Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to one and all in Thailand, the UK or where every you may be.


Two years of living in a very Thai province where the day passes like any other make this year's Christmas Day a much more festive event here in Bangkok, plus - now aged two - the little fella is getting into it for the first time which is definitely going to make it a special day (while yours truly is particularly excited at the prospect of a home-cooked Xmas lunch!)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Lifestyle design and location-independent entrepreneurialism

Finally, someone has said it: lifestyle design is a load of rubbish.

The video below comes from Chris over at My Egg Noodles and the phrase used is actually BS. While his language is pretty strong, I completely agree with Chris on calling this out.


There are so many 'digital nomads', 'lifestyle designers', 'global citizens', 'location independent entrepreneurs' and countless other phrases for people who work online and live overseas (typically Asia, especially Thailand) perhaps in more than one location, or travelling.

I do respect and like some bloggers that fall in this category, like Chris for example, however the overwhelming majority are self-righteous, self-important and not all that special at all.

The internet allows anyone to be anything they like, or at least to be perceived to be whatsoever they desire...being an entrepreneur is as easy and publishing the word in a Twitter profile or at the top of a blog. Those who trumpet their victory over a post-collegiate office-cubical lifestyle at home are seriously deluded if they think they have done anything special as it really isn't that difficult.

Pack up your stuff and buy a ticket, as Chris says, and then go from there...most expats in Thailand arrive with nothing and build themselves up from scratch as teachers, programmers, writers and so on...it is just these lifestyle gurus who talk it up like it is comparable to moving to the moon.

Take myself, there's nothing particularly special about me I'm just an example. I arrived with nothing and have, in a fairly ordinary way, build a life and found a routine here in Thailand with enough money to support a small (but growing) family.

Earlier this year I was in a position that, were I without responsibilities, I could have 'gone location independent' whilst working freelance here in Thailand. And yet I had managed to get into the position, including government accreditation and (legal) working visa, with little difficulty proving that it simply about perseverance and a little bit of luck, of course.

The online work life is not the dark art or rocket science that lifestyle experts would have you believe it to be. Once you find your bearings after arriving in a new country, opportunities will be there it is simply a case of taking them.

Then there is the issue of transparency, what do they actually do to make money?

Only a handful give any kind of clarity on what they do, and crucially what they make... because a little money goes a long(er) way in Thailand (a low bar of entry to entrepreneur status) so realistically a sufficient online empire doesn't need to match the Spanish Armada, and can be anything from $800/900 upwards per month.

As for the location independent element - travel is clearly a hugely attractive prospect. However a permanent job, with a decent pay packet and a home to base oneself in a country like Thailand, can mean travelling every weekend, getting a taste of local culture all whilst collecting credible work experience to ensure your career progresses overseas.

I'm  not saying there is anything wrong with working online and enjoying the benefits of living abroad, far from it as I wish it was something I did earlier in my life...however to claim it is a complicated science, which requires those interested to buy an e-book, subscribe to a blog or anything else, is just not true in my mind.

The one thing you need is the desire to be abroad...and that truly comes from within. Reading about it makes it appealing but that is almost certainly not enough to get someone off their seat and onto an aeroplane. As I well know because it took a major event to finally put my wanderlust into action and get me out to Thailand.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Little Miss arrives

Something we've been waiting on for a while finally came through as the newest arrival to the family arrived into the world last week.

After a few nights camping out full-time in the hospital, I was pleased to get the all clear and bring Mum and Little Miss (the first girl on my dad's side of the family for 3 generations!) back to the in-laws' place in Saraburi over the weekend.


Big bro is delighted and very proud to have a have a sister around the place, even though right now her routine consists of little more than eating and sleeping: lady of leisure.


โชคดีครับ

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Preparation before learning to read Thai

Somewhat belatedly following my recent post on learning Thai, I wanted to kick off by looking at how I first started out and got myself into the mindset for learning Thai. As I mentioned in the post, I didn't follow a strict, academic plan and instead embraced Thai and the language as much as I could in everything I did.

As I also mentioned in my initial post, my learning was not tactical nor organised, and as such it may not work for everyone but it does demonstrate that there is an alternative to studious work, dedicated classes and other techniques that may not fit schedules.

So here is a basic list and things I did before I even picked up a book or began looking at Gor Gai - ก [Gor] is the first letter of the Thai alphabet which together with ไก [chicken] the equivalent of 'A for Apple'.

Believe the unbelievable. A great number of foreigners have mastered Thai to a high, fluent level. While it is unlikely that my approach alone reach that level, the fantastic achievement of many help make my small goal of understanding basic Thai seem possible. After all, if you don't believe in what you are doing, achieving it becomes all the more difficult.

Get motivated. I often try and start new things and don't carry them through but I was determined that my learning of Thai would not be a flash in the pan. Lucky for me that I have a number of factors motivating me to keep going, even if at times it felt like wading through treacle.

Firstly, my son is half Thai and will grow up speaking/reading/writing the language ('understanding Thailand' was a major reason we relocated here from London) alongside English. While my wife and I communicate with him in our respective, native tongues, the idea that I can at least keep up with books they read, his (future) homework assignments, letters, etc is a big reason to learn.

Additionally: I've met many a foreigner claiming Thai can't be learnt, which is motivation alone for me to disprove the (incorrect) theory. While as a curious person I can't help be compelled to learn the language around me, not to mention that there is a certain duty as a guest in his country.

Lastly, though my wife and I would, at some point, like to return to UK, we don't see our lives in either country, rather both. With Thailand such a big part of my future, and having family and other responsibilities, learning to read/write Thai will be a major bonus that might make me more attractive to employers and open me to more job opportunities.

Be immersed. Undoubtedly the most difficult step, particularly for those who do not reside in Thailand permanently, immersion is a hugely influential factor which has played a vital role in helping me, help myself to learn Thai.

Just picking up the newspaper, reading adverts on the BTS, looking at my dual English-Thai keyboard everyday and other small things helped me get a feel for what Thai charaters looked like, before I even began learning them.

Remove expectations. In my post more than a year ago I stated my believe that the road to learning Thai would be long. This was as specific as my predictions got, in part because I really didn't know what I was doing, but in part because I'm not great at sticking to things.

By allowing myself no set targets, I did not feel pressured to learn which helped me enjoy taking in new concepts. That isn't to say I was always happy with my progress or workload, which varied hugely from time to time.

Ignore phonetic western spellings. I am a visual learner, that is to say I do best when I write things down rather than just repeatly speaking them. Initially I began writing words down using phonetic western spelling, soon after I began learning to read Thai I realised just how misleading the spelling were. It really is true to say that reading Thai will help learn and pronounce words as Thai is such a phonetic language...though of course there are some exceptions.

This is just a brief look at steps and attitudes I adopted before I began serious studying. Coming next (hopefully without such a lengthy delay) will be a look at some of the learning techniqued I used to get a basic understanding and how I took my learning further.

I look forward to other opinions and techniques people have used to help prepare themselves for learning Thai. For now, I'm holding off discussing actual learning as I honestly believe getting into the mindset is the most important step.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

My "long" journey learning Thai

It was February 2009 when I bravely went public with my intention to learn to read Thai. I'd been in Thailand for less than 6 months and having developed the basics of spoken Thai fairly reasonably, thanks in particular to my mother-in-law's patience and help, I set my sight on the unknown land of Thai script.

At that point I could not read a single letter of Thai, and had taken to learning the shape of the words that spelt the town names I needed to known in order to catch my bus to work and back. Hardly an efficient system as I found out when I bordered the wrong bus one day.

I titled my post 'Learning Thai - the long road starts here' but the truth of the matter is that getting the basics of Thai is not so difficult after all, and within weeks of my post I had learnt the basic pronunciation of the most common Thai letters.

Fast forward to now, October 2010, and I'm (surprisingly) making good ground through Becker's Thai for Advanced Readers.

I am by no means fluent (the 'advanced' book was chosen as the intermediate was sold out) and have a long way to go before I can be anything like satisfied with my ability but I am able to read a number of things from menus, to adverts, to Facebook and Twitter updates, and write fairly substantial messages in Thai, though reading books and larger chunks of text is takes me longer, practice and time should help me improve.

My point is that, to get to my level I didn't take any classes, I didn't buy DVDs, extensive arrays of books or MP3 series. I didn't attend workshops, get a tutor or pester the wife for tips... heck I didn't even study regularly (such are the responsibilities of fatherhood) and this book is my first proper learning material, excluding the horribly Romanicised Thai handbook that every expat must buy within their first month of arriving.

But for me, learning Thai is a mindset not an academic course, and it is there where I score top marks.

Living in Thailand the language is all around you. If you curious about life like me then you will want to know what you are missing, what the beautiful squiggles and lines really mean.

The basic task of learning to pronounce the Thai characters was as hard a shift as I put it, and it is the grounding which has helped me develop in my own way. The truth is, I've been at this level for a while - hence the use of the book to advance me - which shows that the 'long road' is not so far after all.

With the aim of being helpful and not self-indulgent (as mentioned, I feel I still have a long way to go), I'm going to pen a series of posts explaining what worked for me and helped me get to the level I am at now.

I won't say I have learnt every aspect of Thai well - cough cough...the tones - and I could do with a visit to a Stu Jay workshop, for example, but I've reached a level I wouldn't have dreamed of back in February 2009 through a 'workload' that could suit (or be bettered by) anyone.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Two years later

Monday marked the little fella's second birthday. Last year we celebrated back in the UK but this year for a number of reasons - notably my new job and the missus's big bump - it was Bangkok instead.

It is crazy how things can change in two and a bit years. I've been lucky to do a fair number of new things I'm proud of here in Thailand, I've probably done more than in the previous five years since graduating university. But nothing comes remotely close to the pride and love the missus and I have for the not-so-little-anymore fella.

From this...


...to this...


...in what seems like no time at all.

Here's to the next two years and beyond...with the next one due next month it'll be double trouble.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Off-topic - Charlie & Camilla in India: captions please

Another long period since my last post when I saw this photo, I couldn't help but think it is ripe for a mini caption contest - even though I realise it isn't Thailand-related.

Background Prince Charles and his 'lady friend' Camilla Parker-Bowles are in India for the Commonwealth Games event (which has so far been a spectacular disaster organisation and infrastructure wise).


No sure if anyone stills reads this blog, given my recent infrequency, but if you out there, please do pipe up with your best...if there are enough entries I'll stump up a wonderful prize for the winner.

My (very PC) opening effort...

"So where exactly is the little boys room?"



Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A long overdue update

Haven't had the chance to update for a while as we're in the process of pretty significant change. After ranting about making plans for the future I decided the leave the world of freelance journalism (and give up my cherished M (for media) Visa) for an in-house marketing job at a big tech company in Bangkok.

Initially we stayed in Saraburi and I had the unenviable 2.5 hour (each way) commute in addition to a 9.00am - 6.00 pm job for my first tens 10 days, a combination which almost finished me off. However, after a through search, we moved into a nice two bedroom place in Bangkok last weekend...words can't fully express my delight at a new sub-30 minute commute to work.

As yet there is no internet at home hence the mini hiatus in posts, but rest assured I'll be back soon with plenty of content.

As for Saraburi, my in-laws remain there and I envisage we'll be making plenty of trips back at weekends, particularly as the missus is expecting late November/early December and will need some support looking after the little fella as she becomes less mobile. For now, all three (/four) of us are in Bangkok.

Before I sign off, a quick point to a great post at a newly discovered blog by Lat (aka @RatasitC) who covered the delights of the national park in Khao Yai (a place I know well) and curry puffs, a delicacy that originated in Saraburi and is closely associated with the town.

Check out the post here.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

An awful lot of Pad Thai

To those who say Thai people are all skinny and Thai food is healthy:


It is easy to become desensitised to just how big people can be given the number of TVs shows and documentaries that cover fat people.

She is big, but let's face it, in America they cut people out of their homes...which is far more dramatic. Relative to Thailand, however, this is fairly remarkable and has made a fair amount of news.

My favourite part:
The governor was on hand to wish Umnuayporn well and paid tribute to the patient's state of mind.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Moving to Thailand: Steve, Thailand Musings

It has been a while since I ran a couple of interviews on aspiring expats and their plans to move out to Thailand.

I featured Talen and Martin, two very prominent bloggers and after a long delay, mainly, nay, entirely down to me, next up to the plate is Steve from Thailand Musings.

So without further ado...here's Steve...


You are living in the USA at present but with aspirations of moving to Thailand. What is it that makes you want to move to Thailand?
I’ve been fascinated with Thailand since my first visit there back in 1997. I love the food, the culture, the pretty girls, the weather, the pace of life, the diversity of locales (from the islands and beaches in the south like Koh Phangan to metropolitan Bangkok to the mountains in the north) and the fact that everything is fairly close.
The fact that I now have a Thai wife is of course a huge deciding factor, since she wants to be back with her friends and family. Even so, I’m certain I would be planning the move if I was still single, in fact I probably would have made it already.
Other things that have factored into my decision is the lower cost of living in Thailand, the availability of western foods and medical care (compared to other SE Asian countries), the freedom of life in Thailand compared with the West and the adventure factor of the whole move.
When did you first release your desire to live in Thailand full time?
I believe it was first released when I started Thailand Musings (the blog) back in September of 2006.
How often do you visit Thailand as an expat?
As I said earlier I have been coming to Thailand since 1997. Some years it is once and some years more. I haven’t kept count, but I’m sure I’ve made a couple dozen trips over the years and have probably spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 18-24 months in Thailand total.
Recently we haven’t been back in almost 18 months due to Golf’s pregnancy and our attempts to save enough to make the move full time. At this point it doesn’t look as if we will return until we are ready to make the move and that currently looks to be sometime in 2011.
It's clear you are carefully planning your move as proven when you went public with your estimation of start-up costs for moving to Bangkok late last year with this post. Has your thinking, and/or the figures involved, changed since initially writing the post?
My thinking hasn’t changed much since writing that post as I am still carefully planning the move, our expenses for the move and our monthly income/budget once we make the move. If anything I have become more detailed with this planning since the birth of our daughter.
One thing that has changed is the figures for the move. At the time I proposed US$90,000 as the amount we would like to have in the bank prior to moving. I would still love to have that amount before moving as it would simplify some aspects of the move, but Golf and I have come to an understanding that somewhere between $30-40,000 will be sufficient. Obviously we will have to give up some things and compromise on others, but ultimately we both feel that we will be happier making the move earlier with less money than waiting until we have more.

You mentioned that you would consider working as a teacher whilst freelancing. Many expats living in Thailand feel 'stuck' in teaching or are seeking extra money - for their reference can you explain exactly what you mean by freelancing and the kind of money you believe you can make doing it?
When I say ‘freelancing’ I’m referring to all of the possible online avenues to income (and there are many). Much of my current savings and expendable income comes from the websites I own and those same sites should provide enough for us to live on in Thailand. The whole question of whether or not to teach for me comes down to how much money does one need to be happy? I mean I’m currently making about $2000 a month from the website so obviously that would be enough to live on and save a small bit, but the extra $1000 a month from teaching would go a long way in Thailand.
So, I have the websites which earn money primarily from advertising and affiliate commissions. That’s one way to go if you are looking to create a passive income stream. I also do some freelance writing on occasion for several sites. Although I’m not crazy about this, it does provide a nice additional income and if I were to pursue it 8 hours a day it would pay as well as teaching English in Bangkok. You can get started with freelance writing at a lot of different sites, but the ones I’ve used successfully are oDesk and a small content provider site called The Content Authority. oDesk is an auction type format so it takes a bit of effort to build a portfolio and client base there and initially you’ll get paid peanuts. The Content Authority pays based on your writing skill and it’s not too difficult for a native English speaker with decent writing ability to get to the point where you’re making $0.015/word which is not great, but enough to make it worthwhile if you can write fairly fast.
Depending on your skill set and interests there are also plenty of opportunities to make money through programming, graphic design, web design, search engine optimization and many other skills that are not necessarily location dependant. While I don’t freelance in any of these areas myself, it does appear that the pay is better than that of a freelance writer, so if you have skills in these areas you may want to look into it. In most of these cases it does take some time to get traction, but once you have a handle on where to get your customers it can work well as a side income and even as your entire income, depending on your needs.
At this point I do not expect to need to teach, the combination of my online pursuits and Golf’s employment should cover our expenses quite well.
You recent had a baby girl (congratulations again!) which is one of your main motivations for moving to Thailand. Why do you feel your daughter will benefit from living in Thailand as opposed to the USA? Which, ironically, is a country where, ironically, many Thais would like to reside in.
Yes it is quite ironic isn’t it? None of Golf’s Thai friends here in the U.S. have any plans or desires to return to Thailand except to visit. Apparently the U.S. is still seen as the land of milk and honey for many. I wonder if they would feel the same if they felt they could move back to Thailand and keep a U.S. type salary?
First off, let me say that as an American I am very proud of my country and the people who live here. I know we get painted as villains and bullies throughout some parts (much?) of the world, however these things that cause so much hatred towards the country are the result of the decisions of a small majority (government) of the country.
That being said, I personally am not happy with the direction the country has been taking over the past decade or so. Costs for everything are rising, jobs are disappearing, health care is turning into a shambles, taxes are on the upswing (and no end in sight there) and ironically the “land of freedom” is losing more and more freedoms every time you turn around.
Add to this the death of the family in the U.S. and the lack of compassion and respect that I see, especially among much of the youth and I feel that an upbringing in a country such as Thailand will be superior in terms of family connection and possibly even financial reward.
Let’s face it, Asia as a whole is definitely on an upswing in terms of growth and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. Thailand has China as one of its major trade partners and this should be very beneficial for the country for a long time to come. The world that my daughter will live in is not the same world that I grew up in and I hope to give her the opportunity to be able to choose between West and East, which is really only possible if she grows up In Thailand. If it turns out that I am wrong it will be easier for her to come back to America for University and a career than it will be for her to move to Thailand if she was raised in the States.


In the past you've mentioned that you have children from a previous relationship. There are many expatriates in Thailand that are in the same boat, how does being far far from other children weigh on your mind?
Actually the children are now 13 and 15, so in all likelihood they will be nearly adults once we make the move. So, being so far away from them doesn’t weigh on my mind much. In reality I am hoping I can get them over to Thailand for an extended period to expand their horizons and give them a view of the world outside their sheltered U.S. existence and upbringing.
Currently the older boy is totally on board with coming to visit for an extended time, the younger not as much, but that could simply be a function of his age. It could (and I hope it does) change once he is older.
Thailand is somewhat more stable now, though as long-term observers are aware political feuds do not easily disappear in the country as it seems current tensions may flare up again. How the current political situation and recent events in Bangkok - the city you are planning to move to - affect your decision to emigrate to Thailand?
Honestly it didn’t affect us much at all. The recent events were contained to a small area of the city and most of the people we know that live in Bangkok were completely unaffected by the turmoil. Thailand as a country has a history of many coups so it isn’t like much has changed.
Considering the portability of my income we could always head north to Chiang Mai if Bangkok became destabilized for a long period of time, which is not likely in my opinion.
Have you begun tackling the Thai language given that you’re planning to move out here? If so what techniques have you used and with what success? If not yet, how are you planning to approach the issue?
I have not begun tackling the language issue yet. I have a very rudimentary understanding of Thai at this point, but I do pick up languages pretty quickly when immersed. Golf and I have the agreement that as long as we are in the U.S. she will focus on learning English (which she has done incredibly well) and once we move to Thailand I will focus on learning Thai. It made sense because here she has plenty of people to practice with and there I will have plenty of people to practice with.
I plan on enrolling in a language school to begin my study of Thai and may supplement that with private lessons initially to get up to speed as quickly as possible. Once I get to the intermediate stage I believe it will simply be a matter of practice, practice, practice.
Do you have any additional advice for those considering a full-time move to Thailand?
Be sure that you have the resources, financial, emotional and psychological, necessary to deal with living in a country that is vastly different from your own. Make a plan for your move, but keep in mind that it is quite likely you will need to adapt that plan once the move is made, sometimes dramatically and sometimes frequently. Keep an open mind and be adaptable.
My thanks Steve who turned around these answers very quickly.

There is certainly a lot of interesting content here. One thing that certainly strikes me about him is he is a meticulous planner who certainly knows what he wants - perhaps the polar opposite to myself, it takes all sorts after all.

Good luck with the plans Steve, look forward to reading with great interest how the savings/budgeting is going over on your blog.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Thai police as you've never seen them before

Great video and idea behind this, no sure if it was deliberate but I rate this promotion of Thailand well above any of the events that have been hastily arranged to forget recent atrocities in Bangkok and beyond - even in Saraburi held a concert at the army base where a leading profession had been held, without charge, promoting massive negative media focus.

The video has proved so popular the Associated Press has even written about it - see here - after it hit 250,000 views on YouTube.

May I present the Thai police...as you've never seen them before (I hope)...covering K-Pop band Super Junior...


As you may know my father in law is a senior policeman.

He thought this was great and event started joining in the moves, ably assisted by his young grandson with a penchant for singing, dancing and general showmanship.

Am working on convincing him to commission a retake on this from the boys at this station...would be amazing, though they aren't quite as photogenic as this bunch.

Stay tuned for the Nong Khae Saraburi version...

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Smoky green fingers

Gardening is generally acknowledged as a fine pursuit - good for the soul, creative and a way of creating a pleasant environment around you.

Having grown up with parents and two sets of grandparents with green fingers I've always been in agreement, however moving to Thailand has changed my view somewhat.

Why, you ask?

I'll let the photo below do most of the talking but, essential, the neighbour backing onto our house decided that - in a change from the usual approach of cutting his lawn - he could burn it instead.

Not only is that (stupid - of course - and...) high ineffective but it creates a load of smoke which covers our garden and surrounding area forcing us inside, where it then proceeds to invade us through the aircon.

Unbelievable.

Being a ฝรั่งใจร้อน ("farang jai rorn") aka hot headed foreigner, I raced over there to get photographic evidence and ask why he was too lazy to do the job properly.


Neighbour's 'work' seen from his garden, our house is in the background to the left

Thankfully, on the other side, our neighbours have restored my faith in Thai gardening by keeping their land in immaculate conditions, thanks mainly due to employing a gardener but they both regularly muck in when their busy (lawyer) schedules permit.

An amazing garden which was, in fact, the setting for our the evening dinner and entertainment on the day of our wedding.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Still here close to two years later


I arrived in Thailand in October 2008 having done little preparation on the country or life here. Over the course of time since then, both my missus (as a Thai) and I have learnt so much about living out here whilst raising a family.

My knowledge and comfort in being out here has grown as I’ve picked up an understanding of Thai culture, the language and nuisances of everyday life in this country.

We deliberately chose to come back to Thailand for the first years of my son’s life. We didn’t know how long we’d stay but neither of us was particularly enamoured with the prospect of raising the fella in London, where just renting a house alone takes up a huge chunk of our hard earned wages.

Neither of us wanted our son to grow up through perpetual childcare with two working parents, there had to be an alternative to life in London on my salary – though great for a twenty something guy living the urban life – and that was Thailand.

Nearly two years later, with another kiddie on the way, our thinking is shifting to a different paradigm of thougt.

Location is no longer our primary motivation for remaining in Thailand, or indeed anywhere.

When you’ve lived in rural Thailand and ‘earned baht’ – as an American guy stuck in the country without the means to return home once counselled me – many things become out of your range, suddenly the lure of a salary in London becomes somewhat stronger.

Though life is perhaps more comfortable out here, it comes with restrictions as you slip into Thailand-only mode.

That is to say, Thai prices which seem cheap and an absolute steal for tourists are normal for you...while you can do anything you please in Thailand, you are restricted on leaving the country where your hard-earned cash gets you far less.

For example, our trip back to England last year was only made possible courtesy of an early birthday present (the cost of flights) from my family, while prices back home genuinely scared me compared to cheep-as-chips Thailand.

This doesn't mean I believe we made the wrong decision coming out in Thailand, far from it, it was the right decision which we do again a hundred times over again.

Coming to Thailand we (particularly I) have learnt so much that I wouldn’t not have found in London. Opportunity knocks here I’ve been fortunate to do and be part of some very interesting things, open interesting doors etc...but now, more than ever, our future will not be about geographical location alone, it will be about career opportunity (for both my wife and I), lifestyle and quality of living.

These things have, of course, always been important to us...but from now on, it may be Thailand or it may be somewhere else...

In the meanwhile, I’m looking at a series of informative posts based on a few experiences I’ve had out here.

They may/may not be relevant to anyone but, for my own thought process and digestion of events, I’m going to be exploring them in more detail.

This post isn’t the precursor to us leaving Thailand but instead reflective of a change in our recent thinking - from my new lease of freedom working freelance - which doesn’t discount living in other countries, specifically the UK, just because they are not Thailand.

My situation is quite unique compared to others I know, and don’t know, many of whom are older, without family responsibilities and out here having invested time in a career at ‘home’ – wherever that may be – and are retiring in Thailand or reinventing themselves out here.

Unlike them, I spent less than four years working in London, so my career and our future prospects are still very much in development and - after finally knocking teacher on the head earlier this year - we are looking at my next career opportunity as a family and in more detail than our initial last-minute move out to Thailand.

While also, looking at other expats, with children and a wife my situation is very different to most I know who have already ruled out the potential of returning home. A friend’s recent happy return to repatriation in the USA from Thailand – ‘the right decision’ as he calls it – is proof that there is life after Thailand, and we needn’t restrict ourselves to being in Thailand, and Saraburi in particular, if there are other opportunities out there.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Buffalo

My missus is amazing. No doubt. Of her talents her never-ending desire to cook me amazing dinners (separate post with pictures required) is one of my favourites.

She is currently sporting a bump for the four months of pregnancy thus far and, though she gets plenty of rest, she still charges around like a maniac and insists on cooking said amazing dinners.

Sunday, as is often the case, truly was the day of rest and I went foraging for my dinner. We headed out to the car with the little fella en tow – he’s an easy sleeper during car drives – and took the five minute or so journey to the market.

Upon arriving and finding a decent parking space, I dashed out and ordered myself two lots of khao mun gai, not my favourite but is safe given the number of times other, more exotic, dishes have proved to be let downs when returned home to consume.

Dinner purchased, locals mildly impressed with this farang’s Thai...we’re all set to go back – via the longer route, of course, so the little man can doze off to his favourite English nursery rhyme CD. Reversing out is always tricky at markets in the darkness of evening, people walk back ignorant of cars, bikes plod along in their own world and motorcyclists weave between gaps in a hurry.

So, minding the pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists I backed out. Given I had a precious parking space it wasn’t a surprise to see a pickup flash to let me out, so off I went...then suddenly...bang...shit...did I just kill someone.

I moved the car forward before jumping out to see what I’d done – ten years as a driver, my first accident awaiting me.

Seems the guy flashing me out was actually flashing me to say I couldn’t come out. A flash of the lights in Thailand is more a warning than invitation to go...though in this situation it was usually the opposite.

He looked pissed, very pissed, so immediately I apologised, politely calling him P’ and also giving a wai, the respectful greeting in Thai.

“You didn’t look, did you?” was his response...

“I’m sorry,” I repeated, “I looked you flashed...then...”

“Buffalo,” he shouted as a crowd of onlookers grew watching this farang who’d just crashed his car.

Now that is not a respectful way to talk to anyone in Thai. At this point I was pretty angry – with myself for crashing, it was clearly my fault and with him for the insult, petty though it may be – but I managed to stay calm and told him I’d already apologised, but he wasn’t listening.

“Look what you’ve done,” he said, insinuating that I’d decided to crash into his pickup on purpose. “Look!” he shouted.

On inspection, the ‘damage’ was little more than a one inch paint scratch and a little abrasive damage to the wheel hub area.

“It isn’t much,” I told him, beginning to think he was taking me for a ride.

“Yes it is,” he repeated, “why did you do this?”

By now he was snarling at me but I managed to stay cool. Just nipping out to the market I’d left my phone, as had the missus – who had got out of the car and was coming over to see.

I gave him my number and told him to call me tomorrow, but the missus – who was getting angry after him insult me – wanted this sorted out. With no phone and little fella with us, I jumped on a motorcycle taxi and headed out to get my father-in-law, who just happens to be a local police chief and a definite fixer of situations like this.

Cutting a potentially very long story shorter...I came back with FiL who told the guy, in no uncertain terms, they were going to get the car fixed now. The guy was talking a lot, I could understand most of it, he was saying the damage would require extensive work and would need a lot of money.

FiL, on the other hand, was arguing that repairing the wheel-hub part would be fine, and his grand plans were unnecessary. It got a little heated in parts with other people and a market security guard in attendance agreeing with FiL. The argument was that this should be settled now, at a garage, with us paying the full cost of repair – more than fair I thought.

The guy looked very angry but FiL made perfect sense and, as a more senior and respected man, the guy had little choice but to go along with it. The missus and I took the little fella home in FiL car while he went on in my car with the other guy to get his car fixed.

After waiting a while, FiL got back, I somewhat nervously asked how much it came to and  was happy to hear 2,500 baht was the answer.

All-in-all I managed to escape my first accident without breaking the bank or writing off a car (as my brother did as a teenager). Though as Khao Mun Gai goes, a 2,500 surcharge on 50 Baht of food isn’t all that great – but I can live with it.

The accident was my fault, despite his flash, but the guy’s attitude really bothered all of us – particularly my mother-in-law who said she wanted to go over there and bash him up.

The guy is in his forties, was with his wife and kid, but yet he completely lost it with me being aggressive towards me, and apparently the missus while I was gone, insulting me and generally being a tosser.

This is just another example of how fortunate I am to have such great in-laws and a master-fixer of things for a FiL.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

World Cup disappointment

The most notable aspect of watching my first World Cup in Thailand, aside late match kick-offs courtesy of the five hour time delay between Thailand and South Africa, was a lack of English match coverage and technical analysis.

The Three Lions performance was somewhat disappointing too, but away from the hype bubble of the UK press I was not too shocked or overly saddened (as I usually am) given team was truly dreadful and barely deserved to qualify for the knock-out phase.

Leaving match analysis aside, as I'm sure Roundball Passion, a new blog from the excellent fella behind Beyond The Mango Juice, covers this in more detail, other issues arose in Thailand.

It seems Thai broadcasters failed to purchase the rights for English language commentary and, as is often the case in Thailand, the detailed match analysis, pre and post game, which often is cumulatively longer than the football itself in England was missing too.

What a coincidence that the Telegraph's Expat section decided to cover this story here.

Eyes peeled for a very media friendly quote from yours truly, and comment from Mike, who incidentally has a new blog over here.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy learning and listening to Thai, but during the football Thai analysis is pretty low-tech and obvious, never thought I'd find myself pining for English commentary...funny how things pan out.

Now what was I saying about the joys of blogging t'other day...nice to see your name in lights.

If I'm here for next World Cup, or European Championships in 2012, lets hope a lesson is learnt and English is included. Don't get me wrong I'll be a fluent Thai speaker by then (I wish! - though my football vocab is already well stacked) but my little fella(s) can follow in English.

Friday, 9 July 2010

On blogging

Blogging, they say, is a labour of love and I couldn't agree more.

Bloggers go through the process of researching topics, chasing news, running interviews, developing features and more because they are passionate about the subject matter at hand. It often is labour in the truest sense of the word.

The pay cheque

Finding money in blogging is tough. Google's ad platform is more "cents" than "sense" while, in my opinion at least, adverts on a blog just don't do it so I've never taken up the few offers that have come my way. Fair play to those that do though.

Blogging about digital media (on my other side) has thrown a few paid assignments my way but payment comes from completing the assignments myself not the blog itself. However such leads are the best example of monetisation I've seen from my experience.

Engagement and (self)fullfilment 

The real value, and satisfaction from blogging comes from engaging with other bloggings and an audience, if you are lucky enough to develop one. Thai blogs are a particularly communal area so the chances that after linking to some and 'doing the rounds' with comments, interest the like, word will get about and the key to the expat Thailand blogosphere will be yours.

Happiness is also often found through the personal triumph of recognition - in the form of a link from a big fish or, better still, a moment of fame with "proper" media.

The other one


This blog has been going steady since I started in November 2008, having just moved over to Thailand. Thanks it to I've connected with some great people - both virtually and face in face - and have even had my name in lights once or twice.

Over at my other blog, the younger, trendy, fashionable kid on the block has had a far racier ride.

Blogging about social media might seem like naval gazing to some, but its a world I worked in, and still do from time to time, and one I see myself rejoining at sometime. It is also a trendy topic which generates a lot of interest from Big G which has  put me on Thai TV, quoted me in media, generated a steady stream of work and seen me engage with a diverse audience.

Graduation

However after less than six month, it seems like yesterday that the little blighter was born, already I'm waving it off as it heads off to the big smoke and the world of Asian Correspondent.

That's right, my other labour of love is about to toss me a few gold coins each month as the hobby I (happily) do for free is now putting out. It isn't enough to retire off mind, but its a nice little earner, as they say, (particularly for Thailand) and it brings the potential of greater exposure and more potential to engage --- win, win.

There is a degree of sacrifice involved, for instance my unashamedly self-indulgent URL - jonathan-russell.com - has lost its mojo, going from host (with the most) to an invisible redirect which sends traffic to the new location at Asian Correspondent HQ.

It was never an easy decision to make but being invited to contribute to a website making serious waves was too big a chance to ignore, particularly as most of the well known writers have spent years building a reputation, unlike my vagabond blog which made it in less than half a year.

- - -

The point of this post, however, is to say that it isn't all about the money, and never should it be, blogging may not always monetise itself in the form of cash flow, but the benefits and enjoyment that come with are worth enough on their own.

But if you do get the chance, or feel inclined, why not head over to my social media blog that just flew the nest.

It seems likely that with little brother away, Jonny Foreigner may enjoy a renaissance...just to prove it isn't all about the cash.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A visitor

Have been somewhat busy and preoccupied over the last few weeks which has seen posting slow down somewhat.

Some pics from a month or so ago when I got to play cameraman with a surprisingly friendly visitor are finally up though.


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Mourning Glory

I previously posted some incredible images of Bangkok in flames during the most chaotic part of the recent political unrest in Thailand.

After finding this video from I found the video below from Rupert James (thanks to Dwight) and had to share it. It's called Mourning Glory.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Moving to Thailand: Martyn, Beyond The Mango Juice

As follow-up to last week’s Q&A with Talen, from Thailand, Land of the Smiles, we have a new soon-to-be expat in the hot seat.

Using himself as a live human guinea pig for aspiring birds looking to fly south and settle in Thailand, he are the experiences and opinions from a top blogger...Martyn, aka Hoo Don, from Beyond The Mango Juice – another Thailand blog which comes hugely recommended from yours truly.

The man himself, Leo beer in hand

You are living in the UK at present but with aspirations of moving to Thailand. What is it that makes you want to move to Thailand? 
I've been travelling to Thailand for over ten years and fell in love with the country on my first trip, first day is probably the truth. I love the easy laid back way of life in the Land of Smiles and the warm sunshine is a huge bonus too. I'd be lying if I said money doesn't come into it because it does, even at today's poor exchange rate my UK pound still has a lot of value to me in Thailand.
Why are you waiting to rather than moving to Thailand straight away? 
Money. Quite simply I don't have enough savings or equity in my property to make any move long term. When I do spread my wings and fly I want it to be forever and one day more. The thought of returning to England years later with no money and having to find work at say 60 years of age frightens me. Being skint with lots of wrinkles is really scary.
Do you have a plan or timeline for making the big move? 
I have a stock answer instead of a plan. In about three years time. Ask me the same question next week, next year, in two years time and I'll give you the same stock answer. When I do make the move I think it's going to be a spur of the moment decision. Wham, bam, here I go. I've always been a gambler and I'm currently trying to load the dice in my favour, believe me one day I'm going to throw them.
‘Wham bam’ was very much the approach the missus and I took when moving over from London, though a rough plan had been in place for a while. Has served us well to date...I’m not much of a planner whereas she is a woman.

When did you first realize your wanted to live in Thailand full time? 
Literally from day one, when fit young women chase you down the road screaming 'sexy man' it kind of makes your mind up.  
I’ve never been chased down the road (ladyboys not included), am I living in the wrong place? Well given I’m a (happily) taken man we can safely same I’m in the right place. Or perhaps just not chaseable?

How often do you visit Thailand? 
Three times a year. Generally April or May, every September and Christmas. I have had extended stays in Thailand in the past of a couple of months and my longest stay was four months. Nowadays work commitments allow me a total of about 7-8 weeks in Thailand each year. 
Do you have plans to work whilst living in Thailand? If not how do you plan to support you and Wi? 
I would love to find work in Thailand but basically I haven't got the skills they require. I have thought about taking a TEFL course and teaching English but I believe you need a university degree to legally teach English in Thailand. That's something I haven't got and I really can't see any other work opportunities for me out there. 
To support myself and Wonderful Wi I would need savings and income from renting out my property once the mortgage has been paid off. Putting a question like that to me makes me wonder if I'll ever make it to Thailand full time. You bastard (joking). 
Frustrating though it may be, the rental income approach is a proven one which a few people I know use to supplement additional incomes. Worth the wait in gold...or, indeed, Thai Baht.

Martyn and his other half Wi

Do you have any advice for those considering a full-time move to Thailand? 
My advice is in one of my previous answers and that's simply make sure you have enough money to survive until you reach a good old age. And one day more. 
Given the recent political turmoil in Thailand, which has claimed more than sixty lives, do you find yourself reconsidering your decision to move to Thailand? 
My move is a few years away but if it was next week then I'd try to rebook the flight for tomorrow. The current crisis which is suffocating Thailand has been building to a head for a number of years and so I have weighted that into my thoughts for a long time now. The UK government issued a warning not to travel to Thailand shortly before my trip this month but I knew I'd be 100% safe and that proved to be the case. Most countries have their own threat of 'terrorism' and I consider Thailand's scenario to be a lesser threat that most other countries, and that includes the UK. 
Give me a half decent pension and as the song says 'I'll be there.'
A big thanks (and good luck with planning) for Martyn for these responses from a while back. This post was delayed so long it began to rival an ASEAN summit meeting.

As stated last week, this interviews serve to answer of one most frequently asked questions (to me, at least) – “should I move to Thailand” – all responses and discussions are therefore welcome.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Football: Thailand Officially World Number Two

Thailand has beaten Brazil in football!! Though England remains number one.

It is...well...erm...not quite what you think...

Thailand has been recognised as the world's second-most football obsessed nation according to Heineken with England coming out top.

Just in time for the World Cup, Heineken gets a nice instantly quotable story in the British broadsheets and a little Team England brand association - well done chaps.

I won't often quote news from The Sun, but I think you'll agree this is a worthy exception.
Research revealed English blokes spend more time watching, playing, reading and talking about the beautiful game than anywhere else on the planet.
The study found a typical soccer fan watches football — including highlights — for two hours and 22 minutes every week.
They also spend 28 minutes each day chin-wagging about the latest results, tackles, goals or transfer gossip.
In second place was Thailand, where men spend three hours talking about the sport, followed by three-time World Cup winners Brazil in third.
Of course, as the saying goes, it's all about quality over quantity and given some of the opinions I've heard in both England and Thailand, I'm pretty sure neither country can claim to be the world's most knowledgeable.


At just 120 Baht (£2.50) a shirt switching your allegiance is an affordable pursuit in Thailand

Liverpool is well known for being the most popular in team in Thailand (any many other Southeast Asian countries) although Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United and others are becoming increasingly popular as the Merseysiders continue to struggle on and off the pitch.

Glory hunters, just keeping with what's on vogue or sensibly taking advantage of the bevy of cheap replica kits?

My favourite Thai football story is the fella who went to watch the recent Inter vs Bayern Munich Champions League final with both an Inter and Bayern shirt.

Back to The Sun, the top 15 countries are as below, though I still don't believe Thai men spend close to 10 hours a day talking about football.
THIS is the total amount of time blokes spend watching, playing, reading and talking about football each day around the world:

1. England — 11hrs 12mins

2. Thailand — 9hrs 56mins

3. Brazil — 9hrs 53mins

4. Ireland — 9hrs 29mins

5. Mexico — 9hrs 1min

6. Spain — 8hrs 38mins

7. Italy — 8hrs 27mins

8. China — 8hrs 21mins

9. Scotland — 8hrs 6mins

10. S. Africa — 8hrs 5mins

11. Germany — 8hrs 4mins

12. Wales — 7hrs 46mins

13. France — 7hrs 23mins

14. Russia — 7hrs 13mins

15. Holland — 6hrs 4mins

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Moving to Thailand: Talen, Thailand, Land Of Smiles

Over the course of blogging here at JF I get a fair amount of feedback from people considering moving to Thailand.

If I move to Thailand what job can I do? Is it nice living outside of Bangkok? What about my children? It safe to live in Thailand? Is there hot water? Have you ever been bitten by a snake? The list goes on.

My answer is always the same - I can't possible tell you if you should move to Thailand, it depends on personal circumstances.

In the past I've recommended reading blogs in Thailand as they are often excellent sources of information. Bloggers covers many issues of life here, the good, the bad (the ugly?), regularly reading a number of blogs can help paint a picture of what life in Thailand *could be*...but again, it really depends on each individual.

This post is the first of two combining typical 'moving to Thailand questions' with the wealth of knowledge and experience in the Thai blogosphere.

I've asked a few questions to two bloggers who are planning a big move to Thailand. If you're making, considering the move yourself their opinions may be of interest.

So first up here is Talen from Thailand, Land Of Smiles.


The man behind the hugely popular (and recommended) Thailand, Land Of Smiles blog, Talen.

You are living in the USA at present but with aspirations of moving to Thailand. What is it that makes you want to move to Thailand?
Everything! The weather, food, culture and definitely the beautiful women. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I definitely feel like a better version of me when in Thailand. I can't put a finger on it but I think it has a lot to do with learning about and exploring the country. It's all so new and crisp and there is always something around every corner to delve into.
Why are you waiting to rather than moving to Thailand straight away?
Originally I was going to make the move to Thailand 2 years ago but my mother became ill and soon passed away followed by my father's cancer returning. So, my plans were put on hold while I helped to take care of my parents.
Do you have a plan or timeline for making the big move?
My father just recently passed away and as soon as the family takes care of the last of the estate issues I'll be leaving for Thailand. I'm hoping to hit the ground sometime in late July or early August.
When did you first release your desire to live in Thailand full time?
Right after my second trip to Thailand in 2007.
My first trip was great but that was the first vacation I had in a very long time so I spent most of my time in bars. The second trip I really started to see the country and the cultural aspects of Thailand and I just knew this was the place I wanted to be.
I was talking about Thailand so much to anyone that would listen that I had to start the blog so I wouldn't keep annoying people.
How often do you visit Thailand?
Aside from the past year I had been going to Thailand at least every six months since my first visit in 2006.

Talen and his other half Pookie

Do you have plans to work whilst living in Thailand? If not how do you plan to support you and your partner, Pookie, in LOS?
I've saved a nice nest egg to get me going and have been building a blogging empire (joke), But I do have a few blogs going that are starting to turn a decent profit that I am hoping I can live off of in the future.
If all else fails I can always be the second or third falang Kathoey to shake my stuff around Pattaya :)
Hmmm...lets hope this doesn't inspire anyone, Talen.

Do you have any advice for those considering a full-time move to Thailand?
Definitely do your homework and make sure this is something you really want to do. Visit Thailand as much as possible and for as long as possible before you make the move so you understand what you are getting into.
The language barrier and cultural differences are a big stumbling block for many would be expats. I've spent a good bit of time up country in Issan as well as the more traveled areas of Bangkok and Pattaya and I have yet to run into anything that would put me off...including cold showers and squat toilets in Mukdahan.
Also keep in mind that while a lot of things like food and shelter in Thailand are very cheap by western standards there will be other expenses that won't be and shouldn't be neglected like health insurance, visa's and car or motorbike insurance if you live anywhere that isn't easily accessible to public transportation.
Another thing to consider is having a bailout plan. You never know whats going to happen with the government and visa rules have a way of changing quickly in Thailand.
With the events of the last few months, I posed an additional question which is probably going through the mind of anyone considering a visit to Thailand, let alone coming to live here.

Given the recent political turmoil in Thailand, which has claimed more than sixty lives, do you find yourself reconsidering your decision to move to Thailand?
Not in the slightest. Knowing I will be living in Red shirt country might add an air of danger, considering some of the conversations I have been having with Pookie over the last few weeks, but I don't think that I would
be worried about my personal safety at all. Besides I just got a new DSLR and I'm itching for some good pictures.
With the protests now all across the northeast it might give me a better perspective on the ground even though I have very real doubts about the UDD leadership.  In all seriousness though I really hope for Thailand's sake that the worst is behind us and somehow the people can move forward and repair the damage somehow and get back to being known for the smiles instead of the violence.
A big thank you to Talen. My condolences for your recent losses, I'm with you that right now family is one of the few things that would move me and the family back in the UK. In time, we shall see though.

Good luck with the packing and planning, Talen.

Check back later to this week to see which blogger's answers are part 2 of this mini-series.


UPDATE: By "later this week", I in fact mean next week (tease) as tomorrow is Friday already. My excuse? Am in Malaysia on a extended break, somewhat out of sync from the norm.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Phuket Film Festival 2010

Putting recent (and current) political situation to the side for a moment, Friday marks the start of this year's Phuket Film Festival.

There is sure to be greater interest in the event from inside Thailand (at least) as it provides a destruction from said current political malaise while Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethaku's recent success at the Cannes Film Festival (Wise Kwai has more here) has promoted greater interest in the industry here too.

So without further ado, here is the official festival video preview.



More on the festival in this Bangkok Post article.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Nation shows no respect (no surprise)

In case you've been hiding under a rock, foreign reporters and media have taken a lot of criticism in Thailand for the reporting of the recent Bangkok protests.

Social media sites have, perhaps unsurprisingly been the main outlet, however increasingly government ministers and others in positions of responsibility have cast doubt on the objectivity of foreign media reports.

I won't list all the links but there has been a huge amount of noise as the objectivity of media like the CNN and the BBC have come under-fire.

Public opinion is to be expected to a degree (although the personal abuse and allegations directed at CNN's Dan Rivers go over the top) but to see other journalists and senior officials joining the angry voices is somewhat disturbing. Particularly as Bangkok Pundit recently delivered this analysis suggesting much of the criticism is unfounded.

Today The Nation's cartoonist had this 'amusing' take on it all.

I find this cartoon to be inappropriate, not to mention disrespectful, of the foreign media who risked (and in a few cases lost) their lives to provide a story with greater accountability and objectivity, rather than just regurgitating what the rest of the media is saying.

Much of the revisiting of events, and uncovering of wrong doing (such as the death of an Italian photographer and shooting of unarmed protesters at Wat Patum) is reliant upon accounts and footage taken by foreign reporters. Mocking them is hardly respectful in these circumstances.

But here it is, I really think someone at The Nation should apologise for this...but I doubt anything will happen.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Thailand Musings interview

Steve over at Thailand Musings is running an excellent ongoing series of Q&As with a number of prominent Thai bloggers. He's interviewed most of those I keep up with and, with a little luck, I made the hit list too.

His interview post with me has just gone live so click here to head over and see my tupence on life in Thailand.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Bangkok burning - images

Right now Bangkok is a city that, in parts, resembles scenes from a computer game,

A selection of images that I've stumbled across using Twitter - what else? - are below.

This view over the city from @ustadbangkok is in my opinion the most spectacular.


A street view in Din Daeng with red shirt protester from @BaBYxxxEviL


The below picture is of Siam Paragon, theatre 7, from @richardbarrow.



This video features strongly anti-red rheotric (for those of us who try to stay objective, though I of course oppose the rampant destruction and anarchy) but includes some incredible footage.



An incredible set of high-res photos can also be found at Boston.com, a link I recommend you to visit.

It looks like things are under more control today but, as many have speculated, how this pans out in the long run, with the potential for more civilian disobedience in Bangkok, is anyone's guess.

I'll update this with more photos as and when I come across them...


UPDATE: Freelance Thai photographer Natthawat Wongrat has an incredible set of photo that date back to day one of the protests. The Red Shirts: Thailand collection has more than 1,300 images and is well worth a look.

Respecting his copyright and usage policy I haven't posted any of Natthawat's images but you can see them for yourself here.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Thoughts post battle of Bangkok

It's nearly 1pm (close to 1.30 at time of publishing) and things are beginning to come to a close in Bangkok today.

Earlier this morning the army finally breached protester lines and entered the red shirt camp in numbers, Al Jazeera estimated around 200 or so soldiers made up the first wave.

Right now red shirt leaders are beginning to face up to the end of their 7 week occupation of Bangkok. While Veera, a key figure, left some time ago, Arisman has reportedly just fled the camp though the others are waiting to be arrested and receive their fate.

All in all it is a sad ending and I can't help thinking things could (and should) have ended better for the red shirt protesters.

They have held talks with Abhisit and leading government officials a number of times but failed to agree on a compromise. It is sad, but somewhat inevitable, that developments have seen more than 30 people lose their lives (with two more deaths rumoured today already) when the reds could have walked away with what they (allegedly) came for.

By pure chance that the missus, little fella and I road into Bangkok with the protests when they first came to the city back in March. We didn't join them on their quest to overthrow the elite and force an election but, like many, my recollection of meeting them was that they were friendly.

I wonder just how many of those whom I met remain in Bangkok now, where the mood is more defiant and edgier than ever.


Placing the blame

There is no doubt that both sides (subscribing to the two sides theory for simplicity) are culpable for what has happened, albeit to different levels.

In a bid to end the protests the government has killed more than 30 civilians.

Whilst, to any sane person, firing on your own people is madness, let's put ourselves in their shoes for a second. They want to end the protest, they are prepared to fire live ammunition...why then have seemingly innocent civilians lost lives while (Sae Daeng aside - there is enough debate as to who fatally shot him for a post alone) none of the key, strategic red shirt leaders were threatened?

This arbitrary, senseless shooting of innocents saw the red shirt protests engage and return shots, though not with far more basic weapons and not the military issued heavy weapons many journalists have claimed.

This escalation of violence marked the beginning of the end. "Red shirts return fire" simply fanned the flames giving the army legitimate reason to fire live rounds in 'self-defence'.

Assigning culpability for escalating violence, one must also look to the red shirts.

I can't help but wonder what could have been had they been able to remain non-violent, as the banner draped across their main stage proclaimed them to be.

Of course, as an anti-government movement, membership of the reds is loose, that is to say its membership comprises a range of different viewpoints and aims for the protest. For some the agreement of an early election was enough, while others seek more extreme aspirations such as the return of Thaksin Shinawatra's funds, while others seek the former Prime Minister's physical return to Thailand and an overthrowing of the institutions.

For that reason alone their supporters have reacted in different ways, some of which has been violent which, with considerable news coverage, has painted a very different view of the protest which was originally all about peaceful change.

To use game show terms, let's look at what they could've 'won'.

No agreement

Prime Minister Abhisit, having wiggled himself a little more power than many said institutions have until now granted him, went out on a limb with his peace roadmap.

Talks with the reds shirts came epically close to a conclusion, which could have avoided bloodshed (particularly of the last week or so), yet they failed and the rest is as reported. Thais and foreigners have lost their lives, Bangkok has been shut down, millions of lives (mine included) have been affected.

The irony of these failed talks is that the reds could have walked away with the prize - a much sought after (and at one point unlikely) early election date. Yet they insisted on near radical conditions which compromised the reaching of their goal of an election date.

They demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep should hand himself into police - just as red-leaning police chiefs responses for deaths relating to the PAD's occupation of Suvarnabhumi airport were forced to - an act that would show his responsibility for the deaths at the hands of the army.

Suthep did subsequently hand himself into, but such is the fragmented nature of Thailand's police force, the reds deemed this to be the 'wrong' police station and thus the deal and ceasefire was off...game on.

That the reds assumed Suthep would glady hand himself in is strange. After all, they did not hold all the power in this situation and thus misjudged their strength against the government.

A fair better and more productive approach might have been to take the agreement and work on Suthep separately/at a later date. This would allow them to walk away, hands held high...PR rhetoric claiming they had influenced this government, got their way and come home to work on electoral success.

As it is, going back to game show-isms, they (most likely) leave with nothing.

What is next?

The next chapter is yet to unfold but you can be sure this will not the end of the red shirt struggle.

What started off as a reasonable request (and one which I supported, given that the Prime Minister does not hold direct democratic legitimacy - he was voted in by parliament (representing the people) rather than the electorate itself) has ended with everyone losing.

People have lost lives, families have lost loved ones, the reds have lost their battle, the army has lost (further) credibility but, by far and away, the biggest loser has been Thailand. The full estimates of financial cost are yet to come in (though this post gives some insight), but given the country is still recovering (financially and reputation wise) from the PAD protests at Suvarnabhumi, the cost will be significant.

UPDATE

TumblerBlog has a number of quotes from The Economist summarising the close of the protests. The one I've chosen from below sums up my long, rambling thoughts above in a far more succinct statement - this is what I should've written to save time.
Mr Abhisit may deserve credit for offering a plausible compromise to the red shirts. That the leaders of their United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) failed to grasp this olive branch is tragic. They must bear some responsibility for the lives lost, as do the soldiers who marched into downtown Bangkok.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Redesign

Had the decorators in, new look is courtesy of the new Blogger In Draft feature. The background image may be a little cliched for a blog about Thailand but it is easily changed if/when it gets boring or appears elsewhere.

Was pleasantly surprised with how versatile and easy to arrange the new system is, having put the process off for a few weeks it took less than half an hour and did not involve the painful 'Google-for-a-template' process.

Still, having dipped my blogging feet in Wordpress (.org), the new Blogger comes up short. A worthy (and much needed) improvement from Google nonetheless.

To keep up the renewed use of photos, gratuitous pictures of Pattaya by day versus Pattaya by night are below, both taken from a recent stay.

By Day


By Night




Sometimes things just look better in the dark - some might say this applies more to the women in Pattaya.

Hat tips to both Mike at MTF and Steve from Thai Musings both of whom got in touch to say commenting is not possible (shame of me for leaving this unfixed before bed last night, didn't think anyone would notice.)


I have a problem enabling Blogger comments but DISQUS comments are now in place for future posts, the import setting current has a problem which explains absence of comment feature for this post.