When I first came to Thailand fifteen years ago there wasn’t really that much in the way of English media. All we had at the time were two national newspapers in English and a few programmes on television if we tuned in to a certain radio station to get the English soundtrack. Also, if I travelled into Bangkok I could watch the latest Hollywood movies with the original soundtrack. Things have certainly changed. Some of the national television stations now broadcast both Thai and English audio channels. This is great for watching movies. Even the evening news has an English voiceover if you want. Then there are a growing number of Thai programmes that have English subtitles. More DJ’s on the radio are speaking English and playing the latest songs from Europe and America. We now, of course, have satellite stations from people like True Visions (formerly known as UBC). This means we can get the latest news from CNN and BBC and also Hollywood movies from HBO and Star Movies. However, this comes at a high price. But, the biggest innovation for us expats in Thailand was the dawn of the Internet. This suddenly gave us access to a lot of media from back home.
The first gadget that I bought to stream media from the Internet was an Internet Radio box that I bought a couple of years ago in the UK. At that time they didn’t have them in Thailand and really, even now, they are hard to come across. I never really listened to Internet Radio on my computer before. But the Internet Radio that I bought works independently from your computer. It looks a bit like an old-fashioned radio. However, it is very modern as it picks up the Internet wirelessly. This means I can plug it in anywhere around the house and I can listen to thousands of radio stations from around the world. Some of my pre-set channels include BBC Radio and a few local channels. I have it on all the time in the office which is my link with the home country. I like the Internet Radio so much that when I went back to the UK the next time I bought two more in the sales! Now I have one in the living room and one in the bedroom. One good thing that I like is that it has an “on demand” menu for some of the stations. So, if there is a particular radio programme that I would like to listen to, I can just choose to listen to when I like.
I was never really into downloading movies and t.v. programmes from the Internet. I just didn’t fancy watching these on my computer. However, after True Visions dropped the BBC Entertainment channel I was forced to look elsewhere for British programmes. That is when I discovered two things. The first was the ease of downloading with torrents and the second were the new DVD players that have a USB port. So, all you had to do is download a programme in say .avi format, copy this across to a USB thumbdrive, plug this into your DVD player and then you could watch it on your television. So, when True Vision suddenly cancelled the BBC channel when I was halfway through several seasons, I was now able to finish watching these programmes. Then of course, I discovered new shows and some old favourites from years ago. I started to get hooked to downloading. However, it was still a little inconvenient. After I had downloaded the programmes, I had to copy across to the USB drive and then physically take it to the DVD player in the other room. But, now this has all changed for me.
The latest gadget that I bought to help me get in touch with programmes back home is this media player called PlayOn!HD. Media Players have been around for a few years now but they were never readily available in Thailand. The first ones that came out weren’t really that good. Now we have two or three alternatives that have transferred my leisure time. The main two features of this media player is that it is a HD version so I can use a HDMI cable to plug it into my big LCD t.v. Secondly it can be plugged into the network. This means that from my t.v. I can browse files on my computer and then stream any that I like. Even .MKV files which my DVD player couldn’t play. When I bought the PlayOn!HD I also bought a hard disk as well. This has two advantages. Firstly, I can store all the files on the hard disk which allows me to turn off the computer. More importantly, I can download torrents directly from the Internet onto the media player. As it uses less power than leaving my computer on to download programmes, I can just leave the media player on all night and then the next day sit down to watch my favourite programmes from the UK.
If you want to know more about where to buy media players in Thailand then visit the Paknam Web Forums where I have opened a thread on this subject.