Monthly Archives: March 2010

Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery

One of the latest museums to open in Thailand is the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery in Bangkachao in Samut Prakan. It is in an area which is commonly called the “lungs of Bangkok” as it is covered in lush green foliage and is only a stone’s throw away from the busy streets of Bangkok. For Bangkokians who want to escape the pollution during the weekend, they can just catch a ferry boat from Khlong Toei Pier to the other side. These small boats run every 15 minutes and cost only 5 baht. Here you can rent a bicycle for only 100 baht for the day in order to explore what Time Magazine once called, the best “urban oasis” in Asia.

To start your tour of Bangkachao, you should visit the newly opened Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery. The museum is open every day, apart from Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At present it is free of charge though this may change in the future. From the pier, you need to ride your bicycle or walk about 490 meters down the small lane to the first intersection. On your left you will see a sign advertising the museum. Walk down here for 70 meters and you will see the front entrance on your left. There are also motorcycle taxis at the pier and they will probably take you there for only 10 baht.

Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery is set in some of the most beautiful surroundings I have seen for a while. The buildings use traditional Thai architecture and if you are not in a rush to go elsewhere, then you should take your time and relax in the gardens while taking some refreshments from the snack bar. The museum was the idea of Peerapong Thanompongphan, a retired politician. He wanted to preserve the unique culture of the Siamese Sighting Fish which have been around for hundreds of years. In his opinion, the fish should be much a part of Thai culture as “tom yum kung” or “Thai silk”.

The Siamese Fighting Fish are better known around the world as “betta”. These days they are mainly found in aquariums but in the past, they were native to the paddy fields of Thailand and Cambodia. They are known for their bright colours, though really, they are only like this when they become agitated. These days, breeders have managed to produce fighter fish that are colourful all the time. The fish are carnivorous and often go to the surface to receive oxygen unlike other fish. That is why they can live in tall jar like containers with no pumps.

When you first visit the center, you should go up to the second floor to watch an educational video which explains more about the history of the fighting fish. Then afterwards, you can go downstairs to see the fish which are on the ground floor of three of the buildings. It was good to see that there were plenty of bilingual information boards here. You will soon learn why most of the males have to be kept apart in separate jars. In addition to the aquariums, there is an outdoor exhibition area along one side of the property. As you walk along the path you can learn all about the history of Samut Prakan and the local area in Phra Pradaeng.

Once you have finished here, you could get back on your bicycle and explore Bangkachao a bit more.There are plenty of elevated concrete walkways so you can easily stay off the roads. If you are here at the weekend then you could also go and explore the Bang Nampheung Floating Market. If you want to go by motorcycle taxi to the floating market, then this will cost about 30 baht from the pier. I wish to thank Marcel for inviting me to visit the fighting fish museum and for showing me around. If you are ever in the area then I would strongly recommend that you drop by here.

A Memorable Homestay in Chiangrai

AK763 touched down Chiangmai Airport with a breeze, we took a tuktuk to interstate bus terminal and took the 10:15 am Green Bus to Chiangrai. The service was good and attendant was very helpful and attentive. Unfortunately, we have to take the last row of seat as it was almost fully booked. Eric met me and my wife in Chiangrai Bus terminal 2 office. This is the first time I arrive at Terminal 2 which serves as intercity terminal. The terminal 1 is next to the night market but it has been converted to intra or local Chiangrai bus terminal.

We went to the old market in Chiangrai Chinatown to buy some fruits before heading to his place. It’s the season for fruits and we are able to buy some good mangoes, pineapples, and durians. Heading for his place in Wiang Chai. Som and Selyne were there to greet us.

Wiang Keaw is a small village, 20 km east of Chiangrai and Eric’s home is on the second row of house from the main road. It is convenient and yet accessible. I was told that the bus to Chiangkhong pass by every hour and songtheow (25 Bahts) also pass by regularly.

Google “a-thai-village-home stay,food,culture experience” for Eric’s village.

The home

Eric’s home in a rice farming village

I must give credit to Som for keeping their home clean, tidy and very comfortable. There are 2 minimum requirements that I will insist for a homestay – (1) clean (2) western toilet – and Eric place meet my requirements. All at home except the cat and dog speak English and there was really no issue in communicating. Eric has installed Truemove Satellite TV (Channel includes BBC, CNN, History, NGO, etc and also a fast Internet service (Upload 2.6MBPS and Download 0.4MBPS – tested at I was able to post this blog from his Desktop PC. The hall also has a good BOSE HIFI system besides the 40″ Sony LCD TV. The guest room is very big and airy due to many windows and even in the March dry season, we had to use the blanket at night as it is very cool at night. They have a western toilet with heater and there is no problem to shower at night.

The neighborhood
We took a walk in the neighborhood, visiting Som’s father house and his rice fields, and met with Som’s Grand mother (92-year old lady). We met up with the chief monk in the neighborhood temple. There was a funeral that day and we witnessed the funeral proceedings. As the village school is having its semester break, we could only see some kids playing basket ball in the fields.

For dinner, Eric drove to another town’s market nearby to buy some live fish for dinner. But we only get 3 live small Soon Hock Fish or Marbled Goby to steam for dinner. Som is a great cook and as she has lived in Kuala Lumpur before she cook the dishes besides the fishes according to our tastes. It was a sumptuous dinner to say the least.

Dinner Time

Soon Hock fish is a priced plate in Chinese Restaurant in Malaysia but it cost only 80 Bahts for 3 live ones

Chiangrai Walking Street

I have to congratulate myself for taking the advice of Eric to arrive early so that I could visit the Chiangrai walking street. I had earlier wanted to rent a car and drive to CR via Thaton and MaeSalong. I had been to Chiangmai walking street and really love to experience one in Chiangrai.. Chiangrai Walking street is held on Saturday evening and Eric is kind enough to take us there with Som and Selyne. We arrive a bit late at 7:30 due to a late dinner. CR walking street was much spacious compared with CM’s. My wife had a lot of success in shopping. I was more interested in the street food than buying anythings. We had street foot massage like the one in CM for 60 bahts for 30 mins before taking the 20KM drive home. We have some beers and chatted till midnight before rest.

Sunday 28 March 2010

The only White Temple in Thailand

Eric suggested we visit the White temple or known as the Wat Rong Khun and volunteer to be our tour guide. The whole temple complex was designed by the national artist named Mr. Chalermchai Kositpipat. To quote him…”It was my strong intention to build a temple in imitation of heaven. I wanted it to be a heaven on earth. I built a main building in the Buddhist monastery. I wanted it to be like a house of the Buddha with white color representing His purity and white glass representing His wisdom shining all over the earth and the universe”.

We have visited the white temple 2 years ago. The temple is almost completed by now and it is really worth a revisit. I also missed the Northern Thai arabica coffee (grown on the hill slopes and harvested by the hill-tribes). There are a lot of new development especially the souvenir shops and the rest rooms. We dropped by the bus station to buy our return ticket to CM. despite buying bus ticket 24 hours earlier, we had to contend with last but one row. We had Wonton noodle in a shop on Sanambin road and did some shopping at the Big C before heading home.

Som has been a good hostess and insisted to stay home to make dinner for us. We had sumptuous dinner of baked fish, stirred friend green bean and herbal chicken soup. My wife had the opportunity to learn cooking tips from Som.

Som and my wife, Amy enjoying their cooking chore

Eric’s traditional Thai house has a large rest area outside the hall where he install a hammock. The rest area is a good place for beer, rest, relax, and leisure talks. We had a good time talking about Thai and Malaysia politics. We chatted till late night.

A nap at home after a short trip to town

CR to CM
The next day, Monday 29 March 2010, was the time to say goodbye to our host. Eric was kind enough to send us to the Terminal 2 to catch a Green bus. We stayed in Star Inn in ChiangMai near night market. Online booking was done on 28 March and we were lucky to secure a standard room with breakfast for two at USD33.

Putting down is difficult
I salute Eric’s resolve to “put things down” and settled down in a quiet small town in CR. It is easier to “take things up” than to “put things down”. My short stay here has given me time to reflect what I really want to do with the rest of my remaining life. I have seen the passing of many friends due to illness and stress. In a recent case, one of my very good friend and associate, CT Chang was diagnosed with end stage cancer. You can read and follow his treatment on He was forced to put things down. I have been taking more and more things up – work on contract as manager and study to prepare for my retirement job in teaching. Just wonder when I will follow Eric’s footstep and put things down. I hope I don’t have to wait until it is too late to quit the rat race.

New Blogs about Life in Thailand

For a while now I have been doing a number of other blogs about Thailand. These are more personal ones about every day things that I experience in Thailand. This first one is a “moblog” which I will go into more detail later. It is called that because I blog from my mobile phone. Everything is done on the road and with the phone which includes taking the pictures, editing, typing the blog and then posting it. I mainly use this blog to make notes where I am on particular days. Some of the events I will write about in more details here on these blogs at So, if you want to know where I am on any particular day then check this one out at

This second blog came about when I realized that I had literally thousands of pictures in my photo library and I thought it would be a good idea to start sharing some of them. It is mainly a photo blog with extended captions. I post on this blog on Mondays to Fridays each week. You may have seen some of the pictures before on this blog but I think some of them will be new to you. You can visit this blog at

This third blog is one of my favourites and one that I spend a lot of time on each day. This is the the news site for our local province in Samut Province. Some of the blogs I will cross-post here at, but there are also many blogs that you may not have seen here before. I think it is a great way for you to learn more about the little things that happen in a typical city in Thailand. You can find this blog at We also have a sister photo blog which we post at

So, you can see that even though I am not posting here every day, I am still very active on the Internet. And of course, you can get daily updates on what I am doing by following me on Twitter @RichardBarrow.

An unusual Homestay relationship in Chiangrai

I got acquainted with Eric Thitaporn in a very unique and special circumstances. It was way back in June 2008.

In early 2008, I booked 4 AirAsia ticket to Chiangmai. As 4 of us are frequent travelers to this part of the kingdom. we wanted to try something different and planned to stay in Thailand villages for a change. Google “Thai Village Home Stay Food Cultural Experience” landed me the web page of Eric Thitaporm.

I wrote to Eric and stated our requirements and schedule. Eric has only a guest room to offer and it was not convenient for 2 old couples to share the room, we turned down the offer. 4 of us instead booked a package tour for Chiangmai (CM) and Chiangrai (CR).

But Eric and I became friends. We shared news and articles about health, environment, DIY, etc. I found out that Eric is actually a Malaysian married to a Thailand lady named Som and the couple has a daughter named Selyne who was borned in Malaysia. Eric had worked in Kuala Lumpur and lived in the neighbor where I live.

Home-stay host became guest to my home
In June 2009, Eric had to return to Malaysia for some personal matters that involved Government agency. Knowing too well the efficiency of government services, he planned to stay for a month. Eric wanted to rent a place for the period and ask me to help look for him. I offered my home as I have a guest room.Eric took up the offer.

Eric drove from Chiangrai to Saadao. Thai-Malaysia border town and left his car in the hotel parking lot and took a bus to Kuala Lumpur, from where I pick him up. He stayed for a few nights and moved to stay with other friends who live in a more convenient location for public transport.

Strengthen Friendship and return goodwill

MY wife and I booked 2 AirAsia tickets to Chiangmai to celebrate our wedding anniversary in March. This time we did not plan to visit any tourist attractions but indulge in a rest and relaxation trip. Visiting Eric and Som become our top to do list. Eric and Som were excited to learn of our plans and look forward to our visit.

We experienced first hand of home-staying in a Traditional Thai Village. You will find that even those on a moderate budget can afford to indulge in a home stay and enjoyably, will have a more culturally impressive experience, one that you will always remember than a high-class tour.

27 Marc 2010 on board AK763 bound for ChiangMai

Life Along the River Exhibition

The Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel is hosting a month long art and culture exhibition called “Life along the River”. We went to the opening ceremony at the weekend which was attended by the Governor of Samut Prakan. You can see more pictures at The art exhibition runs from now until 20th April 2010. The Thai culture show will continue until 8th April 2010 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The art work depicts every day life in Amphoe Bang Phli in Samut Prakan. There are over 100 works of watercolour paintings, drawings and photographs. The work is led by Wattana Poolcharoen, a famous artist, and 40 honorary artists. The Thai culture show consists of traditional Thai music, Thai games, Thai food and local children dressed in traditional Thai clothes.