The King and I
With Yul Brynner as King Mongkut of Siam
in 1956 Hollywood movie
The March of the Siamese Children
Getting to Know You
I Whistle a Happy Tune
We Kiss in the Shadow
Shall We Dance
Just so you know:
All movie versions of the story are banned in Thailand. Some Thais object
to the suggestion that a king and a commoner are equal. The scene with King Mongkut and
Anna dancing together is particularly irksome to some Thais.
The entire movie is currently not available on the Internet.
The stage musical and the movie were based on the journal of the English
tutor of Mongkut's children, Anna Leonowens.
There were two other movies about the story:
Anna and the King of Siam
1946 movie with Rex Harrison
Anna and the King
1999 movie with Jodie Foster.
This film is available on You Tube in very poor quality.
Tbe Making of Anna and the King (1999)
Most Thais do not really know Mongkut or his historical significance.
They know him by another name. Many cannot recall if Mongkut was the third, fourth, fifth
or sixth king of the Chakri dynasty. (He was the fourth.)
Mongkut's birth and death are not commemorated in Thailand.
However, many Thai monks are familiar with Mongkut. In Thailand there are two Buddhist orders. The oldest order
is the Mahanikay. Ninety percent of Thai monks belong to this order. Mongkut was a monk before he was king. He was disappointed
by the Siamese clergy. Many monks did not know much about Buddhism and spent more time telling fortunes. To make sure that
he was properly ordained, he asked Mon monks to ordain him. Still not content, he asked monks from Sri Lanka to ordain him
again. Mongkut founded the Dharmayut (Thammayut) order for monks to study Buddhism in detail. Today, ten percent of Thailand's
monks belong to the Dharmayut order. Its headquarters are at Wat Bowon in Bangkok.
But all Thais know something about Mongkut's son, King Chulalongkorn,
the fifth king of the Chakri dynasty. The day of Chulalongkorn's death, 23 October,
is a public holiday.
The Grand Palace, built by King Chulalongkorn, son and successor of King Mongkut, is the most popular tourist attraction in Bangkok.
Thais know something also about the
founder of the Chakri dynasty and founder of Bangkok as the capital of Siam. He is known today as Rama I, the first of the
dynasty's ten kings.
The day of the Chakri dynasty's foundation, 6 April 1782, is a public holiday.
Siam is called Thailand today.
Thailand's king, Vajiralongkorn, age 64, is the tenth king of the Chakri Dynasty
and thus known as Rama X. His birthday, on 28 July, is to be a pubic holiday.
Vajiralongkorn is the second child and only son of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama
IX, the ninth king of the Chakri dynasty.
Bhumibol reigned for seventy years, from 1946 to his death on 13 October 2016.
His birthday, on 5 December (1927), is a public holiday. The day of his death, 13 October, is to be a public holiday. The
birthday of the Queen Dowager and Queen Mother, Sirikit, on 12 August, is also a public holiday.
One month of official mourning for the late king was observed, ending on 13 November
2016. One year of mourning is being observed by employees of the Thai government and all foreign embassies and consulates
in Thailand. UN, too. All are wearing black clothing in mourning. Until
mid-February 2017, many people in Thaland, including people who are not government employees, wore black clothing.
Vajiralongkorn succeded his father on his father's death, on 13 October. He was
proclaimed king on 1 December 2016.
The late king's third child and second daughter, the Crown Princess Sirindhorn,
is in charge of the funeral pyre, which is being constructed on Sanam Luang in Bangkok by the Fine Arts Department (FAD) (Ministry
of Culture). It is expected to be completed by September 2017.
The cremation of the late king will be on Sanam Luang in Bangkok on 26 October
2017. King Vajiralongkorn will light the fire.
Vajiralongkorn will be coroneted some time after the cremation, probably in late 2017. That day will
replace Bhumibol's coronation day, 5 May, as a public holiday.
King Vajiralongkorn selected the abbot of Wat Rajabopit in Bangkok as the new supreme patriarch of Thailand's Buddhist clergy - the Sanghraja
- on 12 February 2017. The supreme patriarch is from the Dharmayut sect.
The royal anthem, which was written for Rama IX, is played before cultural
and sports events, movies, theatre performances, etc. All must stand in respect.
In Thailand, the national anthem is played in public places in the morning at 8:00
and evening at 6:00. All must stand respectfully.
King Tak Sin the Great
Sin, the governor of Kamphaeng Phet,
was formerly the governor of Tak and
known as Phraya Tak. He reunited the
Siamese after the destruction of their
capital of Ayuttaya
by the Burmese in
1767 and repulsed the invaders.
He is known today as King Tak Sin
King Tak Sin reestablished the capital of Siam
in Thon Buri.
King Tak Sin was deposed and executed by one of
his leading army generals, Thong Duang,
This particular point of history, though long accepted, is disputed by some Thais who insist that
Tak Sin was neither deposed nor executed and also that Thong Duang did not depose or execute him. A tour guide might
say one thing while another tour guide might say another. Some consider this matter a sensitive issue, thus it is
best not to discuss it in public.
Thong Duang founded today's Chakri Dynasty. He is known
today as Rama I.
Rama I moved the capital of Siam
across the Chao Phraya from Thon Buri to Bangkok.
Under Rama I, Siam reached its greatest
The Chakri Dynasty has had ten kings
The first nine kings of the Chakri Dynasty. Rama I
stands above the others. Mongkut is seated and Chulalongkorn stands beside him. Bhumibol
stands on the right.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, also
known as Rama IX, reigned for
seventy years, from 1946 to his
death on 13 October 2016.
King Vajiralongkorn, or Rama X,
succeeded his father, Rama IX,
on 13 October 2016, and was
proclaimed king on 1 December
Absolute monarchy in Thailand was abolished and constitutional monarchy established
in 1932. The
monarch is a figurehead and his position as head of state is ceremonial. However,
the king can withhold endorsement of a bill, thus preventing its enactment. The king is the country's leading social figure.
The prime minister is head of the government.
A military junta has ruled the government with a puppet parliament since
its coup d'etat in May 2014. The prime minister, an army general, is a dictator. (The 2014 coup was the
third military coup since 1991. The current junta is the third military government since 1991.)
Democratic government has been suspended at all levels since the last coup
d'etat. There have not been elections at the village (ban), township (tamboon), sub-district (amphoe
king), district (amphoe), provincial (chiangwat) and national levels since the coup d'etat.
Government officials at all levels are currently unelected appointees.
Most tourists are not interested in the counry's politics. The monks, temples,
palaces and hill tribes are the thing. But for those who want to get into it, the dictatorship, while not popular, is preferred
by many to the Shinawatra family that dominated government and politics for almost
all of fourteen years, from 2000 to 2014. Many are concerned that the military dictatorship could be merely a lull in a
longer Shinawatra era.
All travel agencies offer tours to the other popular
attractions in Bangkok:
Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn)
Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) (at the Grand Palace)
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha)
Wat Suthat (by the Giant Swing)
Phu Khao Thong (The Golden Mount) (above Wat Saket)
Wat Benjamabopit (The Marble Temple)
Most visitors to Thailand are on two to three-day stop-overs in Bangkok.
Many travelers with more time spend several days in Bangkok and several days in Chiang Mai.
Ask any travel agent in Bangkok!
What is the most popular day-trip with tourists?
The Bridge on the River Kwai
There was no such thing before a spectacular Hollywood movie
The wooden bridge built for the movie filmed in Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Excerpts from the 1957 movie:
Here are the lads whistling Col. Bogey's March:
Advertisement for the movie:
Here's the entire film:
Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
(2 hrs., 36 min.):
Here is the film dubbed in French
(2 hrs., 36 min.):
If the above is removed from You Tube, here's the famous
ending, also in French:
(1957) Mini-featurette about building the bridge
for the film in Ceylon (today, Sri Lanka)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snzocZ_LfTo Removed from You Tube
U. of Southern Cal. documentary film short introduced
by William Holden
The Making of The Bridge on the
1957 documentary (4 clips)
that was all Hollywood.
was something to the WW2 story.
goes like this:
the same day the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, they attacked all of Southeast Asia. Within weeks they invaded
and occupied Southeast Asia and made many prisoners of American, British
and Dutch soldiers.
the Japs wanted India. But Allied submarines blocked the Indian Ocean. So the Japs had to go overland
- across Malaya, Siam and Burma - to reach India.
British had surveyed two possible railroad lines from Siam to Burma in 1900. One possible route ran from the Bangkok
to Chiang Mai railroad line at Phitsanuloke westward through Tak Province. The other route ran from the Bangkok
to Singapore rail line at the rail juction of Nong Pla Dook in Rajaburi Province to the west through Kanchanaburi (pronounced
"Kan' - tan - aw' - boo - ree"). The Japanese also surveyed the Nong Pladook route in 1920. (Nong Pladook is a small village
several miles east of the city of Ban Pong in Rajaburi Province.)
the Japanese decided to build the rail line to Burma from Nong Pla Dook Junction. The line was to go west to the town of Thanbyuzayat in eastern
Burma and on to Calcutta in Bengal.
Japs brought thousands of POWs from Changi Prison in Singapore to Burma and Thailand to work on the construction
of the railroad. They also hired and enslaved hundreds of thousands of natives
from South Asia and Southeast Asia.
The railroad line, heading northwest from the rail junction in Nong
Pla Dook, crossed over the Klong River in the village of Ta Makan, just north of the city of Kanchanaburi
(often called Kanburi) in Kanchanaburi Province.
Klong means canal in Thai.
The Klong (which means Canal in Thai) is called the Mae
Klong (which means Mother Canal in Thai) or Mae Nam Klong (Mother Water Canal). Not to
be confused with the famous Kong River on the other side of Thailand, often called the Mae Kong or
Mae Nam Kong and universally known as the Mekong.
The source of the Mae Klong is far to the north, on the slopes of a mountain on the
Burmese border in Umphang District of Tak Province.
The Mae Klong flows south through Kanchanaburi and empties into the Gulf of Siam at
the port of Samut Songkran.
From its source in Umphang down to Kanchanaburi the Mae Klong is also called
the Kwae Yai.
Kwae means tributary in Thai. Kwae is pronounced
"Kway" or "Gway" and rhymes with "day" or "ray".
Yai means big in Thai. It rhymes with "Thai".
Yai means big tributary. It is called the Big Tributary to distinguish it from the Little Tributary, the Kwae Noi.
The Kwae Noi had its source in the small town of Sanghlaburi, far to the northwest
in Kanchanaburi Province, near the Burmese border. Today, the area is flooded by a big dam to the south.
rivers flow down from the north to meet in the city of Kanchanaburi and form the Mae Nam Klong. Thus, the two
rivers are considered the two tributaries of the Mae Klong and called the Kwae Yai and
After crossing the Mae Klong/Kwae Yai the railroad followed the course of the
little tributary, the Kwae Noi, northwest, toward Burma.
A bridge had to be built over the Mae Klong (Kwae Yai) in the village of Ta
Pierre Boulle, the French author, wrote a novel about the Allied POWs and the buiilding of the bridge over the Kwae. Published
In his novel, Boulle changed the name of the river from Kwae (tributary)
to Kwai. Kwai means buffalo in Thai. It is pronounced "Kwai" or "Gwai" and rhymes with "Thai".
Boulle meant either
of the two rivers - the Mae Klong (Kwae Yai) or its tributary,
the Kwae Noi.
Boulle did not mean any particular bridge
over the two rivers. But everyone agrees
it had to be one of two bridges, or both, in the village of Ta Makan in Kanchanaburi Province. A couple of big POW camps were there during
the war. And the Japs made the POWs and Asian labourers and slaves build the railroad and the bridges.
One bridge was made of wood and is now gone. The other bridge, about 100 meters upstream, was
made of steel and concrete. That is where thousands of tourists go every day, just two hours by road or three hours by
train from Bangkok.
and concrete bridge today in Ta Makan
Pierre Boulle's book recounted a failed British commando attempt to blow up the bridge. In the screenplay, of course, the commandos blew up the bridge.
In actual history, the bridges at Ta Makan were not destroyed by sabotage. But they
were damaged at least once from the air by American and British bombers.
In the final weeks of the war, the Japanese stopped
rebuilding the bridges. But they were back, two weeks after V-J Day, as civil engineers, to repair the steel bridge. That
is the steel and concrete bridge of today.
bridge in foreground and steel and concrete bridge in background
The steel and concrete bridge on the Mae Nam Klong/Kwai Yai at
Ta Makan after aerial bombong in mid-1945.
Ta Makan Bridge in August 1945
Map of railroad line in Siam to Burma
of railroad line from Nong Pladook to Burma (Hellfire Pass Museum map). Enlarge to view.
Old locomotives are on display in Ta Makan
The railway was torn up after the war. Everything west of Ta
Makan was removed. Years later, the railroad was restored as far west as Nam Tok. That's as far as it goes today. There is talk of rebuilding the entire line,
far into Burma, and giving tourists rides on the old trains.
In Pierre Boulle's novel, there is a British Colonel
Nicholson, portrayed by Alec Guiness in the movie. In real life, there was a British Colonel Philip Toosey.
of Tamarkan: Philip Toosey and the Bridge on the River
A book by Julie Summers, granddaughter of Col. Toosey, at the National Army Museum,
in London on 8 March
(Ms. Summers is also the great-grandniece of the 1924 Everest climber
What does one see
at Ta Makan today?
10,000 Allied POWs died along the railroad line during
the Pacific War
- Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Canucks, Dutch, Yanks, Indians, Nepalese.
Many are buried in two cemeteries near Ta Makan - in Chungkai and Kanchanaburi.
Not all the bodies of the dead were recovered. Some remain in the forest jungle.
No Yanks are buried here. Why not? The British started the cemeteries and after V-J Day they
reverted to their old ways. They snubbed the Yanks and forbade them to bury their war dead in the two cemeteries in Kanchanaburi.
They insisted the cemeteries were strictly for soldiers of the British Commonwealth. They made an exception, however, for
the Dutch. The Americans removed their dead to the national cemetery, the Puchbowl, in Honolulu.
two Allied war cemeteries
Chungkai, on the Kwae Noi, about 20
minutes by scooterfrom the Ta Makan
Bridge by scooter, a
Kanchanaburi, ten minutes from the
Ta Makan Bridge by scooter
An estimated 100,000 slaves died working on the
railroad. They came from India, Burma, Malaya,
Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Ceylon . . .
The Japs weren't the only barbarians
Fifty years later, in the early 1990s, it happened again, in Burma, on the notorious Yadana gas pipeline to Thailand, built by American and French companies.
The Burmese army forced thousands from their homes, temples, mosques, at gunpoint
to work on the pipeline. Thousands died, many
were displaced, women were repeatedly raped.
The French company, Total, has indicated it might compensate the victims and made some effort to locate and identify them.
Some years ago, about five hundred victims were located and identified along the border at Three Pagodas Pass.
near the bridge
in 1943, 100 meters south of
the Ta Makan
during the war
American memorial marker,
beside the Ta Makan Bridge
on the left bank of the Mae Klong
(Kwae Yai), erected in 1997
Many American POWs who were forced to work on the Burma-Siam
Railway were sailors, captured by the Japanese in the seas off Singapore and the Dutch
East Indies in the first weeks of the war.
Ship of Ghosts
Houston at the Battle of Java
Lecture by James Hornfischer at the International
Conference on WW2 From Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal
National WW2 Museum
in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2011
Battle of the Java Sea
Lecture by Rick Jacobs
National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2012
On the fate of the USS Houston
the Death Railroad
Bridge on the River Kwai
Lecture by author Kelly Crager
Discussion with British Army POW, Jim Whitaker, who was in thr East Indies, Singapore, Thailand and Burma in
There are three war museums in the city
of Kanchanaburi and one outside town:
This is the biggest war museum, right beside
the Ta Makan Bridge, downstream a bit, and
at the point from which a wooden bridge once
led across the river. It has a small part of the wooden bridge in place.
This war museum is right beside the
Kanchanaburi war cemetery
is the oldest war museum, the JEATH, a few kilometres to
the south of the Ta Makan Bridge and just south of
the confluence of the Mae Klong (Kwae Yai) and Kwae Noi.
JEATH is an acronym for Japanese, English, Australian, American, Thai and Holland.
Visit Hellfire Pass, about one hour from
Kanchanaburi by car. There is another
war museum here.
Well worth the time:
Ride the train from Ta Makan
up to Ta Sao (Nam Tok). It takes
There are two trains a day departing a station at Thonburi Market,
across the Chao Praya River from Thamasat University in Bangkok, for Nam Tok. The trains are slow. The coaches are old, third
class, without air-con. But the trip is interesting. It makes all the stops along the way.
There are two trains a day from Nam Tok all the way back to Thonburi.
To get to the train station in Thonburi, take the Chao Phraya Express Boat
to Ta Rot Fai (Train Pier), beside Siriraj Hospital on the Thonburi side of the river. Or get off at Siriraj Hospital
and walk the short distane to Train Pier. The old train station, beside the river, was built 117 years ago. It is no
longer in use because it is to be torn down to make way for the hospital's expansion. The old train station was used by the
Japanese in the war as a headquarters and bombed by the Allies. It was rebuilt
after the war. A new train station has been set up about a mile or so west of the river at the local market. From the
boat pier, Train Pier, on the river take the waiting baht bus directly to the Thonburi Market Train Station. Takes
five minutes. Costs a few baht.
Early on Saturday and Sunday mornings there are also the
popular trains out of Hua Lam Pong train station in Bangkok that go all the way to Nam Tok. (The city subway goes
directly to the train station.) Third class. The train stops for 40 minutes in Nakon Pathom so passengers may visit the
famous chedi. The train stops 25 minutes in Ta Makan so passengers can see the "Bridge on the River Kwai". Brief rest stops
in Ta Kilen and Wang Po. Buses meet passengers in Nam Tok to take them to the waterfall and back. A great way to spend
the day. Trains often run an hour or so late.
Burma's Death Railway
Moving Half the Mountain
2014 BBC documentary film
The Burma Railway
In 6 clips
Click here and all clips play automatically in sequence
The Bombing of the Bridge on the River Kwai
British bombing of the bridge
American bombing of the bridge
National Geographic documentary
This film mentions use of the "smart bomb" - radio-guided bombs
- dropped from American planes.
This film mentions a POW work camp on the Sangkalia River in the village of Sangkhalia
(Songkurai), north of the town of Sangkhlaburi. This camp was near the later site of a big Mon refugee camp in early 1990.
Part of the small wooden bridge built by POWs over the river remains.
Most of the wood was taken away by the nearby roadside restaurant for building
material in the late 1990s. The restaurant is beside a cement bridge over the Sankhalia
River on the road from Sangkhlaburi to Three Pagodas Pass. The old wooden bridge is actually about 100 meters west of the road, cement bridge and restaurant, and can be easily reached on foot.
Justice for the Death Railway
111 Japanese and Korean soldiers were tried in Singapore in 1946 and1947 and convicted
for crimes committed on the Thai - Burma railway. Of those, 32 were sentenced
Pierre Boulle also wrote Planet of the
Advertisement for 1968 movie based on the book:
Advertisement for 2001 remake:
Walt Disney's Siam, published in 1958,
was written by Pierre Boulle
Women, alone or in small groups,
should not travel upcountry without
a trusted and reliable escort.
Other interesting visits nearby:
The ruins of a Khmer city, Muang Sing,
abandoned 800 years ago, one hour from
Ta Makan by train or by car.
The ruins of Old Kanchanaburi (Kanburi
Kao), abandoned hundreds of years ago,
on the Mae Nam Klong, just 20 minutes by
road from Ta Makan and to the north and west
Ban Kao National Museum, just 40 minutes
east of town by road. Displays many artifacts
found at a prehistoric archeological site.
Who were they?
Certainly not Tai. Probably Mon-Khmer. Or
Malay. Maybe Chinese. Semang?
Modern DNA testing should tell us.
Wooden bridge, called the Mon Bridge, on the Sangkhalia River in the town of Sangkhlaburi in western Kanchanaburi Province.
The bridge links the small town of Sangkhlaburi, inhabited
by a large number of Karens, to a large Mon village.
Three Pagodas Pass (Burma-Thailand border,
Kanchanaburi Province), a day-trip from Ta Makan
Many tourists like to stop in the city of Nakon Pathom on the way to Kanchanaburi and visit the Phra
Pathom Chedi, the tallest chedi/stupa
in Thailand. It's about 40 minutes east of Ta Makan. (Photo of north side
There is more to the chedi/stupa.
Built by King Mongkut and the
son who succeeded him, King Chulalongkorn, it encases a much older chedi,
a replica of which is on the first level of the southeast side. The encased chedi
itself stands on the site of an older chedi.
The chedi has a small museum on the second level of the east
There are two large Buddhas sitting in the "European-style",with both feet flat on the floor (in
contrast with the Indian or "yogi" style), on thrones, one
on the south steps and the other in a chapel near the chedi museum.
(A third is in the national museum in Bangkok.)
The small National Museum of Nakon Pathom is on the ground floor
of a two-story house at the bottom of the south steps and to the east about
50 meters. It is well-worth visiting. Don't be put off by the entrance charge.
There are three ancient somasutras with long spouts, at least
1,500 years old, on the second level of the southeast side of the chedi. The somasutras were found in the city environs by
French explorers in the last half of the 19th century and brought
to the chedi for safe-keeping. The tall lingas that go with
the somasutras were never recovered.
Unfortunately, the somasutras
are neglected and abused by the monks and maintenance crews and the national museums in Nakon Pathom and Bangkok refuse to
The national museum of Nakhon Pathom is a large house on the grounds
of the Phra Pathom Chedi. But it is very small for a provincial museum. There is to be a new national museum in Nakhon Pathom
by 2020. It is to occupy a large part of the province's former prison across the road from the Phra Pathom Chedi. .
There are many more ancient ruins in and about Nakon Pathom. But they are off the well-trod tourist path. One could spend days here.
The ruins of the recently excavated Phra Paton Chedi, at Wat Phra Paton (not to be confused with the better-known Chulapatonchedi excavated in 1939 nearby) within the ancient walled city of Nagara Pattana, to the east of Nakon Pathom. King Chulalongkorn built the tower atop the ruins.)
There are many more ancient ruins in the area, including the city moat.
The first of the famous Dvaravati coins was said to have been recovered under the foundations of a small stupa, which
was some 400 meters to the
west of this temple site, when the occupying Imperial Japanese Army
tore it down to make way for an office building in WW2.
A Chinese Annal and a dozen or
Was there really once a Dvaravati
Many scholars take for granted the existence of a Dvaravati kingdom with a Mon population
in the first millenium A. D. in
what is today central Thailand.
Indeed, there is evidence that the population of central Thailand was predominatly
Mon (with other Mon-Khmer peoples, like the Lawa) and Cham until the arrival of many Khmers in the latter half of the
first millenium and the arrival of many Tais from the north in the first half of the second millenium.
However, the most prominent scholars caution that evidence of a Dvaravati kingdom is very limited and that not much can be concluded from it.
There appears to have been a region with numerous walled cities of various sizes,
each with its own leader, that was inhabited by people who spoke Old Mon. The many similar ancient
coins or seals with Sanskrit inscriptions found scattered about central Thailand do not indicate a regional kingdom called
Dvaravati, as some believe. There is a single reference to a region, which
appears to be central Thailand, called To-lo-po-ti or Do-ro-po-ti
in ancient Chinese annals.
In his last drafts, the French scholar Pierre Dupont (1908 - 1955) did not express the
opinion that Mons inhabited
the region or a kingdom called Dvaravati in central Thailand in the first millenium. His editors and translators rewrote his
work after his death.
Mons inhabited much of the area that is today central and northern Thailand and eastern
Burma. The Tais, invading from the north, found the entire region inhabited by Mons. The cities of Chiang Mai and
Lamphun, for example, were inhabited by Mons before the Tais arrived. Before the Khmers took Lopburi, the city was Mon.
Sukhothai was inhabited by Mons before the Khmers made it their city.
The Chao Bon (also
known as the Nyak Kur), a Mon-Khmer people living in Phetchabun and Korat Provinces, are believed to be the descendants of
the Dvaravati Mon of the first millenium A. D. who inhabited the ancient walled cities in Nakhon Pathom, Si Thep et al.
There are many traces of Old Mon in their language.
exhibit in the national museum in Bangkok in July 2016 pointed out that the mitochondrial DNA of the Chao Bon and two other closely related ethnic groups in Korat Province,
the Chao Chong and Chao Zong, match the mitochondrial DNA of skeletons excavated at two prehistoric sites in Korat
and people living today in Yunnan and Guangdong (Canton)
Provinces of China.
The DNA test revealed that the Chao Bun have inhabited the area more than 2,000 years
(and suggests that they came from - or went to - the north -
and/or once inhabited a vast area).
The Floating Market in Damnoen Saduak in Rajaburi Province is
about 60 to 90 minutes from Kanchanaburi and a couple of hours from Bangkok. It is a morning market.
The best time to visit is before 8:00.
Tour companies in Bangkok offer guided tours but make
long detours along the way to a gem dealer, a furniture seller
and a restaurant for breakfast, so by the time tourists arrive the
best part of the market is over.
possible, hire a van with a driver and guide from a trusted hotel or travel agency and go on your own.
There are two popuar waterfalls.
One is several hours to the west of Kanchanaburi, at Nam Tok, and a favorite of day-trippers.
The other is several hours to the north, in Erawan Park, and most popular with overnight
At night, do not hang out in the bars on the riverside road south
of the Ta Makan Bridge. Every year,
several foreign tourists are murdered by drunken and jealous locals here. If you must socialise, pester the other guests in the restaurants of your hotel or guest house.
Do not get too chummy with the locals. You would be surprised to learn
what they are. The city is full of persistent prostitutes -
male, female etc. - looking for foreigners, day and night. You might be solicited by lonely scooter-taxi
Foreign women especially should avoid socialising with local Thais,
particularly local officials, especially up-country, or frequenting their
Thailand's # 1 drink
It's Thailand's most popular drink. It's cheap. It's available everywhere.
You can make it yourself from rice.
In bars it's often served with coca-cola.
In up-country villagers, it's drunk to excess and, along with the automobile
and motor-scooter, the # 1 killer.
If only there was a non-alcoholic beer available in Thailand that tastes
like Amstel. And a non-alcoholic whiskey that tastes like Sangthip.
Remember The Ugly American with
Marlon Brando (1963)?
The story takes place in the fictional country of Sarkhan in Southeast Asia. This was actually
Thailand. Nothing has changed, by the way. The poor and downtrodden are still fighting tooth and nail for a bigger piece of
the pie. But nowadays they are not backed by Communists. They are backed by a Chinese businessman.
Entire film in color:
Removed from You Tube
Packy East says it all.
Christmas hasn't changed in all these years.
Excerpt, filmed in Thailand, from the
first Bob Hope Christmas Special,
video is no longer on You Tube
Bob Hope Christmas Special (1967)
By the way,
what was the Vietnam War all about?
Here's a reminder for the baby-boomers, who were expecting WW3. They were really let down.
- So Long Mom (A Song for WW III) - with intro
Mike Wallace interviews Henry Kissinger (1958)
Anyway, after WW2 everyone wanted an unconventional
war. A guerrilla war.
Vietnam was long in coming.
There's more. See this about the montagnards of Vietnam's Central
Big Picture: Operation Montagnard
Col. Kurtz's lament:
Softies running the war
A long scene with Marlon
Brando from the movie Apocalypse Now! filmed in the Philippines in 1976; a glimpse of the Filipina star Gigi Dueñas; and film footage of Ifugao dancing to
Vietnamese montagnard music from the Central Highlands recorded by the French anthropologist, Condeminas.
Here's one of hundreds of documentaries about the Vietnam War -
role in the Vietnam War (CBS, 1967)
Documentary film (begins with view of the Ta Makan Bridge in Kanchanaburi)
Here's a good one, about the Special Forces, from 1962-4, narrated by James Arness, star
of the Gunsmoke TV series; introduced by Gen. Paul Harkins, first American miltary commander in
Vietnam (1962 to 1964).:
Big Picture: The Hidden War in Vietnam
What everyone would like to be and do:
Dr. Tom Dooley in Muang Sing, Laos
or the same in four clips:
Edgar "Pop" Buell with the Hmong in Laos
Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson House in Bangkok is a popular spot.
It can be reached by taxi, elevated Skytrain, bus or canal boat.
Silkworn eating mulberry leaves
Boiling the cocoons and reeling the thread off the
Weaving the old-fashioned way, still done everywhere, including the
Cham weavers across the canal from Jim Thompson House who started Thompson in the business many years ago in Bangkok
and Korat. Many of the Cham residents have moved out in recent years but there remain some Muslim weavers.
Cloth woven from thread of silkworm cocoons and dyed
Many things have been written about Jim Thompson. Most of it is nonsense
- wild spy stories concocted in bars by fiction mystery writers and meaningless biographical accounts by
self-serving desk-bound American civil servants.
Save your time. Save your money. There is really only one book worth buying,
if you are really interested - written by William Warren, first published in 1970 and revised in 1999.
Jim Thompson, an American silk tycoon in Thailand, disappeared
on Easter Sunday in 1967 while hiking alone in the Cameron Highlands of the Malay Peninsula.
Five months later, in the night of August 29 - 30, Thompson's eldest sister, Mrs. Katherine Thompson Wood, ex-wife of the late son of General
Leonard Wood, was brutally murdered in her bed in her home in Pennsylvania. as her guard dogs in her bedroom remained calm.
Nothing was stolen.
To this day, Thompson's disappearance and his sister's murder are
What visitors ask about
1) Thompson arrived in southern France with the Allied invasion of August 1944. He
was with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and assigned to accompany the French Resistance.
But few details have ever been mentioned about this experience. Why not?
2) Thompson also came to Thailand with the OSS, which
later became the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), just after VJ-Day in 1945.
Were OSS agents in Thailand responsible for the Allied
failure to hang the notorious Japanese war criminal Suzuki Keiji and the collaborationist Thai war criminals Plaek Pibulsongkran and Phin Choonhavn?
In fact, the Allies decided not to try Burmese and Thai collaborationists after the war. Suzuki Keiji is believed
to have been protected by General MacArthur and to have vanished somewhere in Southeast Asia.
3) Former US government employees like to claim that Thompson ran intelligence networks
out of Thailand during the Vietnam War (1945 – 1975).
If he did, before 1954, he would have been killed by the French. After 1954, he would have been killed by the Communists.
4) Many envied Thompson's success as
a silk merchant in Thailand.
Did this envy lead to his disappearance?
5) Thompson had a long and notorious reputation as a smuggler of Thai antiquities.
If true, he was
just one of many.
But for this reason he was resented by the Thai upper class.
In 1962, Thompson was scandalised by public accusations
that he had amassed an art collecton through theft and vandalism.
Of particular concern
were five stone heads said to have been hacked from a cave wall up-country.
This matter eventually led to Thompson’s social estrangement from Thailand. Was it also the cause of his disappearance?
can see Thompson’s five stone heads today in the National Museum
One can also visit the cave, on Dharma Raja Hill (Khao Tammarat)
in Petchabun Province,
from which the heads were said to have been cut.
The seven headless figures of the low relief on the cave wall and the five heads
in high relief in the museum do not seem to match.
A careful chemical analysis is required to determine if the heads came from the cave. If they came from elsewhere, it should be possible eventually to determine, by the same method
and analysis, from where they came.
One of the five heads from the Thompson collection, now in the National Museum,
At the Paragon in Bangkok
The shopping center says he was the most popular visitor they
ever had, topping even Elvis. He is still there. But you have to ask the girls at the Info desk for him.
Two places popular with joggers in Bangkok
The usual late afternoon and early evening scene at Lumpini Park. Once around
the lake is 2,500 meters or 1.55 miles. There is also an excercise area for push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, pull-ups etc. Open
4:45 a.m. to 9 p.m.
There are many monitor lizards in the park. Sit down anywhere beside the lake and within seconds,
you are visited by squirrels, big lizards and big black ravens. They are completely spoiled.
Typical late afternoon scene in Benjakiti Park. Once around the lake
is 1,850 meters or 1.15 miles. There is a separate bicycle path around the lake. There is an excercise area for push-ups,
sit-ups, chin-ups, pull-ups etc. Open from 4:45 a.m. to 9 p.m.
There are many big orange fish in the lake. One can feed them pieces of bread.
There is at least one monitor lizard in the park.
After dark, be careful when walking on grassy areas. Turtles with shells the size and shape of
army helmets wander away from the lake, where they pass the day. They can bite off a finger.
There is an elevated walkway between the two parks. People spend a
lifetime looking for it. But it's easy enough to find.
Just outside each park.
Northeast corner of Lumpini Park, begins at the Wireless Road overpass.
Northwest corner of Benjakiti Park, begins on the south side of the
canal at the south end of
The elevated walkway has a wide bicycle path.
Stay off it after dark.
There are popular aerobics classes in the late afternoon in Lumpini Park.
Benjasiri is a small park beside the Emporium on Sukhumvit Road, across
Soi 33. Once around the lake is about a quarter-mile. Some say it's 800 meters around the lake. Jogging is best in the early
morning. Often impossible at other times. There is an exercise area for pull-ups, sit-ups, etc.
Jogging along Pattaya Beach, possible any time of the day.
Stay off it late at night if alone.
7-Eleven, Family Mart, McDonald's, KFC . . .
You'll never go hungry in Thailand.
In every street in Bangkok and in every town in Thailand you
will find at east one 7-Eleven and Family Mart convenience store. They are open 24/7. They never close.
All the famous international chain fast food restaurants are here.
There are lots of McDonald's. Lots of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Burger King. Pizza Hut. Subway. Dunkin' Donuts. Mr. Donut.
In Bangkok, some McDonald's and Subway outlets are open 24/7.
In Bangkok, Foodland supermarkets (locally owned) have the popular
Took Lae Dee restaurants and are open 24/7.
In every shopping center there is a a supermarket and a food
court offering local Thai food. Also the popular MK restaurants.
Unfortunately, there are all sorts of things wrong with the fast
Customers must ask at the
counter for mustard, salt, pepper, sugar and coffee-mate - items taken for granted in the West. Customers
must pay for mayonaise and mustard. And the restaurant radio is usually too loud to make a cell phone call. Some outlets
play the same horrible music over and over again, full blast, several times an hour.
Thailand's War on Chocolate Ice Cream
International fast-food chain restaurants are rather Third World
and backward in Thailand. McDonald's is not a full-service operation in Thailand. It once offered a delicious chocolate malt, for
instance, but it does not even offer chocolate ice cream now. Chocolate ice cream, a favorite the world over, is getting harder
and harder to find in Thailand. Few, if any, KFC outlets offer chocolate ice cream anymore. Even the local franchise
of Dairy Queen, owned by an American tycoon, Bill Heinecke, has stopped offering chocolate ice cream.
Some food courts offer ice cream, including chocolate, at low prices.
The high-priced Baskin Robbins and Häagen-Dazs are in Bangkok and very popular.
Family Mart and 7-Eleven convenience stores offer ice cream, including chocolate.
Beef steaks are available in Foodland restaurants. McDonald's
and Burger King offer beef burgers.
Where to eat?
If you love pasta, they say the best pizzas are
Sukhumvit Soi 20 and Sukhumvit Soi 33
Tipping in Thailand
much to tip?
Twenty years ago, there were stories
of partying Russians on Koh Samet tipping the waitress Baht 500 for every round of drinks she served. The restaurant's
employees went home at the end of the day with several thousand baht each.
Thailand, tipping is not expected. Generally, Thais leave a few baht on the table, whatever the bill.
Some newly arrived American tourists, for example, leave a 20% tip, as they would at home. But in
Thailand a tip of 10% of the bill is the most that is expected. Usually, a tip should not exceed Baht 100. Tips collected
in restaurants are shared with the other employees.
In every shopping center
or department store in Thailand, there are huge halls called food courts where local food is served a la carte
from stalls. Food courts are immensely popular with Thais. One buys coupons from a cashier and goes to the numerous stalls. All sorts of food is available - Central
Thai, Southern Thai, Northeastern Thai, Burmese, Muslim (Halal), Indian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Prices vary but,
generally, one can eat a meal for Baht 100 or less. During lunch and dinner hours, food courts are packed.
Unfortunately, food courts do
not provide table knives. Just forks, spoons and chop sticks. So, pack a couple of plastic knives, from MsDonald's or KFC,
whenever you go out.
The Tai (Dai) are a Sino-Tibetan people have long been in China, the Southeastern
Asian mainland and northeastern India. They are called the Dai in China, India and Vietnam and the Shan in Burma.
In northern Thailand, the Tai-Yuen are the majority of the Tais. In Thailand they
are also called the Tai Muang (City Tai), Tai Yai (Greater Tai) and Tai Nua (Northern Tai) and Tai Lan Na (Tai of a Million
There are many Tai-Yuen in the Shan State of Burma.
Tai-Yuen dance in Mae Hong Son
There are many old Tai-Yuen communities throughout Thailand. such as Ku Bua in Rajaburi Province.
The Tai-Lue are the second largest group of Tais in Thailand. Most of the Tais in
China's Yunan Province are Tai Lue. There are many Tai Lue is northwestern Laos and the eastern Shan State of Burma.
There are numerous small communities of Tai-Lue, or their descendants, scattered about northern and central Thailand.
Traditonal Tai-Lue song
From Sipsong Panna (Yunan, China)
Courting song, Jinghong, Sipsong Panna, Yunnan Province, China
From Jinghong, Sipsong Panna, Yunnan Province, China
Dai Lue Traditional Song from Yunnan
From Kentung, Shan State,
Burma (Shan New Year, 2007)
There are also Tai Dam (Black Tai), among whom there are many Christians, mostly from northern Vietnam, who came to
Thailand (1) at the end of WW2 in 1945, (2) after the Communist takeover of northern Vietnam in 1954, and (3) at the end of
the Vietnam war in 1975. In Laos, there are many Tai Dam around Xiang Kuang (Plain of Jars) and, since 1975, in
Tai-Dam song in Laos
Rum Kaen (Tai Song Dam) traditonal dance - Thailand
Tai-Dang (or Tai-Daeng) (Red Tai)
Tai Daeng Woman Singing Traditional Song
Many Thais claim Puan ancestry. The Sam Sen Canal in Bangkok was built with 300,000 laborers from Laos, said to have been
Puan. There are old Puan communities in northeastern and central Thailand. In Laos, there are many Puan in Xiang Kuang.
Xiang Khuang, Laos
Phu-Tai song and dance in Laos
The Lao are actually Tai. The Lao are considered a sub-branch of the Tai. So
they are known as the Tai-Lao or Lao-Tai.
One-quarter to one-third of Thailand's population is Lao.
Most Lao live in northern and northeastern Thailand but they have spread out
in great numbers in recent decades and are now all over the country. Many no longer identify as Lao.
Many Lao in Thailand today come from Laos, or they are the children or grandchildren
Not all Laotians and northeasterners are Tai-Lao. There are Tai-Yuen, Tai-Lue,
Tai-Dam, Tai-Daeng, Phu-Tai, Phuan . .
There are also Thais and Laotians of Mon-Khmer stock, like the Mon, Khmer, Khmu,
Kha . . .
There are Thais and Laotians of Tibeto-Burman stock, like the Hmong, Mien,
Akha . . .
There are far more Lao in Thailand than in Laos. They are almost indistinguishable. But to see the Lao, go to Laos. The
Lao in Thailand have become too Thai for most.
Remember that 110 years ago, most of northern Thailand was often described as a
Lao region. And Thai spoken in northern Thailand is similar to Lao.
Dances in Laos today
lamtuai kalasin - Vilada
What is Isan? Issana. Northeastern Thailand
Predominately Lao. Lowland Lao. Thai-Lao (or Lao-Thai), Tai-Puan, Phu-Tai, Tai-Dam.
A lot of Khmers along the Cambodian border.
Just so you know:
Until recently, when asked where they came from, many Lao in Thailand responded by saying "Lao". By "Lao" they meant
the predominantly Lao region of Thailand - northeastern Thailand - and often
also the country of Laos.
Today, however, many Lao respond by saying "Isan" (pronounced "Ee - san").
Isan is northeastern Thailand. The word comes from "Issana", the Sanskrit name for the direction of northeast. The
northeastern region of an ancient Khmer empire was centered on the site of Issanapura in northeasern Cambodia. Some
believe this was an empire called Chenla. Some believe that it succeeded an earlier kingdom to the south called Founan. Some
believe that it bordered a Mon kingdom to the west called Dvaravati. It pre-dated Angkor.
So, when asked if they are are Lao, many Lao from northeastern Thailand respond by saying "Isan". They are from Isan
- Khon Isan. People from Isan. Ask again and they say they are "Tai-Isan". Ask if they mean "Lao-Isan"
and they say yes.
Ask if they are Lao they might hesitate and eventually say no. They think Lao means Laotian. And to many Lao in
northeastern Thailand that means they are not Thai citizens or, worse, that they are communist (even if their parents or grandparents
were communists). (Laos is one of five countries in the world today with a communist government.) They will settle for "Tai-Lao".
In fact, most Lao from Laos and Thailand are Tai-Lao. But the term, which is correct, may have different connotations for
To be more specific, the country of Laos is called Muang Lao by Laotians and Pathet Lao by Thais.
Tai Oratai, a popular singer for many years, from Ubon Rajatani Province, sings popular modern songs
in Lao and Tai:
Tai Oratai in Paris
Tai Oratai at home
The Khmers are Mon-Khmer.
There are several hundred thousand Khmers in Thailand, mostly in the border regions of the eastern provinces of Trat,
Sa Kaew, Buriram, Surin, Si Saket and Ubon Rajatani. They pre-date the Tais in the region by a thousand years or more.
The Mons and Khmers have many similarities, including physique, language and accent.
The Khmers of the northeastern provinces of Buriram, Surin, Sisaket are
called the "Khmer Surin" or "Surin-Khmer".
There are also many Kuy (Suai) (also a Mon-Khmer people) in the south of
Buriram, Surin and Si Saket provinces along the Cambodian border.
There are also many Cambodians in Thailand.
Mon golden shelldrake
This golden swan appears in many Thai
temples. Sometimes it indicates that the
temple is a Mon temple. Sometimes not.
History of the Mon People
Mon New Year's Day 2011
Phra Pha Daeng, Thailand
Mon in Thailand
Traditional Mon song and dance
The two main branches of Buddhism are Mahayana and Theravada.
Most Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia are Theravada Buddhists.
Most Buddhists in Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Laos are Theravada Buddhists. Most Khmer Buddhists in Vietnam are Theravada
In Thailand, the Buddhist clergy (sangha) is divided into two orders. The oldest and largest order is the Mahanikay.
In Thailand, 90 to 95% of the monks and temples are Mahanikay. While a monk, Mongkut founded his own order, the Dharmayut.
This is the second order. Its headquarters are at Wat Bowon in Bangkok.
The Buddhist clergy once attracted many young Thais and foreigners. In recent years, interest has dropped sharpely, by
as much as 85%.
For the first time since 1989, a new supreme patriarch (sangharaja)
of the Buddhist clergy (sangha) of Thailand was invested. The ceremony was in Wat Phra Keo at the
royal palace on 12 February 2017. The king, Rama X, chose the 89-year-old abbot of Wat Rajabopit to be the supreme
Selection and Appointment
About the Clergy
Changing Thai Church
There are several old Roman Catholic churches in Bangkok along the Chao Phraya. The churches
were established by the Portuguese and the French long ago.
Assumption Cathedral is the most popular. Holy Rosary Church is also very popular. Santa Cruz Church is another.
Sunday services are in Thai. (St. Jospeh's in Ayuttaya dates from the 1600s; the building from the early 1800s.)
Probably the most interesting church is the small Church of the Immaculate Conception (known as the Sam Sen Church
by locals). This church might be the oldest in Bangkok, going back to the Portuguese in the 1500s. The present building dates
to the early 1800s. It has long served the local Vietnamese and Khmer communities.
Father Joe Maier
Christ Church in Bangkok. This is an Anglican Church. Sunday services, from ten to
noon on Sundays, are conducted in English. On Convent Road in Bangkok's old Christian quarter, next to the Bangkok Nursing
Home (BNH) Hospital. (Sala Dang Sky train station/Silom subway station).
A few churches in Thailand offer services in English. Christ Church is
the biggest, the best known and most popular. Not high church, however. No solemn mass. Perhaps a bit too folksy
for some. The previous vicar dropped the Nicene Creed (but retained the Apostles' Creed) and replaced kneeling with standing
at Communion. The church has an organ but not always an organist. In recent decades the vicars have come from
England and Australia.
By the way, Father Joe Maier, a Redemptorist, once gave a Sunday sermon here.
There are many Protestant churches in Thailand. Many are in Bangkok.
There are several old Presbyterian churches in Bangkok, built in the early 1900s.
Several are in the old Christian Quarter. All for Thais and Chinese. The oldest
is the Sam Ray Church on the Chao Phraya's west bank. There is a small Presbyterian Church in Bangkok which offers services
in English, at last report meeting at Bangkok Christian College.
Makham Bay, Phuket
There are numerous mosques along the Chao Phraya in Bangkok. Most are Sunni. One
is Shia. One is Ismaelite.
There are no official restrictions regarding traditional forms of dress. Muslim women can wear whatever they wish, including
head scarf and full face-veil.
There is at present a "Muslim Malay insurgency" in the far south of Thailand, whose origins go back hundreds
of years, but flared into the open in 2004.
Krue Se Mosque Massacre, April 2004
Tak Bai Massacre
Ghost Warriors (2004 documentary)
On the surface, Thailand appears to be a very open country, with people of all races and religions living and
working side by side in cities, towns, villages and the countryside. Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, so-called
animists, Muslims . . . Laos, Khmers, Mons, Tais, Chinese, Burmans, Karens . . .
There are even many small religious groups, like the followers of Hari Krishna who might be seen chanting and parading
along a street in Pattaya one afternoon.
However, there are racial and religious differences and old hostilities sometimes resurface.
At times, Buddhist religious leaders try to limit the presence of Muslims in predominantly Buddhist areas. At times,
too, they try make their own presence in predominantly Muslim areas unduly felt.
Halal food is available in many supermarkets. Thai Muslims should
eventually produce and export a large percentage of the world's Halal food. Unfortunately, some Buddhists in Thailand have objected
to efforts to realize the possibility. They fear local Muslim prosperity, resulting from a thriving international Halal
industry, will effect their communities.
Buddhist monk fans anti-Muslim sentiment in Thailand
The problem must be viewed in the greater context of the Malay
Peninsula and also Southeast Asia
News item from France 24 (2012)
Chiang Mai has many Muslim residents from China and the Malay Peninsula.
Chiang Mai's Muslim Walking Street
The Cham are Malayo-Polynesian people.
The Cham in Vietnam
The Kingdom of Champa
Documentary (Englsih included)
Treasures of the Champa Kingdom
By far, most of the Cham in Vietnam are Hindu.
The Cham in Cambodia
By far, most of the Cham in Cambodia are Muslim
Cambodian documentary about the Cham under the Khmer Rouge
The Cham in Thailand
There are many Chams in Thailand. In fact, most of the Muslims one will see
in Bangkok are local Chams.
Indians in Thailand
Indians have had a presence in Southeast Asia for more than 2,000 years. There is much evidence of Indian Hindu mythology,
trade and architecture in Thailand as elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
Buddhist abbots have been known to encourage their communities to destroy all local ruins of ancient Hindu temples
There are several Jewish communities in Thailand.
The largest community is in Bangkok.
There is a synagogue off Sukhumvit Road Soi 22 which serves the European (Ashkanazy)
and Orthodox Jews, including many Hasidic Jews. Men sit on one side of the aisle and women on the other. It is a large house
with a small garden in a quiet area. It once belonged to the Gerson family.
There is a synagogue in a large room of the Shangri-La Hotel by the Chao Phraya River
that is visited by all Jews, mostly travelers - Ashkanazy, Sephardic,
Oriental and North African on Saturdays, the Sabbath. Very interesting. Upon entering visitors are handed a shawl and yamaka,
ushered into a room, seated in a pew, handed a Torah and await their turn to sing.
There is also a popular meeting house for young Jewish backpackers in the Khao San area. Near a kosher restaurant.
The synagogue in Koh Phangan, Thailand
China Town, Bangkok
Neng Noi Yi temple in Chinatown (Source: Chadiouschamp)
Who are the Karen?
The Karen live in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. They are
mostly Buddhist. Many are so-called "animists" \(worshipers of local spirits). Some are Christians, mostly Protestants. Of
the Protestants, most are by far of the Baptist sect. There are many Seventh-Day Adventists. There are also Catholics
(converts of the French, Irish and Italians).
Perhaps the most interesting church choirs are Karen.
Pwo Karen in Kanthanaburi Province, Thailand
Tourists want to see hill tribes in Thailand.
They are called ethnic minorities in Burma and nationalites in China.
There are many different hill tribes in Thailand. There are six particularly
famous tribes - the Karen (Kariang, Yang), Lahu (Muser), Hmong, Mien (Yao), Akha and Lisu (a Kachin
Remember: Do not call the Akha "Ee-kaw" and do not call the Hmong "Meh-o".
There are also many Shans. (Generally, Shans are Tai-Yuen.)
Young tourists in good physical shape can join organized treks to remote
mountain villages in northern Thailand. They join treks climbing up mountains, hiking through forests, sleeping overnight
in small villages, riding on elephants and paddling on rivers in rafts.
Don't expect to see tribals in traditional clothing doing everything
the old-fashion way. It's modern everywhere now. Better head for Laos or Vietnam.
In Thailand, you will not see many people in the villages. They are working
in the nearby town or city. They have gone to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya or Phuket. (Many of the vendors on the beaches
of Pattaya are from hill tribes.) Or they are working as Thai laborers in Taiwan or in the Middle East. The young are
going to school in the towns.
Unless it is a very remote village or during a big festival, you will
not see hill tribe people in traditional costumes. If you do, it is often for show, to sell souvenirs, or by pre-arrangement
with the trekking or tour company. Otherwise, there are a few old people who still wear traditonal clothing. You will
see people in city and casual clothes. You will also see people dressed partially in traditional clothing and modern
clothing. Many families have electric ovens and stoves, washing machines
and dryers, cellphones, television sets, DVD players, satellite dishes, a PC, a scooter, a pick-up truck . .
Note: Trekking guides in northern
Thaland report that today most of their clientel is German. The Americans are far less represented today than they were 20
to 30 years ago. The Brits, mostly Cockneys, were once
very interested in treks but they are few in number today. Israelis, who were so numerous in the 1980s and 1990, have virtually disappeared.
The New Year
December and January are the best months to visit hill tribes. It is a festive season. The Hmong, Akha, Lahu
and Karen celebrate New Year in mid to late December or early January in a big and colourful way. Each village celebrates
on a different day.
The Mien (Iu Mien) (Yao) and Lisu celebrate New Year at about the same time as the Chinese. That is usally
in late January or February.
The Shan celebrate the New Year in mid-April, at the same time as most Buddhists in Southeast
The Mon celebrate New Year on a different date ever year, usually in April or May.
Documentary about the Hmong in Thailand
(Australian/BBC, mid-1960s[?]) (52:28)
The Mien (Yao)
Culture in Change
Akha of Northern Laos
The Lahu (Muser)
The Padaung are a favourite with tourists. Everybody wants to see them.
Many of the Paduang women wear brass rings round their necks. Thus, they
are often called the "Long-Neck Karen" and "Giraffe Women".
A dozen or so Padaung families live in Mae Hong Son Province.
The Padaung are of the Kayan tribe. The Kayan are one of the tribes
of the Karenni nation. The Karenni are similar to the Karen.
The Paduang come from the nearby town of Loikaw in Burma. They
are refugees from the decades-old war in Burma. The men are in Burma fighting against the Burmese government.
Some of the Padaung are Christians.
Some of the Paduang have been in Thailand since the 1960s or earlier. Many came in the 1970s
Many have become Thai citizens with full rights and carry official Thai I. D.
Some Thais seek to employ the Padaung as farm labourers for low
Do not confuse the Padaung with the Palaung, a Mon-Khmer people also from
Palaung in Chiang Mai Province in northern Thailand
Since the 1980s, the Burmese military have forced many Palaung
to live in fenced concentration camps/stockades.
The Palaung have taken up arms against the oppressive Burmese
Some Palaung have sought refuge
in China and Thailand.
The Palaung want to discuss truce, peace and the general future of Burma with
the new Burmese government of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in the country's new capital.
The Palaung can be visited in their villages in Chiang Dao District of Chiang
Mai Province, just a half-hour or so north of the city of Chiang Mai.
Guides can be hired in Chiang Mai. Some tour agencies in Chiang Mai, like
the Top North Hotel and Top North Guest House, can arrange guided day-trips in a
mini-van to a Palaung village. Or go on your own if you know the way.
Women travelling alone or in small groups should not travel upcountry without
a reliable escort.
Most tourists never see an archeological site with ancient ruins
in Thailand. After all, there is nothing like Angkor Wat here.
If they see anything it is a large private park called "The
Ancient City" (Muang Boran), in Samut Prakan, about 45 minutes to an hour by car from Bangkok.
The 65-year-old park has many mall replicas, about 1/10 to 1/4 size, of
many ancient temples in Thailand. The park was very popular 20 to 30 years ago and travel agents offered tours of it. It is still popular and fun to visit.
If tourists have time, they might see the ancient capital
of Siam, Ayuttaya. It is just an hour north of Bangkok. Tour operators offer
morning and afternoon trips to several temples.
Old Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai (and Chalieng) and Kamphaeng
If tourists have the chance, they visit Old Sukhothai.
It takes a day to get there from Bangkok.
One can take a limited guided day-trip or join a half-day tour.
But there is a lot more to see. One needs at least two or three
If unable to travel, see much of it on Google Earth, from the air and at ground
level. Type in Old Sukhothai, Thailand.
There are guest houses in both Old Sukhothai and New Sukhothai. The new town, a big modern
city, is about 20 minutes away by bus.
Bicycles can be rented by the day for Baht 50 in Old Sukhothai.
UNESCO has listed three archeological sites in Thailand as World
Heritage Sites: The excavation site of pre-historic Ban Chiang in Udon Thani Province (1992); Ayuttaya (1991); and Sukhothai
(with Si Satchanalaii and Kamphaeng Phet) (1991).
No one gives much thought to this because few people know the difference between UNICEF
and UNESCO. UNESCO is often mistaken for UNICEF.
UNICEF is a notorious United Nations Organization office staffed by spies, sexually perverse
and semi-literate employees that fronts for traffickers in women and
children and sells vulgar Christmas cards bought and sent by people with bad taste. It gets idiots in politics and show
business to tout it.
Many people assume UNESCO is the same. They are not entirely wrong. UNESCO might have more junketeers about than the US government.
But World Heritage Site listing seems to have protected archeological sites in Old Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai, Chalieng and Kamphaeng Phet and to have opened them to the public.
UNESCO has listed five sites in Thailand as World Heritage sites.
Aside from the three archeological sites mentioned above, there are two natural sites - the Thung
Yai wildlife sanctuary near the Burmese border and Khao Yai National Forest. UNESCO is considering downgrading Khao Yai to
an endangered site. The Thais seem incapable of stopping encroachment on Khao Yai. Even a prime minister, Surayud Chulanond,
was found to be squatting in the park in 2008 and compelled to raze a villa he had built there.
At present, only Old Sukhothai can be easily visited by tourists on their own. The other
sites are rather out of the way.
The statue of the Buddha subduing Mara in the mondup at the monastery of Wat Si Chum in Old Sukhothai
A photo by a French archeologist of the statue of the Buddha at Wat Si Chum in the late 1800s, long
before reconstruction ("restoration").
Years ago, one could climb the stairs to the top of the mondup.
The stairs are closed now.
View of the mondup entrance on the east side. A French archeologist
believes there once was a replica of the Chama Devi chedi of Lamphun atop the mondup.
Women should not visit up-country archeological sites alone.
In 2007, a Japanese woman visiting Old Sukhothai alone was stabbed
to death at Wat Saphan Hin, a site west of the old walled city and inside the historical park. She was murdered
on the stone walkway that leads from the road up the hill to the site. Thus far, a soldier from a nearby army camp, reported
to have been seen in the area, is the only suspect.)
Guards are posted at some of the sites but they are at times
drunk and overly friendly.
Wat Mahathat, Old City, Sukothai.
This is all that most visitors to Sukhothai see.
There are two big halls (vihara)
on the east side of Wat Mahathat. The outer hall has a big stucco statue of the Buddha seated in the position
of subduing Mara (or calling the earth to witness) (above).
Here is a reduced scale replica of it in Muang Boran, the Ancient City, in Samut Prakan
The Buddha statue is missing from the inner (and older)
behind the outer hall (above).
Here is the statue, apparently, in shining bronze, at Wat Suthat in
Bangkok (by the Giant Swing), brought here in the 1800s at the request of Rama I.
The Ramkhamhaeng Inscription
Before becoming king, Mongkut was a
monk. He established the Thammayut Order. Mongkut discovered a stele with a long inscription in old Tai in Old
Sukhothai and brought it to Bangkok. The
inscription is carved onto all four sides of the stele. It begins in the first person and is apparently by the third
Tai king of Sukhothai, Rama Khamhaeng (or Ramkhamhaeng) (1239? - 1298). Eventually, the inscription continues in the third person.
Most of the inscription is in the third person.
inscription is the only known source on Rama Khamhaeng. He is not mentioned in other inscriptions or in chronicles.
The Rama Khamhaeng Inscription is one of
Thailand's most famous ancient inscriptions and is proudly displayed in
the National Museum in Bangkok. Duplicates are in the National Library in Bangkok
and the National Museum
in Old Sukhothai.
The inscription mentions three ramparts surrounding
the city of Old Sukhothai. These are earthen mounds, each outside a moat, that can still be seen today. (Some people, however,
are not entirely certain that the old inscription actually refers to three walls.)
Many years ago, Thai archeologists excavated the inner moat and
rampart. They found only artifacts from the Sukhothai era (1239 - 1378).
More recently, several years ago, Thai archeologists
excavated the middle and outer moats and ramparts. They found only artifacts from the Ayuttaya era (1378 - ).
The implication of this is that Old Sukhothai did
not have three ramparts in the time of Rama Khamhaeng and that the inscription, if it indeed refers to three ramparts, could
not have been carved before the Ayuttaya period of Sukhothai (or Early Ayuttaya period), which began in the late 1300s,
long after Rama Khamhaeng.
Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat in
There is much to see in Si Satchanalai, too. Takes at least a day
to see all the sites. Not much in the way of accomodations here. Do not omit Chalieng. Tours are available, usually booked
in Old Sukhothai. Most visitors to Si Satchanalai and Chalieng stay in Sukhothai and make a round-trip from Sukhothai. Bikes
for the day can be rented in Chalieng or Si Satchanalai.
Wat Kalothai, outside the old east city wall
If you're really interested, see Kamphaeng
Phet too. There is a lot to see - on both sides of the Ping River. Takes at least a
couple of days. Most visitors are on big organized bus tours. Otherwise, they are day-trippers on round-trips from Sukhothai
because there are almost no accommodations in Kamphaeng Phet. The town has a couple of 7-Eleven convenience stores.
Of course, there are ruins and interesting sites along the way from Kamphaeng
Phet to Si Satchanalai. (Ban Kllang, to name one).
There are ancient ruins all
over Chiang Mai.
Old city wall of Chiang Mai
Wiang Kum Kam, 20 minutes south of the city of Chiang Mai
Beware of took-took (samlor) drivers and scooter-taxi drivers! Ask
to see Wiang Kum Kam and they drive you to a famous 115-year-old chedi modeled on the Chama Devi chedi in Lamphun. This
is at the northwest corner of Wiang Kum Kam by the Ping River. From there, small shuttle buses and took-tooks offer short
tours of Wiang Kum Kam. The tours stop at the most impressive sites. But to see it all takes at least a full
day or two. Walk or go with a motor-scooter or a bicycle.
Much of Wiang Kum Kam was destroyed by steady spreading
development since the 1950s. Very little effort, if any, was made to protect the site. As recently as 15 years ago, a
two-lane asphalt road was built over and beside traces
of parts of the surrounding city wall and moat.
Don't buy the books by Thais
about Wiang Kum Kam that are offered at the visitor's center. They're trash.
Indeed, many books written by Thais should not be published. Some so-called Thai
scholars have doctorates from Thai universities. They have even studied abroad. And they might be teaching in Thai universities.
They pay westerners to edit and translate their drafts. And they get unscrupulous westerners to tout them. Still,
no western publisher wants their stuff. So, they are published in Thailand. And when the hapless reader runs
down the Thai author in the hope of obtaining some clarification, the Thai runs away.
Venturing beyond Chiang Mai?
Wiang Ta Kam
A large stupa in Wiang Ta Kan, about 30 minutes south of Chiang Mai,
on the right bank of the Ping River.
Off the beaten tourist track . . .
Few tourists make it to the northeast of Thailand.
Just as well.
The region is the poorest in the country and notorious for street crime and anti-foreign sentiment. (At least 80 percent of
the country's prostitutes and more than half of its total prison population come from the northeast.)
But there are several big archeological sites in the provinces
bordering Cambodia, which is the most hospitable area of the region.
The most famous archeological site in the
northeast of Thailand is Phnom Rung, an ancient Khmer Hindu temple in Buriram Province not far from the Cambodian border.
Prasat Khao Phnom Rung and Prasat Muang Tam in Buriram
Prasat Khao Phnom Rung, Buriram Province
Prasat Muang Tam, Buriram Province
Prasat Muang Tam is a few minutes away from Phnom Rung.
After Khao Phnom Rung the most famous archeological site in the northeast is in the small walled
town of Phimai. This is an ancient site with a Khmer temple, Prasat Hin Phimai, about two hours by bus north of the city of
In Phimai there is also a national museum with a large collection of artifacts.
Prasat Hin Phimai, Nakon Ratchasima (Korat) Province
Lopburi is two hours from Bangkok.
The Khmer temple Prang Sam Yot in Lobpuri
Lots of monkies at Prang Sam Yot
There's always the National Museum in Bangkok
The most famous artifact in the National Museum in Bangkok is an ancient Roman lantern acquired from farmers in Pong Tuk, a village on the Mae Klong not far from Kanchanaburi, by Prince Damrong
and George Cœdès in 1926. (It is like other lanterns
made in Alexandria, Egypt in the 600s A. D. and
widely copied in the Byzantine Empire.) It was
probably brought there by Indian or
Ganesha, from Java, in the National
found four fragments of a skull in a phosphate mine in Lampang in 1999.
In 2000, a leading
archeologist at Witwatersrand
University in South Africa confirmed that the skull fragments were those of a 500,000-year-old
The fragments are the only evidence of Homo
erectus found in Thailand to
A replica of a reconstruction of the top part of
the skull was on display at the
National Museum in
Bangkok in July and August 2016.
The panel with a description of the exhibit cautioned that the Homo erectus identification is not
fully certain but "probable".
With the exhibit, there were also replicas of the full
skulls of Peking Man and Java
Man - Homo erectus from
China and Java.
The museum has a lot of material from pre-historic Thailand that
should be permanently exhibited in one large hall, together with the Homo erectus exhibit.
The Expansion of Homo erectus
Well off the tourist track . . .
There is an ancient city in Si Thep, Petchabun.
Two photos (above) of what looks like a small ziggurat, called
Khao Klang Nok, in Si Thep District of Petchabun Province. It is one kilometre north of the
ancient walled city of Si Thep. This monument was a big mound of dirt covered by trees and bushes a few years ago.
Still farther off the well-beaten tourist track there is
Sri Mahasot in Prachinburi Province, about two hours from Bangkok.
Sra Kaew ancient pond, Sri Mahasot,
Prachinburi Province. Reliefs of animals,
real and mythical, are on the walls.
Wat Phou in Champasak, Laos
On a hill overlooking the Mekong River in Southern
Laos near the town of Champasak, south of the city
What books can one read
about archeological sites in Thailand?
There are many books but few are of any real value.
art world is full of wierdoes and Thailand has far more than its share.
Most books in English in Thailand
are horribly written, sloppily printed, full or errors and very misleading. The type is usually too small for ease of
everything has to be throughly checked out.
literature about archeolgy and antiquities in Thailand is in the form of big and expensive coffee table books with large color
artsy photos and sold in museums and book stores. But they are not intended by their authors and editors to be read. The authors
are often pseudo-scholars suspected of racketerring. fraud, smuggling of antiquities, and even human trafficking. It
appears that all the wrong westerners are involved in editing and publishing books in English in Thailand. The editors, some
of whom are American and British, are wholly unconcerned about the basic
In all instances, it
is best to read the original article rather than a later republication in a coffee table book.
Beware of English translations
of French texts. In all cases, it is best to read the original French text.
of the worst examples of local shoddiness are provided by universities and government offices. The universities seem
incapable of printing anything properly. Government offices, like the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT), may get hold of
an excellent original English translation of an old text but prefer to rewrite the entire translation in
their own idea of English, which is impossible for anyone to read. Gobbledygook.
Two popular old classics, one by Georges Cœdès
(the c is soft) and one by Andre Malraux.
History of Indian Civilization
Lectures by Vinay Lal
Course Lecture # 15 on
13 February 2012.
a discussion of Indian influence
in ancient Southeast Asia
No Man's Land
Thailand's borders with Burma and Cambodia are heavily mined.
Thai government officials and NGOs who claim a $50,000 donation
will clear the entire Thai-Cambodian border of land mines are lying. It will cost at least a billion.
When you see a red sign with a white skull and crossbones (like
the one above), stop, turn around and go back. Don't return without a reliable guide.
By law, this sign should be wherever landmines are known or believed
to be. Unfortunately, some government officials and businessesmen don't want them around because they look bad.
You will hear that an area has been cleared of mines but often mines
remain in surrounding areas. Don't take anything for granted. Be careful. Get a guide.
Prasat Ta Meun (also called Prasat Ta Meun Thom), ancient Khmer
temple claimed by Cambodia and Thailand, patrolled by Thai soldiers at present; Cambodian soldiers patrol the forests to the
south, east and west, which are believed to be mined. Visit possible from Thai side of border in Surin Province. VIsitors
are often accompanied by soldiers.
The ancient laterite causeway up the south side of the mountain,
just 200 meters or so from the temple, can only be seen from the Cambodian side. Several years ago it was possible to
go from the Thai side, accompanied by an armed Thai soldier and the Thai army caretaker/guide. But today, one must go
to Cambodia and ascend from the Cambodian side.
There are two other temples nearby, on the road to the temple, not
to miss. Guides and drivers like to skip them. Insist in seeing them.
Prasat Ta Meun (also called Prasat Bai Krim), a "house with fire",
a rest area chapel, less than a minute before Prasat Ta Meun (Thom), on the right side of the road. No threat of mines
Prasat Ta Meun Thoch (also called Prasat Ta Tor), a "hospital chapel',
just a hundred meters away. No threat of mines here.
Prasat Ta Kwai/Ta Sawai/Krabby, ancient Khmer tower claimed by both
Cambodia and Thailand. Patrolled by Thai soldiers at present. Mines are within a meter or two of the south side of the tower.
Visit possible from Thai side of border in Surin Province. Soldiers accompany visitors.
The three above-mentioned temples can be seen clearly on the current
satellite photo offered by Google.
Preah Vihear (Khmer)/Khao Phra Viharn (Thai), ancient Khmer temple claimed
by Cambodia and Thailand, patrolled by Cambodian soldiers. Surrounding areas are mined. Currently off-limits to tourists from
Thai side of border in Sisaket
Pre Vihear is the second-most sacred temple of the Khmers, after
In the early 1200s, a powerful Khmer Empire occupied almost the
entire Southeast Asian mainland. As the Mongols pressed down from the north, the Cham, Viet and Tai battered the Khmers and
pushed back the frontiers.
The Siamese took the capitol Angkor in 1431.
The Siamese took Preah Vihear in 1795.
French colonists, arriving in Indo-China in 1863, took
everything back from the Siamese by the early 1900s.
In 1940, the Thais, with the support of the occupying
Japanese, took the northern and western Khmer provinces
Following the Japanese defeat in 1945, the French got
everything back in 1946.
In 1953, the French granted Cambodia independence and the Thais
reclaimed Preah Vihear and occupied it.
The Cambodians appealed to the United Nation's International
Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, Netherlands. In 1962, the ICJ
awarded the temple to the Cambodians and the Thais had to leave it.
In the first half of the last decade, the Thai government,
then led by Thaksin Shinawatra, agreed to the Cambodian request to relinquish claims to the promontory of the cliff-top
temple so it could qualifty for UNESCO protection as a World Heritage site.
But In 2008, at the last moment, this plan was turned into a political
issue to discredit the deposed Thaksin, who was called a traitor. The Thais reclaimed the temple. Shooting erupted at several
spots along the border.
In 2011, the Cambodians asked the ICJ to clarify its 1962 decision
and the ICJ awarded the promontory to Cambodia on November 11, 2013.
Disputed Temple Preah Vihear Is Cambodian
Thai Troops Ordered To Withdraw From Preah Vihear temple
Cambodian television replay of ICJ ruling with Khmer translation:
Last six minutes of telecast of ICJ ruling, without Khmer translation:
The Nation, Bangkok, November 6, 2013
In areas said to have been demined, look for little red flags (like
the one in the photo above). By law, this flag must be planted wherever a mine has been found and defused.
Whenever you see the flags take them as a warning that there
could be more mines in the area.
If there are no such flags in an area that is said to have
been demined, leave the area. Don't return without a trustworthy guide.
When visiting temples that are said to have been demined but without
the little red flags, as required by law, that is probably because it would be impractical to have dozens of little red
flags all over a temple complex frequented by tourists.
Follow the others or get a local guide.
Do not explore beyond the limits of the temple grounds without a
guide. There might be mines not far from the temple grounds.
Prasat Sdok Kok Thom, ancient Khmer Hindu temple, claimed by Cambodia
and Thailand, not patrolled by soldiers.
One local volunteer guide at the temple.
One of the most famous inscriptions from the ancient
world was discovered here on a tall stele by a French explorer in 1883. The long inscription, in Old Khmer and Sanskrit, from
1052, recounts two centuries of Khmer royal and religious history. It is now in a national museum warehouse near
Bangkok and the public cannot see it.
The temple complex has been reconstructed. But with more
anastylosis than is allowed by international law. The entire barai (tank/
been reconstructed and filled with water.
The public can visit from the Thai side of the border in Sa Kaew
Temple complex and baray were demined in
2003: 48 armed mines were defused or exploded and 38 other live and lethal objects were exploded.
Areas to the north, south, east and west of the temple complex also
have been demined.
However, there is no indication of the demining. There are, however, one
or two boards with detailed descriptions of the demining operation.
You might be tempted to look for traces of the ancient east-west
road from Svay Chek in Cambodia to Wattana Nakon in Thailand. It should be about 400 meters north of the temple.
There are no warning signs posted, but do not venture alone beyond the high earthen dike north of the temple complex,
whatever anyone says. This area was the site of refugee camp in the 1970s and 1980s. L. I. D. A. R. should reveal the exact
location of the ancient road.
An ancient laterite causeway leads east from the temple part of
the way to the west side of the baray. An ancient earthen mound
continues the rest of the way. A wide modern boulevard, parallel
to and above the west side of the baray, has been built across the earthen mound to accomodate visitors strolling
along the baray. What will UNESCO have to say about that?
Some believe a road (some call it a "royal road") once led
from a point on the other side of the baray, the east side, far to the east into Cambodia, perhaps all the way to
Siem Reap. Again, L. I. D. A. R. should reveal such a road, if it is there.
You might be tempted to search for traces of the road.
Be careful! Only part of the area between the
east side of the baray and Si Phen Road to the east has been demined. The demined area is a triangle, from the
northeast and southeast corners of the baray east to Si Phen Road.
There are no warning signs posted, but do not wander north or east
of the dirt trail that runs from the northeast corner of the baray in a southeastly direction to
Si Phen Road. That area, to the north and east of the trail, has not been investigated by deminers. This trail
was bulldozed in early 2013, apparently without incident, as part of the reconstruction work on the baray. Thus,
the old trail is barely visible now.
Do not wander east of Si Phen Road, whatever signs there may
be or whatever anyone says. Every week there is an explosion in the area. A cow or buffalo trips a mine, usually at night.
There is almost no traffic on Si Phen Road. Occasionally, there
is a big armored army vehicle with a medical unit.
Some consider Si Phen Road the Thai-Cambodian border. Cambodian
soldiers are posted about one to two kilometers to the east of Si Phen Road.
There are rumors of an old mass grave of massacred Cambodians, dating
from the 1970s ot 1980s, near the baray and Si Phen Road.
Just remember, anywhere along the border there could be mines. If there
are no signs or flags don't assume there are no mines.
Most of the mines were laid between the 1970s and the late
Mines are hidden just below the surface of the ground.
If you spend any time along Thailand's borders you will hear about
two types of mines.
The most common mine blows your foot off when you step on it.
It can blow off more than your foot. It can take all of your leg below the knee. It sometimes takes the knee too. Buffalos,
cattle and elephants trigger this type of mine often.
Usually not lethal, but cripples permanently
The other type of mine is less common but almost always lethal.
It has several different names. It is like the Claymore. It is like the Bouncing Betty. When you step on it nothing happens.
But as you walk on, it pops up into the air behind you and explodes at waist-level, spraying shrapnel in all directions for
some distance. You'll never know what hit you. The others behind you will see it, but then it's lights out.
Lethal in most cases
Over time, mines sink deeper into the ground but eventually come back up to the surface. So the ground you tread today without
incident might not be safe in a few years.
Who made the mines? There are old American, Soviet, Chinese and
Vietnamese mines. There are also locally-produced copies and home-made mines.
Who laid the mines? The Khmer Rouge get most of the blame. But there
were also Heng Samrin-Hun Sen soldiers and the Vietnamese army. The Khmer Serei. The Thai army too. And perhaps also
the armies of Prince Sihanouk and Son Sann.
Salween River with Thailand on the right and Burma
on the left.
Do not wander alone on the Burmese side of the Salween River. Stick
to frequently used well-worn paths and get a guide.
Children and elephants occasionally trip mines and lose a leg or
Way out of the way but well worth it
A hill in a remote part of northwestern Udon Thani Province
A tall rock formation, called Ho Nang U-sa (U-sa's Tower), on Phu
Phra Bat in Ban Phue District of Udon Thani Province.
This hill is known for its large concentration of boulders - called drop stones or erratics - deposited in odd-looking
positions by the last glacial retreat across the land 180 million years ago and shaped into odd formations by erosion
(There are many such boulders about the northeast of Thailand.)
Evidence for the Ice Age
1965 Encyclopedia Britannica film
The hill is also known for its old rock wall paintings.
Prehistoric rock painting at Tham Khon (People
Cave), said to be 2,000 to 3,000
There are many tall sandstone slabs inserted vertically into the sandstone surface
of the hill. They are placed in circles about some of the rock formations. They are religious boundary markers called
sema. Archeologists believe that they resemble a local northeastern version of earlier and older sema
in central Thailand of the Mon Dvaravati period (ca. A. D. 500 - 1,000).
There are the curious remains of high
reliefs of the Buddha, seated, with hands in the Dhyana mudra position
(both hands on the lap), carved from the boulders. They are believed to have been carved in the Dvaravati period
and altered by Buddhist and Hindu Khmers of Angkor during the Lopburi period (1000s and 1100s).
Note that some of the ancient man-made structures are actually very recent "restorations".
Photos of the site known as Tham Phra (Sacred Cave) taken
a quarter-century ago show the high relief of a headless Buddha, seated, with hands in the Dhyana
mudra position. But today the relief has a head. Old photos of a site called
Wat Louk Khoei show a chamber in ruins, without walls, with three Buddhas in high relief with hands in the
Dhyana mudra position. Today, the chamber has
walls with a door, steps and windows and five Buddhas.
According to old local written accounts, the Buddha visited the hill while
traveling along the Mekong River.
Large depressions in the sandstone surface of the hill were
believed to be the Buddha's footprints. Thus, the hill
was called Phu Phra Bat - Hill of the Sacred Footprint. The depressions were reworked into
elaborate footprints. A tall tower was built over one footprint. This site is on the hill, south of the historical
The various rock formations
were given names from a popular local version of the ancient Hindu legend of Princess Usa, daughter of Bana, the demon
A park, Phu Phra Bat Historical Park, covering much of the top of the hill, has been
in operation since 1992.
Legible literature with details in English about the hill is not currently
available in the park.
The Thais say they plan to ask UNESCO to list Phu Phra Bat Historical
Park as a world heritage site next year, in 2017. The park
does not seem to be up to snuff. Obviously, the Thais will require the help of sincere and honest Europeans with common sense,
knowledge and experience to put things in proper order.
There are numerous trails to the various sites of the historical
park. Signs are posted but some of them are misplaced and misleading. One can easily get lost.
Note that on the maps posted in the park the direction north is
on the left instead of at the top.
Avoid the north loop of the park because the trails are poorly
indicated and there are few signs. One can follow a
wrong trail for a long time and wind up far outside
Ban Chang is a village in the east of Udon Thani Province. It is listed as a World heritage Site by UNESCO.
But there is not much to see there. One large excavation
pit. Interesting, anyway.
There is a big museum, however, with many ancient jars,
some of them thousands of years old, dug up from under the village.
Many jars from Ban Chang, or copies, are exhibited
in museums throughout Thailand.
Much Ban Chiang ceramic ware has been found not just in Ban Chiang but throughout the
Dozens of pre-historic sites in Thailand have been excavated.
2014 Upload on You Tube
Linking Prehistoric and Historic Archeology in Early
Lecture by Ian Glover, October 30, 2010
The lecture is actually about archeological sites in Vietnam where
more has been excavated than in Thailand.
Joyce White discussing the Penn Museum's Program for
University of Pennsylvania Museum upload (March 2012)
Bangkok by Night
Claasical Siamese dance
A dinner of traditional Thai food
Almost every tourist visiting Bangkok will sample Thai food at a dinner offering
classical Siamese dancing.
Travel agencies can book the evening dinners.
Bangkok never sleeps
Some travel agencies in Bangkok book night tours of the city's
night clubs and bars. A visit to a go-go bar and a free drink are included.
Where to go with your friends for a drink at night?
Pat Pong is Bangkok's biggest and oldest bar district. It consists of several lanes
- Pat Pong 1, Pat Pong 2, Pat Pong 3 and so on - in the old Christian quarter of the city,
between Suriwong and Silom (Si Lom) Roads. The main soi probably boasts the best-looking go-go dancers in town.
Back in 1992, night vendors took over the most popular soi and it has been crowded night market
with vendors, stalls and shoppers ever since.
Patpong got its name from the Patpongpanich family, Hainanese Chinese who bought the area after WWII
and still own it.
Fifteen years ago, the big Nana Entertainment Plaza on Soi 4 (Soi Nana)
off Sukhumvit Road was still a good place to go at night. There are many go-go bars there. But the place was taken over by
morphrodites (kratoeys) and homosexuals. The
general atmosphere is cold, foul and obnoxious. Very unpleasant. There are many sissy boys too. A gorgeous, shapely and
charming creature may approach and offer greetings and invitations in a queer croak that sounds more like a man's voice
than a woman's.
The price of a small bottle of beer at the Nana Entertainment Plaza is Baht 155 to Baht 180.
The lesbian shows in Thai bars
are not as elaborate as they were ten to fifteen yeats ago. But today, in at least one go-go bar, male patrons are
invited to join the sex shows on stage - as submissive partners to dominating go-go dancers.
Some might find the performances
Others will be amused.
The Nana Hotel, across the street,
hasn't changed in decades. Girls hang out
and camp out in the hotel garden and parking lot day and night.
Many call the Nana Hotel infamous because it is a hangout for young girls looking for men.
But back in the 1960s, the top floor was a convalescence
hospital for Burmese soldiers fighting the Rangoon dictatorship.
Soi 4 is also called Soi Nana. Nana is the name of an Indian Muslim
family from Gujarat that came to Siam centuries ago. At one time the Nana family owned all of the land that is now the tourist
strip of Sukhumvit and much more of the surrounding area.
are many bars along both sides of Soi 4 (Soi Nana) leading south from Sukhumvit Road all the way to the Rajah Hotel.
Everything begins in the early afternoon.
is still a Grace Hotel on the other side of Sukhumvit Road. There is a story to this hotel. Until about thirty-some years
ago, Europeans had the run of the place. Girls hung out there and the Europeans paid them very little for their services.
Along came the Arabs. They lavished money on the girls and spoiled them. Eventually the girls ignored the Europeans. One imbittered
Swede recalled the hotel as the "Disgrace Hotel".
Many people cannot find it.
Soi Cowboy is off Sukhumvit Road (just north of it) between Soi 21
(Asok-Montri Road or Rajadapisek Road) and Soi 23 (Jasmine City Building).
It is the alley beside the Sukhumvit subway station at the northeast
corner of the big Sukhumvit-Asok road intersection. Look for the crowd (and uniformed
guards and policemen) on the sidewalk at the entrance to
Soi Cowboy is slightly more expensive that the Nana Entertainment Plaza
but it is less commerical. Soi Cowboy is more sociable too.
The Tilac, Dollhouse, Baccara, Suzy Wong and Long Gun are popular go-go
bars on Soi Cowboy.
The most popular bar, Crazy House, is a small two-story bar with more nude
go-go dancers than anywhere else. It is very crowded. Cramped. Elbow to elbow. This bar is not actually on the soi but just
round the corner from it, on the west side of Soi 23, about 20 metres to the south of Soi Cowboy, toward Sukhumvit Road. It
is almost across the street from a 7-Eleven store.
Prices fluctuate. Bars change their prices often. In general, the price
for a small bottle of beer on the soi ranges from Baht 115 to Baht 180, depending on the bar and the hour. Most bars
sell a small bottle of beer for Baht 170 or 180 and up.
Somewhat less during the evening Happy Hour.
The price for a glass of draft beer is less than a bottle. Not all bars
offer draft beer. Some bars offer draft beer all night. Draft beer is
not always indicated on the drink list. One has to enquire. The Tilac offers a draft beer in a big mug for Baht
for 150. The Dollhouse offers draft beer for Baht 115.
The Dollhouse is an unique and fun place on New Year's Eve. Not to
Orientals like the three-story Baccara especially. It is a private bar.
Non-members must buy a drink at the outdoor counter before entering. That's Baht 180. This bar is usually packed on all floors
with standing room only on weekends. On weekday nights, the third floor is deserted.
In most bars on Soi Cowboy, a lady's drink - a drink for a bargirl
who is delighted to sit and chat with a patron - is Baht 200.
Soi Cowboy got its name (or nickname) from a Black American veteran, T. G. Edwards, who
opened a bar in the soi in 1977. He wore a cowboy hat. His bar was a good thing and before long there were bars
up and down both sides of the soi.
The bars on and near the tourist strip of Sukhumvit Road on Friday and Saturday nights are
Heineken, Carlsberg, San Miguel, Tiger, Singha
and Chang are popular beers.
Alcohol content of beer is five (5) percent.
Beer Lao, a product of Laos, is available in some bars. But it's not as strong as it was
back in the 1980s. Still, it tastes good.
Beer Lao Gold, with 7% alcohol content, is hard to find.
Every Canadian has heard it. If your friend is an Eskimo don't buy him a drink. It's pretty much the same story here.
So the beer is not very strong. It's not what it used to be. You can't believe the label. Indeed, one can down a half-dozen
bottles and not know it.
In Thailand, convenience stores and supermarkets sell alcohol only during
the lunch hour, between 12:00 noon and 14:00, and after working hours, from 16:00 or 17:00 to midnight. The restrictions
were enacted several years ago with students, industrial labourers and
office workers in mind.
On some national holidays, on all relgioius holidays and all voting day weekends bars must be closed. That is the law. No alcohol may be served. Convenience
stores and supermarkets cannot sell alcohol on those days.
Bars and restaurants can sell alcohol any time. The official bar closing
time is 2:00 a. m. Nobody pays attention to it. Most of the bars in town close between 2:00 and 3:00 a. m. A few ordinary
bars remain open after 3:00 a. m.
Years ago, especially at the Nana Entertainment Plaza on Soi Nana (Soi 4), many go-go bars remained
open all night - or as long as they had business. Often they were still open at 5:00 a. m. Not so
Years ago, the Thermae, a small
restaurant on the tourist strip of Sukhumvit Road, was the only place open after hours. That was because it was owned by Bangkok's
chief of police. All the night crawlers headed for it. The front door was locked
official closing time so everyone entered through the back door, went through
the kitchen, went down the stairs and sat at tables in the basement coffee shop. It was the last resource for anyone
without a partner. Any girl who had not been picked up yet went there. Any guy without a girl went there.
There is still a Thermae but it is not the same set-up. It's a small basement beer hall in the little Ruamchit Plaza
on Sukhumvit Road's tourist strip. The place closes at 2:30 a. m. (The sign on the door says 1:00.) There is limited seating.
A long oblong bar with stools in the centre. Some tables in a few booths. Long counters with stools along
the four walls of the hall. There is always a crowd standing on the steps and in the driveway outside.
And Sukhumvit Road is an entirely different scene.
Until recently, countless cafés lined the sidewalk of the north side of Sukhumvit
Road, all the way from Soi 3 ("Soi Arab") to Soi 23 (Jasmine City Building/Little Italy restaurant), doing business
all night. They operated till dawn and even into the day on weekends.
They offered alcohol. Beers were Baht 100. Soft drinks Baht 60. Food was
available. They did a lot of business.
This stretch of Sukhumvit Road is the city's main tourist strip.
With the passing of King Rama IX on 13 October 2016, the sidewalk
was cleared of all cafes and vending stalls both day and night.
However, two months later, in December 2016, many vendors returned. They
ignored the new ruling and set up again on the sidewalk at night. The police were not shutting them down.
Small cafes set up not too far from the sidewalk, just
inside the sois (alleys) and parking lots.
It is really a question of arrangements with the police, whatever the law. If the police
let up, everyone sets up. If the police crack down, everyone disappears.
By mid-February 2017, vendors had returned in full up and down the north side of Sukhumvit Road
at night. But few sidewalk cafes were there.
One returning to Thailand after four years away will remark that business is down at night. The
government pretends that business is better than ever. But hotels, bars and restaurants are hosting fewer guests. The
coup d'etat in May 2014 and the military dictatorship have deterred many touriists
from visiting Thailand. With the passing of the king in October 2016 the government decreed that all celebrations must be
kept low key for one year. Thus, there were no fireworks of any sort to bring in the New Year in 2017. Not one bang anywhere.
Not a single artifice in the sky.
So the tourist strip on Sukhumvit Road might not be as interesting as it once was. Back
in 2002, there were indoor and outdoor bars everywhere, up and down the tourist strip, and beyond -
even under the motorway overpass. There was a bar complex called Clinton Plaza
with a Bill's Bar, a White House Bar, a Monica Bar,
a Washington Go-Go and a Bush Beer Garden - open
Soi 5, or Soi Foodland, has been called Soi Africa by the Bangkok Post.
In fact, however, Arabs, Indians, Orientals and Europeans are more prominent on the soi than Africans. At night,
many Africans turn up to party. It is a thoroughly international scene.
Note that since the army coup d'etat in May 2014,
there have been many kratoeys (morphrodites, trans-sexuals) plying the trade on the tourist strip of Sukhumvit Road.
They frequently accost passers-by. Their presence on the tourist strip increased dramatically in November 2016. They
ply the trade from street corners and turn up in popular bars and restaurants.
Every once in while, the police raid a bar, even the high
class ones. They ask everyone for ID. They can hold up a place for several hours. Sometimes they take people to the police station. Some people try to avoid such unpleasantness
by frequenting only bars that are owned by the police.
OVER THE YEARS, MANY DRUBKEN AND ELDERY AND HANDICAPPED TOURISTS
WALKING ON SUKHUMVIT ROAD HAVE BEEN KNOCKED DOWN FROM BEHIND,
BATTERED SENSELESS AND ROLLED, EVEN DURING THE DAY.
IF FEELING EXTRA TIRED OR A BIT TIPSY, TAKE A RELIABLE-LOOKING
CAB OR SAMLOR HOME.
Love for Sale
A song by Cole Porter sung by Kitty Kallen with the Jack
Teagarden Band (1940) (Banned on radio)
They're all over Thailand . . .
Remember: A fool and his money are soon separated!
And it's against the law . . .
And might carry the virus . . .
And might soon look like this.
So, be careful. If you must, remember . . .
And use condoms.
Viravaidya, "Mr. Condom"
Condom combats the spread of AIDS; Father Joe takes in the victims
HIV awareness video
Mr. Condom and Family Planning in Thailand
Thailand's Sandy and Sunny Beaches
Why go to Pattaya?
Some call it Babylon.
It's only 80 to 90 minutes from Bangkok. And Phuket is just as built up now.
Pattaya Bay viewed from Look-Out Hill in South Pattaya.
There are many ways to get to Pattaya from Bangkok
As in Britain, Thais drive on the left. Like
Malaysia and Singapore it is left-hand drive in Thailand.
Burma, China, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam drive on the right.
Depending on traffic conditions, the road trip can take 80 minutes to two-and-one-half hours
Taxis charge Baht 1,000 and up but will not get there faster than
the fastest buses.
Buses go to Pattaya from numerous bus stations in Bangkok.
At present, the fastest buses to Pattaya are the Roong
Reuang Coach Co. buses out of the Eastern Bangkok bus terminal in Ekamai. Baht 108 one-way. First bus at 5:00 a. m. Don't take any
other bus to Pattaya out of Ekamai. Other buses make the market run and make a hundred stops along the way and
take hours to get to Pattaya.
out from luxury hotels are much slower than the buses out of Ekamai and Pattaya. Not worth it.
Most tour agencies can arrange transportation to Pattaya
but this is by mini-van. Mini-vans look nice from the outside but often the interiors have been cannibalised to squeeze in
extra seats. Very little leg room. Not recommended. Mini-vans are not
faster or more comfortable than the bus. They run around town for an hour or more picking up passengers. Many mini-vans run
on LPG. If they need to fill up en route, there is a further half-hour delay. Vehicles using LPG have blown
There is one train going to Pattaya from Bangkok every day, leaving
early in the morning, at 6:55. It is due in Pattaya at 10:34 but it takes forever. It has only third-class coaches. And it
drops passengers off many, many miles from Pattaya. Very inconvenient. Not worth the adventure.
Many people who go to Pattaya do not stay the day because they encounter problems right away.
The problems are usually with the cruising baht bus (song thaew)
Baht buses are navy blue pick-up trucks with canopies over the back
and two benches (song thaew), one along each side of the back.
The problems usually arise from disagreements over fares.
The inter-city bus depot in
Pattaya is actually in the town of Naklua, just north of Pattaya, on the north side of North Pattaya Road. North Pattaya Road
divides North Pattaya, to the south, from Naklua, to the north.
The Roong Reuang Coach Company owns and operates the bus depot
for the government. All the bus drivers and stewards, ticket sellers and security guards are company employees. But the baht
buses are not owned or supervised by the company.
Upon arrival at the Pattaya bus depot, one can take a baht
bus to any hotel for a pre-set price.
Or one can walk across
the road - North Pattaya Road - and flag down and hop onto a cruising baht
bus. These follow a set routing about town. They usually charge Baht 10 to the roundabout ("the dolphins") on North Pattaya
Road and Second Road/Naklua Road.
One can go to Central
Road in Pattaya and beyond on a baht bus for Baht 10 but some drivers will demand Baht 20. Some will not. One can go all the
way to South Pattaya Road and to the entrance of Walking Street for just Baht 10. But be ready to pay Baht 20.
The same if going into Naklua,
beyond the roundabout. The driver might ask for Baht 10 but be ready to pay Baht 20.
Payment of the fare is made when the passenger gets off of
baht bus, not before.
If there is a disagreement
about the fare when the passenger gets off, many baht bus drivers make a big unpleasant scene. They make ugly faces,
shout obscenities, get violent, throw change at the passenger, and drive off
before the passenger can withdraw his or her arm
from the cab window. Occasionally the driver assaults the passengers.
The Tourist Police, the
TAT and the Passenger Protection Office always side with the driver.
The unfortunate tourist,
realizing that Pattaya is a bad place after all, decides to get the hell out of there and is on the next bus back to Bangkok
and never returns.
All this is particularly disturbing
for tourists with children.
Those who are determined
to see what Pattaya is all about can do so if they prepared to put up with
Beautiful sandy beaches!
Like this one, Samae Beach, on Lahn Island,
just off Pattaya,
about a half-hour by ferry from South Pattaya and 15 minutes cross-island
by baht bus.
The boat pier is at the south end of Walking Street.
The best public beach on the Pattaya coast is probably at
the foot of Khao Pratamnak Road, in South Pattaya, between Pattaya Park and the Adriatic Palace Hotel, north
of Jomtien Beach. Sandy bottom. It
is deserted during the low tourist season.
Foreign homosexuals and
native male prostitutes were a big problem around Dong Tan on Jomtien Beach a decade ago. They went with
their older western boyfriends to the beach concessions,
where there were many tourists, including families with young children, and talked
openly and loudly about what they did. Most obnoxious. It was so bad, vendors asked tourists if they wanted a "boy". The foreign homosexuals and local male prostitutes are still around but it's not as bad as it used to be. Loud-mouth young Thai male prostitutes
roam the beach area in small gangs for several hours after dawn.
A common problem is ear infection. People swimming in hotel awimming
pools and parks, like Pattaya Park, frequently develop ear infections that do not go away on their own. In general, the sea
is cleaner than hotel swimming pools.
Until recently, there were more
Russians here than anywhere else outside Russia. Or so it seemed. In fact, Pattaya seemed like a summer resort
in Russia with a lot of Thai workers around. Russians once outnumbered everyone here twenty to one. And, after a
spell away from Pattaya,
they are coming back.
Royal Cliff Hotel, Pattaya.
If you have swum out this far, it's a wonder.
There are lots of locals and even expats who'll
tell you there are no sharks in the sea. Or that the sharks won't bother
you. Or that they're nocturnal feeders only.
The biologists who dump baby sharks in Pattaya Bay several times a year, amid much hoopla, can assure you
Every so often, a tourist boat capsizes and the passengers are attacked
and killed by sharks. The passage between Pattaya and Lahn Island is one such area.
The above photo is of a typical jellyfish that one will encounter
In general, these jellyfish are the colour white and the size of a
pack of 50 DVDs.
They appear often off the beaches of North Pattaya and Naklua and very seldom off the beaches
of South Pattaya and Jomtien.
They appear close to shore by the dozens in the morning. They float in with the tide
and many are stranded on the beach when the tide goes back out.
The sea breeze picks up round noon and in the afternoon, when the sea is wavy, the
In general, they avoid people. They have eyes. When they notice people nearby they turn
round and head back out to sea. Or they go round you. Occassionally, sensing something
ahead, they come up from the depths to get a better look from the surface. When they recognise you, they head away.
Jellyfish stings are very rare in Pattaya.
A sting from the bigger box jellyfish is often fatal.
The box jellyfish has appeared along the coast of the Malayan Peninsula in southern Thailand.
There have been no reports (at least not in recent years) of sightings of the box jellyfish in waters off Pattaya.
The Portuguese Man o' War has appeared in waters off the Malay Peninsula but rarely.
If going to Lahn Island, take the big ferry boats, like the one in
the photo above, from the pier in South Pattaya. They collide and capsize from time to time but less frequently than other
Don't climb into the small open "long-tail" boats on
Pattaya Beach like the ones in the photo below.
These boats are o. k. on rivers and in other places. But in Pattaya they're stictly for suckers. The local tour operators funnel hordes
of Asian tourists onto these boats every morning and take them to Tawaen Beach, the most crowded and most commercial beach
on Koh Lahn. And the boat pilots love ramming head-on into each other in mid-ocean. Every year such an "accident" happens
and the sharks have a feast.
Fishing is nothing like the
Caribbean here. But marlin can be caught any day of the year between Lahn and Pai Islands. Off Sattahip
is the best spot. Marlin is delicious.
There are hundreds of shipwrecks, from
the past 1,600 years, with pottery,
on the sea floor between Pattaya
and Lahn Island.
Thailand is Modern
Many tourists come to Thailand for the sun and sandy beaches. Many natives swim in their street clothes. There
are no restrictions on swimwear. Nude swimming in public is neither encouraged nor discouraged. Men wear swim trunks
or men's bikinis. Many women wear two-piece bikinis. Shapely women wear a g-string and go topless. Men who like to suntan
and bathe nude go to less frequented areas of the beach. Most beaches do not have shower and changing facilities. People
change on the beach or return to their hotels.
Advice to Yachtsmen
Don't beach your yacht. Be careful where you anchor.
In early 2015, a Belgian man and his Thai wife beached
their yacht in South Pattaya. Their headless bodies were found in the sea several days later. Their yacht had been ransacked.
The police claimed it was probably a double suicide. The press did not follow up its initial report of the incident and refused
to publish inquiries from the public about it.
or dock your yacht at a yacht club or marina. There is a big marina several kilometres south of
Jomtien. There is a big Japanese yacht club several kilometres north of Chonburi. Both are considered safe.
Pattaya at night . . .
There are a lot of murders in Pattaya. And many unnatural deaths.
Just read the papers. Most murders occur at night.
If possible, stay indoors after dark. Do not wander alone
in solitary parts of the hotel. And do not go out before 8:00 a. m. If you
must go out at night, do not walk
on the beach. Stay in well-lit areas with groups of sober friends. Do not get
chummy with the locals, especially baht bus and scooter-taxi drivers.
Women especially should not wander anywhere after dark or during the first two hours after dawn without a reliable escort.
Some tour companies in Pattaya offer tours to night spots with a visit to a go-go bar
and a free drink included.
On national and relgioius holidays and voting day weekends, bars must
be closed. Convenience stores and supermarkets cannot sell alcohol.
For those who must socialise with the natives on holidays, some bars in
Pattaya will remain open, without their lights and music and without offering alcohol. One or two girls might be there, in casual wear - blue jeans -
with nothing to do.
For those who must have a drink on holidays, there is a bar in North Pattaya.
The bar will be closed in front. Not a sound. Go round the house
and enter through the back door. Everyone is there. Standing room only. No worry. The mamasan has excellent relations
with city hall and the police.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were Internet cafes everywhere. In all the major big
cities, on every street, in every soi, in every building, in every corridor there were Internet services.
In time, the Internet cafes were joined - and eventually replaced
- by massage parlours. Massage parlours were everywhere.
On every street, in every soi, in every corridor there was a
small massage parlour. Some offered the common and popular "traditional" Thai massage. Some specialized in foot massage (messaging
the foot only). Some in oil massage. And so on. But like the Internet cafes, massage parlours too are far less numerous today
The "traditional" massage is the long-time favorite of both Thais and tourists. It is offered
in "traditional" massage parlours and on the beaches of tourist resorts. Prices vary, starting at Baht 100.
Some hotels, tour companies and travel agencies offer city tours that
include visits to massage parlours. A free "Thai" or "traditional" massage is included.
Note that from time to time, a masseuse in a traditional massage parlour in Bangkok or Pattaya,
will, unless firmly dissuaded, draw the curtains and go all the way with the client because she finds him irresistible or
just for the hell of it, at no charge and without expecting much of a tip.
In general, it is advisable to dissuade any woman who
approaches and offers a massage without citing a price in advance or begins a massage
without mentioning a charge because she might demand a whopping amount of money after just a few minutes.
Some tour companies include also a brief visit to a "body-body" massage parlour. Just
to see. Massage not included.
The "body-body" massage involves a bit of hanky-panky. The tour guide should explain what it is. The masseuse and the client bathe together nude. Then the
masseuse gives the client a "traditional" massage with her hands and then the "body-body" massage with her entire bare body.
In the "body" massage parlour, the client, if sufficiently aroused, has the option
of accepting or requesting unlimited sex from the masseuse for an agreed price.
The tourists are free to return to the parlour on their own, after the tour, if they
Note that "body-body" massage parlours are much less expensive in Pattaya than in Bangkok.
The price of a "body-body" massage in Bangkok can be at least double to triple the price of a "body-body" massage in
Women can request a "body-body" massage too.
The massage parlours in Pattaya are open from early in the afternoon to late at night. The best
time to go is the mid-afternoon because the best-looking masseuses are gone by sunset.
Most taxis in Thai cities are four-door sub-compact Toyotas.
Taxi drivers in Southeast Asia are not like taxi drivers in Europe and North
America. They are more like taxi drivers in the Philippines, but not quite.
Some Thai taxi drivers are polite and considerate. But many are not.
In Thailand, by law, taxis must run on the meter. But taxi drivers
prefer to take passengers off the meter so they can charge more. The off-the-meter fare is always higher than the on-the-meter
fare. In the worst traffic jams, many taxi drivers refuse to go by the
If possible, avoid taxis. Taxis are useless in rush-hour traffic. In
Bangkok, traffic is heavy most of the day, from 6:00 a. m. to 8:00 or 9:00 p. m.
Many tour and travel agencies can arrange cross-country trips and tours
with a private car and driver, similar to that which visiting journalists from big companies receive.
If you want to run around the city or the region for the day, many taxi
drivers know the city and countryside very well. They know every village, every street, every soi, every establishment
- as well as any tour guide or policeman.
Many taxi drivers do not care about the comfort of their passengers.
They play loud Isan music over the radio. They talk to the passengers about this and that. Prostitution is their
favorite subject. They drive at breakneck speeds on highways. They watch their dashboard video while driving.
Often enough, taxi drivers misundertand the passenger's destination and
drive a long distance away from it.
Women especially should be lerry of taxi drivers. Over the years, many women
have been kidnapped and murdered by taxi drivers in Thailand.
Try to avoid travelling in taxis alone.
Be careful when climbing out of a cab. Many wallets are lost at this point.
Many bags are forgotten.
Generally, the taxis and drivers posted to hotels in Bangkok are
more expensive but more reliable. They are recommended for long cross-country drives.
Three-wheel taxis (Samlors/Took-tooks)
Years ago, when taxis were forced by law to accept meter fares, took-tooks (samlors)
- motorized golf carts converted into small taxis - were put out of business. They are
still around but they charge much more than meter taxis. The fare from here to there in a taxi will be Baht 40. A took-took
will demand Baht 100 or more for the same distance. And you cannot see a thing from a took-took.
By far, the most popular form of taxi transport in Thailand is the motor-scooter. They are everywhere - in cities, towns and
villages and along highways. Gropus of scooter-taxis are usually posted at busy city street corners and busy highway intersections
and bus stops.
The scooter-taxis are driven by a man or woman with a bright mono-colored
vest with a number on a big square white patch. The passenger sits on the back. The driver should offer the passenger
a protective helmet to wear but usually does not, thus breaking the law and risking a fine.
Scooter taxis are not metered. Fares are usually posted at scooter-taxi
stands. They are usually lower fares than cabs and took-tooks. From here to there by scooter is Baht 20. In a cab it will
be Baht 31 to 40. In a took-took it will be at least Baht 50 and often Baht 100.
Scooter taxis, and scooters in general, are the most dangerous form
of travel in Thailand. Most road fatalities in Thailand are scooter drivers and their passengers. Travelers in the countryside
will see scooter accidents every day.
Stand still on a sidewalk anywhere and within a minute or so somebody offers
you a ride on a motorscooter. Anyone. Scooter-taxi drivers, of course. But locals, too. They just mean to help you out. Farmers
returning from the fields. Students coming home from school. Nurses going home after work. Off-duty policemen. Offer a small
amount at destination. The same a scotter-taxi would ask for. But many will refuse payment.
Sky Train and Subway
In general, it
is best to travel with the Sky (elevated) train or the subway (underground/metro/tube).
The Sky train and
subway are much faster, especially during heavy traffic.
The Sky train and subway operate from 5:50 a. m. to midnight. On weekends, the Sky train
continues to run on Satiurday and Sunday mornings for a half-hour after midnight, from 12:00 to 12:30 a. m.
On weekdays, the most crowded times on subways and Sky trains are
from 6:30 to 8:30 a. m. and from 5:00 to 9:30 p. m.
People over 60 ride for half-price on the subway. When buying a ticket,
inform the ticket seller.
Bicycling can be a convenient way of getting around places like Old Sukhothai
or Ko Mak (near Ko Chang).
But, generally, anyone traveling by two-wheel vehicle in Thailand is playing
with death. It can be done without experiencing an accident but it cannot be recommended. Some drivers consider hitting cyclists
on the shoulder of the road a sport.
Avoid walking on the shoulder of a road.
Without going into detail, suffice it
to say that two popular American daily newspapers, the New York Times (NYT) and the Wall Street Journal
(WSJ), were banned in Thailand in 2015 and 2016. The NYT returned to newsstands in early May 2016 as
the International New York Times.
All other foreign newspapers, except the WSJ, and
magazines are still available. Le Monde and Le Figaro are available at Asia Books stores.
Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, Mad
Magazine, Der Spiegel and others are available.
The two main English-language daily newspapers in Thailand
are the Bangkok Post and The Nation.
Both newspapers offer a load of examples
of bad journalistic practices. The five Ws - Who, What, Where, When, Why (and sometimes How)
- should appear in the first paragraph of a news article. But in the Bangkok Post and The Nation,
all seldom appear in the first paragraph.
Often, one has to read through three or four
paragraphs to get the Who, What and Why. The Where
and When of the story are often omitted or unclearly stated.
The Thai press is notoriously out of touch. It took Thai newspapers
six weeks to realise that the 2004 tsunami was not a tidal wave. That is just one example.
The Bangkok Post is a half-way
decent-looking newspaper. It is by far the biggest English-language daily newspaper in Thailand. The
newspaper first appeared seventy years ago, in 1946. It
was started by an American agent of the Office of Strategic Services (O. S. S.), which was created by the U. S. government
in WW2 and disbanded after the war. The CIA, which was created after WW2, is often portrayed as
The newspaper was considered a State
Department rag (until the 1970s). It has not
changed much since the 1970s or 1980s. It is generally pro-government but often prints articles and opinion pieces that
oppose the government.
Since the army coup d'etat in May 2014, the Bangkok Post had gradually
turned into an army rag. It's last editor-in-chief, retired in January 2016, went out of his way to urge support of the junta.
The Bangkok Post can be purchased at Asia
Books and Kinokuniya book stores. Foodland Supermarket on Sukhumvit Road Soi 5 gets it around 8:00 every morning. Most
hotels have it in the lobby. Most Subway sandwich
shops have a copy . . . The Bier Stube in Chiang Mai gets it every morning.
If you are a late riser, bear in mind that the employees at
Foodland on Soi 5 pack up copies of day's Bangkok Post by eight ot nine at night. They are returned to the distributor
at dawn the next day. They are in a bound stack on top of the magazine stand or behind the baggage counter. You can get a
copy until dawn. You might have to ask the employee at the counter for a copy. Ignore the employee if she insists that the
newspaper is sold out or that it is too late to buy a copy.
is not considered a serious newspaper. Few people buy it. Many newspaper sellers refuse to stock it. The Nation first appeared in 1971. (It was rumored to
have been set up by the U. S. State Department or the C. I. A.) It never had a wide circulation. It always rated a very distant
second to the Bangkok Post.
In the past two decades The Nation
seemed to be run by a wacko outfit. The editors were incapable. Writers submitted articles to The Nation only in
the last resort. They were poorly paid. Often, they had to have connections to see their stuff in print.
The Nation went under
in the 1997 collapse of the Thai currency yet it
kept printing. But it was completely screwed up. It
was one of the worst newspapers in the world, No one will argue the point. For several years, it displayed
business news on the front page! It was prostituted to The China Daily. It could take up to six months to arrange to place an ad in the paper! Some bought a
copy only as a souvenir of the worst possible journalism imaginable. It seems to have recovered a bit in the past two
or three years and looks more like a real newspaper today.
The Bangkok Post and The
Nation share the dubious distinction of turning over their letters to the editor sections to some 20 letter writers who
account for some 70% of all letters printed over the past 20 years. A conspicuous example of very corrupt management and extremely
low journalistic standards.
Americans visitng offices of the Bangkok Post and
The Nation, will notice that the newspapers, like the U. S. State Department, are heavily pro-Democratic Party [US]. For
them, Republicans do not exist. Any Republican there is out of place. And during election years in the U. S., the natives
in the office turn savage. They hate Republicans.
The Irrawaddy, a magazine about Burma, is an example
of a State Department rag.
Sawat Dee Krap!
When a “foreign non-Thai
speaker” makes a statement to the police, the policeman asks someone to act as translator. The ability of the translator
varies. The translator is usually a Tourist Officer (T. O.), employed by the Tourist Police. A small guesthouse owner who
pretends to know English might be called in. A teacher from a local school might be called in.
The translator repeats
the foreigner’s statement verbally in Thai to the policeman. The policeman writes the statement in Thai in his report. Then everyone present, including the foreign non-Thai speaker who made the statement,
is asked to sign the police report as a witness.
The foreigner making the
statement is expected to take for granted that the policeman has written the statement accurately in the report.
Very often, however, the
policeman will deliberately write a false report, altering the witness’s statement, usually to make it appear that the
subject of the complaint committed no fault and that the witness admitted making a mistake.
If the foreigner asks the
translator to go over the policeman’s report and explain what the policeman has written, the translator, in conspiracy
with the policeman, pretends to read the statement as the foreigner dictated it. This is to give the foreigner the impression
that the police report is accurate.
Do not trust policemen
to make correct reports of statements.
Do not trust translators
to give accurate translations.
Some translators who are
relied upon by the police look like honest, reliable, decent local citizens. But they are not.
Do not sign the police
report. After the translator has signed the report, ask for a copy of it. Then take it to a reliable professional translation
service (there are very few) and get a certified translation. It might take a few days and cost a bit.
If possible, get translations
from two different offices. The results may differ considerably.
Also, prepare the
statement for the police in English and get a certified Thai translation of it.
the translations are ready and certified, inform the policeman’s superiors that the policeman did not write an
accurate report and that the translator did not give accurate translations.
in Thailand are particular uncooperative with foreigners in matters concerning theft, fights, prostitution and child trafficking.
No one likes to back down
from an argument, especially when one is in the right.
It is best to keep in mind that most misunderstandings
with Thais are caused by language differences. Few Thais actually understand English sufficiently. Most Thais have a limited
and even confused knowledge of English.
A disagreement with
a Thai can easily turn into a heated argument and become ugly very quickly. Not all Thais. But many of them.
Thais are little people
but it is unwise to argue with them. Thais have little patience. They are compulsive. They are short-tempered. And some
will try to terminate an argument with violence. They often have the support of other Thais present. They will even have the
support of some westerners present, who, for whatever reasons, feel it is more convenient to side with the Thai, regardless
of who is right and who is wrong.
Unless a violent Thai is
knocked out cold at once, things can get bloody. Thais use their fists, fingers, finger nails, feet, knees, teeth and foreheads.
They can produce a knife, a dagger, cutlass or broken bottle very quickly. And they can pull a gun.
get into an argument with a Thai, and the argument becomes heated, settle it quickly, if you can, by calling the local police
or the Tourist Police. If that is not possible, pay whatever is demanded and then report it to the police. You might get your
money back if you persist.
Chinese Police in Thailand
that the Thai police is nothing like the Chinese police.
policemen usually side with other Thais.
Tourist Police officers have even been seen beating complaining tourists inside and outside police stations in plain
view of many people.
Chinese police are well-known for summary execution of thieves. If the Chinese police are ever invited to handle theft from
tourists in Thailand there will be a marked decline in the native population.
Try E. S. P.
Internet has not really increased, simplified or improved communication. It has complicated and even hindered communication
with disastrous results.
2013, telegram services in Thailand were suspended.
were replaced by the Internet. Email was quicker and simpler than a telegram.
local telephone directory assistance in some cities, like Paris in France, has been suspended. One can no longer call directory assistance
for a telephone number in some countries. One
goes to the Internet instead. But many telephone numbers listed on the Internet are incorrect. For France, even the wrong
country code is listed on the Internet. And many local numbers are wrong.
Express Mailing Service (EMS) from Thailand is useless in an emergency because EMS letters are held up 24 hours or more by
customs officials at one end.
if one has to contact an elderly person abroad who travels without a cell phone and without checking his or her email and
has not bothered to give relatives a local telephone number, there can be a big problem.
has to turn to the police in the
country of the person who must be urgently contacted.
Thai-style boxing (Muay Thai) and
boxing as it is known world-wide (called "WBC boxing" in Thailand) are both very popular sports in Thailand.
Thai boxing is similar to boxing in
Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. But the Thais have worn gloves for several decades.
Film of a Thai boxing match in the
1920s (in the bareknuckle days):
In every resort town, or any city
with some sort of night life, Thai boxing is a regular feature.
Burmese boxing today (bareknuckle):
The point where three countries - Burma,
Laos and Thailand - meet on the Mekong
is known as the Golden Triangle. It is also a
notorious point in the opium trade.
Everyone wants to see the Goldren Triangle.
So tour operators run big buses full of tourists to it all day
long. There, you can sit down and look out across the Mekong at Burma and Laos. And pay three times more for anything
you order than it costs in Bangkok or Chiang Mai.
Everyone wants to know something about opium.
Indeed, until recent times, Thailand, like Burma, was commonly believed
to be the fiefdom of the big Kokang Chinese warlord Lo Hsing Han and the legendary Shan warlord Shan Shi Foo (Khun Sa)
and to depend on the export of opium.
Or so it might have seemed.
Lo Hsing Han (1933 - 2013)
Shan Shi Fou (Khun
(1933 - 2007)
Everyone wants to know something about them.
Around 1990, some tourists were paying trekking agencies in Mae Hong Son as
much as $5,000 per head to join a trek to Ho Mong, the Burmese headquarters of Khun Sa, in the hope of meeting the warlord.
So there is a big opium museum in the Golden Triangle.
Everyone can point out the way. It's across the road from the Anantara
Opium is a traditional way of funding an army. Gambling and
prostitution too. All the warlords do it.
Here's another run-of-the-mill film about the opium trade of Southeast
Asia - just one of hundreds of such films. Maybe paid for by the DEA, maybe the UN . . .
Buffalo Bill would have provided a better venue.
Here's another film (6 clips):
Not so long ago, the Thai army and Thai police worked hand in hand with Burmese opium producers and made
no effort to hide the fact. Now they pay journalists, NGOs and State Department turds to say they don't.
Anyway, the warlords have gone legit and opium poppy fields are being turned into cabbage farms, coffee
plantations . . .
Doi Chang Coffee
4-part Canadian documentary
Just as well, because the farmers didn't make much from opium. The middle
men made the money.
Opium is actually harmless. You can smoke it. It relaxes you.
Some people in the hills smoke it after work or after dinner to relax.
Some prefer whiskey. Some prefer beer. Some like pot.
Opium doesn't really make you indolent. There are, of course, people who
smoke opium to excess. It's like cigarettes. You can quit whenever you like.
Opium is against the law. But you can smoke it in remote villages if the
headman invites you.
Anywhere else can lead to a personal disaster.
In Laos, you can smoke opium in villages indoors. But be discreet.
In Laos, you can can actually smoke pot in public. But watch out for that
stupid tourist who is shocked and outraged by it and complains to the police or embassies.
Documentary about dams
The Amazon of Asia
Mekong River in Laos
documentary about dams
No casinos in Thailand
Because the Thai cowboys love to drink and gamble after
work on Friday night. And they love the local singers in the restaurants. By Monday morning, they're broke. They do it all
the time. And their wives and children don't like it.
Casinos would give the local cops too much influence.
But there are big casinos just across the
Mekong in Burma and Laos.
The big casino on the Burmese side of the Mekong
in the Golden Triangle is actually a resort. One can play golf, dine, gamble and sleep. Anyone can board a small shuttle on
the Thai side, cross the river and go to the casino.
There is a big casino on the Laotian side too.
There are big gambling casinos across the Thai border
in Cambodia, Laos and Burma. If Thais really want to gamble, they cross the border.
Want to work in a casino? Why not? Croupiers
in Las Vegas make thousands of dollars in tips every night.
Forget it! Here the Chinese and Thais do not tip.
Saving the Giant Catfish of the Mekong
There are bigger catfish in the world but this one is pretty
One place to observe fishermen bringing in and selling the giant
catfish is Chiang Kong in Thailand, across the Mekong from Ban Houei Sai in Laos
Elephant treks are offered in many places
The elephant sanctuary
in Lampang. The sanctuary has a hospital.
Elephants do all sorts of things.
They can paint
They can work
Elephants can play polo:
A lot of people wear them.
In up-country villagers everybody wears them. Baht 30 a pair, at
in Bangkok, you'll be lucky to find a pair your size. And if you
do it won't be for less than Baht 70.
Beware! The nice, smooth marble-like driveways of international
five-star hotels in Bangkok are very slippery. Wear a helmet.
The Gecko, your most frequent visitor in Thailand, anywhere you
go. Usually a solid light-brown color in Southeast Asia.
Space Age Reptile
The Gecko & Biomimicry with David Attenborough
Reptiles & Amphibians
A documentary with David Attenborough
Thailand - a shopper's paradise?
Maybe it was once. Not anymore!
Many items you take for granted at home cannot be found here. If it is, the
price is higher than in England or the U. S.
Egg nog and cranberry sauce, which disappeared frrom the shelves of
supermarkets in Thailand for many years, are available once again, but only during the Christmas holidays. Egg nog (two kinds)
and cranberries and cranberry sauce can be purchased in most Tops and Villa supermarkets on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok.
Mashed pumpkin is available. But chestnut cream is hard to find.
Those big delicious and inexpensive steak and kidney pies and chicken pot
pies that were once in the food court ot the Ambassador Hotel are long gone.
Inflation is fast and high here. And the dollar is not what it used to be.
June 1997: US$ 1.- (for $50 and $100 bills) = Baht 25.
The period from early July 1997 to early January 1998 was great
for dollar holders in Thailand. Only Hong Kong and P. R. China held firm while the little Pacific Rim nations went through a
Jan. 1998: US$ 1.- (for $50 and $100 bills) = Baht 56.
Early 2007: US$ 1.- (for $50 and $100 bills) = Baht 38.
May 2013: US$ 1.- (for $50 and $100 bills) = Baht 29.
Early September 2013: US$ 1. (for $50 and $100 bills) = Baht 32.
Early January 2014: US$ 1. (for $50 and $100 bills) = Baht 32.90
April 2, 2014: US$ 1. (for $50 and $100 bills) = Baht 32.25.
December 22, 2014: US$ 1. (for $50 and $100 bills) = Baht 32.75.
February 15, 2015: US$ 1. (for $50 and $100 bills) = Baht 32.60.
May 31, 2015: US$1. (for $50 and $100 bills) = Baht 33.60.
July 22, 2015: US$1. (for $50 and $100 bills) = Baht 33.35
The Thai Baht is divided into 100 sitang. There are 25 and 50 sitang coins.
Sometimes a 10 sitang coin turns up. The banks give and take all Thai coins. But there are many Thais who absolutely refuse
sitang coins. They are usually in the most menial jobs. In Pattaya, some beach concessionaries, many baht bus drivers, and
many toilet attendants refuse sitang coins and will make a big unpleasant scene over the matter. Tourists are forced
to go out of their way and lose much time just to fetch baht coins to pay the fare or to use of the toilet. From time to time,
even the cashiers at Sky train stations in Bangkok refuse to accept sitang coins.
If you have a lot of Baht you don't need, the banks will buy them back.
Bangkok Bank rate:
July 22, 2015: Baht 34.70 per US$ for $50 and $100 bills.
Private exchange offices offer slightly lower rates for a US$100 bill.
You can get better rates from Vasu, a private
exchange office on
Sukhumvit Road's main tourist strip.
Exchange rates on November 8, 2015: The buying rate (to buy Thai baht) for
a US$100 bill is Baht 35.63. The selling rate (to buy US dollars) for a US$100 bill is Baht 35.78.
Exchange rates on March 4 2016:
To BUY Thai Baht from a private commercial bank the rate is THB 35.00 to the US$ for a US$100
From a private exchange office the rate is a bit better: THB 35.35 to the US$ for a US$100 bill.
To SELL back Thai Baht, the commercial bank rate is THB 35.67 to
the US$ for a US$100 bill. A private exchange office offers a better rate: THB 35.42 for the US$ for a US$100 bill.
Exchange rates on March 21, 2016:
To BUY Thai Baht from a private commercial bank the rate is THB 34.74 to the US$ for a US$100
From a private exchange office the rate is a bit better: THB 34.84 to the US$ for a US$100 bill.
Exchange rates on May 23, 2016:
A private commercial bank offers Baht 35.27 for a US$100 bill. It sells the $100 bill for Baht
A private exchange office offers Baht 35.55 for a US$100 bill. It
sells the $100 bill for Baht 35.65.
August 23, 2016:
A private commercial bank offers Baht 34.28 for a US$100 bill. It sells the $100 bill for Baht
A private exchange office offers Baht 34.65 for a US$100 bill. It sells
the $100 bill for Baht 34.70.
The Baht seems to be recovering
13 September 2017:
A private commercial bank offers Baht 33.02 for a US$100 bill. It sells the US$100 bill
for Baht 33.09.
The Bangkok Bank is offering Baht 32.69 for a US$100 bill. It sells
the US$100 bill for Baht 33.36.
The most popular destinations for shoppers to Bangkok seem to be Mah
Boon Krong (MBK) (National Stadium Sky train station) and Siam Square (Siam Sky train station).
The weekend market at Chatuckak in northern Bangkok is very popular with
tourists but prices there are not lower than in shopping centers. (Kamphaeng Phet subway station).
Pantip Plaza (walk a ways from Chidlom or Rajadevi Sky train stations) is
Bangkok's biggest electronics shopping center.
Shops are generally open from the late morning (10:00 or 11:00) to
the late afternoon or early evening (18:00 to 20:00).
Anyone 5'6" and 150 lbs. or bigger will have trouble getting dressed in
In fact, shopping is much easier and simpler and much less expensive in
any suburban shopping mall in Britain, the U. S. and Canada. You will find all the casual clothing and formal outfits
you need there. Not in Thailand!
In Thailand's biggest cities, one might be able to find a decent pair of
100% cotton khaki slacks (like the John Henry brand), and decent short-sleeve shirts by the major brands (John Henry, Hazard,
Garbang, John Langford etc.), and regular Jockey underwear. But getting decent dress shoes is almost impossible.
Head for C. K. Tang in Singapore!
The worst tailors in the world seem to be in Thailand. Most tailors do not
have pure cotton khaki cloth. They do not have the right cloth for a pair of seersucker shorts. They know what a decent
coat or jacket should look like but have trouble realizing it.
Perhaps being a tailor in Thailand is a front for male prostitution.
According to local press reports, 90% of complaints from tourists are about
gem swindles. Tourists bought gems that turned out to be fake. Or not what they expected. They were sold jade that turned
out to be nephrite.
The rest of the complaints are mostly against tailors. Order a suit in a
certain cloth, get measured, and something else comes back, in another cloth and another size. And some tailors insist you
pay and take it away before it's even finished. No discussion! Completely crazy!
Most of the tailor shops in Thaland are owned by Indians. They are mostly
Indians born in Thailand. Most of them are Sikhs. But there are also Indians from Burma and Nepal. And there are Burmese and
The measuring and fitting are done by the Indian tailor and/or
Thai assistants that are called in from somewhere. Usually, the orders and specifications are handed to local Thais who do
the cutting and sewing. As everyone knows, Thai seamstreses can do nothing right. So, if a suit is alright in the first
fitting it is something short of a miracle.
Try getting your deposit back from a Sikh tailor!
Maybe there is a real Hong Kong tailor somewhere in Bangkok. But there does not seem to be one.
Twenty years ago, the Burmese or Nepalese man in charge of the best, least
expensive, most honest and most reliable tailor shop in Bangkok, Andy's, in the Ambassador Hotel, left the country. And
there has not been another like him.
Inflation is incredible. The two-piece pure woolen suit you bought from
a tailor in Bangkok in 2011 for Baht 7,500 cannot be bought anywhere for less than Baht 12,000 today.
Decent footwear is hard to find and more than double European prices. Larger
than size 45 is unavailable. The few good-looking Loake and Regal shoes are for little people. Unless you like weird-looking
proletarian footwear, you're going to have to order what you need from abroad through the post.
Before buying something in a shopping center, check with the vendors in
the street. The very same locally-made silk tie going for Baht 1,750 at
the Central Department Store in the Emporium on Sukhumvit Road can be bought
for just Baht 50 from the vendor in front of KFC on Silom Road in the evening. No kidding! (By last accounts, however,
she had sold all of her best ties and has only junk left.)
Shaving cream is a regular household item. Like soap and toothpaste. But
in Thailand it is sold as if it were a luxury item. For decades, all one could buy was a regular size can of Gillette
shaving cream. In the US or Canada this item sold for half a dollar. In Thailand it sold for Baht 104 (about US$ 4)!
Then, about a decade ago, a rival appeared. This was produced by Big
C. A regular size can of Big C shaving cream sold for Baht 69. It sold at Big C and Tops.
Rather than offer a competitive price, Gillette got the Big C item removed from Tops and upped the
price of its own item. The price of a can of Big C shaving cream eventually went up too, to Baht 89.
Then the price of Big C shaving cream went up to Baht 116.
Today, in June 2016, a regular size can of Big C shaving cream costs
Baht 116 (US$ 3.30. It is sold only at Big C. However, this item is often on sale and can be bought
for Baht 89 and even as low as Baht 69.
If you must have Gillette, a can of regular size shaving cream currently goes for Baht 189 to
229 and even higher.
Big C, owned by the French company Casino, was just sold to a Thai-Chinese
company so Big C shaving cream might soon disappear or its price upped 100% or more. You might consider hoarding it now.
When checking out small shops in the street, especially on
Sukhumvit Road, it is best to buy in the morning, around breakfast-time. You can bargain the price down a lot, by 50% or more. By
late morning the prices are far too high and it's cheaper to shop in the department stores.
Vendors used to line the sidewalk on the north end of Sukhumvit Road between
Soi 5 and Soi 17 from mid-morning to late at night. Since early in 2015, they have been restricted to night-time
In department stores like Robinson, Central, Mall and Tokyu,
always look for the sales offering 50% discounts. Decent GQ and Garbang shirts, for instance, going for Baht 1,400, can be
bought on sale for Baht 700. Also, Hazard and Jaguar shirts going for Baht 750 can be purchased on sale for Baht 350.
There are shirts without the conspicuous logos or patches. Salesgirls will offer you a 10%
discount, even if it's not advertised. Wait for the occasional sale and you can get it at a 20% discount.
Standard items disappear for long
periods. In late 2012, the universally popular short-sleeve navy blue golf-knit shirt, a standard item, produced by GQ, Garbang
and Hazard, disappeared from the shelves of Thai stores. Completely! The item did not reappear before the beginning of 2014.
Before shopping in most department
stores check out Big C and Lotus. They offer many items at the lowest prices in Thailand. Otherwise, head for the sales
at Tokyu at Mah Boon Krong (MBK) beside the National Stadium (National Stadium Sky train station).
Need sandals? Until mid-2014, Lotus offered size-45 brown imitation-leather
Stuttgart sandals for Baht 499, the price raised from Baht 399 earlier. But they are no longer available.
The Stuttgarts disappeared and they were replaced by a locally-made
sandal called Clicks, which sold for Baht 299. Clicks looked a bit better, they lasted longer and they were cheaper but not quite as comfortable. The soles were not waterproof and they were
slippery. They made noise too. In 2016, the Clicks were turned into a trashy article nobody could possibly want.
Now, one must pay more than Baht 2,000 for a half-way decent pair of sandals,
like that offered by the locally-produced Heavy brand.
Bangkok as a shopper's paradise is a myth. It is a wonder to see all those
big and fat visitors from Dubai shopping in Bangkok. What on earth are they buying? Can't they buy those things in Dubai?
Why not shop in Singapore?
Bangkok once had a two-month-long Christmas shopping season!
Now, for the first time, the Christmas season will be
just four or five weeks.
The Christmas tree in front of Terminal 21 (Pier 21) on Sukhumvit Road
and Soi 21 (Rajadapisek or Asok-Montri Road) in 2014.
In Europe and North America, the commerical Christmas season usually begins in December. Or, at the very earliest, after
Christmas was not a big
thing in Thailand before the proliferation of department stores. It was overdone
at first, with giant Christmas trees going up right after Halloween or in early November.
In 2014, the Christmas tree
in front of Terminal 21 went up on 15 November
and came down in mid-January.
In 2015, work on the tree began on 17 November and was completed
on 23 November, less the lights.
Realising, somehow, that this is not
really in good taste, the stores have scaled back. In 2016, most
department stores did not display a Christmas
tree before 1 December.
At Terminal 21, this year, 2016, work on the tree began late at night, after closing, on
7 December, and was completed on 10 December. Workers began the three-day task of dismantling the tree on the night of 15
January, after working hours.
The Christmas tree in front of
Terminal 21 in
December 2016. The
tree was decorated in
white lights. No
coloured lights. (Actually, there
were some big light blue stars.) Like many
in Bangkok this Christmas, in remembrance of
King Bhumibol, Rama IX, who passed away
13 October 2016.
If you have Thai friends, the ideal Christmas gift is
an Eifel Tower. The taller the better.
It seems everyone coming to Bangkok wants to visit the big weekend
market at Chatuchak in the north of Bangkok. (End of the subway line.) Large crowds of shoppers flock to it.
By and large, Chatuchak does not offer better buys than can be found
at Mah Boon Krong (MBK) in Siam Square.
Mango and sticky rice - one of Thailand's
favorite treats - available everywhere.
Recent chemical study in the U. S. shows that exported
Thai rice contains more than the safe level of lead.
Women, alone or in small groups, should not travel upcountry without a trusted
and reliable male escort.
WARNING TO TOURISTS
Consider carefully the expatriates you meet. Some have salaried positions in
government or big companies. Some are just on the payrolls. They use their jobs or contacts for illicit purposes. They
work with criminal gangs to run smuggling operations. They traffic women and children. They carry narcotics, stolen antiquities
and pornography. Some are spies. Some are loud and obnoxious alcoholics
and know-it-all braggarts.
They run around with bar-girls.
Remember: They have connections and/or diplomatic immunity. You don't.
You might not want to give them your real name.
WARNING TO EXPATS
Thinking of shacking up with a Thai girl in a small village in
the remote rural countryside?
Many expatriates or long-term tourists who settle in small upcountry
villages eventually become the object of local rumor-mills implicating
them in the
Beware of drunks, touts, prostitutes and local government officials.
Check out carefully the hotels and guest houses and their owners before taking a room. Double-check and consider carefully all information offered. Many Thais and even expatriates hanging around guest houses, bars
ands coffee shops
enjoy giving deliberately
false and misleading advice to travellers and making important appointments they do not intend to keep.
Above all, hang on to your money.
While some expats are decent people, others are alcoholics and live with
bad women. Some are troublemakers. Some are crooked businessmen.
Some work hand in hand with local embassy and consular officials.
If really interested in frequenting the locals in their villages,
keep it to a minimum.
Sitting in a hotel room?
There are all sorts of things to do in Bangkok.
The police morgue is now open to the public and visitors can
watch an autopsy.
October 14, 2013
Public invited to watch autopsies
Institute aims for higher profile as it marks
its 60th anniversary
There are pharmacies all over Bangkok and large resort towns. The are Boots
and Watson's stores everywhere.
But the best place to buy drugs in Bangkok is S. C. Drug Store at 944/21
Rama 4 Road, Sathorn, Central Bangkok 10500 (Silom subway station and Sala Daeng Sky train station).
Prices here are much lower than elsewhere. For instance, a drug that costs
Baht 360 in a hospital ot at Boots or Watson's costs only Baht 250 at S. C.
S. C. has all the drugs Boots and Watson's have.
Need a prescription drug? Don't have a prescription?
A doctor will have to provide the prescription. That means taking a physical examination and several medical tests.
If the needed drug is, for example, warfarin (orafin), that could take a while and cost a bit of dough. (Very few
pharmacies, even big popular ones, stock warfarin. The drug has to be purchased from a hospital and with a prescription.)
Fortunately, there is one pharmacy in Bangkok that will sell prescription drugs over the counter, at list price,
upon request without requiring a prescription. (That includes warfarin.)
It's right in the middle of town, in a big well-known store and a popular shopping destination.
Have a lot of gems and gold to sell?
Africans come to Thailand with $100,000 or so in gold and as much
in gems to sell.
Most hotels and guest houses run by reputable people can store the
gold and gems in a safe. Do not keep valuables in hotel rooms.
In general, gold can be sold in China Town. There are many gold
shops in Bangkok but many of them are concentrated in China Town.
In general, gems can be sold to Indian gem dealers in the
Indian sections of the city. Silom Road (Sala Daeng Sky train station
and Si Lom subway station) in the old Christian quarter of Bangkok has two big Indian gem dealers.
Take care of business before sight-seeing and partying. Don't carry a lot of cash when