Sunday, 25 January 2009

Happy New Year...again

Only the 25th day of 2009 but already Thailand is celebrating another the festivities of another new year, this time it's the start of a new Chinese calendar.

It's massively singificant here with temples opening up fayres, families buying feasts of food to offer to the spirits and the continual sound of firecrackers going off from one house or another.

I find it particularly interesting that Thailand celebrates the Western and Chinese new years in addition to its own (Songkran) - 13-15 April this year.

This curious situation reflects the melting pot that is Thai culture. Everything from language, food and architecture to ethnicity, music, religion and thinking has its influence from one culture or another.

Take Buddhism for example.

The majority of ethnic Thais practice Theravada Buddhism, a varien born out of India following principle of the teaching of the elders. Many of Thailand's neighbours, such as Laos and Burma, share this faith but it is also the religion of 70% of Sri Lankans.

It is strange and interesting to think that Thailand and Sri Lanka can share the same religious identity and yet be so ethnically, politically and socially different.

Like most countries in Asia, Thailand has strong links with China. Around 10% of Thailand's population is classified as ethnically Chinese. There are a great many Chinese who still speak and write their native tongue and practice a range of Chinese customs - there is even a Chinatown in Bangkok, just like the one in London!

One such Chinese-Thai is a close friend of the family who I know well. It is interesting to see his entrepeneurial ways, compared to 'normal' Thais, and decadent family house which looks more like a hotel in rural China, not to mention his appearance.

I could go on about China's influence on Thailand but my little man won't learn English by himself and the sun is out in force too**.

Happy Chinese New Year to you all!

 I also am not in possession of a doctorate in geneology, Asian cultural influences or peopling so I will direct you to Wikipedia where you can read that the origin of Thailand's native Mon-Khymer people is thought to be mid-China, and much more.

Bangkok Scams goes offline

Recently I wrote about Bangkok Scams, an excellent website which looks into the issue of tourist scams.

It's with great sadness then that I see (from a reader's comment) that the site has gone offline following a complaint from a company featured in a story.

Visitors to the website receive the following message.

"The Bangkok Scams Website has been told to go offline by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. Apparently the ICT received a complaint from one of the shops mentioned in the scam reports. At present we don't know whether the ICT are objecting to the whole site or just one scam report.While we investigate these claims, we have decided to cooperate and put the website offline."

Although concerned with dealings in Bangkok, the gist of most stories could be applied to holiday destinations accross Thailand, making it a recommended read for anyone visiting Thailand, particularly first-timers.

Those looking for information can use Thai web-forums (such as Thai Visa) or Google for individual stories but the ease of access to information on Bangkok Scams (which is/was recognised by Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Lonely Planet) will be missed.

Sadly this situation was was inevitable as once word of the site gets out any business will object to being named and shamed.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Children's Day In Thailand - 10 January

Last Saturday (10 January) was Children's Day, a date dedicated to children across Thailand. It’s probably comparable to Christmas, which most of Thailand doesn’t celebrate, as kids get presents and there are shows across the country.

That meant no usual Saturday lie-in for yours truly, in fact I was up at 5.30 am looking after The Little Monster (below) so the missus could catch on her sleep. 


We then set off for the local wat (temple) at 8
.00 am where we presented the monks food which my good lady had prepared. In turn, they blessed TLM with holy water and prayers. The wat was teaming with families up early to bless their children and loved ones. I don't take photos inside the wat as it is a little disrespectful but a picture of it from the road is below. 

Saraburi Wat from the road

After the wat we jumped in the car and drove to popular tourist spot Ayutthaya, about an hour and a half away, for a day of site seeing. Although I tend to steer clear of tourists this is a definite must for any visitor to Thailand. 

Buddha in Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was once the capital of Siam and it contains some of Thailand’s most spectacular ruins within the historical park.

Elephants are also a major site to see in the town. As well as elephant shows, visitors to Ayutthaya can get a unique site of the place with an elephant ride through the streets.

As we have a little one we didn’t take this offer, although it is quite novel enough to be a passenger in a car which is giving way to an elephant taxi.

Giving way to an elephant in Ayutthaya

This was a gentle introdution to Childrens' Day, I fully expect next year to be much more energetic as the little man will be just over a year old.

(Probably) The Best Job In The World

No not a Carlsberg video...Reuters reports that a website advertising the "best job in the world" has crashed due to the massive amount of interest and applications it has been inundated with.

"The job, which offers a salary of $105,000 to spend six months on the Great Barrier Reef island of Hamilton, has been inundated with hundreds of thousands of prospective candidates."

If you're not tempted yet, read on for more details...

"Duties for the job include feeding ocean fish, cleaning a pool and collecting deliveries of mail that arrive by plane. The successful candidate will have to go scuba diving, snorkeling and hiking and enjoy at least 25 nearby island resorts."

"Thrown in is a luxury three-bedroom home and transportation to and from the island.No skills, nor experience is needed, and there is no age requirement. The job starts in July."

To apply head to

I'll stick with my paradise in Thailand for now but good luck to all applicants, as and when you get onto the website.

The job was created in response to the global economic decline to promote Australia and it comes after September 2008's London-based speed dating event with Australian men to tempt British women to move down-under.

Great creativity from those Aussies.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Best Of 2008 Meme

I don't usual do them but Chris from My Egg Noodles tagged me in his Best Of 2008 meme and, as I haven't written anything about this crazy year, it seems like a good idea to me...

1. One of my fondest memories of 2008 was:

The feeling I got boarding a plane with a one-way ticket to Bangkok from London.


Other highlights include being crowned Hotwire’s 100m sprint champion (read it and weep Masih), chilling in Sicily with my brother and the Hotwire away-weekend in Paris (the Algerians in Sacre-Coeur!).


2. One of the happiest moments for me in 2008 was:

The birth of my son, Tobias, on 18 October 2008. A load of cute photos here.


3. The best album I downloaded/bought in 2008 was:

The Stanton Session by Stanton Warriors. Not new in 2008 but highly recommended nevertheless. They have the Midas touch.


4. The best book I read in 2008 was:

Struggled with books this year but Danny Wallace’s ‘Friends Like These’ was enjoyable and I am still getting through Sir Ranulf Fiennes’ autobiography ‘Mad, Bad And Dangerous to Know’ and ‘Twenty Something’ by Ian Hollingshead.


5. The best movie I watched in 2008 was:

‘I Am Legend’ – released late 2008 but I watched it in 2009, I think.


6. The most beautiful place I visited in 2008 was:

Difficult to choose between Barcelona, Paris, Sicily, Chiang Mai and other Thai cities – a great year for travelling!


7. The best quote I heard/received in 2008 was:

There have been a few but one springs to mind as it is useful for life in general...


“Just don’t fuck up” – from a senior boss on my first day at Hotwire. I’m not sure I kept my side of that one!


8. The best gadget I bought for myself in 2008 was:

My laptop, Acer Aspire 2930Z. The days of desktops are behind me.


9. The best website I came across in 2008 was:

Predictably (for those who know me) I can’t live without BBC Football. FootieTube is another – essential viewing for anyone wanting to catch up on action.


10. The luckiest moment for me in 2008 was:

I can’t think of any specific events of great fortune but I survived 2008, a year that got pretty crazy at times!


11. A new food/drink I discovered that I really enjoy:

Soya Milk, Som-Tam and SangSom – originally discovered in London but better acquainted with in Thailand.


12. The best restaurant I dinned at in 2008:

Esarn Kheaw, Shepherd’s Bush, London – the best Thai in the capital and my first taste of authentic Thai food.


13. The best bargain I picked up in 2008:

The Hugo Boss shirts from London, my Tiger trainers or the countless buys from ASOS.


14. The best blog post I wrote in 2008 was:

It was only born in October so far too young for highlights.


15. A blog I discovered in 2008 which I highly recommend is:

The Lost Boy was the first Thailand ex-pat blog I came across. Although Matt has moved on from Thailand his blog remains a recommended read.


16. The best Xmas present I received in 2008 was:

Thais don’t really do Christmas but the photo of my family back home in the UK was a favourite.


17. My 2008 addiction was:

My BlackBerry – RIP, it departed when I left my job in London. Gone but not forgotten, we will be reunited some day.


18. A goal in 2008 that I did not accomplish:

Not going to Las Vegas. After planning and running projects for CES 2008 and CTIA 2008 trade shows I was hoping to get out there for at least one of them.


19. But that’s okay, because I did accomplish:

Finally started a blog after two years of um-ing, err-ing and lost thoughts. 

In other news...I moved to Thailand, but we know that already, right?


20. The website I visited most in 2008:

iGoogle, my personal window to the internet.

I'm going to attempt to send this meme to global (UK, Finland, Australia) by tagging Big Tim, X, Dom, Ben and Emily.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

The value of Thailand

An article in the Telegraph last week gave Thailand's tourism industry a much needed boost by selected the country as the best value destination for British holidaymakers.

In wake of airport closures, protest, political changes and the global economic downturn, the media has been full of article (like this) predicting tough times for Thailand's tourism industry, and the country in general.

The Telegraph found "Thailand topped the poll of affordable destinations, (the country) was found to be 41 per cent cheaper than Spain" and a host of other short-haul holiday choices (see below).

Also from the article "Andrew Spice, of Post Office Travel Services, said: "Despite its recent troubles, Thailand remains a great prospect for UK holidaymakers. The Thai baht may have strengthened against sterling but prices remain very low in the country and the discounts now available to top resorts like Phuket and Hua Hin will make Thailand unbeatable value."

Amen to this, I've spent a lot of time estimating the difference in cost of living between the UK and Thailand. Of course prices vary, with imported goods (baby care items, in my experience) being equal if not more expensive that Europe, but I would say that, for me, life Thailand is between a fifth and a quarter (20-25%) of the cost of living in the London.

Great news for holiday-makers but this isn't the same for expats. The majority of English-speakers here are are employed as teachers on (reasonably good) local salaries which are dwarfed but the equilivent in England (although there are exceptions).

Thailand is still good value for teachers, but not at the same level as tourists who find their hard-earned cash stretching incredibly far.

So here's to my continued hope that 2009 gives me a raft of freelance projects (at a UK rate of pay), keeping my fingers crossed for the opportunities in the pipeline.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

On the buses

Amazing story from the Telegraph in the UK that had me wondering if the paper had been pranked.

"Atheist adverts declaring that "there's probably no God" have been placed on 800 buses around Britain after an unprecedented fundraising campaign."

Backed by Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, who is best known as the country's highest profile Atheist and author of The God Delusion, the campaign hit its £5,500 target exceptionally quickly with a total of £140,000 raised since October.

There is no way anything like this could ever happen in Thailand. The social implications of publically promoting Aethism are not imaginable in such a spiritual, Buddhist country.

Plus, the buses in Thailand are already pimped out in outrageous colours (like the one below) with Hi-Fis, woofers, sub-woofers, DVD players, widescreens, neon lights, you name...adverts just wouldn't be cool.

Yes this really is what a lot of Thai buses look like. One day I'll get round to explaining how it's all very different to UK - actually quite interesting...honest.

Bangkok Scams

Coming to visit Thailand this year? You'll want to check out the Bangkok Scams blog then.

A great site unmasking the unscrupulous characters, charades and scams which can befall unsuspecting tourists.

The majority of Thais are welcoming and helpful but, as with any country, a minority is out there to take advantage of naive foreigners with loadsa' money (there are plenty of them, both naive and with cash).

I haven't had any scams pulled on me, unless you count my futsol team trying to put me in goal for a whole session (I'm good out-fueld, it's different to football you know, I'm still transitional, I will improve..honest). Those of us with Thai other-halves/close friends are generally safe from scams, especially with a bargain-hunting, go-getting Missus like mine!

The bottom line is the usual adage that tourists should be sensible and if something looks to good to be true/convenient, it may well be.

Check the site out and happy holidays in the Land of Smiles.

Update: you can also report a scam to alert others how you got played. 

Friday, 2 January 2009

Tragic start to 2009 in Thailand

Thailand is mourning a tragic start to 2009 following the events in Bangkok on New Year's Eve

At least 61 people died with more than 200 injured following a blaze at Santika, a Bangkok nightclub, believed to have started after fireworks were let off inside the building.

The night was the last ever to be held at this venue as the owner had failed to extend the lease.

The video below shows the terrible scenes.