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, Fun, Nightlife, Outside Thailand, People | Tags: Bangkok, beauty, Beer, bread, BTS, carrots, Chang Beer, clothes, cons, Europe, European beer, expats, food, happy hour, Heineken, Ireland, Irish bars, Khao San Road, light skin, London, maps, prostitutes, prostitution, red light district, Singha beer, skytrain, Sukhumvit, Sukhumvit Road, sunburn, Thai, Thai business, Thai culture, Thai food, Thai language, Thai people, Thailand, tourism, tourists, vampires, weather, Western food, women, work
Everybody needs somebody… to look down on, and few lifeforms get less respect than the lowly tourist. In Bangkok, they are easy to spot – bright pink skin, dripping in sweat, wearing a Chang Beer T-shirt and scratching their heads over folding maps and the BTS ticketing system. Tourists are naïve, vulnerable, confused and trusting – everything that the noble expat is not! But to the average Thai conman and opportunist, every foreigner is a potential tourist, and to every tourist, anyone of their same colour is likely one of their kin. But the resident farang is a wiser, nobler and all-round higher class of foreigner, and we must flaunt our status with our behaviour and habits. However, this is something that can only be cultivated over time, with experience – unless you consult my handy guide to…
10 WAYS EXPATS CAN AVOID BEING MISTAKEN FOR TOURISTS
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: News, People, politics, Thai news | Tags: airports, anti-government protests, army, arson, arsonists, Bali, Bangkok, Bangkok Post, banks, bars, Black May, civil war, class war, curfew, Daily Post, dominoes, Don Mueang, education, First World, food, hotels, Hua Hin, Isaan, looters, looting, Malaysia, malls, military, Mother Nature, newspapers, Nightlife, PAD, People's Alliance for Democracy, Philippines, protests, Ratchaprasong, Red Shirts, resorts, restaurants, salons, Scandinavia, self-harm, September 11, shopping, shops, soldiers, Songkhran, spas, Suvarnabhumi, Suvarnabhumi airport, Thai history, Thai New Year, Thai people, Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, Third World, tourism, UDD, United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, Vietnam, Wales, war, yellow shirts
As Bangkok burned, I made good my escape. Evacuated from my workplace as Red Shirts descended on the road to my office, with their brothers bombing and torching dozens of important and iconic buildings around the city, I met my girlfriend Waew and together we headed for Hua Hin, a seaside retreat a couple of hours’ drive south.
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, Health, media, News, Nightlife, People, politics, Thai news | Tags: 2010, advertising, advertising laws, alcohol, alcohol advertising, art, Bang Saen, Bangkok, bars, Beer, body painting, calendar, cander, censorship, Chang Beer, concerts, festivals, gay, go-go bars, hangover, Health, homophobia, Indonesia, Leo Beer, media, models, Nightlife, nude calendar, nude models, nudity, painting, politics, prostitution, reggae, sex, skin cancer, Thai, Thai beer, Thai girls, Thai government, Thai models, Thai people, Thai politics, Thai women, Thailand, Utah, vice, whisky
It is often assumed that the people who complain loudest about something have the most to hide. That’s the prevailing logic about homophobia – that those who hate gays do so because they are seeking to deny something about themselves.
And it is certainly the case with the recent controversy over the Leo Beer 2010 calendar launched here in Thailand last week – and promptly banned from sale or distribution by the government.
The reason for the ban was two-fold. First of all, alcohol advertising laws in Thailand forbid the linking of alcohol with fun. Secondly, nudity is forbidden in the media. As this was a calendar promoting beer through the use of body-painted (so, officially nude in that they weren’t actually clothed, even though they were at least visually covered) models, it was always likely to offend someone in a position of power.
Filed under: Culture, Film, media | Tags: abortion, America, Art of the Devil 2, Asian film, black magic, Britain, censorship, children, China, cigarettes, English, farangs, Film, foetus, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, genitals, gore, guns, hate crimes, Hollywood, horror movies, inciting hatred, Long Kong 2, media, media censorship, movies, occult, pornography, pregnancy, prostitution, smoking, teenagers, teens, Thai culture, Thai film, Thai people, Thailand, the arts, True Film Asia, UK, USA, vable TV, vagina, websites
But if censorship is to be enforced, it has to be done with common sense, and it must also treat the public with a modicum of respect for its intelligence. Continue reading
Filed under: Culture, Nightlife, restaurants, Travel | Tags: Bang Saen, Bangkok, bars, beach, Britain, Buddha Cave, Cha-Am, Chinese, Chinese temple, European people, Germany, guesthouses, Hua Hin, Kaeng Krachan, Khao Sam Roi Yod, Khao Takiab, Ko Chang, Ko Samet, macaques, markets, mass tourism, Monkey Island, monkeys, Naresdamri Road, national parks, night markets, nightclubs, Nightlife, Pattaya, Queen Victoria, Queen Victoria pub, red light distrcut, Scandinavia, sea, seafood, seafood restaurants, sex tourism, south Thailand, sports bars, tailor shops, temples, Thai people, Thailand, tourism, tourists, Western food, Western restaurants, Yorkshire, Yorkshire Inn, zoo
Hua Hin is the best beach spot within easy reach of Bangkok – by a long way, in my opinion.
Pattaya remains the busiest, but its popularity is more due to it being Thailand’s sex central – and unabashed position as such – rather than its unremarkable beach, dirty sea and culture-less city centre.
Cha-Am and Bang Saen have a nice atmosphere to them, but their beaches are gritty, with parasols spoiling most of the views (Thais like to be beside the seaside as much as Europeans, but hate the prospect of the sunshine darkening their skin).
Ko Samet and Ko Chang are both wonderful, but at around 4-5 hours’ drive from Bangkok, plus a ferry ride, they’re just a tad too far for a short hop.
Hua Hin, then, at 2-3 hours’ drive from Bangkok, is not only viable but also offers a lot that the aforementioned seaside spots don’t. Continue reading
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.