Filed under: Culture, Film, media, Six of the best | Tags: 1970s, 1980s, 2004 tsunami, America, Ananda Everingham, Angelina Jolie, Asian movies, Bangkok, Bangkok Traffic Love Story, books, boxing, Boxing Day tsunami, Brad Pitt, brothel, CGI, Chaiya, Chiang Mai, crime, Denmark, disaster movies, English language, Eternity, Ewan McGregor, Fight Club, Film, ghosts, Haunted Universities, Hollywood, Hong Kong, horror, horror movies, Indian Ocean, Japan, Khao Lak, Kongkiat Khomsiri, Laddaland, Malai Choopinij, martial arts, muay Thai, Muay Thai Chaiya, Naomi Watts, Nicolas Winding Refn, noir, Only God Forgives, organised crime, paedophilia, Pattaya, Phang Nga, Ploy Cherman, police, psychedelia, revenge, Ryan Gosling, serial killer, sex tourism, sex tourists, Shutter, Slice, Sophon Sukdapisit, splatterhouse, Takeshi Kitano, Thai boxing, Thai film, Thai literature, Thai people, Thailand, thrillers, tsunami, TV series, vice
With late April marking the anniversary of my move to Thailand, and with this year marking my sixth anniversary, I have decided to compile a series of “Six of the Best” features encompassing my hobbies and interests, which I have enjoyed during my time here. I will start with films made in, or set in, Thailand. The list is in chronological order of the year of production.
1. MUAY THAI CHAIYA (2007)
The first Thai film I saw after moving here remains one of my favourites. I watched Muay Thai Chaiya (simply Chaiya/ไชยา in Thai) almost as a token – “I’m in Thailand so I should watch a Thai film” – but I had a similar experience to when I watched Fight Club for the first time. Expecting a simple beat-‘em-up, I was given so much more. Chaiya is, on the surface, a martial arts movie, but its narrative charts the coming of age and moral corruption of three pugilistic brothers as they move from the idyllic southern district of the film’s title to ’70s Bangkok to chase big bucks in the ring.
The three brothers’ fates take differing turns; one’s boxing career is cut short through injury, another pursues legitimate championship aspirations, and the third is drawn into Bangkok’s lucrative but increasingly dangerous underground fighting circuit. Organised crime influences all three, and their competing egos and influences make for a blood-soaked morality play of love triangles, sibling rivalries and childhood bonds. Chaiya culminates in an absurdly violent climax that some of Japan’s more notorious splatterhouse directors would be proud of, yet it is testament to director Kongkiat Khomsiri’s work that it somehow doesn’t come across as unrealistic. (Kongkiat would later direct another of my favourites, Slice – see next entry).
Filed under: Culture, Expat life, Nightlife, Outside Thailand, People, restaurants, Travel | Tags: animals, art, Australian people, backpackers, backpacking, Bahasa Indonesia, Bali, Bali Hai, Bali Hai beer, Bali Museum, Balinese dance, Balinese food, Balinese girls, Balinese people, Bangkok, barbecue, bars, beaches, Beer, Brazilian Aussie BBQ, breakfast, buffet. Sky Garden, cafes, chilli, coffee, costume, dance, Denpasar, Deva Sari, drink, English language, Flora Hotel, food, Food and Drink, forest, gueshouse, Hindu temples, Hinduism, hotels, Indonesia, Indonesian food, Indonesian girls, Indonesian people, Islam, Islamic clothes, islands, jungle, kebabs, Kuningan Day, Kuta, Kuta Beach, Laughing Buddha bar, macaques, markets, masks, massage, monkeys, motorbikes, mountains, Muang Phuket, museums, Muslims, Napa Orti, Nightlife, painting, palace, Pasar Badung, Pasar Seni, Patong, people, Phuket, Pura Jagatnatha, Pura Taman Suraswati, rainforest, religion, Renon, resorts, restaurants, rice, Sacred Monkey Forest, Sanghyang Widi, Sanur, shopping, souvenirs, steak, temples, Thai food, Thai language, Thai people. Thai girls, Thailand, tourism, Travel, Ubud, Ubud Palace, Warung Ijo, white people
Last month I travelled to Bali, Indonesia, in what was primarily a social visit, as I have a friend who lives and works there. It hadn’t really occurred to me to visit Bali before, being that is an uber-touristy destination, but I figured that I would see more than beaches and bars with the combination of a local friend and my own inquisitive style of travelling. And so it was. As expected, the main tourist area of Kuta didn’t hold my attention, but some other parts of the island – unfortunately time constraints limited me to the south – were charming.
My thoughts on what I saw of Bali are as follows. It is not a chronological travelogue; more like a scrapbook of impressions and recommendations. Continue reading
Filed under: Expat life, People, Travel | Tags: Amphawa, anti-government protests, Ayutthaya, backpackers, Bang Saray, Bangkok, Chinese language, conmen, corruption, English, English language, hotels, Isaan, Isaan language, Khao San Road, Krabi, Lao language, Laos, lorry drivers, Malay language, Malaysia, malls, Mandarin, Nightlife, Pattaya, politics, public transport, Rayong, Rungsan Chintanawong, shopping, sightseeing, Suvarnabhumi, Suvarnabhumi airport, taxi drivers, taxis, Thai language, Thailand, tourism, tourists, transport, Trat
“Hey, where you go?” “How much you pay?” “Meter not work.” Phrases that are all-too familiar for anybody who has been to Bangkok, beginning as soon as you leave the arrivals area of the airport and following you all along downtown, around the visitor attractions and surrounding your hotel. Yes, it’s the hawking call of the notorious Bangkok taxi driver.
There are an estimated 60,000 of them in the city, and to be fair, the majority of them are reasonable enough. It’s just the majority of them do not congregate at the airport, the tourist traps, the nightspots, the malls and the big hotels. It is the unscrupulous few who dominate these places, who can spot a freshly arrived holidaymaker at a hundred paces, who can speak enough English to negotiate a con, and who foster the negative image many visitors take home of the corrupt cabbie.
Filed under: Culture, Expat life, Health, News, Nightlife, People, politics, Relationships, restaurants, Thai news, Travel | Tags: 7-Eleven, anti-government protests, antibiotics, Bangkok, beach, Beer, Benz Bungalows, Buddhism, children, Chinese, condominiums, crab, diarrhoea, dogs, English language, fast food, food, goats, Gulf of Thailand, Hat Thampang, Hat Thampang Bungalows, hospital, hotels, Hua Hin, Isaan, islands, Ko Sichang, Malee Blue, May 19, monastery, motorbikes, nighclubs, palaces, Pan & David Restaurant, Paree Hut, Pattaya, politics, rabies, Rama V, Red Shirts, restaurants, salad, seafood, shops, Sri Racha, swimming, temples, Thai culture, Thai language, Thai people, Thai politics, Thailand, Travel, tuk-tuks, whale
Thailand’s image needs all the help it can get right now. Last month’s dramatic footage of bomb sites and gun fights across Bangkok played out internationally and many countries have yet to lift their travel warnings to the erstwhile Land of Smiles.
For sure, confidence has been rocked, and even beyond the photos of war on the streets, the reputation of Thai people as gentle, benevolent Buddhists has been tarnished by displays of downright ugly behaviour during such fractious times.
Whether the protesters promising – and almost succeeding – to turn Bangkok into a “sea of fire”, or their opponents cheering and swearing as the death toll neared a hundred, there was precious little positive humanity on display.
Filed under: Culture, Expat life, People | Tags: Bangkok, Bible, bottled water, culture difference, drink, English, English language, food, food court, juice, language, Lost in Translation, mineral water, Minute Maid, orange, orange juice, Sprite, stupid, Thai, Thai language, Thai people, Tower of Babel, translation, water
I’m learning Thai, but my abilities remain limited, so I’d never criticise a Thai person’s attempts at English.
I was at the drinks stand of a Bangkok food court. The vendor stood in front of a double glass door fridge. I appraised his wares, and the lingual fun began.
The conversation was a mix of my limited Thai and his limited English, but for simplicity’s sake I have transcribed it in English only. But even allowing for language differences, there’s no way such a simple transaction should have been anywhere near as protracted. Sprite is Sprite, whether in English or Thai, written or spoken.
Me: Sprite, please.
Him: Bottled water?
Me: No, Sprite, please.
(He reaches for a bottle of Minute Maid orange juice.)
Me: No, Sprite.
Him: No have.
Me: Yes, you have (pointing at the Sprite in the fridge).
(He reaches for the orange juice again.)
Me: No, down.
(He reaches two shelves down, passes the Sprite, and goes for the bottled water again.)
Me: No, up.
(He reaches two shelves up and goes for the orange juice again.)
(He looks at me as if I’m stupid.)
Me: Sprite. Suh-prite? Spuh-rite?
(He continues to just look at me.)
Me: There! (Pointing again).
(He reluctantly opens the fridge again and we begin to repeat the up-down routine.)
Me: No, up. No, down. Right. Right. No, go right! Yes! That one!
Him: (Looking at me like I’m really stupid) Oh, you want Sprite.
(Note: As Thai for “bottled water” is “nam plao” and “orange juice” is “nam som”, there’s no possibly way he could have confused either with “Sprite”, whether in sound or appearance!)
Filed under: Culture, Expat life | Tags: Bangkok, Cambridge Language Centre, Chinese, Chinese class, Chinese language, Chinese teachers, English, English class, English language, English teachers, Japanese, Japanese class, Japanese language, Japanese teachers, Phahon Yothin, Thai, Thai class, Thai language, Thai script, Thai teachers, Thailand
I picked up bits and pieces of Thai simply by virtue of living here and going about my daily business, but it wasn’t until January that I started formal classes. I’d struggled to find one that was both affordable and fit into my timetable. However after a few months of searching, I found one almost opposite where I live! For a set annual fee, I can have unlimited lessons and can schedule them as I see fit. I try to go three times a week, but always manage at least once.
I realise I may not be here forever, and that Thai is irrelevant elsewhere, but of course it is valuable within the country. I haven’t reached a great standard but definitely certain aspects of my life are now easier, and I can read Thai script, which is great for monolingual signs and menus.
If anybody is interested in learning Thai, I recommend the school I attend for both price, convenience and format – the classes are informal and fun and conducted by Thais who are fluent in English. It also offers Japanese, Chinese and English classes. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a website, but the contact details are as follows:
Cambridge Language Centre, 8 Phahon Yothin Road Soi 29, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900. Tel 02 513 4137
Filed under: Culture, News, People, Thai news, Uncategorized | Tags: advertising, Asian girls, brown skin, Caucasian, Chinese, cosmetics, East Asian, editing, English language, European men, magazines, media, Miss Thailand, Miss Thailand 2009, mixed-race relationships, music videos, pale skin, prejudice, racism, skin-lightening products, skin-whitening products, subway stations, Thai media, Thai movies, Thai people, Thai society, Thai TV, white skin
If you had never been to Thailand and only watched the majority of Thai movies, TV shows or music videos, and look at the advertising at subway stations, in magazines, and so on, you’d be forgiven for thinking Thais were a light-skinned race. Creamy, white complexions, sometimes even with rosy cheeks, represent a tiny minority in real life, but the great majority of the media’s idea of what Thais (should) look like. Pale skin is absolutely considered to be – and promoted as – attractive, and in many cases is actually a prerequisite to success. It doesn’t need me to point out how unfair this is, when skin colour is entirely a matter of birth – and something that cannot be changed, regardless of what the enormous market for sinister skin-whitening lotions will tell you.
Filed under: Expat life, Thai news, work | Tags: arts, Bangkok, Bangkok Post, business, CV, Database, editing, English language, geography, information technology, IT, lifestyle, News, newspapers, nightshift, politics, Real Time, reporters, sub-editors, technology, Thai, Thai business, Thai language, Thai news, Thai newspapers, Thai politics, Thailand
The first item on the agenda is to fill in the gaps between September 2008 and September 2009, before I will start writing about more timely stuff, as and when it happens. I will be concise, because 12 months is a long time to chronicle, and will perhaps return to certain points in more detail at a later date.
I work for the Bangkok Post, the leading English-language newspaper in Thailand. I edit the stories, which are mostly written by Thai reporters. They write in English, to varying standards, but require native speakers to polish their work to native quality. It’s essentially the same role as a sub-editor on any newspaper back home, but with the added task of dealing with non-native English. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s difficult, but it’s a rewarding job with nice hours on a publication that has a good reputation and a nationwide readership. In that regard, it’s the best job I’ve had so far.