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  • Living in Thailand Blog February 2009


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Living In Thailand Blog

Monday 23rd February 2009

I have decided to slow things down here a little earlier than anticipated because life has started to get busy.

The Thai school year has almost finished but I still have some more teaching commitments. Next month I have been asked to run a 'Teach the teachers' course for Thai teachers regarding phonetics and pronunciation, and then I have to participate in an English language summer camp.

I have never run a phonetics and pronunciation course before so I need to write it first. I ran an English writing course for dentists studying Master's degrees last year and that also had to be written beforehand. The course took about twice as long to write as it did to deliver. There is a lot of work involved in doing the planning, writing the course, preparing the material and student handouts, etc.

Two of my old students (one doing a Master's degree and the other who I helped with her PhD thesis and who is now doing research into Thai traditional medicine) contacted me earlier this week asking for more proofreading help. This kind of work - with all the technical terms - can be quite tough on the brain.

I want to finish my 'Learning to read Thai' tutorials and at the moment I only have plans to do three more: Some longer vowels; reading practice for place names; and reading practice for menus.

At some stage soon I need to try to meet my parents who are currently in Singapore with my brother but I'm not sure where or when that will happen. There used to be a direct flight to Singapore from here but that is no longer the case and getting down to Singapore is now a pain. I might meet them somewhere in Thailand.

I am also hoping to do some travelling alone in the central and/or northern regions of Thailand but, again, I'm not sure when. It depends a lot on teaching commitments and free time.

In addition, I want to get back into photography and I also want to get back into enjoying Thailand instead of just analysing it. Since I bought a new camera last year I have only really used it to take photos of signs and other boring things to supplement information on this web site. I haven't done anything artistic or creative for ages and I need to satisfy that creative urge.

The other thing I am keen to do is to try to shift my Thai reading ability up another level in order to get beyond the 'Reading Thai for dummies' level that I have been teaching in my tutorials.

There are lots of things I want to do and, as usual, there is never enough time.

I like being busy. I'd much rather have loads of things to do instead of being bored and spending every day in bars, sitting idly on a beach, or walking around shopping malls trying to pass the time. The downside to being busy is that invariably something has to give.

I will probably post a few blog entries here but I'm not planning to post nearly as often, or as much, as I have been doing recently. Once I get past this busy period I hope to return to blogging as before but I need to get this other stuff done first.

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Sunday 22nd February 2009

I have mentioned before that the head massage that comes as part of the service when having a haircut in Thailand can be very pleasurable. I also mentioned at the end of last year that I lost my regular hairdresser after she returned home to take care of her parents.

Since she left I have been checking out other hairdressers to find one I like. I haven't had much luck so far but I think my search may have ended today. I went to a place I'd never been to before and the girl did a great job cutting my hair.

What's more is that the shampoo girl gave the most incredible head massage. The way she caressed my head was as if she was making love to me. She gently ran her fingernails all over my scalp and massaged my neck and temples.

She wasn't the most beautiful Thai girl I have ever seen but these girls really know how to make a man feel good. I just closed my eyes and entered a dreamy, blissful state. I haven't been made to feel that good by a woman since, well, since Friday night when I went for a body massage.

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Saturday 21st February 2009

Every country has its Old Wives' Tales but they vary quite a lot across the globe. Last night I heard some Thai Old Wives' Tales from one of my regular massage girls as she was doing her thing on me. She's an Isaan girl. Please don't ask how this conversation started.

She told me that when a male child is born the mother checks his testicle size. Large testicles indicate that the child will be easy to take care of. He will drink his milk, sleep peacefully, and not cry a lot.

I asked about female children because, obviously, they have no testicles. With female babies, the belly-button is checked. A small belly-button on a baby girl (according to Thai folklore) indicates the same thing as large testicles on a baby boy, that is, a peaceful, happy child who will be easy to take care of.

As far as the Thais are concerned, small balls or a large belly-button aren't good signs. You'd better check.

It's not unusual in these parts to see elephants roaming around the streets in the evening. A few guys make a living by bringing their giant pachyderms into town and then getting people to buy the food they carry to feed to the large beasts.

The elephants are trained to give a little bow as a thank you gesture. Tourists love this kind of thing but Thais are also quite keen to buy food because elephants are a very special animal in Thailand and buying them food is a good way to make merit (according to the Thai belief system).

I would prefer not to see any naturally wild animal in captivity and think that a busy town is the worst place for an elephant but whenever I see one I can't help but be fascinated.

They are immense but, in relative terms, the ones that wander the streets of Thailand are small. A mahoot I was talking to told me you cannot do this with bull elephants because they are impossible to control. All you see are females and young elephants.

Considering that Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants, and that bull elephants are bigger than cow elephants, it's almost impossible to believe what size a fully grown African elephant can grow to.

Amazing creatures.

Whatever you say about Thais you can't deny their innate sense of fun. It's infectious and I find myself laughing a lot when in the company of Thais.

There is a small food shop near to where I work but I don't think it has a name. My students asked where I was going for lunch and when I explained to them I found out they have nicknamed it 'Mr Bean' because the owner looks like Rowan Atkinson's comic character.

Now, whenever I go there, I have to stop myself from laughing when I speak to the owner because there is a remarkable resemblance to Mr Bean.

When you give students an opportunity to express themselves there is usually a lot of humour involved. They love to pick on classmates to tease but it is all done gently and no one gets hurt. They love to laugh.

As a teacher, I feel rotten at times walking into such a fun-filled atmosphere and destroying it by actually trying to teach. Thai students don't like to be pushed outside their comfort zone and when you give them anything that requires effort that's what happens.

However, by only giving them material that they know - thus allowing them to remain inside their comfort zone - they don't learn anything new so it is a bit of a dilemma.

In Thailand everything has to be fun. Of the hundreds of language institutes that exist, I have never seen one that doesn't claim to teach English in a fun way. If you watch programmes on Thai TV that teach English they are made in such a way as to appeal to the Thai sense of humour and most of the teaching is done in Thai. This is why Andrew Biggs has turned himself from a normal human being into a caricature. He understands Thailand and Thai students.

I am fully aware of what is expected but I am there to teach, not entertain. Learning can be fun but there are many concepts in the English language that aren't fun to learn so it can't be fun all the time.

This sense of fun makes being in the company of Thais for social purposes very enjoyable but if you are in situations which are a little more serious you soon notice that they start to get uncomfortable.

If you teach, you never stop learning. My TEFL course was all about technical aspects of the language and this was very useful teaching more advanced students and proofreading PhD theses, etc. However, with high school students it is far more important just to tap into their wavelength and find ways to prevent them falling asleep.

Giving them the freedom to exercise their sense of fun is a good way to do this, and if they actually learn something at the same time it is a big bonus.

Harry Nicolaides has been given a royal pardon and released from prison. I read earlier this week that a royal pardon had been applied for but the official view was that it could take months to actually happen. This has all happened very quickly.

He looks very contrite in photos now; a big contrast to how he appeared earlier swaggering around in a fancy hat wearing an eyepatch like some latter-day pirate.

There is no free speech in Thailand and none of us can completely say what we might think. The situation has only got worse in recent years, with Giles Ungpakorn being the latest victim.

I didn't completely agree with what Giles Ungpakorn wrote a couple of years ago but I believe he has the right to say what he thinks. Unfortunately this view isn't shared by the powers that be in Thailand and when you live in a country you have to respect the local laws and customs.

It comes as no surprise whatsoever that so many foreign men of a certain age decide to leave their countries of birth and move to Thailand. The main reason is foreign women.

A correspondent in his early 60's told me that a trip to Thailand reignited his sex drive. He had had the usual problems with women from his own country and eventually his libido just switched off. However, a few weeks in Thailand with a massage girl 40 years his junior soon put things right!

I was always despised by farang girls, even when I was 20-something and in my physical prime. I have never resembled a male model but I'm not that bad. By the time I hit 35 I didn't stand a chance and couldn't get near a farang girl who didn't look like a beached whale. At 42 I decided enough was enough and moved to Thailand.

There can't be any bigger boost for a foreign male's ego than living in Thailand - and I'm not referring to the bar girls who insincerely refer to every ageing farang as 'Handsome man'.

I was told the other day I was perfect! I fell about laughing. At the age of 48 and having never been married, I can't be that perfect. One of the Thai teachers has taken quite a shine to me and she hasn't been shy in letting me know.

There is a big emphasis on marriage and kids in Thailand and Thais tend to marry and have kids quite young. I take care of my appearance, speak enough Thai to have decent conversations, and make the locals laugh. She looked at me longingly and told me she couldn't believe I had never been married because I was perfect!

Before I get carried away or start to give the wrong impression, I think that any reasonably presented farang male in my position would get exactly the same treatment. There is nothing special about me.

There's a big difference in behaviour between the sexes in Thailand. Most females are very demure and riep roi whereas a lot of males only seem to be interested in smoking, drinking and racing cars and motorbikes around the streets.

There are a lot of females who ignore the juvenile men and just get on with their education and careers, hoping that a good man will come along. Suddenly they find they have hit 30 and they still haven't met a good man. By this age they consider themselves well over the hill and many give up hope of ever finding a good man.

Age difference isn't a big problem in Thailand, as it is in the West, and many Thai girls around 30 will happily consider relationships with men up to 60 if he's a good man. A lot of the girls I've spoken to actually have a preference for older men. I think they associate youth with the juvenile behaviour of the Thai men they are familiar with.

The girl who likes me was telling me how a lot of the younger teachers are single, and that quite a few have made favourable comments about me. Most are shy though and she is the only one who has made an approach because she isn't shy. She's actually quite extrovert.

What's a bit unfortunate is that many of the foreign men who come to Thailand looking for a partner don't make an effort to seek out the right kind of girls. The girls I'm referring to are quite difficult to meet but it isn't impossible; it just takes a little bit of effort.

Bar girls of 18 and 19 and very easy to meet in Phuket and Pattaya but try to look at this sensibly if you are a 50 year-old foreign male. I'm not saying it can't work but the odds are stacked against you.

The best advice is to avoid tourist areas, don't go for girls who are too young and/or too beautiful, and learn to speak a bit of Thai. It might take more effort this way but the effort will be rewarded and there is much less chance of things going horribly wrong.

Horror stories about foreign men and Thai girls are legendary but most of the time it is just stupidity on the part of the farang. I heard a story just recently from a long-term expat and we both agreed that you can't blame the girls if farang men act so stupidly.

He was telling me about an English guy who got involved with a married girl. She gave him some line about her husband treating her badly but it was all lies. Other foreigners told him not to get involved but he ignored all their advice.

He got her a visa for the UK and took her home to England. After a few months she convinced him to add her as a signatory to his bank account. Foolishly, he agreed. Shortly afterwards she cleaned out his bank account and scarpered - probably back to her husband.

I have heard lots of stories about farangs buying houses and cars in the name of their Thai girlfriend/wife, only for her to then boot him out.

I think that most of these problems begin with foreign men meeting the wrong types of Thai girl, and from there it just goes from bad to worse. There are abundant opportunities to meet good women in Thailand but that doesn't mean there are any short cuts.

Good Thai girls need to be dated and woo-ed the same as any other good girl, and this process can take quite a long time. You can have a 'girlfriend' within five minutes as soon as you step into any Thai beer bar but buyer beware.

In the mating game there are no short cuts - not even in Thailand. All I need to do now is to start following my own advice but it is so difficult with so many stunning looking girls around!

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Friday 20th February 2009

A few incidents have occurred lately that remind me I need to add some comments about regional differences in Thailand. I am based in the deep south, fairly close to the Malaysian border, and my comments about Thailand are heavily influenced by where I am located.

If, for example, I were to describe living in Phattalung (one of the most conservative provinces I know in Thailand) it naturally wouldn't make any sense to someone living in Pattaya - or vice versa. What you see and experience in Thailand depends very much on where you are.

Foreigners have written to me in the past telling me I am wrong about Thai girls. My observations may be 'wrong' regarding where they live but not where I live.

Earlier this week one of my students told me she might go to study in Bangkok during the school holidays. I asked why Bangkok and not locally. She told me that people work a lot harder in Bangkok and standards are higher, whereas southerners are lazy. Her words, not mine, and she's a southern Thai.

Yesterday I saw one of the Thai teachers I know with fresh bruises, scrapes and bandages on her arms and legs. Whenever I see this sight I know it is a result of a motorbike accident. I was right, of course.

I then had the same conversation with her and another teacher that I've had a thousand times before about driving in Thailand. What they told me though was that driving is a lot more dangerous in the south compared to the rest of the country. The other teacher I was speaking to comes from Chiang Mai and she confirmed this.

They told me that southern Thais are jai rawn which translates to 'hot heart' or as we might say in English, 'hot-headed'. They show a lot more anger and aggression and this is reflected in the way they drive.

This might explain why I get so upset about driving in Thailand? Perhaps I need to speed up my plans to move to Chiang Rai?

When Iss used to work in a beauty salon she was full of praise for the staff from Isaan because they worked hard and didn't think any task was beneath them. She told me that lots of southern Thais felt they were above doing certain types of work so would refuse.

I don't like to stereotype people because there are always exceptions but there are distinct regional differences.

Bangkok has a lot of foreign companies and foreign workers. Because of this there is more of an international feel, the pace of life is quite fast, people generally work harder, and Thais tend to speak better English.

A foreigner who wrote recently, who used to live in Thailand, told me that attitudes towards sex among Thai girls in Bangkok are different compared to provincial Thailand. The provinces tend to be a lot more old-fashioned and conservative compared to cosmopolitan Bangkok.

A Thai friend in Bangkok tells me that traffic police there are a lot stricter (she knows this from first-hand experience as she has been given a few tickets). The law that was brought in last year to make using a mobile phone illegal while driving in Thailand has had absolutely no effect down here in the south because there is no law enforcement.

The south is wealthier than other provincial regions. There is abundant rubber, fruit, fishing, plus a big part of the tourism industry. Southern Thais tend to be quite independent - which is good - but they can also be quite arrogant and stubborn. There are also big Chinese and Muslim populations in the south so more of a cultural mix.

There is a huge emphasis on education in the south and parents keep their children in education for as long as they can afford. Prostitution exists in the south just as it does all over Thailand but it is rare to find any southern girls working in the industry. Most are from the north and northeast of Thailand, as well as from mainland China and neighbouring countries.

Nakhon Sri Thammarat has a reputation for being full of cut-throats and murderers. This isn't the case at all but natives of Nakhon are quite wary of outsiders and don't suffer fools gladly. They can come across as aloof and aggressive but they aren't really - in much the same way as people from big cities such as London and New York can come across.

The northerners are quite gentle and - in addition to their driving - this is even reflected in their speech. It's a lot easier speaking with northern Thais because they speak slower. The southern dialect is machine-gun fast (a bit like Tagalog) and very difficult to understand.

Isaan is the poorest region in Thailand, as well as being the most populous. Not having much money, many northeasterners have to rely on other people so they are very good at taking care of others. When I go for a massage the first question I ask is where the girl is from. If the answer is Isaan it generally means the service will be very good.

Last year I went out for lunch with a southern Thai couple. The male half of the couple told me in front of his southern Thai girlfriend that Isaan girls are best at taking care of men! His girlfriend didn't react angrily as I thought she might. I think it's because this fact is generally accepted by Thais.

Because of the way most foreign men meet Thai girls, they meet girls from Isaan. If you can find a good one you are laughing. Unfortunately, most of the bad girls you read about in Thailand also come from Isaan so you have to be a little careful.

As I mentioned above, Isaan folks aren't afraid of hard work. Isaan is the engine that drives Thailand. Northeasterners do the hardest and lowest paid work, and you never hear them complaining. After toiling in the rice fields or on construction sites all day they will happily gather in the evening to eat Isaan food, drink beer and sing along to Karaoke.

When I spent a week in Nong Khai province a few years ago I think I met the poorest Thais I have ever met, but also the happiest and most contented Thais I have ever met.

As I said, I don't like to stereotype because there will always be people who will prove you wrong but there are certain similarities among Thais who come from the same region. This may also explain why my observations might seem wacky to people living in, or who have experience of, other regions of Thailand.

A few years ago I used to spend a lot of time on a travel web site. I think I did this because I was bored with my life in the UK and I used it as an escape from reality. Shortly after I moved to Thailand I left the site for good and never went back.

I constantly receive invitations to join so-called 'social networking' sites but based on my previous experience something tells me it isn't healthy to develop a social life on the Internet so I refuse.

I have never signed up with Facebook and, despite lots of pressure from certain people to do so, it is something I refuse to do: 'Get off Facebook and get a life'

The Internet and TV (especially that thing known as 'reality TV) are the biggest time-wasters ever to have afflicted humanity. Since moving to Thailand I haven't owned a TV. Previous apartments had TVs but I hardly watched anything and my current apartment didn't come with one.

I didn't think it was worth buying or renting a TV so I haven't had a TV in my room for about three-and-a-half years. It is something I have never missed and as a result of not having one I use my time far more productively.

Someone has at last confirmed my theory: Online networking 'harms health'

The Internet is a wonderful thing and it has transformed the world but there is a dangerous side to it. If you are spending several hours a day on-line, or if you have more on-line friends that you've never met than real friends that you have met, then I would start to worry a little.

I spend more time at my computer than I should but my time is spent writing this rubbish, not pointlessly surfing around forums. That is all about to change soon. After this month I am going to start winding things down here to free up time to enjoy another one of my interests.

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Thursday 19th February 2009

I talked recently about how different the belief system is in Thailand compared to the West. This should not be underestimated by foreigners living in or visiting Thailand. See: Rite seeks to absolve Thaksin of 'past life bad karma'

All seems remarkably similar on the surface in Thailand but once you start digging deeper and find out how Thais really think, the differences are huge.

Regular readers will know that I go on at length about the lunacy on Thailand's roads. I was following some links the other day that started off from a football forum and ended up with a gay partnership!

One of the people I was reading about described how his brother was killed in Bangkok by a hit-and-run driver (final paragraph of the article). I am never surprised when I read this type of thing.

The Nation has just reported that a British tourist was run over and killed by a speeding pick-up truck in Kanchanaburi yesterday by another hit-and-run driver.

A girl teaching English in Thailand, Charlotte Heppel, was killed a few years ago while crossing the road in Bangkok.

In most countries crossing the road isn't a particularly dangerous thing to do but it can be in Thailand - especially Bangkok because of the huge volume of traffic.

Ignore reports about Bird Flu and other scare stories. If you visit Thailand remember that the single biggest danger to life is on Thailand's roads. Be very careful when travelling by road, or crossing roads.

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Wednesday 18th February 2009

The following is doing the rounds on the Internet. I wonder if it's true or just another urban myth? (I can't find anything on Snopes.) If it's true, the prediction is very accurate. It was twenty years ago this year that there were some pretty momentous events going on around the world as the old Communist Bloc started to collapse.

1989 was quite a year if you are old enough to remember. After that, unbridled capitalism lasted for about 18 years before it too came crashing down. What will happen next? A return to communism as predicted below, a more moderate form of capitalism, or maybe something completely different (see Sufficiency Economy below)?

I can't really see a return to communism and I don't think governments will be brave enough to try something completely different so I suspect a more moderate form of capitalism. We shall see.

"Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more expensive goods, houses and mechanical products, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalised, and the State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism"

Karl Marx, Das Kapital, 1867

The way that our governments control and deceive us in order to satisfy their own agendas is nothing short of criminal.

Stella Rimington, the ex-head of Britain's MI5, has just admitted what most of us have suspected for a long time; that the UK government has exploited people's fear of terrorism to restrict civil liberties.

The USA did the same thing with the PATRIOT Act and the Singapore government does its best to keep Singaporeans as paranoid as possible. Is it really necessary to insist that every new apartment in Singapore is built with a bomb shelter, and to have fighter jets buzzing around the little island continuously?

People's happiness quotient depends a lot on their expectations, and the majority of Thai people are lucky to follow a religion that sets realistic (if somewhat pessimistic) expectations in life. Buddhism starts by saying 'Life is suffering' which immediately sets an expectation. Buddhism also advocates detachment from the impermanent things of the material world and tells its followers not to grasp at things.

It is this continual grasping at things that leads to suffering (dissatisfaction) and the only way to stop the suffering is to stop the grasping. The Thai people are also very fortunate to have a monarch who tells them that having enough is all they need. The King's theory of 'Sufficiency Economy' is well known to all Thais and it is a theory I think makes a lot of sense.

The theory adheres to Buddhism's principle of following a Middle Path. There is focus on development and advancement but also a focus on human needs, the well-being of the people, sustainability, and preserving the natural environment.

Why is it then that there is such grasping for money and material things in a society where the predominant religion and the country's most influential person says that this grasping is wrong?

I was involved in another one of those conversations a couple of days ago that I have often in Thailand. Someone asked me what I did and I replied that I taught. I was then asked why I didn't open a language school.

The last thing I want is the headache of running a business. When I stop teaching I can forget about teaching until the next time - provided, that is, that I have completed my lesson plans. I don't want any more hassle in life and I am satisfied with what I have.

"Ah, but you can earn a lot of money," came the reply.

Why do so many Thais think that way? I don't have a lot of money but I have enough for my needs, plus a little more. Why is it that my thinking is much more in line with Buddhism and Sufficiency Economy than many Thais?

I could understand if very poor Thais were obsessed with money but that isn't what I've found to be the case. The poorest Thais seem to be the ones who are most content with what they have and the greedy ones are often those who are quite wealthy in the first place (taxi drivers being an exception).

Mulder may have given me the answer. His little book on Thai society is one that I repeatedly refer back to. This also gets back to the subject I opened with.

Happy, contented people are not what governments want. Thaksin's yardstick (and he wasn't the only one) was GDP. His entire measure of success was GDP and he couldn't have cared less how his policies affected people mentally, so long as Thailand's GDP and stock market index were going up year-on-year.

He believed he could run a country using business management theory and that a Prime Minister could act like a company CEO. What rubbish. You can hire and fire employees at will if you are running a company. How are you supposed to do that if you are running a country?

A previous Prime Minister, Marshal Sarit Thanarat (1957-63), regarded certain Buddhist teachings as being 'non-productive and an impediment to national development' (Inside Thai Society by Niels Mulder p100).

The late Buddhadasa Bhikkhu argued with another Thai Prime Minister, M.R. Kukrit, about this matter but to no avail. Buddhism also teaches its followers not to believe anything they are told but to find out for themselves. This is something else that controlling governments don't want.

According to Mulder, the school curriculum was rewritten in 1978 to bring the government's version of Buddhism in line with what it wanted of its citizens. Rather than being told not to believe and to think for themselves, students are taught to be obedient so that they then became tractable subjects.

There is a great emphasis on rote-learning in Thailand, rather than getting students to think for themselves. The ability to memorise is quite advanced but the ability to think is lacking. If what is wanted by government is a tractable population then too much individual thinking can be dangerous so rote-learning is encouraged.

The amount of advertising in Thailand is quite shocking and with this constant brainwashing it is easy to understand how people subjected to it start to grasp for so much. The hub of every small community in Thailand used to be the local temple but now shopping malls have taken over, and Thais are influenced more by TV than they are by monks. This may be a lot better for the economy and GDP but not for people's mental health and well-being.

My general observation is that globalisation has occurred too quickly for most Thais, who are used to a more traditional way of life, but Thai politicians have forced the issue along purely for reasons of money and economic development. The environment has also suffered badly as a result.

It's a shame but Thailand isn't alone in having politicians who are more interested in their own agendas than the well-being of the people they are supposedly paid to take care of.

I'm not sure when it's going to happen but eventually wider society will begin to understand that the tireless pursuit of money has to stop, and that other factors are more important. The current economic crisis that we are experiencing now may just be the start of this shift in thinking.

Maybe King Bhumibol will eventually be awarded the Nobel prize for economics for being the only person to advocate a theory that is so different to how almost every government thinks?

Even now as the economic crisis deepens, politicians around the world are just pumping money into the economy trying to resuscitate an economic theory that is in its death throes.

What is really saddening is that we don't learn from our mistakes. After the Asian economic crisis of 1997 John Laird wrote an excellent analysis in his book 'Money Politics, Globalisation, and Crisis - The Case of Thailand'.

He identified all the causes and posed the question, "Can it happen again?" As we have seen, just 10 years later it did happen again on a much larger scale, and for basically the same reasons - greed and huge amounts of debt.

For more information about the King's theory see: Sufficiency Economy. There are some good articles in PDF form at this web site.

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Monday 16th February 2009

No matter which country I'm in, at those times of year when the weather changes I inevitably go down with a cold. My throat was on fire last week and quite painful. I thought it had gone but the symptoms have changed and now I have an annoying cough that I can't get rid of.

In times of illness I am used to suffering alone. Even when I used to live with my parents I never got much sympathy, and for all of my adult life I have struggled alone through illness.

This attitude is almost inconceivable to Thais. Whenever I tell Thais I live alone they ask who takes care of me when I'm ill. "No one," I tell them and they find this very strange.

Most of my Thai friends are female and whenever I'm sick they start running around looking after me. It's great! I have had situations in the past when two girls have almost started fighting over who will take care of me. If one girl finds out that another has been playing nurse, she can get quite upset.

A few years ago when I was living with Iss I got quite a bad bout of food poisoning. The hospital suggested it would be better if I was admitted for the night so they could keep a check on me. I agreed and they made a room available.

What came next quite surprised me. Iss just bedded down on the sofa in the room. She wasn't going anywhere and was going to stay with me through the night. It surprised me at the time but this is quite normal behaviour in Thailand.

Mulder talks about Thai society being based on buun-kuun (kindness, goodness) and obligation. Showing kindness to others when they most need it demonstrates moral goodness and builds a debt of gratefulness and obligation which in turn should make relationships more predictable and stable.

The anaylsis sounds a bit sterile but the reality is that if you know the right people when you are sick in Thailand, you will be taken care of very well.

It's not exactly free though.

Just like the farang men who give money to poor Thai girls, this isn't entirely a no-strings-attached act of philanthropy, but a potential investment.

Whenever Thai girls make an effort to look after me it is because they want the relationship to develop and they try to do this by building up a debt of gratitude and obligation. These aren't random girls who want to be my nurse, but girls who have already shown an interest and want that interest to be reciprocated.

I am aware of this so make an effort not to lead girls on who I'm not interested in. It's a nice problem to have. If I was still in England, I would never have these problems as I would still be suffering alone with no one wanting to take care of me.

Amazing Thailand.

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Visit Thailand

Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.

One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia. used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.

If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.

Images of Thailand

Images of Thailand