Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Today I returned from a one week stay in Lahore, Pakistan.

It was a pretty interesting experience, filled with culture and history. Anyone who is interested in what it was like can check out my new site:


I will be updating it throughout the week, so surf over often.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Check it out - I now have a logo for this site.

Let me know what you think of it by leaving me a comment in the guestbook under the links section on the right hand side of the page.

Special thanks to my friend Z in Detroit for helping me with all of the original concepts and to my friend Kate here in Bangkok for helping me refine the final version.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I am willing to bet that most people in Bangkok who find themselves on Asoke Road near Sukhumvit Soi 21 probably end up in the notorious Soi Cowboy district. I haven't met anyone here yet who has taken a walk across the street to visit the home of the Siam Society, an organization dedicated to preserving traditional Thai culture. And that's too bad, because it's an interesting place and doesn't really take much of a time commitment for a casual visit.

The grounds of the Siam Society are filled with wonderful lush plants which make for a relaxing atmposhpere. The main draw here is Baan Kamthieng a 160-year old traditional teakwood house that's a fine example of a Northern Thai structure built on wooden stilts.

Baan Kamthieng (baan means house by the way) also serves as an ethnological museum and contains many relics from Thailands history, including a statue of a goddess for the rice harvest (and a huge rice bowl):

And a lot of other artifacts:

There are other structures on the premises besides Baan Kamthieng and a library that houses many rare and historical documents.

The Siam Society sponsors a lot of trips in Thailand and overseas to study the arts and history. They also host lectures, concerts and exhibitions. For anyone into this kind of stuff, it seems like a great place. At the very least, it's nice to know that there's a beautiful garden oasis situated right in one of the craziest sections of town, in case a little peace and quiet is needed. It's a shame no one (or at least no one I'm aware of) knows about it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Steve Irwin (aka The Crocodile Hunter) tragically passed away on September 4 of this year. That was well over two months ago. With that in mind, the question remains: why are there over 20 plasma TV screens in the Central Chitlom department store still running his ads for Australian Made Clothing?

Maybe there's a market for deceased spokespeople here in Thailand. If so, then I am offering my services to any ad agency in town that wants to create a campaign featuring Jack Palance, Richard Pryor, Pat Morita or some other famous person who has bit the dust in the past 12 months. If a desired spokesperson has been in the great beyond for longer than that, then additonal research fees may apply.

Or perhaps the folks Australian Made Clothing either don't know that Irwin is dead or are too distraught to think about finding a suitable replacement. If that's the case, then I volunteer to travel to Sydney, Melbourne or anywhere in the Outback to track down Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson, Hugh Jackman, Paul Hogan, Elle McPherson (!) or anyone from INXS or AC/DC to start selling some shirts, pants and vests. I guarantee that a fun, creative solution can be found to this dilemma.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is this: there is an outdated advertising campaign running in a major Bangkok department store while at the same time a frustrated creative is waiting for his phone to ring (or an email to arrive in his inbox) with an offer to start making some ads. If anyone can help rectify this unfortunate set of circumstances, please contact me ASAP.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Last Friday, I had the pleasure of doing some volunteer work for “Coins on Silom,” an annual event sponsored by the Rotary Club of Bangkok South that benefits local charaties. For the past nine years, the members of this group and their friends have been collecting money along a section of Silom road between the Dusit Thani Hotel and Soi Lailaisap to go towards projects that benefit the underprivileged in Thailand. The donations are used for things like water purification systems for schools in upcountry Thailand, homes for disabled children, schools for the deaf and the blind, self-sustaining “mini-farm” food projects for rural schools and other programs aimed at helping low income communities.

Collecting money from people at a public place is fairly easy, but at times a bit frustrating. I’m the first to admit that nine times out of ten I don’t want to be bothered by people giving away (or collecting) anything on the street – whether it be credit card applications or money for a charity. If a stranger starts talking to me, I usually avoid eye contact and keep walking, especially here in Bangkok where solicitors can be found at every Sky Train station, on every street corner, and all places in between. The fact that I don’t speak their native language and therefore am unable to fully comprehend the message is the main reason for this, but the natural tendency to not want to be bothered by a stranger also plays into it. So for these reasons, I can’t blame the people that flat out ignored me that day.

At first I tried to fit in with the crowd and get my message out in Thai by saying “kaw chuay dek pican” which roughly translates to “please help the crippled children.” Judging my the number of confused looks I got, I most likely butchered the phrase every time it left my mouth, so after awhile I just started soliciting money in English and hoping that people would understand. It should be noted that most of the (mainly male) Farangs I tried to talk to avoided me like the plague.

Every person that donated received two round stickers. One had the Rotary’s “Coins on Silom 2006” logo on it and people were supposed to wear this during the day so that others would know that they donated. The other stickers had the logos of the events two platinum sponsors (California Wow Xperience fitness centers and Chang beer) and donors were supposed to place them on a strip of 3M red cloth tape (from another major sponsor) as a symbolic coin to recognize the collective efforts of everyone making contributions. I found that most people didn’t want to be bothered with bending down and putting a sticker on a piece of cloth on the sidewalk and I ended up putting most of them on myself. I’m told that in the past people were given an actual metal coin to put down and something tells me that people would feel that this is more symbolic than a sticker with a logo, although I’m sure that the folks at California Wow, Chang, and 3M certainly donated enough for the privilege of getting a small portion of their corporate identity out there. Perhaps next year a compromise that the general public can get more enthused about can be found. In addition, there were a few activities going on during the day including a ceremony to celebrate the donations and some Chinese acrobats and dancers to liven the mood.

All in all, I felt the experience was rewarding and worthwhile. I made some new friends and any time one can help those less fortunate than themselves is a good feeling (and yes I did put some of my own money in my collection can). Getting a reaction from a stranger, whether it was from an actual donation or the smile that goes along with it is also nice and something I will remember about “Coins on Silom.” I’m told that the event went well beyond last year’s totals as well as this year’s goal, while setting an all-time record for donations in the event’s history. The knowledge that I was a part (a very small part) of that is something that I will personally value until next year when I will try again to give a little of my time to this worthy cause.

Special thanks to Jim Fowler for the photographs and for inviting me to this event.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


If you're looking for an experience in Thailand that combines a little bit of Disney World with a little bit of Las Vegas than look no further than Phuket Fantasea.

A winner of a Best Attraction Thailand Tourism Award, the main draw here is Vegas-style production that details Thailand's history and culture through dancing, magical illusions, aeiral ballet, acrobatics, pyrotechnics, special effects, stunts and over 30 elephants. Photographs were not allowed in the theater (all cameras and cell phones were confiscated before the performance), so if you want to see what all this looks like please visit www.phuket-fantasea.com. I also couldn't get a decent shot of the outside of the theater because it was so dark, so that can be seen on the website as well.

We had to go to this show a bit early, since we were traveling from the hotel through an organized tour. Most people who go also have dinner there at the Golden Kinnaree, a place that's billed as "The World's Grandest Buffet!" We were told that it was a bit expensive and the food was mediocre, so we skipped the buffet and just hung out in the park section of Phuket Fantasea for about an hour and a half.

The park has a lot of things to do, but unlike Disney World, there are no rides. Like Disney World, there are a multitude of shops that reak of commercialization. Most of the stuff contained in them were trinkets and t-shirts and one would be amazed and the variety of different stuffed elephants one company could produce.

Note: this shop had nothing to do with the Beatles.

Phuket Fantasea also shared another common thing with Disney: people running around in crazy costumes in the extreme heat. These costumes ranged from traditional Thai dress:

To offbeat characters:

And one character in particular that wouldn't go over very well at Disney in today's politically correct world (Disney won't even re-release "Song of the South" on DVD for its 60th Anniversary this year):

There are also elephant rides, an activity which is achieving "No Big Deal" status for me the more I see it.

And elephants made out of Pepsi cans:

The Buffalo Band was playing at an outdoor beer garden. This rock group's set was an eclectic mix of covers including "The Breakup Song" by the Greg Kihn Band, "I Hate Myself for Loving You" by Joan Jett and "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple.

All in all, Phuket Fantasea was a good time and worth a visit if you're vacationing on the island. The show was entertaing, but it was no Cirque Du Soleil. But in all fairness, those shows in Las Vegas are in a league of their own, so based on its own merit, Phuket Fantasea is a fine family attraction.


The only side trip we took while in Phuket was a snorkeling excursion to the Phi Phi and Khai Islands. Our resort at Laguana Beach was on the west side of the island and we had to take a van to the east side (only about 15 minutes away) and from there it was about 30 minutes boat trip. Technically, these islands are not considered part of Phuket, but rather a part of the Krabi province of Southern Thailand.

The scenery on this trip was at times breathtaking, even for what are essentially giant tree-covered rocks in the middle of the ocean. This one was called Camel Rock.

Ko Phi Phi Don is the largest of the group (ko means "island" in Thai) and the only place on our trip that has permanent inhabitants and resorts and hotels.

Some of these inhabitants reside at a place called Monkey Beach. We fed these cute little creatures bananas from the boat, but were advised to not get too close to them. The snorklers in a nearby boat apparently didn't get that warning, but everything seemed OK. You just never know with wild animals, so it's better to be safe than sorry.

The next largest island of the group was Ko Phi Phi Ley. If you've seen the movie "The Beach" starring Leo DiCaprio, then you may recognize this place (I have not seen the flick).

One highlight at Ko Phi Phi Ley is the Viking Cave (we weren't allowed to go in though).

We spent some time on the beach at Maya Bay, which also offered some nice views.

This stalactite reminded me of something...

On the island was a "Snake Bar." No, there were not any live snakes there. And "Snake Bar" wasn't the proper name of the place (like "Cheers" or "Moe's Tavern" for instance). No this sign was just made by someone that did not know the difference between the spelling of the words "snack" and "snake." You get used to that sort of thing here in Thailand.

When visiting a tropical paradise, one learns that there is no shortage of women (in this case one of our shipmates) who want to offer you another breathtaking view free of charge. I don't think Max fully appreciated this one.

For lunch, we stopped at a National Park and had a nice buffet. The food was OK, but more importantly, it gave us a chance to relax a bit before doing some more snorkeling.

We finished the trip at Ko Khai. Most people just chilled out there, but Max and I snorkeled some more, right off the beach.

All in all it was a great trip. I really love snorkeling and the trip was well-organized with plenty of fruit and drinks available on the boat (you need this sort of thing after having your mouth in the saltwater for an extended period of time. Thankfully no chips or pretzels were offered). I think it's a perfect thing to do with a kid around Max's age (8). I could tell he was pretty impressed with it and I hope the trip was educational for him as well. I regret not bringing an underwater camera, so the only picture I got of fish was this one that was taken when they were whipped into a frenzy as we threw bread from the boat.

If you've never snorkeled, I can't recommend the experience enough. Until you put your mask-covered face in the ocean, you kind of take for granted that there's a whole other world underwater just waiting to be discovered. I can't wait to try scuba diving next.