps, there will come a day soon, when some local African societies start filing complaints against how some of their ‘coloured folk’ are portrayed on Thai television, movies and especially commercials and advertisements.

Although a lot of Westerners come here complete naïve to ‘cultural differences’, it’s quite funny how the locals expect Farangs, especially those here for a longer period of time, to act just like them (when it suits them like). Pop into a fried chicken Western fast food haunt and there is a decent chance your Thai colleague or friend will be teaching you to ‘do as the locals do’ and eat your darned chicken in a more culturally sensitive manner and not attack it like some under-nourished leper. Bite your nails like an English football supporter and you will be advised that only such behaviour is carried out by drug addicted junkies. Complain to one of your staff about any incompetence and you will be told quietly that such straight-talking is definitely Un-Thai. I mean the poor geezer doesn’t need to lose face – regardless to whether you own the so-called ‘international’ company.

(Just a bitta innocent fun? Students at Richard’s school welcoming a foreign visitor!)

Then, for those Caucasians in a relationship with a local – go to a temple with your partner and unless you copy-cat her religious beliefs she may feel that you are ‘culturally insensitive’. Then, if you are a beer drinker and prefer large bottles you will certainly be informed by your sweetheart to drink the thing from a glass and not the bottle – as such intricate behaviour will indicate your alcoholic tendencies. And whatever you do, just don’t say anything sarcastic to your mother-in-law if you find out that she has decided to sell off that nice TV set you just bought her two weeks back. Again, you don’t want anyone losing severe face. On the other hand though, as a Farang husband, there will be obvious times when you will be expected to adhere to all the wonderful manly Caucasian traits which she loves you for – ‘unlike most local guys’ you will stay at home, work hard and be completely faithful to her.

One very ironic place to find Westerners taught and conditioned to behave very like their Thai counterparts is in the land’s educational English language teaching classrooms. Now, if you are budding Farang wishing to strike it lucky and be a successful teacher in Thailand, it doesn’t matter how dysfunctional you are in the classroom. Just make sure, you have an exceptionally neat hair-cut, get rid-of that hairy moustache, take part in any teacher ceremony even though you may find it altogether Draconian-like and beyond a doubt – ‘wai’ every Thai teacher in sight. Moreover, according to enlightened authorities-in-charge, it has now been deemed culturally correct, in order to receive one of those blessed teacher’s licenses, that you pass a ‘Thai Cultural Test’. To be classified fit to teach English you may have to correctly answer some hazardous question along the lines of “What is Somtum?” a. A traditional-Thai dance b. Water-throwing festivities c. A typical Thai sport d. Spicy papaya salad.

Let the Sport’s Day event of late, be a lesson to the Thai Education authorities to open their eyes too, to the teaching of global cultural correctness and perhaps enforce a few mandatory world history lessons to be actually taught in the classrooms. And just as foreigners need to be when they come to Thailand, the locals too ought to be just that little bit more sensitive about other folk’s cultures, mentalities and ways of life.

Thai (Language) Animal Farm II

On the 50th day of my mother’s death, Brandon and I joined my aunt (my mom’s friend) and her daughter at Wat Padhammachart temple in La Puente. The Wat (temple) has a morning schedule for us expat Thais to come in and “make merits” by offering lunch to the monks as well as a mini version of food alms, Tak Baht.

Traditionally, the monks will walk through the neighborhood at dawn with metal bowls (Baht) for food alms. Residents will be ready with their meals at hand. Back in the days, before plastic bags, rice and entree will be spooned directly into the bowl. Tak is to take a spoonful. So Tak Baht is literally put a spoonful into the metal bowl! Later on, it becomes baggies of meals or canned goods, but the concept is the same. The monks return to the temple when they will find more folks waiting there with more food and supplies. The monks will then eat their brunch, their only meal of the day, all before 11 a.m.

Being in the US, Tak Baht has been tailored to be a mere representation of the actual traditions. But we’ll take what we can get over here!

We arrive at the temple around 9:30 a.m. with our foods and settle in to the main hall. If you didn’t bring anything, you can make a donation and the temple will provide you with some provisions. The monks take their seats and we say a little pray. Then small bowls of steamed rice are passed around so everyone has one as we line up around the room. The monks now walk through the room so we can put a spoonful of rice in their Baht.

After that, we offer the rest of the food to the monks the way people do once the monks return to the temple after the alm walk.

A group of Thais also arrange for a monthly “Tak Baht in the Park”, as I found out through my aunt who has been doing it for a long time. Every last Sunday of the month, a few monks are shuttled in from temples around the area. Plastic tarps were set up in a round on the grass. And you do what we did at the temple. All done in 20 minutes as the monks have to be shuttled back to the temples to conclude their morning schedule of receiving food and provisions and eat before 11.

I am now starting to join my aunt on this monthly Tak Baht in the park routine. And of course, this upcoming Sunday being only my second time, I didn’t quite remember.

So when I was going over our weekend schedule with Brandon yesterday, he caught that I completely omit my new Sunday commitment.

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Mukdahan (TH) – Savanaket (LA) – Hue, Hoi An, SGN (VN), PhnomPenh (KH)

I have been conspicuously missing from office for a week and have to answer office web email during my trip. Many people on learning of my adventure requested for photo, hotel and trip brochures and reports. Instead of answering each and every one of them, I guess the best option is still to go back to Thai-blogs. I have missed many filings of reports on this year’s trip to the Kingdom mainly due to personal reasons – the arrival of my first grandchild (girl)and the departure of my 92-year old dad, planned changing of job, my son planned marriage in November 2007, etc.

The perils of booking AirAsia ticket early is that if you are not be able to make the trip, you most probably loose every cents, even the airport tax. Although, you could claim back airport tax, people rarely do as the process will be quite intimidating. This I have learnt the hard way. Most fare structure will NOT allow you to change passenger name. My travelmate Lai lost his wife 1 month ago in a traffic accident and eventhough he reluctantly follow us, I know he wont enjoy as much. With many things on my back, my trip wasn’t as pleasant as I hope.

AK880 KUL-BKK arrived on time at around 9:00hr but the connecting flight to Ubon RatchaThani UBP only leave at 14:05hr and we will have more than 3 hours to kill. The best options was to take a taxi to BangNa and have a meal of MK Duck and steamboat- yummy.

On arrival in UBP, we took a bus to Mukdahan and arrived just after 20:10hrs, too late to cross the border which closed at 20:00hrs.

It was a blessing staying a night in Mukdahan. We stayed in Hotel Kim Jek Cin #1 for 300 bahts a night. AS it was raining quite heavily, we had 4 bowls of beef noodle nearby at 100 bahts. After a quick shower, we head for a restaurant nearby with live band. The damage for 6 bottles of beer was less than 500 bahts. The sad thing is that the live band stopped playing after mid-night, may be due to the next day being a working Monday.

The next day (15 October Monday), I went to Siam Commercial Bank SCB to bank in 3500 Bahts (my left-over loose change since I won’t be back into the Kingdom) into With the recent demonstration in Rangoon, more refugees have arrived in Sangkhlaburi putting pressure on the orphanage.

To save time looking for SCB, I asked Kasikorn Bank K-Bank near hotel on SCB whereabouts, and K-Bank staff was so helpful and even drew a map to SCB for me. Walking around Mukdahan is really intresting.

My previous trip in 2004 was from Savanaket in Laos – Mukdahan and fly back from UBP using Thai airways. This time, we are taking the other way round of entering Laos via Mukdahan. My impression of Savanaket and Mukdahan changed. There were no bridge between the 2 countries then and we need a VISA in Laos. The bus trip from Vientiane – Savanaket THEN was so that bad that the bus driver left us near the border crossing. We thought THEN “that” was “Savanaket” and quickly left the cowboy town into Mukdahan and back to UBP. In short my experience with Savan and Mukdahan wasn’t pleasant then. But things have changed.

I will upload the photos taken when I am back in Malaysia as I now do not have the photo resize software with me. Please revisit.