Category Archives: Thailand

Bangkok to Georgetown

I am in Georgetown, Penang, in my last full day in Asia on this trip. I’ve not done a great deal – no museums, no temples! – the one museum I wanted to see, after a hot and sweaty walk to find it, was closed! Just wandering the lovely streets, buying a book, having a swim, and people-watching. It is lovely to people-watch here as the mix of cultures is so fascinating. I have explored more streets than on previous visits, and discovered rows of old shophouses, such as these, in the photograph.

Shophouses in Kedah Rd, Georgetown

Hong Joo has gone back to Butterworth to spend his last evening with his family before we fly out to Melbourne on Monday.
That will be sad for him.

I did not enjoy our time in Bangkok. The air was very polluted, the traffic indescribable, the aggression in the air unpleasant, the heat, at 37 or 38 degrees, quite impossible. It was expensive. Our hotel, supposedly 3 minutes walk from the airport train station at Macassan, proved very difficult to find. We spent 40 minutes carrying our bags around and around over busy streets before eventually locating it; it was not where they said it was, it was nothing like the description on the internet, it was double the advertised price. That got us off to a bad start. We had to get more money before we could do anything other than have a small breakfast the next morning! We spent Friday looking at Chinatown and Wat Pho, taking a ride on a river taxi (that is on one of the small khlongs in the central city), then a trip on the Chao Phraya river – extraordinary to think the river had flooded through central Bangkok quite recently – the riverside shacks and hovels, right in the centre of the city, must have been inundated, but there they are back again. Extraordinary. We finished with a meal in the Sukhimvit area, not far from our hotel. We had bought Skytrain day passes so to get the best value from them, we went where the Skytrain took us!

Children swimming in a khlong, central Bangkok

Beggars are everywhere: people with terrible disfigurements, young children begging alone, dirty and desperate-looking, babies clinging pathetically to mother’s wizened breast; so sad to see that, the overwhelming urban anonymity, people reduced to living on a road thick with pollution, traffic jammed day and night, pedestrians so inured they step over you. So many people clearly on drugs, their faces blank or glazed, and in and on and over it all, cars cars cars and more cars.

On Saturday we were up at 7am for a trip to Chatuchak market, hoping to look over it early so as to be back by our hotel by 12pm to get a flight to Penang at 2.15pm. That mostly worked ok – we did not really find what we wanted at the markets, and they are too big, and now expensive and touristed, the stallholders rude and unpleasant. When we arrived, just after 8am, hundreds and hundreds of orange-robed monks had arrived also. That is the place where they ask for alms. It is also the place where dozens of tourist coaches unload hundreds of market shoppers, and Bangkokians and stallholders arrive with their cars and trucks to start a day’s shopping or business. The chaos was completely unexpected at that hour of the day. Many crippled people and children also turned up to beg from the monks, who give some of their surplus to the beggars. Really overwhelming to see all that. I can’t understand the attraction of Bangkok to those who have a choice of where to live; no matter how good your job, you still have to commute in the heat and crowds, you have to find somewhere to live in a very crowded and expensive city, you have to go out to shop in a place where the infrastructure is groaning at the seams and a journey to the supermarket could take half a day.

We flew Air Asia to Penang yesterday and arrived at 5pm to be greeted at the airport by Hong Joo’s mother and sister, which was nice. They kindly gave me a ride to my hotel, the rather faded 1926 Heritage Hotel.

Interior, 1926 Heritage Hotel, Georgetown

It is a semi-restored former British colonial building. It also does not live up to online descriptions, and is rather expensive also. But it is a buzz to be back in Georgetown, full of interest historical and cultural.

Tomorrow at midday we fly to Singapore, from where we have an evening flight to Melbourne, so we will have just enough time to pop into the centre and eat at Komala Villa, our fave Indian place in Serangoon Road!

Storms and drama in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai was in darkness for an hour last night due to a power cut. This was caused by a vast storm which swept through the city in just ten minutes, bringing down trees and causing other damage. We were at “monk chat” in Suan Dok monastery, talking to a young monk from Burma who has been at that monastery for 4 years. Suddenly a vast wind blew up; it was as if we were in a typhoon. We had no choice but to cycle back to our guesthouse (we’d hired bikes for the day) through streets that were in darkness and full of hurtling, insane traffic.

Earlier in the day, Hong Joo had been hit by a lunatic motorcyclist whilst crossing on a pedestrian crossing, on the green man, when traffic is “supposed to” stop. The order of priority here is largest takes priority; motorcylists are near the bottom, but peds and cyclists are the amoebas, bottom-trawlers who are dispensible as they serve no purpose in the road pecking order. A motoryclist did not stop; I was ahead of Hong Joo and turned when I heard tyres screaming, just in time to see the lunatic who had sailed on blithely through a red light, hitting the front wheel of Hong Joo’s bike. Fortunately he had decided to walk the bike across – if he had been riding, it would have been a very different matter. So he was sort of able to deflect the impact and staggered backwards. The motorcyclist just carried on his merry way, with me yelling at him to stop! I was so mad I wanted to chase him, but by now, the traffic was starting to inch forward at the crossing, and we had to scupper for our lives. We did not get the rego number of the lunatic, there was no time. Helmets and seat belts are all compulsory here but not many people bother. We were not issued with helmets at the bike hire. Children are routinely carried on motorcycles; it’s quite common to see Mum with one arm round her husband, holding baby with the other, father (helmeted perhaps) with one hand steering and the other holding child number 2. Consequently the injury and death rate on the roads here is horrendous. Police are quite visible, but they seem to turn a blind eye to a lot.

Hong Joo is, I am very glad to say, unhurt, but pretty shaken up! As was I! We endeavoured to find the quietest streets to get around but sometimes this was not possible. Some roads just have a relentless stream of traffic, and can only be crossed when a sufficient mass of people waiting had built up and we were all kind of able to force our way across as a mass action. The traffic in Chiang Mai is the absolute ruination of what would otherwise be a lovely city. We spent the rest of the day dodging cars pulling out from curb side with no warning, and ramming us into the curb when they wanted to stop. You feel very vulnerable on a bicycle, especially when you suddenly find yourself in the middle of the road with traffic roaring on all sides.

We had hired bikes to get around many temples, which we were able to do, and some museums, on our last full day in CM. The temples are wonderful, some very ancient, and at u-Mong, there are 14th century tunnels leading to spooky Bhuddas in the gloom.

Temple, Chiang Mai

At Suan Dok we’d called in for “monk chat”, when visitors can talk to monks about their lives and help them with English. We had been chatting to a Burmese monk, as mentioned, but I had to cut it short when the storm struck as I was worried about getting back. It was too late, the roads were flooded and fallen trees and other debris littered the streets. It was still raining. Somehow we pedalled our way in darkness back to the guesthouse. Motorcyclists had pushed their bikes through the gates of their houses, engines running, to provide illumination. Small children played in the street. Which was dangerous, but attitudes to child safety are quite different here. Many times we’ve seen children in rivers with no supervision or playing in the lanes with cars, motorcycles, trucks, all flying down the little lane, with no parents in sight. Perhaps there is a fatalism in the culture that means if wee Sitti is hit, then that is his fate, and nothing can be done. On the other hand, we’ve also seen both Laos and Thais demonstrating great love for their children and taking great care of them too; it’s clear that children are prized and cherished.

We did make it back, somehow, drenched and exhausted, and once the power came back up, we went down to the Night Bazaar again for a fish meal. It was thronged with tourists and we both decided we did not care for that area at all. There is an aggression in the air, from both buyers and sellers, and one of the sellers told us very rudely to “get out of my shop” when we tried to look at the colour range of one T shirt design. There are a million other places to go so we don’t have to put up with that. There are lovelier and quieter markets here, but here, as everywhere, they come up to you and start pressuring you in to a decision when all you want to do is look and see what is available. I am getting rather tired of the constant hassling which won’t stop so long as my skin remains white and I have the word TOURIST stamped all over me.

Lovely days in Chiang Mai

On Sunday much of Thailand was visited by wind and rain, which has cleared the smoke away and at last we can see the blue sky and, I hope, tonight the alignment of 5 planets in the solar system we inhabit, a rare event.

We both thoroughly enjoyed the Sunday Walking Street market which started in the early evening.  The entire 1.5km length of the main east-west street which crosses the old city is closed to traffic, and what a revelation!  It proves what I said in my earlier post about the wisdom of closing the city heart to traffic.   I should perhaps explain that Chiang Mai is a moated city; the old city is within the walls, large portions of which remain, and access is over small dykes across the moat and through the old city gates.  Not only is the main east-west road devoted to the market, but many side streets are as well.  It was incredible to walk past a 700 year old temple made from teak, its front doors open to the street, the wind blowing bells and flags, and look straight into the interior where at the other end a giant golden Buddha was lit up.  That was quite a timeless and astonishing moment.

Also lovely was being able to sit and cafes and enjoy the passing scene – the market shoppers are 90% Thai – and not be choked with fumes.  We ate at a very busy Chinese-style kopi tiam: marble tiled floors, wooden tables, fans whirring madly overhead. I counted at least ten woks all going flat out, sweaty chefs creating a huge array of wonderful dishes.  One woman was solely occupied in filling bowls with steamed rice; a boy was kept busy with a tray of such bowls delivering them from table to table.  Choosing rice or noodles is an important decision at each meal for Hong Joo, you need to think about what you last ate.  It is as important as deciding what will accompany the rice or noodles.

Golden Buddha in the teak temple, Chiang Mai

We tried many other interesting food and drinks from various stalls, but I declined to try the fried crickets, bugs and other beetles so temptingly displayed at some stalls. Some Thais regard these as great delicacies. I could not get past the crunchy noise of biting into a huge beetle the size of a small mouse, thank you very much.

Get your lovely beetle meal here – cheap!

Earlier, we had been to Doi Suthep, the immense temple complex on a hill above Chiang Mai and set in a national park, though we looked in vain for trails in the forest. It was cool up there.

At Doi Suthep temple

We did manage to find a stream and falls at the base of the mountain where we enjoyed a dip in a pool.

Yesterday we hired a motorcycle and drove out to Bo Sang, where umbrellas are made. We bought some of these colourful creations.

Umbrellas at Bo Sang

. The countryside was very beautiful as we made our way out to San Kamphaeng for a dip at the hot mineral pools. Rice padis filled the fields on either side of the road as we drove through peaceful villages; in the distance, the chedi on wats stood white against the green of the forested mountains. It was a relief to get out of town. We enjoyed a very refreshing dip in the warm pools and then I had my feet and legs massaged – wonderful! We’ve had more fish spas here too which has been good for my overused feet!

In the evening we drove out to the other side of Chiang Mai for the flower show at the Royal Park. It was immense; far more than we could hope to see in 3 hours. A huge amount of work had gone into creating flower displays from many countries. At 7.30pm there was a parade of various garishly-coloured floats, all illuminated by flashing lights, accompanied by a narration in Thai and English about how beautiful was the Lanna Kingdom (northern Thailand) of old, so green and perfect! It was a bizarre affair to my eyes, and amusing, but to Asians, as Hong Joo pointed out, all very wonderful as show, colour and appearance is most important.

At the royal flowers show

Parade of floats

. We had another encounter with Korean tourists: as I was waiting for my iced green tea at the royal show refreshment area, I was suddenly elbowed aside by a Korean woman shouting “orangeeee juiceee!. Orangeee juiceee!; over and over at the young woman who was serving me, and who looked as perplexed as me at the intrusion. The Korean began shouting even louder, and thrust a 500 baht note at the girl. I quietly suggested to the girl that it was probably orange juice she wanted, but a great commotion ensued before they worked out that she was not, as it appeared, telling them that her husband had suffered a heart attack and needed urgent medical attention, but merely that her desire to have orange juice meant that we all had to clear the decks and attend to her this instant! I am sorry to say that I have had similar encounters with Koreans both in Korea and in other countries. And some lovely encounters too; many wonderful musicians are Korean.

Everywhere at the show were pictures of the King. In fact his image is all over the nation. He, and the Queen, are greatly revered in Thailand and it is a criminal offence to speak ill of them. A foreigner has just been jailed for 15 years for doing so. At 6pm every evening the Thai national anthem is played, but I had not actually been a part of that until the Sunday Walking Street Market. A loudhailer announced this was about to start and suddenly all commerce stopped, people stood still as if in a flash mob, the anthem lasted a minute or so, then we all went back to our shopping.
Modern Thailand is a very recent creation, so that may account for some of the political turbulence and upheaval in Thailand, as well as for the many regional variations one encounters. Burma once occupied what is now northern Thailand and much of Laos, so there are many connections with Burmese culture, such as cuisine, religion, and language and customs.

Tonight we are headed over to yet another market in the north of the city and then to a restaurant which plays classical music. Sounds very lovely.
It is hot here – at least 33C most days – but we have aircon in our room at the lovely Trigong, along with 2 silly dogs who bark at every poor bird which alights in the gardens. We’ve bought a lot of fruit including passionfruit – which are delicious and sweet here, and very cheap, at 50c/kg – and mixed in with other fruits and yoghurt and muesli, for our breakfast.

Tommorrow we hire bicycles for part of the day to see some more temples and quirky museums in this most interesting of towns.

Cheers for Chiang Mai?

Standing on the 306-step stairway to the Doi Suthep temple, Chiang Mai

It’s been a shock re-entering the chaotic, polluted, mad, amazing, shopoholic’s paradise that is Chiang Mai! Everywhere there are tuktuks, cars, taxis, motorscooters, and saengthaew. Today in Chinatown I saw a man with a very old trishaw – a bicycle trishaw. Something that was lovely to see both in Laos and here are the hawkers with their bicycles and bells, something almost gone from the streets of Malaysian towns, but here, I have many times heard the soft tinkle of a bicycle bell and turned to see a man or woman with lots of brooms, ice perhaps, or icecream, or household items, making their way slowly up a street and hoping for custom.

There are so many shops, stalls and shopping centres here in Chiang Mai, and such an abundance of markets, that I can only conclude that the population must spend all its time shopping. I do wonder how some of the stalls make any money. I saw an old man sitting on the street tonight selling cooked duck eggs, and nothing else, no doubt at only a few baht each. Not enough to earn a living from, for sure.

Chiang Mai has the feel of jaded city to me. The stallholders look bored; the buyers, with too much choice, are often rude and picky. We have just come from the Saturday Walking street market. It started ok, but soon became grossly overcrowded and unpleasant. Asian browsers have a way of just weaving and ducking in and out,so one is constantly having someone pushing in front, back and left and right. Added to that, as everywhere in the world, is that consideration for others is becoming unfashionable. We visited an elaborate temple nearby, but even there, trying to talk to monks, an enormous pickup truck forced its way into the small lane where some craftsmen were at work, followed by a woman in her car who for some reason was insistent she had to park 3 metres from where she wanted to shop. Asian legs will evolve away if they don’t start to use them more. The two monks took us to a quieter area, where we could talk about their lives.
They were both young men from poor Cambodian families, so it was interesting, if sad, to hear their stories.

Fortunately I chose a quiet guesthouse, so we can retreat to where only the occasional tuktuk splutter can penetrate. Perhaps this is a nice place in the cool season. If ever there was a city that would benefit from its old heart being traffic free, this is it. It would make the heart of the city a pleasure to explore on foot, rather than a grimy ordeal. Thais, as elsewhere in Asia, seem to prefer to make most journeys in some form of motorized conveyance, no matter how trivial the errand. Motorbikes lend themselves well to this, so they proliferate here as everywhere. But the noise and air pollution as a result is terrible. Chiang Mai does not have any form of public transport( I am told there are some buses, but I’ve not seen one), so evey journey not on foot is an individual one – by tuktuk or taxi or songthaew (they are sometimes shared) – so you can imagine the chaos. The aim is always to take to the front door, so even the smallest of soi are subject to vehicles nosying and pushing their way down.

I do not mean to sound too grumpy about Chiang Mai. It has many delights.

The Rohingya People

I became aware of the plight of these Burmese Muslims when I read a Malaysian newspaper in Kuala Lumpur last month.  The Thai navy has been cruely complicit in their  latest misery.  I read another report recently which revealed that scores of Rohingya were found floating and near death by Sumatran fishermen; in fact many had already died of starvation and exposure on their raft.

This article, from the Straits Times, sets out the background

http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/SE%2BAsia/Story/STIStory_338659.html

It’s possible that some of the Burmese workers I saw in KL would in fact be Rohingya refugees themselves.  Another sad story from the tragedy that is Burma.  Surely Burma’s neighbours can understand that these people flee Burma because of the oppression and persecution, so grave is it that they risk death to escape.  Unbelievable, that such a desperate situation should exist in this century.

Bridge over the River Kwai

At last the real Thailand has begun to reveal itself to me.

I begin this blog in Kanchanburi, where allied prisoners of war and Javanese, Malay, Indochinese  and Burmese slave labourers were forced to build a railway for the Japanese occupying forces.

Just had a lovely simple meal at the family establishment at the head of the soi (lane) leading to my guesthouse.  Wonton soup with noodles, and beer, all for $2.  The son of the family just emerged, homework complete, to get his Mum to sign it off, which she did in between cooking my dinner.  Lovely and friendly women operating that stall, ready with their smiles and few words of English.  Young men pull up on their motorcycles and order their dinner for that night.  Soon I will cross the soi for a coffee and dessert at the little cafe opposite.

Thais always eat out, as it is so cheap, and they don’t have kitchens at home, usually.

I am staying at a very simple guesthouse which is literally built out over the River Kwai.  For $10 I have my own room with bathroom built out over the river, the night air full with the sounds of frogs, crickets and mercifully free of some of the noise which often fills the Thai night air.  Disco barges do go up and down the river, pulling revellers dancing to the beat, and karaoke bars are everywhere.  Bangkokites, missing the deafening roar to which they lead their city lives, descend on places like this for the weekend and demand similar noise levels til all hours of the night.

I have spent a moving and fascinating day, leaving Bangkok early (8am) by bus for Kanchanaburi, but as Bangkok is so vast and unweildy, it took 2 hours and several changes of methods of transportation to reach the southern bus terminus.

At Kanchanburi allied POWs and thousands of slaves from Japan’s occupied Asian territories were forced to build a railway to link Bangkok with Rangoon, so that the Japanese army could advance westwards into India.   This objective was never quite completed, as allied bombing of the railway, and Japanese military reversals, meant it had to be abandoned before the end of the war.  The site is made famous by the bridge which spans the River Kwai, the building of which became the subject of a novel, and then David Lean’s 1957 movie.  The book and novel are pure fiction, however, as soon becomes apparent from a visit to the area.

The bridge is just 1km from my guesthouse and I have just returned from there after spending  a fascinating 2 hours exploring the many historic sites.  The bridge itself, the central portion having been blown up, was rebuilt after the war, though at least half of the remaining structure is original.  Evidence of allied bombing is still visible on the concrete pillars. I walked over the bridge and met an Australian family from Kalgoorie on holiday in Thailand.  A train crossed the river as I was on the bridge, tooting at the tourists to get out of the way.  An elephant on the other side of the river grazed peacefully in the gathering dusk.

Lastly I enjoyed a quiet beer on a restaurant barge adjacent to the bridge, watching the sun set and enjoying the relative peace at that historic place.

Earlier in the day, at the excellent Thailand-Burma Railway Museum (http://www.tbrconline.com/), I met the volunteer researcher (an Englishman, Derek Lawson) and we looked up all the New Zealanders who are buried at the Commonwealth War cemeteries hereabouts.  There are 11  of them,  navy and air force, captured in other parts of SE Asia and brought here.  We talked for quite some time and exchanged email addresses; I will follow up more about the NZers who are buried here once I return to NZ.    Derek’s story was fascinating.  His father was one of the POWs forced to work on the railway. He had never spoken of it until one day in 2005 he advised his son that he intended to travel to Thailand and visit the sites of his forced labour.  Derek had by then emigrated to Perth, and was living happily there.  He met his father at Kanchanaburi and was so moved by all that he saw here, that he decided on returning to Australia to sell his house and leave his job and move to this place and work in the Museum as a volunteer assisting relatives of the deceased POWs to find graves and more information about their son, brother, uncle, or father.

He has been working there for two years now and fields many inquiries from people who, for instance, know that their father is buried there in one of the cemeteries, but they know nothing about him.  In some cases the children whose fathers were shipped off to war before or soon after they were born, and who never saw their father, and their mother re-married, are seeking more information about their true father.  So it is very emotional for many, including Derek, who is named after the 21-year old best friend of his father, another Derek who lies buried in a dusty field in this place.

The research centre is very well organised.  Derek, on arrival, began to enter all the names which were in a folder, onto the computer, and to try to amass as much information about each man (or in a very cases, woman) as possible. So it was possible to quickly find all the New Zealanders.

This is an ongoing task. Boxes of unsorted material still lie in the Imperial War Museum and other institutions, waiting for someone to go through it and describe it.

The museum is  very well put together ; it describes in sometimes graphic detail the extraordinary deprivations and horrors that the POWs had to put up with at the cruel hands of the Japanese.  Diseases killed most; it is said that for every sleeper on the railway, one man died. Punishment for not working hard enough was severe, although at one time men were forced to work 18 hours per day, still on starvation rations of not much more than a small bowl of rice per day. How any survived at all, is incredible, and very few survived at the end who had been brought in at the beginning of the railway construction.  And remember the unbearable heat, insects, and a prickly thorn so sharp that the camp doctors used it as improvised needles or surgical instruments.

So it is very interesting not to say moving here; I was very moved in the war  cemetery opposite the museum where so many men are buried – 1000s of them – some as young as 18 or 19.  With heartbreaking messages from their mothers, wives, families.  The next day I looked again at the cemetery and found two New Zealand graves; how sad to see our silver fern there in that hot, strange and distant place.

There are other war cemeteries about this area, which really warrants a stay of two days or more to fully appreciate all that it has to offer.

Later I went to the night market in Kanchanaburi, where excellent local food and produce is sold very cheaply.

The next day, 20th January, I took the train over the death railway to the end of the line at Nam Tok.  The train itself is a decript old thing, slow,  pulled by a diesel locomotive not quite up to the task.  This part of the journey was full of tourists, our carriages were attached to the rest of the train, carrying locals, which arrived 45 minutes late from Bangkok. We chugged very slowly, in quite some heat, through numerous stations, each one bedecked with flowers and with its own guard who came out and blew on his whistle and waved various flags about.  One of the German tourists near me, an older man, collapsed in the heat.  His tour guides seemed helpless as to what to do; he staggered eventually to the very crude toilet where he again fell, hitting the metal toilet seat and gashing his head.  The reaction of the Thais was to charge about and jabber into their mobile phones, but still the train lurched on, and it was only when we reached the station where the tour bus was ready to meet them, that he got off with the rest of the party.  The poor man looked dreadful, not having received any first aid at all.

We lurched and juddered on for another 30 minutes through very beautiful scenery to Nam Tok, at the end of the line, quite high in the mountains near the Burmese border.  Past dragon-backed mountains, sweeping curves of the river, in many places flanked by massive stands of bamboo, golden, yellow and amber-tipped bamboo, and beautiful flowers.  At one stage the train passed through a very narrow cutting made by the POWS, so close I could reach a hand from the train and touch the rock, all hewn with the most basic of tools by the prisoners.  Most of the slaves were actually labour imported from Java, Burma and French Indo-China, and those men died in the tens of thousands, treated as completely sub-human by the Japs, with no records kept of their death or grave marked.

Oddly the Japanese did respect the deaths of the allied pows, attending their funerals and burials and even paying towards the cost.  In Kanchanaburi there is a large memorial erected by the Japanese to those who died building the railway; today, the small local Japanese population tends to this memorial.

By the time this train had reached Nam Tok, we were very late, so it immediately turned around (regrettably for me as it meant I had no time to look around) and began to lurch at the same crawl back to Kanchanaburi.  I intended to stay on the train for the return to Bangkok.  It was now very hot and dusty, and on wiping my face I saw that I was covered in black soot, from the diesel engine I supposed.  The windows were permanently open.  Tourists thinned out and various locals hopped on and off – children on the way home from school, a monk reading plans for a temple (or so it appeared, when I peeked), people headed to Bangkok on whatever business necessitated their trip, which is for locals, very cheap.  As Thais are immediately recognisable to other Thais, they receive lower prices or even free admission to many places.  So another Asian person who spoke Thai would still be detected as non-Thai, and asked to pay the foreigner price (though almost all Thais have some Chinese blood in them).

Horribly late, me tired, hungry and filthy from hours sitting on that train on the hard wooden seats, we eventually arrived at Thonburi station on the outskirts of Bangkok. I was too late now for the river boats that would have taken me back downtown, so had to catch a taxi to my hotel in Suriwong road where I had left my laundry, and then grabbed something to eat, I was so very hungry, before battling through the subway system to my other, cheaper hotel for that night.

Still, I was not complaining, when I think of what those who had built that railway had endured, or of the tiny children lying on the filthy, busy road at the entrance to the metro, begging for a few coins….we live in the most fortunate of circumstances.

Bangkok to Ko Samet and back

Last Weds and Thursday I looked around Aryutthaya, the ancient royal capital city, full with ruins of temples and piles of tottering bricks, somewhere between an archaelogical park, tourist trap, and functioning Buddhist study centre and monastery.  The old city is spread over a large area and it was time consuming getting between all the temples ( I could not see them all) so I stayed overnight, completing some of the better ones and the museum on Thursday, before making my way back to Bangkok for a bus to Pattaya and Jontien Beach.

Stayed there overnight at a forgettable hotel and looked briefly around that extraordinarily busy area packed with tourists and expats and overpriced, quite bad food.  My breakfast there the next morning was actually quite good, however!  There is the general feeling that Thais are sick to death of tourists, as there are just so many of us – and they are quite rude to us!

Remembering Charoen Wataksorn, Thai environmental activist who was murdered outside his home on 22 June 2004.

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/a-thai-hero-for-the-planet

Finally, one person has been sentenced for his murder (to death, sadly) but the other murderers have not been brought to justice.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/investigation/10868/a-woman-seeking-justice