Monthly Archives: October 2007

What if you were a handicap in Thailand……

(I’ve posted this on my personal site earlier and think it may be beneficial to throw my thought here as well.)

My answer is, you’d be screwed—oh so screwed.

I have to admit. I’d never really put a thought onto this subject until my recent trip to Thailand. As many trips as I took, I did not see one disabled person in the public, not even *one*.

Is it possible Thailand does not have people with disabilities? Aren’t we have those using a wheelchair for ambulation? Aren’t we have those who are mentally challenges? Well, 100% we do. It’s pretty universal, right?

But, where the heck are they?

Don’t they shop at Siam Square? Aren’t they do weekly grocery shopping just like everyone of us do? Don’t they dine in a restaurant in Central Ladprao?

I believe they want to. But where are they?

I’m aware Thailand is trying. The country as a whole has been slowly attempting to assist those with disabilities. There are some handicap restroom as I can see. Unfortunately, when I look around, they are not even enough. Obviously, we cannot only provide only handicap-friendly restrooms if you know what I mean. We need to build more of the public-friendly environments.

We need more pedestrian safety programs promoting a safe environment (start with a side walk, maybe) for those who use adaptive devices. We needs more public assisting tools (say, automatic doors) and we need to make certain spaces bigger for whoever that may need them.

As far as I’m concern, when ones are disabled, that doesn’t translate into strictly staying at their own cribs. I’m just talking about those who are physically handicap only for now, not yet ranting about those with mental challenges.

Soi Ngam Dupli / Soi Sri Bumphen

(The once infamous Malaysia Hotel – now, nothing like it was before)

Soi Ngam Dupli and its adjacent lane, Soi Sri Bumphen, located just off Rama 4 Road near Lumphini Boxing Stadium was the backpacker haven way before the advent of Khao Sarn Road.While Khao Sarn has developed from a cheap 50 baht dorm gaff into a glitzy area packed with trendy clubs, traditional massage parlours and Kebab stalls, Soi Nam Dupli and Soi Sri Bumphen have hardly changed a darned bit.

Just last weekend, after having visited a buddy of mine in Bangkok along Sukhumvit Road I popped into a bar on the corner of Soi Nana to read the paper and have a quick bevvie. On looking at the bill planted in front of me, I was pretty flabbergasted at having to fork out an extravagant 95baht for a mini Singha Beer. Thinking where to go next, (somewhere a bit cheaper like…) it was by chance that I saw some Thai geezer walking past who I remembered from Soi Sri Bumphen a long time back. It was then that I thought that I would pop on a motorbike-taxi and check out this old area of mine which I hadn’t been for a decent year and a half or so.

Just as I presumed, nothing had changed the slightest and I was soon chatting away to old friends in one of the only few open-day bar/restaurants the soi has to offer – ‘Kenny’s Bar’. Whichever way you want to look at, Lonely Planet has had a huge influence on the area and for donkey’s years, the ‘Backpacker’s Bible’ advised travelers that Soi Ngam Dupli/Bumphen had gone way downhill, was over-priced and that Khao Sarn Road offered a much better deal. Times have changed though, Khao Sarn Road’s prices have sky-rocketed over the past decade while Sri Bumphen’s costs have hardly gone up at all. In fact, after having a quick ask around, some of the room rates haven’t changed in the past 10 years.

Soi Ngam Dupli and Soi Sri Bumphen first opened their doors to travelers in the 1960s and one of the first budget gaffs to stay was the Malaysia Hotel. If you are unfamiliar with this place (which is still there today) it became notorious for renting rooms by the hour to randy tourists as its 24-hour restaurant was constantly full off ladies of the night, rent-boys and ladyboys. Again, Lonely Planet, never had a nice word to say about this place. Over the years though, this place has certainly changed and most of the folk you will see hanging around the restaurant and lobby at 2 in the morning these days are just a handful of tame foreigners with their rent-by-the-week girlfriends and boyfriends. No different at all to most 2/3 star hotels you’ll find in any of the land’s tourist destinations. Nowadays, the place isn’t that bad at all.

Once upon a time, Soi Bumphen was infamous for its drugs scene and many a foreigner succumbed to a little too much of the white powder and left the country in a 7 foot box. (Khao Sarn is now much more well-known for such activity) The most notorious hotel in those days just had to have been the Boston Inn, which is still there these days but like the Malaysia it has quietened down enormously. In fact, the place is pretty dead quiet these days and at around 200 a night with a friggin swimming pool you could call it a bargain!

As I wrote above, my fave hang-out used to be Kenny’s Bar which was always full of tourists who had been coming to Thailand for years on end. After returning to the place after an absence of a good 18 months, the prices were still exactly the same and so were the Thai patrons/waitresses who had been living/working around there for the past 10 years or even longer. Til this day, most of them are women with their long-term foreign boyfriends/husbands while most of the friendly Thai guys are gay with foreign partners. (Actually, this area is a quite a big gay hang-out) Kenny’s is a decent place for a bit of a laugh, chat with foreigners (who have been here even longer than myself) and listen to a jukebox which is as old as the area itself.

Soi Sri Bumphen has plenty of budget accommodation and especially in terms of cheap guesthouses in the 150-350 baht range. Most popular over the years have had to be Freddy 2, Lee 3, Lee 4, Madame and Sala Thai, all of them still doing a thriving business with faithful customers who have been coming back and forth for decades (Stay well-clear of Freddie 3, that’s full of junkies). Very seldom, does the area get anymore newbie travelers fresh-off-the-boat who have never been there before.

There are a few great budget restaurants in the area, which is in contrary to what the Lonely Planet states in that you get less value for your baht than the Khao Sarn Road strip. Along with a couple of farang friends I caught up with, I found a lovely restaurant opposite Kenny’s which was dealing out huge cheeseburgers American-style for less than a hundred baht and an Italian gaff dishing out Pizza Hut size pizzas for a couple of hundred. Much better than some of the poxy, over-priced boring food on Khao Sarn Road, where a plate of chicken fried rice can set you back a hundred baht (20 baht on the street like).

One of the sois most famous bars is the nostalgic Wong’s Bar which has been there for around 30 years or so, unfortunately the original owner the super-nice Mr Wong himself died a few back (ironically from lung cancer) but the small cozy bar is still being run fine by a relative of his. Walking in that place is step back in time and I can remember Wong once telling me that he had the biggest collection of music videos in Bangkok. And I believe him, the whole bar is still full of classic concert videos which are super-hard to find anywhere in Thailand. Whatever your taste in old music, just ask the owner to turn it on. As for food in the place, I was always impressed, both Thai and Farang.

The area is really easy to get to, both from Sathorn and Rama 4 roads and if its Silom Road nightlife you are in town for, then the street is a 45 baht taxi ride away. If you fancy checking out the nostalgia of the area just ask any taxi driver (Soi Ngam Dupli) and most of them will know it no problem. Let them drop you off at the Malaysia Hotel and stroll the area on foot. I’d advise the place for a short stay, especially if you are fed-up with the commercialism and ‘full-in-your face’ antics of Khao Sarn Road.

On the cover

Since I started my university, I find myself so weak. I always am tired and a lot of times, I try to get myself some little time. In the morning when the alarm clock wakes me up, I’ll say, c’mon, 5 more mintues, a while later when it wakes me up again, “ok, last time, give me 10 more mintues, please!” When I get into the metro station, I always try to find a place to sit waiting for the metro including when I’m already in the metro and if there’s no more seat, I’ll at least leave my bag on the floor and rest my shoulder a little (That also happens in the bus, hehe.) After that , during the classes, I don’t even leave my chair to go talk to my friends, I just sit there, rest and enjoy the little time I achieve. After all classes, I walk quickly to the first bus-stop in order to reserve some seat. Afterwards, I’ll also take a nap if I can. Now you must think that I’m so lazy, unsociable without any energy, not even enthusiasm, right? Let me tell you, it happens to everyone.
Well, have you seen what’s going on in the morning in the capital where you live in? I lived in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand and now living in Madrid, which is the capital of Spain. I also did visit Tokyo, Seoul and Singapore. I swear to you all the capital cities are the same. It’s true that people that are walking along the road and crossing the zebra look completely different. Plus, the views of each city are not exactly the same. However, there are heaps of builidings, loads of cars and definitely, traffic jam. Moreover, everyone is in a rush and the life seems to go so fast. If you look closely, you’ll see people struggling for seats in the metro and in the bus. People standing still at the escalator and people sleeping in the metro.
Well, for example, we see that the life in Japan go so fast and people do things so quickly. I suppose you think the same in the capital cities that you’re looking at and living in. It seems like we get upset so easily if there are too many people in the morning and they block our way to walk pass and we think we’ll reach our destination slower. Looks like people keep on walking though they are at the escalator. People get so furious if there are loads of cars in the streets and it doesn’t look like it’ll ever move. We always see that we have metro, sky train and etc, in order to go faster. On those covers, we see technology, advance, inventories and rush for the factor called money. But have we ever realized what really are there behind those covers? Have we noticed there are a lot of tiredness and exhaustion, lots of need to rest in all the little moments we discover? It doesn’t matter if they are 5 minutes or just 3, we’ll still take advantage of it.
And that’s what we call wealth? Mobiles, computer, cars..belong to the word wealth when all of them take all the time that we’ve got? And what about valuable time that we call the gift of our lives? I so wanna give people a big fist when I hear they say that they are doing nothing, just killing the time. Some people don’t even have time for their beloved families. More and more, we’re creating a huge distance among ourselves. We care about how many clients we find and how much we gain everyday. We care too much about how we look. We buy loads of new clothes and new stuff almost every month. Isn’t it what we say, don’t judge the book by the cover? I agree and I’d say the authentic values are what actually hiding under it.

Thailand: The Land Of Peril

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

(Bangkok’s Fire services straight to the rescue…after another cup of coffee)

Pick up any national newspaper, anytime of the week and you are gonna be pretty sure of stumbling upon some ghastly story of a horrific accident. This blessed land, known to foreigners as LOS (Land of Smiles) is better known to the local population and expats alike as LOP (Land of Peril).

Besides the dangers unleashed by the capital’s bus-drivers, passenger van-drivers and motorbike-taxi guys, you also stand a decent chance of succumbing to Bangkok’s awe-inspiring river and canal boat operators. Then, outside of the capital, in regards to sea transportation, you may also put your dear life in the hands of some menacing long-tail boat, speedboat or island ferry captain who believes it is more important to spend his profits on imported whiskey than useless inflatable safety jackets.

Nothing though is as petrifying and commonplace as the ever-familiar fire. Poor-old Bangkokians are put even more at jeopardy, when half their fleet of potential fire engines are still incarcerated due to some past dodgy bureaucratic dealings. Then in the capital, there is the horrific possibility that you might get stuck in a fire which is located on the borderline of two different Fire Brigade divisions. There you are waiting patiently for the engines while your entire neighbourhood is burning down, and the two opposite fire chiefs are quarreling over which side is responsible for taking care of the matter. Then, when the fire engines do finally arrive they can’t even get to work cause the electrical authority guys, who are too busy watching some football game on the box, haven’t yet shut the power down. Alas, a few hours later, the national news headlines are advising us that 200 folk and their pet dogs have been made homeless.

After such an normal incident, the authorities in charge love nothing more than coming out with the same old boring excuse along the lines of “Well, we already told the vagabounds to move out of their slum years ago, we offered them nice new cosy accommodation but they didn’t take us up on our generous offer”. Oh yeah, just simply blame the drifters, but what the authorities fail to realize both in Bangkok and in the provinces is the simple question of where the folk are supposed to reside, while the brains-in-charge take a year or so to actually build the new residences for the destitute.

Just a couple of weeks or so ago in my award-winning town of Suphanburi, the pride and glory of a former prime minister, a huge fire engulfed one of the main streets leaving a hundred dumbstruck homeless residents sat outside with their left-over belongings stuffed in Tesco-Lotus plastic bags. On reacting to the news, some of the local officials quickly pointed their fingers at some creaky old wood store before it came to light that the actual cause was the faulty electrical power.

In the aftermath, while the authorities were sat there twiddling their thumbs refusing to be of any assistance, volunteers were lining the street appealing for donations. Best of luck to them, as local folk feel that giving a donation to some temple makes for better kharma than giving to some needy charity. And talking about temples, it was heard that a couple of them were squabbling over which would be responsible for giving the homeless a place to stay. As for the actual landowner, as typical as ever, he didn’t even bother coming to inspect the place. Let’s just hope that he isn’t like other unsympathetic landlords of the past who have been relieved to at last get the scoundrels of his land once and for all, instead of having to fight out a costly five year court battle.

(Have a happy cruise, but just make sure there are a few safety jackets on board!)

Now, just when you thought yourself nice and safe tucked-up in your flashy apartment, take sometime today to go and check out whether your gaff’s fire-escapes are actually operational, I mean if the fire doors are not bolted up. I hate to say it but there is a probable chance they aren’t. This is due to many a landlord being more worried about some ho-bo owing a month’s rent, making a dash for it in the middle of night than he is about you being able to escape an inferno. Should you dare to complain, you may be looked at like some daft idiot. Then we have the land’s luxurious department stores, well even if their escape routes are open, there is the greatest of possibilities that they are being used as a handy place for both workers to plant their stock and guards and cleaners to sit around smoking and drinking.

Another extreme danger in the Land of Peril are open man-holes which construction workers on the advice of the authorities, have more of a tendency to sit and look at than actually bother covering. Beyond a doubt, there have been countless foreign tourists who after enjoying a night out on the town and strolling back to their hotels, have been unfortunately found the next morning by some office workers, with a broken ankle, howling up from six-feet under. Should he be hoping for compensation of any kind, the authorities will kindly advise him that he shouldn’t have been out so late and ought to have been watching were he was going.

One of the latest thieving fads upcountry to scare the living daylights out of motorcyclists especially, is the nicking of steel drain covers. Come dusk and unless you have your radar sense on, there is a decent chance that you will soon be six-foot under – permanently. A while back after having realized that some delinquent had stolen one from near my house, I called up a law-enforcer acquaintance of mine to see whether he could assist on getting the darned thing replaced or at least post up some luminous tape around it. No chance. I was informed that such a task was the duty of the local municipality authorities and should the police get involved, they would be getting a hounding down the phone stating that it was none of their darned business. Alas, only after using the influence of a connected person, did the authorities actually come and do anything.

While Bangkok’s pedestrians fear the possibility of having a huge billboard falling on their heads, those in my parts are more petrified of some massive tree bunch crashing down on top of them. One of the most astounding ideas of local authorities to beautify streets around here is to constantly cut down wayward branches poking out in the middle of the roads. What the local authorities unfortunately forget to mention to the chaps in charge of the searing however, is to be aware of pedestrians walking past when they do their chopping. Again, should you be on the end of a big piece falling down on your nut and knocking you unconscious, then it is your fault for not looking up and being more careful.

For sure, Thailand is a fun place to live, even if it is at your own peril, but the local authorities in charge and those with the power could make living just a little bit safer, if they actually got around one day to really thinking about the average population for a change. Life is already valued cheap in Thailand, so what we don’t need therefore, is for the influential to constantly make it even cheaper.

The Seven Wonders of Thailand

The Seven Wonders of Thailand

A few months back they were talking in the international press about the New Wonders of the World. Over at the Paknam Web Forums, that got us thinking about what could be classified as the Seven Wonders of Thailand. Nothing in Thailand had been featured in the old or modern list. But we all decided that there were many places in Thailand that deserved to be at least considered. So, what we did was to start putting together our own nominations for the Seven Wonders of Thailand. We divided the nominations into three categories: Natural Wonders, Man-Made Wonders and Symbols of Thailand. Once we had a fair number of nominations from our members, we then put together a website at The nomination process is not finished yet. We are aiming for at least 100 nominations nationwide. During October 2007, you can browse the website to see what the nominations we have so far. If you think that you can think of more nominations then please do so now. Then, on 1st November 2007 we will allow people to start voting. After that date we will not accept any more nominations. So, hurry now to make sure that your nominations have been listed already.