Monthly Archives: April 2008

Let’s get it on? Not so for 70% of Thai women.

Oh geez. I’ve been gone since Christmas? Dang. Sorry, kiddies. I hope you guys didn’t miss me too much. 🙂

And to get back on the Thai-Blogs saddle, let’s dive right in to the deep end, shall we?

Let’s talk about sex.

That’s right. Reader discretion is advised before you proceed.

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Back in the Land of Warm Beer & Wellington Boots

(Typical dancers down some local club in Britain)

I guess most of yous didn’t even realized that I’d been away from the blogging scene for a while, I didn’t post anything since that last blog on misunderstanding lovely Thai women, a massive six weeks ago.

Well, in all that time I’ve been completely stacked up to here with writing work – unbelievably busy. I currently got a new full-time job with some company that is so full-on, that by the time I finish work the only thing I fancy doing is either jumping in the sack or downing a few bevies.

Well, after the better half of a year and a half, I finally had to give up my editorial columnist job at The Nation newspaper. Just in case you were reckoning that I must have finally got the sack after taking the pish out of the Education and Cultural Ministries just a wee bit much – then I’m sorry to disappoint yous. In fact, the good old Nation newspaper changed its format to a business one and since I haven’t the foggiest about such an uninteresting subject, I was shifted over to the new Daily Xpress newspaper. But just like here at thai-blogs, I haven’t exactly been working that hard.

Anyway, after a long long time, at the beginning of this month, I finally, due to no wish of my own, flew back to England for a couple of weeks. That is of course, the Land of Warm Beer & Wellington Boots, or should I say Soggy Chips & Saggy Bums – Britain.

Having been absent for so many darned years, everyone was advising me that I would have a cultural shock – but I didn’t really. I guess it’s because the friggin place looks exactly the same as it did a decade ago. I mean London (where I was staying) hasn’t exactly, in the past ten years, become a new home to a skytrain, a million 7-Elevens and shopping malls galore.

(Typical dancers in some local pub in Thailand)

As you can imagine though, I was absolutely freezing when I first arrived and spent the next couple of days looking like some uncontrollably quivering psycho on speed. But, being a Brit by blood, I was soon used to the cold (or, is that sanely possible may I ask?). Talking about the hellish British weather though, after only my second day there, there was one really groovy snow storm and being the kid I am, I was out there dancing around in it. I mean, fook me, I hadn’t seen anything like it in at least two decades.

So, what was going on in the back of my mind while I was there? Well, first and foremost I soon got completely bored of thick doughy bready sandwiches that everyone buys for lunch out of Marks & Spencers. Then, as for the chips out of a good old traditional fish & chip gaff run by some Turk, well they were a huge anti-climax – I get better pieces of such potato down some Irish pub on Silom Road in Bangkok. Will have to admit that I did feast on Tom Yum Kung Mama noodles when I was there. Actually, one thing I do like eating from Britain is definitely the crisps, far better than any in Thailand – up to here with friggin Lay crisps.

For sure, any trip to Britain has to include a bevvie at a local pub. Well, apart from having to fork out the equivalent of 200 baht for a beer, I had a bit of a good time in the pubs. The only thing I didn’t admire though in comparison to Thailand, were the women working behind the bars. Give them a smile like and they think that you are gonna rape them or something. I mean that’s the thing about the Brits back home, smile at some geezer on the Tube and he thinks you’re gay, smile at some damsel and she thinks you are a nutter and smile and say “Hello” to some young children and they think you are a wanted pedophile.

Overall though, the Brits are pretty friendly – just not to strangers on the street, unlike most Thais and theirs smiles.

What amazes about the average Brit guy and girl (in Britain that is) is why can’t they just find their own boy/girlfriends? Look at it, ask any geezer in a bar how he met his darling and he’ll explain she used to be his friend’s ex! Same goes vice-versa. Seems that Brit guys are never single and as soon as they break up in any relationship, they are soon getting their leg over with Sharon from the other end of the bar. By the way, why the heck do Brits stand at a bar when there are stools? – quite an unbelievable phenomenon.

Well, 2 weeks in England was more than enough and I was glad to finally arrive back in Thailand. One thing that I did seriously realize on this trip was how lucky I felt was to be residing in Thailand. I mean, even though every person I met made far more money than me, I felt at times that my standard of living was actually higher. It’s like don’t even bother comparing salaries, when someone in Kingston is paying the same as 60,000 baht a month for some dingy flat while I pay 3,000 for a three bedroom house! In fact, one guy I met explained that at the end of his working week after paying this and that he was left with 50 pounds to spend on going out that weekend drinking. Geez….

I’ll miss you England, but I shan’t be rushing back!

Museum of Siam

Museums in Thailand have been traditionally boring and dull places to spend an afternoon. Now all of that has changed with the grand opening of the Museum of Siam on Sanamchai Road in Bangkok. Located in the former premises of the Ministry of Commerce, the museum is just a short walking distance south of the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. If you have a few hours spare after visiting the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, then I highly recommend that you visit this new museum which tries to answer the question, “Who are the people of Siam?” Through a series of exhibitions in different rooms we were taken through Thai history from past to present.

We were first ushered into a small auditorium where we were presented with a light and sound show which gave us an introduction to the people of Siam. The video presentation, which had English subtitles, actually posed more questions than it answered. But we later found that as we walked through the exhibits we met some of the characters who gave us some of the answers that we were seeking. The exhibit rooms were as follows:

1) Were the cavemen Thai?
2) Where was Suvarnabhumi?
3) What really is the heart of Buddhism?
4) What was the origin of the Ayutthaya Dynasty?
5) Who was the richest man in Ayutthaya?
6) Why did Ayutthaya wage war?
7) What was racially pure Thai?
8) Who inaugrated Bangkok as capital of our kingdom?
9) Why did we change the name of our kingdom to Thailand?
10) Who drew the first map of Thailand?

As we all know, the name of the new international airport in Bangkok is called Suvarnabhumi. But did you know that this is an ancient name that was linked to this whole region and meant the “Land of Gold”? The following is an explanation from the exhibit:

About 2,000 years ago, Indian, Chinese, and Greco-Roman documents refer to a landmass to the east of India. It was fertile, rich in resources, and it was believed that a merchant might make his fortune there. These reports attracted travellers to the region which was called, in various languages, Suvarnabhumi, Suvarnadvipa, Jin Lin, Chryse Chersonesos, all of which meant Land of Gold. Prince Damrong was the first historian to claim that Suvarnabhumi was situated in Thailand, in the Chao Phraya Basin with its center at present day Nakhon Pathom. Neighbouring countries have also proposed that Suvarnabhumi was situation in their region. This provided ample evidence that there was an active international trade during this period. Suvarnabhumi is not really one country or city, but rather the whole region.

Another nearby exhibit explained why Bangkok was never mentioned in early documents about Suvarnabhumi. This was because Bangkok as we know it was at that time below sea level. About 5,000 years ago, the coastline of the Gulf of Thailand was hundreds of kilometres further inland. (Someone should tell Greenpeace that Global Warming isn’t a modern invention!) Over the years, the Chao Phraya deposited silt, and the muddy estuary gradually moved south becoming dry land about 1,000 years ago. In the past, the cities of Suphan Buri, Ratchaburi and Nakhon Pathom were all major harbours.

Another nearby exhibit explained how Siam became Thailand. This is what they said:

The process of “Nation Building” began under King Rama V (reign 1868-1910) and gained momentum under King Rama VI (reign 1910-25). Nationalism reached its apex under Field Marshal Pibulsonggram (P.M. 1938-44). His National Socialist regime produced a State Edict in 1939, proclaiming that the country was henceforth to be called “Thailand” in accordance with its racial pure “Thai” inhabitants who were genetically superior to other “lesser breeds”. Under this Edict, those who conformed to the ideals of the dictatorship were pronounced “racially pure Thais”. Those who resisted and attempted to preserve their cultural identity became, at best, second class citizens.

In the picture above you can see some posters of the time. Of notably interest is the poster in the bottom right corner that tried to teach Thai people not to dress like “savages”. I have posted a close up of this poster at our forums. It is not surprising that there is now a call to change the name back to Siam as the present name doesn’t reflect the racial diversity that we have. In particular, it clearly labels the people in the deep south as “second class citizens” as they are not pure Thai but rather Malay.

It is easy to spend several hours at the museum as the time will pass very quickly. Most of the exhibits are interactive using modern technology never before seen in Thailand. There were also touch screen monitors but you had to use in a different way. For example, we had to use a brush in the archeology section to brush away the layer of dirt to see bones “buried” beneath. In another section we had to pick up drum sticks and actually beat a drum in order to interact with a video presentation. There were also games to play. Many of them are “hidden” and you really had to study the exhibits in order to find all these hidden treasures. Every room had people on duty that encouraged you to learn by interacting with the exhibits. Although we were there a long time, I am sure if we go again we will discover something that we never noticed during our first visit.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. At present it is free to visit, but this is due to change within 3-4 months. I strongly urge you to visit this fascinating museum where all the exhibits and video presentations are bilingual and so are therefore catering for the foreign tourist market. This is a refreshing change as we usually only get a brief outline, if we are lucky. The museum is easy to find. In Thai it is actually written “museum siam” though you will find that many people have never heard of it. We caught a taxi at the corner of the Grand Palace and the City pillar and told him to drive south down Sanamchai Road towards the river. You will see the building on your right after Wat Pho. It has a red roof and cream coloured facade. It was actually so near that the fare didn’t go up from 35 baht. You can also take bus numbers 3, 6, 12 ,32, 44, 47, 53, 82 and 524. There is also a river express boat pier at N7 Rajinee. Or you could get off at N6 Memorial Bridge and walk through the flower market to the museum.

UPDATE: Admission Fees –

Students age over 15 years: 50 Baht
Thai adults: 100 Baht
Foreign adults: 300 Baht

Lunchtime Thai Menu 17

Pork in Tomato Sauce (nam prik ong)

Every Friday, we are bringing you pictures of the Thai food that we are eating in the Paknam Web offices. This first dish was a new one for me though I found it worth repeating in the future. The pork and tomato sauce is made up from pounding together chillies, salt, galangal, onion, shrimp paste, garlic and of course the pork and tomatoes. To cook, first fry some garlic in a wok until golden brown. Then add the paste and fry for a few minutes until cooked through. Then add some water and continue cooking until this has evaporated. It is then served with either fresh or cooked vegetables.

Green Curry with Beef (gaeng kiew wan neua)

The next dish is an old favourite for many visitors to Thailand. I like both green curry and red curry and you can cook it yourself with just about any meat or even fish. This version is green curry with beef. You can buy the curry paste ready made in most supermarkets around the world. You will also need some coconut milk. In this picture you can see the quartered egg plants and hard peas. When I cook myself I use normal garden peas from the freezer.

Steamed Noodle Rolls (kuay-tiao lod)

This is another one of those dishes I haven’t had often but it has a good taste. It is basically a noodle wrap that is stuffed with various ingredients. This one had chicken with dried shrimp, tofu and bean sprouts. The topping is a sweet dark soy sauce.

Indian Fried Pastry (roti)

Our dessert today is a popular snack often seen on the street. The roti came with Indian immigrants to Thailand. Locally, we buy our roti from a Muslim family. Commonly there are two versions. This one has sweetened milk and sugar which costs about 7 baht each. Another version has an egg instead and is usually about 15 baht each. I will show you some more versions of roti on another day. When you are next in Thailand, make sure you try something new. You never know, it may become your favourite dish.

How to travel by bus in Thailand 2.

Once you made a decision to be brave and break away from the perceived safety of a convenient tourist bus coming with pickup from your hotel or guesthouse, you will need to figure out how to get to the bus station and how to buy the right ticket.

The most important thing is that prices are fixed for all routes, so, no need to shop around the counters of different companies for a better deal, you merely need to find the right departure time and class for your needs. Cashiers and touts are usually quite good at pointing you at the right directions if you are confused, there is no need to be paranoid or feel cheated. If you are upcountry, it will be assumed you are heading for Bangkok. Counters usually only have signs in Thai, but on a large cardboard sign, they usually display their next departure time, so it is easy to make comparisons between fifteen competing companies. Cashiers speak enough English to sell you tickets for the class and time you ask for; however, if you are buying in advance, it is better to write down the required date and time just to make sure.

Ok, this is a tough one – bus schedule in Udon Thani

Bangkok is the most difficult. Absolutely no travel agencies would sell you tickets to government buses; they would even laugh at you and pressure you very hard to buy a ticket to a tourist bus. Then, new arrivals will be easy preys for scams like dropping people off in Surat Thani instead of Ko Samui or Krabi. Your best bet is just to turn up at the bus station. Buses leave at all hours to major long-distance destinations such as Phuket, Surat Thani and Chiang Mai. With other destinations, such as Krabi or Nong Khai, departures are early in the morning (6 to 8) and in the evening (6 to 9), with no or very few buses in between. For destinations that do not require a full day or full night or travel, such as Kanchanaburi or Trat, buses usually leave at regular intervals during the day (every 30, 60 or 90 minutes), but there are no overnight buses. Even if you check out the schedules online (e.g. at ) or call and ask ahead on the very same day, the actual departures are going to be different from what you were told. If there are lots of passengers, extra buses are added to the schedule. Unless it is a long weekend or a holidays, when seats are all sold out well in advance, you could simply go to the bus station and you will get a ticket for a bus leaving within two hours. It sounds slightly crazy to make the long way out to the bus station and merely hope you can get a ticket, but it has always worked for me in years of travelling thousands of kilometres.

In Bangkok, you need to know which of the three major bus stations to go to. The Northern bus station, or Mo Chit, serves Northern and Northeastern Thailand; it also has a number of buses to Trat and Pattaya on the Eastern seaboard. It is a HUGE bus station, with hundreds of counters and stands where buses leave from and arrive at all hours of the day and night. Unfortunately, it is not within walking distance of Mo Chit metro station, definitely not if you are carrying a lot of luggage or have no idea which way to head. You can get a taxi from the centre for about 120-140 baht, or take the metro to Mo Chit station and take a taxi from there. The taxi very conveniently drops you off right in front of the counters of bus companies going to Chiang Mai, the most important destination in the north. There is an air-conditioned waiting hall with restaurants, convenience stores, bookshop, left luggage service, shops. It is an overwhelming, confusing place to enter, with thousands of people, signs mostly in Thai: you might have the impulse to run away. However, there is an information counter where you can ask the counter number to your destination, and as there are very few foreigners in the crowd, cashiers easily spot them from a distance and show them which counter to go to.

Anything may happen at Mo Chit bus station! – Can you find out what class this bus is?

The Eastern or Ekamai bus station serves destinations on the Eastern seaboard, including Trat (for Ko Chang), Ban Phe (for Ko Samet), Rayong and Pattaya. Buses to Aranya Prathet, however, leave from the Northern bus station! This is a small, run-down bus station with only a handful of counters and stands. There are food shops and a 7-eleven, but no air-conditioned waiting area. The biggest advantage of this place is that it is right next to Ekamai skytrain station, almost in the centre of Bangkok (a 130-baht taxi ride from Khao San road though). Lots of tourists heading for the beaches in the east actually do make the effort to come here.

The Southern bus station, or Sai Tai, was relocated to a new spot in late 2007. Anyone who was familiar with the old location must agree that it was a nightmare, with potholes deep enough to swallow up double-deckers and traffic jams in the taxi queue even at 2 a.m. Its current location is on Borommaratchachonnani road, at the intersection with Phutthamonthon Sai1, far enough from central Bangkok not to be on any map. For Google Earth enthusiasts, here are the coordinates: 13°46’50.00″N, 100°25’35.01″E Now, this one is very difficult to get to, you definitely need a 200-baht taxi ride. This bus station serves the south, including Phuket, Surat Thani, Krabi, Hat Yai, Hua Hin, as well as the popular destinations of Damnoen Saduak and Kanchanaburi in the west. The huge bus station complex contains a food court (8 a.m. to 9 p.m.), KFC, McDonald’s, bag deposit service (5 a.m. to 9 p.m, 20 to 60 baht), internet cafe, bookshop, massage shop, and several shops selling all sorts of goods ranging from gold to fishing rods. It is easy to while away an hour or two waiting for your bus to leave.

In Chiang Mai, the bus station is a 30 or 40 baht taxi ride, or 10 minutes from the centre. Buses to Bangkok leave throughout the day, until 11 p.m. at night, with two peaks: there are literally dozens of buses leaving in the morning and in the evening, when cashiers will be competing to sell you a ticket (unless it is a holiday!) There are also buses to Chiang Rai, Pai, Sukhothai, Mae Hong Son and Lamphun at regular intervals. To Udon Thani, there are buses in the morning and in the evening only. I think in Chiang Mai, it is easy to opt for a government bus instead of a tourist bus. I have read and heard reports of tourist buses making the 9 to 10 hour journey in 14 hours because they included market detours! And I would not try to save 100 baht for the privilege of being stuffed into a 48-seater instead of the promised VIP bus.

In Surat Thani, all buses to Bangkok leave in the morning or in the evening. There is a peak between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., with about a dozen sleepers heading for Bangkok. The only problem is that they arrive before 5 a.m., or, rather, maybe it is not such a big problem because you can catch a taxi to your hotel in Bangkok before the morning traffic jam. The bus station is outside town, accessible by local taxi (songthaew). The tourist bus station is in the city centre, of course, making very strong competition: I have never seen any other foreigner at this bus station.

In Krabi, the bus station is 4 kms from the centre, a fixed-price 20 baht songthaew ride. All the night buses to Bangkok leave between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., the same time as tourist buses, with one big difference: you do not need to change buses in Surat Thani and wait around for hours. The only bus company running buses to Bangkok has an office in town, opposite the market. In addition, it is easy to get from Krabi to Phuket, Phang Nga, Surat Thani or Trang by second or third class buses, there are several departures a day.

Amazing view on the way from Krabi to Phang Nga – from the open door of the bus!

In Phuket, the bus station is in the centre of Phuket town. Local taxis mounted on large trucks instead of the small pickups get to the bus station from the beaches for 30 baht – instead of the crazy 400 baht or so quoted by the taxi drivers. As usually, most departures are in the morning and after sunset.

In some smaller towns such as Trat, Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, bus stations have been relocated outside town. There are always regular fixed price taxis to bus stations: ask at your guesthouse or hotel. When there are fewer tourists to hunt for, receptionists and agencies are more willing to tell you about government buses and sell you tickets as well. Small towns such as these are very easy to arrive at or get away from using government buses.

I think it is maybe too many details now 🙂 If you have questions, do ask at , somebody will surely be able to help you.
Generally speaking, I would advise you to go for it: when travelling around in Thailand, it usually looks more confusing than it turns out to be in the end. If the above photos do not absolutely scare you away, you can definitely do it.