Saturday, September 30, 2006


Jim Thompson was an American architect who fought in Europe during World War II. At the end of that campaign, he was transferred to Asia to help restore freedom and independence to Thailand, but the War ended before he saw any action there. He fell in love with the country and its people and decided to live there permanently.

Another thing that Thompson became enamored with was Thai silk. He got involved in the industry and greatly helped elevate Thai silk to world-wide prominence. He even provided textiles for the classic film "The King and I."

As an architect, Thompson had an interest in Thai buildings as well. He eventually bought six teak wood structures, some of which were a few hundred years old, and had them dismanteled and moved to downtown Bangkok. He surrounded his new home with exotic trees and plants that made up a tropical jungle setting.

He also filled the place with wonderful examples of Thai art and sculpture.

The home was Thompson's own personal paradise. The property turned out to be so popular, that Thompson opened his doors to the public and it soon became a must-see tourist attraction. Proceeds from tours were dontated to Thai charities and to the preservation of the country's cultural heritage.

I thought the place was pretty worthwhile. The garden was impressive and the house and art were quite interesting. A tour guide is included with the price of admission and I found it to be an educational experience. One of the more memorable anecdotes was that when Thompson was reconstructing the buildings, he had the walls reversed - Thai buildings of the period were known to have carvings on the outside, but Thompson thought they were so beautiful that he insisted on having them on the inside so that they could be enjoyed by all.

Photographs were allowed outside of the house, but not inside. The only way you could take a picture of the interior was by standing outside. Thus, the quality of some of these shots isn't the greatest.

Like most museum-type spots, the Jim Thompson House has a cafe and a few gift shops. There's also a gallery were silk art and costumes are on display.

In March 1967, Thompson went to Malaysia for a vacation. One day he went for a walk and was never seen again. To this day, no one knows what happened to him and all clues to the case have lead nowhere. To me, the Jim Thompson story would make an excellent premise for a movie, or at the very least an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" (or perhaps it aleady has, I never really watched that show).

Still, Thompson's legacy lives on at his home and the numerous stores and outlet centers that bear his name around town.

For more information about this cool residence, visit


Normally, I'm not one to make fun of someone else's name. My middle name is Maurice, and Heaven knows I've endured a lot of teasing about that when I was a kid. Regardless, when I saw this sign, I felt forced to comment on it.

Given the location of this establishment (and a cursory glance at their web site), it can be assumed that Miss Puke's is a place where one can go for a "friendly" massage. I'm not really looking for these kinds of special services, but if I was, the name Puke just doesn't seem sexy enough for me to want to go there.

I'm guessing that this word doesn't have the same meaning in Bangkok as it does in the States. I confirmed through a friend that it doesn't have the same pronunciation - instead you say it "pook."

This place must do enough business to afford such a prime location (in a soi across the street from the ritzy Siam Paragon mall) and have such a huge sign. With that in mind, I wish Miss Puke and her staff nothing but continued success in their endeavors.


I never wanted my blog to become "Coup Central" but when I'm out and about and see soldiers in the streets, I feel compelled to snap a few photos. This group was situated in the shopping district by Siam Square and MBK. I think these pictures further illustrate the "Peaceful Coup" concept. If you look closely, you can see some soldiers sleeping in the back of these trucks.

These guys look like they're about ready to break into a game of bridge as opposed to overthrowing a government.

I think that should be about it for my coverage of the Coup. Unless I see something really unique, consider this case closed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Nearly one week later, armed soldiers can still be seen in the streets of Bangkok (or in the case of these two guys, underneath an overpass). I'm not sure how long this is going to be the case, but at least things seem calm and peaceful and the city seems as normal as can be under these kinds of conditions.

Still, the sight of military personnel with big guns in the middle of an urban metropolis can be kind of unnerving at times. It's something I never thought I'd see in person. Hopefully, things will work out for the best for the citizens of my new home.

Friday, September 22, 2006


After two days, everything seems back to normal here in Bangkok. I had to go downtown last night for a meeting and it was the same bustle of activity and traffic that existed in the pre-coup days.

My friend Corey lives in the city and took some pics of the initial coup action from a few days ago. He was gracious enough to share them with me (thanks Corey!)

Note the soldiers, rifles and tanks sporting yellow ribbons and scarves. That's a direct symbol of loyalty to HM King Bhumibol.

I'm not sure when a military coup became a chance for a trendy photo op, but apparently that's the case over here. (By the way, Corey is NOT in any of these pics!)

Why is this soldier smiling?

Other than that, there's nothing new to report...yet...

Thursday, September 21, 2006


The past few days around here have been a bit strange to say the least. This is not what I was expecting when I agreed to this move, but it seems like everything is calm - for now.

I found out about this situation on Tuesday night around 11:15 when I started to receive emails from friends back home checking to make sure we were OK. I turned on CNN and the BBC news and was able to follow the story for awhile until all of the channels (including stuff like ESPN, Cartoon Network, etc) went black. The local stations were showing footage of the King and Queen with some song over and over. It was the same on every station.

Regardless, our family is fine. We are far enough from the city (30 or 40 minutes away with normal traffic conditions) that I don't think this is going to personally affect us. I can't see tanks rolling into our neighborhood anytime soon. The schools were closed yesterday and today, so this is probably the closest my kids will get to a Michigan snow day.

Part of me wishes I had been downtown with my camera when this happened. It's certainly an event that would have made for an interesting blog entry. My wife Joanna had to go to work yesterday and she said the traffic was non-existent, which is a miracle around here. It took her only about 15 minutes to get to the office. There were some soldiers out, but not many.

This morning, I decided to ride downtown with her to check out the situation firsthand. I didn't see a single soldier on the way there and the ride took us well over an hour. It seems like the streets of Bangkok are back to normal in that regard.

On the way back I did see some armed soldiers. I apologize for the quality of the first picture, but I had to take it from a moving car. I didn't think it was a good idea to hop out and ask these guys to pose for a photo for my blog.

I'm really happy with the second pic, both with the quality of the image and with the message that it implies. As you can see, the soldier seems pretty relaxed and his rifle is lowered. Hopefully, that is a positive sign about the seriousness of this situation.

I don't really feel qualified to comment on all this politically. Although I'm living here, I still consider myself a tourist and just want what's best for the people of Thailand, especially for the friends that I have made already. The last thing anyone here wants is violence and bloodshed. King Bhumibol has endorsed the new regime, so I assume that most of the Thai population will follow suit.

Thanks to everyone who sent me notes and to those who were thinking of us.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Last Sunday, we took a family cruise on the Chao Phraya River and a couple of khlongs (canals). It was an interesting look at life in Bangkok on the water.

We started out at the Tha Chang Pier near the Grand Palace. The pier is home to a bunch of restaurants, food stalls and souvenir shops. It is also a place where you are going to get endlessly harassed by would-be entrepreneurs trying to get you go on a river cruise. A lot of these are scams and we preferred just to locate the boats ourselves and take care of business there, instead of relying on some unnecessary guide.

It didn't take us long to find the boats - they were right on the river and surrounded by another over-anxious group of proprieters. We asked how much the tour was and they showed us a price list that indicated a charge of 1500 baht apiece. There were four of us, so that would total around $150. We said thanks but no thanks and started to walk away.

Then the boat owners started to negotiate: "Babies go free! Babies go free!" they screamed. We didn't want to point out that our "babies" were eight and five, but we were starting see how this was going to work. Still at 3000 baht ($75), the price was way too steep for a one hour river cruise. We started to walk away again.

"1500 for everyone!" they shouted. "No thanks," we replied.

"1000! 1000!" was the next offer. That price ($25) seemed reasonable and was $125 less than the original quote, so we felt that we had at least won and experienced the joys of bartering at the same time. Something tells me we could have talked them down even more, but 1000 baht seemed fair enough.

So we got in the boat and asked them for life jackets. This did not seem like an odd request as most boat rides I have been on have required this most basic item of water safety, but our crew (one guy and 2 kids) didn't seem to know what we were talking about, despite the small sign in the boat indicating that you are welcome to request a life jacket if you should so desire one.

I would have felt better with life jackets, but honestly, if our boat capsized we would probably all die of malaria anyway. That's because Chao Phraya River is pretty polluted. The last time I saw a body of water this brown, Augustus Gloop was falling into Willy Wonka's chocolate river.

The river kind of stinks too. I definately wouldn't want to swim in it or eat a fish that was caught in it, although I did see people doing both things on this trip.

This is mainly a sight seeing venture. I think a guide was available, but I didn't have the energy to barter for one.

Some of the things you see at first include the Rama VIII bridge and downtown Bangkok:

Later, when you enter Klong Bang Khu Wiang, Khlong Bang Yai and Khlong Mon, you can see things like a floating market:

Floating foodstalls:

Different Thai style homes:

And a fish farm:

I'm not really sure what a fish farm is, but to me it appeared to be large conglomeration of fish that get whipped into a frenzy when you throw bread in the water. One of the kids on our boat threw in an entire unsliced loaf and the fish had it submerged and eaten within five seconds.

Towards the end of the trip I did see another boat that supplied life jackets, but apparently only for adults.

This is just another display of the warped set of safety standards here in Bangkok, a place where infants riding on the backs of motorcycles with no protection is commonplace.

We finished up with a quick pass by Wat Arun (for more info on that, read my first "Houses of the Holy" entry from back in July).

Overall, this was a fun trip and worth doing at least once (although not twice). It would probably be pretty amazing if the river was crystal clear.