Who is the most popular blogger in Asia? Simon at SimonWorld? Rolando (not Ronald) at the always brilliant ESWN? Richard at Peking Duck? Chris Myrick? Jakartass? Expat@Large? Jeff Ooi? Carlos in Manila? FriskoDude?
Nope, it's Wendy, master of the universe. 20,000 hits per day.
Wendy at Xiaxue
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Bugil's Girls in Jakarta
Just stumbled across another of the rare Jakarta blogger who goes by the name of TreeSpotting for whatever reason, but it looks like the guy is both crazy and a prolific blogger, so might be worth checking out. Link found at Mr. Reliable, a.k.a. Jakartass, who is doing some seriously good blogging about environment issues in Indonesia and his ongoing battles with local governmental and private agencies who seem determined to ruin his life.
So, here's something from TreeSpotting:
I been out so much in the last few months… it’s almost embarrassing (duh!). I’m making notes of the places just so I have something useful to show for it.
To those unfamiliar with the concept, Jakarta’s roughly decided into two parts by a river almost exactly in the middle. The southern part contains upscale malls, trendy cafes and lounges, super hip clubs, Italian restaurants, designer shops, my residence and Ferrari outlets. The northern end contains dodgy clubs, the Chinatown, piracy capital of Southeast Asia, meth manufacturers, even dodgier clubs, a very nice café called Café Batavia and, well, Ferrari outlets. Between the two ends, you have all sorts of entertainment available to imagination at any hour of the day. Here are some from the south.
TreeSpotter Link 1
Second Floor. Kemang. Small bar, friendly service and rather nice on regular nights. Drinks are really cheap so the place gets packed full with them kids on weekly allowance in weekends. I find it hard to breathe some nights, except you get the back corner sofa with its own private space. Carpet’s a bit smelly though.
Warning: toilet queue is not for the desperates.
Nu China. Right below Second Floor. Same type of crowd with cheap club interior. Really bad toilets. You can go outside to the hot dog/whatever stand on next door parking lot, they have better toilet – the queue for toilets at the Second Floor is worse and yes, I don’t queue. Not for toilets. I also find the weekend crowd intolerable.
Bedroom. Kemang. Same type of crowd as any other place in Kemang. For some reason, I can’t seem to last more than 30 minutes in the place. They have beds everywhere, much like BED in Bangkok only done much worse. Try if you want, it’s at the same building as Decorus, can’t remember the name.
TreeSpotter Link 2
More places in South Jakarta
D'Place. Citos. It’s a small pub tucked in Citos. Ground floor, by the escalator, I don’t understand how so many people never knew of this place since it’s actually a good place. Better exhaust would make it better in busy nights. Mon – Wed they play acoustic jam. I’m the guy in the back corner looking not very happy with a really happy hot girl. The bands are much better than almost anywhere else in Jakarta. They’re the only bands I know who never really do the full top 40 generics. Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthews, Black Crowes, Pearl Jam, Bob Marley and Eric Clapton are all regulars.
Recently, on Friday nights, they have strip shows, but this is a secret. You won’t be allowed in. Just try. PS: The Internet hotspot is accessible but you better sit in the front.
TreeSpotter Link 3
One of history's most violent volcanic eruptions blasted the island of Sumbawa in the East Indies in 1815. The sulfurous gases and fiery ashes from Mount Tambora cast a pall over the entire world, causing the global cooling of 1816, known as the "year without a summer."
The explosions killed 117,000 people on the island, now part of Indonesia, and wiped out the tiny kingdom of Tambora, on the volcano's western flank. The fast-moving avalanche of pumice and ash buried the town under 10 feet of debris, with only 4 of its estimated 10,000 residents surviving.
A team of American and Indonesian scientists has now found remains of what it says is the "lost kingdom of Tambora."
New York Times Link
Sunday, February 26, 2006
What in the world is going on in the Philippines? President Arroyo declares an "emergency" and bans all commemorations of the 20-year anniversary of the first "people's power" march that ultimately toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, but the people kept coming down EDSA, while the police raided dissident newspapers.
The Philippines leading journalist, Manuel L. Quezon, has just put up one of the best posts of his life. Please do read the whole message, and, God bless you, Manuel.
Yesterday, to me, was about hearing the government follow up its blanket prohibition with a state of national emergency; and following that up by announcing that it was unilaterally withdrawing official recognition of the scheduled commemorations of Edsa 1. It had facilitated the plan to have Mrs. Aquino lay a wreath; now the wreath-laying would be forbidden. It was about deciding, as many others did, that what was originally planned as a sentimental recollection had taken on the characteristics of a necessary act of defiance.
The government said that Edsa could not be commemorated, and that if a citizen insisted, the citizen could face arrest? Then go ahead, do your damnedest! It was about going to Ayala Avenue to see faces old and new, including quite a few who hadn't marched in decades -yet were insisting that the time had come to march again. It was about the kind of electricity one only experiences in a rally; the rediscovered shared principles, the surprising company one finds one's self keeping, the discovery there may be more that unites than divides.
It was about seeing my mother, a prudent person, politically, out with volunteers a quarter of her age, because the Red Cross (whose volunteers she trains) had deployed its volunteers because of the danger of so many people possibly getting hurt.
Yesterday was about linking arms with poor people, rich people, normally politically indifferent people and activists, people with views different from my own but who, at least, aren't cowardly collaborators or simple-minded apologists of the current dispensation. It was about moving forward along Ayala Avenue at time inch by inch, foot by foot: seeing, every few meters, the policemen menacingly blocking our way. At one point, I was an armlengthegth away from batons being aimed at us from behind riot shields; and then cheering as the shields retreated, only to regroup. It was about feeling a particular kind of fury, at seeing ordinary policemen being given the extraordinary mission of defending Ninoy's statue from the homage of his widow.
Manuel Quezon Link
New HBO Series: The Mohammeds
The government of Malaysia is quickly proving itself the idiot savant of Southeast Asia with its hilarious and tragic treatment of the so-called "free press" and ill-advised harassment of blogger extraordinaire Jeff Ooi over the cartoons of Mohammed and -- believe it or not -- cartoons about cartoons of Mohammed. It's a long and evolving story, but the best angle on this brouhaha is to visit the blog of Jeff Ooi at, logically, Jeff Ooi.
Malaysia suspends another newspaper over cartoons
26 February 2006
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has suspended the operations of another Chinese-language newspaper for publishing one of the controversial cartoons that have sparked global protests.
Publication of the Berita Petang Sarawak, a newspaper in the eastern states of Sarawak, Sabah and neighbouring Brunei, has been suspended for two weeks, the Internal Security Ministry said in a statement late Saturday. It said the two-week suspension was effective from Sunday until March 11.
“The decision was made after Berita Petang Sarawak published an article: “We are prepared for the jihad war’, on February 4, which contained the caricature,” the ministry said. A top Berita Petang Sarawak official declined to comment Sunday.
Earlier this month the government suspended the Chinese-language Guangming Daily for two weeks for publishing a photograph of a person reading a newspaper carrying one of the cartoons.
It also shut down indefinitely the operations of The Sarawak Tribune, believed to be the first newspaper in the world to be closed for publishing the drawings, which have sparked a wave of protests that have left some two-dozen people dead.
But the official New Straits Times, which published a cartoon parodying the controversy over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, escaped punishment after it issued a front page apology. Muslims consider any image of the prophet to be blasphemous.
The cartoons, including one showing the prophet with a bomb in his turban, were first published in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in September but subsequently have been widely reprinted, mainly in European newspapers.
The Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance said on Friday that the amount of government interference in the Malaysian media, particularly of late, was an indication of the country’s declining standards of democracy. “The government has no place interfering with the press and upsetting this system of checks and balances,” it said in a statement.
Khaleej Times Link
The Islamic government of Malaysia continues cracking down on newspapers that publish the Mohammed cartoons, and on newspapers that publish cartoons about the Mohammed cartoons: Malaysia suspends another newspaper over cartoons.
Little Green Footballs Link
I have listened to my Muslims elderly, my Muslim neighbour from the old kampung, and my Muslim friends in Umno and PAS. When they told me The NST has hurt their feelings, I lent them my listening ears. I don't doubt their feelings. They are, after all, my brothers. I don't and I won't play poker with the feelings of my Muslim brothers.
I still kept some of the SMS messages from some of these Muslims brethren, which I received before and after The NST has published and republished the Non Sequitur cartoon, complete with time-stamps. I will show them to the police if requested. Let the law take its course and let justice be seen to be done.
Malaysia is my country. I want it better for my kids. For Malaysia and for my kids, I shall soldier on.
Jeff Ooi Link
Friday, February 24, 2006
Walkabout Phnom Penh
I'm certainly no expert on hamburgers in the capital of Cambodia, but food blogger Phenomenon certainly is, and last week he posted a review of the best hamburgers in the lovely chaotic mess that is PP. Somehow, he forgot to mention my favorite: the burgers at the Foreign Correspondents Club, where you chill out over the crazy scene below and enjoy a faint breeze with your burger and fries.
Regardless of how committed you are to eating Khmer food, about a week in, you will crack, eat hamburgers, and then have the nerve to complain about the blandness of Khmer food. Then you'll see the error of your ways and the circle of life will continue, unhindered. I've selected a random assortment of places that serve hamburger because anyone with a charcoal burner and the ability to grind up animal components has it on the menu.
With the unsubstantiated rumour that McDonalds is doing some poking around in the Cambodian market, I thought I'd do a quick round-up of the Phnom Penh burger scene before the international competitors can begin on the path to domination. To make a bold statement, I'm willing to bet that both a Burger King (whose Thai franchise is run by the same crew that own The Pizza Company) and a McDonald's will be open in Cambodia by year's end. Lazy travel writers will no longer be able to use the thesis that Cambodia is still unspoiled by global culture because there are no Western fast food outlets.
Once one of the most prosperous countries in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has been on a downward spiral for several decades to the point where is now little more than the basket case of the region. I remember the fall of Marcos, the "people power" marches in Manila, the short but ineffectual term of Aquino after the murder of her husband, and the stern rule of Ramos, followed by the madcap adventures of Erap, to today's mess of a government overseen by the midget.
Today it's demonstrations in the streets and a declaration of "emergency law," something just short of martial law. It's a sad tragedy, as the Filipinos themselves are certainly the friendliest, warmest, and most heart-felt people in all of Asia.
Here's the best summary of the collapse of the Philippines I've read in quite some time.
MANILA (AFP) - Twenty years after the fall of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, many Filipinos are asking themselves: was it really worth the effort?
Corruption is rife, sections of the military threaten revolt, the opposition accuses the president of stealing the last election, left-wing politicians are being murdered throughout the country and the economy is struggling to keep its head above water.
Imelda Marcos travels around the country as though she is still the first lady, daughter Imee is a successful congresswoman and son Bongbong is governor of Marcos's old province Ilocos Norte.
Out of an estimated 10 billion dollars which Marcos and his cronies allegedly looted from the country, less than two billion dollars has so far been recovered.
"Fundamentally nothing much changed after Marcos," Nelson Navarro, a columnist with Graphic magazine, told AFP. "At the end of the day the same old families ... the ruling elite ... are still in power."
Some 150 families dominate the political scene in the country from local government to congress, the senate and the presidency.
Ricardo Abad, a professor of sociology and anthropology at the Ateneo de Manila University, once likened the clans to an octopus whose tentacles spread so widely it chokes the body politic. Romeo Bernardo, a former undersecretary of finance, told AFP: "There is no simple answer." He cited political instability, a weak civil service, the "underdevelopment" of the rule of law and interest groups who "manage to capture policy and work against the broader national interest."
Today some 40 percent of the population lives on two dollars a day or less while the middle class are leaving the country in droves, hoping for a better life and a secure future for their families.
One of the country's biggest exports is its people -- not just domestic servants but doctors, engineers and teachers. Last year Philippine overseas workers sent home a record 10.7 billion dollars.
Corruption under Marcos and his cronies was tightly controlled. Today it has become an accepted part of everyday life. Marcos politicized the military when he declared martial law on September 21, 1972, and the institution has been a cauldron of discontent ever since. Even during Corazon Aquino's post-Marcos government she had to face down at least six coup attempts.
The military was the final knife in the back of president Joseph Estrada in January 2001, and his successor -- current President Gloria Arroyo -- faces her own critics both inside and outside the military.
The Roman Catholic Church still wields enormous influence over the majority Catholic population and to a large degree over government policy, especially when it comes to mining, divorce and population control.
People Power may have given democracy back to the Philippines but the promise of a better future for the nation of 84 million has yet to materialize for many Filipinos
Yahoo News Link
Bangkok Fashion King
Bangkok Recorder has been running a series of photographic commentaries about the fashion follies of expats in Bangkok, including this recent one which compares a selection of farangs with their possible pirate counterparts.
Good Will Pirate Hunting
Pirates… (sigh)… don’t you just love to hate them?
You can’t walk between Starbucks without spotting at least fifteen of the scurvy sea-dogs hand-in-arm with some poor concubine a fraction of their size, weight and net worth.
Sure, they may amuse with their uniform paunch, Dad-gone-bad fashion and guilty expressions, but most of the time they just embarrass, and, well… maybe there’s a part of us menfolk that fear one day we could become like them ourselves.
Let’s be clear now: we’re not talking about your Johnny Depp/Orlando Bloom, sexy, boyish pirates here. Oh, no. These gadabouts are from a different ship altogether. Often wearing the traditional ill-fitting soccer shirt above the breeches and black socks below, these shady, sweaty and balding vagabonds may just have set permanent anchor in Bangkok.
To be fair, it can sometimes be awesome to see them. Y’know, when they just check all the boxes, ring all the bells and couldn’t be more of a pirate if they spent all week shopping at street stalls for that perfect mobile phone holster or undersized slogan T-shirt.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all had a good laugh inside at these lumbering stereotypes, perhaps alerting our friends to the sighting, and maybe even capturing the encounter on film.
Just for kicks, Bangkokrecorder sailed out onto the pirate-infested waters of Nana to hunt for the rapscallions ourselves, and to share our photographic booty with you.
Usually alone and unkempt, often striding with intent. Can seem confused or emotional. Rarely makes eye contact. Fast-moving, they can be dangerous. Drinks: own urine.
Bangkok Recorder Link
Kaiju Shakedown, a Variety magazine wholly owned subsidiary, and your best place for breaking news on transsexual kickboxers in Thailand, provides you something to do this Sunday, if you happen to be hanging out in Pattaya.
The Economist, America's source for transgendered news, is reporting that Parinya Kiartbussaba (aka Nong Tum), the transsexual Muay Thai boxer who was the subject of 2003's BEAUTIFUL BOXER, is going to be fighting an exhibition match against Japan's Kenshiro Lookchaomaekhemthong. The only catch is that last year Nong Tum had her gender reassignment surgery and is now a woman.
Nong Tum says:
"It’s a matter of dignity. We both need the victory because I was a Muay Thai champion and the Japanese boxer cannot lose to a woman."
That pretty much sums it up. The match will be held this Sunday at Pattaya's Fairtex Gym, and Nong Tum will be changing her name to "Nong Tum Fairtex Gym" for the event. This June she'll travel to the US to fight Lucia Rijker, the evil lady boxer from MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Is it just me, or does it seem like Nong Tum Fairtex Gym's management doesn't exactly have her safety as its number one concern?
Kaiju Shakedown Link
And Phuket Gazette, your best source of information of Westerners death by motorcycle on Phuket's notorious highways, serves up some more information on upcoming island events involving "Supermodel Kickboxers."
Supermodel kickboxers heading for Phuket
Lisa “The Black Widow” King will be one of the fighters
coming from the US specially for the event.
NS Sport and online flower delivery service Misslily.com will jointly host the “Miss Lily Super Model Muay Thai Championships 2006” featuring a slew of female kickboxers from the United States.
The event will be held at the Saphan Hin Sports Complex on March 10, starting at 3 pm. Organizers Surasak Mookpradap of NS Sport (Thailand) and Rawat Chindapol, Managing Director of Miss Lily and also developer of the Nirvana Phutri real estate project in Chalong, said the purpose of the female fight night will be to promote Phuket’s continuing post-tsunami recovery.
Also on hand for the special event will be a Hollywood production team shooting scenes for an upcoming film in the Charlie’s Angels series.
The US boxers, who will arrive in Thailand on March 2, include the Ardra Hernandez, Gina Carano, Lisa “The Black Widow” King, Christine Toledo and supermodel Ariana Ramirez. The match will be broadcast live by Thai TV Channel 5 and by NS Sport to 170 countries, the organizers say. Admission is free of charge.
Phuket Gazette Link
Friday, February 17, 2006
The hit US reality TV series The Amazing Race is coming to Asia thanks to the folks at AXN. They will be producing an Asian version of the show and they want you to be a part of it.
The Amazing Race is broadcasted in one-hour episodes in which teams of 2 or 4 race around the world in competition with other teams. AXN's made in Asia for Asia version of The Amazing Race will contain a total of 10 to 12 teams. Each team will be made up of two people with a pre-existing relationship.
If you're interested to be one of the teams in The Amazing Race Asia, go to the official website to download the application form. You and your partner will also need to make a video and tell AXN why you think youÂre perfect for the race. Contestants should be working or living in Asia, be 21 years old and above and have drivinglicensee. The Amazing Race Asia is not open for those in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the Middle East. You will need to send your application form and the audition video before March 15, 2006.
The producers will look at the application forms and videos and select the lucky applicants for interviews. There are two parts to the interview process. First is the semi-finalist interview. Applicants selected for this interview will have to pay for their own trip and expenses. After the semi-finalist interview, the producers will then narrow down their selection. Those who made the cut will go to the second round which is the finalist interview. This time around, the producers will pay for the trip. At the end of finalist interview, the producers will have selected all the teams competing in the first Amazing Race Asia.
IZ Reloaded Link
Posted by Carl Parkes on Friday, February 17, 2006
Cleric Offers $1 Million to Kill 'Cursed Man'
PESHAWAR, Pakistan - A Pakistani cleric announced a $1 million bounty for killing a cartoonist who drew the Prophet Muhammad caricatures, as thousands rallied across the country Friday and authorities arrested scores of protesters.
Police put another Islamist leader under house detention amid fears religious radicals would incite more deadly demonstrations after Friday prayers. Five people have been killed in Pakistan this week during protests, but most demonstrations Friday were peaceful.
Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi, prayer leader at the historic Mohabat Khan mosque in the conservative northwestern city of Peshawar, announced the mosque and the Jamia Ashrafia religious school he leads would give a $25,000 reward and a car for killing the cartoonist who drew the prophet caricatures — considered blasphemous by Muslims.
He also said a local jewelers' association would give $1 million but no representative of the association was available to confirm the offer.
"Whoever has done this despicable and shameful act, he has challenged the honor of Muslims. Whoever will kill this cursed man, he will get $1 million from the association of the jewelers bazaar, 1 million rupees ($16,700) from Masjid Mohabat Khan and 500,000 rupees ($8,350) and a car from Jamia Ashrafia as a reward," Qureshi told about 1,000 people outside the mosque after Friday prayers.
"This is a unanimous decision of by all imams (prayer leaders) of Islam that whoever insults the prophets deserves to be killed and whoever will take this insulting man to his end, will get this prize."
Yahoo News Link
Burma's New World?
The always informative website at The Irrawaddy, posts an update on the controversial relocation of the Burmese capital from Rangoon to some upwater destination known as Pyinmana, located in central Burma and far, far away from the nuclear missiles of the U.S. Unfortunately, the Irrawaddy doesn't include any links to read the full report, so all we are left with is a tepid summary of the conference in Chiang Mai. I don't know if anyone associated with the Irrawaddy reads this blog, but it's disappointing that the main voice of reason for democracy in Burma doesn't spread the word with more links.
Pyinmana Subject of Seminar in Bangkok
By Sai Silp
February 17, 2006
A seminar was convened yesterday in Bangkok, at which Thai scholars and Burma observers met to discuss the implications of the Burmese military government's recent relocation of the country's capital to Pyinmana.
The Burmese government began relocating government ministries from Rangoon to Pyinmana, some 320 km north, in early November 2005. The move has drawn widespread criticism from the international community and Burma's regional neighbors.
Yesterday's seminar was organized by the Asian Institute at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University and aimed to provide general information about the relocation, to offer opinions by regional scholars and consider what, if any, impact these developments might have for Thailand and its future relations with Burma.
"Thailand may have more limitations accessing information about the [Burmese] government because of the Pyinmana move, particularly because of its hidden location," said Sunait Chutintaranond, a historian from Chulalongkorn University's Southeast Asian Studies Centre, and the main speaker at the seminar. "Besides this, the Thai government should prepare a military strategy to be ready for any future emergency."
Burma's new capital at Pyinmana is geographically closer to Thailand than Rangoon -- just 210 km (130 miles) from the border with Thailand's Mae Hong Son province.
"Burma has changed their base of government, so strategies relating to ongoing conflicts in the country must change too," said Sunait. "Thailand should be prepared for any impact resulting from a resumption of fighting between the Burmese army and armed ethnic insurgency groups."
He added: "I think Burma is not dangerous for us [Thailand]. The problems we have had with Burma have stemmed from clashes between the government and its insurgent groups, which have had a huge impact on Thailand." There are currently some 120,000 Burmese refugees living along the Thailand-Burma border.
Sunait disagreed with those who fear that the US may decide to intervene in Burma, as North Korea seems to be the principal focus of the current administration.
Pornpimol Trichot of the Asian Institute, and moderator of the seminar, told The Irrawaddy that the even generated considerable interest among media and academic institutions, and included about 80 participants.
The Irrawaddy Link
Ronald McDonald Immolated
It might seem OK to torch Danish embassies over cartoons, but burning effigies of Ronald and torching the KFC in Pakistan? I mean, what did the good father figure ever do to hurt the feelings of the Muslims? KFC doesn't serve pork, only tasty chicken with some great mashed spuds with piping hot gravy. And Ronald may not cook up great burgers, but who can't love their fries? What is it with Muslims these days?
It's a mad, mad world out there
I've just read in the news that mobs of Pakistanis ran amok in Islamabad, burning Western-owned businesses including KFC and McDonalds. Okay, that did it. I think defacing and/or burning images of Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders is taking things to another level. For my money, these actions call for swift and decisive retribution. The next thing you know, they'll be burning stuffed Mickey Mouse dolls in effigy. Nothing is sacred any longer and I believe these actions call for all Christians to declare a Crusade. (That's the Christian equivalent of a Jihad.)
Either that, or for every 10 people that took part in this debasement, one should be chosen and this group should be given a choice as to whether they want to be blindfolded and turned loose in the Cambodian countryside, or go quail hunting with Dick Cheney.
If this letter seems a bit ridiculous, please consider that Pakistani Muslims are burning KFC and McDonalds in Islamabad because a newspaper in Denmark printed some cartoons. If we are to live in the Twilight Zone, my comments above must be cogent by today's standards.
Bangkok Post Letters Link
Ko Phi Phi Tsunami
Well, surprise, surprise. The Thai government has once again failed to protect its natural resources and pristine beauties as it announces plans to abandon Ko Phi Phi to reckless developers, who will now return to destroy one of the world's most beautiful islands. The complete lack of government planning and control over tourism areas means that Ko Phi Phi will once again be destroyed, and return to its slum status as a tropical paradise buried under burned garbage, spewed sewage, mountains of uncollected trash, dangerous water supplies, tacky souvenier shops, blaring discos, and garbage infested beaches.
Mai pen rai, as they say.
Phi Phi was one of the places most heavily damaged by the tsunami.
There has been little progress in its rehabilitation other than for clearing wrecked buildings, although the Public Works and Town and Country Planning Department has drawn up a new town plan.
Bangkok Post Link
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Buddha Hand by Carl Parkes
Last year, expat Lloyd Sullivan approached the Bangkok Post and proposed a series of articles about his motorcycle adventures around Thailand, and the editors of the Horizons travel section wisely agreed to publish his series of stories. The result has been a wonderful travelogue filled with his insight and honest opinions about his journeys from the deep south to the more remote regions of the far north. Lloyd is surprisingly honest with his opinions and isn't afraid to talk about boring seaside villages, lousy coffee, and his confusion about the meaning of Moo.
I was reading this big brochure under some weak electric lights strung up above a food court down by the river where I was having dinner. It was dark and the river was dark and darkness becomes the Nan River in the dry season when the water is very low and looks like it flows out of a large rusty pipe. I was eating and making notes, in order of importance, of the things I wanted to see while in Nan (and so far the list was short): a couple of ancient temples, the Nan National Museum, possibly the salt wells at Ban Bor Luang, Moo 1 in Tambon Bor Klua Tai, if I could find them.
It was the "Moo 1" in the address that was the stumbling block. I'm fairly well up to speed on amphur (districts), tambon (sub-districts) muang (cities) and ban (towns), but moo still elude me. They're supposed to be a kind of sub, sub-district, but they're not marked on any map I've ever seen; they're not posted on the street.
What exactly are the boundaries of a moo? I had no idea. You can't pull into a filling station and ask somebody how to get to moo 9, for example, because they can't tell you where it is unless they're standing in it. If they're standing in it they can point to earth and say this is moo 9, but if you ask them where moo 8 is, they don't have clue. So what's the use of a moo anyway? that's what I want to know.
Bangkok Post Horizons Link
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
After you've done Angkor, Phnom Penh, and perhaps Sihanoukville, where else to go in Cambodia? The northeastern section of the country is certainly the most beautiful region, but terrible roads and lack of even the most basic travelers' facilities have long made this a no-go region for even the most intrepid backpacker.
According to today's Phnom Penh Post, the roads have been dramatically improved in recent times, and guesthouses are springing up like mushrooms to accommodate the increasing numbers of travelers and residents fleeing the grime of the capital.
But the most significant change in the past five years has been the numbers of tourists to the province, a range of local residents said.
According to Ministry of Tourism figures, in 2000 Sen Monorom received 298 visitors, most of whom were intrepid foreigners eager to experience a piece of Cambodia's "wild east." Last year, more than 10,000 people made the trip-9,000 of them Khmer.
This vast increase can be attributed to one thing-the new road from Phnom Penh.
In 2004, work finished on the once-infamous stretch of road between Memot and Snuol, cutting the trip from Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom-in the dry season-from 3 days to around 7 hours. In the mid-1990s, the road was in such disrepair that the quickest route to the capital from Sen Monorom was a five-day odyssey via Vietnam. The new road made it feasible for urban Cambodians to take a weekend jaunt to the cooler climes of Mondulkiri, and numbers increased ten-fold within the space of a year - from 919 Khmer tourists in 2003, to 8,295 in 2004. Air-conditioned buses leave the city every day for Sen Monorom, as do half a dozen fully loaded pickup trucks.
As a result, Sen Monorom is in the grip of a building boom, as residents gamble on the allure of tourist dollars. In 2001, there were five guesthouses; now there are 16, plus two hotels and a spa/meditation retreat. The road into town is lined with newly opened guesthouses, with least two more under construction. Existing businesses are feverishly extending their premises in time for Khmer New Year, when locals expect an influx of more than 1,000 guests.
Land prices are exploding, residents told the Post. Seven years ago, when Sum Dy bought the land his self-named guesthouse is now built on, it cost him $1,500. Now, he claims it's worth $80,000. Many people around town have similar stories. Land that once sold for $20 per meter five years ago, now sells for $1,000, as locals and immigrants buy up large sections and subdivide.
Mondulkiri is also being groomed as an eco-tourism destination by the government and a range of environmental groups.
Hundreds of thousands of hectares of dry forest carpet the hills and valleys of Mondulkiri [the provincial capital], one of the last refuges in Southeast Asia for large mammals such as tigers, leopards, elephants, gibbons, and Cambodia's national animal, the possibly extinct Kouprey.
Around three quarters of the province is now under some form of protection, much of it run by the WWF in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
According to Keo Sopheak, Senior Project Official for the Sre Pok Wilderness Area Project, part of the 430,000-hectare Mondulkiri Protected Area, eco-tourism will have an essential role in ensuring these reserves are economically sustainable.
"Tourism will provide work for the communities, make money to maintain the protected area and build schools and health centres for the Phnong communities," he said.
Phnom Penh Post Link
Dean Barrett Novel
I don't know Dean Barrett, I've never met Dean Barrett, and I've never read any of his novels, but big kudos today to Dean for his incisive letter in today's Bangkok Post, which neatly summarizes up my feelings about the brouhaha over the Danish cartoons.
Fanatics challenging freedom of speech
Any truly serious work of art should make some attempt to explore the human condition. One of the best ways of doing that is by challenging cherished beliefs, often through satire. Be it in a novel or play or painting or cartoon or in whatever form of art. By demanding apologies and even death for those involved in publishing cartoons about Prophet Mohammed in Western publications and by issuing fatwas to kill authors like Salman Rushdie, Muslim fanatics are directly challenging our right to freedom of expression even in our own countries.
Muslims say they are asking for respect but they are actually demanding obedience. Are the cartoons in good taste? Of course not. As Philip Roth wrote long ago: "Satire of this kind has no desire to be decorous. Decorum _ and what hides behind it _ is what it is attacking. To ask a satirist to be in good taste is like asking a love poet to be less personal."
It should also be noted that in the Islamic world it is quite acceptable to tell the greatest lies about infidels. For example, several Arab nations continue to broadcast the lies about "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", an anti-Semitic hoax pretending to be some kind of Jewish plan to rule the world.
The uproar over the cartoons has its positive aspects: At last the world is waking up to Islam's hypocrisy, intolerance, double standards, penchant for violence and primitive nature. Islam is a failed civilisation which chooses not to adapt to the modern age (as did Japan and China in turn), but rather chooses to cling to religious fanaticism. We can do little to change their thinking but we must never surrender our own hard-earned standards of freedom of expression.
Monday, February 13, 2006
The Jakarta Post has just demanded that Danish newspapers publish obscene cartoons of the Danish Queen, in some sort of misguided attempt to even the score. Somehow, they forgot to mention that no obscene cartoons were printed of Mohammed, and that the obscene images taken down to the Middle East to stir up trouble were not included in the original cartoons, but additions added by a Muslim cleric from Denmark.
Is cartoon uproar about defending free speech or bad journalism?
Feb 14, 2006
Endy M. Bayuni, Jakarta
Here is a question we should pose to the editors of the Jyllands-Posten in Denmark: If someone was to draw satirical cartoons depicting Queen Margrethe II in various compromising sexual positions, would they publish them?
I am not familiar with Denmark's laws, but I know that Britain has a law that bans insulting the queen. In Britain, also a bastion of free press, the press has largely observed the law.
But even if there is no such law in Denmark, I doubt that the Danish press would publish such cartoons, not because it is afraid of the largely docile royalty or fears public recriminations, but largely out of respect.
And because it knows that publishing such poor-taste cartoons is simply bad journalism.
But if the Danish editors were consistent with their belief in freedom of the press, and the right to print, the right to insult and everything else that comes with the package, then perhaps they should publish such cartoons of their own queen. That would certainly be consistent with their decision to publish, and then defend, the satirical cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in September: In the name of free speech.
If they refuse (as they likely would), they are applying a double standard on the question of free speech: they are prepared to insult one section (minority) of their own community, but not the larger community; they are prepared to insult the holy symbol of a major world religion, but not the symbol of their own state.
Jakarta Post Link -- Good for One Day Only
Posted by Carl Parkes on Monday, February 13, 2006
Posted by Carl Parkes on Monday, February 13, 2006
One of Indonesia's most notorious terrorists walks the streets of Jakarta, and conducts interviews with a leading Indonesia Muslim publication and website. Just how serious is the Indonesian government about terrorism in their country, when characters like this can continue to publicize their belief that the country is a part of Islamic jihad and should join the Islamic pantheon of nations?
Nasir Abas willingly describes his time with Jemaah Islamiah. But is he a convincing witness? Matthew Moore and Karuni Rompies report.
He trained Bali bombers Imam Samudra and Ali Imron, spent six years with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and says suspected Jemaah Islamiah head Abu Bakar Bashir appointed him a top regional commander.
And yet, Nasir Abas is a free man, walks Jakarta's streets in jeans and a polo shirt and has turned on the organisation he served for a decade.
These days the clean-cut Malaysian father of four is happy to tell anyone who asks about his former life as a leader of the secret terrorist organisation JI.
He's particularly keen to recount the private moment in Central Java a few years ago when Abu Bakar Bashir appointed him to one of JI's most senior positions: "In the room it was only me and Ustad (term of address for Islamic teacher) Abu Bakar, nobody else. At that time, he said 'Now you have to replace Mustofa as head of Mantiqi 3'," Mr Abas recalled to The Age.
Under police guard, he has even made such claims in a public debate where he confronted Bashir's supporters and detailed his recollections that police are expected to call on when they try once again to convict the 66-year-old cleric.
As head of the Mantiqi 3 division, Mr Abas was a senior JI operative with direct responsibility for at least 200 JI members in the region until he was arrested in Jakarta last year.
His critics say he is becoming a celebrity witness who did a deal with police after he was sentenced, in April 2003, to just 10 months' jail for minor immigration offences in Indonesia, and is hoping to cut a deal with Malaysian authorities.
The Age Link
And here's recent interview with Nasir Abas with his confusing two-faced views on the state of jihad in Southeast Asia. It's a real eye opener and should be read by anyone interested in the jihad/terrorist world of Indonesia and Southeast Asia.
Could you describe how Jamaah Islamiyah came into being?
Jamaah Islamiyah was established in 1993, it began with the falling out between Abdullah Sungkar and Ajengan Masduki. At the time, they asked me to choose one leader, Abdullah Sungkar or Ajengan Masduki. I was in Peshawar, Pakistan at the time. I realized that there was a new group just formed that derived from the Negara Islam Indonesia (NII) (Indonesian Islamic State) movement, and the new group was led by Abdullah Sungkar (Abdul Halim) named Al-Jamaah Al- Islamiyah or well known as Jamaah Islamiyah (JI).
So you were introduced to JI in 1993 in Pakistan?
Yes, but I didn’t know immediately because all Indonesian and Malaysian sent to Pakistan were from NII. Abdullah Sungkar then left the NII and formed the new group. All the NII members in Pakistan, Singapore, and Indonesia were asked to stay in NII or join with the new group led by Abdullah Sungkar.
Indonesia Matters Link
Bali Legong Dancers by Carl Parkes
The always informative Bali Discovery website and newsletter notes the upcoming Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, which last year featured famed travel writers/publishers Tony Wheeler and Bill Dalton, and this year seems to be branching out throughout Asia to include writers and poets from New Zealand, Fiji, and Sri Lanka.
October now marks the month in Bali that is destined to become known around the world for one of South-East Asia's greatest literary events. The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival has all the trimmings of a world-class writers festival and is well on its way to becoming the equivalent of Brazil's famous [ Festa Literária Internacional de Parati (FLIP)], right here in our own sumptuous backyard.
This year, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival will be back once more with four days of literary excitement in one of the world's most magical settings. There will be inspiring discussions, conversations, readings and lunches overlooking a never-ending view of rice fields and coconut trees, bringing together readers and writers from all corners of the globe.
This year's Festival's theme - Desa-Kala-Patra:Time-Place-Identity will address the ties that bind us to place, ancestry and identity in modern times. Selected from suggestions put forth at the 2005 festival, these are the issues that writers from all over the world repeatedly discussed. Desa-Kala-Patra is part of a basic life principle for the Balinese people.
A Most Diverse and Interesting Collection of Talent
This year, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival will bring an even more diverse group of authors to Bali as it celebrates writers from Asia and beyond. In an effort to embrace Bali's Pacific neighbors, the line-up will include poets and authors from Fiji to New Zealand.
Award-winning Sri Lankan writers will share their stories alongside Indonesian and Australian writers in a cross-cultural cocktail of unforgettable exchanges. This year will also showcase the brave new voices of Iran, with a line-up of dynamic women writers who are breaking new grounds by dealing with social issues and cultural identity. And once again, Indian writers will return to lead a series of discussions about love, life, food and literature.
Janet de Neefe, Festival Director and Founder, promises that there will be plenty of new faces contributing their talents to this year's theme. As in the past, days of discussion will drift into nights of dazzling, and often hilarious entertainment and Balinese hospitality. Literary lunches in Ubud's elegant hotels will operate alongside a stimulating series of how-to workshops.
Bali Discovery Link
Ubud Writers Festival Link
Sunday, February 12, 2006
•From Monash Asia Institute (Australia) comes stunning animation and still prints of Angkor era temples (Pre Rup / Eastern Mebon) as well as models of urban areas and villages of the time.
•Heritage Watch presents a 3 dimensional rendering of an Angkorean era house created by Royal University of Fine Arts Architecture and Archaeology students from Cambodia's first locally taught 'digital heritage' modelling class. February 17th, opening 6:00 pm, animation screening at 6:30 pm.
February 18th, 6:30 pm: Profile of Monash University Project / Question and Answer by Monash University Lecturer Tom Chandler.
February 19th, 6:30 pm: Profile of Heritage Watch Class / Question and Answer by Architectural Advisor Hok Sokol and Animation Teacher Pou Sopheak.
Translation will be provided for presentations on the 18th and 19th. Animation clips will be available on computer throughout the exhibition.
Popil Photogallery: #126, Street 19, 2nd floor. 10am – 7pm daily. (Closed Mondays.)Further Information: 012 526 840 / email@example.com
Webbed Feet Link
Today will be the seventh week in a row that employees at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch have not received paychecks. And now I have really bad news for them: Jackson has been cut off and kicked out by Prince Abdullah, son of the King of Bahrain. He is no longer, I repeat, not doing it anymore Â not funding Jackson, his kids and nanny in an extended stay in Bahrain.
The first clue that this was the case was Jackson's traveling last week from Bahrain to Germany, and then on to Italy Â on commercial flights in business class. There was no more private plane.
But now I'm told that the prince has been informed by his family, the al-Khalifa clan, that Jackson is no longer welcome to unlimited generosity from the Bahraini royals.
In fact, Jackson is aware of this. Sources tell me that he had found a couple of wealthy families in Dubai who helped him out, but their largesse was limited.
"Jackson is essentially bouncing around the United Arab Emirates looking for handouts," my sources say.
Compounding this now dire situation is a sharp, harsh reality: Jackson's $270 million worth of loans owned by Fortress Investments are due on Feb. 20. Fortress had given Jackson a 60-day extension, which began on Dec. 20, to resolve his problems with it, but nothing's happened. Now Fortress will either foreclose on Feb. 20 or make a deal with Sony Music.
Sony, I am told, doesn't want Fortress to foreclose and send Jackson's loans to a public auction via bankruptcy court. Sony has been negotiating for weeks with Fortress, sources say, to avoid that development. But either way, Jackson's inability to deal with reality and his financial problems constitutes a veritable house of cards. And it's all about to come crashing down
Fox News Link
Brunei Sultan's Airplane Interior
Brunei should immediately pass a law against members of the royal family ripping off the nation, and then spending their fortune on useless crap. In general, I think bad taste should be banned across the planet, but the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei is almost single-handedly setting new international records.
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The Southeast Asian kingdom of Brunei has vowed to pursue its exiled Prince Jefri to return more of the billions of dollars he is accused of squandering while head of its state investment arm.
The Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) said its former boss, under threat of U.K. contempt of court proceedings, had finally handed over information it was demanding through the British courts on how he was able to fund his international lifestyle.
The prince, younger brother of the king, is reported in the British press to be still living the high life, with homes in London, New York and Paris. He was sacked as agency head in 1998 after his conglomerate, Amedeo, collapsed under massive losses
The agency said it was now awaiting the outcome of its request for a Brunei court order forcing Prince Jefri to hand over all his remaining assets under the terms of the May 2000 out-of-court settlement with it and the king.
Under the settlement Prince Jefri agreed to hand over 3 billion pounds ($5.23 billion) of his assets, which were sold at auction in London in 2001, the Times newspaper said this week.
Those assets included 400 Victorian lamp-posts, two unused Mercedes-Benz fire engines, several hundred Louis XIV gilt chairs, a fleet of forklift trucks, jewellery and 16,000 tonnes of Italian marble, the newspaper said.
The Star Online Link
Posted by Carl Parkes on Sunday, February 12, 2006
Mayhem in Pattaya
Let's say you've been hanging out in Phuket for some time, and haven't checked your Thai visa for the exact expiration date, and then discover time's up very soon, or you've gone a few days over the limit. The tradition in Thailand has long been that you will be fined B200 (five bucks) for each of your overstay, but then be permitted to exit the country and pick up a new Thai visa for an additional 60 days.
Tell that to the cops in Ranong.
Overstay 12 still in jail, face deportation
RANONG: A group of 12 foreign tourists arrested for overstaying their visas have spent their second night sleeping on the floor of a jail cell at Ranong Police Station.
Ranong Immigration Police, who have announced that they will deport the group, say they are only following “standard procedures” and will send the 12 to an Immigration detention center in Bangkok “soon”.
The group were arrested by a team of six Highway and Tourist Police officers at about 11 on Wednesday while on their way to Ranong and Burma for a “visa run” in the well-known “Big Bus”.
The bus was in Kapoe District, just 40 kilometers from the Ranong Immigration office, when it was stopped and the 12 were separated from the other passengers on board and placed in custody. The most that any of the 12 had overstayed was six days.
Speaking from his prison cell, one of the detainees, a 31-year-old Australian man on his second trip to Thailand, told the Gazette: “I can’t believe what has happened. The want to send us to the Bangkok Detention Center, from where they will deport us to our home countries – all because of a one-day overstay [in my case]. It was our second night sleeping on the dirty floor, with mosquitoes. I am black and brown from dirt.”
Some members of the group had contacted their embassies, he said, but been told, “Sorry. You are being deported – there is nothing we can do, it’s all part of ‘due process’.” He said the group members had thought they would be released after paying 1,000-baht fines at Ranong Court yesterday. But they had been misled.
“The public prosecutor told us that if we just admitted to the Court what we did and paid a 1,000-baht fine, they would let us go to Immigration and we could complete our visa trip. We paid, but when we got to Immigration they fingerprinted us and said, ‘You’re being deported – immediately’.
Jutarat Payonchart, an employee of Phenpat Co Ltd, which runs the visa run service, told the Gazette from the Ranong courthouse yesterday afternoon that the police had overreacted in incarcerating the visa runners. “Why did they have to keep them overnight in a cell? These aren’t illegal aliens trying to hide out in the country,” she said, adding that most had overstayed by just one or two days.
Speaking from his prison cell, the Australian told the Gazette, “We sent money for the tsunami problem. We like the Thai people and want to visit – and then we got s**t on. “We are part of one of their tours, where everyone makes money. We spend money in Phuket, we want to stay here. It’s good for the economy, good for everyone. And now we are just being s**t on.
“We’ve been treated like animals, sleeping on the ground. I’ve never been locked up before in all my life. It’s absolutely disgusting. You cannot trust the Tourist Police anymore. They are supposed to be on our side, helping us. But now they have gone against us and made a big problem for us.
“This is absolute crap, of course. They must have another agenda. Only they know what it is; I can only speculate. This is completely wrong. I have spoken to other tourist police and they say, ‘This is unbelievable.’ There are a few bad apples involved and they have created major, major problems.
“I’ve lost flights, lost my money … it’s ridiculous,” he said, adding that he did not want to give his name “at this stage” as it might jeopardize any remaining chance of regaining his freedom and avoiding deportation.
Those chances appear slim, however. Pol Capt Weerachai Phugkesorn of the Ranong Immigration Office told the Gazette that all 12 foreigners were arrested because they had overstayed their visas. Among those facing deportation were English, Korean, German, Vietnamese, French, Italian and Swedish nationals, none of whom had overstayed by more than six days, he admitted.
He stressed that the arrest, confinement and deportation of the tourists did not reflect a change in Ranong Immigration’s long-standing and relaxed policy when it comes to overstays.
“It’s true that if people arrive at our office and have overstayed their visas we just fine them 200 baht per day of overstay. But it was [another police division] that arrested them, not us. If they hadn’t been arrested, we would have just fined them as usual.
“The case went to court, where the judge rendered a decision. They were sent to us by the police and we are just following the provisions of the Immigration Act by transferring them to Bangkok for deportation,” Capt Weerachai said.
Phuket Gazette Link
Friday, February 10, 2006
Java Jive Photo
My favorite photographer in Indonesia, Brandon at Java Jive, generally puts up sweet photos of Balinese maidens working the ricefields near Ubud, but I vastly prefer his black-and-white images of the common working man.
Another of my favorite bloggers in Indonesia is Indonesia Matters, which gets the core of what's going wrong in the archipelago: the rising tide of fundamentalist Islamic thought which has reared it's head in the more remote provinces such as Padang on the western coast of Sumatra.
Further background to creeping sharia. In 2003 the city administration of Padang in west Sumatra issued a by-law requiring high school students to have proficiency in the reading of the Koran. This law was then followed up with a decree that female students and civil servants wear headscarves in public, another that recommended crash courses in Islamic teachings during the Ramadhan fasting month, as well as study sessions every Sunday morning for students. Then in January of this year employees of the city were informed that they would have alms deducted from their salaries.
Many other towns and villages in west Sumatra have similar laws including ones that specify Koran reading ability as part of the requirements for primary school children to be able to move up to junior high school. Restrictions on female dress are also ubiquitous in the province.
Indonesia Matters Link
Mo Ham Mad
As usual, Fabian at Macam Macam goes to the trouble to look into the cartoon controversy, and provides more links and opinions than you can shake a stick at. Whether Mo at the Three Nutcases, or Alfred Newman at Mad Magazine gives a hoot has not been determined.
These hysterical Muslims should just get over it. Is the rest of the world to really believe that Islam is the only religion that shouldn't have to endure some satire, parody and even ridicule, every now and then? Is Islam's only reaction, after 1,400 years of existence, to throw a hissy-fit like some spoilt child? Of course not, but it will be these images of buildings on fire burning that get beamed around the world.
Remember this? Any good Christian was horrified, but I don’t remember any buildings set on fire or people being kidnapped because of it.
Slightly (only slightly) less hysterical Muslims are calling for a boycott of Danish products to hit Denmark in the hip pocket until the Danish Government officially apologises, which it has so far refused to do.
I am in full support of such a boycott. I predict such a boycott of Danish goods will send the prices of these goods plummeting as Danish suppliers adjust to a reduction in demand, thereby allowing me to purchase even more delicious Danish Lurpak butter.
Macam Macam, The Swanker, a.k.a. Fabian Link
P.S. The idiots in Iran have decided to rename "Danish Pastries" as "Mohammed Pastries." Don't they realize the hell they will inspire at Fark.com and Worth1000.com?
This just gets better, day by day.
Ko Lipe Thailand
People are always asking me for some "untouched" island in Southeast Asia, well off the beaten Lonely Planet route, with pristine beaches and simple bamboo huts for a few bucks a day.
Try Ko Lipe.
It's down south and is included in the Tarutao National Park, in Satun Province, and can be reached by daily funky ferry from Pakbara. Nearby Satun (where you'll probably need to overnight) ain't much, but there's daily ships down to Langkawi, and an old-style downtown with some falling-down wooden shophouses.
Koh Lipe (Lipe Island) is part of Satun Province, and is located 80 kilometers from Pak Bara in the Adang Archipelago of the Andaman Sea, an exquisite chain of small islands that have yet to be fully developed for tourism. The Archipelago became part of the Tarutao National Marine Park in 1974, and is a rapidly growing destination for divers who come to enjoy the 288 fish and 137 coral species there.
From Pak Bara, the group went by speedboat to Lipe Island, a rough journey given the cross currents between the islands and the depth of the swells in the sea. The prevailing belief that it is not good for the boat to adjust the speed downward produced a hard ride that was disruptive to the fishermen en route and the tranquility of the beach on arrival.
The ferry at Pak Bara takes about four hours, but offers more comfortable passage. Book at Pak Bara so that you can see the vessel you will be traveling on. The monsoon season lasts from May through October. The seas are rough during this time, and most public transportation does not operate to the smaller islands. Most of the small resorts also close during the monsoon season.
Chiang Mai Mail Link
Pattaya Trans Contest
The online website of the Pattaya Mail is always good for a weekly read, if only to see the photos of nabbed yaba dealers and read more thrilling stories of Germans/Swedes/Italians taking the final dive from their condo verandah on the 16th floor.
And it's always fun to read the snarky "relationship advice" column known as Heart to Heart, penned by the amusing Dr. Ian Corness. Yep, that's the guy who masquerades as some sort of Ask Landers of the Land of Lower Smiles, according to his confession to me in Pattaya many years ago.
Anyway, the Good Doctor (yes, he's really a doctor) posted an especially amusing set of three questions today, along with his weekly medical column about colon surgery and the ill effects of drinking 7 days a week from 8am to 2am. His advice: take a day off once weekly.
Heart to Heart with Hillary
Nit and Ying, the adorable wee Isaanettes, have both turned over a new leaf and are getting into Sherbet Fountains. I wonder if you have turned over a new Petal and are trying a little Turkish Delight.
Dear Mister Singha,
Are you working on the principle that I might be suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and have forgotten your empty promises? Quite frankly, I hope your Isaanettes drown you in one (Sherbet Fountain, that is). It would be no real loss to the literary world. Actually, I wonder if you are attempting to emulate the great Baron von Munchausen?
Next week, on February 22, two hundred and eight years ago, Karl Friedrich Hieronymus Baron von Munchausen passed away. Known as the "Baron of Lies", he was born in 1720 in Bodenwerder, and served initially as a page to Prince Anton Ulrich von Braunschweig, and later as a cornet, lieutenant and cavalry captain with a Russian regiment in two Turkish wars.
Munchausen was known during his lifetime as an excellent raconteur of anecdotes about war, hunting and travel adventures. After the death of his first wife, Munchausen married a 17 year old, but his marriage was an unhappy one which constantly drove him to debt and caused scandals.
From 1781 to 1783 a collection of Munchausen's tales was published, and an English version of the tales was published in 1785 under the title Baron Munchausen's Narrative of His Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia. Eventually, Munchausen's name became associated with the amusingly preposterous story or the lie winningly told. Just as you are associated with the word "renege" (look it up, if you're not sure). You are certainly trying, Mister Singha, my Petal.
I am not sure if anyone has written to you before about this, but there seems to be even more lady-boys than ever before. I (almost) got trapped the other night by this gorgeous creature who stopped me in the street the other night. I will say I had a few under my belt, so maybe my judgment wasn't crash hot, you know the old beer glasses routine, but how can a man be sure at times like those? Any foolproof way, Hillary? You seem to know the answer to everything else, so this should be easy. And make it quick before I go out again, that's a sweet pea!
Well Petal, it probably is a little difficult to arrange a chromosome examination at the side of the road, but there are a few pointers. Firstly, Thai ladies tend to be small, while the lady-boys tend to be tall. Look for wide shoulders and narrow hips and the tell-tale Adam's apple, but remember they can have this surgically shaved.
The voice also tends to be dark brown too. As far as the figure is concerned, Thai ladies are generally not well endowed, while someone with a Pamela Anderson superstructure has bought it at the local plastic surgery shop! And like all of these sorts of transactions, Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware)! And I am nobody's sweet pea!
I am thinking of coming over for a holiday with my girlfriend at the end of the year. When I was over there a couple of years ago there were a few beer bars in every town, but from what I can read, there's lots of them now. I am not into the bar scene, and neither would my girlfriend be, so I am a little worried about taking her over there.
What do think? Should I take the chance and bring her anyway, or should I leave her back in the UK and come on my own. I know she wouldn't be too happy about that, and I am worried it might break us up. I really do want to come over this coming August. What should I do? Really has me bamboozled at present.
You have some serious problems, Petal. You say you've been here before, so you should know there are plenty of places to go in Thailand and things to do. You don't have to go trawling round the bars every night. It certainly isn't compulsory! Nobody forces you to drink in them, or do they? There are plenty of other pastimes that both you and your girlfriend might enjoy. Like golf, swimming, fishing, diving, sailing, go-karting, movies, dining and touring. Even spend some time meditating in a temple.
Thailand really is like an a la carte restaurant - everything is on it, it is up to you what you choose. Now, this fear that a holiday apart will break you up is more worrying to me than whether the pair of you will be dragged off screaming and kicking into some bar somewhere if you both come for the holiday. If you are going to leave your girlfriend behind, what is she going to do? Run off with the milkman?
You need a little more trust for a lasting relationship, and she needs to trust you too. I suggest you talk this holiday and the various options through with your girlfriend before you book your plane seat(s). You've got a few months yet to mature.
Pattaya Mail Heart to Heart with Hillary Link
Jeepney by Carl Parkes
After her first year of guarded skepticism, Madame Chiang seems to be warming up to the Philippines, as shown by her recent humorous post. Hang in there MC, life can only get funnier as the years roll along.
Yesterday was a long day (even by my standards) and not the best day ever...so by the time I left work I was not in the best frame of mind and just wanted to get in the taxi and go home..
So I find my taxi and then (and I am prepared for this part) have to go through the whole "No, I will not pay an extra 30 pesos, only what's on the meter"....which, the guy accepted with good grace (which I have discovered is quite normal) but...and it's a big but...this guy obviously had a trick up his sleeve....on goes the radio...and he starts singing...normally, the singing is ok. Singing taxi drivers in HKG are not great, singing taxi drivers in Manila are actually very good...and I quite like listening to them singing along. However, this guy was the exception to the rule...he could not sing at all....my cats are more tuneful.
Given the frame of mind I was in I knew I couldn't bear the trip home with this shrill tuneless squeaking in the front....so I asked him to stop....and then came the crunch..."twenty pesos to stop singing Ma'am"....it was probably the first thing to make me laugh all day...so, I agreed!!!! And I have to say it was the best money I have spent in a while!!!
Madame Chiang Link
Thank God that the Malaysian censors kept Madonna off the recent Grammy broadcast. Even after having two kids, the lady is still too hot for words. And how about that duet between Bono and Blige? That women has the vocal cords of a goddess.
Madonna's Grammy Performance Censored in Malaysia
Madonna's performance was struck from Malaysia's television broadcast of the Grammy Awards because her skimpy outfit and steamy dance moves were too risque for audiences in this Muslim-majority nation. The Grammys aired Thursday night on Malaysia's 8TV station, 12 hours after the show took place in the US. But Malaysian fans were surprised when the show kicked off without the much-hyped opening act—Madonna and the cartoon-fronted rock group Gorillaz. “From our point of view, it wasn't suitable for our audiences,” said an official at the program content unit of 8TV, one of Malaysia's main private networks. The rest of the telecast wasn’t censored, but Madonna’s barelegged leotard attire and sexy gyrations were “too much of a risk for us to take if we tried to show it,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The Irrawaddy Link
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Travel agents in Thailand are generally a qualified lot, and generally honest with the money, but mistakes can sometimes by made, such as this recent horror story related by an English couple on holiday.
A BRITISH couple ended up in a prison camp after a travel agent sent them to TEL AVIV instead of TENERIFE.
Diane Bell and Michael Moore were accused of being terrorists and strip-searched twice during the 21,000-mile holiday from hell which also took them to Thailand.
Pub landlady Diane said: “It was like being in a bad dream.”
The pair booked £750 return flights from Manchester to Bangkok. But Diane, 34, who runs the Woolpack Inn at Keighley, West Yorkshire, said: “We hated the city. We found the city horrible — so we decided to fly to Tenerife.”
But the Thai travel agent misheard. Diane said: “It sounds daft but I’d never seen Tel Aviv spelt before. I thought it was what people in Thailand called Tenerife.”
Suspicious armed Israeli police swooped as the couple tried to explain the mix-up in Tel Aviv. The pair were held at a camp surrounded by barbed wire while their story was checked before being sent back to Bangkok.
Their fortunes changed when they headed for the Thai resort of Koh Samui — but their epic tour had cost more than £5,000 — £4,200 of that going on flights.
Sun Online Link
SINGAPORE (AP): A Singapore court jailed a woman for two weeks for negligence after she ordered her Indonesian maid onto the ledge of an eighth-floor condominium from where she fell to her death, court documents showed.
A district judge said Ngu Mei Mei, 37, who admitted one count of negligence imperiling the life of her maid, Yanti, 22, was sentenced to jail to show that the court would not excuse any thoughtless conduct by employers that placed their maids' livesin jeopardy.
"The court will not condone a disregard for the safety of domestic helpers," District Judge Thian Yee Sze wrote in her decision, delivered Tuesday.
"Many of them are very young and come from rural areas, and have never worked in urban areas and high-rise buildings. Hence, they are less aware of the potential dangers," Thian said.
"It must be remembered that to a foreign domestic helper who is often all alone in Singapore, the employer is not only her superior, whose orders she has to obey, but also her guardian and protector," the judge wrote.
Yanti, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name, fell to her death after Ngu ordered her onto the ledge of her condominium to dry laundry. Ngu could have been jailed for up to three months and fined a maximum of 250 Singapore dollars (US$153) for the offense.
Singapore's Ministry of Manpower said 18 maids fell to their deaths last year.
About 150,000 women, mostly from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, work as maids in Singapore.
Critics, including U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, have accused the government of not having adequate labor laws to protect maids. Singapore says maids receive full legal protection, and that employers who abuse or exploit maids can face fines and jail terms of up to six months.
Luca Tattoo Gang
Jimmy Wong Tattoo
Joy Wong Tattoo
If you happen to be in Bangkok this weekend, and are bored out of your skull, then why not wander over to the 1st annual Tattoo Arts Festival and perhaps get some screaming dragon embedded all over your chest? The following website features some of the most tortured English imaginable, but the Pictures section is well worth a look. Most of the attending tattoo illustrators are based in Asia, but there's one American group from Pomona.
When the zenithal top of worldwide professional tattooists gathered round together for the first time of history of Siam and Southeast Asia region to show off their excellence of skillful performance of tattooing, and intend to encourage inter-exchange tattooing culture each other. Thailand is one of many countries unique in tattoo culture since ancient time, ranging from magic tattoo to aesthetical tattoo. Tattooing culture has become attractive and famous among foreign tourists. In Thailand, tattoo shop can be recognized a colorful element of tourism fascinatingly.
World Tattoo Festival Link
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Since the Thai government decided to ban both the book and the website of Yale University Press, it may be difficult for readers in Thailand to access the latest news from Yale University Press regarding the forthcoming publication of The King Never Smiles. So here it is:
Yale University Press understands the forthcoming publication of Paul Handley's book has given cause for concern. The book is dispassionate in tone and temperament, and has been thoroughly vetted both by leading scholars in the field and by the Yale University Press Faculty Committee. The author stands behind this book one hundred percent as does the Press.
Journalist Paul Handley spent thirteen years living in Thailand and reporting on Thailand and South East Asia. His book is a deeply researched, interpretive biography of King Bhumibol, covering the King's life, thinking, and ruling philosophy. It recasts post-1932 Thai political history to include the monarchy's role (which has been skirted and omitted by every other modern history of the country).
More generally, it is a portrait of the workings of one modern constitutional monarchy, with focus on issues on constitutionalism. The title of the book refers, simply, to the Buddhist concept of uppeka, or equanimity, in the projection of the king's image. The timing of publication is purely coincidental with this year's anniversary.
Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej, the only king ever born in the United States, came to the throne of his country in 1946 and is now the world’s longest-serving monarch. This book tells the unexpected story of his life and 60-year rule—how a Western-raised boy came to be seen by his people as a living Buddha, and how a king widely seen as beneficent and apolitical could in fact be so deeply political, autocratic, and even brutal.
Paul Handley provides an extensively researched, factual account of the king’s youth and personal development, ascent to the throne, skillful political maneuverings, and attempt to shape Thailand as a Buddhist kingdom. Blasting apart the widely accepted image of the king as egalitarian and virtuous, Handley convincingly portrays an anti-democratic monarch who, together with allies in big business and the murderous, corrupt Thai military, has protected a centuries-old, barely modified feudal dynasty.
When at nineteen Bhumibol assumed the throne after the still-unsolved shooting death of his brother, the Thai monarchy had been stripped of power and prestige. Over the ensuing decades, Bhumibol became the paramount political actor in the kingdom, crushing critics while attaining godlike status among his people. The book details this process and depicts Thailand’s unique constitutional monarch in the full light of the facts.
Paul M. Handley is a journalist who lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia for more than twenty years, including thirteen in Thailand.
Yale University Press Link
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Bronze Lion by Carl Parkes
A staff writer with the Denver Post recently visited Thailand and reports back with an unusual angle that compares travel in the Kingdom with the four precepts of Buddhism. It's a funny and fairly enlightening look into Thai tourism, although he confuses the Chaweng Beach Road with something he labels the "Samui Ring Road." Wonder where he got that term?
Noble Truth No. 2:
Don't be too attached to your comfort level
Thailand is a land of dichotomies. Great beauty and wrenching poverty. Ancient religions and rampant prostitution. Expect to be dazzled and confused.
The beaches are one of the most frustrating contradictions. For instance, take Koh Samui, an island off the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand. I stayed there in a bungalow on Chaweng Beach, and while I loved the foot-caressing sand and the wondrous scenery, I expected a secluded paradise, mainly because Thailand has mastered the art of the seductive website.
Instead I found a Mexican beach town with twice the number of cheesy hawkers. An endless parade of vendors interrupted my "serenity" to hawk soccer balls, sarongs, bracelets, ice cream, wooden flutes, henna tattoos, doughnuts, carpets and sunglasses. (They also sold delicious roasted corn.) The town itself was a postmodern madhouse, with hundreds of Germans who looked like Mike-Myers-as-Dieter, all shuffling down nearly nonexistent sidewalks or wedging themselves into knockoff stores. (Fake watches, Armani suits, DVDs.)
Shoehorned between the knockoff stores are massage parlors. Most aren't fronts for prostitution (no need for fronts in prostitution-friendly Thailand) but places to drop in for, say, an after-dinner, one-hour foot massage, which goes for about 50 cents a toe. Luxury is a national obsession in Thailand, and the foot massages are well worth a try, as are the traditional spine-bending Thai massage. Aaah - right there - that's the spot!
One of the more interesting contradictions in Thailand is how people interact with Buddha, whose likeness is everywhere. Everyone gives offerings to monks who pass on the streets, and yet everyone also tolerates behavior that seems straight out of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Denver Post Link
Saturday, February 04, 2006
The Letters to the Editor section in today's The Nation has several messages from concerned tourists, who feel that ongoing problems in the Kingdom need to be solved, to keep the tourists coming back to the Land of Smiles.
Credit card fraud, restrictive alcohol sales laws, deserted tourism sites in Central Thailand. Just a short summary of what is going wrong in the country, but you might also add increasing levels of violence, mass carnage on the highways, corrupt cops, blatant malfeasance by the current prime minister, vast corruption throughout all segments of Thai society, discrimination via double-tiered fees against foreigners, a failure to plan or supervise tourist resorts, 10 baht songtaos in Pattaya, lack of fresh water, notorious traffic jams in Bangkok and Pattaya, severe pollution in Chiang Mai (the "Rose" of the North), the destroyed roads and sewer systems of Ko Samui, etc. The list just goes on and on and on.
And almost nothing is being done to solve any of these problems.
Credit-card users have their trust betrayed in Kingdom
I have heard that Thailand is the riskiest place in the world for using one’s credit card. Unfortunately, I have first-hand experience of this and am a bit disappointed at the apparent lack of a legal process to stamp out this multi-billion-dollar crime racket.
I recently received my credit-card statement, which had two unrecognised transactions that amounted to more than Bt173,475. I immediately contacted my credit-card company and had my card stopped.
I had knowledge based on firm evidence about the place and person responsible for using my card illegally. I informed the credit-card company of this, but they only told me I should report it to the Thai police. I was disappointed to learn that there is not an international agency pursuing these crimes.
Although I am determined to get to the bottom of it, I am somewhat dubious about there being any way to follow this up with the Thai police. I feel it would get lost in translation, and the person (a Westerner) involved in the crime warned in advance to cover his tracks, leaving him to get on with his criminal activities.
I’d be interested to know of someone from Thailand who has information about how this could be seriously followed up and go some way to tackling the abuse of trust of credit-card users in the Kingdom.
Tightening alcohol laws will devastate the service sector
Re: “Restrictions on alcohol sales another knock to tourism”, Letters, January 29.
In his letter John Morrisey expressed unhappiness at not being allowed to purchase alcohol at 3pm and said that this would have detrimental effects on tourism.
It would seem that his sentiments are supported by the Thai Hotel Association – (“Alcohol bill ‘harmful’”, News, February 1). New laws are due to come in to force which would permit sales only from 11am till 2pm and 5pm till 11pm.
Hotel owners have realised that this sort of restriction on hotels, restaurants and presumably bars will be the “kiss of death” to tourism in Thailand and are consequently up in arms. Given that 40 per cent of the country’s labour force is employed in the service industry any damage inflicted on the tourism industry is not economically sensible. This is particularly so since tourist arrivals dropped by 2.5 per cent last year despite the government’s target of increasing them by 10 per cent, and hotels in Phuket had occupancy rates of 40 per cent, while those in Khao Lak were 10 per cent.
Will measures such as these assist the Kingdom in becoming the tourism capital of Asia?
Tourist hot spots are looking more and more deserted
Thailand’s central and eastern tourist centres are looking more like Laos every day but less beautiful. They certainly are taking on a deserted look!
I normally holiday at least once per year and have seen quite amazing regression in these cities.
I certainly wonder how long the obvious lack of spending can last without affecting the economy – I already notice a significant increase in petty, and not so petty, crime. Should resorts close so early? Are there really enough other attractions to keep foreign and local tourists busy and to keep them returning? I am afraid the answers to these questions must be a very firm “No”.
Mrs S King