Help the Children ~ Northern Thailand

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http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/love-and-share-for-hilltribe-kids/x/5329508

We would like to raise enough money to help the next village school.

We usually raise around 150,000bht (5,000USD).  We would like to raise that amount for our January trip to Northern Thailand.

This will allow us to re-build a school, feed the children, rent vehicles to get out to the village and provide new clothes, school supplies and toys for the children.

The funding will go towards food and supplies.

We usually feed three meals a day for two to three villages full of children for a week (300 children and their families).

We rent local vehicles from around Chiangmai for a week to carry us and the supplies out to the village.

We purchase a years worth of school supplies and deliver them to a village.  If we have more supplies than one village school will need, we take the remainder and give them out to other villages in the Hill Tribe Area.  Last year, we were able to help several schools in the area.

We purchase clothing, shoes and winter coats for the children as well.  We usually purchase clothing on the Thai-Burmese border.  We can obtain mass amounts of clothing from this area fairly cheaply.  We donate all of this clothing to the children and in some cases to the local adults.  On the border, we purchase “lots” full of children’s clothing.  However, one never knows what will be in the mix.  Any adult clothing that we obtain, we hand out at the village.

Last year, we had enough left over clothing to pass out to several villages along our route.

We also hope to raise enough funds to employ a full time teacher and teaching assistant for this village for a year.

We will use all funds raised to help these children.

I am donating all supplies and materials for the perks as the first donation.

The perks for this handmade Jewelry from Wanderluster Dreams on Etsy.com.

http://www.etsy.com/shop/WanderlusterDreams?ref=shop_sugg

 

 

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Favorite Items from my Travels

Favorite items from my travels

Painting by Unny Urai Klangkongsap

1. Buffalo horn — Laos
2. the two Buddhas in the corners — Laos
3. Buddha bust — Bagram, Greatt Afghanistan
4. Standing Buddha on the floor — Jatjujak Market, Bangkok
4. Small Buddha in the center — Unny’s parents
5. Larger Buddha — Siem Reap, Cambodia
6. Book shelf — Chiangmai, Thailand
7. Buddha door knocker — Herat, Afghanistan
8. Long dagger — Jerusalem, Israel
9. Short ceremonial knife, Central Asian Steppes
10. Buffalo horn tiger — Chiangmai
11. Bottle opener — Jalalabad Road, Afghanistan
12. Afghan coin (forbidden coin) — Kabul, Afghanistan
13. Allah pendant — Cairo, Egypt
14. Smoking pipe — Salatai, Thailand
15.  Bone necklace and wristlet — Beijing, China
16.  Fijian Sergeants Major wrist badge — Sinai, Egypt

Water Buffalo Horn

Antique Teak wood pipe from Hill Tribes in Salatae, Thailand.

and assorted other items.

Fast Food Overseas

Fast food overseas.  It’s a little different.

This is one example.  Lots of tuna and corn offerings over here.  In China as well.

McDonalds in India offers no beef burgers at all.

In Israel during some of their Holy Days, they offer only unleavened bread.

Some of the stuff tastes pretty good.  Some of it is wierd.  KFC does not offer their famous cole slaw in Thailand in so far as I know.  They offer a tuna/corn salad instead.  It’s pretty good stuff. I grab one every time I stop in to a KFC.

A few differences here and there…

Monetary Notes of the World


Unny and I had this table custom made for our new digs out in the ‘burbs.  Cost a bit, but, not too much.  It’s made from teak wood.  I wanted something in which to display the monetary notes which I’ve collected from my travels.  I only wish that I had some of the notes that are in my storage room back in the States.

There are notes in there from China, Dubai, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India, Iran, Bahrain, Egypt, Vietnam, North Korea and a few other countries.  As well as notes from old French Indochine.  The note with the tiger is from Vietnam during the US war era.  I actually got that one from ebay.com because I thought it was cool.

There are also coins in there from all over (Japan, Malaysia, EU, England, etc).  Some old ones but mostly newer coins.  I placed my three French Indochine Silver Dollars. They’re probably counterfeit, but, I don’t care.  That actually makes them a little more interesting to me and I paid a pittance for them.  3 or 4 bucks.  Nothing to cry over.  I knew or thought that they were fakes when I purchased them.

I also placed of couple of Greco-Bactrian coins in there.  Supposedly, they’re silver and over a thousand years old.  I don’t know.  So many fakes being sold in Afghanistan these days.  Even so, those coins are supposedly a dime a dozen over there.  Chances are they’re real.  They’re not rare, though.  At least not for anyone who’s traveled in Central Asia.  They’re all over the place there.  It is said that one can find them walking out in open ground or on fields and such.  They’re that common place.  Neat little pieces of history.

The necklace is a Kuchi piece that I purchased at a bazaar in Herat.  It’s made of brass and copper with a few worthless gems thrown in for good measure.  It has an old animist relief on it.  Looks to be an old Ganesh likeness to me. I also placed my Bamian Buddha stamps in the lower right corner and four little jewelry/snuff boxes.  The two with Camels depicted on them are from Dubai and made from silver and glazed to make the camel likenesses.  The other two I purchased in Herat.  Those two are supposed to be silver as well.  Though, I doubt it.

There you have it.  My little collection of monies (and sundry items) from around the world.

Bangkok Burning!

Getting reports that the Red Shirts have started an “Arson Campaign” around the city.  Channel 3 News Station is on fire.  Central World and Paragon Shopping centers are on fire.   The Red Shirts seem to be setting fires everywhere and they’ve been said to be targeting Reporters in the affected areas.  There is smoke all over the city.  The looters are knocking off ATMs and rolling out with all of the money.

Chiangmai is also embroiled and various places have been set to fire up there as well.

These guys are desperate and have or are losing any popular support that they may have had with these latest acts.  They’re setting themselves up to be caricatured and treated as mere thugs instead of a true protest for social justice.

Michael Yon Sitting with a couple French journalists now. One has blood on his pants. Says it was from another journalist who was hit but no medics would come to him. Said he saw a soldier shot in half by a grenade and also saw a female freelance journalist named Vanessa who was slightly wounded.

The TV Stations are all playing what I can only describe as propaganda.  They just played 21 Guns by Green Day with scenes from the Red Shirts battling the Army and such.  Earlier they were playing paeans to the King.  Cartoons with music and such.

Got a message from a friend that a girl was shot while standing on her balcony.  No one knows if this was on purpose or if it was an errant shot.  Now people are fearful of standing near their windows or on their balconies.

Right now, they are announcing officially the curfew for tonight.  Guess we can’t go outside.  This is pretty crazy.  Afghanistan wasn’t this insane.

P.S.  but don’t worry Momma, we’re ok!  Thinking about getting out of the city tomorrow until this thing calms down.

photo by Nick Sivapon Fakthep

photo by Nick Sivapon Fakthep

Apparently, Central World has been damaged heavily as fire and rescue could not get into the area to put out the fires.

Bangkok, Thailand ~ Get Out of the Affected Areas….OR ELSE!

http://www.asianyouthforum.org/classic/ayfdelegatespage/thailand-flag.gif

The Thai Government is issuing orders to evacuate the Red Shirt areas by 1500hrs today.

Any caught in those areas will be deemed a terrorist or criminal and jailed subject to punishments of a minimum of 2 years in prison.

Apparently, the Thai Gov’t is finally taking this thing seriously and are going to put an end to it.

It’s about damn time!

As the Angst Builds in Bangkok…

Dave is heading to the beach.

It got real bloody last night.  Sirens all night long.  I couldn’t hear the explosions or shooting, but, you could tell something was going down.

Yesterday, they shut down the BTS at 1630.  It really wasn’t that big of a deal.  I simply walked home and fortunately found a shorter way home.

I hope this thing gets settled without more bloodshed.  It will only cause more problems later on.

BANGKOK WAR ZONE

Seven civilians have died in clashes between United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship protesters and security officers in downtown Bangkok.

Soldiers take up position as anti-government protesters burn tyres near Bon Kai intersection yesterday. Security forces tried to push protesters back, sparking sporadic clashes. APICHART JINAKUL

Clashes started late yesterday morning and continued throughout the afternoon at the Witthayu intersection, the Thai-Belgium Bridge, Lumpini police station, Ratchaprarop Road, Din Daeng intersection, Silom Road and Soi Sala Daeng.

Soldiers used tear gas, rubber bullets, and live rounds against protesters, who retaliated using home-made rockets and Molotov cocktails to block advancing soldiers and by setting fire to a bus.

The sound of gunfire was heard from both sides.

Money!

I’m not a numismatists or serious collector of coins and notes.  Not by any means.  Even so, I usually grab a few notes and/or coins when I’m traveling.  The part that is cool for me is to find old money that is still in circulation.  The old Mao notes in China.  Older notes in Thailand that have an earlier version of King Bhumipol.  The notes in Cambodia that highlighted the various peoples and ethnic minorities or have varying versions of Angkor Wat and other sites. The notes used in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, the Civil War and the Taliban eras.

These notes convey a sense of history to me.  They’re part of the fabric of the history of these lands. That fascinates me. I’ve monies of varying sorts from nearly every country that I’ve visited plus a few other notes that were gifts from the homelands of folks whom I’ve met out on the road.

These are a collection of items from Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.  The Lao and Khmer notes, I picked up in Luang Prabang, Vieng Vang and Vientiene (Laos).  The Thai notes were given to me by Unny’s parents.  She was telling them that I had a crazy fascination with money so that brought me some from her Grandfather’s house.  Some of the notes are pretty old with the oldest dating to the 1920s.

The coins are all Thai with the exception of the old French Indochine Piastres.  They are probably fakes, but, they were too cool to pass up.  I tested them as I have been instructed.  The ring test and the obverse/reverse line test.  They actually passed those test.  Even so, they were much to cheap and felt too light to be solid silver coins of that size.  Perhaps, I’ll have them checked one day.  I don’t care if they are real or not.  They look cool and that’s all I’m interested in at this point.

The 10 Day Weather Forecast for Beijing

10-Day Business Travel Forecast for
Beijing, China

Forecast Conditions

High °F
Low °F

Precip.
Chance

High Temperatures Low Temperatures Precipitation Wind Speed

Tonight
Dec 19

Clear
Clear

N/A
14°

0%

High not valid after 2pm

Sun
Dec 20

Sunny
Sunny

37°
13°

0%

37°F

Mon
Dec 21

Sunny
Sunny

39°
15°

0%

39°F

Tue
Dec 22

Mostly Sunny
Mostly Sunny

41°
16°

0%

41°F

Wed
Dec 23

Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy

39°
19°

10%

39°F

Thu
Dec 24

Partly Cloudy / Wind
Partly Cloudy / Wind

36°
10°

20%

Fri
Dec 25

Sunny
Sunny

25°

0%

25°F

Sat
Dec 26

Mostly Sunny
Mostly Sunny

29°

0%

29°F

Sun
Dec 27

Sunny
Sunny

31°
12°

0%

31°F

Mon
Dec 28

Sunny
Sunny

33°
14°

0%

33°F

Unny gets cold when it is 80 degrees fahrenheit.    I can’t begin to imagine how she will react to these temps.  It’s gonna be funny to watch it, though.


Somtam Mafia

Somtam trying to crawl back out of my mouth...stuff is so hot it burns your lips

Went out with the Somtam Mafia the other night.  Somtam is hot, hot, hot thai food that these girls down like a tub of ice cream.  I tried some of it and it burned my lips off.  That’s a bit of crab in my mouth.  I tried to eat it but it started crawling back out of my mouth.

After Somtam, we headed over to Soi 23 (the infamous Soi Cowboy) for beer and oysters.

Later that night, those who stuck around went to Narcissus for a bit more drinking and danced the rest of the night away…

I had a great time hanging out with Stevie and the Gals of the Somtam Mafia.

Ladyboys of Thailand

http://deadlinescotland.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/ladyboys01.jpg?w=593

So!  You head on over to Thailand.  You land at Bhumi Airport.  You’re in Bangkok.  Krung thep.  City of Angels.   All there is left to do is jump in a Taxi and head on down to Khaosarn Road or Sukhumvit Road.   Ya check into your hotel room.  Ya take a nap to prepare for the parties that are surely to be roaring up and down KSR and the Suk later that night.

You’ve heard all about the parties and clubs around Bangkok, but, it’s your first time there.

You get up.  Get showered.  Dressed and are out on the town.  Ready to get it on.

You meet the lady of your dreams.

But…something seems a little off.

She’s tall.  You heard that Thai ladies are too short.

She’s got perfect breasts, but, they’re surgically enhanced.  There are other things that hit you as odd, but, you keep blowing it off as paranoia.  You might also notice other Thai gals looking at you occasionally with what seems like a knowing glance and other Western men glancing in y our direction and chuckling or outright pointing and laughing at ya.

You figure you’re just paranoid.  You spend the night drinking and dancing with your new lady friend.  She seems friendly, shy, reserved.  She’s polite.  Doesn’t talk a lot.

As the night goes on, your drinking and feeling your buzz.

Suddenly, you seem to notice that her shoulders seem a bit too wide for a lady.

A hazy memory comes to you.  Something you read in a travel book or in a blog before you flew to Bangkok.

KATOOEY! pops into your head.  LADYBOYS!  The blog said to watch out for Bangkoks many transexuals.

You start to freak out a bit.  You might even lose your cool.

Don’t.   Just calm down and ask her.  If she is, she’ll probably tell you.  If she’s not,  you might get smacked or she might laugh at you and you just broke the ice with a hot, unusually tall Thai chic.

Katooey or Ladyboys are just a part of life in Thailand.  Much of Asia actually.  It’s no big deal to them.  If you make it a big deal, Thais will look at you like you’re a fool.

The way I see it is that they’re just another group of God’s creatures.  I don’t  understand it.  Probably never will.  I don’t need to understand it.  It’s their life.  Not mine.  As long as they’ve been truthful with me and not tried to trick me into anything that is not for me, I’ve got no problem with it.  To each his own.  Some men like it.

I’ve noticed that Brits, Aussies and Japanese tend to be the big group that gets into the transgender dating/sex scene.  If you sit in a bar on the street on Walking Street in Pattaya or Bang La Road in Phuket or off Nana Plaza on Suk Soi 4, it seems that most of the guys talking to the Katooey are from those islands.  I may be off on that assessment, but, I noticed it during my first trip to Thailand back in 2004.  Since then, I’ve paid attention when I see a dude with a Ladyboy.  Almost without fail, they’re from one of the aforementioned island nations.  Don’t know why and it may just be a string of coincidences over a five year period.  Who cares.

I’ve met a few and they seem nice.  Normal.  Outside of the fact that they are women who used to be men.  Chances are, if you’ve been to Bangkok for a while, you’ve met one and didn’t know it.

When I was traveling with my friend Becca, I was pretty good at spotting them.  So we made a game out of it.  If we wer out and about and I saw one, I’d rub the back of my neck as I passed her so that Becca could spot her too.  It was pretty funny.  About half of the time, Becca couldn’t tell.

What’s that tell you about your chances.  lol

Like I said earlier, it’s no big deal.  If it’s not your thing, don’t freak out.  Just tell her and leave gracefully.  If it’s your thing, well, that’s between you and her.

http://www.theforumbarrow.co.uk/images/lady-boys.pngIn Thailand, it’s so normal that they have Miss Thai LadyBoy Beauty Pageants in the larger, mainstream shopping malls.  Everyone gathers around and watches them in their gowns and bikinis and everyone applauds them.  I saw one beauty pageant with a talent show.  One of the girls was belting out Whitney Houston and sounded damn good.  It’s remarkable only for how unremarkable that the ladyboys are for Thais.  It was the same in Cambodia, Malaysia and, though a bit more subdued, it was the same for Vietnam.  I saw them in India as well.

Like I said, if you meet one of these ladies and you’re not comfortable around them, just depart the scene gracefully.  Otherwise, you’ll look like the ass.  No reason for it to ruin your evening or your trip.  After a few days, you’ll be able to spot them and know which ladies to talk to and which ladies to avoid.

Almost everything can be surgically altered.  Hips, voice box, Adam’s apple, derriere, breats, jaw structure.  I mean everything.

Well almost. First things first.

Height.  If they are taller than 5′ 6″, it’s almost certain.

If you want to be certain, check out the feet.  Big feet.  A sure sign.  Never met a Thai lady with big feet.

Last thing that is almost always a dead give away is the shoulders.  If they’re rail skinny and still have wide shoulders, they’re probably a Katooey.

That will probably save  you.

Now.  All that said, they’re still just people.  No reason to be disrespectful to them or treat them badly.  Just as you don’t know them or their interests until you meet them and get to know them, they don’t know you and don’t know if you are interested or not until you tell them that you are or are not.

If you aren’t, no need for a scene.  Some of them are nice folks just like anyone else.  Some of them are scamps just like anyone else.  You’ll find transgender and transvestite all over the social strata of Thailand.  They work at 7Eleven, they work as bartenders, wait persons, Executive, Mall Store Clerks, Government Office personnel.  All over.  That gal whom you cursed out or spat on or belted the night before may be your bartender the next night.  She might be the customs clerk that handles your Visa.  Don’t get yourself in a bind and make a fool of yourself.  It’s just as easy to politely excuse yourself and walk away.  After all, you’re in Thailand to have fun.  You’re not there to cast social judgments.  By demurring gracefully, you might impress that beautiful little Thai girl standing next to you enough that she approaches YOU.  It happens.

And then, who knows…

http://www.citylife.co.uk/img/19366/41875_lady_boys_of_bangkok.jpg

Getting Scammed Around the World

 

PICT0100

Today, I sat down and was hit with a distant memory from 2004. It was my first time in Bangkok. 2nd or 3rd night. I was drinking it up at Bedsupper Club. I walked outside and as it was closing and asked a couple of people if there were any after hours bars. Someone mentioned Spice Club. So I walked out to the parking lot and asked a Tuk Tuk to take me there.

Well, old Dude took me for a ride. Charged me 100 Thai baht (3 USD) and deposited me exactly one hundred feet down the road from where I started.

To get there though, he drove up past Q Bar around to Soi 5 down to Sukhumvit and back up Soi 11.

I didn’t really figure it out until about 3 months later when I partied at BSC again but this time with some friends. BSC closed. One of the gals said; “Let’s go to Spice!” I said; “Cool. Let’s do it.” and started to get a Tuk Tuk. The chic looked at me like I was an idiot and was like come on you lazy moron.

She turned and started walking down the street. I followed. When I saw Spice, I remembered the tuk tuk ride from earlier. I just started laughing. Everyone was looking at me like I was crazy. So I told them the story. And they all laughed at me.

Luckily, though, the first time that I went to the Grand Palace, I’d read lonely planet and been warned about the touts and “it’s closed today, let us take you to thirty gem stores and 14 tailors” so we can get gas coupons and what not.

I did ride around with a tuk tuk guy for free once or twice. He drove me around the city for free. I saw everything and every once in a while, we walked into a Tailor shop or a Gem Store and I acted interested and promised to return the next day with my credit cards because I was “fearful of carrying them with me in the big bad city of Bangkok.”

It was actually a fun day and the tuk tuk driver was a cool old guy. I’ve got his pic somewhere. Nice old dude.

I’ve done some weird things in Bangkok.

Still looking for that damn two story after hours bar with the big tree trunk and a circular platform around it in the middle of the dance floor. I’d love to party there again. Been there three or four times, but, each time too drunk or tired to remember the name of the joint.


___________________________________________________________________

 

In Sanjaree, right outside Camp Hovey in the north of the ROK. There are several of what we called “Drinky Bars.” These bars are strikingly similar to the bars of NaNa, Soi Cowboy, Pattaya and Patpong. You walk in. Girls surround you. Ply you with drinks and try to get you to by them “Lady Drinks.” Usually, some kidn of fruit juice. Some of these bars have dancers on stages or platforms. Some pool tables. What they all have is SEX for SALE.

I did two tours in Korea. A little over two years on station.

It never failed to amaze me that guys would frequent these establishments and actually FALL IN LOVE with the girls from whom they and every other Tom, Dick and Harry were purchasing sex. Boom Boom.

These bar owners. Mamasans. They’d bring girls in from the country side. Poor girls with little to no education. After bringing them, these girls would have a “bar debt” to the Mamasan. The money for room and board. New clothes and make up. Food and whatever else Mamasan and the bar provided for their survival/livelihood until they were established and taking in customers.

One girl. Amazingly pretty. She had an excellent scam going. Before she was found out, she scammed three different guys. She would get some poor soul. A sucker. To fall in love with her. They’d start “dating” while she was working at the bar. She’d be “working” all the while. Raking in the dough, but, telling him that she was only serving drinks and what not.

So she got the first one. The first sucker. She got him hemmed up. They made marriage plans. Old Dude would start supporting her while she was supposedly not “working” at the bar and just serving drinks. The guy would pay the bar debt for her. Somewhere between 3 and 5 thousand dollars. They’d start the VISA process.

Once everything was paid off. Bar debt, etc. And old girl had soaked the poor sucker out of his hard earned money, it would usually be time for GI Joe Loverboy to PCS back stateside.

At this point, the gal would disappear. All of the money with her. Up in smoke. She’d make some excuse about going home to see her family before she went to the land of the Big PX or whatever.

Loverboy would be sitting at the Airport waiting for the love of his life who would, of course, never show up. She having absconded with all of his money.

This gal was able to do this three times before she was caught. I’m sure she wasn’t the first or the last to run the scam.

Broken hearted GI Joe on the airplane headed back to America sobbing. The gal and Mamasan splitting his money.

After the guy PCS’d, the girl would come back to work for the same bar. Find a new sucker and do it again.

Beautiful scam.

The hell of it is that you’d think that only dumb farm boys from Kentucky or West Virginia would fall for this kind of scam.

Nope!

Two of this gals victims were Officers. One was a Major. I guess education doesn’t help in matters of the heart.

Bunch of numb-nuts, if you ask me.

The same kind of scam that happens in lower Sukhumvit to naive farang (foriegners) happens all over the world. Same scams in Panama as well. I saw similar scams and set ups there as well. And I laughed at the suckers there too.

It’s amazing. The ingenuity and artfulness of the deceit of some of these characters.

Private Dancer by Stephen Leather

pridan_s

It’s a damn good read.

I read this book about 3 months ago.  It’s a fascinating read.  At the time I read it, though, I thought it to be all fiction.  Recently, I found out that it’s based on real events and real people.  Even if loosely based, it’s still amazing to me that anyone could be as foolish and idiotic as Pete.  It’s mindboggling that anyone could do anything remotely resembling his acts of stupidity and treachery.

I have, in my travels, been witness to similar events.  Bar girls using their wiles to goad foolish, naive men into handing over large sums of money.  Men using women for sex while telling them that they love them and are going to marry them and take them home.  Relationships began on completely false pretext.  Everything.  I’ve seen it somewhere.

But this book takes the cake.  It was a fast and easy read.  Stephen Leather gives a glimpse into the seedier side of Bangkok life.  When you read it, realize that this is only a part of that life.  It’s a small part as well.  I’ve met hundreds of regular women and men in Thailand who aren’t constantly working a scam on some dumb farang.  I’ve met people who straddle the line as well as the voyeurs who interact and watch but never participate.  Life is fascinating in Bangkok.  It can really twist up a weak soul.  Wrap you around the wings of the dark angels and drag you down.  DEEP into murky waters.  It can also be a pleasant experience and uplifting.  Depends on what and where you are seeking your experience.

Just be careful.  It’s all about situational awareness as we say in Afghanistan.  Keep your eyes open.  Don’t be a fool.

Peace.

‘I don’t know if it was love at first sight, but it was pretty close. She had the longest hair I’d ever seen, jet black and almost down to her waist. She had soft brown eyes that made my heart melt, long legs that just wouldn’t quit and a figure to die for. She was naked except for a pair of black leather ankle boots with small chrome chains on the side. I think it was the boots that did it for me.’

Thailand 1996. The Year Of The Rat. Pete, a young travel writer, wanders into a Bangkok go-go bar and meets the love of his life. Joy is the girl of his dreams: young, stunningly pretty, and one of the Zombie Bar’s top-earning pole dancers. What follows is a roller-coaster ride of sex, drugs and deception, as Pete discovers that his very own private dancer is not all that she claims to be. And that far from being the girl of his dreams, Joy is his own personal nightmare.

For many years Private Dancer was only available as a free download through my website. It became something of a cult classic and over the last five years was downloaded sixty thousand times from more than forty countries. I gleaned much of the information for the book sitting in a bar called Jool’s in Sukhumvit Soi 4, just down the road from Bangkok’s infamous Nana Plaza red light area. The owner, Big Dave, knows pretty much everything there is to know about Thailand, and he’s the basis for the Big Ron character in the book.

Hodder and Stoughton didn’t want to publish Private Dancer as it is so different from my regular thrillers, so I decided to publish the book myself in Thailand, through my own publishing company, Three Elephants. (Three Elephants is an anagram of Stephen Leather!)

The striking cover photograph, of a naked girl holding a cut-throat razor behind her back, was taken in Anglewitch Bar in Nana Plaza and features one of the bar’s top showgirls. It took us ages to find the right girl. When I originally wrote the book, the fashion was for the girls to grow their hair long. But these days they trend to cut it short, make it curly, or dye it red or blonde. I sat with my friend Andrew Yates for hours outside Nana Plaza in search of the right girl, but it seemed as if the only ones with long straight hair were the ladyboys! My pal Paul Owen took the photograph. I borrowed the cut-throat razor from my barber and it took us almost an hour to get the shot right. I’m really pleased with the result – think it’s one of my best covers.

The book got great reviews from Bernard Trink at the Bangkok Post and the Pattaya Mail, both taking the view that Private Dancer should be required reading for all visitors to the Land of Smiles. Forewarned is forearmed! I think it works so well because it gives the story from so many viewpoints, including several Thai characters. Most books about the Thai bar scene only give the Westerners point of view.

Private Dancer is available at all good book shops throughout Thailand, especially Bookazine and Asia Books outlets, and is also on sale at the airport. There is still a free download available of an early version of Private Dancer. CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE DOWNLOAD. The book has more detail on what happened to the characters so if you enjoy the download you’ll want to buy the book eventually!

In 2005, Phil Tatham, who runs Monsoon Books in Singapore, wanted to add the book to his growing stable of publications, and I agreed to let him have publication rights for Singapore and Malaysia. You can also buy it on line through his website, www.monsoonbooks.com.sg.

A few pics from a recent trip

awgreenWat Arun and Angkor Wat in dramatic repose…

plus the silhouette of my beautiful girl.

I shot the Angkor Wat photos at dawn and then took the one above and photoshopped it a bit to obtain the pink, green and blue effects.  Just thought it looked cool.

The Wat Arun photos were taken at dusk.  I spent a night at the wonderful Arun Residence.  Just across the Chao Phraya from Wat Arun and only a short walk from Wat Pho and the Grand Palace.

These are just a few shots of some of my favorite places in Asia.  Hope you enjoy.  If you like ‘em, leave a note.

The Thai Wai

Wai, like many other gestures e.g. no loud or bang when talking or shutting doors, reflects your overall etiquette that is perceived to link to your family background and stand in the society.

Thais are rooted from the hierarchical order of society; our wai thus has different height levels. To wai beautifully, it takes time to practice (and many details that i do not even remember!).

Not sure if a proper wai is at all significant in today modern lifestyle. But since i was put in the Queen school, hope that I can be little helpful here.

We wai when we want to (1) pray, (2) greet, (3) thank you, (4) apologize, and (5) denote a receiving / wai back.

Wai Monk = Thumbs between eyebrows. Index fingers touch forehead.

Wai Parent = Thumbs touch nose (parents are your breath of life). Index fingers between eyebrows.

Wai Teacher / Master = Thumbs touch lip (teacher words of mouth make you a better person). Index fingers touch nose.

Wai Senior Person than You = Thumbs touch chin. Index fingers touch lip.

Wai Same Age / Younger Person than You / or Wai Back = Thumbs touch between breast. Index fingers touch chin.

Note, bend your head down slightly a bit to cater the reaching of your index fingers.

One of the the best and simplest explanations of the Thai traditional wai that I’ve come across.

With thanks to ConcreteAngel of ThailandFreinds.com


Kanchanaburi

http://hereticdhammasangha.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/0011.jpg?w=477&h=318

On an early morning not too long ago, a few ladies and gents got together and made the world better for a school in a sleepy little place called Kanchanaburi near Bangkok, Thailand.

Funds were collected.  Supplies and Equipment purchased.  Then the task of planning and executing the movement from Bangkok to a sleepy village called Kanchanaburi and a little school on an Island.

That narrow little rope/plank bridge looks a little treacherous.  lol

The kids all look happy.

These generous folks put on a little show for the kids.  Played them a couple of animated movies.  Kung Fu Panda and another.  Served up a meal or two.  Handed out school supplies, uniforms and a few other essentials.

Spent the night in tents out on the school grounds.

And then quietly made their way home…

Leaving behind a hundred or so smiling young faces.

Here are pics of the event:

Helping others is good for the soul.

Wat Pho and around the way…in Krung Thep–the City of Angels

On my last day in Bangkok, I had some free time.  The lovely lady with whom I had happily spent most of my time in Bangkok could not see me due to family obligations and then work.  So…I had to entertain myself.  I arose early and took the BTS to the Chao Phraya river.   Walked to the pier and boarded the river bus to cruise up to Wat (Temple) Pho.  I’ve visited this temple on numerous occasions.  Usually alone, sometimes accompanied by friends like Becca.  It’s one of my favorite places in the City of Angels.

The grand and golden reclining Buddha of Wat Pho.  Magnificent.  A site to behold.  I’ve posted about it before.

These are the pics of my morning.

Probably come back and write more later…

Cambodia and Thailand: Will it be War?

Is this the Thai government attempt to divert the countries attention away from the PAD protests and madness?  What is going on in the Land of Smiles?  It seems to be going insane.  Between the PAD, the Muslims in the South and the Cambodian border, Thailand has become the land of division, protest and madness.

War threat If you have your ideas about this news, share it with others, here!

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered fresh troops to the border with an ultimatum to Thailand: Pull military forces back today or the border will become a “life and death battle zone”.

Hun Sen told reporters in Phnom Penh that he had warned Thailand’s visiting Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat that without a quick pullout, Thai soldiers could face being fired upon by Cambodian troops in “large-scale armed conflict”.

“If they cannot withdraw tonight, they must withdraw tomorrow,” said Hun Sen.

“We have tried to be patient, but I told the Thai foreign minister today that the area is a life-and-death battle zone.”

His comments came after talks with Mr Sompong in Phnom Penh.

Mr Sompong also met with his counterpart Hor Namhong in a bid to resolve the dispute over the area near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

The Cambodian foreign minister said yesterday’s talks failed to end in agreement because his Thai opposite number “could not sign anything”.

Hun Sen and Hor Namhong both told reporters that Cambodia could choose to take the border dispute before an international court if it was not resolved soon.

The comments made by the Cambodian prime minister and foreign minister surprised Mr Sompong and Thai officials, who were adamant that the meetings had not been a failure.

Mr Sompong said the tone during the meetings between the two countries had been different as the Cambodian leaders agreed that both sides had to be patient in resolving the border spat.

He said no Thai troop withdrawals would be made from the 4.6 sq km overlapping area between Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket and Preah Vihear province of Cambodia until the dispute over ownership is cleared through negotiations in the Joint Boundary Commission that was set up to demarcate the land border.

Thailand reiterated its ownership over the area, Mr Sompong said in Bangkok and rushed to report the talks to Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

Suranaree Task Force commander Maj-Gen Kanok Netrakavaesana will hold talks with his Cambodian counterpart tomorrow on the border issues and the Thai and Cambodian defence ministers will meet next Tuesday , according to Mr Sompong.

Cambodian Deputy Defence Minister Gen Neang Phat said more Cambodian troops were heading to the area after up to 500 Thai soldiers had tried to cross the border near an ancient Hindu temple that is claimed by both countries.

“We are building up our troops at the border in response to Thailand, but I cannot reveal the number,” he told reporters.

Maj-Gen Srey Deok, who oversees the Cambodian military in the disputed area, said: “Thai troops have already entered the area. They are confronting our troops.”

But Maj-Gen Kanok denied that more troops had been sent to the disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple.

Thailand and Cambodia have 10 soldiers each at the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple and 45 around the compound on joint patrol, according to the agreement between the two countries to ease border tension.

The two countries also have back-up troops near the border.

The number of soldiers there remained unchanged, Maj-Gen Kanok said.

Maj-Gen Kanok slammed Cambodia for distorting information and taking advantage of the political crisis in Thailand to launch an offensive move for its own political benefit.

The Suranaree chief, his patience wearing thin, called for a quick solution to the border spat and a clear direction to be provided by the government as it could become an armed conflict if it was left unsettled.

“I want the government to solve this problem and make it clear what to do. If it is left this way, nobody knows what is going to happen,” he said.

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia first flared in July after the Preah Vihear temple was awarded World Heritage status by the World Heritage Committee.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia, but the surrounding land remains in dispute.

Tensions escalated into a military confrontation in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks.

The two countries have swapped accusations of violating each other’s territory in the dispute.

(with Agency reports)

Prassat Preah Vihear