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Monday, September 29, 2008


Night people of Koh Samui

Take a night walk on the streets of the towns of Koh Samui and you will meet an interesting selection of people. Let me introduce you to some in these shots, mostly taken with my personal candid technique.

Actually these guys are there day and night and you'll find similar in other tourist areas of South-east Asia. Many Indian tailor shops line the streets of these towns. Buy a tailored suit at a fraction of the price you pay for an off-the-rack one back in Oz or USA or Europe. There is invariably a spruiker* outside the shop whose job it is to entice you inside. I'd hate to be one of those guys. Their self esteem must be exceptional. They sure have to cope with loads of rejection. At least the guys in this pic are passing some time with him. Sadly most walk past and ignore. Hey, loosen up. You don't have to buy unless you want to. Just say 'G'day'. I spoke for five minutes with one, almost entirely in Thai. Was probably good practice for both of us. Colin and I chatted with another and discovered he was not from India but Nepal.

These ladies offer a massage service in Lamai. You can see by their uniforms that they are professional. ; ) Of course there's no hanky panky here. On the night I was there with my camera they didn't see me. They were too busy enticing the two guys on the other side of the street to come over for a massage. Were they successful? Check out my flickr photostream to see. The following evening as I walked past, one said to me, 'Would you like a massage sir? Very relaxing. I massage every part of your body.'

There is an area in the centre of Lamai where there are several bars and also a market that sells hot food. The bars have pole-dancing girls. I was told that if you are prepared to pay a bar fine you can take one home for the night. Being a dedicated photographer : ) I was more interested in getting a photo. I figured it wouldn't be such a good one using my candid technique so I walked up to the bar and asked if I could get a shot. This young lady was only too happy to pose for me.

There is also an exotic cabaret just around the corner from those bars. I suggested to my friend that he'd enjoy seeing some of the characters they have spruiking for them. 'Here's one,' I said as we approached this delightful young lady handing out pamphlets. She was only too happy to pose for me. In fact the photo shoot got even more interesting after I took this one but you'll have to wait until I get around to processing that one for my flickr photostream. My friend was getting quite excited by the poses this girl was making. It was a shame to spoil his fun and tell him that it is a boy.

Check my previous post for more information on Koh Samui.

*Spruiker My spell-checker didn't like this word and it wasn't in either of my dictionaries. I googled it and it is indeed a word, perhaps Australian. The definition I found is: A person standing outside a place of business trying to persuade patrons to enter, or vigourously trying to persuade customers to purchase their wares

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Saturday, September 27, 2008


Visit to Koh Samui

My friend Nee has been working on Koh Samui for about five months so it's always been on the cards that I'd visit sometime. When Colin, an Australian friend, said he was heading there I decided it was time to make my trip.

There are many ways to get to Samui. You can fly in but it seems none of the budget airlines go there now. I took the train option. I got a sleeper from Bangkok (Hua Lampong) to Surat Thani and then a bus to the coast and a ferry to the island. Samui is about 20 kilometres wide and 25 from north to south. Roads take you close to the coast rather than straight across. The ferry from the mainland will bring you to Nathon on the west coast. Most of the action is on the resort beach towns of Lamai and Chaweng on the east coast.

For my Australian readers I'd suggest that Samui is like the Gold Coast without the high rise but with a very strong Thai accent. It is very touristy with probably more foreigners there than Thais. If you decide to visit Samui, I suggest you consider flying into Kuala Lumpur rather than Bangkok. You can fly on AirAsia from Coolangatta and save a packet. The train that links KL and Bangkok passes through Surat Thani.

I've started posting my Samui pics on my flickr page and assuming I have time will add a few more blogs on different aspects of Samui so drop back in a day or two for more about Samui.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Thai plumbing

Thought you might like to know what it is like when you need a plumber in Thailand. Actually I'm not sure there are many. Most people do their own plumbing. I don't know anyone who tells me they actually know a plumber. And it's much the same in other Asian countries.

The design of bathrooms here also means that the shower sprays water over the bathroom floor. There is no separate shower cubicle. Some newer places have one but in most bathrooms after you have a shower the floor of the whole bathroom is wet. If you don't mop it up you risk slipping when you come in again.

My shower started dripping last week. There is not much I can do about it because there is nowhere for me to turn the water off while I replace the washer. And the water was dripping and keeping the floor constantly wet. I spoke to the building manager and she said she'd get the fix-it man to attend to it. But he didn't come. Maybe I asked about four times. Eventually he came and changed the shower head. Of course it still dripped. With my limited Thai and his limited English it was difficult for me to explain to him that he needed to change the washer not the shower head. In any case, he should know that. He is the fix-it man after all. He just kept on saying 'mai pen lai' (it doesn't matter). This is a very common phrase in Thailand. He told me that all the rooms were the same and 'mai pen lai'.

I was not happy. I had visions of getting up for a pee in the middle of the night and slipping on the wet floor while half asleep. To me it did matter.

The building manager's daughter and I help each other practise our language each night so that night I explained the problem to Tee with the help of drawing a picture of a shower head and a tap and a washer. She seemed to understand and told her mother and the mother said he would come again the next day at midday.

I'd given up waiting for him at 1 pm and started getting ready to go out for lunch. Just as I was about to leave at 1.15 there was a knock at the door. This time he had a whole tap. I wasn't going to argue the point. I just wanted it fixed. It took him about 10 minutes and it was done. And since, no problem.

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Monday, September 15, 2008


What's happening in Thailand

Some of my friends check my blog from time to time to see what is happening with me. Some have pointed out recently that I have been a little quiet lately and they hear on the news about sometimes violent protests in Bangkok and they have been wondering if I'm OK.

If you too have been wondering let me first say I apologise for the lack of communication. I didn't realise it had been so long since I had posted a blog. Here is what is happening for me: I continue to go to school two days a week. I continue to study Thai. I am making progress but still feel I have a long way to go. My life is busy but not exciting. While I am finding little to blog about I have been quite content with my time here.

About the problems in Thailand. I wish I really understood what was going on but I have to say I don't. I appreciate that for you overseas you understand it even less so to give you a little background, here is how I see it:

As you know there was a coup a few years back to oust Taksin because while he had been taking care of the Thai economy he was also taking care of himself. In Thailand there is a law that says you can't criticise the king. It seemed Taksin thought no one should criticise him either. Anyway they got rid of him, were ruled by the military for a couple of years and got a new constitution and the people elected a new government which just happened to be the supporters of Taksin. Now either the people like Taksin and his supporters or they don't value their votes very highly and were prepared to accept bribes for their votes. Well, that's what people are saying but I have to ask: Are there no whistle blowers? To buy enough votes to win an election there must be a lot of people involved. It just needs one to say no, speak out and someone should be charged. I'm assuming vote buying is illegal in Thailand???

Anyway, there is a group that was against Taksin and played a role in bringing him down. They are called PAD which stands for Peoples Alliance for Democracy. The same people are now protesting against the current government. Perhaps they have a valid argument. The government has never impressed me. But I'm not too sure about the PAD name. I believe their proposal is for the elected members to be only 30% of the seats of the government and the other members to be appointed. One of their leaders has more or less said that Thai people are too stupid to be trusted with a vote. They may be right and they may be wrong but I think their name is wrong. They would be more honest if they called themselves People Against Democracy.

Anyway they've been protesting for a long time and now another group that supports the government has been opposing them and this is what has started the violence. But despite what the media outside Thailand would have you believe the protests are confined to a small area and only affect the streets close to the government buildings. I don't think I would want to be staying in Khao San Road at the moment. That would be a little too close for comfort but I live a long way out of town and so far it's pretty quiet here. It's pretty quiet where I go to school too. Life goes on. People talk about it but in most of Bangkok there is not much happening. I'm comfortable being here. I hope you're comfortable about that too.

If you'd like a little more info on what's happening in Thailand, I suggest you check the Thai English-language newspapers Bangkok Post and The Nation.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008


Thursday in Bangkok

This blog has not been particularly active lately because I have not been particularly active. Well, I'm active but I'm following a routine and it is not terribly exciting. Two days a week I go into the city to Thai language school. My main priority on the other days is to study Thai at home which I do with the aid of two online dictionaries and off course my good friend Tee who lives downstairs in my apartment building.

Recently I discovered that an eight week Buddhist dharma and meditation class was to be presented at a wat in the city one night a week by an English monk. I went along on the first night, was pleased and have been going ever since. The course is presented on Thursday evenings and as I am already going to my Thai class on Thursday mornings it makes sense to stay in the city but that of course means I have a lot of time to fill between classes. One week I made a return visit to Little India and got some more movies. Was going to go to a movie another time but got there too late for one session and the following session would finish too late for my timetable so I spent a few hours browsing in a bookshop (and spending a little money).

Last week I came prepared with a book to read. I decided to relax in one of my favourite places in Bangkok, the Saphan Taksin jetty. It's always cool there with a breeze coming off the river and I enjoy watching the many and varied boats coming and going. Thursday it was very cool because there was a storm coming which you can see in the photo here that I snapped with my Panasonic FX3. That's the little camera that I bought so I could take it anywhere. It's usually in my bag.

I reached Wat Yannawa a little early for the dharma class so snapped a few shots there too. As you can see the floor is still damp from that storm. I believe the building behind the wat is empty. Bangkok still has quite a few buildings such as this as a result of the Asian economic slump of about ten years ago. Apparently ownership issues are so complex that nothing can be done to either complete or destroy such buildings.

If you are interested in these dharma classes, there is a short version of the talks here and also from this site you can pick up information about other Buddhist teachings and get-togethers in English happening in Bangkok.

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