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  • Living in Thailand Blog March 2018
 

 

Welcome to Planet Thailand

Welcome to Planet Thailand

 

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Living In Thailand Blog

 

 

Friday 30th March 2018

Today (for about two hours) I became the owner of a smartphone. I am probably the last person in Thailand not to have one. I paid to have my wife's old iPhone repaired, which involved replacing the touch screen and battery.

Upon getting home and attempting to use it, I had to press the touch screen very hard to get a response. I took the phone back to the shop and explained this to the girl. She told me it was because it is an old phone. Well, yes it is, but the touch screen isn't functioning properly and this is the part that has just been replaced. Thai logic confuses me at times.

Anyway, the phone has gone back to be repaired again, which is why I only had it for about two hours. What I definitely won't be doing with the iPhone is playing with Facebook or any other social media all day. There's an app available to control my camera remotely, which I thought might be useful, and there are some other apps I am interested in ... but definitely not social media.

I plan to keep my old phone to make calls and just use the smartphone with Wi-Fi for a few apps. It doesn't need to have a SIM card, but when I was setting it up I could only get so far without a SIM card. Why do manufacturers do this? Why am I made to get things that I don't need or want? I was thus forced to buy a SIM card.

After getting the phone repaired today I topped it up with Bt100 to give a total balance of Bt132. A little later I was sent a message that I ignored, but when I checked the balance again I only had Bt44. Huh, where did that Bt88 go?

After having problems with people stealing money from my account on my other phone recently I wasn't thrilled to experience a similar thing with the smartphone. I called AIS again.

Apparently, the SIM card I bought included 7 days' worth of Internet use. This had run out, so AIS renewed it automatically without bothering to ask me first if I wished it to be renewed. This kind of 'opt out' thing really annoys me.

Companies enrol you automatically for paid services and it is up to you to contact them to opt out. It should be the other way round. They should ask first to see if you want the service and if you do you can opt in. Anyway, the AIS service centre was very helpful and they told me they will refund my money. I have also cancelled the Internet service.

My wife uses a different mobile operator, DTAC, and she suffers from another problem. If she wishes to use their Internet service she turns on the service and gets charged a certain amount of Baht for one day's use. However, she finds that money is removed from her balance quite frequently when she didn't request the Internet service. The DTAC service centre has told her there is nothing they can do.


I liked this Japanese man's T-shirt, but it's not quite correct.

 

Game over

Game over

 

In my experience marriage by itself doesn't signal the end of the game, but children do. The problem in Thailand is that close families are a very strong part of the culture and, in addition, with a state pension of Bt550 (US$17.63) per month and no concept of private pensions, Thais look towards children to support them in old age because once they stop working they can't support themselves.

Quite a few foreign men get involved with Thai women who already have children, and if the woman doesn't already have children there's a very strong possibility that she will want children.

I love my kids to bits and would never wish to be without them, however, once they arrive they complete dictate the way you live. With hindsight I wish that I had done a few more things on my own before I got married and entered fatherhood.

The kids have now started their school summer camp, which lasts for about a month, and then the new school year will begin. My wife has been taking them in the morning and picking them up at lunchtime. While they are all out it is great for me because I can actually get things done, but when they come back the wife is normally in a foul mood and the kids are their usual, energetic selves.

When the new school year begins she will start teaching again and they will be out all day. I am looking forward to having lots of time during the day, but evenings aren't going to be much fun.

Most foreign males who go to live in Thailand are single (or maybe widowed or divorced) and they tend to hook up with local females. The fact it is so easy to do this is the main reason why many foreign males go to Thailand. I was completely naive about how marriage and children would change my life. My advice to any single males contemplating making a move to Thailand is never to underestimate how life-changing it will be.

The Thai girls are also very clever in the way they go about getting what they want. They know that pushing men too hard too fast may result in losing the man, so they do it slowly in little steps but they always manage to get what they want eventually.

Making the decision whether or not to have a family isn't easy. I know many men who have resisted their whole lives and delight in the fact that they have the time and money to do whatever they want. However, I don't always think they are as happy as they make out.

As Jordan Peterson said in one of his videos it is responsibility that gives meaning to life. You can avoid having any responsibility for other people and just look after yourself, but what else is there? Just doing what you want to do is very selfish and actually it gets quite boring.

I saw this with my Thai friend who came to visit recently. He's now getting close to 70 and has avoided responsibility his whole life. He lives life like a permanent tourist, but I can see that often he is bored and lonely and lacks greater meaning in his life.

How you live your life, of course, is a very personal thing and only you can decide. As I've said many times before, you can have anything, but you can't have everything. You can't enjoy the freedom of being a single man and at the same time have the same warmth of having a family.

The thing to do in life is try to get some balance, the Middle Path in Buddhist terms. That's what I'm hoping for as the children get older. I just hope I live long enough!

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Thursday 29th March 2018

Maya Beach on Phi Phi island is just about to be closed temporarily. As I have mentioned previously, many parts of Thailand are now complete overrun with tourists. It is unsustainable and environmental damage is being caused. Apart from that, beautiful destinations just look a mess with thousands of tourists everywhere. The Thai authorities have now taken some action, which is a good thing.

Thai beach from Leonardo DiCaprio film to close temporarily

Phi Phi went crazy after the movie 'The Beach' was released in 2000, but it has happened in many other parts of Thailand as well. More people travel these days and now that we have the Internet there are no longer any secret destinations in the world. It's quite sad, really.

When I first went to Railay Beach in Krabi in 2004 it was almost completely deserted, but when I returned earlier this month it was swarming with tourists.

I have just dug out a few photos of my visits to Phi Phi island. The first three were taken in 1996. The quality isn't great. They were taken on a film camera and then scanned in, but you get the idea.

Phi Phi island, Thailand in 1996

Phi Phi island, Thailand in 1996

 

Phi Phi island, Thailand in 1996

Phi Phi island, Thailand in 1996

 

Phi Phi island, Thailand in 1996

Phi Phi island, Thailand in 1996

 

The next photo was taken in 2003 and by then Phi Phi had already started turning into a zoo. It was still stunningly beautiful, and I'm sure it still is, but even in 2003 there were far too many tourists and I hate to think what it is like now.

Phi Phi island, Thailand in 2003

Phi Phi island, Thailand in 2003

 

The situation has become so bad that now I simply refuse to go to certain parts of Thailand. Thailand will never return to how it was on my trips in the 1980's and 1990's. I'm glad at least that I saw it then because I will never see it again.


Man has 'world's worst' super-gonorrhoea

The particular strain of gonorrhoea he has is highly resistant to antibiotics. The antibiotics that have been used so far, which are the antibiotics normally recommended for gonorrhoea, haven't had any effect and there is possibly one more antibiotic that might work.

He has a regular sexual partner in the UK, but became infected after a one-off encounter with an Asian woman in Southeast Asia. News reports do not say which country in Southeast Asia, but I suspect one of the two countries in Southeast Asia that have huge commercial sex industries.

There is still a massive sex tourist industry in Southeast Asia. Some of the girls are very attractive and prices are cheap, but you may be left with a souvenir from you vacation that is everlasting and highly undesirable.

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Tuesday 27th March 2018

My personal attempt at fixing the unwanted SMS problem didn't work, so yesterday I called into the AIS customer service centre.

I've used AIS's mobile service since 2003 and their service has always been excellent. Customer service is gradually improving in Thailand, but even in the old days when generally it was dreadful the service at AIS was always good.

This is the company that Thaksin started. It was a shame that he was so self-serving because he also had some good ideas on how to improve things in Thailand.

At the service centre there is a member of staff who greets customers at the door, asks what the problem is, and redirects customers to the appropriate place.

There is an efficient queueing system, which stops the normal queue jumping that is so prevalent in Thailand, and the staff know what they are doing. The girl who assisted me very quickly put a stop to the messages. She told me that each message was costing me Bt8, not Bt5 as I thought previously.

It's still a mystery as to how I supposedly subscribed for these messages. Normally, it is done in a sneaky way if you visit a website, but I have an old-fashioned phone and have never used it to access the Internet.

It's a shame I didn't take action before, but it was only when my account ran out of money that I realised I was being charged for each message.

The trip to the service centre turned out to be a family outing and my kids' main objective when we go anywhere is to return home with a new toy. After fixing my phone the first port of call was Toys R Us.

Toys R Us are just about to close all their branches in the USA and UK. I also have the feeling that a similar thing could happen in Thailand. Whenever I go there are very few customers and the prices are quite shocking.

Since my children arrived I have had to buy toys fairly regularly and good quality toys are very expensive in Thailand. This is because they are imported and a big import duty is added.

Lots of toys in Toys R Us are the equivalent of a week's salary for many Thais and even small toys - especially branded toys made under license - are crazy prices.

This helps to explain why there is such a big counterfeit industry in Thailand and other parts of the world. Thais live in a material world, like most other people, but many simply can't afford to buy original items.

My daughter is now into an LOL Surprise! craze and whenever there is a craze in Thailand, as there are often, you find the local markets full of counterfeit goods.

 

LOL Surprise! Fake or original? I don't know.

LOL Surprise! Fake or original? I don't know.

 

Firstly, for those who don't have young daughters and who aren't familiar, LOL toys come in a kind of plastic egg and include small dolls and various accessories. They are wrapped in several layers of packaging and each layer reveals a new surprise.

I bought some in Krabi last month. One shop wanted Bt500 for each surprise, but I found an Indian vendor who sold me four for Bt750. They could have been fakes, but I didn't understand at the time that there was a big counterfeit market.

Toys R Us wanted Bt695, obviously for a genuine version, but this exceeded the Bt600 my daughter had saved up. One of our local markets sells LOL Surprise! toys for Bt90 to Bt100 each. Obviously, these are fakes, but most kids won't notice and won't care.

I can't condone the counterfeit industry because it is obviously wrong, but many Thais are put into a difficult position. They are surrounded with powerful advertising and become very materialistic, but most can't afford to buy originals. The only options are going without or buying counterfeit versions.

This happens with toys, DVDs, software and other things. A while ago there was a big Anello backpack craze in Thailand (there's always some kind of a craze in Thailand) and the same thing happened. Genuine Anello bags are quite expensive, but fake versions are on sale everywhere for a fraction of the price.

Everyone knows where fake goods are sold, but a blind eye is turned because stamping it out would hurt a lot of people, both buyers and vendors.

It's a difficult issue. I was reading the other day about a cure for Hepatitis C. The drugs are very effective, but they are also extremely expensive and because of this many people being treated on the UK's National Health Service are denied them.

However, equivalent drugs are made in Bangladesh at a fraction of the price. This is done under license so it is perfectly legal and it is also legal in most countries to import drugs for personal use. Many people in Western countries who suffer from Hepatitis C now order drugs on-line.

Western companies want to keep manufacturing costs low and profits high so many manufacture goods in countries where labour costs are low, but the people in those countries can't afford to buy the goods they manufacture. They can only afford fake goods, but this hurts the manufacturers of the original versions.

As living standards rise and wages increase, manufacturers just move to other countries. My Thai friend who came to visit recently works for the Patagonia clothing company and told me that most manufacturing is now done in Vietnam. Companies have already moved on from Thailand because it is getting too expensive.

The problem with the fakes is that they are exact copies of the originals. A while ago I wrote about fake Lego sets and the fact that the counterfeiters copy everything, including the packaging design.

If they just made similar products that weren't close enough to infringe copyright they could produce cheap goods legally without upsetting anyone. The problem is probably with the buyers of fake goods who want other people to think they are genuine.

It affects some manufacturers more than others. People who want to buy a Rolex won't be satisfied with a cheap Chinese-made fake and Rolex doesn't get hurt. However, companies that manufacture plastic toys in China will be hurt by fake plastic toys that also come from China.

There is also a significant change with the way that Chinese goods are achieving their own brand awareness. Where I sorted out my phone yesterday there are lots of mobile phone shops and the biggest brands are Samsung, Huawei, Vivo and Oppo. Chinese companies no longer have to copy Apple because their own brands have recognition.

Finally, bear in mind that if you buy fake goods in Asia for use in Asia it's unlikely to be a problem, but if you buy a suitcase full of LOL toys to sell on eBay after you return home it could be.


I don't know if the Australian ball-tampering scandal is being reported around the globe or, if it is, whether people from non-cricketing nations can understand all the fuss about a few sportsmen rubbing some dirt into a ball.

For Americans to understand, think back to the Chicago White Sox during the World Series in 1919. (I guess we'll be hearing a lot about that incident next year on its 100th anniversary.)

Just like baseball in the States, cricket in many countries is far more than a game. Far more. When writing about driving in Thailand I have talked about the complete absence of any fairness and when something isn't fair in England we Brits have a saying, "It isn't cricket."

Winning is important to cricketers, as is following the technical laws of the game, but equally important is playing the game in the right spirit. If a batsman knows he is out, he walks. He doesn't hang around hoping that the umpire isn't sure and gives him the benefit of the doubt.

Basically, you don't cheat. Ever. Because it's not cricket.

This incident has left the cricketing world stunned. Not only does it go completely against the spirit of the game, but Australian cricketers don't need to resort to cheating. For a nation with a relatively small population, especially for such a large country, Australia has produced an incredible number of highly talented sportsmen and women.

The question, "What were they thinking?" must have been asked a million times in the last few days.

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Saturday 24th March 2018

I don't have a smartphone. I just have an old-fashioned Nokia-type phone for emergencies and to contact my wife. It suits me fine. It operates on a Pay-As-You-Go contract and there is always money on the account. I generally only top it up only to prevent the number from expiring, not because the account balance is low.

I called my wife this morning and received a message that my balance was low. This surprised me because normally the balance is always several hundred Baht. When I checked, the balance was Bt1.25. Very strange.

A few months ago I started receiving unwanted SMS messages pointing me to a URL to watch a video. Initially, I opened the messages before deleting them. However, my wife warned me that simply opening them would cost me money. I then started deleting these messages without opening them.

After getting the low balance message I topped my phone up with Bt100 and checked the balance. It was Bt101.25, which was correct. Immediately afterwards I received another video SMS. I deleted it without opening it, as I usually do, but then checked the balance again. It was Bt96.25.

It seems that every time I receive one of these messages I get charged Bt5, regardless of whether I open the message or not. I have never subscribed to receive any messages and I think it is disgusting that someone can simply send someone else an SMS and take money from their account without any authority to do so.

I just called the mobile operator's call center and - as usual - went through a series of automated responses for various services. I eventually got to a part about cancelling advertising services and selected this option.

It is now a case of waiting to see what happens. If this doesn't fix the problem I will have to go to the local call center and speak to a real person.

I receive several of these messages every day and although each message only relieves me of Bt5, over a period of time it has drained my account balance of several hundred Baht.

I have never used Facebook, but in the last few weeks with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook users have woken up to the fact that personal information they provide to Facebook is used in highly nefarious ways.

One of my reasons for sticking with an old-fashioned phone was to try to avoid smartphone scams, but no matter what you do unscrupulous people will always find a way of scamming you out of money.

The huge developments in technology in the last 20 years have brought us many benefits, but lots of problems as well.

Maybe it's a case of our justice systems now being too lenient. My bedtime reading at the moment is an interesting book about life in 17th century London - the same era in which Samuel Pepys was writing his famous diary. At that time, stealing a handkerchief or a sheep was a hanging offense. Our technology keeps advancing, but with criminal justice perhaps we should go back a few hundred years.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

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Friday 23rd March 2018

When I think of the risk from dangerous creatures, Australia is the country that comes to mind first and I don't tend to think of Thailand as being that dangerous. However, there are some nasty critters in the Land of Smiles.

Statistically, I would imagine that mosquitoes probably present the highest risk to humans. Dengue Fever is fairly common, but there are also cases of Japanese Encephalitis, Malaria and some other mosquito-borne diseases.

Snakes probably get the most publicity - and there are some really dangerous snakes in Thailand - but generally they are shy and try to stay out of the way of people. Unless I go out into the countryside, I don't see too many although cobras do appear occasionally in the housing development where I live.

The venom of some snake species is highly dangerous and although king cobras have weaker venom, they can inject it in huge amounts. Malayan pit vipers are particularly nasty and the venom can cause tissue necrosis, resulting in the need to amputate limbs.

A little while ago my wife told me that a cobra had entered a house in Nakhon Sri Thammarat where a 10 year-old girl was sleeping. According to my wife, many rural Thais just sleep on mattresses on the floor. The snake bit the child, who was found dead the next morning by her parents.

 

Dead cobra near my house

Dead cobra near my house

 

There have been many stories in Thailand of snakes entering houses via the toilet. In my local HomePro I saw a special trap advertised to stop snakes getting into houses this way. I made some enquiries, but it can only be installed when the house is being built and not afterwards.

In our rented house a huge centipede got into the house. I had never seen anything like it and called my wife. She went into semi-panic mode and told me to kill it, which I did with a hammer. These things are nasty and Thais tell me the bite is similar to a snake bite.

My wife just showed me pictures on her Facebook feed of a man in Trat province who was stung by a jellyfish. I'm not sure what kind of jellyfish it was, but the lesions on his leg were severe. Trat province seems to have a big jellyfish problem, but the problems exists elsewhere in Thailand as well.

The most recent health scare from animals in Thailand is rabies and Thai TV news has had lots of reports of health officials going around the country vaccinating thousands of cats and dogs. As most people already know, Thailand has a huge population of stray dogs.

 

Temple dog

Temple dog

 

Songkhla province, where I live, is one of the worst affected provinces and I just found out that the area of countryside that I love visiting whenever I have a few spare hours is one of the worst affected areas in the whole of Thailand (Khlong Hoi Khong). This is the same district in which the reservoir I posted photos of is located. Songkhla is the only 'rabies red zone' in southern Thailand.

My wife told me that about three months ago a woman was scratched by a dog's claw. As it wasn't a bite she didn't think anything of it, but the dog must have been infected and had some saliva on its claw because she has now developed rabies symptoms.

I'm not unduly worried by any of these risks, but I will be taking extra precautions with my kids when we meet cats and dogs. They love animals, but with no cure for rabies I certainly don't want them getting bitten by a potentially rabid animal.

As I mentioned previously, I was attacked by a feral cat a few years ago and went to hospital where they gave me rabies shots. I wasn't too concerned, but I was very concerned a number of years before that when I was bitten by a wild monkey on the Malaysian island of Langkawi.

When I left the UK in September 2003 I went to Singapore first and stayed with my brother for quite a long time. After leaving Singapore I went through Malaysia by road and boat to get to Thailand - Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Satun.

I hooked up with two Japanese sisters in Langkawi and on one trip somewhere one of the girls offered me a potato crisp. I put my hand into the bag to retrieve a crisp and a large long-tailed macaque appeared out of nowhere and bit the bag. It's teeth went into my hand and drew blood.

 

Long-tailed macaques in Phattalung province, Thailand

Long-tailed macaques in Phattalung province, Thailand

 

A local man gave me a traditional treatment and smothered the wound with some kind of black, tarry substance. I didn't go to hospital, but I was quite concerned. Rabies didn't develop, but I did develop a sudden craving for bananas.

 

My Japanese friends with monkeys in Langkawi just before I was bitten

My Japanese friends with monkeys in Langkawi just before I was bitten

 

There is a big population of macaques in Langkawi and also in certain areas of Thailand. When we go on family trips to Songkhla town we often stop at Tang Kuan Hill to feed the macaques. Watching monkey antics is fun, but they've got big teeth, they can get aggressive when there is food around, and they can transmit rabies and other diseases.

If you are planning to visit Thailand I certainly wouldn't worry about any of these problems, but - as with everything - it is advisable to act sensibly and to try to avoid situations that might put you at risk.

The sea around Thailand is very inviting, but find out first if jellyfish are a problem. You will see lots of stray dogs, but generally they aren't a problem. Leave them alone, avoid eye contact, and they will leave you alone - even if they bark a lot. The closest I got to being bitten by a stray dog was when I stupidly went to pet it.

Once you see a snake it is very unlikely to be a problem. The problems normally come if you don't see a snake and step on one accidentally. If you are walking in rural areas through undegrowth where there are fallen leaves and logs be very carefully where you are treading and don't put your hands into holes.

 

Dengue Fever warning sign in Thailand

Dengue Fever warning sign in Thailand

 

In Thailand I see so many milky white tourists covered in huge red welts caused by mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that bite aren't generally dangerous, but the bites can be very uncomfortable.

In some urban areas where Dengue is prevalent and in some border areas where there is a risk of Malaria mosquito bites can be dangerous. Cover up with suitable clothing, and use mosquito repellent and mosquito screens to try to avoid being bitten.

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Tuesday 20th March 2018

The last four years - since our second child arrived - have been crazy. This year (touch wood) has been better and with a little time on my hands I've resurrected some old projects that I started three or four years ago but never got around to finishing.

Although one is a website project and the other is a 'real world' project, they are related. I also have two more (unrelated) projects lined up as soon as these ones are finished. Life is busy, but that's how I like it. I am interested in many things and nothing would be worse for me than getting bored and resorting to watching TV all day.

When our daughter was a baby she got a cold, as is common with infants. My wife went out and returned home with a bag of leaves, which she then added to a bath of warm water (along with some onions) and proceeded to bathe the child, including washing her hair with the mixture. I had no idea what was going on, but this traditional remedy for colds in children using tamarind leaves is well known in Thailand.

If you see a doctor in Thailand the experience won't be very different to seeing a doctor in any Western country. The doctor will use the same diagnostic techniques and prescribe the same kinds of medicine. However, the introduction of Western medicine is fairly recent and before that Thais relied on traditional Thai medicine. Many still do, or at least use traditional medicine to complement Western medicine.

Basically, traditional Thai medicine is broken down into three strands and despite the dominance of Western medicine in Thailand, traditional medicine still plays an important role in Thailand. Herbal medicine, which encompasses much more than just the plants we know as herbs, is used to treat various internal and external maladies.

When you mention Thailand and massage in the same sentence it often raises eyebrows among foreigners, but genuine Thai massage is another strand of traditional Thai medicine. It works on the musculoskeletal system and is designed to balance the flow of energy in the body. Balance is a key part of Eastern medicine.

The third strand is meditation for spiritual and emotional well-being, although I believe that an understanding of Buddhism is also needed to facilitate this process.

I won't go into it too much here because it is the subject of the website project I am currently doing. I'm not sure when it will be ready because it's a big subject, a lot of research is needed, and a lot of the research material I am using is in Thai.

Reading Thai signs and menus presents no problems for me, but with subjects such as this there is a lot of new vocabulary that I'm not familiar with and therefore the translation process tends to be very slow.

Another source of information comes from one of my ex-students. Her Master's degree thesis was about the Sakai tribe in Thailand, a forest-dwelling group of dark-skinned, curly-haired pygmies. They obtain everything they need from the forest, including their medicine.

She then became a lecturer in the faculty of Thai Traditional Medicine at one of our local universities and her PhD thesis was about Thai Traditional Medicine. I helped proof read both of her theses, so have quite a lot of formal academic material at my disposal.

 

Kitchen garden

Kitchen garden

 

My other project is a kitchen garden. We have a piece of land at the back of the house that is unused and as soon as we moved in we decided it would be a good place to grow plants that could be used in food preparation.

Previous attempts failed, I believe, because of inadequate soil preparation. As I have mentioned previously on my blog, the construction workers dumped huge amounts of building debris in the ground around the house. In addition, the soil is really bad.

 

Grannies Love Green

Grannies Love Green

 

Most of the soil consists of extremely dense clay with a white, orange and purple marble pattern. My most recent project has been digging this out, using what I can, throwing away what I can't use, and mixing the old soil with lots of 'Grannies Love Green' compost.

Strangely, I've really been enjoying this work. I enjoy computer work, but sitting for hours at a keyboard tends to drive me nuts. At times like this it is extremely therapeutic to dig the garden for a couple of hours.

I never realised that I had any interest in gardening, but it seems to be one of those activities that people take an interest in as they age. My mother was a keen gardener, as was her father. My maternal grandfather had an allotment in East London on which he grew vegetables.

My mother grew flowers, but gardening for ornamental reasons doesn't interest me. My wife and I both agree that gardening is only worth the effort if there is something to eat at the end.

 

Kitchen garden

Kitchen garden

 

So far, I have planted the following: Holy Basil, Sweet Basil, Mint, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Chili, Lemongrass. My wife gave me a tuberous vegetable that she told me was Cumin, but I think it is Turmeric.

That's a brief update of what I've been doing lately and, of course, there is the usual stuff to do around the house and with the children.

I'll mention something here when the section of my site about Thai traditional medicine is ready.


The Thai language is endlessly fascinating. I never stop learning, I will never stop learning, I learn something new every day ... and that includes today.

Thais have their own word for most things, but not always. Just as the English language has lots of loan words that are used in everyday speech, so does Thai. When I hear words that sound familiar I assume they are loan words, but assuming too much always gets you into trouble eventually.

My wife cooks a lot with a spice she refers to as 'kuh-min'. I was too lazy to ever look this word up in a dictionary and simply assumed it was 'cumin'. However, when she gave me a root vegetable today and told me it was 'kuh-min' it obviously wasn't 'cumin', which is made from seeds.

The Thai spelling for turmeric consists of a 'k', an implied 'uh' vowel, an 'm', a written 'i' vowel, and an 'n'. We therefore get 'kuh-min', but it's not 'cumin', it's turmeric.

ขมิ้น

How confusing. I'm sure Thais do this deliberately sometimes. The Thai words for 'near' and 'far' use the same basic sound, but with different tones.

ใกล้ - 'glai' - 'near' - mid class initial consonant + second tone mark = falling tone

ไกล - 'glai' - 'far' - mid class initial consonant + live syllable = mid tone

Eggplant is called ma-keu-a in Thai.

มะเขือ - eggplant

When tomatoes were introduced to Thailand, the Thais decided they were foreign versions of eggplant so just added 'tet' on the end, which means 'foreign'. Thus the literal translation for tomato is 'foreign eggplant'.

มะเขือเทศ - tomato

The same thing was done when ostriches made an appearance in Thailand. The Thai word for sparrow is 'nok gra-jok' and the Thai word for ostrich is 'nok gra-jok-tet'. Therefore, ostriches in Thailand are really foreign sparrows. Well, they are very similar, aren't they?

นกกระจอก - sparrow

นกกระจอกเทศ - ostrich

To indicate that something has a foreign origin Thais also use their favourite word for white foreigners, the infamous 'f' word. Farang.

The Thai vegetable 'mun' is a tuber and when potatoes entered Thailand they looked similar so became 'mun farang'.

มัน - mun (tuber)

มันฝรั่ง - mun farang (potato)

Bamboo shoots are 'nor mai' in Thai and when asparagus was introduced it was called 'nor mai farang' (foreign bamboo shoots).

หน่อไม้ - nor mai (bamboo shoot)

หน่อไม้ฝรั่ง - nor mai farang (asparagus)

Not so very long ago, lots of Thais chewed betel. Some older folk still do, including my wife's mother, but it's quite rare in Thailand these days ... although not in Burma, where a lot of betel is still chewed.

The Thai word for betel is 'maak' and a new word was needed when chewing gum was introduced to Thailand. Any ideas? Well, it is chewed the same way as betel and it is foreign. Did anyone guess 'maak farang'?

หมาก - maak (betel)

หมากฝรั่ง - maak farang (chewing gun)

Blog readers, please let me know what you would like me to write about. I can write about most things related to living in Thailand from an expat perspective, with the notable exception of the sex/prostitution/nightlife scene, which I have nothing to do with. Unfortunately, this seems to be the favourite subject with most internet users who have an interest in Thailand.

It's so overrated. If you go to live in Thailand, sex is a given and you can stop acting like a randy schoolboy. If you want a successful, satisfying life in Thailand it is much more important to learn about other aspects of the country/people/culture/language and to develop other interests.

Language fascinates me, but when I was doing language topics in this blog a few years ago a regular reader told me he just skipped over anything language related. I'm never quite sure what people want to know about and my interests tend to be different to those of most other people.

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Thursday 15th March 2018

Another report on the rabies outbreak that I wrote about earlier this month.

Thailand rushes to contain rabies outbreak

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Tuesday 13th March 2018

While in Krabi I was reminded how irritating Indian tailors in Thailand can be. I only ever encounter these Indian tailor shops in areas of Thailand where there are lots of naive tourists. In normal Thailand they simply don't exist. Strangely, as well as finding it irritating I find the whole subject quite fascinating as well.

How did it start? Why did it start? Why do the vast majority of Western tourists who visit any location in the Far East believe that one of the things they must do is get some clothes made?

 

Indian tailor shop in Chiang Mai

Indian tailor shop in Chiang Mai

 

I was exactly the same. On my first trip to Thailand in 1987, which was also my first trip to the Far East, there were certain things in my head that I wanted to do. One of these things was to get some clothes made. But why did I think this and where did the idea come from?

Possibly it came from some early TV travel shows in which Alan Whicker, Michael Palin, Clive James or someone else, would always stop off at a tailor shop in Hong Kong for a bespoke suit. It simply became one of those things that you 'did' if you visited the Far East.

There are valid reasons to support the idea. The cost of living and the cost of labour in the UK are very high. A bespoke Saville Row suit could cost as much as £5,000. Labour rates in many other parts of the world are a lot lower, therefore the price of manufactured products is also lower. But, it's not that straightforward.

Firstly, the cost of the material also plays a big part in the final price of an item of clothing. If you choose cheap material it will result in a poor quality item and if you choose good quality material there won't be much of a cost saving.

 

Indian tailor shop in Phuket

Indian tailor shop in Phuket

 

And just because a suit is made-to-measure, rather than being bought off-the-shelf, the manufacturing quality isn't guaranteed. The machinery used in large factories to produce off-the-shelf suits is very high precision and the final products will be very good quality. The low-paid person working in an Asian sweatshop sewing your clothes together may not actually be very good.

There are proper tailors and seamstresses in Thailand that will make made-to-measure clothing for you to your specification. If you choose a reputable tailor and use good material you should get a decent product. The quality may not be as good as a very good off-the-shelf suit, but you will be able to specify exactly what you want.

However, this isn't what I see in the tourist resorts with the Indian tailors. They have shop fronts full of material and people inside posing as tailors. There is always someone outside attempting to shake hands with passing tourists in an effort to drum up business.

You will be measured inside the shop - or even in your hotel room - but the order will be sent to a behind-the-scenes sweatshop to be made.

Legitimate bespoke tailoring involves many fittings and takes a long time. The Indian tailor shops will make your clothes within 24 hours and if you have enough time they will make alterations after you have tried the suit for the first time.

I have been told on more than one occasion that they always want to know when your return flight leaves. The idea is to deliver your clothes just before you leave so that there is no time to make alterations.

I have never had anything made by an Indian tailor. I don't like their pushy way of doing business and, frankly, I don't like the clothes they make. I haven't worn a suit for over 20 years, apart from my wedding, and have no intention of ever wearing one again.

And no one in the world has worn a safari suit since Rod Hull fell off his roof while trying to adjust his TV aerial to improve the reception for a Manchester United game.

Years ago, when I was vacationing in Khaolak, I got friendly with a young Dutch couple. They had clothes made and were very excited when the clothes were finished. They tried them on and asked what I thought. I don't like to lie, but sometimes there is no polite alternative.

The prices alone should give you an indication of the kind of clothing you will receive. If a bespoke Saville Row suit costs £5,000, what is your expectation for a two-piece suit, a shirt and a tie from an Indian tailor for less than Bt3,000 (about £69)?

Unless you had a job in a circus or you were the resident comedian at a holiday camp, would you wear the following?

 

The work of an Indian tailor in Thailand

The work of an Indian tailor in Thailand

 

I also find an "Emperor's New Clothes" mentality with people who have bought clothes like this. To admit that they wasted money is embarrassing, so they insist that the clothes are really good and that they got a real bargain.

If you are happy with the style of ready-made clothing, stick to buying off-the-shelf suits from reputable retailers. If you want something different, made to your own specifications that you can't buy off-the-shelf, seek out a reputable tailor or seamstress in Thailand. They do exist.

 

Reputable tailor shop in Bangkok

Reputable tailor shop in Bangkok

 

However, if you are a tourist wandering around in a Thai tourist resort and find yourself greeted by a smiling, friendly Indian who offers you his hand to shake, asks how you are, where you are from, and invites you into his shop just to take a look around, be very careful.

From the sales pitch it may seem like a great deal, but when you find that the clothes are poorly made, don't fit, and they are delivered just before your flight home so there is no time to make any alterations you may start to regret your decision.

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Saturday 10th March 2018

A little while ago I wrote about a YouTuber who claims that all white males in Asia are losers, and I also mentioned that he has created some excellent drone footage of Vietnam.

Drone technology has added a completely new dimension to photography and videography and there is some great drone footage on-line.

However, with so many people now operating drones it has become at best a nuisance, and at worst dangerous, thus most countries have introduced laws, rules and regulation to control the flying of drones. I was reminded of this earlier in the week when I saw a sign on Railay beach in Krabi.

 

No unauthorised drones, Railay beach, Krabi

No unauthorised drones, Railay beach, Krabi

 

You can still fly drones in Thailand, but whereas in the past you could do this without bothering about any rules and regulations, that situation has now changed. Rules and regulations were introduced and these came into effect on 9th January this year.

The penalties for not complying are quite severe - a large fine and/or up to five years in prison - and it would seem that the authorities are getting quite strict about enforcing these new regulations.

For more information, see here:

Drone laws in Thailand

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Friday 9th March 2018

I've just got back from Krabi where I spent three nights with my family. I had no great desire to go, but the trip was really to appease my wife. She will start working again soon and once she does we will have limited opportunities to get away. Married men reading this will know there are times when life is a lot easier if you just go along with your wife otherwise the consequences can be quite unbearable.

She's strange. After putting pressure on me to arrange the trip, I paid for everything and did all the driving. When we got there, she put the A/C on full blast, got into bed and started watching TV. This wasn't the first time she has done this. One child played with her iPhone and the other played with an iPad. Considering that I only booked the trip for them, it left me wondering why I had bothered to do so. Anyway, things improved shortly afterwards.

The trip was OK, but there was nothing I haven't seen before and I find that Thai beach resorts become very boring very quickly. There is some pleasant scenery and British tabloid newspapers always refer to any location that has palm trees as 'paradise' (whatever that is), but there is very little to do.

Prices are also crazy, but you can't blame Thais for increasing prices by enormous levels when there are constant arrivals of tourists willing to pay the high prices. Tourist restaurants in Krabi charge between three and five times the price compared to what I pay where I live for the same Thai dishes. Prices can go as high as eight times in some upmarket tourist hotels that charge Bt400 for fried rice.

Every meal for four of us cost well over Bt1,000 and I normally only pay about Bt500 (or less) when we go out to eat locally. I drove so had use of a car, but where we stayed on Khlong Muang beach there isn't much to do and tourists wanting to visit Ao Nang have to pay Bt500 each way for a taxi.

I enquired about a day trip to Phi Phi island and the price was Bt1,500 for adults and Bt1,200 for children. For a long time Thailand had a reputation as being a cheap tourist destination, but that is no longer the case.

I would imagine that for a European family visiting Thailand, staying in a decent hotel and doing a normal number of excursions, it will be a very expensive vacation. If you are unfortunate enough to be British it is even worse because of how the Pound to Baht exchange has plummeted since the Brexit referendum.

The drive from where I live can be done in under four hours if you don't stop and drive the same way as a Thai, however, with a lunch stop, comfort breaks, and driving like a normal person it takes around five hours. Five hours is about the most time I want to drive in one day. I always find the drive to Phuket, which takes almost eight hours, to be a little too much.

Despite its close proximity to where I live, being at a Thai tourist resort in Krabi feels like being in a completely different country. There is an enormous difference between visiting Thailand as a tourist and living in Thailand. Nonetheless, this doesn't stop tourists to Thailand turning into self-proclaimed experts on the country. It's quite amusing.

My daughter asked me why 'English people' (by which she meant farangs in general) go everywhere dressed in their swimming costumes. I had to think for a while before giving her an answer. I was probably guilty of this kind of thing at one stage, but after living in Thailand for a long time things change.

It is the same with sun-bathing. Most of the farangs I saw had extremely white skin, but they all insisted on exposing their pasty bodies to the sun as much as possible, thus turning bright red. It looked really bad and apart from the initial soreness this kind of exposure can lead to skin cancer.

Thais girls take extreme measures to keep their skin as pale as possible and they regard this deliberate exposure to the sun as bordering on insanity.

I find myself kind of stuck in the middle. Thai value and belief systems are so different to my own that I will never be able to fully assimilate, as once I thought I could. On the other hand, the longer I spend away from Western culture the weirder I view people of my own kind. I don't know where I fit these days, not that I have any particular desire to fit anywhere.

Driving has some nice advantages compared to flying. My car has quite a large cargo hold, so there is no need to restrict luggage. There is also no need to carry luggage anywhere, no clocks to watch, and the best thing of all is avoiding airport security, which is an absolute nightmare these days. Furthermore, once you are at your destination it's much better to have your own car and not have to constantly haggle with greedy taxi drivers.

Of all the well-known Thai tourist resorts I have visited over the years, I like Krabi the most. Even though Pattaya has become a little more family oriented, it is still Pattaya. Phuket is horrible and not a place I enjoy at all. I can't comment on Samui because the last time I was there was 16 years ago and I assume it has changed immensely since then. From what I have heard and read, Samui is now the kind of place that I don't think I will enjoy.

Ao Nang beach is the place I like least in Krabi because of all the development, dodgy looking tattoo-covered foreigners, and tacky fast food joints. However, it is still infinitely preferable to Patong beach in Phuket. Incidentally, most businesses in Ao Nang appear to be owned by Indians. This is great for me because I love Indian food and can't get decent Indian food in Hat Yai. In Krabi, lots of restaurants offer Indian food in addition to Thai and Western food.

We went to Ao Nang beach on Tuesday afternoon and stayed until the early evening. I thought it was very crowded and mentioned this to a Thai woman who was collecting money at a public washroom while my wife was cleaning up our two children inside. She said that it was actually very quiet. If what I observed was Ao Nang during a quiet period, I would hate to see Ao Nang when it is busy.

Railay beach is comparable in some ways to Phi Phi island. It's very pretty, but these days there are hordes of tourists. When I first visited Phi Phi in 1992 it was very quiet, but since then - especially after the movie 'The Beach' - there are far too many tourists.

There are still some quiet beaches in Krabi, such as Tup Kaek beach, but gradually there will be more and more development and these places will change.

Here are a few photos:

 

Railay beach, Krabi

Railay beach, Krabi

 

Railay beach, Krabi

Railay beach, Krabi

 

Railay beach, Krabi

Railay beach, Krabi

 

Tup Kaek beach sunset, Krabi

Tup Kaek beach sunset, Krabi

 

Ao Nang beach, Krabi

Ao Nang beach, Krabi

 

Ao Nang beach, Krabi

Ao Nang beach, Krabi

 

When we went to Krabi in 2016 we stayed at the Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, which is a great place with a truly superb breakfast. However, room rates for this time of year were higher than I wanted to pay and with the kids getting bigger it would probably have meant reserving two rooms.

We stayed at a place very close to the Sofitel that wasn't like a hotel at all. The Pelican Residence and Suites is like an apartment building. The two bedroom suite I reserved was bigger than Bt3 million condos I have looked at in Hat Yai and probably four times as big as most hotel rooms I have stayed in.

Space was not a problem at all and the room rate was very good, but you can never have everything in life and unfortunately the hotel breakfast wasn't up to much.

 

Pelican Residence and Suites, Krabi

Pelican Residence and Suites, Krabi

 

Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi

Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Krabi

 

It's now back to normal life (almost) for a while. The children are on their long summer break at the moment, therefore it will be difficult for me to do anything productive until they go on their summer camps.

When they return to school in May my wife will also be working full-time and I can't be sure until it happens how this will work out for me. Life never stays the same for very long, but that is probably a good thing otherwise it would get boring.

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Sunday 4th March 2018

I've written about Thai names before, but Thai nicknames - especially - always amuse me. Surnames only came into effect just over 100 years ago (in 1913) and they are only used for formal government-type purposes.

Thai surnames tend to be very long - my wife's surname has six syllables and this is quite normal. There seems to be some debate as to whether it is actually a law or not, but two separate familes won't normally have the same surname. If you meet two people with the same surname they are most likely related. There is no Thai equivalent of Smith and Jones.

Because of this uniqueness factor, surnames (naam sa-goon) have to be long so that you can have many permutations. It wouldn't be possible if surnames just had one or two syllables.

Thais know the surnames of powerful families and some surnames may have royal connections, therefore there are clues in surnames to social status, which is extremely important in Thai society.

Thais have a real first name (cheu jing) and a nickname (cheu len), the translation of which is 'play name'. Most of the time you will just use people's nicknames and this is what I will discuss in a minute. It's possible, actually quite probable, that even with Thais you have known for a long time, you will know their nicknames, but not their real names or surnames.

Even when you meet a doctor, which is quite a formal process, you probably won't hear his surname. He will be referred to by his preferred title (Mor, Dr, Ajarn, etc) followed by his real name.

If you are on holiday in Thailand you will probably be referred to as Mr followed by your first name - Mr Timothy, for example. This sounds very quaint and colonial, but it's actually just following Thai convention in which surnames are rarely used and Mr is the equivalent of Khun.

Some form of address before the name is always used in Thailand and Thais seem to find it quite rude if you don't do this. There are many. Most of my wife's acquaintances are older and/or higher in the social status and she will refer to them as pee.

Some of our older neighbours she refers to as bpaa (aunt) or loong (uncle). With old ladies it is yaay (grandmother). Malaysians and Singaporeans do a similar thing with their 'aunties'.

Even with children a salutation is used. Informally, it will be nong (younger person, the opposite of pee) followed by a nickname, and formally it is dek ying (female child) or dek chaay (male child) followed by a real name.

This kind of thing is extremely important to Thais and it can be quite confusing for foreigners. The terms for different relatives are also quite confusing as these change depending on whether the relatives are maternal or paternal.

Now, back to nicknames and that's what prompted me to write this. Thais of my generation were often given animal nicknames. One of my wife's brothers is called 'Chicken' (Gai) and she has sisters called 'Crab' (Bpoo) and 'Fish' (Bplaa). There are lots of other examples, but animal nicknames have now gone out of fashion and very few young kids these days are called 'Shrimp' or 'Grasshopper'.

Thais, despite what Buddhism tells them, tend to be very materialistic and love cars and technology. Twin boys I met were called 'Bee Em' (no W) and Benz. Twin girls I heard about were called Jackpot and Bonus.

A few years ago, when Nokia ruled the mobile phone roost, kids were being called Nokia but by now their names have probably been changed to Samsung or Huawei.

I took the family out for lunch a couple of days ago and a young girl in the restaurant about three years old wanted to play with my kids. I then realised that people were calling her 'Google', which made me smile, and a conversation about Thai nicknames ensued.

It transpired that there are Thai kids running around today called Facebook and iPhone, and one of my daughter's school friends is called App.

Unless this is pointed out and there is a foreigner present, Thais think that it is perfectly normal, which - of course - to them it is.


Can the Beast from the East blow this way a little, please? It is horribly hot at the moment - the hottest I can remember for a long time and it really isn't pleasant when it gets this hot. And it isn't even the height of the hot season for another month yet.

I mentioned the weather to our cleaning lady today and she told me that there is a big problem with rabies in Thailand at the moment. The Thais refer to it as mad dog disease - roke maa baa. I haven't been following much Thai news lately and missed this in the English language websites, but a quick search confirmed what she told me. Songkhla, where I live, is one of the worst affected provinces.

By February 21st this year there were as many rabies cases in Thailand as there were in the entire year in 2014.

Health warning as rabies spreads rapidly

Thailand reports increase in animal rabies

Scores of dogs, cats killed after rabies outbreak

Tak villagers fear for their children catching rabies

I was administered with the rabies vaccine a few years ago for the first time after a feral cat got into the house and attacked me during the process of removing it. The (post exposure) vaccine was injected at the wound site, in my case my hands, and they were the most painful injections I have had in my life. I yelled.

It was probably unnecessary because there is a very small risk that cats carry rabies, whereas the risk with dogs is significantly higher. As everyone knows, there is a huge stray dog population in Thailand and lots of people also keep dogs as pets.

It's a nasty disease and there is no cure. As is stated in one of the reports above, "... once the patient shows symptoms, it is already too late and death is guaranteed."

Fortunately, it isn't that common and rabies vaccine is only recommended for those visitors to Thailand who put themselves at risk of contracting the disease. It isn't necessary for the vast majority of visitors.

You should be careful of dogs in Thailand - both stray and domesticated dogs. In fact, in most cases strays are less of a problem. They tend to be very docile and uninterested in passers-by. Domesticated dogs get quite protective of property and bark if anyone passes. Also, stray dogs in Thailand don't fall into the category of dangerous dogs, whereas some people keep dangerous dogs as pets or guard dogs.

 

A pet American Pit Bull at one of our local animal hospitals

A pet American Pit Bull at one of our local animal hospitals

 

Dogs also behave differently in groups because of the pack mentality and to have a pack of dogs barking at you fiercely can be quite unnerving. I've had it happen to me a few times - including inside temples. The best thing to do is to avoid eye contact, avoid being aggressive to the dogs, and to walk away smoothly and quietly.

Prevention is always better than cure (especially when there isn't a cure) and just as you should try to avoid mosquito bites because there are some very nasty mosquito-borne diseases in Thailand, you should also try to avoid being bitten by dogs.

On one occasion I was really stupid and went to pet a dog at a market because I thought it was friendly. He regarded this as an act of aggression and tried to bite me. My reflexes kicked in and I pulled my hand away, but felt the dog's teeth on my finger. It was a close call.

Unless you know a dog, it's best just to leave them alone and in most cases they will leave you alone. Be especially careful when the weather is very hot. It would drive me crazy being outside at the moment and the hot weather can do nasty things to a dog's temperament.


In January I wrote about the dangerous section of Highway 41 that goes through Phattalung province. Many Thais are killed on this stretch of road, and Malaysians and Singaporeans have also been killed.

The last time I was on that piece of road I saw a pickup truck among the trees in the central reservation, but it was upright and all the occupants seemed fine.

As I was eating my breakfast a few minutes ago and watching the Thai TV news there was a report of another horrific accident on this same stretch of road. Once again, a pickup truck had gone off the road killing four people and injuring another four.

These accidents are entirely the fault of the drivers. They drive like maniacs, as fast as they can trying to overtake every vehicle in front. They are allowed to do this because there is no policing or other deterrents, such as speed cameras.

When we go on our trip to Krabi I will have to use this section of road and I never look forward to it. Relaxed driving isn't possible in Thailand - I have to be on the lookout constantly for maniac drivers and try my best to avoid them.

The stretch of Route 4 between Phattalung and Trang is a scenic road. It goes through some quite mountainous terrain and there are some good views. A few years ago it was single lane both ways and some of the Thai overtaking manoeuvres were terrifying. However, a lot of work was done and now there are multiple lanes so Thais who always want to drive as fast as possible can overtake without putting other people's lives at risk quite as much as before.

The sooner self-driving cars come to Thailand, the better.

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Thursday 1st March 2018

The city of Cape Town is about to run out of water and the situation in several other large cities around the globe is equally precarious. Seventy-one percent of the Earth's surface is covered with water, but very little is potable. Effective water resources management is thus an extremely important activity, especially considering the incredible boom in world population in recent years.

Tropical Thailand is blessed with a high average annual rainfall, but most of the rain falls at certain (known) times of the year. During those times flooding can be a serious problem, yet at other times of the year when it is very hot and dry (such as now) there can be severe droughts. For a country that still has a high agricultural output this can be disastrous for many farmers.

Since I began living in Thailand I have developed an interest in local water management practices, not least for selfish reasons. Having experienced one major flood I have absolutely no desire to repeat the experience, and neither do I relish the thought of the taps in my house running dry.

The management of water resources in Thailand - at least in the Hat Yai area where I live - is actually very impressive. The late King initiated many royal projects related to water resources management and this work continues.

Regarding the preservation of water, I mentioned a few days ago that the large reservoir near to where I live is looking very healthy. In addition, following the late King's recommendations, many smaller 'monkey cheek' reservoirs have been - and are being - built. There are several near to where I live.

Regarding flood protection, I posted previously about the work that has been done in central Hat Yai burying large concrete pipes underground to increase the rate at which flood water is removed.

 

Improving the downtown flood defences

Improving the downtown flood defences

 

So much work has been done in central Hat Yai that I would imagine the risk of another major flood is now fairly low, however, as soon as you leave the central area you encounter flooding again.

The reason for this is quite obvious if you look around. Where is the water supposed to go? During a tropical downpour in Thailand an enormous amount of water falls from the sky, but when you look around in these outlying areas there is nowhere for the water to go. Of course it will flood.

I regularly drive through one such area, but a week or two ago I couldn't because the road had been closed. It was closed because storm drains are being installed alongside the road. Once these are finished there will finally be somewhere for the rainwater to go.

 

Installing new storm drains

Installing new storm drains

 

Installing new storm drains

Installing new storm drains

 

I stopped there yesterday morning to take a few photos and talk to some of the locals. Obviously, there is some temporary inconvenience while the work is being done (which is unavoidable), but the locals are very happy.

In the rainy season this area floods very easily, but the new infrastructure work should mean that in future this will be a thing of the past.

Close to where this is happening, there is some major work being done to expand and improve one of the large canals that takes flood water away from Hat Yai, eventually dumping it in Songkhla Lake.

I can quite easily criticise many things about Thailand, but the Thais do certain things very well. Regarding the management of water resources they seem to be doing all the right things and making sure that money from the central budget is being directed to finance the work.

I'm impressed.


Today is the full moon day of the third lunar month and it is also an important Buddhist holiday. On this day in the Buddha's lifetime 1,250 enlightened monks (Arahantas) came together of their own volition without any prior arrangement to pay homage to the Buddha.

It is a public holiday in Thailand to allow people to go to the temple to make merit, which is a very important activity for Thais. This evening, people will go to their local temple to take part in candlelit processions.

In Thai it is known as:

วันมาฆบูชา

As usual, the commonly used transliterations are completely hopeless and bear no phonetic resemblance to how the word is pronounced in Thai. The transliterations use the wrong consonant sounds, wrong vowel sounds, and wrong vowel lengths.

A more accurate transliteration would be something like - Wun (Day) Maa-ka-boo-chaa


The 'Beast from the East' may have brought some exceptionally cold weather to Europe, but that isn't the case in Thailand. It's hot. Very hot.

Thais will always tell you that April is the hottest month, and that's probably right technically, but it is a little misleading. When you hear this you imagine that the peak of the heat is in April and that the months before and after April are cooler. They may be, ever so slightly, but it isn't really noticeable.

Instead of describing the hot season as a peak, I would describe it as a plateau. The plateau begins in February and lasts until around September.

I didn't used to like this time of year, but two things have changed my attitude. Firstly, this is my 15th year in Thailand and I have acclimatised. Secondly, when it's like this some rainy weather can feel really welcome, but at those times of the year when it doesn't stop raining it starts to become really miserable.


Since I started living in Thailand I have travelled around the country a fair amount and therefore have quite a lot of experience booking hotels in Thailand. Nonetheless, it is never straightforward. I have just booked a short trip in Krabi for a family getaway and have been through the same process again. Here's a short summary of my findings over the years.

Disclaimer: I do encourage visitors to this website to use the Agoda links I provide because the small commission I receive helps with the running costs of the site and compensates me a little for my efforts. However, all of the following comments are completely impartial.

The first problem you face is knowing where to stay. The Internet is completely saturated with information about hotels and virtually every piece of information is biased. There is money to be made when people book hotels and everyone wants your business.

This results in lots of poetic license and hotels can be difficult to judge based on their exaggerated on-line descriptions. Photographs can also lie. When we went to Vietnam last October we stayed at a hotel near Bangkok airport for one night before our flight. It looked great in the photos, but it was pretty awful. The photographer should be awarded a prize for the photos he took, which completely transformed the look of the hotel.

What about guest reviews? In theory, reading reviews from other guests should be a reliable way of assessing a hotel, but it doesn't quite work that way.

With any hotel that has received a lot of reviews you will see comments about how dirty the hotel was alongside comments about how clean it was and similarly contradictory comments about the hotel staff and all other aspects of the hotel. Unless a hotel has overwhelmingly good or bad comments, it is difficult to assess from guest comments.

Different people have different expectations and can view exactly the same experience either positively or badly. In addition, hotel booking sites know it is easier to sell hotel rooms if reviews are very good and therefore they edit out some of the very negative comments.

Personal recommendations are useful and certain hotel chains that have good reputations can be relied on. However, with a lot of hotels there is a big element of luck involved.

Once you have decided on a hotel the next decision is how to book it. In the old days I would either book a hotel directly or go to my local High Street travel agent. It's very different these days with so many on-line travel agents (OTAs).

Many hotels have their own websites and you can book directly, but I have found the direct rates to be very expensive. You would think that by cutting out any middle men the hotel would be able to provide cheaper room rates if sold directly, but that normally isn't the case. Presumably, the OTAs have so much purchasing power that they can purchase hotel rooms at highly discounted rates.

The hotel we will be staying at in Krabi has a website through which you can book rooms, but the rates were very expensive.

I then went through a process I have been through many times before. I looked at the rates for the same room on the same dates with lots of OTAs and - as is usually the case - found the Agoda rates to be cheapest.

This may not apply in other parts of the world, but in Southeast Asia I always find Agoda to be the cheapest. At first, their room rates look a bit misleading because they don't include the additional charges (10& service charge and 7% tax), but even factoring in these additional charges Agoda normally offers the cheapest rates.

If you don't wish to go through the comparison process there are some websites, such as Hotels Combined, that will do it for you.

Now that you have made decisions on where to stay and how to book, the next decision is when to book. Unfortunately, I can't give you any advice on this one and it seems to be pure luck.

Last week, after deciding where to stay I checked the Agoda price and it was around Bt2,800. I didn't book because I wanted to discuss some things with my wife. When I was ready to book the next day the price had risen to Bt3,700. Not good, but my fault I guess for procrastinating.

I checked the next day and saw that the price had fallen to Bt3,400. This wasn't good either, as I had already booked at the higher price, but when I checked again today the price was almsot Bt4,200. The prices go up and down like yo-yos.

Possibly - if any rooms remain unsold - the price may drop to a very low rate the day before because it is better to sell a room cheaply than not to sell it at all. However, if you wait until the last moment there may not be any rooms available and then you miss out.

If you are single or married without kids this may not be a problem, but because I have kids I need a room that is suitable for a family and it can be a problem finding the right kind of room.

To summarise, I tend to stick with Agoda but whenever you book a hotel room there is still a lot of luck involved getting the right place at the right rate.

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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.

Booking.com 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 Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com 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