Elephant’s Leg


Ko Sichang offers Thai countryside atmosphere and attitudes by the sea

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.

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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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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