Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park: relax and enjoy the tranquility

We are not yet finished with exploring parks and gardens in Bangkok. Today we went to another jewel of natural habitat: The Sri Kakhon Khuen Khan park. The current King himself gave the park the garden. Although it looks on the map bigger at it actually is, the park is worth a stop. If you are on a organised bike tour you most probably make a visit here anyway, if not, mark it as a way point.

Located on the northern end of the small peninsula the Chao Phraya river forms here, it is open daily from 6am to 8pm and you don't need to buy a ticket. It is also a botanical garden, so expect a lot of signs explaining the plants you see. You can walk around or take a bike (a bike rental is right next to the entrance).

Enjoy the shadows of the huge trees, watch the lizards crawling trough the gras (they are harmless, just keep some distance) or climb up the birdwatching tower (better bring binoculars with you). Have a seat in the wooden pavilions and listen to the sound of nature just a few kilometers from the buzzing city. 

We didn't see a restaurants there, but you are allowed to bring your own food and drinks and have a picnic. Just clean the place afterwards. Toilets are available on the right when you enter the park.

Once you finished you can also visit the nearby Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery, unfortunately it's open only on weekends.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The rainwater people

It seems that the northeast and the north are the match-winners in Thailand. The red shirts like them because they are their people, and the "Democrats" make them so important that they want to pull their right to vote. So it seems decisions are made on the countryside.

In last weekends Bangkok Post Andrew Biggs wrote in his Sunday column about vote-buying and the people upcountry. He better had not done this. What followed was a shitstorm as we call it in German. In front Andrew Marshall, the out-of-country-but-still-knowing-it-all-journalist, and right next to him @forestmat who tweeted this gem: "can you check for me if he's spent time in a rural NE village, drinking rainwater, cooking on a charcoal fire?"

So I learned today that only if you had your cup of coffee made of rainwater and your pork steak made on a charcoal grill you are qualified to understand and analyse the Isan folks.

Here is the thing: As long as we refer to the people in North- and Northeast Thailand as countryside guys, Isan people, farmers or even worst "the uneducated", we discriminate them. They are as Thai as everyone else. Actually the fact that there is less education shows that the oh so smart Bangkokians aren't able to provide education in the whole country. And look whats graduating from the universities in the capital? Generation selfie. While at the same time Thailands best programmers and finest vets are educated in Khon Kaen.

All my friends in the Isan part of Thailand have nice houses, and yes they may drink rainwater because they built a sophisticated rainwater-recycling system that cleans the water and makes it drinkable. And yes, they use a charcoal grill, because that's how you do BBQ. Only the rice is done in the rice-cooker, and the cake got a warm-up in the microwave.

See, of course there are some very poor people on the countryside. And some very uneducated. But they are everywhere, in Bangkok, in Phuket, in Chang Mai, Ubon Ratchathami and Hat Yai. That's how the world is - different. Smart guys and stupid guys, eductated and not educated, with knowledge and without knowledge.

We should stop thinking what makes a differences between people living in different parts of Thailand and start thinking of what they have in common. It is more than some advocates of either side of politics may think.

Suan Luang Rama 9 Park - another jewel in Bangkok

Lumphini park is renown within the expat community as the best place for exercising and for tourists who want to spend some time in kind of fresh air and surrounded by green. But there are more parks in Bangkok, and the Suan Luang Rama IX park might be a bit outside but is worth a visit.

The area is huge, with a big lake and ten of thousands of flowers. It is a paradise for photographers but also for families, since you have so many opportunities to just sit down and have a picnic - either with your own food or some dishes you bought at the stalls.

Entry fee is 5 Baht for people and 10 baht for the car. The park opens every day at 5am and closes at 6pm.

From the parking lot behind Paradise Park shopping mall at Srinakarin road you just start walking. A walk around the lake get you to the main building that looks like a star trek assembly hall. It hosts a lot of pictures and information about the current King of Thailand, Rama IX or better know as King Bhumiphol.

The park is considered the biggest in Bangkok and the botanical gardening is outstanding. Lots of signs tell you the name of the plant, special places like the English garden give you some impressions of international garden architecture.

Find some impressions in pictures and video below.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bang Nam Phueng Floating market

The jungle that's build through the sling of the Chao Phraya river and makes ut the green lung of Bangkok was unknown territory for me until last week. We heard about the Bangkok Tree house just across the river and wanted to see it with our own eyes. A nice small eco-friendly boutique hotel, build treehouse style but with all luxury you need. 

For those who think they stayed everywhere in BKK already, they missed this one propably. 

Studying Google maps while there I saw a floating market and we decided to take a mototaxi and check it out.  A good decision: The Bang Nam Phueng floating market is a hidden gem, at least for foreigners. We didnt see many Falang there although its a well designed, well maintained and well operated place. Of course the boats are gone and nothing is floating anymore, but that makes the market even better.  

You have Boss Coffee, a tiny coffee shop serving delicious coffee for 25 Baht, and offers a seat on the canal. You have restaurants there, small and big, a lot of very cheap but good food, plants, souvenirs etc. 

The market is open on the weekend from 7am to 2pm. Best time to come is early morning. From the Udom Suk BTS go to pier at Wat Bang Na Nok, it costs just 4 Baht to take the ferry and from there 15 Baht for the motocycle taxi.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Victory or not? The situation in Bangkok (3.12.2013, 12.30 pm)

While gambling is certainly a habit in Thailand you shouldn't do it on politics. Just because the outcome is so difficult to predict. Yesterday we had a record number of more then hundred injuries in clashes with the police, today we had more than a hundred roses offered to protesters by police while opening the gates to their HQ and the government house. There wasn't much of a storm, more a walk in. The CMD as they want to be called internationally declared victory, and they are right at least regarding to their goals announced yesterday: Seize Metro police and Government house.

But what happened to this other goal: getting rid of the government? It seems that Yingluck is playing an odd game. She is ready for negotiations, even for dissolving the parliament. But her first priority was to avoid any violence. Otherwise violent clashes would have given the wrong (third?) power arguments to intervene.  Also, with the upcoming celebrations of  Kings birthday, nobody wants to have protests in the capital.

What's now? This is kind of trending on twitter, at least around the political observers. Yingluck is still Prime Minister, just with an virtual office, while Suthep is ready to go into government house, but still as a visitor.

It seems there is a truce now for the next few days to celebrate Kings birthday. After that, we will see. The army seems to be keen to get both parties on the table to negotiate. Yingluck offers a lot, her political future, but also the risk of losing an election (not so likely). Suthep fears elections since he always lost, but knows that his utopia with only his unelected peoples committee as a government and no parties or elections at all will never happen.

For now, please enjoy the midnight sale in the shopping malls, celebrate Kings birthday on Thursday and wish his Majesty all the best, good health and a long life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

World Film Festival of Bangkok: Shepherds, karaoke girls and a rocket

It's been a while since the last blogpost but I was at the Bangkok International Filmfestival 2013 and decided to wait until the end with a blogpost.First of all big applause to the organizers. Well well done, great selection of movies, well selected venue, fair prizes. I will be back next year.The first movie I saw was I Have Loved from Singapore. The summary says:
 In Siem Reap, a young woman, haunted by loss, mourning, melancholia and the imperfections of memory, dances with two men–one of whom she is married to, while the other is engaged to be married.

Good to have at least these few words, otherwise the movie would be confusing. As a visitor afterwards said: It's this kind of movie you always have at a film festival. A bit to artistic, a bit too long, a bit to much focussed to please a imaginary jury. On the other hand, technically well done, beautiful shots, good location and well recorded sound.Second movie was a film I was really looking forward to: Boundary. The description is a bit misleading:
In the past decade, political conflict has shaken its social and cultural structure. Recently created history, which was understood more than half-a-century is now questioned. Some traces of history being re-interpreted.   The connection of belief, society, culture and history of a country amazingly has an effect on a neighboring country and the whole region.
It is actually a documentary about a soldier who was stationed in the south of Thailand as well as on the Cambodian border during the Prehar Vihear conflict. He was also on duty during the red shirt protests. Director  Nontawat Numbenchapol was really lucky to have found Sitthipong Junthasuk and got permission to tell his story. It gives a good insight in how these political events are received by ordinary people. The film also tells us about the life on the country side during this time, in particular at the Thai-Cambodian border. For those who are familiar with life in Thailand and political developments the movie might have scratched only the surface. But if you watch this movie as a outsider, it gives you quite a good picture from a very different angle. Still, there were some technical flaws, mainly due to the lack of proper equipment I guess, and editing mistakes. 15-20 minutes less would not have done any harm to the movie.

"Karaoke Girl" is a catching title and the synopsis sounds very promising:
Part fiction, part reality, Karaoke Girl follows Sa, a young country girl, working at a bar in Bangkok as an escort to support her family back home. 

So we follow Sa to the market, to the Karaoke Bar, a soup seller, and to the countryside of course. We get a glimpse into the Karaoke Bar business, but thats it. We are with her when she fights with the boyfriend without knowing his real status: Is he just a "gig" (lover), a "fan" (Boyfriend) or a customer?Although the movie starts quite emotional with the leading character crying while telling her story, for the rest of the film it is missing this bonding. Maybe because of the camera angle we follow her more than observing her, rushing from scene to scene. Maybe many people have different expectations (or no at all) when they read the title. Personally I would have expected a bit more profundity. Again, as a independent movie director Visra Vichit-Vadakan apparently had not enough budget (or discipline) to shoot in a consistent quality. At lot of mainly zoom shots were out of focus, the night shots mainly with too low ISO, and on the other hand some beautiful pictures during Sonkran, when the kids play or when she wakes up with her boyfriend in her apartment.

"The Last Shepherd" was a surprise and in a positive way. When you do a documentary about certain people and/or their jobs, you heavily rely on their ability to perform on camera, even then they just play themself. Director Marco Bonfanti had this luck finding not just a interesting story about one of the last moving shepherds in Italy, but also a fascinating character, an almost Italian stereotype person, yet someone you love from the first seconds of the movie. At the end, when he made it to Milan with his herd to show the animals to kids, you may start crying out of empathy with Renato Zucchelli, the shepherd. Well told, well photographed, edited and recorded. A movie that isn't to long and isn't to short. A role model for documentary filmmakers.

Finally I watched The Rocket, one of the stars at the festival. The films synopsis:
A boy who is believed to bring bad luck to everyone around him leads his family and two new friends through Laos to find a new home. After a calamity-filled journey through a land scarred by the legacy of war, to prove he's not bad luck he builds a giant rocket to enter the most exciting and dangerous competition of the year: the Rocket Festival.

The movie is in Lao language with English subtitles, but Thai people usually understand Lao since it is quite similar to the Isan dialect. What the synopsis doesn't tell are the different layers of the movie that makes it so extraordinary.

There is the old Lao (or in this case Aka tribe) culture, were twins are usually killed after birth because one has always a curse. The movie shows this ancient tradition in all of its disgust and brutality. A second layer is the issue of hydropower dams and their effect for the people. Instead of new houses the evicted family has to live in makeshift shelters, with no fertile land and no jobs. 
There is also Purple, a symbol of the transition from Laos past to the future. A former soldier with the US forces he is an outlaw and outsider, but also the one who mentors the young boy and shows him the right way.

The Rocket has some very necessary criticism, in particular about ancient tradition and evictions, but its still not a political movie. It is beautifully shot, the kids and the grandma are amazing actors, and you see clearly that this is production that meets international standards. By the way, this is a reason why the Lao production team was quite small: Laos has not yet the resources for a movie in this league. A surprise was that the Lao government even allowed to shoot the movie.
Sylvia Wilczynski, who is in charge of PR for the movie told me about the production circumstances:

We did go through the official permission process, which took many many months through the Media Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).  We paid large government filming fees and had 20 government officials on set at all times while filming in Laos. Every single one of our team who came from Thailand and Australia had to be have a full media visa, and our local Lao cast and crew also had to be cleared though the Lao government.  Every piece of our filming equipment that was brought in from Thailand had to be listed and photographed and cleared through the government.  We of course had to bring camera, grip, gaffer and special FX  equipment in from Thailand as most of this is not available in Laos.We had a large crew of over 50 people (Australian, Thai and Lao), around 30 cast, 200 extras in crowd scenes, large amounts of complex filming equipment and our shooting involved firing large explosive Special FX rockets into the sky.... It was also important to us, having had a very long relationship with Laos, to make a film which openly explored both thebeauty and challenges of life in Laos.  From our extensive time in Laos over the last 10 years we have seen that the construction of hydro-electric dams and relocation of people is a major issue affecting numerous communities, just as it is in many countries.
Lao production companies like New Wave Cinema or Lao art Media can only learn from a movie like this. although the movie is banned in Laos (I guess mainly because of the dam issue), I would be surprised if it is not available through the usual channels (Princess of Laos was also shipped to Vientiane, although not publicly screened). Lao filmmakers need to understand that a movie that plays in Laos does not have the mission to show the beauty of Laos. It basically rents the landscape. The Rocket did Laos a favor in showing the positive parts of a tradition and culture (the rocket festival)-  as well as the negative (the ancient, inhumane and disgusting traditions). 

One more thing: The downside of filmfestivals is that only few people go there and watch the movies. I do know that some festivals don't allow a film be online before it is screened, but it is bullshit. Dear filmmakers, please let the audience watch your movies, not just some enthusiast, journalists and jurors. Take it online, choose a paid version as it is available on iTunes and Vimea, but please, get a bigger audience. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

World Film Festival of Bangkok

From November 15th to 24th film enthusiasts will gather at SF World Cinema at Central World. The schedule is long and expect numerous interesting and mostly independent movies to be screened.
The program is available online.

One particular movie could get a lot of attention: Boundary tells the story of a soldier who was deployed to the south of Thailand, the Prehar Vihear area and to Bangkok during the red shirt protests. Director is Nontawat Numbenchapol.

From the description:

In the past decade, political conflict has shaken its social and cultural structure. Recently created history, which was understood more than half a century is now questioned.Some traces of history is being re-interpreted.
The connection of belief, society, culture and history of a country amazingly has an effect on a neighboring country and the whole region.

You can see the trailer below.

I was told that the movie has English subtitles and will be screened 17.11. and 18.11 at 13.00 in SF WORLD Cinema 5.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Protests continue in the streets of Bangkok

It is getting a bit confusing in the City of angels. There is the Pheu Thai ruled government, that tried to get a strongly disputed amnesty bill through the institutions. Didn't come far: even before the senate started to discuss, PM Yingluck announced it will withdraw the bill.

Some problems with this: The opposition doesn't believe her, and so do the protesters in the streets of Bangkok. Also, the law says that the senate has to make a decision, either making changes or reject. Then the bill goes back to the parliament, where it can't be touched for 180 days. Only then it can be withdrawn.

Maybe Yinluck thought it will stop the protests, but it didn't. Some politicians sensed a chance to get public attention and start to radicalise the movement. It is now against the government.

Meanwhile, the red shirts, until now compatriots and helpful mob for the Pheu Thai party, start to get angry as well. They didn't want to see an amnesty for their political enemies. So they also demonstrate against the bill.

The reds are still the reds, while the Democrats, formally in yellow, now use the colors of the Thai flag. The game is still the same: Redshirts are mainly from the country side, older, less educated. The current opposition gets it's support from the urban middle class and young people.

So far so good, demonstrations are part of a democracy and an important right. My friends in Laos and Vietnam for example do not have this right.

But: When - as it happened today - politicians use hate speech at these gatherings, or resign as MP to join the demonstrators, it seems there is not much trust in the institutions. I am not taking sides here, both parties have the same problem: They just want to be in power, and it seems they are not afraid about some violence.

Todays ICJ ruling that the temple of Prehar Vihear is on Cambodian land, not Thai, doesn't makes it easier. Experts expect ultra-nationalists coming out and make the situation even worst. The question is what the government will do. Nobody really thinks that Yingluck is able to manage the situation, and it is in question what Thaksin, the man behind the scenes will do.

Best case would be that eventually the government steps down and calls for elections. Worst case is that clashes in the streets of Bangkok will turn all eyes to the army.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chiang Mai Sausage Calzone - just cooking

From the hills of Chiang Mai comes to most delicious sausage in Thailand, at least when it comes to my taste. The Sai Gog is close to the Luang Prabang sausage, full of spices and meat.

 Yesterday, I had the idea to wrap it a bit - kind of a Pizza meets Sausage thing.

What you need is:
A Chiang Mai Sausage
Pizza dough

Cut the sausage a bit so you can flap it. Fill in shredded cheese (I used cheddar and it turned out a good choice). Wrap around some pizza dough just enough to have the whole sausage covered. It baked it for 20 minutes by 230 degrees, but different oven may take longer or shorter. Just wait until it's getting brown. Since the sausage is already cooked and the cheese melts easy, it depends on the thickness of the dough how long it takes.

Any recommendations for improvement are welcome!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Don't ride an elephant - but showering is ok

Last week I took a trip to Hua Hin with two friends from Germany. They asked for seeing some wildlife, but aren't the ones who have time enough to walk through the National Park for days. So I decided to pay a visit to the Wildlife Friends of Thailand Foundation. It's founder Edwin Wiek is a passionate animal lover who started the project 12 years ago. The goal is to provide shelter for rescued animals. Those animals are mainly from an human environment, like monkeys and bears hold in cages or elephants used in the begging, trekking or logging business.

Regarding the elephants (and all other animals) the WFFT has a basic rule: Wild animals belong into the wild, not in camps or zoos. Since many of the animals held in the WFFT are mentally disturbed or not able to be re-socialized, they found a new home there and will stay on the premise forever. Some monkeys are in de-humanizing programs and can hopefully released into the wild.

On 29 hectar of land the WFFT has over 400 animals, including a salt water crocodile and some other former pets who are not species usually found in Asia.

As many expats know Thailand is a country where the powerful outrule justice, so it wasn't a surprise that one day some people involved in the wildlife trade got pissed and sent the troups to the WFFT. The legal battle is still going on.

Although the WFFT is not a Zoo, it actually provides tours, so you can get a glimpse in the animals (no touching) and learn about the work they do there. Available are half day and full day experiences, including pick up at your hotel in Cha-Am or Hua Hin, a lunch, elephant walk and shower and a guided tour.

I can only recommend to pay a visit. It changed my opinion about elephant trekking. While I was convinced that some camps do treat the animals well, I forgot that they were still tortured as babys - and the brutal training is still going on. The weight of three people doesn't really hurt the elephant much, if it's just for a few hours. But the training when they are young does, and it seems there isn't any other way available in Thailand. So please, just don't do any elephant riding and besides rescue centers don't visit any Elephant camp in Thailand.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Eatings insects is good - eating insects is bad

Thailand for sure has no lack of disputes and differing opinions. There is always someone who has a different point of view. That is healthy in debates, but not always useful when it comes to food security.
Remember when the WHO hyped insects as the best protein source ever? Sunstainable, healthy, easy to produce and a income source for farmers.

Insect food

The Ministry of Health in Thailand is now warning of eating bugs.

Dr. Aphichat Mongkol, Director General of the Department of Medical Sciences, revealed that a chemical substance called Histamine can be fatal to those who have ingested too much of it. 
So this is big news? It actually isn't. It is well known that insects contains histamine, and this is the reason why people allergic to bee stings should be careful eating them. Also when you have a seafood allergy you are advised to not eat insects.

A paper published in April 2013 with the title "Edible Insects in a Food Safety and Nutritional Perspective: A Critical Review" could not find particular risk studies regarding insects besides known allergies. 

To our knowledge, few studies have been published on allergic reactions due to insect ingestion. Differences in geographical food traditions can result in differences in food allergy risk.

If you read the statement of the Thai authorities carefully, you will then see this part:
However, ingesting food that is dirty or contaminated with bacteria can cause high levels of Histamine to enter the body. 
So the problem aren't the insects as it, but the way they are produced in some cases. And of course there is a risk of an anaphylactic shock.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pets' Ville - dogs heaven in Bangkok

While everyone may have been once in one of the 5 Star hotels in the top tourist destinations in Thailand, you may haven't taken your dog into one - mainly because there wasn't one. This time is over: Not yet finished, but soft opening is Pets' Ville, a dog boarding and entertainment place. Not too far from the airport the owners got a big plot of land and turned it into mans best friends heaven.

First of all, it is beautifully designed. Modern chic, cute, black and white: Teh designer did a pretty good job. The place has different sections:

a restaurant (not yet open), so you can grab a bite while watching your pet playing in the pool

a pet supply shop (under construction)

retail shops (still for rent) offering services for dogs

a salt water swimming pool (prices depend on weight and hair length, between 350 and 1000 Baht per hour)

a dog hotel: standard box is 1x1.2 meters, deluxe is 1.4 x 1.6 meter (for up to 2 small dogs), aircon and CCTV VIP is a 2.3 x 3 meter special hut with air conditions and IP Webcam (so the owners can see the dogs while on the beach via internet connection). Prices vary between 300 and 1000 Baht per room. Dogs are taken out 2 times in the morning and 2 times afternoon. Staff checks every two ours the animals wellbeing.
a playground with agility training (under construction)

a grooming service.

Before boarding the dogs (service will start in November) owner recommend to bring the dog before to see if he/she likes and and gets along with the staff (they have four staff and security there all day). Also, dog owners have to bring medical records as well as last heartworm treatment date and flea/tick control prove.

Although the service isn't cheap, the place can become a community place for dog owners very soon. You can just come for grooming or the pool or even to let your dog play and run with others (for a small fee). I was impressed by the modern style, but also by the quality of building. This is all well built and constructed.
You can get more information on Facebook, on Instagram petsville, Line ID petsvilleBKK

Address is Sukhaphiban 2 Road which intersected with On-nut Road. The place's in between Sukhaphiban 2 soi 7 and soi 9, next to Baan Patra., Phone number 081-818-2850, 080-000-6976, Open 9am-6pm.
A map and geo coordinates are here

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Seacon Pet Planet: The Safari or how wild animals are exploited in shopping malls

When I read an announcement about a Safari World at Seacon yesterday in the Bangkok Post, I was curious, so I just went there for the opening. The promotion area in the first floor was turned into a safari camp style arena, with a lot of huts and cages. First impression was actually quite good, well designed with explanations on every cage. But that was pretty much it.

First of all this is yet another event that makes money from the pet shops around selling mainly puppies, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs and pet supplies. So the whole event is business driven - of course, it is a shopping mall.

While I don't have much of a problem to see a snake in a cage or a turtle, I do see problems seeing a lion cub in a cage, next to a leopard cub. They are for public display, and of course fighting each other through the cages grid. I took picture when they had to use Betadin on the paw of the small leopard.

They also show a leopard baby, and for 100 baht you can hold it in your hand and give him milk.
Also on display are flamingos, deers, some birds and white-faced capuchin as far as I know. In total 35 species as the Bangkok Post mentioned.

So, what is wrong with it?

First of all, I don't think that a shopping mall is a natural habitat for lions and leopards. Not even for flamingos and deers. They were already stressed before the opening, and it went worst after the first hundreds of children and parents came in, passing at around a meter distance, seperated just by the small cage bars. For the lion and the leopard there was no place to hide and rest at all.

Second, a cub is not a toy and it's not a pet. It is a wild animal and needs protection, not exploitation. It is harming those animals to be used as a photo motive.

Also, the whole thing sends a totally wrong message to young (and old people). Animals are displayed as "cute" and cute sells pretty well these days in Thailand. In particular kids will not understand that this is a protected species. They will see it as a pet. No wonder so many wild animals are kept in private zoos and houses in Thailand. And from a generation that was educated this way, we can't expect much efforts in wild life protection or even understanding of it.

Safari World at Seacon Square

So, who brought the animals in? It is the Safari Park Open Zoo and Camp Conservation Centre in Kanchanaburi Of course, everyone can use the term "conservation" in Thailand. Reality is that this is a business that exploits animals. They advertise with "the only place in the world where you can touch and take a photo with giraffes" (They haven't been much outside Thailand, I guess), and if you read comments on Trip Advisor, it gest even worst. Right-Tourism mentioned: "Part of this advertisement was a leopard, it appeared to be drugged, it was extremely docile for an animal of this size – having seen big cats in safari parks in other countries, it was on a chain, there was no water available to the animal."

I wrote an email to Seacon Square expressing my disgust about the show, but honestly I don't expect any answer.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Vegetarian festival in Bangkok

The next days you will see a lot of yellow banners and signs with chinese style Thai characters in red. They announce the vegetarian week and let you know that this place is offering vegetarian food. I was suprised how many businesses are participating. Seacon Square for example is advertising vegetarian dishes, and when I drove along Srinakarin road, I noticed a lot of restaurants with the "เจ"-banners. Even in my street, Soi Wat Dan Samrong, I saw a sign (as shown in the picture).
What suprised me the most was that 7/11 is participating with vegetarian dishes and even vegetarian sausages. It seems that CP (Thailands biggest producer of pork and chicken sausages) understand the opportunity and just made a special promotion with vegetarian Bologna with chilli. The taste is quite good, not much different from the pork one. On a side note: It still sounds a bit weird when the 7/11-staff is asking me if they should make it warm for me.

Richard Barrow was live-tweeting from the BTS National Stadium where the festival is celebrated as well, even with some free dishes as far as I understand.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How elephants are broken

Just a link to an excellent article about how elephants are treated in Thailand. And we are talking about the majority. Nearly all camps are like this. And by the way not much difference in Laos.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Is this state of the art rescue work in Thailand?

I can't see any IV they gave her to make sure she gets enough fluid, neither I hear the sound of any cutting tools. Looks like Thai emergency service have only bare hands to get someone out of a car. Also, as you see in the picture below, First Aid means they give you some menthol to inhale. That's ridiculous. They have no clues at all about First Aid.

Via Phuketgazette

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Scale down - to a foldable city bike

Last weekend thousands of expats and locals celebrated the car free day in Bangkok. Of course Bangkok wasn't car free beside the few streets the rally went on. I am not a big fan of events like this, they may give the participants a good feeling to do something for a day - but I haven't seen much sustainable impact yet (although the Bangkok governor suggested to have a car free day every month).
That doesn't mean I don't like bicycles. I do like them and always had one. First thing I bought in Bangkok was a bicycle. But: This city isn't just made for them. It is dangerous and risky to go with a bicycle on the main roads, since nobody cares - not even the squid seller on this 30 years old Honda Wave that is barely moving forward.

But: There is a solution I can live with. Usually I go around downtown by BTS. Only problem is that sometimes the place you want to go to isn't that close to the next station, at least its too far to walk. Motosay is one solution, but another is actually a bicycle you can carry arround. Thanks to Richard Barrow I got aware of the Bike Expo at Terminal 21, and went there on the last day yesterday. Fortunately I found a foldable city bike with 10 inch wheels for just 3900 Baht since the owner just want to clear the stock. It's weight is 13 Kilo, it's made in China (what is not these days), but the shop owner told me that he actually supervises the production of the bikes (they are branded Transfomer Bikes, of course).

So I bought it and went right on to the streets since I had a appointment at Sukhumvit Soi 6. It is easy to carry although I enjoy an escalator and fast to fold and unfold. There more traffic jam the safer I feel, and around 4 pm there is a lot of traffic jam already. The biggest advantage for the mini bike are the small Soi's. It just safes some time and is fun too.

Later I took it in the BTS during rush hour without a problem and went even to Siam Paragon. You can push it with one hand even if its folded and it just rolls easy next to you. Staff at a restaurant parked the city bike carefully next to the fridge. Another challenge was then the cinema. We want to watch Elysium (Rating: So So), and I was curious to see if I can take it with me. I could. I booked an aisle seat and had the bike right next to me (there was even space enough to have it in front of me).

I wasn't aware that these foldable minibikes are still rare, so many people were actually looking at the bike and usually I overheard "Na rak" (Cute). It's not just cute, it is practical as well. Next challenge will be Chao Phraya boat and Chinatown.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to get a driving licence in Thailand

When you come to Thailand, you are allowed to drive with an international driving licence for about three months. Then you have to apply for a Thai driving licence. Although some say foreigners are rarely controlled by police officers, I recommend to get the paperwork done. A driving licence also counts as ID, and you need to show your ID in Thailand quite a lot. So better carry a small piece of plastic rather than your valuable passport with you. Thsi article focu on how to get the plastic card in Bangkok.

Although most of the signs and the documents are written in Thai, it is possible to survive without an interpreter. Just ask people to assist you. Some officers do speak basic English enough to help you out.

What documents you need to apply for a driving licence in Thailand? (Note that if you want a car and a motobike license you need two copies of each document)

1. An international driving licence and copies of it
It must have some English written information about your name and what kind of vehicles you are allowed to drive. If you don't have a international driving licence issued by your home country, you may apply back home for it. I did this for my German license, but no idea if it works for other countries as well. Also, I don't know if a driving licence from a neighboring country works. You may call the Department of Transportation.

Department of Land Transportation
Head office
1032 Phaholyothin Road
Lardyao, Chatuchak district.
Phone 02-272-5322, 02-272-5493.

2. Copies of your passport and your visa and the original passport. No tourist visa accepted.

3. If you have one, the work permit and copies of the relevant pages

4. Documents that proofs your residence. Your embassy can issue this or the office in your village. You can also ask the landlord to get you a copy of the housebook, if he has registered you. Embassies usually want to see a rental contract, so make sure all people in the house/condo are mentioned in the contract.

5. A medical exam that you are fit for driving
You can get this in any hospital for small fee. Takes a few minutes for the doctor to examine you. Please note that it is only valid for 30 days.

You don't need to bring photos anymore.

Please sign ALL copies.

Where to apply?
Responsible is the Department of Land Transportation at Chatuchak. Good news is they have branches all over the town (and the city). a list of all branches is here. I went to Bang Chak, and the service was outstanding.

Bangkok Area 3:
opposite Soi Sukhumvit 62/1,
Bangjak Prakhanong,
tel: 02-332-9688 to 96

From the BTS Bang Chak take Exit 3 and walk down Sukhumvit road. Right before DKSH you see a small alley and the gate. Enter there.

Come early, about 8am.

What to do?
This is a description from my experience at Bang Chak, but it should be pretty much the same everywhere. First, go to the reception and ask for the counter for driving licence. There you have to provide all documents and originals and they will to a check if everything is in order. They will give you back passport and international licence. Then you will get a number and have to wait to get called. (They may just call the color of the number tag)

You will then go to a room for a test. This includes a traffic light where you have to say what color is on, a reaction test where you have to hit the brake, a sight test for colors and a test for three dimensional view. The equipment is pretty ancient, and you don't have to worry much - it is quite hard to fail.

Get it signed by the officer and proceed to the next counter (just follow the people or ask someone, its easy to find). In Ban Chak go to the counters 5-9, someone will ask you to hand over the documents for another check. You will get another waiting number. Watch the display and if called go to the related counter. There you have to pay 155 Baht for a car licence and 105 Baht for a motobike license. The office will ask you to double check all of your data. Take this seriuos and read very line (at least the English words. Check the right spelling of your name, birthdate and passport number).

Now the office will take a photo and a few minutes later you are a proud holder of a Thai driving licence.

If you did it for the first time the licence is temporary for one year. after this period you can extend it for 5 years (and have to bring all the documents mentioned above again).

If you don't have any driving licence, the process is more complicated. You have to do attend a three hour training, do a written test (in English, you have to get 27 of 30 questions right) and a driving test (on a parcours on the premises).

It should be noon by now and you may be hungry. If you are at Bang Chak, walk back to the BTS. A few meters before the entrance is a new restaurant called Mouth. They serve excellent Thai food in a nicely designed environment.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

View from my gym to the pool area

There are some advantage living in a condo or a compound, two are they come with gyms and/or pools. Perfect for my daily workout I just resumed two weeks ago. If there is one thing I am missing from Germany then it is the hour long walk in the forrest with my dogs.

Flooded alley

Monday, September 2, 2013

Lonesome dog

Lonesome dog by thomaswanhoff
Lonesome dog, a photo by thomaswanhoff on Flickr.

You may have seen one of this movies where the hero is alone after a war/tsunami/alien invasion destroyed the world. But what will be actually left the day we successfully extinct ourselves?
First thing will be a explosion in the dog and cat population since they are already pretty good adapted to this environment, and at the same time plants will take over very fast.
Its not that nature needs us. We need nature.

Garbage diggers

Garbage diggers by thomaswanhoff
Garbage diggers, a photo by thomaswanhoff on Flickr.

These women are digging with bare hands barely protected by basic cotton gloves for metal pieces. This is a demolished site where a new shiny condo will be build soon.

Garbage digger

Friday, August 30, 2013

Order or talk

Is it just me or do you, dear reader, think as well that its quite rude to talk to someone on the phone while at the same time trying to order your caramel macchiato iced latte grande soymilk no cream?

Not only that it isn't actually working (even if you think you are good at multitasking) and confuses both the person  you are talking to and the barista, it's quite annoying for those waiting in line.

Another observation is that those being that impolite are just unable to manage a simple situation like this - and cover it by pretending to be very busy and important.

If you cannot manage the time it takes to order a coffee you better think about your skills at all instead of letting everyone know what loser you are.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

You can't stay here

Recently we were walking on the skywalk between Central World and Chitlom when suddenly security guards showed up and pushed all pedestrians to the exits. We made it through the shutter before they pulled it down and secured the whole area. We weren't even allowed to stand near the railing to have a look whats going on down on the street.
Then, some minutes later, I realised what happens. Members of the royal family were passing by in a convoy, and while the shut down is also for security reasons, the reason we couldn't stay above the street they were driving is that nobody is allowed to be above the king or members of his family. You can see how serious this is when the prime minister is usually on her knees when attending a royal audience.