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As I am no longer actively maintaining this blog, please direct your bookmarks to Baan Jochim Phuket. This is an alternate blog I created in late May when the government of Thailand was blocking the entire Blogspot domain.

Initially, I used the Wordpress-hosted blog to reprint interesting news items concerning Thailand or Southeast Asia in general with occasional entries relating to Thai history, culture, and holidays. But lately it has developed into a complete replacement for Goodnight Phuket.

Of course all of my previous entries here will remain available in the Archives. And, should there be another sweeping blockage of Wordpress that lasts more than a couple of days, I will post here once again (currently, my ISP -- TOT -- tries to blog the domain but it's haphazard at best).

I hope to see most of you over at Baan Jochim Phuket.
Baan Jochim Phuket



From The Nation, published 16 September 2007:

Higher death toll very likely after budget airplane carrying 128 crashlanded

Forty-five dead bodies, most of them foreigners, have been retrieved from wreckage of a One-Two-Go plane at the Phuket airport. The budget airliner exploded and broke in two after it crashlanded and skidded off the runway and crashed into nearby walls on Sunday afternoon. Dozens more are feared dead.

Some reports put the death toll at about 60, but this has yet to be confirmed. The nationalities of those onboard are not immediately known, but Phuket is a highly popular destination for overseas tourists.

A surviving passenger said the plane "landed hard" and "bounced" and then skidded off the runway. Civil aviation official Chiasak Angkauwan said, "the airplane requested to land but due to the weather in Phuket -- strong wind and heavy rain -- maybe the pilot did not see the runway clearly."

"The plane then fell onto the runway and broke into two. It is expected that there will be a lot of casualties."

"We are rescuing people from the aircraft ... we know now there were 123 passengers and five crew," he told the news channel.

"We won't know what really happened until we get information from the black box."

The airliner services Bangkok-Phuket flights six times a week. The ill-fated airline left Don Muang airport at about 2.30pm.

Information now coming in said the plane, which was being used by local budget travel company, One-to-Go Airline, had 123 passengers and five crew.

The aircraft, flight number OG 269, landed at Phuket airport at about 3.40pm from Bangkok and was taxiing along the runway when it went into a slide. Phuket had earlier been hit by heavy rains.

It crashed into trees and walls surrounding the airport.

Eye-witnesses said the impact of the crash caused the plane to break in two and they heard a series of explosions.

Rescue teams and navy personnel were involved in the rescue operation. All flights in and out of the Phuket airport have been cancelled.



TOT Block of Wordpress
Last night when trying to access my main blog at Baan Jochim Phuket, I was greeted by the page above. This translates as:

Sorry. TOT Plc., as an organization of Thai people, has restrained the access to this website as it contains content, text, and/or picture that is unappropriated which affects the mind of Thai people all over the country and cannot be accepted.

Thailand-WordpressApparently my internet service provider, the government-owned TOT, is blocking all blogs on the Wordpress domain in the latest example of Thai censorship of the media. According to articles on FACT- Freedom Against Censorship Thailand and Global Voices Advocacy, this block has been in effect since 22 August. As with all things that TOT has a hand in (i.e., frequent downtime once they finally connect your service -- it took a couple of months from the time we placed the order to the time they installed the line and connected our ADSL despite us living less than half-a-kilometer from the service center), this blockage seems very haphazard. Until last night, I'd had no problems accessing various Wordpress blogs and they're all coming up fine this morning.

Still, the blatant censorship practiced by the Thai government gets extremely tiring. Readers may remember that I began this particular blog as a result of the Thai Ministry of Information and Communication Technology's ban of the Blogger domain and my inability to access my longtime blog, Goodnight Phuket. We finally just got the ban against YouTube lifted but we always have to wonder what will be next...

Additional articles about the TOT blockage of Wordpress:
DBTB Protests Against the Blockage in Thailand
Wordpress Blocked in Thailand as Well Blocked in Thailand



Seen on Daily Blog Tips:

Thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, your readers have no way of knowing what you’re wearing as you write. The tone and content of your writing, however, affects the reader’s perception of you just as much as your clothing would if they met you face to face. So what is your writing saying about you? If I read your blog, would I envision you in a suit & tie, khakis, or pajamas?

Suit & Tie Bloggers

Suit & tie bloggers are out to impress. Plugged in to the information that matters, they are the expert voices of their niche. They give their readers the facts, news, and developments that really matter. Their writing is formal and succinct, free of bias and absolutely packed with useful information. These bloggers usually have another full time job, and they share professional experiences coming from their field. Guy Kawasaki is an example.

Khaki Bloggers

Khaki bloggers straddle the middle ground between expertise and personality. They showcase facts and opinions, giving their readers a unique but informed perspective of their niche. Their writing has the feel of a newspaper columnist, inviting discussion and educating at the same time. Unlike suit & tie bloggers, they aren’t afraid to ask questions. This balanced approach allows khaki bloggers to attract a more diverse audience than their professional and casual analogues. Brian Clark is an example.

Pajama Bloggers

Pajama bloggers project personality through their writing. They tell stories, engage their readers, and share their feelings. Their writing may play hard and fast with the rules of good grammar at times, but it flows in a very natural way. Readers can relate to pajama bloggers, so they feel more at ease to communicate. Thus, pajama blogs enjoy a higher degree of interaction than their more professional cousins. John Chow is an example.

So, which kind of blogger are you?



Yes, I'm very much behind the times on this one but I have never read any of the Harry Potter books or watched any of the movies in full (we do have the first film on a Thai VCD but it always stops playing during the Quidditch match scene).  With the release of the seventh book a few weeks back and the resulting media coverage (not to mention my sister sending me photos of my nephew during a book release party — he's the spitting image of Harry), I decided that it was time to find out what all the fuss has been about.

However, I've put my family on a rather severe budget and wasn't able to justify buying the hardcover of Deadly Hallows (at a minimum of 850 baht in the local bookshops) and I can't seem to find any of the earlier novels in either paperback or hardback.  I'm sure I can find the DVD's in the markets but these are always hit-and-miss with either poorly-dubbed Thai soundtracks (and really bad English subtitles) or pirated camera-in-the-theater renditions.  I thought about asking for some Potterian Christmas gifts but I simply couldn't wait that long.  Then I thought to search for downloads on my favorite BitTorrent search engine.  Voila!  Not only did I download all seven books in nice PDF versions (OCR scans, but they seem mostly accurate) but I'm currently downloading iPod-ready versions of all five movies.

I printed out Chapter One of The Philosopher's Stone this morning and read it during lunch today.  I enjoyed it and am looking forward to immersing myself in Harry Potter during my free time in the upcoming weeks...



Lying midway between Phuket and Krabi Province, Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi are the largest of the islands in Phang Nga Bay comprising a total of 137 square kilometers. According to local legend the strait between the two islands was created when a very angry Naga (sea dragon) crashed through on its way to Krabi to see his fiancee being married to someone else.

A giant sea serpent had used its magical powers to help a woman give birth to a baby girl. In return, the Naga demanded that his son be allowed to marry the girl when she was of age. When the time came, however, the woman forgot her promise and arranged for her daughter to marry a local prince instead. Learning of the woman's treachery, the sea dragon swam towards the Krabi shore in a rage splitting in half the largest island in the bay on his way. The pandemonium caused by the arrival of the Naga at the wedding ceremony disturbed a powerful hermit who was meditating in a nearby cabe. The hermit, who apparently had a low tolerance for noise, transformed the warring families and the sea serpent into the oddly shaped mountains that are now so prominent around the Phang Nga peninsula.

For centuries it has been believed that Koh Yao was populated by the Chao Leh (sea gypsies), nomadic groups who traveled from island to island for fish and other see food. There is also evidence that many early settlers migrated from Thailand's southern provinces and from Malaysia.

The smaller of the islands, 50-square kilometer Koh Yao Noi, has seven villages with a total population of around 4500, ninety-nine percent of whom are Muslim. The largest settlement is Tha Khai, a subdistrict seat which contains a hospital, market, police station, and the only 7-Eleven of the 44-island archipelago. Hat Pa Sai and Hat Tha Khao are the best beaches (the local residents hope that the extreme low tides will continue to keep the large resorts so prominent on Phuket from developing there).

A visit to Koh Yao Noi is like stepping back in time to witness the Phuket of 20 or 30 years ago. Accommodation is still limited to simple bungalows and a few boutique-style resorts although Evason has recently opened a high-end resort on Koh Yao Yai (with prices topping out at USD $10,000 per night). There are a few tuk tuk's and songtaews available to transport visitors and motorbike rentals can be had for 200 baht per day.

The main industries on Koh Yao Noi are fishing and rubber planting. Rice farming and a few coconut, palm, and fruit plantations are also evident. Boat building and farming techniques here have been passed from father to son and, while some of the youngsters leave Koh Yao to seek the bright lights of Phuket, most eventually return to their tight-knit community.

The best way to explore the island is by bicycle or motorbike. A narrow mostly-paved road winds its way around the periphery of the island and most locals walk or get around on their motorbikes. Cars and trucks are a rarity. As we traveled around on the Sunday of our three-day visit, I was struck most at how many people waved and smiled at us as we passed by.

We headed out from Baan Jochim about midday on the Saturday of the holiday weekend; it took us about 45 minutes to travel from our home in Chalong up to the Bang Rong pier out past Paklok on Phuket's eastern shore. Our motorbike-sidecar secured at the pier we boarded the ferry that would take us over to Koh Yao Noi. The boat is actually a lontail boat with a flat-roofed cabin with space for approximately 50 passengers. Since many locals take day-trips into Phuket to purchase supplies, the roof was laden with everything from reams of copier paper and cartons of eggs to computer equipment. We threw our bags among the market purchases and settled down for the passage.

I would say around 70 people total had crammed onto the small ferry, along with four or five motorbikes lashed on the front desk and in the forward part of the cabin. One of these longtail ferries on the Phuket to Koh Yao run capsized last year because of a combination of overcrowding and high waves during rainy season so this was on my mind as we shoved off from the pier. There are now lifejackets provided but nobody seemed to pay much attention to them. Everyone on the boat was jovial and I had fun playing peek-a-boo with a Down's Syndrome boy had befriended me.

The trip to the islands took a bit over an hour; our first stop was at Klong Hia Pier on Koh Yao Yai where several passengers and motorbikes were offloaded. Then, it was a short passage across the strait (passing a solitary rock which locals believe is a scale that fell off of the Naga as he sliced through the land) to Koh Yao Noi's Manoh Pier. The voyage cost the three of us a total of 200 baht. A jeep from the bungalow was waiting for us and we enjoyed the 20-minute drive from the southern point of the island to our destination in the northeast.

We were given a family-size bungalow at Tha Khao Bungalows, just off of the beach. The view was magnificent and I fell in love with the Lanna-style teak bungalow. It had a large porch fronting the building where we were to spend hours relaxing and watching the sea towards the Krabi coastline. Inside contained a front room with double-bed plus three side rooms which we didn't use. A large bathroom at the far end contained a small sink plus separate toilet (Western-style!) and large shower rooms. It was a real bargain at 1000-baht (approximately USD $30) per night.

During our stay, we took all of our meals at the Tha Khao Bungalows restaurant. Our first night, I had an excellent tom kha gai (coconut soup with chicken) that contained red peppers and chili instead of the usual mushrooms (which I don't like). Breakfasts were pancakes (with pineapple one morning and bananas the next) topped with locally-made honey.

We spent most of our weekend (arrived Saturday afternoon, departed midday on Monday) at the bungalow or on the beach immediately in front of it. During the low tides, we walked out towards the nearby island Koh Nok and when the water was in on Sunday we paddled around in a rented kayak (200 baht per day). Other available activities include bird-watching, snorkeling, diving, rock climbing, or voyaging among the nearby islands by longtail boat.

I caught up on a lot of reading while my wife worked on a crochet handbag and our son played with toy dinosaurs or colored in a Thai-history coloring book (there wasn't a television, thank goodness). We also spent a nice morning driving around the island on a motorbike (half-day rental was 100 baht). We turned in around 7:30 each evening (the light bulbs on the patio and in the main room were too dim to read by) and I woke up each morning shortly after six. Because of a typhoon coming in from Sumatra, it did rain both nights but this only served to clear the air and make it easier to sleep.

We returned to Phuket on Monday's 11:00 ferry which started out in a downpour but the sun began to shine as we approached Bang Rong pier.

I must say it was the most relaxing journey I've made in Thailand thus far (I wasn't sure this would be possible with Alex along; this was the first trip we've made together since he arrived shortly before Christmas last year). We had a great time and I felt like I experienced a bit of the "real Thailand" that I've been missing lately (Phuket tends to feel more like the West much of the time between my job and our shopping expeditions). I'm already planning a return visit for the Christmas/New Year's holiday, possibly taking the ferry the rest of the way over to Krabi...

To view more photos from our holiday on Koh Yao Noi, please click on the thumbnails for each day of the trip:
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Asarnha Puja 1There are two important Buddhist holidays on Sunday and Monday of this coming week -- Asarnha Puja Day (วันอาสาฬหบูชา) marks the Buddha's first sermon which he gave on the full moon day of the eighth lunar month; and Wan Khao Phansa (วันเข้าพรรษา), the beginning of the three-month Rains Retreat during which time monks aren't allowed to leave their temples or to defrock.

This year, Asarnha Puja falls on 29 July. The Lord Buddha's first sermon -- which the day honors -- is called Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. During this discourse, the Buddha talked about "The Middle Way", which means that we should try hard enough but not too hard. If we wish to be successful in Spiritual life, we should avoid the two extremes:

  1. Trying too hard, such as not eating or not sleeping enough.

  2. Not trying hard enough, such as eating and sleeping too much.

He also spoke about the Noble Eightfold Path. This path tells us:

  1. To live in a way that does not harm ourselves or others.

  2. To help ourselves and others.

  3. To purify the mind.

He advised people to speak and act and earn their living in good ways. He also advised them to practice meditation to purify their minds. Then they can get deep wisdom.



Sony Cybershot DSC-W55My wife surprised me yesterday with an early anniversary gift (we were married on 2 August 2006 in the Bang Rak district of Bangkok). She gave me a "Caribbean blue" Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W55 camera, replacing my old DSC-W7 which was stolen back in mid-April. It's a bit of an upgrade in features and styling (being thinner and more colorful, for example) but the 7.2 megapixels is the same as the one I had before.

I'd been dreaming and saving up for the Cyber-shot T100 but at an average price of just under 18,000 baht in Phuket that proved to be unattainable. Tim's main reasoning for buying this particular camera (other than "it looks nice") was that she thought the lens was the same size as my old one and that my adapter and additional lenses/filters would fit (it's not and they don't; I think I'll put them up on eBay). Something I really like is the availability of a custom marine pack -- a waterproof casing that enables me to shoot underwater (up to a depth of ten feet), during inclement weather, or in particularly dusty conditions (my old camera lens had picked up some pits from beach sand). I'm thinking I can take some worry-free Songkran photos next year.

I can't wait to get out-and-about today and shoot some photos (had to spend seven hours charging the proprietary lithium ion battery yesterday). In the meantime, here are a couple of photos I've shot already including the very first picture taken with the new camera (in the IT "mall" in the basement of Big C while browsing camera accessories) and one of my laptop last night while planning an upcoming holiday trip.
Tim and Alex at Big C 2007-07-14
My desktop - Phuket Bus Schedules



We've just concluded a weekend-long celebration for Alex's seventh birthday, the bulk of which was auspiciously held on 07/07/07 (7 July 2007).

After returning home from work at mid-day on Saturday (yes, I do work six days a week at my school), I spent much of the afternoon hanging out with our son on the ground floor of our shophouse (something I don't often get to do).  We played some games and then watched a couple of DVD's (disc one of U2's ZooTV Live From Sydney and a new Bangkok concert video from Bird Tongchai which started with a lengthy medley of 1970s disco songs).  The little three-year-old girl from down the road came for a visit and we had to entertain her to make sure she didn't get into too much mischief; my nickname for her is "Grabby" as she wants to grab just about anything that's not nailed down.

Tim and La prepared various snacks for the party including some awesome onion rings and buffalo wings.  I ate my fill before many guests had arrived.  As each person came and gave Alex a present he'd immediately grab it and tear open the paper.  We've been trying to teach him that he needs to say "thank you" when accepting gifts but he continues to be rude in this manner.  (In fact, he exhibits a total lack of respect to virtually everyone — totally alien behavior in the Thai culture — and it has earned my wife and I much embarrassment, not to mention some admonishments from his school.  Nothing we do or say to him seems to help...)  I managed to get Tim over to watch him open a few presents but it wasn't easy.  However, when our Dutch neighbor Franz gave him a very cool car track set late in the evening Alex was all smiles and "thank yous" for a change.  Everytime our son opened a present "Grabby" immediately tried to wrench the gift from Alex's hands.  He soon learned to spirit the toys away before she could get her mits on them.

I thought the highlight of the presents would be when we presented Alex with his new (first) TV and DVD player.  He'd been asking for his own TV since we moved into our new house.  I finally caved and told my wife perhaps we could do this, it being his first birthday since moving in with us (and, I have since found out, his first-ever birthday party!).  I had in mind a 14-inch television and one of those mini DVD players to hook up to it.  A visit to Makro with their extremely low prices put an end to that plan and we ended up purchasing a 25-inch set (Katana brand) for a bit over 2000 baht (USD $60 or so).  I kind of regret that decision now because I still have to haul it up three flights of stairs to Alex's bedroom.  Anyway, he hardly glanced at the TV when La and I carried it in (we'd been hiding it at the restaurant two doors down) being more focused on a set of plastic dominoes someone had given him.

A very nice surprise was that many of the girls (and one boy) in my P.3 class at school had made birthday cards to give to Alex.  He seemed pleased to think that he has several potential little girlfriends over there...

Finally, it was time for cake and ice cream.  Tim had purchased a special Spider Man cake at the bakery just off of Chalong Circle (Spidey having supplanted Ultraman as Alex's favorite character).  It had kind of a spice cake flavor underneath the chocolate.  Tasty.  I dished out the vanilla ice cream (Thai ice cream tastes better than any other I've had before) while my wife sliced the cake.  Dtom arrived around this time and soon had the karaoke playing at ear-splitting volume (she's the biggest abuser of our hospitality and tends to argue with me when I ask her to turn something down, etc.; I was REALLY glad when she got a job at a massage parlor in Patong and began living at that shop so we hardly see her anymore).

I played with Alex on the floor for a while (putting together his new car track and showing how to play dominoes) before an upset stomach got the best of me and I retreated upstairs.  I have no idea how long the party continued after I left but I was very surprised this morning to see that the downstairs had been (more or less) cleaned.

Much of this morning was rainy (and with more of the terrible gusts of wind we've been experiencing lately) so our planned outing to the zoo had to be scrapped.  But in the afternoon we headed out to Central Festival in order to catch the "Transformers" movie (and getting soaked by a rain shower en route).  We don't get out to the movies very often (our last time was the first installment of "King Naresuan" back in January) so it's a real treat to go.  I always enjoy being able to pick our seats on the computer screen and they always give you a free gift with your tickets ("Transformers" magnets this time).  We had a bit of time to browse at the huge B2S book shop before the movie began and I fell in love with the lavishly-illustrated Thailand:  A Traveller's Companion but I felt it was a bit too pricey at 895 baht.  I did hint to my wife that it would make a lovely anniversary present (our first is coming up on August 2nd).

After the movie, I treated Alex and Tim to a dinner at Pizza Hut.  We really splurged (spending 800 baht); I had a Meat Supreme personal pan pizza, Tim had lasagna, and Alex ordered a medium-sized pizza with a cheese-sausage crust (it looks disgusting but apparently it's very popular here to have strange meats in your pizza crusts) and crab with pineapple toppings.  We shared an order of barbecue spare ribs (really, the best thing I've eaten all week) and drank some really nice apple shakes.

It was a really nice way to end a great birthday weekend.  I feel like I've gained a few pounds this weekend (desperately needed as I've lost all sorts of weight climbing four flights of stairs throughout the school days not to mention three flights every night and every morning at home).  After our anniversary on August second, the next gift-giving holiday is Mother's Day (coinciding with HM the Queen's birthday) which is actually a Friday through Monday affair.  And then I suppose it's Thanksgiving (we'll give a turkey with gravy dinner another try) and on to my birthday, HM the King's birthday (AKA Father's Day), and Christmas...



Independence Day 5

Independence Day 3Happy Independence Day from southern Thailand!

Last year, Independence Day found me on a large wooden boat crossing the strait between Ranong, Thailand, and Kawthung, Myanmar, on a visa run (the only one my then-fiance accompanied me on; we would be married in a bit less than a month).

Since I'm working this year I don't plan to participate in any celebration other than taking an American flag to school (which I'll hang in the classroom). There are a few small July 4th celebrations scheduled among the expat community (including one at Don's Mall in Rawai) and there was the large one at the U.S. Embassy Annex in Bangkok on Saturday. Perhaps I'll be able to watch some fireworks on CNN or Fox News tomorrow.

It's on holidays such as this that I really miss Kansas City barbecue ribs, my brother-in-law's charcoal-grilled hamburgers, and my sister's (via my mom's recipe) potato salad. Not to mention, a nice cold bottle of Boulevard Pale Ale...

Independence Day 4



July 1 is National Scout Day (วันคล้ายวันสถาปนาคณะลูกเสื) commemorating the founding of Thai Scouting by King Rama VI on this day in 1911.  Thailand was only the third country in the world to take up Scouting and remains the only nation to have ever had it's program directly founded by a monarch.  The king established the Wild Tiger Corps for adults and created a junior branch which continues today as the Scouts. King Rama VI is thus fondly remembered as the "Father of Thai Scouting."

The Thai Scouting program (which includes Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Guides) is also probably one of the largest national programs as it's mandatory for every student in school to enroll.  In our school, Mondays (for lower Primary) and Wednesdays (for P. 4 through M. 1) are the weekly Scout days when the students wear their uniforms to school and participate in activities during the final periods of the day.  I'm the leader (along with one other teacher) of the P. 1 through P. 3 Scout Patrols in English and I enjoy it very much, having been in the U.S. Boy Scouts when I was much younger (I now regret not having kept my uniform when I moved out of my parents' home).

Most schools in Thailand stage parades and other activities to mark National Scout Day.  Since this year it fell on a Sunday, a brief ceremony was included in our school's regular morning assembly honoring the memory of King Rama VI.  The P. 4 through M. 1 Scouts, along with the school band, were to hold a more extravagent commemoration today.  I wasn't able to attend but I watched them drilling and rehearsing while at the school yesterday for my extra lesson.



You know when you've become a part of a community when your photo starts appearing in local tourist publications.

The latest issue of the Jungceylon free shopper broadsheet includes two photos of my wife, son, and myself taken when HRH Princess Soamsavali Phravararajatinuddamatu visited Patong on 19 May.  I'd previously written a blog entry about how I'd been the subject of a number of official photos taken during the royal audience as the only farang seated up front.  Well, these are the first I've seen (although some friends of Tim's said they'd seen some in various Thai-language newspapers) and aren't too bad at all (my face is partially obscured by a yellow King's flag in one, however).




Ton Sai brochureLast weekend, we made a family outing to Ton Sai Waterfall in the heart of Phuket’s last remaining pristine tropical rainforest.  Officially called the Khao Pra Taew Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Center, this 5,570-acre non-hunting sanctuary sprawls north to south over three tambons in Amphur Thalang — Thep Krasatri, Sri Sunthorn, and Pa Klok.   The three highest peaks in the mountain range are Khao Pra Taew at 384 meters above sea level, Khao Bang Pae (388 meters), and Khao Phara (422 meters).

Declared a wildlife park by the Royal Forest Department in 1977, the sanctuary features a wide variety of wild animals such as the tusked hairy wild boar, Malay sun deer, langurs, porcupines, deer (including the barking deer and mouse deer), monkeys, gibbons, cobras, pythons, monitor lizards, flying foxes, civet, bats, macaques, flying squirrels, chameleons, and many species of birds.

Dransfield palmThe tropical rainforest contains many kinds of trees and plants with various ferns, climbers, palm shrubs, and bamboos sharing space with tall canopy trees without many branches dominating.  There’s also a unique species of palm not found anywhere else in the world.   Kerridoxa elegans Dransfield grows to about five to seven meters and has fairly large fanlike serrated leaves.  Commonly called palm lang khao, or Thalang Governor’s palm, the back of the leaf is greenish white in color which is a unique characteristic of the species.  The palms grow cream-colored flowers from December to February and they produce yellow fruit which is eaten by some animals.  the nut has a yellow rind that becomes darker when ripe.  Fallen seeds take root on the ground, becoming new plants.

Many small underwater wells rise to the surface in the dense forest and flow into two waterfalls, Bang Pae in the southeast and Ton Sai on the western slopes of the range.  There is a large ficus three located near where Ton Sai originates, hence the name meaning “ficus waterfall” (ton is southern dialect for waterfall and sai is Thai for ficus tree).

The park has a number of hiking trails in the forest including a 2km circuit of Ton Sai waterfall and a 14km trek connecting it with Bang Pae.  Guides can be hired from the reserve office near the Ton Sai entrance.

map 1To get there, head north from Phuket Town towards the airport on Thepkasattri Road (route 402) about 22km.  Turn right at the main intersection in the town of Thalang; the road is actually called Ton Sai Waterfall Road but is narrow and easy to miss (it’s a bit north of Thalang Hospital and the Provincial Electricity Authority and a bit south of the Provincial Police Station).  You will drive through about 5km of rubber plantations before reaching the Forestry Department checkpoint.  Two-tiered pricing in in effect here (100 baht for farangs) but if you have a Thai driver’s license or tax ID card you can get the local price.  Admission is free after 3pm.

Ton Sai waterfallI was very impressed with the facilities at Ton Sai.  The grounds themselves are nicely landscaped and the trails well-maintained.  There’s a small visitor center with information about the flora and fauna found in the park.  While the displays are written in Thai, brochures are available in several languages including French and English.  There’s also at least two restaurants, nice restroom facilities (not sure if they were squat or Western-style toilets as I didn’t need to go), and a playground.  Just past the parking area is a large reservoir ringed by fig trees; bearing fruit year-round the local villagers eat the figs with chili dip or rice spaghetti and curry.  The falls themselves are fairly attractive, descending in several streams forming a number of pools.

Although much smaller than Bang Pae I think I much prefer this waterfall as it’s less crowded, cleaner, and has a prettier setting.  We’ll definitely return at some point for a picnic and some hiking (Alex and did a bit of climbing around the falls).  A few small bungalows are located near the waterfall and are probably worth further investigation.



Wai Khru krabTeachers are very highly regarded in Thailand.  The most important event at schools throughout the country is the Wai Khru.  This is always held on a Thursday towards the beginning of the academic year because Thursdays are considered to be an auspicious day for teachers.  Our school held Wai Khru ceremonies for the English Programme this past week.  It was my first experience of this truly memorable event.

"Wai Khru" is Thai for "pay respect to the teacher."  The students present their teachers with flowers or jasmine garlands, thanking them for teaching them in the past and also to gain merit and good fortune for the future.  The students actually prostrate themselves at the teachers' feet in what is called a krab — the most polite way to show respect.  It's similar to lay people making an offering to high monks which says a lot for how Thai people feel about teachers.

Our school had two Wai Khru ceremonies in the English Programme — one in the morning for the Kindergarten and another after lunch for lower Primary through Mattayom 1 students.  They each began with the school band playing a song for teachers and the students reciting several prayers.  The teachers and school administrators were seated in a line of chairs across the length of the assembly hall.

The flower presentations began when a boy and a girl representative from each class in turn approached the center of the line of chairs walking on their knees.  They then presented a flower arrangement they'd made the day before to the school's manager and principal.  The flowers used in these arrangements are chosen for their symbolism. Dok Ma Khue (eggplant flower) stands for respect because when the tree blooms it's branches bend down in the same way a student pays respect to his teacher.  The Yam Puek (Bermuda grass) flower stands for patience and perserverance; it actually appears wilted but it is very much alive.  And Khao Tok (popped rice) is symbolic of discipline because the rice is placed in a pan together and heated up to become popped rice.

The students prostrated themselves, presented the flowers, gave a wai to the school manager and principal, and then proceeded along in front of the row of teachers' chairs while remaining on their knees.   The flower arrangements were passed along the line from teacher to teacher until eventually there was one sitting in front of each of us on a knee-high bench.

Next, each class in turn lined up and approached the row of teachers.  They did a krab at our feet, presented us with their individual flowers brought from home, waied us, and then proceeded back to sit on the floor of the assembly hall.  Most students gave us the Dom Kem flower which means "needle" in Thai.   It's symbolic in that the students believe it will make them sharp-witted and brainy.  Many of these flowers were presented in an arrangement with incense sticks and a candle.  Together with the flowers, they represent the Triple Gem (ratanatri) of Buddhism — the Buddha, his Teachings (Dharma), and the Community (Sangha).

We each received so many flowers (there being some 800 students in the English Programme) that once we received them we would hand them to student volunteers behind us.  I kept a particularly beautiful arrangement to give my wife when she picked me up later in the day, surprising her immensely.

Wai Khru ended with a speech from the school's principal and the band playing a song for HM the King.  It truly was a remarkable ceremony and I felt somewhat humbled to be on the receiving end of so much respect.  I did videotape portions of the event from my vantage point in the row of teachers; although I'm still without a camera I hope to post some photos taken by some of the school staff later in the week (the picture of the students doing the krab at the head of this entry is from a post by Richard Barrow on the Praknam Web Forums).

The only detractor to the afternoon was the intense heat — our school's assembly hall/canteen aren't air-conditioned and the three or four large fans brought in for the ceremony just couldn't cope.  It was quite a trial for students and teachers alike to sit there sweating for some two-and-a-half-hours.  Still, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.  My first-ever Wai Khru really did make me feel like a part of something special.

[Cross-posted on my Thai culture & news blog at Baan Jochim Phuket.]



The Thai Ministry of Communication Information and Technology has lifted their country-wide blocking of the Blogspot domain.  This is good news for Thai-based Internet users and blog-writers as we can once again view hundreds of thousands of blogs that are hosted by the Blogger service.

Aside from occasional cross-posts with my other blog, Baan Jochim Phuket, GOODNIGHT PHUKET's primary focus will now be my family life with occasional travel/tourist/local info.

Baan Jochim Phuket will deal primarily with the politics, religion, customs, etc. of my adopted country of Thailand with various news clips, other blog posts that I find interesting, as well as my original writings.  I urge you to check both sites regularly (or subscribe to the RSS feeds).

New content on my Wordpress-hosted blog includes a primer on Thai culture and customs, news items about violence in the south and an increase in protests as the new national constitution is drafted as well as a user's guide for Thailand's ubiquitous squat toilets.  I've also included a page listing the holidays and festivals in Thailand for 2007 (although I still need to complete the section on regional special days).  Please check it out when you have time...

My next post on GOODNIGHT PHUKET will detail a weekend trip we made to Ton Sai Waterfall in Tambon Thalang that included a stop-off at Bangrong Pier in search of gibbons.  I also plan to write a report on our school's Wai Kru ("Honor the Teacher Day") which will occur on Thursday.  Watch for both to appear soon...



HM the King 80th Birthday LogoHis Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช), or Rama IX as he is known in the West, ascended to the throne following the death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol on 9 June 1946.  The world's and the longest-reigning current head of statelongest-serving monarch in Thai history, he was formally crowned in Bangkok on 5 May 1950.  During last year's massive celebrations for the 60th anniversary of his rule, the King and Queen appeared on the balcony of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall before hundreds of thousands of people on 9 June which was a public holiday (as was most of the following week).

On 16 January 2007, the Council for National Security officially declared the end of the 60th anniversary celebrations and commenced year-long celebrations of Bhumibol's 80th birthday.  Thus, today was extremely low-key compared to the festivities last year.

But we do have a new song, courtesy of the Office of the Prime Minister — "Father of the Land" (พ่อของแผ่นดิน, Poh Khong Phan Din).  The song was first played nationwide this morning at 9:00 a.m. and will be continuously aired in public places to encourage people to learn the song. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont (สุรยุทธ์ จุลานนท์) is inviting people from all corners of Thailand to jointly sing the song.


In Thai schools, there are many chants and prayers said at morning assemblies and lunch.  Although the school where I work is bilingual with 800 students in their own English Programme building, all of these are said exclusively in Thai.  This leaves curious teachers like myself wanting to learn more Thai in order to understand what is going on (at least I can now [almost] sing the entire national anthem...phonetically).

When I take my students downstairs for lunch (in separate lines for the boys and girls), they are seated at long tables in the canteen (again, boys on one side and girls on the other).  Only when all of the classes are seated more or less quietly at the tables is the lunch prayer said.  A kind of grace, it is not really religious but more ethical.  It's to remind the students that they should eat properly and that they should be grateful to the people who provided them with the food. The children and adults wai while a school administrator or teacher leads them in the prayer, repeating each section.

I just found a translation of one Thai school lunch prayer done by a Primary 6 student.  I'm not sure if it's exactly the same as the one said at our school but the general content is probably the same:

"During the time that we eat lunch, don't speak or say things that aren't good.  Don't make a noise.  Take enough food for only one mouthful.  Chew the food into little pieces so that you can digest the food properly.  Before you get up from your seat, clean up your desk.  Put the plate or a bowl orderly into the enameled basin.  You mustn't waste any food.  You must eat it all.  There are many starving children in the world.  Pity all of the children that don't have anything to eat.  All of the food has a worth.  When you eat food you must have good manners.  Don't chew the food loudly.  Don't talk when you are eating and don't say something that is bad.  Don't laugh when you are eating.  Thank you to our teachers that take care of us and all of the cooks that make us the food we eat.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you very much."



We've come to the end of another long week.  I did a bit more substitute teaching — Language Activities for a P4 class and English for P5 — in addition to my regular Reading classes for P3.

On Monday I was in charge of the lower-Primary Cub Scouts during which I (tried) to teach them the Scout Motto ("Be Prepared"), Oath, and Rules.  I'd made a worksheet that explained each of these — both in English and Thai — but this group of Scouts just don't seem interested at all.  The Thai Scouting program is a big part of teaching morals to students in the schools here but I'm finding it difficult to reach the kids in this way.  Perhaps my co-Scout teachers (Tony and Ted) will have more luck this coming week.

During my lunchroom break duty on Wednesday, a P1 student came up to me saying he'd lost his shoes.  When we began to look for them I asked where he'd last seen his shoes to which he replied in all innocence, "On my feet, teacher."  File this under "the funny/cute things kids say..."

Friday was extremely eventful as I was given a Homeroom, sort of.  The teacher in P3 Yellow had had some problems so the school's director decided to move him to another level.  I've been given the responsibility of teaching all the English-related courses (including Phonics, Language Activities, etc.) for that class in addition to my P3-level Reading classes.  Two very experienced teachers will teach the Math and Science courses in P3 Yellow (one has been at the school for eight years now), sharing the class with me.  Unfortunately, I don't get to take over the Extra Lessons in the afternoon (which means more pay) but at least I'll be learning more of the homeroom routines and have a chance to tackle the administrative duties (paperwork) as well.

That evening was the P3 Parents' Night.  Our school's director personally came to the P3 Yellow classroom so he could explain the change in teachers and introduce us to the parents.  I was a bit nervous at first but the parents soon warmed up to me when I answered their questions about how long I'd been in Thailand (virtually every Thai I meet are very impressed when they find out I have a Thai wife and family).  One of the mothers invited me to her son's birthday party the following day.

The party was held in a very nice house in Land & Houses Park — a gated community about five minutes from our home in Chalong.  Upon arriving at the clubhouse I heard some children call out, "Hello, Teacher Mark."  The more I teach, the more I run into my students at all sorts of places.  Teachers Dave and Donna were there waiting for Teacher Cornell.  When he arrived we made our way to the parents' home.  It was a very nice get-together.  The father is from America; he and his (Thai) wife had laid out a very impressive spread of food that included guacamole with chips, baby-back ribs, and fajitas.  I gave everyone a crash course in how to prepare and fold a fajita.  There was cake and ice cream for desert and I'm still full almost 24 hours later!

My wife had a good time as well as the hostess's mother is from Lamphun (Tim's home province) and they spent sometime talking about that area.  We did have to leave earlier than I would have liked but we needed to check on Alex who'd been left with a couple of Tim's friends.

I've been fairly lazy today — working on the computer (some school-related work, some music-related tasks) and watching a bit of television.  I think I'll try to read for an hour or so before going to bed.


Ever since my website host was bought out by another company last year, I've experienced intermittent problems.  Most of these problems have involved billing; I changed my credit card details with the hosting company after my old card expired at the end of last year.  Yet each month since then they've attempted to bill the old card and the site gets shut down for a couple of days until I resend the newer card info.  They still send billing and change-of-service notices to my AT&T e-mail address although I've sent customer service the domain email address (that THEY provided in the first place) repeatedly over the past year.

Well, the latest is that I just received an email that my domain is due to expire in five days along with a link to renew the domain.  Yet, clicking on the link brings the error notice "The domain zone is not supported by vendor."  When I visited the log-in page for my website's control panel, I received the message "Invalid Domain, IP address or password" after entering the same log-in information I've been using since the beginning of the site.  And this comes after they sent an email a few months ago announcing site upgrades, along with an increase in fees from $9.95 to $19.95 per month.

I'm fed up with the whole thing.  I really haven't had time to make any updates to the site in several months and it had become rather cluttered.  So I think I'm just going to let fade into the past.  Perhaps I'll bring it back sometime in the future in a better-organized form — at least I have most of the pages backed-up.  Plus, I'll be saving around 800 baht per month and at this point that's more important than having my own domain.  Now, to start writing all those change-of-email-address notices...



With the Thai Ministry of Information and Communication Technology still blocking the entire Blogspot domain I've started a new blog over at Wordpress, called Baan Jochim Phuket (บ้านโย้ค้ำภูเก็ต).  In some ways, I hope that it will complement Goodnight Phuket with some duplicate posts.  However, I do intend for it to focus more on Phuket itself — history, current issues, off-the-beaten-path attractions — rather than on my day-to-day family and work life.  When I do write about my wife, son, teaching experiences, etc. I'll continue to do so here.  Everything else will be posted at the new blog, at least for now.

To explain the name:  baan (บ้าน) is Thai for "home" or "village" while Jochim (โย้ค้ำ, pronounced "yo-kim") is my German surname derived after Saint Joachim (father of the Virgin Mary).  And, Phuket (ภูเก็ต, sounds close to "pook-get") is of course where I live.  It’s similar to calling one’s home something like Casa de Jochim back in New Mexico (where I lived before moving to Thailand) and one sees a great number of homes, guesthouses, etc. named Baan something or another around here.

Please add Baan Jochim Phuket to your bookmarks.  While there's not a lot of content right now aside from a history of our island (still a work in progress...) I hope to change that in the near future.


Today is the holiest day in the Buddhist calendar, Visakah Bucha also known as Vesak Day.  Dated to coincide with the first full moon of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, Vesak marks the birth, enlightenment (Nirvana), and passing (Parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha.  Because of the leap year in the lunar calendar, in 2007 the day is a public holiday in some countries on May 1st or 2nd (including Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Cambodia, Nepal, Laos, India, and Bangladesh), still others on May 24th (Hong Kong, South Korea, Macau, and Taiwan), and the remainder on either May 31st or June 1st (Singapore, Thailand, Bhutan, and Indonedia).

Devout Buddhists and followers observe Visakah Bucha by assembling in temples before dawn for the ceremonial raising of the Buddhist flag and singing of hymns in praise of the holy triple gem:  the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings), and the Sangha (his disciples).  Devotees bring simple offerings of flowers, candles, and joss-sticks to lay at the feet of their teacher.  These symbolic offerings are to remind followers that just as the beautiful flowers would wither away after a short while and the candles and incense would soon burn out, so too is life subject to decay and destruction.

Devotees are also instructed to make a special effort to refrain from killing of any kind.  They are encouraged to partake of vegetarian food for the day.  Birds, insects and animals are released by the thousands in what is known as a “symbolic act of liberation;” of giving freedom to those who are in captivity, imprisoned, or tortured against their will.  Some devout Buddhists will wear a simple white dress and spend the entire day in temples with renewed determination to observe the Eight Precepts.  This is called ‘Rub Sil’ in Thailand.

The Eight Precepts are:

1. Not to kill
2. Not to steal
3. Not to engage in improper sexual activity
4. Not to indulge in wrong speech
5. Not to take intoxicating drinks and drugs
6. To abstain from taking food at unreasonable times
7. To refrain from sensual pleasures such as dancing, singing and self-adornment
8. To refrain from using high and luxurious seats in order to practice humility

Celebrating Vesak also means making special efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick.  To this day, Buddhists will distribute gifts in cash and kind to various charitable homes throughout the country.  Vesak is also a time for great joy and happiness, expressed not by pandering to one’s appetites but by concentrating on useful activities such as decorating and illuminating temples, painting and creating exquisite scenes from the life of the Buddha for public dissemination.  Devout Buddhists also vie with one another to provide refreshments and vegetarian food to devotees who visit the temple to pay homage to the Blessed One.

Tradition ascribes to the Buddha himself instruction on how to pay him homage.  Just before he died, he saw his faithful attendant Ananda, weeping.  The Buddha advised him not to weep, but to understand the universal law that all compounded things (including even his own body) must disintegrate.  He advised everyone not to cry over the disintegration of the physical body but to regard his teachings (The Dhamma) as their teacher from then on, because only the Dhamma truth is eternal and not subject to the law of change.  He also stressed that the way to pay homage to him was not merely by offering flowers, incense, and lights, but by truly and sincerely striving to follow his teachings.  This is how devotees are expected to celebrate Vesak: to use the opportunity to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to develop their minds, to practise loving-kindness and to bring peace and harmony to humanity.

During the Vesak celebration an image of the new-born Buddha, in a gesture of pointing to the Truth, is usually displayed in the shrine room of temples.  There is actually a party feel to the entire occasion.  Houses and streets are cleaned and decorated with Buddhist flags and flowers.  In villages, Buddhists gather around statues of the Buddha when it is dark.  They walk around the statue with candles until all is covered in light.  Light is used by Buddhists to recall that the Buddha showed people how to become enlightened.

The tree the Buddha attained Englightment under, in Bodh Gaya, India, is called the bodhit tree.  It is greatly revered in Buddhism.  A bodhi tree can usually be found in the grounds of most temples or monasteries and is decorated with flags, lamps, and lanterns for the Vesak celebration.  It is customary to paint an image of the Buddha on bodhi tree leaves to give as gifts on Visakha Bucha.

My wife had planned to get up early this morning to make merit and attend ceremonies at Wat Chalong but the monsoonal rains put an end to that idea.  Since I have a holiday from work we'll go into Patong later if the rain lets up.



Well, at least I can still post to it even if I can't view my own blog in my own country.  In yet another overreaction, Thailand's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has ordered internet service providers here to block all blogs hosted by Blogger domain.  Apparently, a few blogs on what is certainly world's most popular blog-hosting domain were deemed offensive to Thailand.  In a repeat of the TouTube ban, many honest and respectful users in Thailand are being prevented from accessing a significant number of blogs because a few feel they need to say things against our government or royalty.

Unfortunately, I think we'll be seeing much more of this in the coming months.  Thailand has a long history of media censorship.  The 2006 ranking of press freedom conducted by Reporters Without Borders lists Thailand at 122 out of 168 (we dropped from 59 in 2004 to 107 in 2005).  Currently, Thailand is without a constitution (the 1997 version having been revoked during last September's coup) and the ruling military junta (AKA Council for National Security) has been placing all sorts of human rights restrictions on the media and internet.

One organization set up to provide information about this issue is Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT).  Luckily, their blog is hosted by the Wordpress domain so we can still access it here...for now.



There's been a lot of seismic activity in Thailand over the past few weeks.  A couple of weeks ago, I felt a bit of a tremor at school but shrugged it off.  When I went downstairs to clock-out, there was a notice saying there had been a local earthquake and to steer clear of the beaches.  That one didn't amount to anything but there have been other quakes felt in the north, most significantly in Chiang Mai about a week ago.

The other day, we noticed very large waves along Karon Beach and my wife later told me there had been another tsunami, something most local residents fear to one degree or another.  Well, it wasn't exactly a tsunami but the following article from Phuket Gazette Online gives some interesting details:

Friday, May 18, 2007
High Tides Slam Phuket’s Northern Beaches

PHUKET: Following Wednesday’s earthquake felt across much of the country, unusually high tides yesterday created fear of another tsunami among some residents of west coast beaches.

Authorities said the waves, which damaged a number of seaside restaurants in Thalang District, were unrelated to seismic activity and were just the result of normal tidal conditions and strong monsoon winds.

The waves damaged nine restaurants along Haad Saikaew in Tah Chat Chai, just south of the Sarasin Bridge along Thepkrasattri Rd.  Tides there reached their highest at around 9 am, when they overturned tables and chairs and washed away the concrete foundations of the restaurants, constructed of bamboo and corrugated zinc.  No injuries were reported.

Pointing to a pillar put in place to mark wave heights during the December 2004 tsunami disaster, locals estimated that the waves reached a maximum height of almost four meters at the restaurants.

Chanthira Kalmachshima, owner of Andaman Seafood, estimated the damage to her restaurant at about 10,000 baht.

“Conditions were normal on Wednesday and we were operating as usual, but for about two hours this morning the waves came up very high, almost reaching the main road.  We are going to monitor the situation tonight,” she told the Gazette yesterday afternoon.

“It wasn’t like a tsunami because the sea didn’t recede first.  They just came up like regular waves, but much larger than normal.  About nine restaurants were open at the time and all were badly damaged.  We will have to find a safe place to stay tonight,” she added.

About 50 vehicles were still parked on Sarasin Bridge at 8 pm with people monitoring sea levels there.

K. Chanthira noted that a few days before a large sea turtle washed up on the beach and died.

“We felt that this was a sign that there was something wrong with nature.  Then today these huge waves came, the biggest we have seen since the tsunami,” she said.

During a meeting at the Governor’s office this morning, an official from Mai Khao Tambon Administration Organization warned that even higher tides are expected for tomorrow and there was a possibility that sections of Thepkrasattri Rd could become inundated.

The official said he thought the unusually high tides could be a result of global warming.

In Phang Nga, some villagers in the Baan Namkem area of Khao Lak evacuated their homes yesterday to seek shelter on higher ground in fear of tidal waves, the state-run Thai News Agency reported.

The area was devastated in the 2004 tsunami disaster.

Phang Nga Tourism Association President Chittiporn Suthipibul, also a member of the Khao Lak Resort management team, told the Gazette at about 1:30 pm today that seawater was flooding the ground floor of her hotel and several other resorts in the area.

Similar flooding occurred at about 9 am yesterday, she added.


It was a very interesting week at school as the students returned for the start of Term 1/2007.  Our school has some 800 kids in the English Programme, 85 of whom I will see each each as the Reading instructor for Primary 3.  I had a lot of fun in my classes this week; these children will be a joy to teach.

I was just getting into my daily routine when I was called to substitute for a P.1 class on Monday; as the Reading teacher I will occasionally be required to fill in as homeroom teachers become ill or need to go on visa runs, etc.  I was a bit nervous going in but the small students were a lot of fun and really kept me on my toes!

I've also been recruited to help with the Cub Scouts for Lower Primary one day each week.  That will be fun as I was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout during my youth (and that led to a stint in Navy ROTC during my high school years).  I have really great memories of my experiences as a Scout.  However, it means that I will not be conducting a Friday Club for this term — I'd planned a Stamp & Coin Club but I'm sure I'll have a chance to do that at some point in the future.

The school has also arranged for me to give extra lessons to a P.6 student who actually attends my son's school.  His sister attends ours and his mother would like me to prepare him for the M.1 entrance exam.  I'm really looking forward to this and I'm gathering material so I do the best job I can.  I'll be doing these extra lessons on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings so it will be a nice ending to the week.

I want to say that I truly feel a part of something greater working at this school.  I get to participate in the shaping of young minds and helping these children become good citizens.  I've always been a believer of good morals and the school really stresses the importance of instilling these on the students.  Thailand is an awesome place to teach morals as one only has to look at the respect everyone gives to the Royal Family, elders, monks, etc. to feel a tremendous swelling of pride.  I do feel like I'm a member of the good guys for a change (something I didn't often feel in my last years in retail management).  The entire school staff — from upper management to the office staff, fellow teachers, even the cafeteria and housekeeping workers — constitutes a solid team.  Everyone I've come in contact with has been so gracious and so willing to help that I know I made the right decision by coming here.  I only hope that my own small contributions do help make an even stronger team.  I'm doing something I enjoy at work for the first time in many, many years and I look forward to going to work each and every day.

I mean, how right is it that myself — a lifelong avid reader — has become the reading teacher to 85 young students without even a mention of that love of reading in my resume or interview?


NOTE:  My blog entries about my teaching experiences will continue to be rather vague so as to protect the privacy of students, staff, indeed the school itself.  I trust my faithful readers, family, and friends understand my decision.


I hadn't really been following the most recent (since April 3) blocking of YouTube by the government of Thailand but I found the following excellent recap on Global Voices Online:

Friday, May 18th, 2007 @ 13:04 UTC
YouTube vs. Thailand: The Latest Round
by Preetham Rai

YouTube’s latest round of trouble with Thailand started in April when some YouTube user uploaded a video mocking the Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej.  The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) tried to get YouTube to take down the clips.  YouTube and its parent company Google ignored the call.  MICT decided to block out YouTube.  The ban fueled more copycat videos to appear on YouTube.

The king is highly revered in Thailand, not just because of his status but also due to his involvement in development projects.  People openly show their respect and affection for the king.  Thai blogger Mr. Pavee explains:
If any of the video uploaders have been out here in Thailand (though I strongly doubt they have), they’d notice how the king is loved by everybody here.  Many shops hang his photos up on the walls and yellow flags (yellow represents the monarchy here) can be seen hung from many houses.  The nation is filled with people wearing yellow shirts showing respect to the king.  If a photo of the king’s face graffiti’ed on was hung up on the streets, someone will go and tear it down within a few seconds, let alone minutes.  Once last year, hundreds of thousands of people wearing yellow shirts gathered to listen to his speech, the crowd was literally a kilometer long.  That’s how much people love him here.
The king was born on a Monday.  Many people wear yellow on Mondays to honor the king.

Long time Thailand resident Andrew Biggs feels that blocking YouTube only helped encourage the miscreants.
I don’t care how offensive the video clip in question is.  The truth is, the power of the love and devotion the Thais feel towards their King is so strong, it can never be hurt or destroyed by one stupid video clip.   But the government has banned You Tube, and in doing so, they have drawn the attention of the whole world to this situation.  Now every obnoxious person in the world who has access to the internet (and believe me, that’s a LOT of people) is now busily making his/her own anti-King videos.
Early in May, MICT decided to sue Google under Thailand’s lèse majesté law.  Thai blogger drewkam called the legal action an “absurd” move.  Drewkam reiterated the affection that the Thai people have for the king but felt the action would only end up bringing more negative publicity to Thailand.  The blogger urged the MICT to get on with
other things much more important (like making my DSL connection faster!).
On May 11th, Google backed down and agreed to take down the clips.

Lost Boy wrote
It looks like Thailand won’t be suing Google after all.  “We have called that off,” said Sitthichai.  Google VP Kent Walker apologized to Thailand in an official letter.  All defamatory clips of HMtK will be removed and soon we will all be able to watch videos of cats falling off TVs again.  Will it be happily ever after?  Perhaps, although I’m surprised that Google buckled to Sitthichai’s bullying tactics.
Sitthichai Pokai-udom is Thailand’s minister for Information and Communications Technology.  A week has passed since that news and YouTube is still inaccessible.

Wonder what is taking the MICT so long?

A comment by Hew on New Mandala might offer some clues.
In the report I read, Google had said that half the clips had already been removed by their original posters.  Of the remainder, several would be removed as offensive to HMK.  The remainder on the government’s ‘offensive’ list were judged by google to be political criticisms of the government and nothing to do with lèse majesté.  These would not be removed.
That's it in a nutshell.  I certainly hope that the two sides can come to some sort of resolution in the near future...


Last evening my wife, son, and I attended a special tribute to HRH King Bhumibol Adulyadej honoring His Majesty's 80th birthday (which occurs on December 5).  The event was presided over by HRH Princess Soamsavali Phravararajatinuddamatu (พระเจ้าวรวงศ์เธอ พระองค์เจ้าโสมสวลี พระวรราชาทินัดดามาตุ และ พระเจ้าหลานเธอ พระองค์เจ้าพัชรกิติยาภา, which translates to "the mother of the king's first grandchild").  She was the first wife of HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn; they divorced in the 1980s.

Arriving fairly early (just before five o'clock for an event that wasn't to begin until after seven), we secured a prime viewing spot at the very front to the left of the VIP seating.  We started out sitting on the edge of a concrete planter encircling one of the many trees in the Port section of Jungceylon and had to briefly move when the bomb-sniffing dog came around.  Security was very tight with, I'm assuming, representatives from every one of Thailand's various branches of police and military.  Sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 members of the Royal Guard came around to have all of us kneel/sit cross-legged on the ground.  We were also given Thai tricolor and yellow King flags to wave.  As the only farang sitting up front it seemed like everytime I looked up there was an official-looking still- or video-camera pointed my way.  Alex also had his share of images shot of him.

Although I'm still without a digital still camera (I'm holding out for the 17,000-baht Sony CyberShot T-100) I did go armed with my trusty camcorder.  I did get some rather nice footage of the HRH's arrival and start of a presentation until a Secret Service-type (black suit, menacing appearance) indicated that unauthorized images weren't allowed at that point.  Following a number of local dignitaries paying tribute to the Princess, the regular Jungceylon water & light show was presented followed by an even more spectacular tribute to HRH the King (including images of his artwork and of His Majesty playing in various jazz combos, all accompanied by some of his excellent compositions).  At one point, there were ballroom dancers onstage and then a popular Thai singer sang a couple of rather rockified traditional songs.  It all ended with a huge fireworks display and Her Royal Highness disappearing inside the mall to view an art exhibition and the That's Siam! section of shops.  We were quickly ushered out by Thai military and so couldn't get to our planned meal at Burger King.

I felt really privileged to have been able to attend this event and to have been so close to Royalty as well.  It was far more interesting than last year when we watched the various events for His Royal Highnesses' 60th anniversary of rule on TV.  Despite seeing numerous Royal motorcades traveling to and from Wat Chalong over the course of the year (and once while standing outside of Maio's home in Bang Pa-In), this is the closest Tim or I have gotten to Royalty.  The thing that struck me most was the feeling of reverence the citizens have towards the Royal Family.  You hear and read a lot about that love here but that cannot prepare one for experiencing it firsthand.