Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Thai Movies on the Rise

Tom Yaam Goong Movie Scene

Tom Yam Goong (2005) is the 2nd action movie from one of Thailand’s biggest stars after the Ong Bak movie (2003). Starring Tony Jaa, who could be called Thailand’s Jackie Chan, it garnered great attention not only in Thailand. Ong Bak was one of the few Thai movies which made it internationally. As people got bored with every single fighting movie playing in China, a Thai movie with Bangkok as its back setting was received very well by Thais and Western people alike.

When you are in Thailand, it is always worth a trip to “Mangpoong” or “Scorpion”. This is a big DVD chain selling DVDs all over Thailand. If you see a big red sign of a scorpion on the outside its what I’m talking about. They will sell Hollywood as well as Thai movies. Now Thai movies, even when they are new, can sell for as low as 5 US$. So it is definitely a good present for when you go back again. Some movies, like Ong Bak, are very entertaining. Just be careful to buy the version which has English subtitles.

So the story of Tom Yaam Goong (which by the way is the name of a famous Thai dish, a spicy shrimp soup). Tony Jaa here plays another story close to his heart. Coming from a mahout family, his childhood was closely involved with elephants. In Tom Yam Goong, Tony Jaa plays a young mahout, Kham who is also trained in the Jaturongkabat martial art, Koshasarn. Jaturongkabat soldiers were trained to protect Thai war elephants in battle, parallel to the armoured infantry squads that assist tanks units. When the elephants in his family’s care are stolen and taken to Australia (Sydney), Kham goes to their rescue.

The first chase sequence in the streets of Bangkok suffers an event flow break. When the container truck carrying both elephants finally manages to break free from traffic, the next shot shows Kham giving up the chase though it wasn’t possible for him to know this. This flaw heralds a series of other event flow and logic flaws in the movie. Now how does Kham locate the elephants, he seeks out an old woman who performs an oracle ritual. This oracle ritual is interesting; the oracle woman is seen dowsing using a pendulum while doing a dance to locate the elephants.

Once in Sydney, it become all about fighting. These action sequences still retain certain superb characteristics of Tony Jaa's pugilistic skills and choreography. Form (kata) or stances are visible. This is a mark of skill contrary to what many have been told. While Jaa is a fan of Bruce Lee (who advocated a free style form of fighting with his Jeet Kune Do), fortunately he has not abandoned his training and “fight like children”. The term “fight like children” is used by Shaolin Wahnam founder Wong Kiew Kit to describe the free sparring seen in martial art tournaments where little form can be seen.

I think Tony Jaa with his “no sling, no stunt” motto is set to replace Jackie Chan as the Asian action movie star for the next decade or two. But Tom Yam Goong looks and hopefully is more of a learning experiment. Story is still important to an action movie else it becomes like a porn movie, people just wait around for the “banging” sequences. Jackie Chan’s story driven New Police Story (2004) with less action and more story did better at the box office than The Myth (2005). Jaa also seems to be finding his style for his action sequences. His present attempt to incorporate Jackie Chan type of acrobatics does not blend into his main style, a modern day Mas Oyama. To take up the vacuum of Jackie Chan does not mean one has to be like Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan after all, did not appear as the best of the numerous Bruce Lee clones, he came across as Jackie Chan. And Tony Jaa needs to do just that, to come across as Tony Jaa. We saw that in Ong Bak and this got adulterated in Tom Yam Goong.

source: The 10 of Clubs MovieWatch

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Monday, February 27, 2006

New biking trail opens in Chet Khot park

Biking Trail Chet Khot ThailandLet's start with some good news from Chet Khot-Pong Kon Sao Nature Study and Eco-tourism Centre in Saraburi Province, Thailand. Yes, that "Chet Khot Forest Park" as most people call it.

From now on, cross-country mountainbikers camping at Chet Khot no longer have to venture outside its boundary - a new biking trail has been created through the reforested area around the park's reservoir.

The loop is less than two kilometres long but, of course, you're free to do as many rounds as you wish.

Literally, that means you can bike for 40 kilometres straight or more without having to worry whether you're going to make it on the way back.

In other words, no matter how many hours you've been riding, your tent (or bungalow, in case you manage to book one) is always just a few minutes away. And that's great for both newbies and training racers.

By the way, Chet Khot also has a well-maintained downhill trail for bikers seeking the thrill of gravity. And this weekend there'll be a big gathering of downhillers at the park.

If you need more information, call the centre at 09-237-8659 or 036-227-156.

source: The Bangkok Post

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Chiang Mai: The Pearl of the North (Part 2)

Chiang Mai Shopping MarketShopping

Chiang Mai is, quite simply, Thailand's major centre for quality handicrafts. The visitor need merely visit the nearest city emporium or night market to purchase an extraordinary variety of antiques, silver jewellery, hilltribe opium pipes and embroidery, Thai silks and cottons, basketry, celadon, silverware, furniture, lacquerware, woodcarvings and parasols. A major advantage of shopping in Chiang Mai is that the visitor may watch artisans working within the city and in several outlying villages, particularly along the Bor Sang San Kamphaeng road where, in genuine cottage industries, parasols, silk and cotton weaving, jewellery, woodcarving, silverware, celadon and lacquerware are manufactured, and number among popular purchases. Major Chiang Mai products include: Cottons and Silks First-class Chiang Mai cottons and silks are of incomparable quality. Cottons and silkshave innumerable fashion and furnishing applications. The largest possible selection is available in San Kamphaneg. Umbrellas/Parasols These are inextricably associated with Bor Sang where villagers have been engaged in their manufacture for at least 200 years. All materials, silks, cottons, sa paper (manufactured from the bark of the mulberry tree), and bamboo are produced or found locally. Visitors to Bor Sang will see literally hundreds of designs and sizes ranging from the miniature to the gigantic. Silverware The finest Thai silverware is exquisite, and is made in Chiang Mai, where certain families have prectised their art for several generations. Traditional skills and a guaranted content of at least 92.5% pure silver invest bowls, receptacles and decorative items with authentic value. Silver shops are concentrated on Wualu Road, where silverware artisans and their families live. Lacquerware Striking black and gold designs give lacquerware its visual appeal and sheen. This decorative art enhances items made of wood, bamboo, metal, paper and baked clay, in the form of receptacles, ornaments and various souvenirs. Furniture/Woodcarving Chiang Mai is a major centre of furniture making. Major woods and materials include teak, rosewood and rattan. Items may be unadorned or, especially with teak and rosewood, artfully carved in traditional or modern designs. Woodcarving is a traditional northern Thai art featured in numerous temples. In recent years, wood carving has increasingly embellished furniture, gracing screens, chairs, tables, beds, indeed anything bearing a wooden surface large enough to be carved. Carved elephants, figurines and tableware number among other popular purchases. Hilltribe Products These include silver ornaments, such as bracelets, necklaces, pendants, hairpins and pipes of intricate design, and embroidered items including tunics, jackets,bags, purses, caps and dress lengths. Gold Plated Orchids and Butterflies Orchids and butterflies are preserved and plated with 24carat gold to create unusual gift items such as necklace pendants, hairpins and earrings. Pottery Chiang Mai is the major centre of Thailand's pottery industry. Prized items include high-fired celadon which is produced in many forms, including dinner sets, lamp bases and decorative items

Source: http://sunsite.au.ac.th

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Chiang Mai: The Pearl of the North (Part 1)

Chiang Mai Dragon Statue Chiang Mai is Thailand's principal northern city. Chiang Mai is the pro-vincial capital of a largely mountainous province, also called Chiang Mai, which is some 20,000 square kilometres in area.

Chiang Mai city is 700 kilometres north of Bangkok, was founded in 1296, and is located in a fertile valley some 300 matres above sea level. Chiang Mai was the capital of Lanna Thai (Kingdom of One Million Ricefields), the first independent Thai kingdom within the fabled Golden Triangle. Chiang Mai flourished as a major religious, cultural and trading centre until 1556 when a Burmese invasion reduced it to a vassal state. The Burmese were expelled in 1785, whereupon Lanna Thai once again became part of northern Thailand. Many lowland Thais regard Chiang Mai city and province as being something of a national Shangri-la, thanks to its beautiful women, distinctive festivals, historic temples dating from the 1300s, arresting scenic beauty, temperate fruits such as apples peaches and strawberries, and a crisp, invigorating cool season climate

Places that you should visit:

Wat Phra Singh Sam Lan Road This lovely temple dates from 1345 and is one of the focal points of Songkran festivities each April 13-15 when people bathe the revered Phra Buddha Sihing image. The temple compound includes the lovely Lai Kham chapel with its exquisite woodcarvings and northern-style murals, and a magnificent scriptural repository with striking teas relief. Wat Suan Dok Suthep Road This temple was built in a 14th century Lanna Thai monarch's pleasure gardens and is a favourite spot for photographers, particularly for striking sunsets. Several of the white chedis contain ashes of Chiang Mai's former royal family. The 500-year-old bronze Buddha image in a secondary chapel is one of Thailand's largest metal images. Wat Chiang Man Ratchaphakkinai Road This is Chiang Mai's oldest temple and probably dates from 1296. The temple was the residence of King Mengrai, who founded Chiang Mai, and is noteworthy for a chedi supported by rows of elephantine buttresses, and a small ancient Buddha image, Phra Kaeow Khaow. Wat Ku Tao near Chiang Mai Stadium This temple is noteworthy for an unusual bulbous pagoda. The structure is decorated with colourful porcelain chips and is believed to represent five Buddhist monks' alms bowls which symbolise five Lord Buddhas. Wat Chedi Luang Phrapokklao Road This temple is the site of an enormous pagoda, originally 280 feet high, and which was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1545. At one time, Wat Chedi Luang housed the revered Emerald Buddha image now enshrined in Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaeo. A magnificent Naga staircase adorns the chapel's front porch. Wat Chet Yot Super Highway, north of the Huai Kaew Nimmanhemin Roads intersection This temple dates from 1458. The seven-spired square chedi was inspired by designs at Bodhagaya, the site of the Buddha's Enlightenment in north India over 2,500 years ago, and was built by Lanna Thai architects after visiting the holy site. Wat U-Mong Suthep Road This delightful meditation temple is completely different from Chiang Mai's other major temples and enjoys a bucolic forest setting. The ancient chedi is of particular interest.

Chiang Mai Temple

Source: http://sunsite.au.ac.th

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Magha Puja: Buddhist Festival in That Phanom

Magha Puja Buddhist Festival

During the holiday between sowing and harvesting the rice, thousands flock to the famous Ngan Phra That Phanom temple to celebrate the Buddhist festival of Magha Puja. The wat (temple) faces both the Mekong river and the rising sun, so the best approach to it is by water. It is thought to have been founded in 535 BC, eight years after the Buddha's death, when five local princes built a simple rick chedi (temple) to house bits of the Buddha's breastbone. The temple rests on a gleaming white marble platform, where pilgrims leave their offerings under an umbrella made of 16kg of gold. This arch is inlaid with precious gems and gold rings embedded in each tier. Around this magnificent edifice music, delicious food and drink stalls, theatre performances and traditional Isaan-style dancing take place. Pilgrims and lay people gather to give prayers to the Buddha and to meditate, with the culmination of the festival on the full moon evening when monks hold a candlelit procession around the temple. We have given you the date of the full moon alone, but be aware that celebrations begin a few days before, and may last a few days beyond. One of the special things about this particular temple festival is that Lao people from the other side of the Mekong are allowed to come over in their boats (under the beady eyes of the customs and immigration officials) to pay homage to what was once their shared inheritance with the Thais.

The festival is in March 2006 and you can take aplane from Bangkok to Nakkon Phanom which is about 50 km away from That Phanom.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Zebra Dove Cooing Contest has a Long Tradition in Thailand

Zebra Dove Thailand Cooing ContestIt has long been believed in Thailand that doves bring good luck to those who raise them. Some are even believed to endow great wealth and honour upon the owner. Every year, Khwan Muang Park in Amphoe Muang celebrates the voice of the treasured bird with this cooing competition.

Years ago it was popular for Thai people to raise zebra doves - especially in the lower southern provinces. A local dove-cooing contest was organised in time, and has since grown into the international event that it is today. The event includes cooing competitions in the small, medium, large and combined voices categories. Other animals are involved in various fighting competitions - animal rights fans may want to avoid the whole show.

source: World Event Guide

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Visit Thailand and enjoy Spa

Spa ThailandAs part of the Thailand Grand Invitation celebrations in 2006, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the Federation of Thai Spa and Visa International (Thailand) Co., Ltd., (VISA), will jointly launch ‘Thai Spa Invitation’ in conjunction with the annual Chiang Mai Flower Festival being held at Suan Buak Haat Park in the northern city of Chiang Mai during February 3-5, 2006.

The kingdom’s spa sector has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years. Designed to promote Thai spa products and services to local residents as well as international visitors and encourage increased patronage of Thai spa services, the Thai Spa Invitation 2006 theme highlights the tremendous range and diversity in spa products and services available in Thailand.

Many of these — including ‘Thai Royal Spa Package’, a special spa package created for the Thailand Grand Invitation celebrations — will be presented during the Thai Spa Invitation launch event in Chiang Mai. The annual Chiang Mai Flower Festival attracts a large number of visitors from around the world and provides an ideal platform for showcasing the full range of Thai spa products and services, and particularly the Lanna Thai spas of Northern Thailand.

he ‘Thai Royal Spa Package’ offers Royal Thai massage and a traditional Thai massage applied with heated herbal compresses or poultices (luuk prakob) and will be offered in spas throughout Thailand.

Simply look out for the "Thai Spa Invitation" signage on display at participating spas.

VISA card holders enjoy a 25 per cent savings on the ‘Thai Royal Spa Package’ and discounts of 20 to 50 per cent on other spa packages. Thai Spa Invitation 2006 is part of the Thailand Grand Invitation celebrations and encompasses the key themes: Grand Destinations, Grand Events, Grand Festivals, Grand Service and Grand Openings.

The Thai Spa Invitation Grand Opening will be launched in Bangkok in March 2006 and in other key tourist destinations around Thailand throughout 2006 with Samui, Surat Thani province in May, in the beach destinations of Hua Hin, Cha-am and the provinces of Petchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan in July, in Phuket during November 17-19, Krabi in December and Pattaya in January 2007.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Luang Prabang and China now connected

Luang Prabang LaosA new bus service will be introduced next month linking Luang Prabang in Laos and Jinghong in Xishuangbanna in China's southern Yunnan Province. Luang Prabang can easily be reached from Thailand. Also, Bangkok Airways offers service to Luang Prabang, a beautiful little town with colonial style.

The service to be launched March 1 is a joint effort between Laos' Thongdee Koonruan Transportation and Xishuangbanna Kunnan, both private companies that will operate the route under a concession. There will be one service either way daily.

The Xishuangbanna region is also known as Sipsong Panna or the Land of Twelve Thousand Rice Fields.

Separately, a second bridge linking Thailand and Laos is expected to open later this year. It will link Thailand's Mukdahan Province with Champasak in Laos.

Built with Japanese assistance, the new bridge is expected to facilitate road travel between the two neighbours and to other countries viz. Cambodia and Vietnam.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Phu Phrabat Historical Park

Phu Phrabat Historical Park Udon Thani ThailandIt was early morning when the 24-seat VIP bus taxied at the terminus in Udon Thani, 564 kilometres northeast of Bangkok. Cool breeze shook us up from our reverie forcing us to zip up our jackets. Tuk-tuk drivers approached us from all directions, all asking the same question: "Where would you like to go?" Udon Thani is very a quiet town these days, a far cry from the bustling place it used to be during the Vietnam War when it served as a US air base. Today, most visitors prefer going to Nong Khai, a neighbouring province where they cross the Mekong River on their way to Laos.

However, the province is a hub of transport and agricultural products in the entire northeast region and also boasts some unique tourist attractions such as the Phu Phrabat Historical Park which could well be on its way to being declared a World Heritage site after receiving a fair rating in the first round by the Unesco committee scrutinising its candidacy. So before the park makes the list and becomes another tourist hub, I thought it would be nice to sneak a visit. Exploring the park can take anything from 40 minutes to a day depending how much and what you want to see.

According to park officer Somdee Aranrut, there are three trails. The first is the shortest and leads directly to major highlights. The second route passes more attractions and takes around an hour to walk, while the last route is a two-hour trek leading to every important stop to the Phu Phrabat mountain top that stands 320-350 metres above sea level.

"We have arrows clearly marking the direction to every attraction together with brief descriptions of the places. Holding this map (the park brochure) just follow the signs and I assure you won't get lost," assured the officer. As suggested by Somdee, we took the longest route. The map, available in both Thai or English, proved quite useful indeed. We started at eight in the morning. The forest, full of hardwood trees, was still covered in a layer of fog. The path was neatly maintained. Small signs attached to trees told us their names and utility.

Phu Phrabat is an important source of water for various streams that eventually flow into the Khong River in Nong Khai. Trees here were big: we spotted the Ormosia, Pterocarpus, Shorea and Dalbergia and plenty of native herbs. At the first stop some 150 metres from the park information centre, we were stunned by the sight of bizarre rock formations. Boulders sat on top of each other as if they had been put there on purpose. Later we found out there were huge moraines in the area. Some of them looked like giant mushrooms while others resembled enormous boots that grew on rocks. A team of archaeologists from the Fine Arts Department was sent there in 1972 to study the rocks. It found that the 3,430-rai Phu Phrabat park sat on sandstone rocks dating back to Ice Age. When the world became warmer, it led to glacial erosion. The moraines were the result of changes in the earth's topography, while rain and wind later shaped the sandstone rocks to what they are today.

Get the rest at the Bangkok Post

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Wat Pho Temple: Take a Thai massage course at Bangkok's famous temple

Historical Background: Wat Pho is a large Buddhist temple south of the royal palace. Although its history extends back at least to the 16th century, the current structures all date from 1793 or later. When the future King Rama I, the founder of the Chakri dynasty, unseated his rival Tak Sin in a bloody war, he transferred the capital across the river from Tonburi to what is today downtown Bangkok. As part of his grand development scheme, he renovated a dilapidated monastery called Wat Potaram. He renamed it Wat Pho Chetuphon, or the Bo-Tree monastery, and funded a construction effort that lasted seven years. The centerpiece of the temple was an enormous statue of the reclining Buddha, over 46 meters long and 15 meters high. Covered in gold leaf, it is housed in a special building built for its protection.

Massage Courses:

As of today, several massage courses can be taken at Wat Pho. Many foreigners choose to do it. Courses take a few days only and you will have the chance to learn from specialists and also try it yourself several times.

Wat Pho is located right next to the Grand Palace. The best way to get information on the courses is to go there in person.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Eco Tours in Thailand: Interview with a specialist in the field (Part 2)

Which three places would you recommend eco-tourists to visit in Thailand and why?

One trip to appreciate nature would be a road trip around Trang Province. There are so many fascinating caves, including Tham Thale which you have to access by boat and then at certain points lie flat with your nose almost kissing the cave's low ceiling.

Also, the scenery on the mainland and nearby islands is spectacular. I would also recommend Khao Sok dam and spending a few nights on floating bamboo rafts.

Lastly, I'd recommend Mae Hong Son. Just get there, rent a motorbike and go driving anywhere. The surrounds are stunning with many natural secrets waiting to be found. Beware of the Burmese border though: I ended up crossing to Burmese side purely by accident.

You have visited several provinces in Thailand. What in your opinion makes the Kingdom such a big hit among foreigners?

It's a cliche, but if there is one thing that needs mention it has to be the people. Overseas holiday brochures promote beaches, temples, shopping and low prices. But when tourists come here they depart saying the people were the high point. I also think the variety of activities and locations, and the diversity of natural attractions are a huge plus.

The latter I think hasn't been properly exploited. Then again, maybe it shouldn't be?I have enjoyed spending my free time with local folks around southern Thailand.

Share a couple of your personal travelling tips with our readers?

If exploring nature, take a bottle of water (or two) with you, good for you if you get lost. And take lots of sun cream. Respect the people you will meet and they will respond in kind. That way you will enjoy your time in Thailand all the more.

Any concern you would like to pass on to the Tourism Authority of Thailand as part of its drive to promote the country?

Stop focussing on the number of tourists. Spending power and where the money is spent is what matters. Most of the money is centered in a few prime tourists hotspots, little reaches other provinces and communities.

What are three things you can't live without on your leisure travels?

A good guidebook (if it's a place I've never been to before), a good novel to read in my spare time and my watch.

How do you mix business with pleasure on work-related trips?

If meeting clients, I try to do so in a formal atmosphere so we can discuss the serious issues, and then follow with a more social atmosphere in the evening drinks or dinner. If attending an exhibition, -then I try to extend my trip a few days so I can enjoy the city and the people.

Your company Ensign Media has grown and now has offices in Bangkok, Phuket and Samui. Just how competitive is the publishing industry?

The publishing industry is very competitive. There are in the region of 700+ titles sold in shops, and even more free tourist guides. Tourist guides aside, there are not many English language publications (which is where we focus) and there are even fewer I would consider to be of decent quality.

We focus on niche products, such as a publication for the property industry, and as a result, I spend a lot of my time with clients, keeping up-to-date with industry movements.

I used to call Phuket my base, but that is now changing as I divide my time between the three offices.

What does it take to succeed in the publishing business here; any advice for newcomers?

A lot of perseverance. I started very small and grew slowly. I advise newcomers to first think carefully about why they want to go into publishing.

It's not quick, easy money like many people think. And I would also like to advise them to focus o nniche products.

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Eco Tours in Thailand: Interview with a specialist in the field (Part 1)

Eco Tourism Thailand KrabiAn eco-tourist at heart, Duncan Worthington's first impressions of Krabi, on the Andaman coast of southern Thailand, was that of an idyllic coastal retreat of outstanding beauty.

In short, he found the stunning vistas, virgin rainforest, easily accessible caves and healthy mangroves, just perfect for eco-tourism.

Worthington, managing director of Ensign Media, first came to Thailand in 1997 to work for Siam Safari, an international award-winning eco-tour company based in Phuket.

However, he was sent to work in Krabi to set up and operate one-day safari tours for Scandinavian tourists. After seven months in Krabi, he moved to Phuket, but in a marketing role. ''I spent a lot of time working with overseas tour company representatives, training them on our eco-tour programmes.

''And in Phuket I learned that it was not a place for eco-tourists. Mass tourism is already too established, what operators and tourist associations need to do now is look more closely at a sustainable tourism model for Phuket,'' he said.

After spending over a year in Phuket with Siam Safari in Chalong, Worthington made a subtle career shift moving from eco-tourism to managing design and photography for ifArtAsia, a Phuket magazine.

In his two years working with the magazine, his highligh is a photo shoot in the Butang Group of islands in south Thailand. What could beat a week on a beautiful boat, snorkelling, exploring islands, all in the name of photography.

What is your idea of a perfect vacation? Any suggestions on how to improve eco-tourism in Thailand.

My ideal vacation would involve nature. It may simply be snorkelling off shallow reefs or something more strenuous such as trekking. I plan one day to visit Nepal and trek on elephant back to see rhinos.

I don't think Thailand should focus on eco-tours. It should look more to promote sustainable tourism. It doesn't have to be nature-based. I think the country has so much to offer in terms of culture, not just temple tours but local communities, local life, religions and festivals. Most tourism products are for the mass market and seriously lacking in innovation. Thailand needs to look more to its strengths.

How adventurous are you as a traveller. Tell us about a few exciting experiences you have encountered in Thailand and abroad?

In the last few years, I have toned my adventurous spirit down, choosing to spend more time developing my publishing business. However, I have been on many trekking trips in southern Thailand and visited a whole variety of national parks. My favourites were probably a three-day trek in the North and a two-day rafting excursion in Pai, north of Chiang Mai.

Parachuting in northern Thailand is hardly glamorous, but it gave me a great adrenalin rush. I look forward to trying that again next time. source: Bangkok Post

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Friday, February 10, 2006

1st World Tattoo Arts Festival Thailand

World Tattoo Arts Festival ThailandThe organizers are the Wong family who have been at the forefront of tattoo art in Thailand for years now. They are the best known tattoo artists from Thailand and also have been featured in many international magazines.

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.

Over 30 years, tattoo exhibition has been established yearly for tattoo lovers in Europe, U.S.A, and Japan. The purpose of tattoo exhibition is aimed to exchange information and technology advance of tattoo implements, and provide those interested people with knowledge in tattoo art field. Physical body art and body piercing shall be demonstrated at any conference hold.

Europeans, Americans and people in Asia countries are highly interested in World Tattoo Art Festival and Exhibition Thailand, because of its first time celebration in well-know countries for tourism. In Thailand, inexpensive travel expense and media promotion spreading worldwide are prominent. Surely, “World Tattoo Art Festival & Exhibition Thailand” exhibition has been welcomed and interested among tattoo tours and public media domestically and internationally.

source: official world tattoo arts festival in Thailand website

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

The 4 noble truths of Thailand: Part 4

On New Year's Eve, take the path of resistance

On New Year's Eve at the Chaweng Buri Resort, all guests were compelled to buy a $100-per-person ticket to the New Year's Eve party. The buffet served a wide variety of inedible foods as a Thai variety show kicked off on a makeshift stage next to the pool. Unbearable. It was a rip-off to end all rip-offs.

But I thought to myself: What would Buddha do? Just roll with it. Eat a few chicken satays and head to town. As the dharma teachings go, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

There really is something to those Noble Truths, after all.

"It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness," by Sylvia Boorstein, is an accessible introduction to the basic tenets of Buddhism.

source: The Denver Post

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The 4 noble truths of Thailand: Part 3

Thailand Street Vendor FoodDon't be afraid to suffer a little for good food.

OK, at some street markets you can buy fried crickets, grasshoppers, worms and chicken heads. You are allowed to fear these delicacies.

In addition to bugs, Thailand offers every cuisine imaginable, much of it delicious. My stomach doesn't take to hot foods, but only the food in Chiang Mai seemed to be too spicy. Everywhere else, I ate well, perhaps too well. Three restaurants on the banks of the Ping River in Chiang Mai were hot, but standouts: The Gallery, the Good View and the Riverside. They all sit side by side on Charoen Rat Road, and they are always crowded.

Live music in the Riverside was mostly cover bands playing classic American pop, like The Doors. I had a ball. In Bangkok, lunch at the Oriental Hotel's patio overlooking the Chao Phraya River made me feel like James Bond. The New York Steak restaurant at the JW Marriott was a good break from pad Thai. And if you feel adventurous, drop into Galaxy (19 Rama 4 Road), a well-known "no-hands restaurant" in Bangkok. Young women and a mamasan feed you and wipe your mouth - it's like practice for being senile. Cabbages and Condoms (10 Sukhumvit Soi 12) is a racy name for a tame (inexpensive) and wonderful Thai restaurant that raises money for Thailand's family-planning nonprofit.

On Koh Samui, The Shack, (88 3 Moo1, Bophut), is an open-air steakhouse run by Larry Snyder, a self-proclaimed nervous, heart-attack-prone New Yorker. Poppies (Samui Ring Road) serves the best Thai food in Thailand on Chaweng Beach. And Prego, run by chef Marco Boscaini, also on Samui Ring Road, is one of the best Italian restaurants I've ever encountered. Need a hamburger fix? Chaweng's most popular bar, Tropical Murphy's Irish pub, serves a tasty one on Samui Ring Road.

source: The Denver Post

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The 4 noble truths of Thailand: Part 2

Samui Island BeachDon'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.

Even the prostitutes are pious. When you see a go-go girl leaving a hotel in the morning, you'll also see her stop to bow three times to the Buddha. If you're not familiar with Buddhism, be sure to read some basic texts before visiting Asia. The more you know, the more you'll appreciate the way religion is woven into everyday life.

A word or two more about prostitution. It is as ubiquitous as the Buddha. It's a way, perhaps the only way, for females to escape the rice paddies of the countryside and earn money for their families. (At least this is how Thai people I spoke with rationalized it.) There seems to be absolutely no stigma attached to it.

Consequently, every lurid story you've heard about wild bars filled to overflowing with girls-for-hire is true. In some bars, the dancers wear numbers the size of plastic coat-check receipts as a way of expediting selection. Guidebooks that claim families can vacation in Thailand and remain unaware of this seedier facet of life are off the mark. Prostitutes even come and go in the very best hotels.

source: The Denver Post

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Monday, February 06, 2006

The 4 noble truths of Thailand: Part 1

Thai Buddhist MonkThe Four Noble Truths of Buddhism have been well documented - in short, that life is suffering, that the origin of suffering is attachment, that it is possible to cease suffering and that there is a path to the end of suffering.

What is not quite as well known is that these concepts can also be applied when traveling through Thailand, the Land of the Buddha. Here are the Four Noble Truths of Travel, some of which I learned the hard way.

Noble Truth No. 1: You will suffer if you are not prepared

Thailand is the epicenter of three major modern worries - tsunamis, terrorism and bird flu - yet Thai natives seldom seem to worry about such things. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security. For starters, it's not a bad idea to travel with a prescription of Tamiflu, which you can easily obtain from your family doctor but may not be covered by your insurance provider.

Also, be ready for potential credit card hassles. Case in (ball)point: Upon arriving in Asia I bought a 5 dollar pen with my debit card. Next thing I knew, Key Bank canceled my card. (They assumed, I assume, it had been stolen by an Asian pen-smuggling cartel.) Just try getting that little mix-up corrected from 8,400 miles away. It took me 80 dollars of phone calls and about an hour of my vacation. OK, it took me a bit longer because I couldn't answer the bank's standard security question - "What's your mother's birthday?" Hey, we weren't that close! So before you leave, let your bank know you're headed to the other side of the world and that there might be some strange transactions cropping up.

You'll need that credit card for Chiang Mai, a 700-year-old city so lovely that nothing can truly prepare you for that first glimpse. Situated about 400 miles north of Bangkok, this is the place to begin a visit to Thailand. Abounding with temples of breathtaking beauty, Chiang Mai is also very modern and somewhat sophisticated, filled with coffeehouses and English-language bookstores. One temple, called Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, sits high above the city, and even though it's filled with tourists, you'll find it worth every elbow in the ribs to experience such an architectural marvel. Still, if you would rather find a less-overrun temple, don't worry - Chiang Mai has more temples than Seattle has Starbucks. And it has a few Starbucks too.

If you get lost, it helps to know about the tuk tuk, a three-wheeled scooter with two seats in the back. A ride back to your hotel is always cheap. Another option is the songtao, a small pickup truck with two wooden benches in back. They circle Thai cities and neighborhoods looking for locals, strays and lost tourists. Cabs are plentiful too, as are motorcycle taxis. Just jump on the back and hold on for dear life.

No matter how you get around, be prepared to barter with the driver.

source: The Denver Post

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Chinatown Bangkok

Chinatown BangkokIn 1782 when Rama I, first king of the new Chakri dynasty, moved the capital to Bangkok and began building the Grand Palace, the traders were relocated to a small alley called Sampeng Lane, the nexus of today's China Town.Today, the narrow pedestrian lane is packed with wholesale stores selling paper, fabric and bric-a-brac, and teems with haphazardly roving snack merchants and careering motorbikes overloaded with wide bolts of fabric.

China Town has always been synonymous with commerce. At almost any hour, someone is selling something somewhere in China Town. Even before the first Bangkok department stores opened on Yawarat in the 1930s, the China Town markets sold goods found nowhere else in the city.

Locals believe that they owe this good fortune, wealth and prosperity to the mythical Golden Dragon, the guardian spirit that has watched over the community for centuries.

To first-time visitors, China Town can seem like a daunting maze of traffic- and people-choked lanes and alleys. Yet to fully appreciate the panoply of sights, sounds and smells that give China Town its unique character, it's essential to wander off the beaten track where such hidden delights as 100 year-old shrines, tiny neighbourhoods and countless other treasures await. (A major thoroughfare is rarely more than a block away so getting lost isn't really a problem.)

It's easy to spend an entire morning or afternoon visiting temples (Buddhist, Taoist, Chinese, Sikh and Chinese shrines). Others might choose to focus on China Town's many markets (food, clothing, electrical goods, hardware, audio) or wander along streets devoted to a single product. The area abounds with restaurants (from fancy indoor eateries to open-air stalls) and unusual juxtapositions: a modern fast-food restaurant next to a vendor roasting chestnuts in a streetside wok; Chinese herbs adjacent to Buddhist temple supplies.

This ad-hoc method of seeing the sights isn't nearly as intimidating as it sounds. Almost every square block of China Town boasts temples shrines, markets, restaurants, and unusual juxtapositions. Thoroughly covering one area can be as much fun as rushing here and there to take in 'important' sights. Oh, and don't forget to look up. With so much attention-grabbing activity at street level, visitors can easily overlook the ornate neo-colonial columns, delicately carved shutters and second-floor balconies (often half-hidden behind electrical transformers and telephone cables.)

Whichever aspects of China Town you decide to explore, the most important accoutrements are light clothing, comfortable shoes, plenty of liquids, and above all, a spirit of adventure. A good map is also helpful (Nancy Chandler's Map of Bangkok highlights scores of sightseeing and shopping tips in an easy-to-read graphical format). Don't forget, however, that China Town's vibrancy is an essentially intangible quality that transcends the confines of cartography.

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