Monthly Archives: February 2010

Preparing for Judgement Day in Thailand

The tension is rising in Thailand as we have now started the countdown to Judgement Day on Friday 26th February 2010. The red shirts have already started their protests though so far the yellow shirts have decided to stay at home. If that is true then any riots on the streets of Bangkok next week should be limited with, hopefully, minimal casualties. Personally, I don’t think there will be any dangers for foreign tourists. However, the embassies of the United States, Great Britain and Australia have all released travel advisories to their citizens to avoid Bangkok.

The so-called Judgement Day is when the Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on whether to seize the 76 billion baht of frozen assets of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The controversy surrounds the fact that the Asset Examination Committee were coup appointed and the red shirts claim that the odds were stacked against Thaksin from day one. At first they boasted they will put one million protesters on the streets of Bangkok next week. However, they have now downplayed this to much smaller protests at key locations around the capital.

Although the main protest seems to have been called off, the government and metropolitan police are taking no chances. Nor are the police in Samut Prakan who have responsibility over Suvarnabhumi International airport. I took these pictures today during a riot police drill which simulated an attack by the red shirts who were trying to disrupt the running of the airport. As we all know, during the previous government, the yellow shirts easily shut down the airport which led to travel chaos and stranded foreign tourists. No-one wants a repeat of that.

It is difficult to say what will happen next week. Everyone has different opinions. Hopefully things will pass smoothly or it might just be the start of something bigger. The red shirt leaders are threatening to escalate their protests with the intention of bringing down the government. We haven’t had any serious violence so far, however we have had a few bomb explosions in Bangkok already. This may or may not be the work of the red shirts. More likely a third hand who wants to gain from any chaos that is caused. If you can avoid Bangkok for the next two weeks then it might be advised to do so. However, it is a big city and the chances that you will get mixed up in anything is very slim. Just use your common sense and avoid any large protests.

We will be posting hourly updates next week in our Paknam Web Forums over at and also on our twitter accounts @ThailandVoice, @ThaiBlogs and also @Paknam_News if there is any trouble at the airport. You can watch a video of the riot police drill at Paknam Videos and also many pictures at Paknam Photos.

How Cheap is Thailand?

It’s no secret what attracts many people to Thailand on their holidays is the idea of cheap getaway and Thailand does have the reputations of being a cheap destination. It’s also true to say many residents will tell you Thailand is anything but cheap with dual pricing for tourists and locals, over inflated prices in tourist areas and high inflation over the last few years.

I thought I’d do a little investigation into this trickly question and started by researching the prices for a single adult in comparison to the nearest equivalent in the UK.

All prices were calculated 60 baht to the pound, since the article was written the pound has dropped to 50 baht, so the Thai prices will be around 12% higher.

In most places a dual pricing policy operates. Thais and South East Asians pay one price, western tourists another. The tourist price is on display, the other price hidden. Western tourist prices range from double to in the extreme 10 times what Thais pay, but is usually 5 times at most government owned sites and a little less at private ones. This article shows western tourist prices


More Expensive in Thailand
Jungle Flight £45 – Thailand
Arial Extreme £22 – UK
Go Ape £27.50 – UK

Siam Ocean World £18 – Thailand
London Aquarium £8.25 – UK
Brighton Sea Life £8.40 – UK

National Parks £4 (for Tourists) – Thailand
National Parks free – UK

Beauty Spot outside national park 50p – £2 (for Tourists) – Thailand
Beauty Spot outside national park free – UK

Jim Thomson’s House £2 (fee to charity) – Thailand
Wallace Collection Free – UK

National Museum £2 – Thailand
British Museum free – UK

Sukhothai £2.50 – Thailand
Avebury free – UK

Roughly the same price
Safari World £10 – Thailand
Woburn Safari Park £10.50 – UK

Corrections Museum free – Thailand
Science Museum free – UK

National Gallery 65p – Thailand
National Gallery free – UK

Grand Palace £8 – Thailand
Buckingham Palace £10 – UK

Ayutthaya 50p (per ruin) – Thailand
Stonehenge £6.60 – UK

The Prasart Museum £6 – Thailand
Design Museum £6 – UK

Bangkok Art & Culture Centre free – Thailand
Tate Gallery free – UK

Cheaper in Thailand
Crocodile Farm £5 – Thailand
London Zoo £16.50p

Ancient City £5 – Thailand
The Eden Project £16 – UK

Wat Po 50p – Thailand
Westminster Abbey £12 – UK

Wat Arun £1 – Thailand
St Paul’s £12 – UK

Accommodation (per night)
Guest House – Thailand £8 – UK £20
Hotel – Thailand £25+ – UK £29+
Tourist Resort – Thailand £50 – £40 (Spain)

For single accommodation the cheapest option in Thailand is a guest house, they can be booked in advanced or checked into on the spot, they range from as little as £2 per night and go up to over £20. The former offers little more than a bed in an old wooden house and the latter decent room with air-con, cable. Realistically good price to pay would be between £6 and £14 depending on how touristy the area. The resort is an average four star location in Phuket, booked from the UK.

For the UK the prices are a Bed and Breakfast in Blackpool, Premier Inn and an equivalent resort in Spain booked from the UK.

Food (per head)
Street Food – Thailand 50p (street noodles) – UK £2 (slice of pizza)
Local Cafe – Thailand £1 – UK £4
Tourist Cafe – Thailand £2 – UK £8
MacDonald’s Burger – Thailand 40p – UK £1
Non-Tourist Restaurant- Thailand £4+ – UK £10-20+
Tourist Restaurant – Thailand & UK £10-20+

Thailand is the home of cheap eats. With the exception of western food you’ll enjoy high quality food at low prices. If you’re not stuck in a resort where you’ll be charged the hyped up prices there will be cheap food everywhere.

Taxi – Thailand £10 (Airport to Bangkok) – UK £55 (Airport to London)
Local Bus – Thailand 12p – 36p – UK £1
Long Distance Coach – £12 (Bangkok-Chaing Mai) – £14 (London-Newcastle)
Long Distance Train -£15 (Bangkok-Chaing Mai) – £60-150 (London-Newcastle)
Underground – Thailand 20p – £1.20 – UK £2 – £5.00
Sky Train – Thailand 20p – £1.20 – UK £2 – £5.00

The Thai coaches prices are from the official bus stations not private operators who are best avoided. Taxi is on the meter or pre-paid including toll way fees.

If you’re doing anything but coach trip around the country, Thailand wins hands down. If travelling by coach in Thailand expect to pay more once you realise the luxurious options available and decide you like them. VIP 24 is a good place to start.

British Rail companies should be rounded up and shot.


Thailand wins hands down over the UK in the basics. Accommodation, food and travel if you keep out of the resorts and travel more independently, however if you are going to do something Thai prices go up. State run places are not too expensive but still more expensive than the UK as most things in the UK are free. Private tourist attractions are often rip-offs worldwide so we shouldn’t be surprised many in Thailand are too. With the exception of temples there are very few good deals in Thailand and some genuine rips offs. In a country where the operating expenses are a fraction of that in the UK a lot of these prices are pure profiteering. One can wonder why it is twice as expensive to run as the UK when the employees wages are probably 1/10.

Whether Thailand is expensive also depends of what kind of holiday you are going to have. Are you a backpacker travelling for a month staying at guesthouses and travelling by local bus or a family of four looking for a two week holiday in a four star hotel expecting to do and see everything. If you’re the latter you may find two weeks in Spain would have worked out a whole lot cheaper.

For the whole time I have been in Thailand it has been seeking to abandon its reputation as a cheap backpacker location and become a package tourist rival to Spain, and has largely failed. It has made a number of moves to do this from Amazing Thailand to making visas harder to get for backpackers but one thing it doesn’t seem to want to do is offer a good deal. Thailand’s whole motive to attract more high spending tourists is of course no different to any other country, to make more money, but the idea of actually having to win the business over with a good deal and rather than tourists just appearing out of thin air has been the point the Thai tourist industry has been missing for years. The fact is western tourists can go to a plethora of cheap locations from Turkey to Cuba offering what Thailand has, what will attract them to Thailand is a good deal.

I remember being in Thailand when the Asian economic crash occurred in 1997 and the Thai Baht halved in value vs. western currencies in days creating the possibility for cheap holidays. I thought hey presto, Thailand has the opportunity to become one of the hottest destinations of earth. This was scuppered by the tourist industry which doubled the prices of almost everything in tourist areas the very same week and legions of tourists attracted by the supercharged currencies found they had no more spending power than before the crash and told everyone back home. With the exact opposite happening in 2008 and the Thai baht almost doubling in comparison to western currencies and tourists drying up I wondered if the opposite would happen and the prices drop. This largely did not happen and Thailand now to me looks pretty uncompetitive in the world market.

Sacred Stone Balls at a Thai Temple

The grounds of a Buddhist temple in Thailand have a variety of buildings of all shapes and sizes. At first glance their use might seem to be random. But, there is one building, called the “phra ubosot” which is not only the most sacred but also has distinguishing features that makes it easy to spot. Surrounding the consecrated area there is a boundary marked by eight stone slabs. In Thai these are called “sima” (see-maa) and are often leaf shaped. They can be found at the cardinal points of the compass.

What I didn’t realize before is that beneath these stone slabs there is a sacred stone ball called “luk nimit” in Thai. You don’t normally see them as they are usually buried. I took these pictures at the weekend at Wat Rat Niyom Tham in Amphoe Bang Phli, Samut Prakan. I was there to take pictures of the ceremony attended by the Samut Prakan Governor to consecrate a new “ubosot”. Local people were there to pray and also to place gold leaf on the stone balls. They would later be buried with the “sima” stone placed on top.

In addition to the eight balls surrounding the building, a ninth stone ball is buried inside and then the main Buddha image is placed on top. Lay people don’t normally use this building. There are other buildings, for example the “viharn” which also has a Buddha image. What makes the “ubosot” special as it is the only place where an ordination can take place. Hence it is sometimes called the “ordination hall”. Actually, the first part of the ordination can take place anywhere in the temple grounds. However, the last part can only take part in the “ubosot”.

You can see more pictures of this ceremony in our Samut Prakan Photo Album. I will also cross-post it in our Thai Buddhism blog where you will find more information about Buddhism in Thailand..

Floating Ashes in the Sea

Traditionally, in Thailand, when a Buddhist dies, their body is cremated and then the bones and ashes are collected and are either kept at the temple or at home or sometimes both. However, there is a third option which is seemingly becoming more popular these days. It is called “loi angkarn” which means the floating or scattering of ashes over the water.

It is not really a Buddhist tradition as it has been adapted from Hinduism where they often scatter ashes in the Ganges River. Some Thai people believe that floating the ashes of their loved ones in a river or in the open sea will help wash away their sins but also help them go more smoothly up to heaven. It doesn’t matter where you do this, but if you are in the Bangkok and Samut Prakan area then an auspicious place is the mouth of the Chao Phraya River at Paknam where I live. There are at least half a dozen boats here that people can charter to take them from the city out into the Gulf of Thailand. It costs about 1,200 baht and for that you get the services of a captain and layman who will lead the ceremony. Some people also bring along a couple of monks.

There are a set number of rituals that have to be done in the correct order before the main ceremony. This includes paying respect to the guardian spirit of the boat and then later the god of the ocean and the goddess of water. The bones and ashes that were collected from the crematorium the day before were wrapped in a white cloth. Rose and flower petals were placed on top and also a jasmine garland. In this picture they are sprinkling scented water onto the ashes.

Next comes the prayers where the mourners request the spirits and gods to look after the deceased person. It is then time for the white cloth containing the ashes to be carefully dropped over the side. They don’t actually scatter the ashes, they just let the cloth float away and then sink. As they watch it go, they say their final farewells while at the same time scattering flower petals on the water.

If you are interested in Buddhism in Thailand, then you might like to visit our website at

Thailand: Greatest Urban Myths (Part 2)

(The crime scene of almost every Farang ‘murder’ in Pattaya – the infamous Pattaya hotel balcony)

As a Farang in Thailand we have all heard some of the most laughable quack-wack Thailand myths: ladyboys who have coaxed clients back to their rooms only to drug ‘em and cut out their kidney (and after sell it to a hospital), tuk-tuk drivers who are part of a dangerous mafia syndicate and dodgy cashiers who stuff items in your bag before calling in the police on charges of theft. As mentioned in part one, even some ‘journalists’ pick up on these pathetic myths, or even conspiracy theories, and sell them to some naff tabloid back home. And on the subject of conspiracy theories too this time around, a classic from last year was the David Carradine story (or former Mr Kung Fu himself). Instead of sticking to the forensic reports, sensationalist articles written claimed that Mr Kill Bill was in fact murdered, for example, by a couple of well-endowed ladyboys he had met in Patpong earlier that night. (Read this blog for more info on one of the hilarious articles published).

Then we have just the simple Thailand myths like: Thais stand up for the national anthem at the cinema, the word Farang is derogatory, gambling is a serious crime, Thais never criticize the monkhood,Thai women married to Farang can not own land and all the poor people love Thaksin Shinawatra.

Pattaya Flying Club ‘Suicides’

Probably the best told Thailand urban myth over the past few years is that all the Farangs who commit suicide in Pattaya by jumping from hotel balconies were in fact the victim of cold-blooded murder. With the cover-ups so intricately planned, it could go down as the best drunken barstool conspiracy theory since Elvis was abducted aliens and returned to Earth as a Phuket jet-ski operator. Even though 66 year-old Henrick weighs in at 220 pounds, his skinny-as-a-chopstick former teenage ‘wife’ standing at 5 foot 1 in high-heels is miraculously able to throw Henrick over a one-meter high Pattaya 15th floor hotel balcony. She then flees the scene on the back of her Thai lover’s motorbike. According to the best myth-tellers, everyone was involved: the cops knew it was murder but for the sake of tourism they put it down as suicide. The housekeepers, check-in staff and security guards, they all knew the ‘truth’ but got paid backhanders to keep quiet. It gets told (in that ever-popular “I used to drink with the guy” fashion) that even though Henrick drank 17 bottles of Thai hootch on a daily basis, enjoyed messing around on the side with local Lolitas while occasionally indulging in a ladyboy three-some, was actually a perfectly normal guy.

The Thai Language Has No Tenses – It’s So Easy

Another classic myth which has done more rounds than a rabid Thai dog with a piece of meat tied to its tale. Even though Joe from Ireland has a limited personal Thai vocabulary of just ‘Sawatdee khrap’, ‘Sway mak mak’ and ‘Check bin’, has in his 3 months in Thailand learned from a hundred other Thai language wanna-be speakers that the Thai language does not have a past tense, passive tense, future tense, present perfect tense – absolutely no tenses at all. It is the simplest language imaginable. Joe goes on to state that anything with a brain could master the language in 6 weeks. After a year, however, when Joe finally admits that he still can’t put even a basic sentence together in the Thai language spouts out “Arrh… I’m just too lazy to learn”.

All Thai Women Wanna Have a Farang Boyfriend

Do they heck! Definitely another one of those rumours spread by expat barstool types who has never struck up any conversation with any proper Thai girl. Instead, all he has ever heard from ‘his’ Thai girl friends is that since every Thai man beats his lover, elopes with every female family member under the age of 16 and constantly drinks himself stupid before breakfast before finally running off with another damsel, is the reason that every Thai women would like a ‘responsible’ Farang boyfriend. Sucker Farang is oblivious that this is coming from a woman who has had four kids by Thai men and is dating a dancer who works in a men-only bar up the road. The reality is, there are a lot of proper Thai women out there who would be interested in having a Farang boyfriend, but to put them all in the same boat is ludicrous.
(Steve notes: There is another fairytale myth around that goes “Thai-Chinese women from well-to-do families wouldn’t be seen dead marrying a Farang”)

The Ice is Bad for You & “I Had Food Poisoning”

Let’s start with that guidebook to Thailand favourite myth of dirty ice and it’s bad for you. Ok ok… there could be a little possibility of this if it’s that shaved stuff that comes from those big blocks of ice you sometimes see. But if the ice served is cubed, as you usually get these days, you can be rest-assured it’s as clean as its counterpart in Farangland. After reading their ‘bible’ (guidebook) average Mr Backpacker on waking in the morning with a bout of ‘guts explode’ exclaims “It must’ve been the ice I had last night”. What he hasn’t blamed instead are those three Maekhong whiskey and Red Bull buckets gulped down after scoffing on a fiery bowl of Tom Yum Kung. What the guy should obviously be blaming is himself and his own stomach, not the ‘dirty’ ice. Next up, how come so many Farang on getting an even worse case of the trotts proclaim to having had food poisoning? Most of the time it is nothing of the sort, just made up nonsense they thought up after having read another page of their guidebook of myths. Get food poisoning and it’s not simply a case of running to the lavatory every half hour, instead you could be serving time in a local hospital.

Thailand: Greatest Urban Myths (Part 1)