Monthly Archives: January 2009

Pattaya International Mardi Gras 2009

The Pattaya International Mardi Gras took place yesterday along Beach Road in Pattaya. This was their first attempt at a “Mardi Gras” which I guess was held to help boost tourism in the region. The advertising posters billed it as “Pattaya’s first electrical carnival parade”. They are hoping to make this an annual event though this year it seemed to have been partly sponsored by the Central Group as it coincided with the opening of their new mall Central Festival.

The name “Mardi Gras” is probably more famously linked with the carnivals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and New Orleans, Louisiana. A Mardi Gras is usually held every year before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Thai people are mainly Buddhists but that doesn’t stop them from celebrating with a Mardi Gras Carnival. In Pattaya, they focused on three themes: Thai Contemporary Arts; Modern Beach Lifestyle and Under the Sea Celebration. Well, that was the plan anyway.

The parade was due to start at around 4 p.m. along Pattaya Beach Road near the Hard Rock Hotel. However, they didn’t start to get moving until after 5 p.m. It didn’t really matter that much. Everybody was all lined up and it gave us plenty of opportunities to take pictures of the participants. The parade was led with a couple of floats sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) which was the “underwater theme”. Following them were the dancing girls from many of the bars in Pattaya. Personally I think these skimpily dressed girls were very out of place though obviously they were a crowd pleaser. I will post some pictures over at ThailandQA Forums so that you can decide for yourself.

There were certainly many well dressed women wearing outlandish colours that could be linked to what we envision as a Mardi Gras. At the same time there were also many traditional Thai costumes in the parade. In some ways, it was a bit like a normal parade that we often see here but with a more international theme.

The second half of the parade was mainly children from local schools. In some ways they were the highlight as they had more enthusiasm. They had a go at dressing up as dancing ladies, but also they wore more traditional clothes with themes such as Songkran. They had both marching bands and traditional Thai music. The parade seemed to be very long and also very slow at times. I watched it for most of the time from the Hard Rock Cafe. The end of the parade didn’t pass us until about 6.30 p.m. The complete parade route was said to be 5 k.m. long and I would reckon that many of these children would have been very tired once they got to the end.

I think overall it was a great event. It is certainly worth repeating next year. However, I would suggest that they cut out the bar girls as they weren’t dressed up and were mainly doing erotic dances with signs advertising their bars. I will be posting more pictures of this carnival in the Thailand Guidebook forum over at

I would like to thank the TAT for sponsoring our trip and also to the staff at the Hard Rock Hotel for being such good hosts and looking after us so well. If anyone reading this has a tourist attraction or event that they would like us to visit then send a press release or invitation to us via

How to cook… Mango with Sweet Fish Sauce

This week we have something different for you. It is a dip that you can have with green mangoes. Thai people don’t often eat fruit without some kind of dip. Another popular dip with green mango is a mixture of sugar and ground chilli. In the picture below, you can see the following ingredients: green mango, red shallots and fish sauce. On the right there is palm sugar, ground dried shrimp and hot chillies.

To make the dip, you need a pot to which you add the mixture of sugar, fish sauce and a quarter cup of water. Simmer over a low heat and stir continuously. When it becomes a thick syrup, add the chopped shallots and keep stirring for a few more minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the dried shrimp and sliced chillies. The mango should still be green and also slightly sour. Peel and cut into slices. We will post another Thai dish with pictures of the ingredients next Friday at

Wildlife Conservation in Bangkok

In the pollution sodden car infested inferno of Bangkok terms like wildlife conservation are rarely heard and if heard usually applied to the Mercedes and 4 by 4 drivers. But down a small Soi in Banglampoo in a dirty canal that one could only term a somewhat rancid open sewer, nature is doing what nature does best, defying logic, and has created one of the most unlikeliest wildlife sights in Thailand.

Everyday on the small bridge that strands Klong Rop Krung at the entrance to Wat Sung Wet, beside the fort that join Phra Arthit road to Phra Sumen, locals and tourists alike can be seen gawping at the sight of the canals large Water Monitor Lizard population. Seeing these timid beasts in the wild is a rare and usually fleeting treat, but at Klong Rop Krung the lizards seem used to human observers and sit on the concrete pillars and mountains of rubbish for hours on end.

One keen local observer, Napaporn told me she passes the bridge every morning and hasn’t yet failed to see at least one lizard, she estimates there are at least a dozen in the family. A resident foreigner originally from Africa is a keen daily observer and holds the record of seeing five lizards together at one time, my record in a week’s observation is only four. There are at least two huge adults over a metre and a half long, truly of crocodile proportions, two a smaller adult and several babies of differing sizes I have counted.

The lizards live under the concrete building with brown wooden roof to which there are several an underwater and above water holes in which after I went inside to enquire turned out to be an ice factory. They are usually best seen in the morning when the sun rains down on the canal until just after midday, their favourite place to sun worship is beside the small wooden family house.

Further investigating the ice factory I spoke to a worker and he informed me the part of the factory the lizards live under is the freezer section, these give off substantial heat, so as shade descend over the canal in the afternoon the lizards retreat into the heated water below the freezers. The nest under the ice factory doesn’t appear to be unique as I saw a large adult swimming 50 metres up the canal and disappear under a wooden house suggesting more nests upstream.

Water Monitor lizards are very common in the whole of South East Asia so afforded little protection unlike some other countries where they aren’t so common. The lizards are carnivores and strong swimmers, larger lizards can feed of mammals as large as a monkey. Though harmless to humans they are often mistaken for crocodiles and many village Thais will have a story of encountering one while swimming in the river and getting a big fright mistaking it for a crocodile.

In Thai culture where their name also happens to be one of the worst swear words in the language, calling another person one guarantees a fight. The word is also considered unlucky so Thais are reluctant to use it even to refer to the lizards themselves.

Conservation Issue

Sadly I really don’t know if these lizards will survive. They have perilled the journey to the canal, managed to adapt to living in water so polluted it shouldn’t really support life and overcome their timidity of people, but one factor always trumps nature, humans.

Sadly it has become local sport for local school children to stand on the bridge and hurl lumps of concrete at them. Usually boys in their early teens they hurl the pieces laughing and joking as they bounce off the lizards. On one occasion I witnessed the lumps of concrete were so large they were about half the size of a brick and not dropped but thrown with venom, if one had hit a baby it would have killed it instantly. These particular lumps were directed at an adult and would still have killed it if it hit it on the head, one only missing by centimetres. Sadly a later slab did impact the shoulder and the distressed lizard ran for cover. If were an isolated incident it would be a bad but it seems to be becoming a common daily event.

Videos of the Lizards

Harry Nicolaides and the Lese Majeste Law

In August 2008, Harry Nicolaides, a self-published author and university lecturer, was arrested at the airport in Bangkok for allegedly committing lese-majeste. According to the police, a paragraph in his little read book published a few years ago was slanderous towards the Crown Prince. Harry was denied bail and has been sitting in an overcrowded cell for nearly five months awaiting trial. He initially pleaded not-guilty saying that he was unaware of the strict lese-majeste law.

Although I feel sorry for the guy, it is hard to believe that a teacher and a writer could know so little about the culture of Thailand. If you check any “Do’s and Dont’s” list for Thailand, you will always see mention of this: “Do not insult the monarchy”. In fact, most books go on to say that you should avoid any discussion of the monarchy which could be seen as criticism. In Thailand, lese-majeste is a serious offence. It doesn’t matter if you are Thai or not. In 2007, Oliver Rudolf Jufer from Switzerland was sentenced to ten years for spraying graffiti over portraits of H.M. The King. He was later pardoned.

Although I admire the tireless work of H.M. The King and the royal family, I feel very scared about the lese majeste law in Thailand. Anyone can lodge a charge of lese majeste against anyone. A few months back, someone didn’t stand up for the King’s anthem at the start of a movie and another patron called the police. Opposition politicians tried to bring down the government by charging them with saying something against the monarchy. PM’s Office Minister Jakrapob Penkair was forced to resign because of a speech he made to foreign correspondents. Even Jonathan Head, the Bangkok bureau chief for the BBC has been charged with lese majeste recently for a report he filed. A few days ago, someone was arrested for writing something against the King on the Internet. What he wrote and where we don’t know and will probably never know. For newspapers to print the charges in full is lese majeste in itself. A media mogul has already been charged for doing this.

To be clear, here is the law in question:

Section 112: Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.

Luckily for Harry, he changed his plea to guilty at the last moment. As a consequence, the judge decided to halve his sentence. However, the news wasn’t good for him or his family in Australia:

“He was found guilty under criminal law article 112 and the court has sentenced him to six years, but due to his confession, which is beneficial to the case, the sentence is reduced to three years,” a judge told the court. “He has written a book that slandered the king, the crown prince and Thailand and the monarchy,” the judge added. (Source: Bangkok Post)

As a blogger in Thailand I have two problems here. I cannot quote the short paragraph in Harry’s book. If I do then I am committing lese majeste even though I would state I don’t agree with the paragraph in question. My second problem in writing about this case is that I cannot comment on the decision of the judge or the sentence given. If I do, I could face charges of “contempt of court” and be sent straight to prison. I will also lock the comments section. If someone posts something bad about the royal family and I am slow to delete it, then I too could be arrested. It would be wise for me not to say anything. However, I would ask for everyone to take this case as a good lesson.


I am going to finish by quoting Section 133 of the Criminial Code. It shows that Thailand also respects the Royal Families and Head of States of other countries:

Section 133: Whoever, defaming, insulting or threatening the Sovereign, Queen, Consort, Heir-apparent or Head of Foreign State, shall be imprisoned from one to seven years or fined from two thousand to fourteen thousand baht, or both.

So, be careful what you say aginst the Queen of England or the President of the United States! You should also take note of section 135 as that forbids the burning of flags as you could face two years in prison. I think we had a flag burning demonstration outside the US embassy recently in Bangkok. If you are American, I guess you could just go to the local police station and lay charges.

Stay safe and long live H.M. The King of Thailand.

(Picture credits: Reuters)

Related Blog: Thai Royal Family and Lese Majeste

Biking to Thung Yai – Huay Kha Khaeng Wildife Sanctuaries

After doing a bit of research, I found out that there were, amazingly, UNESCO Wildlife sanctuaries in Uthai Thani province. These wildlife sanctuaries were declared UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites on 13 December 1991. They cover an area of about 2.780 square kilometers and are part of a large area of national parks and wildlife reserves. I decided that I just had to go!

A little bit about the sanctuaries first though, nearly every kind of virgin forest and jungle found in Thailand is present in these sanctuaries, which are home to a large variety of species, some of which are very rare and endangered: last species of “mahingsa” big buffaloes, are unique to these parks. With only 50 remaining, this means they are the last herd of buffaloes. Special species of tigers and one in particular can also be found; in fact, the sanctuaries rank number 2 in the world for its population, only 13 are left.

A lot of red gaur buffaloes (males turn into black when get older). Rare types of bulls ,several herds of not more than 20 bulls some 2 meters in length , tapirs, leopards, wild elephants, bears, hornbills, deer, snakes, etc. Moreover, wild rhinoceros are also said to still roam the area. Also present are several nationally rare species of reptiles and amphibians, including the Indian Monitor, giant Asiatic toad and Asiatic giant frog. They are also a bird-spotters haven. Combined, Thung Yai and Huay Kha Khaeng sanctuaries are home to 34 internationally threatened species, emphasizing their conservation value.

Huai Kha Khaeng can be reached by taking Uthai Thai – Nong Chang – Lansak Route (Highway No.3438) to KM. 53 – 54, then turn left for another 14 kms. The roads towards the park and Cyber waterfall are in excellent condition and I was able to witness breathtaking surroundings. The deep blue sky was filled with a nice range of mountains, some of the mountains are split in half by bending rivers, displaying their natural prettiness.

A bit late due to the returning traffic to Bangkok just after the New Year, I reached the park and first planned a visit to the unknown Cyber waterfall a few kms before reaching the park I had to cross a river- bed with my GOLDEN TIGER GIRL. It’s widely known that tigers aren’t afraid of water which is very rare for cats. The ever-friendly local farmers advised me to take another road and not to cross the river, many predecessors tried before me. Many of them had got stuck in the middle of the river . Engines, filters or exhaust pipes filled with water – well, reckon that any help is far away. I took the risk however. I counted on the reliability of my Tiger Boxer 250 Rs to go through the 40 – 50 cm deep river. I knew the air filter , spark plug and exhaust are in a high position on the Tiger Boxer 250 Rs.

I mounted my Golden Tiger Girl and pulled her ears; instantly she responded with her rough roaring sound. Full of confidence, I managed to cross the river in one take; my Golden Tiger Girl had accomplished her assignment with glamour. The second option was going around the river – but if i had embarked on that, it would have taken me another hour before I reached Cyber waterfall.

Cyber waterfall is under the responsibility of the Cyber Ranger Station. It is situated 86 km. from the provincial city. This multi-layered waterfall is formed by water, which flows from a high mountain in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. The waterfall at the higher level is called Namtok Loi Choi. Below, there is a huge water basin to receive the water which keeps flowing down continuously. In other part, the water squeezes through rocks to the basin, creating a beautiful high multi-layered waterfall. The waterfall is most stunning from September until early November (rainy season). The waterfall is surrounded by a rattan forest with shady trees. Complete quietness can be experienced here. Only the sound of birds as well as insects are heard here. This was one of the quietest experiences in my entire life. Such natural, unaffected beauty. Here you realize how wonderful our globe is. Let’s respect her a bit more.

I climbed up to the top of the waterfall alone which is normally not allowed. Halfway there is a sign telling tourists that it’s rather dangerous to climb the waterfall. On 14th October 2544 one tourist died, fell down the waterfall – no change to survive. However, if you are a bit cautious its not that dangerous. On my way back I was met by an amiable ranger with his thumbs up. He spoke some Thai words to me, like “farang keng mak” which means ‘courageous foreigner’.

Late afternoon, I returned to Suphanburi, very satisfied about my visit to this unspoiled wildlife sanctuary. The area around the sanctuary from Ban Rai towards Dan Chang is a real bikers paradise, wide curving roads with wonderful landscapes in the background . I rode these roads with the sun setting , completely alone just as if everyone had abandoned this area, so peaceful.

I recommend Thailand as a real bikers’ paradise with many off the beaten track unseen parks and sanctuaries. Thailand has still a lot to offer to tourists .

This Wildlife Sanctuaries in Uthai Thani province obviously “ MADE MY DAY “…… now, which famous actor said that again ?