Thailand near border

Hiking in Northern Thailand (close to Burma I believe) almost 20 years ago we finally came upon the village where we would stay the night. The rivers were swollen and the ground wet and muddy. It was this trip I think that I ventured into a fast moving canoe that almost capsized as we were trying to get to our destination. I don’t swim and there were no life jackets. There were a couple similar occasions during our many trips to Thailand that I would have, with only a slight change in luck, have met a different fate.

You haven’t had Thai food until you have had it prepared fresh right in front of you, with freshly culled chicken, and just picked herbs and spices.

New friend

Here I am about 18 years ago with my new drunk friend, drunk because the village was having a party, and also likely due to having to perform some ceremony for the benefit of backpackers.

Taken somewhere in the wilds of Northern Thailand. I remember being nervous about our over night accommodations. All the men in the village seemed to be getting drunk, and at the same time were taking an unhealthy interest in Sheryl. Luckily it was just paranoia.

Tip: don’t buy fancy leather hiking boots with glued on soles while hiking in hot humid SE Asia. My feet were a mess and the soles came off a couple years later.

A room for the night

The room that we shared with pigs and chickens below us while hiking somewhere in Northern Thailand. While the accommodations might not have been luxurious, the food that was cooked for us was amazing (poor chickens).

It was warmer

4 years ago we were taking a break from work in a far warmer locale than where we are at the moment. I flew to Thailand from China, stayed overnight in Bangkok, before taking a small plane, ferry and bus to join family who had already rented a little cabin near the beach. Lot’s of memories on this trip, the food, the motorcycles, and the motorcycle accident. Camren rode on the back of my motorcycle and when hitting a rut on an unpaved road, we promptly skid and crashed. We were largely unharmed – I was bruised, scrapped and shook up a bit. Camren came away fine as I served as his airbag when he landed on top of me. Something we still joke about.

Later, our world would change as I flew to Canada to be with my mother in palliative care, accompanying her on her final journey.

Hopefully someday we will be able to throw a change of clothes in a bag, hop on a plane, and visit some interesting place far away from our daily routines.

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport

I arrived in Bangkok late a few nights ago via Taipei. Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport arrivals section seems quite unfinished or is it supposed to look like this? If you like a dull modernist aesthetic, than you will love this airport, but for one of the warmest and friendliest cultures anywhere is it a fitting way to greet guests? So cold and uninviting. The departures section has some of the best bread I have tasted in an airport, certainly a world a way from the best bakeries south of Taipei. The cost of course has the usual airport mark-up but compared to what awaits you in cattle class it might just be worth it.
The structure is impressive but I somehow miss the old one – inefficiency and all. Why don’t they design airports with a sense of warmth? For the frequent flyer this airport must look just about the same as every other – lots of gray, glass, and stainless steel with the odd cultural artifact thrown in the aisles. Thai. culture is full of colour but you won’t see that at the airport.
It does stand in stark contrast to the newly renamed Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan (Taipei) Taiwan. I recently had to take a flight out of their new ‘D’ wing and it has the look of something thrown together with little thought or aspiration. With all the airport expansions in the region Taiwan just can’t compete or doesn’t really care to. It’s so amateur that there really isn’t anything to be critical about. But it does work – they get you in and out as quickly as possible. Which is likely the objective most people visiting Taiwan will have. It takes a some time to appreciate the good things here and certainly there is little help organizationally to make the experience any different.

Jonathan Taylor Photography

Jonathan Taylor is an English photographer who has been based in Bangkok since the early 90’s. I have been wanting to share his work since I came across it on flickr a week ago.
“Well known for his gritty, black-and-white images of cops, hit men, drug addicts and crime scenes, eyevine photographer Jonathan Taylor has traveled all over Asia to report on everything from Agent Orange victims in Vietnam to a special police unit in Bangkok that helps pregnant women, stuck in traffic, give birth.”
His work is very powerful and illustrates the lives of people we might never see in Asia. His series on the effects of Agent Orange should forever change your mind about the validity of political wars.
His photos on Flickr
The Agent Orange series
The Jonathan Taylor Website

Radio City Patpong

This obscure image is a photo taken from my mobile phone at a bar in Bangkok called ‘Radio City’. I think I have somewhat of a dud of mobile phone camera as no matter what the effort the pictures all suck. I suppose though it could be me(likely), since the venerable Heather Champ seems to enjoy success with hers.
Radio City is located in the entertainment area, or more accurately a small soi, in Bangkok called Patpong. An enormously famous area known and visited by just about every visitor to Bangkok – or so I assume judging by the crowds of people wading through the famous market. The area has the good fortune to be labelled an entertainment zone as part of the local governments off and on again policy of policing morality. Unless you are the ultraconservative type who is sensitive to the selling of overpriced artefacts, illegal dvds, and the selling of various views of strange sex shows, it is an experience one should have once. More than once the experience becomes a bore and walking through the night market is really an experience best not repeated. It’s hot, very crowded, and the constant touting of ‘dvd sex’ tends to wear you down.
I’m not sure if this makes me a miscreant or not but despite the obvious reputation the area has and the fact that I dislike the experience of prodding through the masses of people and touts, I find myself continuously coming back to Radio City. The appeal has nothing to do with the young ladies sitting at the bar waiting for a ‘date’, it has nothing to do with the smiles of the bar staff who by now know me, and it really has nothing to do with the inevitable thong throwing by drunken maidens. It’s all about getting my fix of live Tom Jones and Elvis impersonators. Radio City has featured the live performance of the classics of Tom Jones and Elvis for as long as I can remember (which I guess really isn’t that long). The band is not so good. The impersonation not even close. The singing passable. But it usually proves to be a pretty good time. If nothing else it’s worthy to drop by have a couple beers and see an interesting mix of people singing and swaying to the likes of ‘My Delilah’ and ‘Sexbomb’.
The bar brings me back to the days I used to help pay the rent by touring all over Northern Ontario in a horn section that was backing up an old time Elvis impersonator. It wasn’t a gig I wanted to tell my high brow orchestral brethren about but it instilled in me a little respect for that old time groove. Of course we didn’t have beautiful young Thai. women moving to the music but the old gray haired type reliving their youth. There were the Elvis fanatics as well. A weird bunch who worship the church Elvis and followed this particular impersonator all across Ontario. I much prefer the young Thai. girls. Maybe it’s time to stop being a spectator, dust off my horn and relive the experience for myself. Imagine what my high brow friends back home would think then when they asked what I was doing to make a living and I told them I was playing back up to a Thai Tom Jones impersonator amongst the flurry of ping pong shows and short time hotels. Might be worth it to just see the look on their face.
I’ll be back to Bangkok soon and I’ll likely take the time to drop in again.

Thailands Thaksin

offers hope to the people of Thailand’s southern region during a visit to Krue Se mosque. A region which recently suffered the massacre of 100 machete carrying bandits/separatists/militia/gangs by heavily armed government troops. Mr Thaksin spent 10 minutes sitting on a marble floor talking to villagers where he offered his solution to poverty in the region. Birth control. “Mr Thaksin asked a local woman why southern people had so many children and suggested they opt for birth control to fight poverty” (Source).

Thailand certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on leaders with suspect skill in dealing with a populace far removed from the economies of those in power but this guys policies show the compassion one would expect from a greedy monopolist not a leader of a countries people. But then look at the USA.

How to Throw Water During Songkran

is a bit of advice best suited to a few weeks ago, giving enough time to practice before last weeks Songkran festival. I guess I could get started early but somehow I think the people of Hsinchu would not get the relevance of such an action nor do I think they would care much about Thai. culture. Here’s a snipit of advice: water.gif “Water throwing is one of the most humorous and enjoyable parts of the Songkran festival. It can happen anywhere, and while you’re here during Songkran you can enjoy it as much as everyone else. If you’re coming into Chiangmai by train you might want to dress appropriately; that is, you might want to dress for fun. The passenger, sitting comfortably in a railway car, can receive an accidental splash through the window from the frolicking festivities outside.” Not everyone is keen to join in on the fun as David at Mangosauce leaves us with no doubt by saying I fucking hate Songkran. Despite his misgivings, hopefully next year I’ll be able to take part and with my camera in hand voyeuristic tendencies I’ll no doubt be following some of Yoonki’s useful tips for photographers.