Elephant’s Leg


CAKE-EATING, TOILET-SQUATTING EX-PM SAMAK SUNDARAVEJ DIES

Samak finds food and politics don’t mix

Former Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej died yesterday. He succumbed to liver cancer in Bangkok’s Bumrungrad Hospital, aged 74.

Samak was PM when I moved to Thailand in April last year. He was quite a character and his presence – along with the movements of his rivals and his interactions with the press – could at times be quite comic,¬†if not downright¬†farcical. Before Thai politics turned sour with mob protests, airports seiges and coups, it could even be quite fun to read about Samak’s exploits.

He was the first of three PMs in my time here (three leaders in 19 months in itself is an indictment of the state of Thai politics) and by far the most memorable. He was nowhere near as photogenic as current PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, nor was he anything like as polite as his successor, Somchai Wongsawat, but that is precisely why he made his mark. He behaved aggressively, he was beligerent to the media, he sulked in public, he was unafraid to belittle people if he felt they deserved it, he was stoic in the face of political pressure – and his hardened appearance matched these, ahem, qualities.

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IT STARTED WITH AN ITCH

Anyone for noodles?

There are many interpretations of “getting the itch” if you live in Thailand. It could be a desire for travel. It could be a mosquito bite. It could be a rash after eating some dodgy seafood. Or it could be an after-effect of indulging in some naughty nightlife.

So I wasn’t too concerned when an itchy red bump appeared on the side of my foot early last week. It looked and felt just like a mosquito bite, of which I have had thousands in my life. By now, I can even resist the temptation to scratch.I was a bit concerned, however, when the next morning I noticed my mosquito bite had grown a tail. Further concern ensured when the “tail” had doubled in length by the time I finished work, so I went to see a doctor.

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VIOLENT, FORCED ABORTIONS: GOOD. SMOKING: BAD

DIY abortions on Thai TV

I don’t subscribe to the idea that all censorship is bad. As much as I appreciate freedom of speech and expression in the media and arts, I do believe in sensible censorship of the most extreme opinions and/or images. For example, I think it’s quite right that distributing material which incites hatred is a crime in the UK, and that the USA’s Freedom of Speech law, which allows for the same to go unpunished, is a little lax.

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



A WEEK IN MALAYSIA PART 2: LANGKAWI

I spent last week in Malaysia wth my girlfriend, Waew. It was our first proper holiday together and my first proper trip to Malaysia (I did a brief border hop from Brunei in 2005 but that was essentially just to tick another country off the list). It was also my first proper holiday in South East Asia since moving to Thailand last year, having so far failed to live up to my promise to myself to see as much of the region as possible while living here.We flew in and out of Penang, where we spent half of the week. The other half we spent in Langkawi. It proved a decent mix of city and countryside, culture and relaxation, with stays in three locations.

Back to Part 1: Penang

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Thrills and refreshment at Langkawi’s Seven Wells

CENANG

The morning ferry from Penang to Langkawi necessitated a pre-dawn wakening in order to drive from Batu Ferringhi to Georgetown, drop off the hire car and walk to the port (no taxis being available at that time) in time for check-in 45 minutes before departure. Consequently we got to drive through a pretty sunrise and negotiate a sleepy Georgetown before the city and its inhabitants fully woke.

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A WEEK IN MALAYSIA PART 1: PENANG
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Batu Ferringhi

I spent last week in Malaysia with my girlfriend, Waew. It was our first proper holiday together and my first proper trip to Malaysia (I did a brief border hop from Brunei in 2005 but that was essentially just to tick another country off the list). It was also my first proper holiday in South East Asia since moving to Thailand last year, having so far failed to live up to my promise to myself to see as much of the region as possible while living here.

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CATCHING UP: HEALTH
Pyoderma gangrenosum

Pyoderma gangrenosum

My health is generally fine. I’ve only taken one day off work since moving here, due to a particularly violent bout of food poisoning. I’ll spare you the details, but on two occasions (the other being on a weekend) I have been rendered utterly housebound by the ill-effects of dodgy food. I guess this comes with the territory when living in the tropics, and twice in less than a year and a half is not bad, really.But I am still trying to resolve a health issue which I brought with me from the UK – a leg ulcer which has been present for two years now. I have a skin disease called pyoderma gangrenosum (PG) and I must be very special, because it affects just 1 in 100,000 people!

It is basically an inappropropriate immune response – the immune system attacks a wound or blemish, but gobbles up good skin, too. This is what creates the ulcer and what continues to prevent it healing. Continue reading