Living In Thailand Blog
Thursday 10th January 2008
Just before I woke up last week to go to the bullfight, I heard some strange noises in my apartment building. Thais aren't always the most considerate of neighbours as far as noise is concerned so this is something you get used to.
I was also half asleep so didn't pay much attention. However, I found out the following day what had happened.
A Thai man had climbed into my apartment building and went into the room of the girl next door to me. She stays there alone. He beat her severely, tried to rape her, and left with her money, phone and laptop computer. She is a Master's degree student and the computer contained her thesis which wasn't backed up.
He didn't force his way into the room. Some people - myself included - don't like sleeping with the A/C on so leave the glass door open with just the insect screen in place. There were some break-ins last year and the management have just installed an additional screen door but she hadn't padlocked it.
The problems last year had not involved any violence so it seemed that the police weren't that interested. On this occasion though, it was a serious offence so the cops investigated a little more.
They asked around the neighbourhood to find out if anyone had CCTV cameras installed. A shop close by did and after analysing the footage, they actually managed to track the guy down. As a day job, he drives a sawng-thaew (the converted pickup trucks with rows of seats in the back).
When he isn't driving people around, he apparently breaks into people's apartments, stealing and raping. Word has it that this was the same guy responsible for the problems last year. The apartment building is quite upmarket for local standards and I figure he guessed there would be rich pickings.
Also, many of the residents are female so therefore easy victims who won't put up much of a fight. Most are actually nurses from the local private hospital because the apartment has a special deal with the hospital which subsidises rent for its employees.
The Thais have some strange procedures that they go through whenever criminals are caught. The criminal is taken back to the crime scene and made to re-enact the crime. This is what happened today.
A throng of people descended on the apartment building today including police, several news crews, lots of curious onlookers and, of course, the criminal - who was in handcuffs. I found it all quite disturbing.
I spoke to my neighbour and was shocked at how she looked, her face black and blue. I also spoke to another female resident whose room was broken into last year. As she tried to escape, she slipped and broke her leg. She is still hobbling around on crutches.
It was very disturbing to come face to face with the bad guy who had the build of a Thai boxer. Previously I had felt fairly reassured that if it happened to me I could deal with the average Thai man but I could tell straight away that he was a lot stronger than me.
The next disturbing thing was how a procession of people marched into the girl's room with no respect for her privacy. I felt sorry for her having to go through all this again just a week after the break in. She is now terrified, not being able to stay there alone and her mother has moved in temporarily until she can move to a room on a higher floor.
Many of the women watching all this were in tears and I too felt myself welling up. I will never be able to understand how one human being can do what he did to another human being. Fortunately, most people feel the same way but there must be a criminal gene in a small minority that allow them to carry out these heinous crimes.
I asked a few people what they thought would happen to him and was told he would probably get four or five years in jail. I think the only real justice would be to put him in a room with the girl's family and friends for a few hours and give them baseball bats.
There is no doubt that the poor girl will now be emotionally scarred for life. He should at least be made to experience a terrifying ordeal similar to the one he put her through.
As a footnote, she got her computer back but without her thesis so this incident, as well as emotionally scarring her, has seriously set back her studies.
Thursday 3rd January 2008
I went to a bullfight today. The Thai version is quite different to the Spanish version in that bulls fight against bulls without the equivalent of a matador. Also, no killing is involved. When one bull has had enough he simply runs off and the fight is over.
I have been before so it wasn't a new experience but with the new year here, one of my resolutions was to try to return to a healthier lifestyle. Let me explain.
As a tourist - and when I arrived in Thailand to live at the end of 2003 - I spent all of my time wandering around outside, exploring every facet of the country. I would walk for hours just taking photos, meeting and talking to people, and taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Thailand.
At some point, everything changed. Having seen it all, I lost interest. I started spending a lot more time indoors and most of that time was spent on-line. It's a most unhealthy lifestyle though.
They are always there, always wanting to be the experts, and wasting hundreds of hours making thousands of posts. What is the point? Is this how they deal with low self-esteem? Or is it just boredom?
As I knew it would, it turned out to be a good day. I was the only foreigner at the event and it was good to experience some genuine southern Thai culture and not just an artificial simulation of Thai culture laid on for tourists.
I took quite a lot of photos. This is another resolution - to actually go out and take photos instead of wasting my life reading speculations about new cameras and hearing people moan about autofocus problems, etc. The DPReview forums have to be one of the biggest wastes of time known to man.
The Internet is a fantastic tool but that is all it is. To use it as a substitute for real life is extremely dangerous. I think we will soon start to see the psychological casualties as a result of people who have isolated themselves from the real world and only communicate with other people on-line.
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. I always use Agoda to book hotels in Thailand. The company was established in Thailand and has great local knowledge, as well as a huge inventory of hotels.
If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.
I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.
If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.
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. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.
Images of Thailand