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The Green Wanderer's Archive

Following is an archive of writings by the Green Wanderer. The first section contains emails from the Green Wanderer to friends across the globe beginning Phase one : his first independent trip to Thailand, February, 2002 C.E. These experiences are posted chronologically but feel free to click ahead to other phases. (See, time travel is possible...)

The second section contains journalist works--mainly feature stories featured in NJ Magazine



Section One: Travel Emails

  1. Phase One
  2. Transition (Singapore and Kuala Lumpur)
  3. Phase Two (Phetchburi teacher)
  4. Transition (Hong Kong)
  5. Oops
  6. December 2004 Tsunami


Section 2 : Journalism

(most of these are the unedited versions)


  1. Thai Studies
  2. Suntorn Phoo
  3. Women and Matriarchies
  4. South Africa
  5. About a Boy
  6. Ididamovie Contest
  7. Thai's forgetful Nature
  8. Thai monkey
  9. Recycling/Trash in Bkk
  10. Want to be taller
  11. Emergency Rescue in Thailand
  12. Take a boat
  13. Farewell Don Muang
  14. Halloween
  15. Battery disposal in Thailand
  16. Solar Village Power

Phase One : 18 Years Old, Independent


Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 18:03:42 -0800 (PST)
Subject: My Flight Itinerary


So I will be arriving in Bangkok early Friday morning, February 22 at 1:40 AM. (So that means 1 hour and 40 minutes after Thursday night has ended) My flight number is from LAX (Los Angelas) to TPE (Taipei) Eva Air flight 11 From TPE to BKK (Bangkok) it is Eva Air flight 75. I still have yet to confirm so if there are any changes, I will notify you, Alright man, looking forward to it, talk to you later,

Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2002 16:51:34 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Farewell...for now

My time in the states is fading. By the time most of you read this, I'll be on an outward plane. All year and last, I had been looking forward to this moment. And now it is here. It is one of those moments when expectations start to cross the wave of reality. As I've grown, I've learned to harmoniously align those expectations with reality (with self as reference). I have accepted that along the path, my wave length (reality) will not always vibrate the same frequency as the envisioned wave (expectation). And that is completely OK. If one were not allowed to stray from the path, what would be the point in living? Life would then be like a scripted re-run. There would be not excitement in discovering, exploring, and learning. Complete predictability is for robots. Robotic, systematic, beings rely on time as a measurement of life. With this system, death is only a matter of time. Ok, that's enough theory leaked through my fingers for one day. As happy as I am to leave now, I'm sad in a way. I shall never again return the same person. Next time I stand foot on American soil, I will view this place in new light, a new filter for say. It is for the better. Recently, my nights have been filled with vivid and lucid dreaming. The days packed with reading, language study, and theory contemplating. Now, I make transition to put theory to practice in the greater world. I'll keep y'all attuned to how goes,

Mr. Kiaw Green (Steven)
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 20:11:23 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Safe Arrival

Dear everyone,

This is just a quick note letting you know that I arrived in Thailand safely. Aside from routine body adaptation (i.e. food, weather, etc.), I'm am doing well. Bangkok was a city of any to arrive at with the humidity and metropolis action (in contrast to peaceful ol' Albuquerque). As of now, I am upcountry in Prae province. I don't have much time to relay adventures so I'll catch up with you all as soon as I can. I'll reply individually as soon as I can. You all have a good one, gotta run,

Mr. Kiaw Green
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 03:26:32 -0800 (PST)
Subject: apartment...

Hello all,

The latest scoop is this: I've situated myself in a nice apartment, a home-base for say, right in the heart of Krungthep (Bangkok). I'm paid off for three months, so if you need to contact me (though, I'll be in and out traveling most of the time), you can contact me at:

Steven W. Layne
120/359 Rajprarop road
room # 6607
Rajthevee, Bangkok 10400
telephone: 2518255-8 or 2518800-1 (room# 6607)
[not current]

As I said, I'll be out and about this place pending my spontaneous travel schedule so don't have your heart set on contacting me directly this way via telephone. But if you do absolutely have to, that’s how, though email is still better. It’ll be my address till mid-May and I'll keep you updated after that. Leading up the apartment purchase, I returned to Bangkok early Monday morning after an all-night bus ride from Prae (northern Thailand, between Utturadit and Chiang Rai) I spent the weekend there with a friend, Boy (who I know from Colorado). He took me there to see his sister. Prae is a nice provincial capital. One peculiar pattern I've noticed in Thailand is the urbanization. In contrast to the states, the urban centers don't have a master urban-logic plan behind it. The building and construction usually happens on a moment need basis. So one thing you'll find, is mixed zoning. Where as in the states, we have zonal centers (i.e. downtown, neighborhoods, industrial parks), in Bangkok for instance, downtown is everywhere. There is not one part of town with a high concentration of all the commercial (atleast not in the sense an American would think) So like my apartment for instance, is right next door to the tallest building in Thailand (Baiyoke II)!! This pattern is also seen in class system. Where in Denver, you'll have strictly high class access only neighborhoods (i.e. Cherry Hills), here in Thailand, you'll have the richest man in town living next door to the poorest. Quite interesting, Ok I have gotta run, so talk to you later,

Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2002 04:12:04 -0800 (PST)
Subject: updates

Hi there,

Right now, I am staying with my aunt, Chailai and cousins. I arrived here yesterday on a 3 hour bus ride from Bangkok. I was in Bangkok for only a day. Previous to that, I was staying with my other aunt, Sombat and couzins. The only thing worth mentioning right now that has happened is this: On the bus from Bangkok, after a nice little snooze, I took a look inside my travel guide-book. I read an article about professional pick-pocketers who work there way mainly on buses here. When I read this, we had about 30 minutes left till the destination. At the moment I read the article, I made sure my wallet was within known proxemics. By the time we got to Lopburi, I checked again, and like magic, it disappeared. Nowhere around my seat, nor under. The funny thing is, it wasn't even a crowded bus and the time someone would of had to pick it, I was fully conscious. There is not one moment or even a suspicion of who did it. Ha, I lost about 800 baht (a little under 19 bucks). Thanks to precautions I took, it won't effect me that bad, but a lesson learned for me anyway, ok gotta run,

Kiaw Green
Date: Wed, 13 Mar 2002 05:53:46 -0800 (PST)
Subject: this week...

Hello everyone, The scoop is this: For the last few days, I've been in Suphanburi. Suphanburi is an old city rich in history, however, like most of central Thailand, the town is modernized with all the like accommodates (i.e. Department stores, traffic, KFC, etc.) Over 500 years ago, central modern Thailand was ruled by the Ayudaya kingdom. During the period, the capital seat shifted many times between the cities Ayudaya, Suphanburi, and even Phitsanulok. Ayudaya (the kindgom) flourished for several hundred years and is the predecessor to the modern Chakri dynasty, that is the present royal government. Last week, I visited the Ayudaya ruins at Ayudaya (the city). It was very breath taking to be in such an ancient sacred place. The ruins, like most in Thailand, are standing strong, though scarred with black smoke from hundreds of years of warfare between ancient Myanmar (Burma) and Kampuchea (Cambodia) kingdoms. I could talk all day about this, but it would be impossible for me to relay this passion and history in words. I'll try to scan some photos in Bangkok later this month if I get a chance. And now, I'm back in traffic/congestion/megapolis heaven, Bangkok... Alright, gotta run, later,

Kiaw Green
Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2002 18:26:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 4 a.m. mystery....

It was approaching 4 a.m. I was lost deep in dream space when suddenly, something invaded my three-dimensional proxemics. Abruptly, I awoke yelling from my primal gut, kicking and swinging with all my chi, fending off whatever it was. At this first attempt, I was semi successful. For a moment I felt nothing. Then a second invasion occurred. Again, I screamed and fought. I managed to make it to the light switch. I saw nothing-heard nothing. No animal odors, no trace. In fact, all windows and possible entrances/exits for something of its size (presence) were shut (at least in a three dimensional realm). Soon, my cousin came knocking to check on me. I opened the door and explained my recollections of the previous moments. He took a brief yet failing inspection and guided me to his room. I finished the night (morning) there. My initial reflex assumed it was some sort of unidentified furless critter. From my first explanation, my cousin thought it might have been a snake. It left no trace on me, no bights, stings, etc. All I have is a cut on my toe that I think I got from kicking a dresser in my short struggle. The room was thoroughly inspected this morning. The results again lean towards a conclusion of vivid dreaming. And this is the most logical one. With hindsight, I remember when I was a kid. I used to watch those scary unsolved mysteries alone. The stories about "ghosts" invading ones proxemics comes to mind. In fact, whatever it was, it had the characteristics of a human arm and a hand more than anything else. Which leads to another possibility: I was sleeping on my arm, my arm fell asleep. At the moment, my dreams confused my 3-d reality, and I woke up fighting my own sleeping arm. Whatever happened, it was real, and adrenaline worthy. Ha, gotta run for now, talk to you all later.

Kiaw Green
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2002 23:41:24 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Krungthep King

Once again, I've returned to Bangkok. I got in yesterday evening. I took a short trip to the provincial capital of Jantaburi, not so far from the Cambodian border. My purpose there was following up on a blind lead in search for my brother. My original plan was to stay over the weekend, but the only thing there for me was frustrations and headaches. The lead was hopeless, though the experience was a chance to practice patience. A short poem about my riverside hotel room there:

The room was fair. The bottom half-dull lemon green, the top-faded banana cream
A ceiling fan with 5 levels of power, the toilet even providing minimal shower
Though having some bugs yet I was not bit, for 120 baht (less than 3 bucks), who gives a sh*t?

And that's that for now. And following, no logical nor chronological organization, just some random travel notes and observations:
Bangkok is the type of city where when one is mingled in the 10 million + megapolis, they are likely to feel suffocated, swarmed, and insignificant. But when he/she is able to be part of the city from 84 stories up (Baiyoke II tower, the tallest in Thailand) overlooking everything, they become less intimidated, a feeling so grand overcomes the body, and the city doesn't turn out so bad after all. Disappointedly, I've never seen blue skies thus so far in this city. I suppose I will never, for a Bangkokian (Bangkok native), told me they have not either. Well, talk to you all later,

Mr. Green
Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 18:58:51 -0800 (PST)
Subject: this week and more...

Hello ladies and gentlemen, Welcome to the latest edition of Mr. Green's Travel Newsletter. Ha ha ha... Nothing super exiting. I actually haven’t been traveling lately. Its been Bangkok routine mainly. Beginning last week, I've been partaking in a mini internship (actually not quite that) helping with a student issue at a young English readers weekly magazine based here in Bangkok. The circulation is national and very popular with much of the youth here. I've been working close with high-school/college students from all over the country as we put together this issue. I've already gotten to meet some Thai pop singer semi-stars. (Note, Toon and Mister Sister for those of you who are familiar) The daily commute is up to 4 hours round-trip for the office is on the northern flank of the city. Those of you who know about Bangkok traffic understand. I've learned to utilize the city's transportation resources as a Bangkokian would. (As opposed to jumping in a taxi every time) And so I save much money using the 3.5-15 baht (from .8 to .33 USD) buses as opposed to paying a metered taxi 250/300 baht (6-8 USD) to transport me in/out to/of the city. (like a happy tourist with unlimited funds)

The bus system here is crazy. Its not a matter of not having enough buses, for the 3/4 different types (air condition, non-air, mini, private, etc.) of buses are quite frequent. Since no one here is familiar with bus schedules, you simply hop on to the bus for-knowing its destination and route. And to make matters more confusing, the routes and bus numbers are always changing with out any type of formal notice. Even some of the buses that are the same color and number have didn't different destinations, its a matter of trial and error and just knowing where goes where and when. Of course it gives me a chance to step out of the comfort zone and ask in Thai where in the world I'm going, so its a win/win. And yes, I'm guilty, I did it it. I had been holding back all this time here. Every time, I passed a Mcdonalds, Burger King, KFC, or Pizza Hut (abundant in any/every modern sector, i.e. department stores, etc.) I would look at the customers, employees, and shop resenting this aspect/contribution from my home country. And, it must have been my subconscious home-sickness eating me, I just had to.. I had to go into Mcdonalds and try for myself. I ordered some Asian style burger just to justify the action. I was certainly feeling guilty afterward and well atleast I got it out of my system, no curiosity anymore. Though its funny, its kind of a proud thing for a Thai teenager to get hired by Mcdonalds here, just because of the name and rep. If anything, when I worked there in the states last year, it was ok, just for money temp thing, no one has to know about this attitude. They don't get to see that counter/sub-culture of the anti-fast food deal that Americans get to see. Its more of a "cool, western, modern, American" attitude for them. Anyway, I'll fill you in some time again later. Sonkran Festival is comin soon (Thai new year) and I'm sure I'll have some exiting stories to share then.

Mr. Green
Date: Sat, 13 Apr 2002 03:50:53 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Thai New Year (Sonkran)--Nation wide water fight! Chiang Mai

It is Saturday evening, 5 pm. As I sit in this e-cafe semi-soaked, I reflect over the last few days. This past week has been the Thai new years celebration. Throughout the country, throughout the week, it has been a street-wide water fight. Today was the climax of it all and apparently Chiang Mai is the most intense in Thailand during the time (why I chose to come here). I'll attempt to paint a picture:
Chiang Mai's old city is centered in the middle. It is a square area, aprox. 4-6+ sq. kilometers. This section is surrounded by a moat (spelling?)---the water canal thing that surrounds ancient cities and castles. Running parallel with the moat around in a square, on both sides (in and out) are roads. Pedestrian and car bridges are scattered around crossing to/from the old city. Here is where the action is most concentrated. Street vendors selling buckets, water guns, food, beer, soda, and ice all throughout. Folks of all ages filling their buckets from the canal and soaking each other. The streets are packed with motorcycles, trucks and cars. Now a motorcycle may have its advantage here in Thailand in a packed traffic jam due to their mobility, but during Sonkran, they got it worse. There is no escaping the water from all directions. There are even many kids and adults swimming in the canal. All around the moat, most of the water action is from the moat water. Except people in the back of trucks who have pre-filled water buckets. These buckets usually are ice cold water and the worst to get shot with on surprise. This month is the hottest in Thailand, but unfortunately, the past few days have been real cool here. Usually, I'd be thankful for the cool weather but I think the water fun would be more rewarding and complimentary to scourging, hot, humid weather. At first, I walked along the moat and played free-for-all, wetting anyone in my way (and being soaked all the while) My bucket was small so I had to refill it frequently. Today, I came across a high pedestrian bridge. I'm surprised no one else had gotten the idea that I got at that moment. Sniper time. It was fun to see the people in the back of trucks getting squirted and being confused from what direction the water was coming. Later, from my spot, a truckload of my victims--girls spotted me and invited me to ride with them. I was alone and so I accepted. Now all the buckets and squirts of water I gave to trucks and motorcycles came back ten fold. It was fun though.

After a few hours, I departed from my new friends and came to relay this story (if you can call it that). Aside from Sonkran fun, I have had the opportunity to check out the night life here (pubs, clubs, discotheque, restaurants) Dancing is wonderful! The style of dance clubs/discotheque is different from the USA in these ways:
In the states, everything is oriented around the dance floor, there are bars and some tables but there usually on the edge for the few shy. Here, there is no dance floor, its tables throughout. There is usually a stage that hosts live music the first phase of the night (usually from 9 to midnight+) Thais come in groups of friends. The idea is to sit, socialize, and drink alcohol with your friends. The alcohol is a social thing but also to build up the courage to dance. So usually, by 12 am, the first of the brave stand up and start dancing (around table) By 1 am, the whole place is dancing (still around the tables) Approaching 2 am (the time most of em close) there are a few really drunk dancing on the tables. Its fun, and the clubs here are really innovative and unique with their themes. A lot of em’ in Chiang Mai are country-wooden-cabin with good dance music. The disco-tech is as modern as anything with all the new tech in lights, sound, and effects. Disappointedly, no Thai I've met yet knows what swing dancing is.

So anyway, that’s enough for now, hope you're all doing well. Take it easy.
Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2002 00:56:53 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Southern Thailand travels

I had a vivid dream the other night: My home sickness finally forced me to return to the states. But when I was back, an erie feeling of regret swept over me. I was day dreaming (within the dream) about the tropical paradise I left behind. And so another message for me to appreciate what I already have at present--not always feeding on what I don't have and how I'm gonna get it. After waking up from this dream, I found myself thankful that it was a dream. (kind of like a nightmare)A sigh of relief--and I was happy that I was right there and then, in Ranong province, Southern Thailand. A prior invitation from a Thai friend of mine brought me here late Thursday evening/early Friday morning. The over-night bus was somewhat uncomfortable but more than tolerable in contrast to the 3rd class train and bus that I took last week from Chiang Mai during the new year holiday.


Lush, green, tropical, jungle hills rolling into the horizon. The unmerciful sun breaching overhead. The clear blue skies balance out the heat for the better though, for coming from Bangkok, don't get to see too much blue skies. Rolling around these southern tropical mountains on the ever-winding road, out of nowhere, the almighty limitless ocean overtakes your peripheral. Its the first time I've seen the Andaman sea, but certainly not the last. Standing on the beach facing west, to my left is a rocky incline from thick jungle breaking into aqua green sea. Off yonder in the sea, you can see many small to medium sized islands--some less than a km or two, others estimated 10+. As the sun begins its decent into the sea, the horizon starts to flame, now making it possible to vaguely make out a distant mountain-scape to the north west. This is most undoubtedly Myanmar (Burma) Remembering from the map, Myanmar has its own share of tropical islands big and small alike. Unfortunately, due to their foreign/ tourism policies, its unlikely that I'll ever get to see them in this life. But perhaps preservation is for the overall better...So back to Thailand...After spending a great weekend on the west coast (Malay peninsula), I've accepted in invitation from my friend's cousin (of which she has many throughout Southern Thailand) to head to the east coast, the more tourist known coast, overlooking the gulf of Thailand. A 3 and a half hour ride in the back of a transport truck brought me across the thin peninsula (maybe 200 km wide). The ride was pleasant, much more preferable than a bus or train in my opinion. Having all the leg room in the world, a real life view without any glass/plastic barriers, and a natural fan blowing mountain wind through my hair. And best of all, this ride was free!! Here in Chumphon (Amphur Lungsuang), I took a solo bike trip along the coast this morning. In comparison, from what I've seen, the Andaman sea is more beautiful and magical. Maybe its just the fact of knowing that its waters are less secure and mysterious. With, India, Sri Lanka, Bangledesh, and Myanmar within its access, its boggling to think of what the Andaman has seen. The gulf of Thailand on the other hand, is more prized for its accessibility, tourist wise and port wise, and well, nothing exiting. Any how, the 14 km roundtrip bike ride was great either way. Stopped here and there along the way to check out the beach view. The beach in most parts is scattered with trash and the likes, but on the big picture view, its still exotically grand. Huge palm trees hanging over all along the way. Many fishing boats out in the horizon (but no islands within view) Tourist (domestic and international) oriented beach side restaurants and bungalows stretch as long as the beach will go. And the peace that a wave breaking on the rocks and sand is grand in its own aspect...Okay, still have some more traveling to do in the south and will keep ya'll informed anything new and special.

Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2002 03:00:24 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: after next month...

After next month I shall settle down for a few months. Back to the old capitalist ways of full time work--schedules--predictability--accessibility--and yes, salary too. All that crap I put so much energy in breaking free from back in the states. Life is certainly a cycle. Oh, calm down, I'm not returning to the states just yet. As planned, I'll be teaching English here for a little bit. These past few days, I've been in Petchburi, a provincial capital a few hours south of Bangkok, securing the position (or at least prospecting it) and it looks a go. I've already got to sit in a few classes to observe. Today, I helped teach one class and solo-tutored one for a few hours.

So after I do my visa run in Singapore/Malaysia mid next month, I'll begin the real teaching 6 days a week. I'll let you all know more solid info (i.e. contacts, etc.) once it is certain. It looks though that I have I'll be staying in one of the beach houses belonging to my employer. Petchburi is nice. 3 nights, I chose to stay in a 120 baht/night (about 3 bucks) travelers guest house just to check out that scene. I've met some interesting travelers all with their own stories. There pasts and cultures may be different but it seems that their futures and intents are common (as much as they'd like to believe otherwise, i.e. "I wanna stick clear from the tourists route, you know get an inside perspective from the locals, etc. etc.")

In particular, one 26 year old New Zealand guy named Daymond. One of his few possessions he drags around is his Yamaha acoustic guitar. He is decent on it, well enough to communicate via music. Its been fun jammin sing along nights at the guesthouse commons over a few Chang beers with him. Yesterday, we rented some bikes and checked out some caves on the outskirts of town. Not sure if I'll ever see him again but that's just what it becomes in the wonderer's lifestyle. Meet many interesting people, their different ideals and perspective help mold and revise my own...So Petchburi about raps it up for peninsular travels. Tongight I plan to head back up to Bangkok and see what happens from there. I still have a few weeks of a wanderer's freedom. Then my finale will be a trip to Singapore and loop back up via Kuala Lumpur (hosts the current worlds tallest buildings) Malaysia.

Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 04:11:43 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: And now...

And now I am back in Bangkok. I just arrived today from Lopburi, central Thailand. I was there the past 4 days visiting cousins. And where has the time gone? On Friday, I fly out to Singapore for my visa run. (Actually, I don't need to go there, but I'm using it as an opportunity travel) I'll spend a few days there before looping back up via train or bus through Malaysia. I plan to stop a few days in Kuala Lumpur--Malaysia's capital, and currently the city that hosts the tallest buildings in the world (not for too much longer though), the Petrona twins (about 454 meters tall) So this signifies the end of my first 3 month phase overseas. The funny thing is I wanna bail out. The urge to return to comfort, security, and predictability lingers and surfaces often now. I manage to find outlets though to suppress it. Not to say that they are all healthy outlets. And so today and tomorrow, I am drowned w/packing out and leaving my apartment. Its been a good 11-12 weeks there (when I was there) and well, I just hope everything goes ok in Singapore/Malaysia. My capital is real thin and I'll have to make way with what I got.

Take care all for now,

Back to top


Transistion: Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, MAlaysia

Date: Fri, 10 May 2002 21:48:13 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Hello from Singapore...

Hello all,

At the moment, I am in my friends student hostile room near the eastern coast of this tiny island. The main city is towards the east and central. I arrived here around 5 pm yesterday evening at Changi International Airport-situated on the western coast of Singapore island. After phoning my friend Melky from the free phones inside the airport, I soon met up with him. We hopped on the transit line (MRT) to head into the city center (from Changi International Airport-about 25 km or so). Around Beach road and Bencoolen street, (apparently the budget/bagpackers areas right) which are in good location in Colonial/modern Singapore, we looked for some of these guesthouses/hostiles listed in my moon travel guidebook. Well, it turned out that almost all of the ones listed were either closed down or temporarily under renovation. So it beat my luck. After this, Melkey kindly invited me to stay (against his University rules) in his room at his hostile. I accepted and last night, slept on a mattress here in Boon Lay district (about another 25 km or so to the west of the city center).

Though somewhat overwhelming, the city is very impressive so far. As a 4 million + populated metropolis, it is damm clean and better yet, green. Grass and trees throughout. The transportation is very orderly and easy. The MRT (similar to BTS in Bangkok) is user friendly and reliable. I have not seen any traffic jams or many personal cars for that matter (Singapore has a tax which is 200% of the price of the car if you want to own a car here--so if the car is 30,000 $, you have to pay 90,000$--very extreme right?- but efficient, effective, and logical for such a small but populated conscious city/state/country island) So basically, only the rich and well-off live in houses (90% + of all Singaporeans live in high density apartments/condos/flats) and have their own transportation. The rest rely on the community/public resources. No apparent smog, in fact I was happy the puff ivory clouds and equator-blue skies all yesterday and this morning. In contrast to other international/cosmo cities, aside from a few of the internationally famous nightclubs and techs (which I have not yet experienced but soon to be), Singapore is a day city. Not much action at night. Public transportation and most places stop and close by 11:30 (and this was last night-Friday) Though I believe the nightclubs stay open until 3 am. But as far as getting home at 3 am, you would have to use a taxi which have a 200% surcharge after midnight. So from a urban planner's perspective, Singapore is ideal--standard of living high, clean, safe, efficient, etc. On the contrary, from a budget travelers perspective, gotta watch my capital closely, I'm not in good ol' Thailand anymore. Let you know more as it comes, take care all and later this week its Kuala Lumpur, yea,
Date: Sat, 11 May 2002 22:09:43 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Singapore after hours (rated pg 18)

So the club scene so far:
After a day of sight seeing in/around cbd (central business district or downtown), Melkey and I entered one of Singapore's tallest high rises, Westin Stanford tower (Raffles City) hotel. (maybe 250 meters tall) On the 69th through 71st floor is the entertainment complex formally known as Equinox. (Asians and their innovative themes...) I wanted to get a bird's view of the city, and my only chance was to dine at one of the restaurants. (no observation level in this building) So we went to New Asia cafe on the 71st floor. The food--expensive but with its ambience and view, what can you expect. Sat for an hour sipping on Singapore's very own, Tiger beer (nothing distinct about it) and munching some rice/meat hard shell rap snack. Caught some of the sunset over Marina Bay, Singapore river, and CBD and then set off. Now on towards famous Orchard road early evening. Every weekend at civic plaza, a free music concert of Hongkong, Taiwan, and local stars is provided to the public (community over capitalism). However, the catch is the capitalists get there play anyway by advertising to the audience beforehand and after so its more like a harmonious compromise between capitalism and community. So after sampling some Indonesian food court food and listening to the lovely and beautiful Chinese pop star and Taiwanese rapping group. We rushed to the club to make it before 9:00. (That is happy hour, cheaper cover)

This particular club, Zeuk is one of the more popular ones in Singapore. Its actually 3 clubs connected. Zeuk, Phuture, and the internationally famous Velvet Underground. Zeuk is 18 +, Phuture is 21 +, and Velvet Underground is 23+. I spent most of the night of course in Zeuk which is the most happening anyway apparently (excluding Velvet-wouldn't know) but later in the night made it upstairs to Phuture without hassle. At around 9:00, no action, just a few friends or couples chatting and/or drinking at the few bars skattered. It is not a very large hall/room, but it makes up in its tech/lights/sound/and special effects. All modern to the fullest-green showering and wave lasers-twirling spotlights-black light illusions-everything-its a crazy acid trip w/o the acid. The before 9 cover charge of 12 singapore dollars (about 7 US) included two standard drinks. So I had a draft Tiger beer and a screwdriver.

Singapore is more like the states as far as the clubs. Its not drink till your drunk and not shy before you dance like many of Thailand's clubs. Anyhow, no real dancing from 9 to 10. By about 10:30 pm. I, my friend Melkey, and some other young US sailors that were there, the courageous ones, broke the ice and started to dance showing off, mimicking each other, and battling around their eclectic skills. By midnight the party was in full blast. The dance floor packed with ladies and all walks of life from Singapore and abroad. Talk about synergy.

Singapore's four main national races and languages are English, Chinese, Malay, and Indian (Tamil). So everywhere you go public, most notices or messages are in all 4 languages. And to the club topic, it was quite interesting to see Indians, Chinese, Malays, and westerners, and of course all the mixed bloods, all intermingled like so just enjoying the pumping house music, not stressed or connecting via political/racial conflict. And so today, just relaxing after a late night/morning. I think I am content with what I've seen so far and as much as I'd love to stay and could stay for a long time, I don't have the capital to support this nor the intent so I will move on probably Tuesday morning or so. And I'll keep you informed of anything new, take care
Date: Wed, 15 May 2002 23:48:49 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Greetings from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Because of the unreliability of this school-boy, first person graphic game playing, infested cyber cafe, I have to rewrite this message because the last one was lost.

So I'm in Kuala Lumpur, the garden city of lights. Malaysia's capital, a modern metropolis of around 3 million. Pretty clean and beautiful like Singapore with many park, grass, and trees, but also with more cars, thus traffic and pollution. The skyscrapers here are damm impressive. Most popular these days--the Petrona twin towers. Currently, they hold the world title for tallest structural height at 454 meters high. They soar over the city in all their grand glory for Malaysia, symbolizing the jump into the modern world for this nation. Unfortunately, like most man-made capitalist structures, nothing public has been offered from them aside from a 10 minute tour/view from the sky bridge that links the towers some 40 stories up. The view is nice here. However, from over 280 meters up in the observation level of the KL tower (420 meters tall), for 15 Malaysian ringetts (about 4 usd $), the 360 degree view and audio tour of KL city is least worth an awe, as in mastercard's words, priceless. KL's many garden green hill parks scattered throughout. In the Eastern horizon, past the towering scrapers and city, the jungle cliffs and caves give a romantic ambience to the city. Somewhere 30 km out in the west horizon, there lies the ever mysterious Andaman sea.

Most unfortunately, ever since Monday in Singapore, I have been ill. Some sort of head cold/flu has overcome my body. I am able to function, i.e. breath, sleep, eat, walk, see, observe, but my senses have been minimal. Therefore I can not enjoy everything for what it truly is worth. At least I'll be able to look back at the many photo's I have taken. I arrived in KL, yesterday morning at 6:30 a.m. from an overnight Singapore sleeper train. I checked into a 20 ringett/night bagpacker's guesthouse (about 5-6 usd $), napped, and then set out to explore the city. One thing that both KL and Singapore have over other world cities is a great ethnic and diverse ethnic blend of cultures and religions. Most concentrated are former Chinese and Indian immigrants. (both cities have a significant China town and Little India). Along with multi-racial integration comes inter-racial mix in courtship and dining. So not only can you eat a unique meal here, you will see and meet beautiful mixes of people as well.

So the night life in KL? Well, I haven’t the will and energy to really check it out at the moment. Though I did stop in for a beer last night at a disco club. For a Wednesday, it was expectedly empty. The tech and sound system was on par with the rest of the modern world (though I hear nothing touches Tokyo's scene), but nothing special. However, KL is different from cities as Bangkok, Singapore, and the states because it has no formal restrictions on closing. Where most places in those mentioned places have restrictions to close by 2 or 3 am, apparently, Kuala Lumpur goes all night to morning. But unless a wave of absolute healthiness and will comes over me soon, I don't plan to check it out. Besides, I don't have anyone here to share that with, which always makes it that much more worth it. And, soon I will return to Thailand to start a new phase/chapter. Until next news, later,

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Phase Two : Teaching in Phetchburi with the Universal Envoy

Date: Tue, 21 May 2002 08:04:34 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Mr. Green has evolved...

With all progressive life, comes change--and better yet evolution. Mr. Green has returned to Thailand from a week and a half of inspirational travel in the Malay peninsula world cities, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Looking back on the developed photos and journal writings, its hard to believe that I have already left such great places. Remembering the utopian ambiance I felt in the lion's streets-particularly along the emerald Singapore river at CBD (central business district), and along with taking a fresh peaceful sigh of admiration of KL's impressive king skyline in Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC) park, its quite hard to readjust to the smog, traffic, and noise of Bangkok. But, you can't have your cake and eat it to right? But also from this short travel experience, as them all, I have gained a greater appreciation and pride for where I come from. And now I'm referring to Thailand. I haven’t ever felt it so much of a home to me until this trip. It is my second home, and really, I have no unconstructive complaints for this wonderful country. Sure Singapore and KL are great cities, but I couldn't get half the things at half the prices as I could in Bkk (Bangkok) there so well, every place has something of its own to offer. Just like people. While many people may appear to be robots, every person is bound to offer some difference in variation of the program that you can respect for its own uniqueness. Well kinda...but anyway, as I said, with progression comes evolution. And Mr. Green has advanced. From a productive completion of the past phase(s), Mr. Green has self proclaimed himself a new title:

The Emerald Prince.

Simultaneously, the Emerald Prince has advanced further into this information/communication age. He has purchased himself a mobile phone. Feel free to contact him. Internationally you must dial the country code of Thailand first (66), than 9, and finally 023-3867, But if you are local here, just dial: 09 023-3867 [not current anymore] Ok that's all that is relevant for the moment, but take care all,
Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 21:55:43 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: For my first time, I saw a...

...Siamese cat in Siam (Thailand)!! It was at a mini bar/restaurant--more of an addition to a wooden house, near Bpukthien beach, a beach town about 20 km from the provincial capital of Petchaburi. This place thrives off of the three "kru farang" (westerner teachers) that live in beach houses 100 meters from it. Simply known as "Joong's place" to the teachers, they use it for its convenience and budget for a simple meal and beer. Dan, Joe, and Darrell frequent it daily, thus keeping a monthly tab. Dan is from the Toronto area, Joe from upstate New York, and Darrell-Liverpool, England. They are the "veteran" tachers at the company I work at. All of em’ have been there maybe half a year to a year. And so this week, I am temporarily staying at a beach house at Bpukthien, near these other teachers'. The past few days, I've been there and Petchburi socializing with the teachers, my employers, and local Thais-preparing my entrance into the local circle. Though next week, I'll move on to another beach house at Cha Ahm beach-some 45 kms from Petchburi. Cha Ahm is a little bigger and more touristy than Bpukthien, thus more resources to live and most importantly commute to work everyday. Pretty exiting!! So I'll keep you all posted on everything as it becomes concrete. later
Date: Mon, 3 Jun 2002 03:33:42 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: "Good Mon eeng Tea Jer, How ah you today"

The week has been filled with days of teaching and nights taking pride in my beach house. I teach all levels and ages. Depending on the week, I'm leading classes from kindergarden, to Pratom 1-6 (primary school) up to Matayom 1-6 (grade-secondary), and even technical/vocational students. Its a big responsibility, not much room for slack, etc. but I am loving it. It sure beats the machine work that I've had in the past back in the states. The class room is like my (but mainly the student's) stage. And the show is the English language using props from the chalk/dry erase board and my guitar along with everyone's singing voices. There is a scrip-the teacher's manual, but it's real loose and open to improvisation. The main target is speaking and listening.

Matt Mulloy from Colorado joined me late last week. After a full day of teaching in Ratchburi last Wednesday, a few hours outside of Bangkok, I went to pick him up at the airport in Bkk. He arrived at the BKK arrival gate near midnight. We met up and I escorted him to Petchaburi where we arrived 3:30 am. With minimal sleep, taught the following morning. Matt observed me and the other teachers as he was on the schedule to teach the next day, Friday. This last week end, we have been taking pride in our beach house at Bpukthien beach. Matt seems to be adapting accordingly and well. Its great and I can really say I have no complaints about my current situation. But I do have to run now, so take care all for now, Oh by the way, if you need to send me anything, send it to my office base at:

73, 75 Petchkrasemkoa Rd.
T. Klongkrachang, A. Muang
Petchaburi 76000
[not current]

Ok, and by the way, if any of you ever are wanderers in the area soon and wanna drop in for a visit, you are welcome, just give me a ring,
Date: Thu, 6 Jun 2002 03:36:00 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Patience Perforce...When dues are paid...

Second week into full time teaching. The Emerald Prince got up as usual around 5:30 am. Hopped in the shower. The last night--sleeping with the fan on high power, the sea breeze coming through the open screened window, and no comforter rewards nights here with a taste of cool Colorado home weather in contrast to the hot melting days the Thailand sun brings. And thus, the cold shower wasn't one to reckon with. Jumped out quickly and suited up for the day of teaching. Matt and I rushed to our pickup spot down the beach. The bus (modified truck) leaves every 15 minutes after 7 am. For the 25 km ride into Petchaburi, its a good hour sit picking up the various country commuters. The day teaching in both Ratchburi and Petchburi (hour from each other) was filled passionately dirtying my green dress shirt with sweat, chalk, and dry erase marker dust. The tiredness swept over me grandly after lunch and one class. After another hour commute back to Petchburi, one more, and was I relieved finishing that last class.

Just as the students were exiting, the mobile phone shot out its digital ring of "The Entertainer" And so I answered. I heard static of a bad connection and the line cut quickly. Thought nothing of that and just as I was getting my briefcase/bag together, it rang again...This time, a man shouted out in Thai over the static. I eventually gathered that his name was Bancha Kesakorn. I clarified and confirmed. He told me so. His name was the same as my long lost brother! I had to be sure though. So I asked him (everything in Thai) if he was mixed blooded Thai/Westerner just like the boy/man I have seen in many pictures. He told me yes.

My purpose in Thailand was one-to find all my long lost relatives, particularly my brother. I had found everyone except him. For the last 3 months prior to accepting this job, I had wondered the country blindly looking with no real leads or finds. Exhausted with the search, I gave up and vowed that if it were to happen, I'd done all I could, and I had no energy left to continue that wave. Well, I have to run, but my brother has now found me. I am in the process of arranging a meet. I can't really transfer with words the feeling of fulfillment I have at the moment. It is grand beyond language, but I'm sure some of you understand now. I have to rush now as my ride back to the beach is running out, fill you all in on more once it comes, take care
Date: Sun, 9 Jun 2002 09:53:10 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Oh Brother...

Finishing class on Friday, the Emerald Prince caught a Bangkok bound bus from the little Samut Sonkram roadside depot/terminal. After one and a half hours, I arrived at the Bangkok southern bus terminal in Thonburi. By now, the clock was approaching 18:00 hours. I caught a public bus which took me as far as Democracy monument on the Bangkok side of the Chao Phraya river where I prematurely got off. This led me walking for at least an hour in a darker Bangkok neighborhood before I was able to recognize any surroundings. I managed to catch a tuk tuk to the nearest BTS skytrain terminal, Paya Thai. There I phoned and confirmed my stay at a friend's house for the night. From Paya Thai station, I took the reliable sky train to Ari station along the Sukhumwit line. After browsing at a book store and getting lost finding my friend's shop, I finally met up with my friend. Friday night went by w/o mention-woke up early Saturday morning and by the time I was ready and commuted to the Bangkok eastern bus terminal, Ekamai, it was nearly noon. It was then another three and a half hours on the bus to Jantaburi, near the Thai/Cambodian border. Once arrived at the Jantaburi bus terminal, I caught another regional bus northbound. About another 45 minutes, I got off the bus where I was supposed to be. Through the help of a phone guide (a friend of my brother's) he instructed the hired motorcycle where to go from there.

It was a little confusing and frustrating, but eventually made it. By 2 pm, I was in a hugging grasp with my long lost half brother, Bancha. I had known about him since I was a kid through my mother's old photographs, but he had never known about me untill just last week. Nevertheless, he was on the verge of tears. I symbolized and represented more to him than just a younger half-brother. I was his connection to our deceased mother and everything she had after she left Thailand more than 30 years ago..So the weekend at the family owned orchard was lax. Along with bonding with Bancha, his g/f, daughter, and uncle, also relaxed watching football (world not American) and some world class boxing. As I said, they run a orchard. There were plenty of laborers picking and packaging the fruit called "Lom Yai" (I'm not sure the English name for em’ or if there even is one. They are similar to Rambuten but much smaller and not red peels) getting bunches ready for export to China, Indonesia, and elsewhere. And so the view there in Jantaburi country is grand. Pristine lush jungle mountains galore. And while I was there, I never encountered that nasty trash burning smoke that I usually do in the Thai countryside. So that was a plus.

But early Sunday afternoon demanded me back on the commute for a job calls me first thing Monday morning. So my brother drove me to the Jantaburi terminal and saw me off. We are sure to meet again. The door has been pleasantly opened-the bridge harmoniously built. I arrived back here in Petchaburi by 10:30 pm. I did stop over in Bangkok for dinner so I lost some time there. But now I'm back, ready to start a new week with knew light to my wave. Now I shall rest up in my employer's house here. take care all,
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2002 04:12:35 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Vvvrmmm..rmmm...

Three weeks o' full time as an English teacher...the Prince awaits his next challenge, Another step up...a little more responsibility...I bought me a motorcycle!! It's a six year old Susuki, 120 cc purrin kitten. Pretty clean for what I ended up paying for it. (Under 10,000 baht or less than 250 USD) If I saw anything like it in the states, it certainly would be no less than 2000 USD at the very least. One thing about Thailand is there are many more bikes on the road. We are not talking about big ol' harleys, just little dirt-bike sized street bikes. The bikes are just as a part of Thai traffic as cell phones are in society. The Thai country wind blowing in my hair at the work day's end is quite rewarding. Not too mention, I don't have to rely on the public transportation to/from the beach--which limits to me having to come home to the beach every day before 6 pm. This cuts my commute time in half. And best of all, it will be cheaper for me economically. Now lets just hope that it doesn't break down on me soon. Or better yet, I don't get stupid on it. Thailand's roads are nothing back home. It can be a bloody mess out there sometimes, believe me. Not to scare any of you, I'll use my best judgment. Ok, take care,
Date: Mon, 5 Aug 2002 04:24:43 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: And now...

Hello all, Its been some time since the last update. And that would be due to busy times. And forgive the brief character of this message, for time stands in the way once again. Teaching has been wonderful and ofcourse, more fulfilling than any other job I've had. Exhausting, yes, but worthy of it. Some of you know that a good friend from the states, Mathew Mulloy had been co living/working with me since the beginning of June. It has been great to have a "brother" right there for 2 months. Unfortunately, but for the better, Matt made the decision to return to the states for higher learning. He left work last week for some indy travel and will fly out Wednesday. I haven't heard from the "Universal Envoy" since his parting from me over a week ago but I imagine he is in good health. Now adapting back to where I was before he came, living and commuting alone, which isn't so bad and don't imagine it will be longer-for I'm sure a new teacher will come soon.

And of course, I have to leave the country briefly again. This coming weekend, I will fly to the city of life, Hong Kong. I will be there only a few short days, but enough to make a dent in my capital, for a lot of you know how expensive the city is (especially coming from somewhere like Thailand). But I'll budget it and come out alive, with stories, pictures, and all the travel likes... now I must run, take care,

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Transition : Hong Kong


Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2002 00:02:55 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Greetings From Hong Kong!!

Hello all! First and foremost, please forgive my lack of direct correspondence. At the moment, as many of you know, I am abroad in the "City of Life", Hong Kong-as of 1997, a colony returned to the Chinese Republic after 100 years under official British ownership. Anyhow I'll get back to you individually once I get an allowing moment. Make no mistake, Hong Kong is not China-nor was it UK. It is, in its own respect. Hong Kong. Very similar to Singapore in the sense of its Autonomous governing (ironically, being at a very high stage of capitalism-in many ways, even more so then I'm used to seeing in the states)

Ok-are you still with me? I'll revert to simple talk and get the point.
Hong Kong, without debate, holds to its nickname, "City of Life" At any hour of the day or night, there is life to be found-whichever dimension you desire. Got here Saturday evening. Quickly studied the free HKTA (Hong Kong Tourist Authority) transportation and city maps, and made my way into the city via express train from the airport. Like anything modern and new-world, you either have to get on it, or get left behind in the dust. And Hong Kong was/is no exception. One moment, I was napping on comfortable flight 91 of Fin Air, the next I'm in the bustle of Kowloon towers soaring over every angle. The city/territory is fast paced, but fortunately, it is not like Bangkok-but more like Singapore. In the sense that it is not a chaotic urban nightmare. The Subway and overall public transportation is reliable and efficient. The streets are generally clean and safe. The one drawback with high quality of living is a high cost of living. But I pushed my HK dollars to the penny and I live to tell about it. Aaaah, out of time, and I hadn't even told about my little taste of the HK night life. Perhaps I'll do a follow up reflective message with more comments that I lack the time to tell here, I'd love to hear from you all, thanks.

Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2002 02:17:50 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Reflections of a world city...

Hello there again,This is just a follow up on my trip--now that I've actually got a moment and decent night's rest.

It was a quick four days but well worth the while.
Reflections, bringing to my face a childhood smile
It was the kind of trip that rejuivinated, motivated, and inspired,
As opposed to the kind that sustain, drain, and spark a dorment fire.
An international city with logic function day by day
For the future, a place w/o a doubt worthy of another stay.
In the heart of a Kowloon street to be found many a barber
Or a peacful ferry ride across the magical Victoria harbor
Or best-high from the ever natural summit of Victoria Peak,
A million dollar view beholds if that is what you seek.
By day, a whirlpool circulation of capital and funds,
By night, a sleepless city with outlets for all who come

And so did I enjoy Hong Kong? You bet! And what's best, you know how, when you have a great vacation somewhere, and then you come back. There are some places that you go and you don't want to go back (home) and it can be a struggle to readjust.

For me coming back and working within hours of my arrival was only hard because I hadn't slept for almost a few days. But all is good on this front now. Future opportunities have come into view for say.

So what's next? All I can say is, that I will purse learning the Chinese language within due time. Not sure, still sitting between which dialect to take on first-Mandarin or Cantonese.

More people speak Mandarin in the world than any other language (over 1 billion). Of course they are mostly mainland Chinese but actually Cantonese seems to be more the more internationally circulated dialect as far as Chinese off the mainland (HK, Singapore,etc.), Well, gotta run for now-take care,
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So as can be expected, technology has let my expectations down again. I had stored all my emails in an email account that was cancelled because I didn't sign in for a long period. Everything was lost from the period of September 2002 to December 2004. More than two years of fun and adventures not only in Southeast Asia, but back in the states as well.

Let's see, October of 2002, I went to Cambodia. I continued to work around Petchburi until August of the following year. I started University at Bangkok University in January, 2003. Took six classes and came out with a 3.95 GPA.

In September, I finally fulfilled my dreams of making a 'visit' back home to Colorado. This was an unforgettable time when I worked at 7-11 off of 84th and Corona in North Denver. I got chance to work every single shift. The best was grave yard when I was alone except for the fact that I got robbed for two cartons of cigarettes. The last major thing that happened on this trip was getting arrested outside of a lodo (lower downtown) nightclub. I had alcohol on my breath and the bouncer wouldn't let me in. The problem was my friend and ride home already entered into the busy place and I had no way to contact or find him. I keep pleading with the doormen and police to help me as it was so cold outside and I didn't have any money. They eventually got fed up with me and made a show out of me. They booked me for interfering with police authority and loitering. The charge was such bull-sh*t, that the judge let me off for time served the next day. However, I still had to spend a night in city jail, which I don't plan on doing again. My man hood wasn’t violated but it’s quite possible for frequent flying and long-term commitment to this system.

After Denver, I took a bus down to Albuquerque to visit my sisters before making my exodus again. This was similar to my first exit a year and a half prior. Great holiday times with my family seeing how much my niece and nephews had grown.

I arrived in Thailand on New Years Day, 2004. I started to come down with something on the plane after transiting in Taiwan. By golly, I thought it was SARS, but I would soon find out a few weeks later, that it was Chicken Pox. I must have contracted this from my nephew, Donovan cause he had had it before I left New Mexico. Now I remember getting chicken pox when I was a kid, but I must have not had it all out because it hit me hard. I was paralyzed sick with bumps all over my body for a good part of a month. This is the most suffering I can remember going through in a long time

After recovering from this, I found work teaching in Song Phi Nong district of Suphan Buri. It was comfortable at the time, but didn't last long as I sabotaged everything by mixing business and pleasure--just to keep this rated pg.

After the Sonkran holiday, I found new work in Bangkok. It was for Anubahn Nontaburi School, the main kindergarten of Nontaburi, the province on the northern/northwestern end of Bangkok. Here, I became the Kindergarten One, class five homeroom teacher. It was a relaxed gig that inspired and occupied me for the next four/five months. Starting July, I also took on a Sunday job teaching English at an international kindergarten. This was my first high paying wage at 500 baht/hour. This lasted for three months.

My contract at Nontaburi didn't continue as they wanted a teacher who could fully obligate him/herself to the program. As I was/am still in University, my work schedule had to be cut up. As far as Uni, I kept bringing in the good grades maintaining a 3.9 GPA up to this day (January 2005)

So then I took on some part time gigs. A few days teaching corporate classes in the evenings at 400 baht/hour and one full Saturday teaching kindergarten level at 600 baht/hour. From then on, though the work load lessened, the prestige and pay heightened.

No, not much travels during the year. Only in October of that year, my friend Jussi, a student from Finland, my girlfriend, Worawan, and I all took a trip to the Sukhothai area. (On the way, I came down with a great sickness again that I honestly believe was the Chicken flu) There, we got to see the ruins of not only Sukhothai, but Sri Sutchunalai as well.

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December 2004 Tsunami

Date: Monday, December 27
Subject: Nature's Wrath

Wow! !

The power of nature. First, an earthquake thousands of kilometers away in Sumatra, then within hours, tens of thousands kilometers coastland overtaken by the sea. Tens of thousands involuntary human sacrifices to nature.

I’ve never seen so many real dead bodies piled over each other all this life. Luckily, I’m safe in my Bangkok apartment, but the Thai news have coverage at all hours so it’s not easy to avoid. It’s a constantly changing body count race between the southern provinces of Phuket, Phanga, Krabi, Ranong, Trang, and Satun, the provinces on Thailand’s western coast overlooking the Andaman Sea.

According to the local news, one big problem is preserving so many corpses until they are claimed or identified, many being foreign tourists with no identification available. All the storage space at hospitals and temples are filled to the max and bodies are starting to rot.

So far, it looks like Phanga province has the lead with well over 500 fatalities thus far followed by Phuket passing the 200 mark. It seems like many sources have different figures, but what is for sure is the number is constantly going up as so many are still missing.

What did they say, a 9.5 on the rictor or something making it the fourth largest earthquake in contemporary history and the biggest Tsunami in the region ever. With estimates as high as 40 ++ Thousand perished in the southern Asian coastal region, who knows what the injured figure is ??

And Thailand seems to have been luckier than Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India, it’s just so shocking as nothing has happened like this to Thai populations in recorded history . What about all the Andaman islands of Myanmar, their so isolated, I wonder what the situation is like there?

The collection of corpses of all ages and races looks like a wars doing, but by golly this ain’t no war over oil or religion;

This is a natural war. All year long, we waste away the world’s resources in heaps and take every packaged comfort for granted. As advanced as modern science and global communications between international markets are, the earth’s wrath will strike in the most vulnerable spots at the least expected moment.

Think about all those tourists sun bathing on the beach before the massive flow of ocean over takes the coast within seconds.


Date : Wednesday, December 29
Subject : Contributing

So the count continues to rise as more corpses get unveiled from the sea. Somewhere over 2000 in Thailand with at least a thousand more missing and the region toll is reaching towards 100,000 mark quickly.

And so I couldn't take sitting in my apartment doing nothing except watching the news. Originally, I wanted to go directly to the Andaman coast and fill in any need to come to terms with nature, but that might have to wait.

On top of the natural disaster, the country prepares to lower a human disaster for the New Years celebrations: Every one packs the roads to get to their homes in the country and outer provinces free from their jobs in Bangkok for a few days. The festivals and celebrations always bring a high death toll in this country as it is with all the drunk driving. Thus, the goverment tries harder and harder each year with a new 'don't drink/drive' campaign that never seems to work.

And so, I decided to volunteer here in Bangkok. The world is so generous now as millions come together to contribute in one way or another from across the globe. Today, I made my way out to the Bangkok suburban district of Rungsit, here at Thamasat University, where many surviving tourists with no place to go came. As I had imagined, there is more than enough people here to council and answer the phones, but as for tonight, I'm just hanging out on standby in case anything comes up. Lots of donated food, refreshments, computers, news, television to keep comfortable the dozens of people hanging out in this room and outside. So can't say I'm contributing much this late hour. It's midnight and I'll hang around till tomorrow where I can do some needed work like I did earlier.

Earlier, we were at the military airport where the bulk of donated food, clothes, water, appliances, ply-wood caskets, you name it are all stocked in a massive warehouse being organized to be loaded on to Thai, American, German, and Japanese planes (to name a few) headed for the disaster relief in the southern region. Mostly local volunteers and soldiers moving around several hundred tons of the peoples' generosity. There's much to be done and if I can't be down there with my knees in mud, I can do my best from up here while I have the time.

So hopefully, anyone else in Thailand reading this might want to contribute something if you haven't already. If you are like me with not any money to give, there is always blood or time. Please let me know via mobile and we can talk more and coordinate something (01 343 3802)

Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2005 02:33:55 -0800 (PST)
Subject: The Dead were talking...

The new year has brought much change to my eyes and thinking. I paid a visit to the dead in Phanga province (the epi-center for Thailand's damage)

After volunteering my services last week both at the airport and Thamasat University (where some survivors went) I had gateway to information about free flights from Bangkok to the south for volunteers. So I went with a small group of students who were preparing to smell and carry the dead.

The demand was for Phanga, but we had to fly to Phuket as there is no airport in Phanga. By the time we got there, it was too late to go to Phanga so instead, our group went to the Pa tong hospital as stand by volunteers. (Pa tong is the tourist center beach of Phuket which was hardest hit in that province with more than a few hundred missing/dead from that beach alone) That last evening of the year was mainly reception work for missing person/patience checks from loved ones/friends of victims.

The first agenda of the new year was to get the free shuttle service (for volunteers) to the Yan Yao temple of Ta gua Pa district. This ride heading north along the Andaman coast took almost two hours. Prior to arriving to the temple of mass corpses, we passed the hardest hit beach in all of Thailand, Kao Luk. The coast road is probably one to two kilometers from the ocean here, but it's pretty obvious of how so many could have/did perished in this area.

Kao luk was starting to become a popular tourist/resort area, and it's no wonder---looking at the gorgeous green jungle/coastal view of the vast sea from the mountain coast road. It was a paradise that was doomed. Cars flipped, hotels/resorts ravished. Nothing left but some trees and tons of left over-rubbish. As far as I mentioned the road is from the ocean, the concrete power lines along the highway were wiped out only being replaced recently.

Finally we got to the scene of the temple, where all the discovered corpses were being collected. Prior to this, I've seen a few corpses of loved ones at funerals, but that's nothing to what beheld my senses at the temple. Hundreds of corpses lined side by side in plastic body bags, some lacking even that. The collection of the stench of decomposing flesh/organs is only imaginable with words.

By that time, the dead had been well into the decomposing state with only tons of dried ice put over/around the bags to slow the process down. Prior to entering the back area of the temple where all the corpses were, one had to be dressed properly with boots, make to do medical suit with plastic gloves and head cover, not to mention the ventilation breathing mask to make the smell more bearable.

The dress station coordinator then told me and my group of four guys that before he gave us full dress, he wanted us to take a quick walk through the corpse area to test if we could handle it. He told us that many who thought they could handle backed out after the sight and smell having to throw away a full suit. We agreed and eventually got our full suit.

We weren't in the corpse area for more than two minutes when an Australian forensics team examining one large corpse requested help to translate a tag (attached to the wrist of the corpse) written in Thai which simply stated that the corpse was a foreigner. After their autopsy check, they asked our fresh group to carry the corpse to be loaded in a shed.

From there, we could only adapt to the smell and area having to move and transfer many more rotting corpses before the day was done. The second day was a little more difficult as it was hot, and much more crowded as that was a Sunday. From the beginning of the day, I was assigned to a "Find Corpse" team which we were responsible for tagging unidentified corpses with a number. The purpose of this was for loved ones and cousins looking for someone could first, look at pictures of the unidentified corpses posted outside the temple and then, if they believed that one of the pictures was their person, they would take that number and we'd help them locate the real corpse and identify the corpse. This method would soon come undoable as none of the corpses were recognizable except for the clothes.

Thus, the medical experts were starting to become of importance. The DNA and Dental teams started flooding the corpses to collect samples. And so on the third day, I was promoted to DNA assistance team. I followed around a small group with the task of collecting DNA samples from thigh and arm flesh. If the corpse was too rotten or decomposed, we would have to get it from a bone sample. As worse as the smell got, by then I was used to it just trying to bear the heat in that hot suit. Once the sample was collected and documented, I had to a tag which read DNA on the corpse's wrist, where the corpse moving team would carry it off to some other storage.

My original group decided to go back on the second day as they had to get ready for University studies in Bangkok but I stayed another day as some friends from University came down to volunteer some (Jonas, Andre, and Sherwin) By the third day, we decided to return to Phuket where we could stay in a free hotel near Pa tong beach courtesy of Sherwin's friend's mom.

Though I am back in Bangkok now, I can't seem to relax, there is so much work to be done. Soon I will have to go back to my own job but feel like I could still do more down there. Doesn't look like I'm gonna be taking any classes this term at University as I can't make the payment in time. Oh well, life goes on, at least nature didn't make me pay, though I know I owe a lot to her power and glory.

Ok, that should be enough gruesome reality for one mail. As anything else changes, I'll let you know more

Date: January 7, 2005
Subject: Round Two, Day Two

I have found myself back in Phanga province here at Kao Lak area, which was the hardest hit area in Thailand. It is interesting to know that the word for broken in Thai is 'phang' (pronounced ‘pung’) and that precisely describes the coastal area down here quite well. The irony makes it hard to believe that this is merely a coincidence.

I wasn't in Bangkok for long before I decided that my role wasn't through just yet, at least not while I still had free time. The dead stuck in my mind. Thus, I talked to a fellow student/friend, Jussi from Finland to join me for another round of Tsunami assessment down south.

This time, I was given a contact within the Royal Thai air force and we got to fly in a military transport plane. Felt like we were going parachuting--no flight hostess, no cold drinks. Prior to boarding the plane, we met a middle aged Thai Chinese man from Seattle with a cover as a UN observer. He was quite outgoing, and invited us to join him. After landing in Phuket, we waited for transport up to Phanga. After sampling donated Iceland spring water and filling our bellies with rice and chicken feet, finally our transport van arrived. Fate brought Jussi and I to meet this man known as Watsin, and so it would be that we were to join a coordinated group of young volunteers at Kao Lak nature resort. In contrast to several days ago, this was like a promotion. The three of us would be comfortable at night sharing a resort bungalow with hot water after a hard day's work. So that day, prior to retiring, we did some work at the temple were Jussi got to see his first corpse from the disaster. As goes the process, the first body is the hardest--every one after that becomes natural.

Eventually, Jussi and I had to hitch hike from the temple to our accommodations which is about 30 km distance. At first, we couldn't find a ride through volunteer announcers but as soon as we had police officers make us a sign which read 'Kao Lak' (in Thai), we had a ride within minutes. Settling down gave time for reflection and energy restoration as the spirits of thousands made contact via midnight breezes. Today, I needed a change up from the standard temple routine. Besides, they seemed to be getting more comfortable at the temple by the day. Only gone for a day, and already they had free massage and hair washing service more crowded than ever before. So after talking around at the resort, we decided to go to Bahn Nam Kem, one of the hardest hit fishing villages in Phanga. It was amazing to see first hand the power of the Andaman:

To understand the power of the Tsunami's wave, picture a dry chocolate chip cookie. Dip that cookie in milk and then step on it. The remains of thousands of shrimp farms, houses, docks, boats, and vehicles in this village is similar to that cookie. Instead of crumbs of broken chocolate, we have the remains of people's lost lifestyles: Karaoke CD cases, Sony playstation, television sets, Finish butter, fishing reels, and fish sauce bottles are only a few examples of what you might find in the Tsunami landfill after math. Indeed, there are stories to be told from these piles of crumbled concrete that used to home to thousands of fishing villagers and their families of which less than half of the population survived in the villages and island that I surveyed today.

Across from the village of Bahn Nam Kem, about 100 meters, is a long island called Koh Ko Kao which was temporarily vanished from the map during the Tsunami. Jussi and explored an empty beach here which used to host a brand new resort and several fisherman houses. All that is left now aside from the foundations of the more invested homes, is sand, wood, dead coral, buckets, pillows, chairs, tables, and trash among other things. Most of the trash is salvageable as far as recycling/reusing, and from this survey, I want to organize a recycle group here tomorrow. Where Jussi and I made a small pile of bottles and plastic, a larger group of 10 or more could really make a difference before the bulldozers take over which are slowly making pace. Most of the other trash might have to be burnt in a bonfire, but that will be clearer as the coordination comes through.

Most of the surviving villagers here have the option to go to camps set up where food and the necessities are provided, but many choose to gather with other villagers at stronger houses not completely obliterated. Many of them still have missing relatives and loved ones still unaccounted for and it's hard to say anything as it will come down to DNA and dental testing. I wasn't sure what response would be proper to these surviving villagers knowing that thousands of the unaccounted corpses are still lost in the ocean, sand pits, flooded ponds, and who knows where. And they seemed to be coping with such facts accordingly.

One thing is for sure, death comes to all. It is clear from looking at the pictures and remains of those who perished, materials such as gold rings, cash, cell phones, name cards, and fashion clothes mean nothing at the gate of death. We all bleed red and become dirt. The effort to preserve such a material corpse only adds stink to the effort.

Ok, this is enough for one day. It might be several days before I can get back on the response and correspondence, but eventually, I'll get back to everyone.

Date: Sat, 8 Jan 2005 20:32:18 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Sidartha prevails…

And so the work continues. Yesterday, many of the student members that I came with initially last week, mostly Thamasat students, followed my example to the south for a second round.

We were all lucky to fall into this organized / sponsored association circle of volunteers, which has provided us accommodations, meal, and transportation to the various disaster sights.

They met me here at Kao Lak Nature resort and registered with this group of “Sor Sor Sor” volunteer association. (Êӹѡ§Ò¹¡Í§·Ø¹Ê¹ÑºÊ¹Ø¹¡ÒÃÊÃéÒ§àÊÃÔÁÊØ¢ÀÒ¾) Volunteers come from all over the world, but a majority of them are young and passionate Thais that came in groups to join the larger group.

Now I had my own small following forming. These young and motivated students that I know simply as Bank, Jit, Aohm, Emmy, Gik, and June joined Jussi, myself, and the group leader Tor Watsin in a project that Jussi and I helped design after our disaster survey of Kor Kao island the other day.

Our mission was to collect recyclable materials from the beach for the locals to decide thereafter. Our concern was that once the bulldozers made there way to the now vacant beaches, they would demolish everything gathering all natural / synthetic rubbish in piles---most likely to be burned on the spot.

After breakfast and group briefing, we hopped in our transport truck and headed to Yan Yao temple, where we stocked up on necessity supplies (water, milk, snacks, etc.) to pass out to needy villagers on the island. From Bahn Nam Kem village (as described in the last email) we boarded our truck side to side with other vehicles onto the transport ferry for the approximately one point five kilometer trip to Kor Kao island. This island is a lot bigger than I initially thought. From the mainland it looks so small, but as we would soon find out, it stretches for many kilometers on the back side where a small village, military post, and school is located.

Before we could begin our beach run, we had an additional role/responsibility to help coordinate and participate in the national Children’s day holiday at the island primary school. As we arrived to the village, the activities were already under way with a group of hospital nurses and doctor from Bangkok on the site with the surviving villagers and children. For several hours, every one played fun games and contests which brought smiles and laughs to the community. Among the activities held included a few games of tug and war—first with the children then with the elders. Our group of 11 volunteers were no match for the villagers co-ed team of 10. Not even the tough group of soldiers could take these strong villagers on, which is no surprise knowing that these people had seen nature’s sweep of death head on, yet survived.

By the afternoon, we made part from the thankful villagers who happily accepted our offers of charity. Next, we headed to survey the coast on that side. For at least two kilometers out of sight from the sea, the Andaman’s presence and impact was obvious, leaving no man made structure standing proud. Wisdom is observed here as trees only several meters high lost some low lying/ small branches, where larger trees appeared untouched (with a few older trees completely unearthed from root carried far inland).

This first spot suffered only the loss of a few bungalows, where it took us a short moment to collect some rubbish. At seaside, the sun was brightly glittering in the vast blue sea reflected by the white sands. From the woods several meters inland, the shade provided a breath taking view and reflection point. We took a moment for the beauty to soak in before we had to move on. As there was no more work to be done here, we moved on to other spots.

As a developing leader, I did my best to coordinate our group of 12 (including the driver and another student volunteer) to collect the plastic/glass bottles, foam, and other rubbish that shouldn’t be burnt. There was some disagreement about what we should do with these bag loads as it wouldn’t be proper to carry them off the island, and it should be to the initiative of the locals to recycle and reuse. So in the end, we agreed to drop off everything at the island temple as any recycling would be conducted there for rural populations.

The last beach we scanned beheld what used to be a large resort with at least 50 bungalows from what we could tell. All that was left of anything were their concrete foundation bases. When told we had arrived at the temple, I thought others were lying to me out of laziness of carrying around the rubbish, as there was nothing left at that spot. As the truck pulled out, I saw that it truly was the temple for prince Sidartha, the enlightened Buddha’s statue sat strong and tall in the Subduing Mara posture with only scratches. The _expression on his face seemed abnormal from the usual, almost suggesting shock, but last I remembered, statues don’t have feelings, right?. Never the less, it was a natural and powerful sight with palm trees and the Andaman to the Prince’s backside. This sight of everything else man made surrounding the statue including it’s housing structure obliterated should definitely have meaning and impact for those who see, particularly the survivors.

So long,


Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2005 09:51:14 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Today, I went with a survey group of volunteers to Pra Tong island just north of Kor Kao. The group was mostly the same as yesterday without Jussi, Bank, Emmy, and June as they decided to return to Bangkok today.

Our team of more than 20 headed about 80 kilometers north of Kao Lak this morning to board a long tail motor boat at the Kuraburi port. Though the sun was shining strong and motor loud, it was relaxing to push through the emerald green coastal waters. In every direction, small tropical islands blocked out a full few of the Andaman.

The first beach we deboarded was the abandoned and devastated village of Baak Joke. As seen at Nam kem village and Kor Kao island, the Tsunami left most of the tall palm trees standing tall with no mercy for concrete civilization. Baak Joke was different in one sense as there wasn't a relief worker let alone villager to be seen. The only sign of moving life were some crabs roaming the ocean beach water floor and a few dogs running around the ruins as if nothing had happened.

Next, we surveyed another beach to check out some resort remains. We must have deboarded at the wrong spot as this beautiful peninsula was calling. Upon deboarding in calm waters, about 10 meters up was a boat washed ashore which didn't show signs of any serious damage. Behind this was a small hill which revealed the beach facing the entire Andaman on the other side. At the north end of the beach, the roaring waves crashed its white foam against a rocky incline. About 25 to 35 meters high at its summit was a wooden shelter calling me for a short nap.

As you have followed, my activities this round in Phanga have shifted from corpse work at the temple to land/environment surveying at various beaches and islands. This is precisely what I wanted to contribute in as this Tsunami was merely a medium for Mother Nature's message.

Knowing what we know, and yet refusing to make any changes in our convenient consuming lifestyles is not only wrong, it's deadly as we have seen.

Thus far, I haven't seen any serious active stances environmentally down here. As is the convenient practice, all the piles of rubbish created are most likely to be burnt as to clear off the agenda as quickly as possible. The sad point to this is that much of the content is foam plastic, and glass that could easily be reused and recycled granted the right initiative from the right people.

What may be surprising to many is the fact that much of the rubbish that I have surveyed is a result from the disaster relief effort, not the Tsunami. While it's great that many have donated food, water, and energy drinks, the new burden is more piles of Styrofoam containers, plastic spoons, glass/ plastic bottles in added tons either contaminating the sea or waiting to be burnt into the ozone layer.

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Thai studies/history

How well do you know the history of Thailand? If I asked you, chances are you’ll tell me it started with the Sukhothai kingdom, followed by Ayutthaya and Thonburi periods. In fact, that’s exactly how most Thai history textbooks start. Certainly the history of such an advanced language and culture can’t be merely eight hundred years old. But this is what is taught in schools from primary school—that the first Thai kingdom was Sukhothai.

Dvarawati culture was well established all throughout Thailand for thousands of years even before Khmer influence. Most of Thai arts, architecture, and religion is derived from Dvarawati. Most Thai cities today such as Nakhon Pathom, Ratchburi, Kampaeng Saen, Nakhon Sawan, and Lampang among others were built on Dvarawati sites. Many argue that because Dvarawati were Mon and therefore not Thai because of the language difference. They might as well conclude the same for Sukhothai. The script that Ramkhamhaeng used hundreds of years ago looks nothing like the script we see today.

Actually, though Sukhothai was glorious in toppling the waning Khmer empire, and contributed much to the evolution of Thai culture and traditions, it was far from being the first Thai kingdom. Both Lanna and Lanchang kingdoms outdate Sukhothai by many years. Lanna, though popular, never reached the power like that of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, not to mention was often a part of Burmese influence. So it’s understandable why most central Thai history books give it less attention. Almost obsolete though, is Lan Chang kingdom. Lan Chang had it’s sway over much of present day Northeastern and Northern Thailand for many centuries, often intermarrying with the royal families in Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, and Ayutthaya. Why then, are there many Thai people who have never even heard of the kingdom of a million elephants? One reason might be because of its Lao heritage. To call someone Lao is usually mocking, but did you know that all the way up till Jao Taksin’s rule, the eastern bank of the Mekong (Laos) was more populated than the west bank (Thailand)? Why do you think Isan is the most populated region of Thailand today? They didn’t all just voluntarily migrate there, but were forcefully moved from that side of the Mekong during Taksin’s rule as to repopulate the country after so many years of warfare with the Burmese and Cambodians.

You’ve probably never heard that Ramkhamhaeng, considered father of the Thai by many, was caught in the act with the ruler of Payao, Ngam Muong’s wife, princess Ua Chiangsen, and imprisoned while visiting the Payao state. If it weren’t for Mengrai of Chiangmai’s mediating, Ramkhamhaeng would have been executed. Instead, the three rulers made a pack of friendship from the incident uniting the power of the three Thai states against Chinese aggression from the north. This story may or may not be true. It is derived from Northern chronicles. According to director of Thai studies department at Chulalongkorn University, Dr. Sunait Chutintaranont, the focus of the tale wasn’t on Ramkhamhaeng’s adultery, but more to emphasize on King Mengrai’s important role in uniting the Thai states.

As we can see, there is usually more to history than local textbooks can provide. One pioneer Thai historian is the late M.L. Manich Jumsai. Born in 1908, he won the king’s scholarship to study in Europe in 1925. He pursued his education in language and education before returning to Thailand in 1933 where he became a lecturer and worked for the ministry of education. While in Europe, he studied foreign records of Thailand and Southeast Asia filling in many gaps of Thai history. This was pioneering work for his time. During those times, access to foreign records was limited. Though his findings and works are still widely referenced in undergraduate studies, they are of limited use for the post-graduate level. As Dr. Sunait puts it, “Although, his works are interesting and informing, they are written in the old style of academic writing without references. It is not possible, therefore, to use his works as teaching materials in today's post-graduate level. Concerning foreign records, today there are much more foreign records available on Thai Studies--enough to construct a sufficient understanding of Thailand.”

Through centuries of warfare, many local records were lost or destroyed. The importance of foreign records is not only to fill in these gaps, but also to balance the objectiveness. History is always written by the winners. And it’s usually written and taught with biases for obvious reasons. So often the dirt is filtered so much before it ever reaches the textbooks. If you ever get a chance to study Southeast Asian studies overseas, you could be in for some unexpected surprises.

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Thai poet : Suntorn Phoo

In this monogamous culture, we are expected to have only one lover at a time. Marriage is supposed to last a life time, yet one of the biggest taboos is adultery. The character of being ‘lai jai’ which literally translates to many hearted, is often looked down on. If love were compared to other passions, how can we expect anyone to be ‘jai diaw’ or single hearted. That would be like saying it’s wrong to love painting if you are a singer or that writers aren’t aloud to play tennis. With such suppression of human nature and natural instincts, it’s no wonder why everybody wants to have a ‘geek’ or side lover.

Having many lovers isn’t necessarily bad, but can be beneficial and inspirational. Take a look at one of the most respected Thai poets, Suntorn Phoo. Much of his work was either about or inspired by his many love affairs and flings. As you know, he composed the fictional masterpiece, Pra apai manee. Many Thai literature experts like Dr. Maneepin in the faculty of Arts of Silapakorn University agree that the main character and hero of the story, Pra apai manee is Suntorn Phoo in his own eyes. “Praapai manee was a musician and Suntorn Phoo was a poet. In those days, court poets had to be musically inclined as the poetry was music. Not only this, but the hero’s playboy characteristics closely resembled the life style of the poet himself” When asked which love affair most reflected the poet’s personal life in the story, Dr. Maneepin answered, “In my personal opinion, I think the affair between Praaphai Manee and Pee Sua Sumut, the gigantic sea monster resembles Suntorn’s feelings about the the ferocious side of his first love, Mae Jun.”

Suntorn Phoo was born Monday, June 26, 1786, during the first reign of the Chakri dynasty at a house near the walls of the back palace off of the Bangkok Nawy canal of Ratanakosin city. Shortly after birth, his parents split up. His father went off to the monk hood in Muang Glaeng in Rayong. His mother became a milk nurse at the back palace where Phoo grew up and was educated.

His early start in the palace brought him to learn many nobles and royalties that would later secure his status as a royal poet . He fell in love with one of the king’s servants known as Mae Jun which would prove to become a rough love. Aside from the problem that Mae Jun was a direct female servant of the king, Suntorn Phoo was a Casanova which led to many quarrels with Mae Jun. His quarrelling wasn’t confined to his love life. He had a drinking problem and would fight with many other people in the palace. This even caused him to be imprisoned for a short period.

At roughly twenty years old, he left the palace in search for his long lost father at Muang Glaeng. He would eventually return to Bangkok to work in the palace of Rama 2. Suntorn Phoo was considered the favorite poet of the king and even partnered the king in composing the famous Khun Chang, Khun Paen. The third king wasn’t so favorable of the poet, but in his old age, Suntorn was recognized by King Mongkut (Rama 4) with a royal rank.

It was during his many travels as a royal poet that he composed his Nirat.. A nirat is a traditional Thai poetic song usually inspired by long travels and missed love. The writer is the main character. It is from his many Nirat that we know not only the way of life during that time, but the personal feelings and story of Suntorn Phoo. His first Nirat known as Nirat Muang Glaeng was composed during his visit to Rayong in search of his long lost father. Perhaps the most popular of Suntorn Phoo’s Nirat is Nirat Poo Kao Tong, written during his travels to the Golden mountain shrine in Ayuthya. This is considered his personal autobiography.

Additional resources:

Dr. Maneepin, Thai literature Faculty of Arts, Thai department

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Women's World

Could you imagine a world with the men’s and women’s roles reversed? What if all elections were organised by females? How would it be if the Thai prime minister was Mrs Pojamarn Shinawatra and her loyal husband, Mr Thaksin, stayed quietly by her side as she gave her opinions on the South or her plans for the economy? In this opposite arrangement, men would have occupations such as cleaning, raising children, and cooking, while the women would go out to find food and bring in income. What if men had to change their surname upon marriage?

This may all seem a bit far-fetched from reality, but in fact, matriarchal societies, where the woman’s role is dominant and the male’s is submissive, used to dominate the world thousands of years ago prior to the rise of patriarchal orders of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. In the patriarchal world that we live in today, male deities and disciples such as Jesus Christ, Mohammed, and Sidartha are worshiped. In fact, according to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, God is a man — the sacred Father, as he is described in the holy texts.

Archeologists have uncovered much evidence that suggests that prior to the worship of the father God represented by the all mighty sun, humans used to worship the mother Goddess represented by the earth, particularly Sakti, the Goddess of life, who was worshiped in ancient Hindu culture more than 5,000 years ago. In fact, there are thousands of ancient female deities worshipped in ancient cultures across the globe. If you would like to learn more about this topic, you should read When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone. This book will surely change your views on modern religions.

Today, several remote and secluded cultures still function as their ancestors did; the females are the bread-winners and inheritance is matrilineal. A few examples include the Nagovisi, Khasi, Garo, and the Masuo tribes.

The Nagovisi live on a large island west of New Guinea called South Bougainville. The women there own, control, and cultivate their potato farms, while the husband is simply considered an assistant.

Both the Khasi and Garo tribes live in the hills of Northeastern India’s Meghalaya state. Property and tribal administrative positions are strictly passed from mother to youngest daughter in both tribes. Marriage arrangements are either handled by the parents or the daughter herself, but never the son. Some of the Khasi men once complained that the women are too aggressive and that they [the men] are tired of being babysitters.

In the hills of Yunan province in China, there is the Masuo tribe, called the Naxi by the Chinese. There, the oldest woman is considered the house head and she is responsible for all financial decisions. Just like the other tribes mentioned, the male is required to move in with the female’s family house after marriage.

So as we have seen, the role of women in history, family, politics, society, and religion has changed much over the years. In a paper on women’s role in Thai society written by Dr Siriwan Ratanakarn, an expert on Women/ Thai studies at Bangkok University, she talks about the important contributions made by such women as Nang Suang, Sikhara Maha-Devi, Nang Nopamas, Queen Suriyothai, Queen Saovabhaphongsri, and Queen Sirikit. She states that these women have helped shape Thai culture, customs, and traditions either as regents themselves or direct advisors to their kings. She also points out how, during the Sukhothai period, women were portrayed as equal partners to men. Through literature, however, we can note that women’s status became much lower during the Ayuthaya period, where they are portrayed as obedient wives and daughters. Siriwan believes women have come a long way in Thailand since then.

“Unfortunately, there are still many women in the rural areas who have been trapped by their poverty and lack of education but comparing Thai women’s role with other countries in the region, I do feel that we have come a long way.” she said. “I think women should get involved more. There are still not enough women serving in the National Assembly and Senate. How can Thai women voice their needs loudly? The best way is to voice it through our sisters who represent us in the National Assembly and Senate. Our ideas and needs should be taken seriously by the government.”

For a more complete list of ancient/contemporary matriarchal societies, visit: matrifoc.html

Other Sources: (Women’s Studies) ( When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone) (Dr Siriwan Ratanakarn)

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South Africa

One of the richest places on earth isn’t yet owned by George W. or Bill Gates. Here, rich doesn’t refer to military might or technological monopolies. In a natural sense, South Africa is not only one of the richest lands in natural resources, but its culture, history, and particularly its wildlife is rivaled by few in the world. South Africa is home to more than 300 mammal species, atleast 500 bird species, and hundreds of different reptiles. The country boasts to have the biggest (elephants), the fastest (cheetahs), and the tallest (giraffes). Not to mention all of the big five : Lion, Elephant, Monster Leopard, Cape Buffalo, and Rhino. Other animals include Antelope, Baboons, Birds, Crocodiles, Hippos, Hyenas, Oryx, Snakes, Springbok, Squirrels, Suricate, Warthogs, Wildebeest, and Zebras just to name a few. It’s like a gigantic open zoo, only not man made. Completely natural.

Animal Highlights:

There are dozens of antelope species roaming the frontier in hundreds of thousands. Impalas, Kudas, and Hartebeest are known for their amazing leaping skills (as high as 2.5 meters) and their exotic horns. One interesting defense mechanism of the Waterbuck is its ability to make its meet acquire a rancid taste which predators won’t want to eat.

The baboon are quite similar to the monkeys in Thailand, only more abundant and self efficient as far as finding food. However, they are still known to violently attack humans for food. On some occasions, rangers have to kill the viscous ones. So be sure not to feed them if you are ever in South Africa.

The massive buffalo are quite peaceful and won’t attack you though, unless they feel threatened. They’ve been known to attack hunters.

Interesting to know is that the most dangerous of all animals is the Hippo. More people are killed in one year by the hippo than all other animals put together. Though the Hippo is a vegetarian, it is quite territorial and will attack any invaders in a flash. Don’t plan on booking any hippo rides ever.

If you like going to the zoo, you’ll love a Safari trip. With a land area of more than 1.2 million square kilometers, there’s plenty of safari camps and wildlife to keep one occupied for years on the southern tip of the second largest continent. If you ever get the chance to enjoy such rich nature, take advantage of it while its still here-- for it won’t be around forever. As big, ugly, and fierce as lions, crocodiles, snakes, hippos, and bears could ever be, no other predator is more dangerous and feared than human kind. Unfortunately, hunters are still thriving off the murdering of thousands of endangered—soon to be endangered species. This isn’t a matter of survival. This is all about recreation and trophies. Shoot a leopard, take a picture, hang its head like a trophy. Or even more pathetic-- Kill a nearly extinct Rhinoceros to increase your sexual vitality from its horn. Even though much of these types of products are for the black market, such savage tourism is all being done openly. It’s not hard to book a safari hunt on the internet. If you got several thousand dollars, you too can soon have any wild animal’s head hanging up in your living room. Check it out :

For a more ethical tourism guide to South Africa’s nature, visit

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About a Boy : Bilaal Raajan

“You may not think you can reach it, climb anyway. You may not think you'll be heard, speak anyway. You may not think you'll change anything, try anyway… ….together we can make a difference”

These were the closing words of a speech given by 8 year old Canadian, Bilall Rajan. He was addressing young students affected by the Tsunami at Ban Kalim School just north of Patong beach on Phuket’s western coast facing the mighty Andaman. Along with his mother, Shamin, and father Aman, he flew from his home in Toronto to visit the areas affected by last December’s killer tidal wave. Sponsored by UNICEF, this three week trip back in March started in Thailand and took them to Sri Lanka, the Maldives, India, and wrapped up in Acech.

It gave Bilaal a chance to see first hand the devastation and was another opportunity for Bilaal to reach out directly to the victims. “I wanted the kids to know that there are kids across the globe that care.” Bilaal and his parents brought with them letters from young Canadian students, as well as games, books, pencils, and other gifts for children that they purchased with their own money.

There’s no question about it, at eight years old, Bilaal has got a head start in merit and virtue. In his short lifetime, Bilaal has raised millions of dollars for many causes all over the world.

Bilaal started his charitable work January, 2001 after he learned about the earthquake that shook the western Indian state of Gujarat. Along with the support of his parents, he raised $300 Canadian dollars selling Clementines. He was only four years old at the time but old enough to understand and care. Aside from just wanting to help, also motivating for Bilaal was the fact that his ancestors were from that region of India.

Every year since then, he has participated in the World Partnership walk of the Aga Khan foundation (against poverty), raising $1000 dollars each year. One highlight for him was doing the walk at 7 years old with his healthy 70 year old grandfather.

The next major event was the Haiti hurricane relief in September 2004. He raised 6500 dollars by selling cookies donated by his father's company. He started off selling door to door and at school, even forming fundraising sells teams among his class mates/ friends. If this weren’t enough, he contacted major companies initiating their assistance. From his efforts, APOTEX, a pharmaceutical company donated 342,700 dollars worth of prescription medicine while Heinz donated over 2000 cases of baby food.

Haiti exposed Bilaal to even bigger issues such as poverty and HIV. This was his next project. From a Science experiment dealing with plastic properties, he learned to melt beads into plates. This gave him the idea to make and sell plates for the HIV cause. He started off by selling to his teacher then turned to the Toronto community. At first, it was a difficult task selling outside in the freezing temperature but soon it would all be worth it. Within three days, he had raised 1200 dollars which he gave to UNICEF for its work helping children infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Right after finishing all that hard work, it was time for a break to enjoy the holiday season. His family took a short car trip southbound. Just when they were heading back from Niagara falls hoping to go skiing, news of the South Asian Tsunami reached their car radio. Bilaal told his exhausted parents “We have got to help!” And so the relaxing holiday was cut short.

Not only did he contribute himself, but he urged all Canadian children to participate with the Canada Kids challenge. The original target was for each kid to raise atleast 100 dollars or one million dollars total with Bilaal’s personal goal at 10,000 dollars. Not only was the target met, but more than doubled raising 2.5 million. Bilaal himself raised 50,000 dollars! On top of this, the Canadian government matched each dollar bringing the final amount to 5 million dollars. This earned him national recognition, getting the chance to meet the Canadian prime minister.

Quite impressive for such a young boy. Most adults can’t claim to have made such contributions. Aside from his charitable work, Bilaal has many hobbies and passions in art, science, and sport including skiing, robotics, puzzles, astronomy, and many more. You might wonder how he can have time for all this on top of his charity work and school. One reason is he doesn’t watch any television. Instead he reads quite a lot. He started to read and write when he was three. While some kids stay up late to watch tv or play games, Bilaal sometimes sneaks out of bed to read. His goal in life is to be the first human to visit Mars.

If you would like to learn more about young Bilaal or contributing to worldly causes, visit

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Second anual Ididamovie contest

Ididamovie: Look out Hollywood, the new generation is coming

Not only are movie budgets getting smaller, but the producers are getting younger. We got the scoop on some of the youngest movie producers on the scene. They might not be on Sahamongkol Film’s pay roll yet, but who knows what the future holds for these young and talented film makers.

Ngaovithunvong Varisara (Mint), Amara Sankhogowit (Ami), Jung Eun Youn (Peni), Mandy Boontanrart, and Supakorn Laohasongkram (Korn) from Ruamradee International School were the high-school winning team of this year’s Ididamovie regional contest with their humorous and controversial project titled Different but Same.

Their group, which consisted of four freshmen girls and one junior guy, (Korn) had never worked together before let alone ever made a film before. In fact, it was there first time ever using video editing software. With the guidance of Richard Steele, Ruamradee’s former IT teacher as well as the contest founder and organizer, the student’s learned the ins and outs of filming, editing, and production in a matter of days.

Their crash course to film had them counting the many cuts in a short commercial. Next, they had to design a plot to fit the contest’s requirements for a film under three minutes. The challenge to this was not only utilizing the time, but also there team of four girls and one boy. Initially, they thought they would make a story where all four girls were in love with one guy, but that was too typical. Instead, they decided to make a story about a gay boy’s struggle to be accepted by his girl class mates. This raised many Ruamradee teachers’ eyebrows as Korn, a straight boy had to exaggerate stereotypical gestures to portray a gay boy. The students protested that their theme and message was to accept gays, not make fun of them. They were surprised when their film was selected for the top prize out of 44 films submitted this year. Thanks to Apple sponsors, each of the first place winners received an Ipod.

Other successful films included high school second place winner, Tsunami, a short documentary/tribute to last year’s natural catastrophe by Nathan Wright and Fraser Gow, Dulwich International School, Phuket, the elementary winner, A Day In A Life Of A 5th Grader by Siravich and Sugan of Ruamradee, and the middle school winner, The Elevator by Bruce, Pink, Nan, Akina, Boss of Thai-Chinese International Middle School.

All students agreed that making a movie isn’t easy. There are many tasks including planning, forming a plot, filming, and editing. With home made and low/no budget films, one of the biggest challenges is working without professional equipment such as lighting, tripods, and microphones. In filming A day In A Life Of A 5th grader, Siravich and Sugan learned the necessity and difficulty in getting many different camera angles. An additional benefit to learning about all this new technology is that it can be applied to other class assignments/projects.

Interested in submitting a movie for next year’s contest? Contest founder, Richard Steele’s hope is for all students in Thailand and Southeast Asia to be able to join this contest. “Currently, most submissions are from privileged international students because they have access to the technology, but eventually this will change.” In Novemeber, organizers will send out a challenge to schools all over the region. Even if your school doesn’t receive an invitation, all primary and secondary students are welcome to submit a project following a few guidelines: Films have to be three minutes or less in quicktime format without using copyrighted material. Such a short film must be based on one of four themes—make me laugh, tell me a story, living and learning in Asia, or teach me something, and finally, it must be appropriate for school.

For more information, questions, or updates, don’t hesitate to contact Richard Steele :

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Thai's forgetful nature

After last month’s car bomb in Narathiwat, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra reassured the public that everything would be better within a month. Can the long-running problems in the South really vanish overnight? What does the PM hope to achieve by such a statement?

Those with an insight into the nature of Thais should be able to understand the hidden meaning in Thaksin’s pledge but, unfortunately, for many, this is not the case. “Thai people don’t hold on to things,” said Yut, a Bangkok taxi driver originally from Nakhon Ratchasima. “Buddhism teaches us to let go. If we hold on to anger, it will grow, causing us to age faster,” he added.

Such an ‘easy-going’ outlook is apparent in many aspects of Thai society. We hear it every day in phrases such as jai yen yen (calm down), chung mun (forget it) and ploy mun (let it go). The PM’s Office spokesman, Jakrapop Penkhair, summed up the Thai attitude when he made a comparison between westerners and Thais. In an interview with the media, he noted that westerners put much more emphasis on keeping records, journals, and diaries — particularly of tragic events, while this is not part of Thai nature.

While the ‘forgive and forget’ approach to life may be healthy and less stressful, is it really helpful? Every so often, a controversial person comes into the spotlight when their questionable personal lifestyles are exposed. Newspapers last year engrossed readers with sensational stories of the arrest, release and abduction of former massage parlour owner turned politician Chuwit Kamolvisit, and titillated us with the saucy tale and photos of the seizure of XRated VCDs featuring Nong Nat. Both of these infamous cases were hot news for a while, before fading into memory. In both of these cases, however, the subjects returned to the spotlight more popular than ever, as if nothing had ever happened.

Chuwit faced serious human rights and corruption allegations. He openly admitted to paying off the police in dealings with his massage parlours. With the help of the very same newspapers that thrived on these stories he also managed to reinvent himself. Ahead of last month’s general election, Chuwit’s face was on posters everywhere as he stood as a party list candidate for the Chat Thai party. He eventually won a seat in parliament.

Just as amazing was how one minute the entire country was making jokes about Nong Nat’s claims of being forced into the porn industry, the next she was being idolised on the covers of many respectable women’s magazines. How can this be so?

What do Bangkokians think about all this? “It’s unbelievable. It shows you that [Thai] people will listen to anything,” said Joshua, a university student/private business shareholder from Hawaii. “Thais must be so gullible. They don’t question enough. They have a ‘you lead, I follow’ mindset.”

Tip, a local government administrator preparing to study politics in Japan has a different view. “Thai people are forgiving and give a second chance to everyone. If you make a mistake, Thais believe that you should have another chance to prove yourself,” she said. She believes that Chuwit supporters respect his courage and willingness to speak out about ‘unspoken things’ in society. However, she feels that they aren’t fully aware of the details of his allegations.

the details of his allegations. There’s no question that forgiving, forgetting, and accepting are a natural part of Thai life. We should, however, question what/who we accept into our lives. It’s common sense; if someone offered you some white powder and told you that if you sniffed it you would fly, you would probably question yourself or the person offering you it before blindly putting it up your nose, right? So Nong Nat looks good in her movies and Chuwit looks serious on his campaign posters. Does that make them worthy of such prestige? Sometimes, we need to use our hearts and minds to guide us rather than our eyes. Thailand has many great and true leaders, but if we are going to follow people, maybe we should take off the blindfold first.

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Thai monkies

If you are planning on taking a short vacation upcountry, especially to the provinces of Phetchaburi or Lop Buri, you might want to watch your purse and belongings as there is a good chance you'll be robbed by a gang.

We’re not talking about unruly groups of technical and vocational students (the ones usually in the spotlight) – it’s bandit monkeys you should watch out for. With their amazing climbing, swinging, diving and swimming abilities, they might look cute and provide some lovely photo opportunities, but don't be fooled, these gangs of monkeys are strong, clever, hungry, and just waiting for vulnerable tourists to enter their territory.

If you're in Phetchaburi and happen to pass by Khao Wang, King Rama IV's mountain palace, or if you’re heading for the ancient Dvarawati and Khmer style temples in Lop Buri, make sure your belongings are secure and also hide your snacks; the monkeys are hungry and waiting.

These monkeys have grown dependent on humans for their food supply and will go out of their way to get their meal. Lop Buri monkeys love yoghurt, durian, and egg yolk while Phetchaburi monkeys prefer corn, even more than bananas!

Laura, an English teacher, was shocked when she was robbed for a bottle of Pepsi while touring the sights in Lop Buri. An innocent innocent looking monkey approached her, snatched her Pepsi and gulped it down in one. She was too shocked and surprised to do anything. And it’s not just your food these guys are interested in; monkeys will often snatch purses, earrings, wallets, cameras, sunglasses, in fact anything they can lay their hands on.

Phatom Rasitanont, curator of the Phra Nakhon Khiri Museum in Phetchaburi, explained the habits of his furry fellow citizens: "The monkeys get anxious around tourists. During the week, when there are fewer tourists, the monkeys don't get to eat much so when the tourists pour in at the weekends, the monkeys go wild."

Just like any other gangs, the monkeys have formed their territories. In Phetchaburi, there are about four or five different monkey gangs based around tourist spots. The two primary ones are in front of Khao Wang, numbering at least 4,000 members. In Lop Buri, the main gangs are located at Phra Prang Samyod Temple and along Wichayen Road. The monkeys stick to their territory during daylight hours, scavenging for food before retiring to their beds in the trees at night. For a monkey to leave its territory is a big deal. Traffic police officer Pinyo Phetprayoon, who works at Khao Wang, shared his observations: "Every once in a while, a monkey will cross into the wrong territory, which causes a rumble. Usually it's the senior monkeys that get physical while the other monkeys cheer from the trees. They fight bloody battles and if there is no one there to break the fight up, it will usually end in death."

Just as he was speaking a monkey stole a bag of sweets from a local a few metres away. As he chased that monkey, another group of monkeys jumped on a parked truck five metres in the other direction. He had to grab his wooden stick to scare them away. The local explained his view of the monkeys: "They’re quite playful and curious. Initially they're scared but their curiosity drives them on and before you know, it's fun and games.” he said. “A food vendor used to bring a stuffed crocodile and put it near her snack stand, but this only worked for a short time before the monkeys tore it to shreds."

So what measures are taken to control these unruly monkeys? In Lop Buri, they have hired two monkey guards, Yut, 20, and Toey, 13, who helps out during his summer holidays. They patrol the hot spots with sling shots and sticks but there are still dangers; Yut has been bitten six times and has the scars to prove it.

Phetchaburi doesn't have any regularly guards but most vendors carry sling shots and sticks. However, during big festivals, the city hires monkey trainers from the south, who bring several Pig- Tailed Macaques to act as guards. As the Macaque is a larger monkey, this is an effective tactic to keep monkeys from playing with and destroying the festival lights.

It's unclear how many monkeys there actually are in Thailand but it's definitely in the hundreds of thousands if not millions. While thousands have adapted to city life – drinking Pepsi, eating plastic bags and stealing yoghurts, there are a large number still living naturally in the wild – eating fruit, vegetables and bugs. However, as their natural habitat continues to disappear, more monkeys will be forced to depend on humans.

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Recycling/Trash in Bangkok

When you think of rubbish, what comes to mind? It could be described as something useless, filthy and dirty that should be disposed of in a rubbish bin and then at a landfill site. Actually, if you think about it, everything around you is potentially rubbish; when an object has no more use to you, you don’t store it in your dresser, do you? The likely destination for unwanted items is usually the bin.

Let’s look a little closer at some of the everyday items that end up being labelled rubbish? If you can stand it, why not have a look in your own rubbish bin. What are you likely to find? You may find your old maths homework soaking up some of your mum’s Kaeng Jeud or wrapped in last week’s newspaper. Under a discarded pizza box, you may find several empty, plastic water bottles mixed in with glass jars, plastic packaging and foam containers. Chances are it all smells like a chemistry experiment gone wrong. When the stench becomes too strong, it’s probably time to throw it out. The unpleasant job done, you’ll probably congratulate yourself on your own cleanliness, prepare for some praise from your mum and then quickly forget about the rubbish for the next couple of days or until it starts to pile up again. Another job well done – or is it?

Khun Wanlee, who has been a street sweeper in Bangkok for years, expresses frustration with the public’s laziness. She is particularly annoyed by the vendors along Pradiphat Road. “Most people aren’t conscious about their waste. When I begin work at 9am, there is rubbish everywhere. The vendors rarely put their waste in the correct place. There used to be large bins along the streets but the city had to take these away as they were so messy and the rubbish spilled out onto the road, becoming a hazard for traffic.”

So whose responsibility is the rubbish after it’s been put in the bin? Every night, around 10pm, the Bangkok Metropolitan Area (BMA) refuse disposal teams hit the streets. The roughly 200 rubbish collectors collect an average of 9,000 tons of rubbish every day from apartments, offices, factories and the city’s rubbish bins. It’s dirty work but someone has to do it. The refuse collectors work seven-days-aweek and earn a little over Bt4,000. It’s no wonder that most of them separate the rubbish to be recycled and supplement their meagre income. A collector working in Phayathai district who asked not to be named explained: “This is strictly something we do for extra money. We get paid so little, so we choose to do this. If we work hard, sometimes we can finish by 1am. It depends, some nights we don’t finish until 5am. We can sell most of the clean plastic/glass bottles and paper to vendors. It’s not much but helps a little. The rest of it — plastic, foam, foodstuff that we can’t sell ends up in the landfill.”

At the end of each night, the full refuse trucks take their loads to one of three disposal points located at Ta Raeng, On Nut, and Nong Khaem. At these sites private vendors compete to buy recyclable/reusable items from the collectors. As for the stuff that can’t be sold, it gets loaded onto an 18-wheel truck to be transported to the big land fill site at Kamphaeng Saen, Nakhon Pathom, known as Fung Grop.

BMA statistics suggests that 30-40 per cent of Bangkok refuse can be recycled but the actual amount that is recycled is probably nowhere near this for many reasons. Komdet Banta, the labour director of the Sanitary Department in Phayathai district explained: “Much of the recyclable items are not recycled because it (rubbish) is not separated. When the refuse is mixed up, paper, bottles, and foam become too dirty for anyone to buy. The public can help by separating food waste from rubbish that can be recycled.”

Under the leadership of Governor Apirak Kosayodhin, working in conjunction with the Wongpanit Organisation, the amount of refuse in the BMA area has been reduced by 7.5 per cent in the past six months. This is partly due to recycling incentive programmes that have been introduced. The Mall Bangkapi even held a recycling fundraiser in February that raised Bt300,000. Some of the money was used to provide scholarships for needy students while the rest was donated to Mangsara Temple. A similar event was also held last month at Sanam Luang and the BMA plans to hold similar events on a monthly basis in the hope of raising awareness. The ultimate goal is to lower the amount of garbage by 10 per cent per year.

So, how can you contribute? Aside from separating and reducing your waste, you can recycle directly at one of the monthly BMA recycling events, or at one of the many Wongpanit recycling plants located at temples and schools all around Thailand.

For a list of events, locations, and prices be sure to check out or

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Want to be Taller?

Tall people seem to get all the breaks and opportunities---airline host/hostess, modeling, and acting among others . Are you tired of being short? Do you wish you were taller? If you are not satisfied with your height, keep reading---here NJ gets the scoop on the latest medical and physical trends for vertically challenged people.

Being so tall has its disadvantages too. Kevin, an English expat towers over the crowd at 198 cm. His height has given him many headaches the nine years he has lived in Thailand. “I can’t count the amount of times I’ve hit my head on doorways or the hanging fans on busses.” On top of banging his head around, he says it’s not pleasurable being stared at everywhere he goes. Aside from sticking out as a foreigner, he’s also taller than most people around. His wife Noy, though tall for a Thai girl at 171 cm, looks like she could be his daughter when standing next to him.

Aside from this, Tall people tend to have a harder time finding clothes and shoes that fit, not to mention sufficient relaxing furniture (i.e. beds, sofas), and usually always have back aches from having to slouch so much in automobiles.

So maybe you don’t want to be taller than average, but you would still like to be as tall as the average. There are a few controversial alternatives available, though one must exercise extreme caution and consideration before trying these.

Lim lengthening surgery will bring the quickest results though the surgery recovery time is uncertain---weeks, months, even years. It involves surgically adding bone to your legs—20 to 30 cm is possible. It’s quite an expensive procedure that’ll cost no less than 100,000 $USD (4 million baht) as it’s difficult to find surgeons who will perform it for the risks and ethical issues surrounding it.

Limb lengthening surgery was developed by a Russian doctor Gavril Abramovich Illizarov 50 years ago as an alternative for dwarfs. There are 300 forms of dwarfism, the most common known as Achondroplasia which effects roughly 1 in 40,000 births in the world. While the procedure proves to be popular among dwarfs wishing to fit in with the crowd, many dwarf associations such as the Little People of America (LPA) are against it for it’s health risks. Not only is nerve and vascular damage highly likely but pre mature arthritis is also another possible complication.

Not so excited about spending millions for someone to hack your legs in half? Another alternative is to induce artificial growth or hormone stimulants. Hormones are what make us grow. Our brains start sending signals to our bodies to produce growth hormones when we go through puberty. When we reach a certain age (girls about 20 and guys a little later as late as 25 though it varies all over the world depending on many factors) our bodies stop producing these hormones and we have reached our maximum height.

Growth hormones pills or injections stimulate your body to keep producing and/or produce more of these growth hormones artificially. It works just like steroids. Not only will you get taller, but don’t be surprised if you start getting bigger all over and an increase in body/ facial hair.

NJ Suggests:

Still determined to get tall, but not sure which is the best way? Unless you are already 30 years old, there is a good chance you could still be growing. But if you are absolutely convinced that you have reached your maximum height, here are some natural and ethical suggestions:

Most of us never reach our full height potential for many reasons such as slouching, unbalanced diet, and improper exercising. Therefore, try to keep a good posture--sit up straight, stand tall. This will automatically add a few cm to your height. Screen your diet. Drink and eat lot’s of calcium and vitamin enriched foods such as fruit, vegetables, milk and juice instead of coffee, soda, and power drinks---which are believed to stun your growth. Finally, thoroughly stretch in between exercises. Yoga is not only a great way to increase your flexibility, but it also increases your body’s circulation, and thus growth.

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Emergency Rescue in Thailand

When there’s been a serious accident in town, who should you call? Why, the police of course. After the police have been notified, what happens next? If you have ever been at the scene of an accident, you might have noticed white ambulances and trucks with Chinese and Thai writing on them. In fact, these don’t actually belong to the police or even the Thai government for that matter. A majority of all injuries and deaths are actually handled by non-government volunteers working for charitable foundations. The two most established and organized foundations of such are Portektung and Ruamkatanu.

In Bangkok, the responsibility of the two foundations is split into two zones: Northern and Southern Bangkok. Every 24 hours (two 12 hour shifts), Portektung and Ruamkatanu will swap zones. On-call volunteers are alert to all the traffic and police radios, so whenever there is a serious accident, they will usually be the first on the scene. In each separate province, there are smaller foundations funded and/or based directly on Portektung and Ruamkatanu.

All such foundations are non-profit, meaning all funding is either private or from charity. And so, a majority of its members are volunteers with no salary at all, who simply care and want to make a difference. Many people assume that Portektung and Ruamkatanu are just a bunch of Chinese people who go around collecting dead bodies. In fact, collecting dead bodies is only a small part of the work and responsibility for Emergency rescue workers. Other emergency public services include free 24 hour ambulance and all sorts of humane projects across the country such as school-house and temple construction. Additionally, they provide supply relief and support for distressed flood, disaster, and poverty victims. During the Tsunami, Ruamkatanu and Portektung played a vital role in organizing and executing the search and rescue operations.

While the organizational roots are Chinese, most of the members today are either ethnic Chinese and/or Thai. NJ got an exclusive interview with one of the most renowned Ruamkatanu volunteers, which happens not to be Chinese or Thai.

Marko Andrew Cunningham has been living in Thailand for three and a half years. He was born in Liverpool but grew up in New Zealand. There he was a volunteer for the Auxiliary Police, or Emergency Disaster Rescue squad for five years. Shortly after moving to Thailand to become a University lecturer in 2002, he went on a volunteer expedition with Ruamkatnu to bring supplies to flood victims in Saraburi.

Since then, he has balanced his time between lecturing and (non-paid) Ruamkatanu work. With innumerable amount of hours of service towards the organization, he has received his Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certificate, and was a major help for two weeks with the Emergency Rescue Squad during the Tsunami, collecting and handling thousands of corpses. For such work, the Thailand ministry of culture awarded him the prestigious “Thailand Kindness Movement” medal and award.

Though Marko has handled thousands of corpses, it is not something he prefers. “Nowadays I work in the ambulance and much prefer to aid accident victims then handle dead bodies. I think I’ve done enough of that for a lifetime, now I have a chance to change or save someone’s life everyday and I love that feeling.” Marko stresses that being a emergency rescue volunteer can be demanding work. He funds his work with Ruamkatanu from his own pocket and rarely has time for anything else. “I became so involved with helping other people, even my girlfriend left me as I had no time for her. All I have now is Ruamkatanu.”

While people like Marko sacrifice their personal lives for good causes, there still remains a great demand for more assistance and aid. As the government doesn’t fund foundations like Portektung and Ruamkatanu, it all comes down to donations, charity, and devoted volunteers to keep everything running smooth.

Currently, there are several young volunteers with Ruamkatanu and Portektung, aiding and learning about the ambulance, machines, and handling injuries and dead bodies. If you would like to volunteer your time and service making a difference helping others, or just want to learn more about Emergency Rescue, don’t hesitate to contact Ruamkatanu, Portektung, or the local foundation in your town.

Portektung 02-2264444 02-2264445, 022264446 Ruamkatanu 02-7510944 02-7510945, 02-7510946

Other important 24 hour emergency numbers

Police 191 Jor Sor Roy Radio (report accidents, traffic, news) 1137 Bangkok Emergency Service Team (for domestic emergencies not human related. i.e. floods, streets, sidewalks, etc.) 1555

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Take a boat

Not the end of the river

How did you get to school this morning? Was it by car, motorcycle, bus, or train? These are the most common modes of transport that many of us take for granted. They aren’t the only ways to get around however. A few of us might even have had to take a ferry ride across a river or down a canal. For the many who have never even been on a boat, it might be surprising that boat transport is one the oldest and most significant forms of transport, not only for Thailand, but the entire world (not as old as walking of course).

Before the invention of the locomotive, bicycle, automobile, and airplane, humans relied on the various waterways and oceans that make up more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface: Whether it had been for transportation, migration, exploration, economy, or industry, the boat was the way of life for millions. Unfortunately for nature, humans have become slaves to fossil fuel guzzling machines. Thus, the advancing world continues to develop and maintain concrete paths and structures to support an ugly and polluting car-culture.

Just take a look around. The various canals around Bangkok that once earned the city the nickname “Venice of the East” or “City of Canals” have been neglected---boat-less, filled with oil and litter, and blocked off or filled in with tar and concrete to accommodate newer roads and traffic. Many of the up-country canals and rivers are so full with weeds and vines that they are un-navigable.

For thousands who still make a living around boats, there is still hope. “Though we have only seen the expansion and development of land-based transportation over the past decades, the (Thai) people should realize the importance and opportunity of the water for the future.” Said Bumrung Aramruang, the Director of Ayutthaya Industry and Ship building college. “With the number one industry being tourism, the rivers and canals have an important role in this industry, and the government should realize this.”

When disaster struck the six southern provinces last December, Bumrung, along with a handful of boat-building educators and students went to Phanga to share their experience, knowledge, and skills of boat construction and repair. Their first trip in January included 25 vocational students. They spent several weeks repairing damaged ships and building one experimental prototype fiberglass fishing ship. As it turns out, fiberglass is not only cheaper and lighter than wood, but also more durable and maintenance-free. Apichart, an instructor explains “Traditionally, Thais have used wood for ship and boat building. As the cost of wood is so expensive these days, we wanted to find an alternative following research of ships from Europe, Malaysia, and Japan.”

The 10 by 2.20 meter fiberglass proto-type was modeled and molded from an existing wooden fishing ship. When that turned out to be successful, the expertise of these skillful students and educators was requested again in March. Then, 9 students including Niwat Treesit, Nattapat Aiunsa-ard, Panuwat Thohkeemorlee, Ekapoon Khuntapon, Santi Ngamsomchat, Sarawut Kongwaree, Ekapon Jaisaen, and Woravatt Serher took charge of leading the local labor of villagers and even 30 prisoners to construct an additional 70 ships. “It felt really good to be able to apply what we’ve been learning and apply it to a real life situation to make a difference helping the victims in the South.” Said Sarawut, a senior student studying steel and fiber ship building.

Looking at the present situation and limited career opportunities, one might wonder why these students decided to study ship building as opposed to electronics, computers, accounting, food, and other popular vocational subjects. “Many students are already studying those subjects, and so the competition will be high and harder to get a job.” Said Niwat “When we graduate, we are guaranteed a decent job as there is not enough experts on the field.” Elaborated Ekapon. “Boats are part of my life and soul. I’ve known I wanted to work around boats since I was very young.” Added Woravatt.

Currently, Ayutthaya Industry and Ship Building College has just over 200 students. Only about 30 of these currently study ship building on the island campus, however. Nopadol Detwatagul, the assistant director explains that ship building is a difficult subject with a heavy work load. On top of this, after graduating, students must usually work far away from their homes in places like Chonburi, Phuket, or Nakhon Sri Thamaratt. Therefore, most students prefer to study other subjects like electronics and industrial machinery where work can be found almost anywhere.

Initially, Ayutthaya Industry and Ship Building College based their volunteer work in Ban Nam Khem village, later moving its operations to Tai Muang district, collaborating and uniting with the technical/vocational school there. This has transformed into an additional campus for ship building as the instructors Ayutthaya open courses and instruction to locals. They have been hired to complete an additional 100 ships by October 27. This quota is part of the Princess Pratep’s royal sponsorship to build 500 fishing ships based on the fiber-glass prototype mentioned earlier, just in time for Thailand’s post-monsoon fishing season.

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Farewell Don Muang

With the new international airport, Suvarna-bhumi due to fully open by next year, we will have to say good bye to Don Muang Airport…well, at least as an international flying hub. This leaves many of us wondering and debating what will become of the massive 20,000 rai plot of land (32 square kilometers). The Prime Minister suggested it be turned into a Tennis Sporting complex. If other greedy politicians had their way, the huge plot of land could easily become huge condo developments, shopping centers, and adult entertainment venues! As if there aren’t enough of those in the city already. Therefore, it is essential that the youth speak out. After all, we are the future of this nation. NJ got the opinions and ideas of students from around the country of what they would like to see happen with Don Muang after the new airport opens.

I think they should build a huge library because there is only one National library and that’s quite far. If they did that, it would be convenient for all the schools and Universities in that area. Of course, another department store wouldn’t be bad because people love shopping.

Ms. Nutjitra Tanawilai, 21, Business English major at Bangkok University

Bangkok is such a big city and there aren’t enough public parks. Therefore they should make a huge Central Park—kind of like New York City. It would really be nice if they made it with not only the standard gardens and fountains, but also some other public recreation facilities like a huge swimming pool.

Mr. Natthawat Akaravalit, 20, Law major at Ramkhamhaeng University

I want it to be a museum which shows aircrafts and also present about the Thai history of flying. There should be only small and few changes to the place because I think the place is still good and we could utilize it without changing so much. I don’t want the government to waste the money. Some parts of the land could be made parks for the people to spend time with friends or family.

Mr. Itsarapong Maneepawat, 18, Matayom 6, Sriyapai School, Chumphon Province

I want it to be a center of technology and science. Thailand is a developing country so it’s good if we have a place to seriously do research and invent new things.

Mr. Artit Tongpoom,19, Ratchapat University (Suandusit)

I want it to become a funpark just like Dreamworld. There should also be book stores and everything that children and teens like. It'll be cool too if there're tutors and also dorms provided for students whose homes are too far. Lastly, I would like a huge shopping center to be built there.

Ms. Thongthip Rabiab, 18, Matayom 6, Sriyapai School, Chumphon Province

I want it to be the biggest sport complex in Thailand---where almost every kind of sport can be played. And when there're matches between Thailand and other countries, all the events must take place at the sport complex.

Mr. Pisan Tungsiabyuan (Not), Matayom 6, Sriyapai School, Chumphon Province

It should be made into the best university in Asia because I think education is the strongest root of human beings.

Mr. Chontawat Jiansrisatian, 18, Grade 12 Triamudomsuksa School, Bangkok

I’d like Don Muang to be a big golf course – just expand the area, we’ll get it!

Mr. Surachat Pansuwannakee, 19, Chinese-major at Walailak University, Nakhon Si Thammarat

It should be made a land transportation center. Traveling on land is cheaper than by air. Every year there’ll be a lot of people left at their hometowns because they can’t go back home because of the limited buses.

Mr. Tanachat Nudsom 17, Srivikorn School

We should keep Don Muang – but as a secondary airport. If we call it off, the business around that area would be over.

Mr. Thitipong “Man” Jirananda, 21, English-major at Walailak University, Nakhon Si Thammarat

Did you know that Don Muang first opened on March 27, 1914? That makes it 91 years old!

For more information about Don Muang, Suvarna-bhumi, and other facts regarding Thailand, be sure to check out

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Happy Halloween

It’s almost time for Halloween. This is a fun time for everyone to dress up like witches, monsters, aliens, fairies, angels, superheroes, and ghosts. In countries where Halloween is widely celebrated, the selection of mask and costume shops are endless. In Thailand, however, finding a spooky costume shop will prove to be a difficult task. This only gives us more reason to be creative. Have you any ideas of what you would like to be this year? In the true spirit of Halloween, you should dress up terrifying. Seeing the same old Frankensteins, Mummies, and Witches every year is boring, unoriginal, and not scary at all. Surely, there are other more horrifying choices. NJ has few suggestions of ghosts from other countries that you might not have known about already.

In Japan, the Yuurei is a spirit which could not continue to the after-life. It stays around haunting people until it gets vengeance for an unfair or sudden death. Usually Yuurei are female ghosts without legs. They wear a white kimono, the traditional dress that people were buried with in the old days.

Yotsuya-Kaidan is one of the most famous yuurei stories of Japan. Hundreds of years ago during the Edo period in Japan, there was an unemployed samurai, Iemon and his young pregnant wife, Iwa. Iemon was so depressed that he didn’t have work to support a family. One day he met an old master who agreed to find work for Iemon if Iemon would agree to marry his granddaughter. Shortly after accepting the deal, Iemon plotted and killed the old man as well as his wife Iwa and unborn child. Iwa’s tortured spirit came back to haunt and torment Iemon to death. Today, Iwa’s ghost still haunts the minds and beliefs of young and old Japanese alike.

In India, the most famous of all ghosts is Brahmadaitya, a Brahmin monk who died unhappy and unmarried. He is said to live in a tree. At night he wonders around in white Brahmin robes complaining about food. Generally, he doesn’t haunt or torment people, unless they climb his tree, in which he will become violent and break their neck.

People all over the world believe in house ghosts. In Russia, the Domovoi is a household ghost like anywhere else in that it can be a nuisance and poltergeist tormenting and petrifying anyone around. The difference is the Domovoi will even help out with chores if it is treated with respect.

There are thousands of ghost stories all over the world. Some may be true yet some are certainly fictional. Often we associate ghosts with religion, but in fact ghost sighting, stories, and beliefs have been around thousands of years outdating most modern religions. See the links below for more ghost stories and beliefs from all over the globe. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, don’t let one of the most exciting holidays pass by with out getting into spirit. It’s always fun to dress up and be someone and something different---at least for a day.

Despite its mass commercialization and popularity in the United States, France, and Canada, Halloween’s origin is actually the British Islands (England, Scotland, and Ireland). Sometimes considered the witches’ New Years, Halloween was initially a festival to honor the Celtic deity Samhain, lord of death and evil spirits. (not to be confused with ancient Phoenician sky deity, Shamin) Actually, the feast of Samhain or the day of death is held on November 1, as the leaves fell off the trees and the days begin to shorten and get colder. The Anglo Saxon and Celtic beliefs had it that evil spirits would assemble on the eve of this feast (October 31) to return to the living world for one day. The custom of dressing up in scary costumes and masks was to either fit in with the evil spirits or scare them away.

Full history of Halloween

hundreds of fictional/non-fictional ghost stories

ghost stories / beliefs from around the world

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Battery Disposal in Thailand

If the US and British militaries decided to invade Thailand in search of chemical weapons of mass destruction, their campaign would easily be successful. All they would have to do is look in rubbish bins and garbage dumps. They would find a bigger threat than Al Queda could ever pose.

Did you know that we in Thailand produce nearly 300,000 tons of hazardous waste every year? That’s the mass of about 50,000 large elephants! Of all this toxicity, batteries are currently, unquestionably one of the biggest threats to nature.

The main concern is the handling and disposing of tens of millions of old batteries. Last year alone, 8,000,000 lead-acid car batteries were disposed in Thailand. That’s a deadly amount of toxic chemicals. If that weren’t enough, millions of household batteries are improperly disposed and mixed in with general waste.

As our society increasingly becomes more mobile, we have become reliant on batteries. Whether for cell phones, computers, mp3 players, cameras, toys, or watches, the production of batteries has exploded on the market. Inevitably, our consumption has also increased.

Battery collection and disposal in Thailand is only in the pilot and planning stages. The Mobile Phone Battery Take-Back Program is one of the latest developments. Headed by the Pollution Control Department (PCD), under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the program brings together mobile phone battery manufacturers, mobile phone companies and agencies, as well as academic associations to collect old mobile phone batteries to be recycled and disposed of properly. In its first phase, PCD launched the distribution of 2000 yellow bins to be placed at Universities and other public arenas across the country. By plan, an additional 28,000 bins are expected to be distributed by the end of the year.

These bins are intended for only mobile phone batteries, however. What about other house-hold batteries? Though institutions like PCD and BMA have taken much initiative over the past few years to improve the collection/disposal system, Peeraporn Wiriwutikorn, a PCD Environmental Officer states that the current collection system is ineffective. “The main issue lies within the attitudes and awareness of the general public. Most people don’t care enough to separate house-hold batteries from general waste.” While government agencies do their best to implement new ideas and strategies, Peeraporn stresses that the public must do their part to separate and properly dispose of household batteries and other hazardous wastes.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when dealing with and disposing batteries..

Improperly disposed batteries risk not only contaminating the soil, but water supply as well. When throwing away household batteries, separate them into sealed plastic soda bottles or bags so that city collectors can easily discern them. Additionally, local Government authorities such as the BMA have special trucks to collect household hazardous materials twice a month (1st and 15th), so if possible get your batteries to them.

Try to use only rechargeable batteries. Most rechargeable batteries are recyclable and will cut back consumption. Additionally, avoid using batteries with mercury. Though a cheaper technology, mercury is a highly toxic chemical that should be avoided at all costs.

For additional information and news regarding batteries and toxic waste disposal in Thailand, check out PCD’s website at :

BMA website :

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Solar Village Power

Ban Nork Power

Roughly three kilometers outside of Thailand’s fourth largest city, Nakhon Sawan, there is a small and unique primordial village. Village number five of Nakhon Sawan Awk district or Ban Mai as it is known locally, was built adjacent to the Bangkok-Chiang Mai rail route a long time ago.

Located on the fringe of Thailand’s largest swamp area (Beung Boraphet), and in the heart of the mighty Chao Phraya river basin (where the Nan and Ping rivers combine to form the Chao Phraya---Pak Nam Po), the dirt roads that swerve through the forest into the village become flooded by the various ponds and swamps in the area.

Since there is no temple, school, or market in Ban Mai, villagers must commute daily to and from the more-developed/populated Pak Nam Po district. During the Monsoons, the only way to get in/out of Ban Mai is the rail tracks. The three kilometer distance to Pak Nam Po can be hazardous for the young and old to walk, particularly crossing two 80 year old rail bridges over a few swamps. These high bridges are in tact with steel, rusted nails, and rotting wood. In fact, hundreds of villagers have met their fate or been seriously injured over the decades falling off while crossing.

Instead of walking the tracks, most villagers use a simple and handy little rail cart they call a ‘rot tor’, with a long bamboo pole to paddle down the tracks with speed. The loud trains coming in both directions give enough warning for the villagers to get off the tracks until the train can pass.

Ban Mai is home to a dozen or so families mostly living in either traditional raised-wooden houses, or make-to-do shack housing. With no modern plumbing, and the only concrete foundation in the whole village being for the manual water pump in the village center, Ban Mai is typical of the ‘ban nork’ village usually associated with Thailand’s rural Isan and the Northern region. Alcoholism is perhaps the biggest downside of such poverty.

Unfortunately, most village elders become alcoholics and use what little money they earn to purchase rice whiskey. Goh, the former village headman was retired early after an accident last year. Intoxicated, he decided to take a journey in the middle of the night and fell off the rail bridge. Luckily he landed on his legs on the incline and was found the next morning passed out drunk. He was paralyzed however. Had he fell a few more meters and landed in the water, he would have surely drowned.

There are some bright sides to living in a poor rural village. The children never run out of things to do: When they’re not in school, they climb trees, swim, fish, and catch frogs among the many activities to keep the young healthy and active. Without the convenience of shopping malls, toy stores, and wealth, kids must use their creativity and imagination to keep from being bored.

Despite being so close to a modern and thriving city, Ban Mai is outside of any electrical power grids. However, most of Ban Mai’s villagers haven’t been left out from the modern comforts of electricity, thanks to car batteries. For several years, villagers would have to take their batteries into the city often to charge at an outlet inside the power grid. This system was not only inconvenient, but inefficient. Villagers could light their houses for a few hours a night, and perhaps watch a TV program every other day.

Only this year, mass electricity finally reached Ban Mai. Thanks to the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA)’s nationwide project to power all rural villages outside power grids, each family in Ban Mai received a free solar panel to connect directly to their home. The Solar Cells store energy in a 12 volt car battery (charge system). A transformer turns the battery’s 12 volt Direct Current (DC) into 220 volt Alternating Current (AC), which is the standard for home appliances. In other words, the electric capacity has increased to allow villagers to run a wider variety of electrical appliances for longer periods of time. The main benefits are villagers will never have to pay an electric bill, not to mention solar electricity is environmentally friendly.

Now, villagers can use fans, basic cooking appliances, and keep up with news and the latest soap operas and news on a regular basis. One major drawback about the project, however, is that the panels were distributed and set up on a ‘everyone to their own’ basis instead of one community charging station like other successful solar villages in Chiang Mai, for example. This means the electric capacity of one home isn’t enough to run certain essential appliances such as a refrigerator, where combined solar cells store energy much more efficiently.

Regarding this fact, Nop, a village leader expresses his regret. “We should have done it right from the beginning. Most villagers were excited to get their own solar panel, and didn’t realize that one central system would be more efficient.” (alternative energies in Thailand) (Provincial Electricity Authority of Thailand) (Ministry of Energy)

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