Street Show at Lumpini

Written by mdw on December 13th, 2010

main entrance to Lumpini ParkEach year there is a huge street show held in Lumpini Park, called the International Street Show. This is the first year I’ve gone for some reason, but I think it’s well worth the price of admission – free.

On saturday there were well over ten thousand people there. Lumpini is a pretty large place, and the exhibits/performers were spread out throughout the park, so it can hold huge numbers of people.

This event highlights what a wonderful place Lumpini Park really is. I can’t think of another place that is as perfect for this sort of event as Lumpini, although my second choice would be Suan Lum night Bazaar.

full crowd sceneUsually I think of Lumpini as a quiet, thoughtful place with joggers, Tai Chi, and people just relaxing. To my mind it’s NY Central Park with monitor lizards instead of muggers. Only it’s more convenient, with two MRT stations and a BTS station nearby, you really can get here from anywhere.

One thing that was really nice was that they kept vendors outside the park area. They were permitted at the entrances only, which made for a better experience. Of course the official sponsors like Chang Beer and Fuji Sushi were allowed to sell their products inside, but having only a handful of vendors inside the gates helped out a lot.

Outside were all the great food and drink vendors you’d imagine too. Ice cream on bread, grilled squid, roti, flavored ices, grilled pork and so much more. I had a taro ice cream, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There was a vendor selling sushi just outside the main entrance as well, but I didn’t try any.

Palio at Khao Yai

Written by mdw on December 12th, 2010

PiazzaI recently had the opportunity to go to Palio, a small Italian-style complex in the mountains at Khao Yai. It’s up in that area where there are so many fancy resorts. You know, where the traffic is bad but the air is fresh.

This place is styled as a small Italian town, complete with piazzas, fountains and gardens. The buildings are close, with brickwork showing through patches of otherwise shiny new paint. The rooftops are stucco, and the winding, narrow passageways are indeed reminiscent of a small town in Italy.

What’s not consistent with the Italian theme are the hordes of young Thai kids posing for and taking pictures absolutely everywhere. They pose in every alley, making pedestrian navigation difficult. This must be one of the most sought after facebook photo spots for the young generation.

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Mont Nom Sod

Written by mdw on December 10th, 2010

Mont: toast with condensed milkOne of the best places to grab a nighttime snack is a little place called Mont in the old part of town. The place is always overflowing with Patrons, so getting a table can be challenging.

So what’s the big attraction? Simple: bread and milk.

Bread toasted with butter and sugar, bread toasted and topped with sweetened, condensed milk, toast topped with chocolate, toast topped with jams, bread cubes with a sweet bai thoey custard for dipping and more.

Bai Thoey Custard and bread cubes at Mont RestaurantThe toast with butter and sugar is great, and takes me back to my childhood in The Netherlands where I was shocked to find this was my breakfast at the Kinter House. I ended up liking it though, and I still do.

The toasted bread with sweetened condensed milk is my favorite though. I can’t get enough. But the best seller is surely the bread cubes with bai thoey custard for dipping the bread into, shown here on the right. And their claim to fame is not only fresh bread but milk, so their Thai iced tea is popular too.

This place is always full because it’s in a great location. Conveniently located just off Ratchadamnoen Road, there are always people walking around. There are two other locations according to their website, but I only go to this one. In fact I’ve never heard mention of other locations, I only know this because it’s on their website.

Full crowd scene at MontThe decor is simple, and features photos of some of the many famous customers who’ve eaten here over the years. So many have come here since it opened in 1964. And from the looks of it, they will remain popular for many years to come.

Last Buddhist couple slain

Written by mdw on September 21st, 2010

It’s a sad story. An elderly couple living in Narathiwat was slain by a group of assailants this week. They were shot dead at point blank range last saturday night by a group of about 10 militants with M-16 machine guns. Their houses were burned. Their daughter and her husband in a nearby house were similarly executed.

So why is the death of 83 year old Chun Kongpetch and his 76 year old wife so significant? Because these were the last Buddhist inhabitants in the village of Ban Hu Tae Lor. All the non-Muslim residents in this area have been killed, and no new Buddhists have moved into the area for fear of meeting the same fate. What used to be a normal place to live has become a place of intolerance and brutality.

Aren’t most of the notoriously peaceful Thais sickened by the horror that continues to take place in the South? Yes. Monks being decapitated, teachers being systematically shot and killed, schools burned down – these ongoing events have, over the past five years, scared away most of the Buddhists living in the far South.

It’s ironic that arguably the most peace-loving people on earth are being targeted by this vicious insurgency, borne of frustration and intolerance, funded by expatriots South of the border. Ironic but deeply sad to watch. It takes a very small number of violent extremists to create terror.

Airport link Is HUGE

Written by mdw on August 25th, 2010

Airport Rail LinkThe new airport link is hugely important. Bangkok has grown a lot, and having a modern airport farther out is essential. And to make it work for millions of travelers there must be modern ways to commute into the downtown areas.

But this is much more. Suvarnabhumi is as good an airport as any I’ve seen, and the BTS skytrain might be the best system of it’s kind in what might be the best public transportation infrastructure anywhere. Both are being expanded, although the airport expansion ran into a bit of bureaucratic slowdown.

This really should be a source of pride for Thais. Many wealthier nations have failed to plan, invest in and build great public transport systems. Bangkok continues to invest in transportation, and really is the premeir hub in Southeast Asia as a direct result of it.

Moreover, Bangkok is not a city choked on fumes and avoided at all cost like some of the other regional megalopolises in the world. Sure traffic is still rough, and there is still too much pollution in the air and waterways, but that commitment to improvement means optimism for the future is warranted.

Money is the root of all evil

Written by mdw on May 28th, 2010

ThaksinIn the US political donations are considered to be a first amendment right; that is to say that donating money, within the constraints set forth by law, is an extension of free speech. Specifically, it’s considered a form of political expression.

Funding an insurgency is another matter. If it turns out that Thaksin sent large amounts of money to facilitate an attempted overthrow of the Thai government, then he may be guilty of crimes against humanity. Many have said that he verbally incited agression against the government by the angry protestors.

aloneBut in truth it may be far worse. Many have observed that large numbers of protesters were brought in from remote regions in a well organized revolutionary attempt. In some cases entire villages were imported by offering 500 Baht per day per person. That operation may have been financed almost entirely by Mr. Thaksin.

More to the point, if ongoing inquiries demonstrate that weapons used in the conflict were obtained using Thaksin’s “contributions” then the more serious accusations will be validated. Funding to import and arm combatants to overthrow a standing government is basically terrorist activity. Time and money trails will tell the tale, this should be interesting!

Time to go home!

Written by mdw on May 17th, 2010

Dr Martin Luther King JrThere’s a common sense threshold that’s been breached. Sensible people should now change their course of action, if they haven’t already.

Freedom of speech, especially political speech is of the utmost importance if you hope to live in a society that values fairness to all. Peaceful demonstration is a tangible expression of what we westerners believe to be that basic human right.

But there is a huge difference between protest and inciting violence. When you demonstrate to protest something you think is wrong, you’re exercising that right to free speech. But when your actions turn violent, and infringe upon other people’s basic rights, you’ve crossed the line and become a criminal. This has always been the sane view, whether we’re talking about right-to-lifers bombing abortion clinics in the US or Redshirts shutting down the business district in Bangkok.

So redshirts, learn from the civil rights movement in the United States. Civil disobedience was the compelling strategy that could not be stopped, even when forceful protest only incites further violence. So think about your objectives and how they will be realized. Do you want civil war? Inciting people to revolt against a stable government is only justified when that government is guilty of brutality against its own population. Remember if you want to overthrow a government, you are by definition the enemy of that government and any hostile actions will likely be net with hostility.

The advice from this farang: go home. Plan limited, peaceful events for the future to ensure your views continue to be heard. But go to great lengths to avoid situations fraught with potential for violent conflict. It hurts everyone.

To tear the nation apart?

Written by mdw on April 23rd, 2010

I’m reminded of an ancient Jewish story. Two women came before the wise King Solomon both claiming a disputed baby as their own. Solomon finally announced his verdict – he would cut the baby in half and award one half to each alleged mother.

One woman cried out, “No you cannot do this! Give the baby to her!” The other woman said nothing. King Solomon promptly gave the infant to the woman who was so distraught, and scolded the other. “No mother could tolerate allowing her offspring to be cut in half.”

The parallel is clear, na? Thaksin, you cannot love Thailand and be willing to let the power struggle continue. No leader that cared more for their country than they cared about gaining power would allow their country to be torn in half.

Broadband policy in the works?

Written by mdw on March 6th, 2009

Finally a real push to bring broadband to the masses, I mean deploying fiber to every province! Not the way that big telcos bring connectivity to wherever a profit can be had. But the way federal policymakers view railroad service; e.g. there may be some unprofitable routes to the outlying areas, but if it benefits Thailand as a whole then the government is right to try to provide it.

And kudos to all involved in getting the Thai-Laos railway link opened this week. Critics will point out that Thailand footed the bill, but they will quickly be silenced as the obvious benefits start to be realized by those on both sides of the Mekong.

Anyway back to the point, Thailand’s Committee on ICT Business published results from a study suggesting that all 76 provinces could get fiber for slightly more investment than the government currently pays to lease TOT and CAT Telecom fibre-optic networks. The main difference – this is not a one-year benefit, but rather a serious investment in the future of Thailand’s Internet economy. เร็ว เร็ว ครับ

a little perspective please

Written by mdw on November 27th, 2008

PAD protesters are experiencing waning support from the business community in Thailand. Many average working people sympathize with the ideals of those who want to push the current Prime Minister from power. Many people sympathize with Thaksin, who is effectively banned from Thailand unless he returns to deal head-on with his serious legal problems. And many sympathize with the current government, which was elected after all, and struggles to rule without broad support from the citizenry, or support from the army.

One thing America has frequently done right is to demonstrate how to avoid making all suffer, while still demonstrating disdain for the current situation. The civil rights movement in the mid twentieth century was the classic social movement which strove to minimize violence and disruption of society. And it worked. Civil disobedience does not typically lead to immediate results. It also does not inflict the primary damage on the innocent working people.

I for one would have some sympathy for PAD if it were not for the events like yesterday’s shutdown of Suvarnabhumi and other previous events. The travel and tourism industry is so important to Thailand. So why is a small group of troublemakers willing to take away people’s livelihoods like this? Many hard working small businesses owners depend on tourism to feed their families and pay their mortgages.

Idealism must be tempered with an understanding of who is being hurt. Political pressure must be brought to bear on the administration, but violent takeover of national infrastructure is not acceptable.