Monthly Archives: June 2011

Prayers for HM The King

On Saturday, Thai people all over the country were invited to take part in Buddhist chanting called “Phra Paritr”. This was done as a tribute to His Majesty the King on the auspicious occasion of his 84th birthday anniversary this year. The Phra Paritr religious ceremony took place simultaneously in both Bangkok and the provinces on Saturday, 25 June, starting at exactly 3:29 p.m.

Phra Paritr ceremonies date back to ancient times and are performed to bring good health and ensure protection from all forms of ailment and evil. In Bangkok, it was held at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and was presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali. It was also broadcast live on NBT and Radio Thailand. At the same time, a number of temples in the provinces also held simultaneous events.

I took these pictures at Wat Pichai Songkram in Samut Prakan Province. Government officials and local people were invited to take part in this important event which was also attended by 99 monks. Everyone was asked to wear white. During the ceremony, the lay people were urged to refrain from drinking alcohol during the upcoming Buddhist Rains Retreat which lasts for three months. They were asked to do this in order to make merit for His Majesty The King.

Photo Story: Advance Voting for Thai Elections

Today an estimated 2.3 million people visited polling stations for advance voting in Thailand’s national elections. Today was for the people who had registered in advance to say that they were unable to vote on the 3rd July 2011. Polling stations officially opened at 8 a.m. this morning but people were turning up as early as 7 a.m. This is because advance voting doesn’t have so many polling stations.

In Samut Prakan, there were polling stations at each of the District offices for local people. Then there were two massive sites for people who come from other provinces but are unable to return home next weekend to vote. At the Thai Navy Academy, where I took these pictures, people from most provinces in the Northeast of Thailand, except Surin and Sisaket, came to cast their vote. For the rest of the country, the polling station was at Tesco Lotus in Bang Pu.

From what I heard, there were over 35,000 people, mainly Thai migrant workers, who came to vote at the navy academy. Due to the large numbers there was a constant traffic jam on Sukhumwit Road nearly all day until the voting closed at 3 p.m. When people arrived they had a to consult a large map which told them which area to report to. There was basically one tent for each of the provinces.  At some of the more popular provinces people had to queue up for an hour in the sun.

After registering, people then cast their vote in secret. Their ballot papers were then put in an envelope which was sealed and signed. They then put them in the ballot box which, as you can see, was already sealed. At each tent there were at least two policemen watching what was going on. They also seemed to be some independent observers who were making a note of the number of people who were voting.

After the polling stations closed, these ballot boxes had to be delivered to Thailand Post under guard. They would then be sent to their relevant province by EMS. For the votes made by the local people, their ballot boxes will be kept under lock and key at the district offices until the day of the national elections on 3rd July. I am told they would also be monitored by CCTV and also possibly independent observers.

I don’t have the final figures yet for the total number of people who came out for advance voting. Election Commission (EC) secretary-general Suthipol Thaweechaikarn is seen here visiting the polling station at the navy academy in Samut Prakan. He later went to inspect the polling station at Bang Pu. While I was taking this picture, a number of people came up to him to say that their names were not on the register. There was also a lot of confusion about where to go to vote as the procedure had changed from last time.

Launch of 24 Hour English News Channel in Thailand

When I first came to Thailand it was very difficult to get much news about the country in the English language.  That all changed with the launch of Thailand Outlook Channel a few years back. For the first time we were getting English language news and variety programmes on cable television. They then re-branded under the Thai-ASEAN News (TAN) Network and can now be found on True Visions Channel 78. They became far more serious with news content  and they started to live up to their slogan of being “Thailand’s first and only 24 hour English news channel”. However, they now have competition in the form of ASEAN TV which also broadcasts on True Visions on Channel 99.

ASEAN TV have been around for nearly two years as a project of MCOT. In April 2011 they joined with Nation Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and The Nation and started to produce three hours of original news and analysis per day from Monday to Friday. 21st June 2011 saw the official launch of ASEAN TV where they announced that they will now be producing 6 hours of air time per day. 75% of time slot will be allocated to 9 news and news talk programs while another 25% of time slot allocated to documentary programs, socio-cultural programs, travelling programs as well as programs on food and beverages.

Asean News Room: offering news on ASEAN member countries from The Nation News Room and ANN (Monday – Friday at 7.00-8.00 a.m. and 9.00-10.30 p.m.)
Asean Business Report: Economics and Monetary News, Stocks reports from dominant stock markets in Asia (Mon-Fri 12.00 a.m.- 1p.m.)
Asean TV News: 1.5 hours daily providing updated news (Mon-Sun 1 – 1.30 p.m., 5-5.30 p.m., 8-8.30 pm)
Asean Talk: Conversation with Important figures in policy making from various countries in ASEAN (Mon-Fri 8-9.30 p.m.)
Hourly News Update: Monday–Sunday at 09.00 a.m., 10.00 a.m., 11.00 a.m., 12.00 a.m., 2  p.m. , 3  p.m. and 5  p.m.

Mekong sub region (Series): Offering new changes in Mekong sub region on Friday at 10.00-11.00 p.m.
Towards 2015: Each countries preparation to become ASEAN community in 2015. Wednesday-Thursday at 10.00 p.m. -11.00 p.m.
INSIDE ASIA: Offering current situation and interesting figures every Friday at 7.00-8.00 p.m. hosted by Thanong Khantong, and Kavi Chongkittavorn
VIEWPOINT: Stories and viewpoints of celebrities from all over the world by Veenarat Laohapakakul on Thursdays 7.00 p.m. -8 p.m.

9 Entertainment programs  consist of :

Panorama series every Monday-Friday at 10-11 am.
Asean  Documentaries
every Monday-Friday at 5.30-6 pm and
Nation documentaries
Monday-Friday at 7-8 pm
Healthy Flavor: Healthy Food program offering healthy food option every Saturady at 9.30-10.00 am
Live the Life: Teenage backpacking traveling program to various countries in ASEAN every Sunday at 9.30-10 am
THIS IS THAILAND: introducing travel destinations and community tradition in Thailand every Saturday at 9-9.30 am
POP ASEAN: introducing cultures from various ASEAN countries every Monday at 11.00-11.30 pm
Art Connection: takes you to Art Galleries all over ASEAN countries every Tuesday at 11-11.30 am
Design Asian: introducing creative decoration ideas every Wednesday-Friday at 11.00-11.30 pm

In the run-up to the Thai national elections, ASEAN TV have regular programming covering election news. On election day they will be reporting live from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. which will be the first English news coverage of a Thai Election. In October, MCOT and NBC will increase production to 8-10 hours daily. ASEAN TV broadcasts via THAICOM 5 satellite. You can watch on True Visions 99, PSI Channel 88 and also on the MCOT iPhone app. It should also be possible to pick up the signals on four continents around the world.

Honey Offering Ceremony at a Thai Temple

Over the weekend I went to take pictures at a Honey Offering Ceremony at Wat Khan Lad in Phra Pradaeng. I have never heard about this event before though apparently it takes place every year. Officially it should take place on the full moon day of the 10th lunar month which is around September. However, they decided to move it forward this year to make it more convenient.

As well as the Honey Offering Ceremony, the local people were also celebrating the Mon Culture. These people were originally from Burma but settled here hundreds of years ago. I am told that offering honey is an old Mon tradition where the local people dress in their traditional clothes and come to the temple to offer honey to the monks. They do this in order to make merit.

Honey has always been important in many different religions including Buddhism. This dates back to a time when the Buddha was meditating in a forest. He was in need of nourishment and an elephant and a monkey brought him fruit and honey. This event is celebrated in Buddhism around the world on the full moon day in September. There is also a Buddha image depicting this scene with the Buddha sitting in Western style.

15 Floating Markets Around Bangkok

Klong Suan 100 Year Market

(1) The old Klong Suan 100 Year Market in Samut Prakan Province sits alongside a canal that in the old days was the only way to travel between Bangkok and Chachoengsao. With the coming of highways the importance of markets like this one died out. However, the old shops have now been renovated and the market is now a popular place for Bangkok people to come and shop for souvenirs and to eat a variety of food. [MORE].

Wat Lampaya Floating Market

(2) In Nakhon Pathom Province you can find a popular riverside market called Wat Lampaya Floating Market. Most of the vendors are on land but there are a number of boats that are tied up. This is the way Thai people prefer to have their markets as there is more shade. When I was there the other year I didn’t see any other foreigners which helps to give a more authentic experience. It is also possible to join boat tours [MORE].

Bang Phli Floating Market

(3) The Bang Phli Floating Market in Samut Prakan Province is one of the oldest running markets in Thailand as it was established over 150 years ago. Like others it is more of a riverside market than a traditional floating market. However, the atmosphere of the old shops and rickety wooden bridges certainly make it worth a visit. For me the highlight here is the food but you can also join boat tours at the weekend.  [MORE].

Pattaya Floating Market

(4) When I first heard about the Pattaya Floating Market I thought that we would be getting another tacky and artificial tourist attraction built just to bring in the tourist dollars. However, I have been there twice now and the place is growing on me. The wooden buildings are built in different architectural styles and you will find that the shops in them are selling quality souvenirs and locally produced handicraft. You can also take a boat tour  [MORE].

Wat Takien Floating Market

(5) The Wat Takien Floating Market in Nonthaburi is another of those places where you are unlikely to find any other foreign tourists. It is open every day but it is definitely more active at the weekend. There are a number of boats tied up along the bank where you can sit and eat some freshly cooked food. It is also possible to hire a boat to take you on a tour of the local canals to see local life close up. [MORE].

(6) The most famous floating market for foreign tourists is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi Province. If you want that picture perfect postcard shot I recommend this place. However, if you don’t want any foreigners in the picture that you must go there early. By 9 a.m. there is a traffic jam of tourist boats. Most people go here from Bangkok on tours that include the Rose Garden [MORE].

(7) A famous market that is actually in Bangkok is Taling Chan Floating Market. However, don’t go there expecting a canal full of boats with vendors selling fruit and other produce. This is more a riverside market that has a number of boats tied up alongside the pier. However, it is still a good place to go and soak up the atmosphere. The last time that I visited I also joined a boat tour from here [MORE].

(8) I think probably the best market I have been to is Tha Kha Floating Market in Samut Songkhram. Of all the so-called floating markets out there, this one has mant boat vendors selling to local people. It is much like Damnoen Saduak but there are hardly any foreign tourists here. This is because it is not so easy to get to and is not on many tour routes. I also joined a very cheap boat tour from here that was really enjoyable [MORE].

(9) One of my favourite markets for food is Don Wai Floating Market in Nakhon Pathom. Although they label it this way, I would much prefer to translate it as Riverside Market. You don’t have the boat vendors like what we imagine floating markets in Thailand should have. However, this doesn’t worry the Thai people. After all, it is too hot in the sun if there aren’t any shelters. From here you can also join a boat tour of the local river [MORE].

(10) I think the Thai favourite for a market is Amphawa Floating Market in Samut Songkram. I first went here about five years ago. It was popular and crowded back then, but mainly with Thai tourists. Hardly any foreigners. But that, of course has changed as word has spread on the Internet. I like the place. There is a mixture of riverside market and floating market like you can see in this picture. It is also a good place for a homestay. There are boat tours too [MORE].

(11) A short distance north of the famous Amphawa market is the Bang Noi Floating Market in Samut Songkhram Province. This is an old market that has been around for over one hundred years. Although it doesn’t get as busy as Amphawa, it still has a lot of charm with shops containing quality souvenirs and delicious food. It is a weekend market that is open from about 8 a.m. to late afternoon. You can also join boat tours here [MORE].

(12) Another old market, a little further north on the Maeklong river, is Bang Nok Kwaek Market in Samut Songkhram Province. Although it doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of its younger cousin at Amphawa, it certainly makes up for it with its old time charm and friendly shopkeepers. If you want to experience an old Thai riverside market without the crowds then its worth spending an hour or so here. Boat tours are also available [MORE].

(13) To the north of Bangkok there are two new purpose built floating markets in Ayutthaya Province. This first one is Ayothaya Floating Market.  It is conveniently next door to the Elephant Camp so you can do an elephant ride if you like before visiting the market. It is free to enter and wander around. There are shops with handicraft and souvenirs as well as lots of food. You can join boat rides and also watch scheduled shows [MORE].

(14) The second purpose built floating market in Ayutthaya Province is Ayutthaya Klong Sa Bua Floating Market. This one is only open at the weekends and is more of a kind of “dinner theatre” than a traditional market. You first buy food that you want from vendors on boats and along the bank and then sit down to watch one of the scheduled shows. Each one is different. This market has an entrance fee [MORE].

(15) Another relatively new floating market near Bangkok is Bang Nampheung Floating Market in Samut Prakan Province. It is built along a canal that flows into the Chao Phraya River. It is a good place to buy food and local handicraft. You can also rent out boats to go for a paddle on the canal. It is a weekend market that closes by mid-afternoon. Best to go early to avoid the crowds [MORE].