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Friday, October 29, 2010

Welcome Germany

A new reader to the list of countries, now includes someone from Germany. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The County Fair

In a previous blog I mentioned that I have been hearing live band music for a few days. Well the few days has now passed the one week mark, and I am serenaded to sleep by various live Thai bands, playing about 1/2 kilometer away.
Each night has been different. One night was country and western Thai music, and then one night I found myself singing along to a popular rap type song. I found I must have lost my place with the words, until I realized this WAS the song, but it was in Thai that I was hearing it performed.
Any time I had to go to Chaofa road, I saw at the junction of a street we use to come home and Chaofa road was a market style activity, with lots of neon lighting in various hugs and colours of the rainbow, some solid, some banded with various colour combination. Along the Chaofa Road they had also stuck these 2 meter long florescent tubes along the roadway, banded in the colours of the Thai national flag.
Despite the activity and my natural curiosity, I never went to see what was actually happening, until tonight. I had not been feeling well for the past few days. Mostly because with Clive in Australia snarfing the wine, I was with the dogs and tend to let my eating habits go to hell. So I am sure my diet was contributory, with my self diagnosis and a strong need to be away from the dogs for a few hours, I decided to walk over to see what was going on and where the music was actually coming from.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The biggest marketing slogan for Thailand is that it is "The Land of Smiles" and that is certainly true.  It is also said that Thai people have a difficult time to say "no", which can be confusing, when you mix a smile with a no.
Without a doubt, this country has the largest percentage of smiling people per capita than probably anywhere I have lived. And just like anywhere else, that smile can be deceiving. I myself have been known to be guilty of smiling while telling someone politely to take a hike when I was in Canada. For some reason that was normally in a work situation, especially reinforced if I was listening to the certain Chumba Wumba songs from their Showbusiness!  album, or personal favourite of mine performed by Lilly Allen.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Khun Pon

We learned of the death of Khun Pon at 33 years of age. He was at the Vegetarian festival last Friday and had a heart attack. When we decided to move to Phuket, we dealt with an agency called House in Phuket, where we met Welta the owner and her brother Pon and other great staff. They both have helped us a great deal in getting a house, and helping in some of the issues we have had in transitioning here. Pon was a large Thai guy with a beaming face and a smile and happy personaility. He was here at the house 2 weeks ago and in our discussions he saw the Gohonzon ste-up, that we use to practice our buddhist prayers. While this is a primarily Buddhist country, it is rare that someone would recognize the arrangement we have, as it is unique to the SGI Budhism we practice. Like most other major religions, Buddhism is a practice, but it has many different schools of thought and practices. I grew immediately interested in his recognition, as we have tried to find other SGI Buddhists here, but not been able to, so we practice alone. Perhaps fate or the universe or whatever power that may be, provided that brief contact that brings a sense of not being alone, and that there are other SGI'rs here in Phuket. With his passing, Khun Pon is remembered for his help, his excellent english (which was so important for him, but hindered by his shyness) and his generosity. Of course his big smile and eagerness to help were a bonus!

In memoriam: Khun Pon

On Friday morning, 15 Oct 2010, around 07:30, while joining a parade at the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket Town, my brother and our colleague, Khun Pon passed away. His heart just stopped working. When they arrived at the hospital he was already dead. He was 33 years old.

Khun Pon worked for House in Phuket almost 6 years, made almost all pictures on our website and has been a main contributor to make our business as popular as it is today.

Khun Pon, thank you so much for everything you did for us and the endless love you gave us. We will always love you.

Wellta and staff.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Vegetarian Festival

Every year they have a festival in Phuket called the Vegetarian Festival. It originated in 1825 in the community of Kathu where a traveling opera company from China was performing and all became ill. The origins of the illness has traditionally been seen as a  result of misdeeds or straying from spiritual practices but in more recent years it is believed the malady was malaria. Nevertheless, the company believed the treatment was to follow a strict vegetarianism rituals. From that time onward on the first evening of the ninth lunar month, for 9 days celebrations begin. On the first night a long pole is raised at the temples with 9 lanterns lighted to signal the commencement of the festival and at midnight a large fireworks display is made to call upon two gods, Yok Ong Hong Tae and Kiew Ong Tai Tae. On the ninth night there is a very large gathering of all of the temples at Sapahin park where they set off fireworks to send the gods on their way. There are 10 rules for the festival, which I posted on a previous blog that outlines the responsibilities of the devotee's during the festival time. The highlight and spectacle seems mostly in to be in the firecrackers/fireworks and the street processions, of thousands of the faithful dressed in white and escorting people who have pierced their bodies with various items or self mutilate by doing things like licking the end of an axe blade

From One Festival to Another

Well the vegetarian festival has finished, and the remnants of the firecrackers are still being felt afterward. I suppose that you have to dispose of the collection before the humidity makes them unexplodable (if that is even a word). Annie has managed to find the house entrances well and if nothing else the explosions has made her want to be closer to us more often and she finds great comfort in heading to the bedroom and settling on a king sized bed. After 24 hours of a more quiet neighbourhood, the evening has been resounding in the playing of live music. Although the venue is probably 1/2 a kilometer away, it is very clearly heard inside the house, even with the windows closed, that we can close. Tear down time is sometime after 1AM. They have stalls and multi coloured lights all around, so an investigation may be in order.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Even Enough For Me

A rare "G" Rated moment

Today, I left Clive at home to go to see day two of the processions for the Vegetarian Festival. Not a good start as the rain was pouring buckets and the winds howling all night as a tropical storm descended on us. But it is the rainy season and you adjust; you can't stay locked up inside all day either. Off I rode on my trusty Scoopy(i) to find myself in the middle of almost gridlock traffic. I say almost, as if the road is stopped, there is always the sidewalk. I have learned to simply follow the local traffic flow, and being on the bike, I made it downtown through some interesting maneuvering. To my surprise, the procession had already begun to return to the temple Tui Jui, and I found myself having little choice but to take my pictures where I could. Why of all my days here, is 830AM actually 830AM and not 9ish-10ish). I pulled out the handy Cannon and turned the on switch to no response. This is when I remembered, I had plugged the battery in the night before and obviously not put it back int he camera this morning. I pulled out the trusty Coolpix and got on with my objective. The celebrants were certainly different today and I saw more creative use of everyday goods. After about 2 hours, I thought to myself that I could be here all day and after a few hours over 2 days, the novelty wears thin.  Today of particular interest to me was the piercings with the following objects inserted: Meter long shards of glass, a pair of fully automatic guns similar, if not actually, M-16's; a room ceiling fan with light globes; red electric drills, with foot long socket driver shafts; regular umbrella's with the handle through the cheeks or just your lower lip; a rod similar to the aluminum poles that hold up my outdoor shelter; swords and daggers of every type description and number, with or without sheath;multiple brightly coloured fringes, similar to those on a jacket or you used as streamers on your bicycle, all individually help in place with various pins and needles; a hand carved traditional sailing ship mounted with a very extended rudder to be able to pass through both cheeks, and my point of "is this reality?"; the two sets of scuba diving octopus (regulator,2X oxygen masks and depth gauge, hooked to a chrome center point and then affixed to a tank of oxygen), the piercing material of that choice was the rubber hoses that attach the oxygen masks. There was also one young man with a hookah pipe, I am still trying to examine my photo to see how that was attached.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One month and 10 Countries

I have been surprised at the readership of my blog. One month ago I started to put this together and today I have readers in 10 countries! The list to date is : Australia , Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan,Thailand, UK (sorry but the stats do not break it down, but I am assuming England, in the UK) and USA. Although 9 people are listed as followers, the traffic has been amazing. Thanks!!

One Mans Interest

Traffic in Phuket Prior to the Procession

I have been amazed today at the reaction spectrum to the photos I pasted on my Flickr site and another site where I post my photos dedicated to Art. On Facebook most replies have been disgust at the photos and on my email, people are stunned and repulsed, yet oddly enthralled. Sort of like a train wreck, where you know it will look bad, but you just HAVE to see it. On the art site, I am attracting much positive attention and feedback, with people wanting me to post more!

Warning Graphic Photo's

I have just uploaded some shots from the Vegetarian Festival procession this morning in Phuket. These may be disturbing to people, so please view with that in mind.

Monday, October 11, 2010

10 Rules For Vegetarian festival

This is the week of the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket. There are a number of publications on the history and activities of the festival including the 10 rules. These rules are as follows:
  1. Clean your body and your mind during the festival
  2. Clean kitchenware and use them separately from others who do not attend Vegetarian festival (or use kitchen utensils for only this festival)
  3. Eat food prepared from vegetables and do not consume strong smelling vegetables
  4. Wear white clothing during the festival
  5. Behave physically and mentally
  6. Refrain from eating animal flesh
  7. No sex
  8. No alcoholic beverages
  9. People who are in mourning cannot participate in the festival
  10. Pregnant ladies and women with period can eat vegetarian diets, but cannot attend any ritual or visit shrines
All of this got me to thinking, that given the number of followers, a good percentage of the population here; how is business doing in Patong without people drinking or having sex? And what about those places like McDonalds, KFC and Burger King?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Silly Season- Tourist on Motorbikes

It seems that the high season increase in tourists has begun. The most obvious signs are the people who are more than 25% above the ideal body weight, who have not seen sunshine in about a year, in their bikini's or speedo low risers and flip flops, motoring along the roadway at 80KM an hour without a helmet. The sun glistening off the undulating rolls of lily white fat, enough to cause temporary blindness. The German ambassador seemed to have summarized it best a few weeks ago in an interview with the local paper.referring to them as  idiots who would never even dream about doing this at home, but will want the air ambulance paid for by the government to get back to their own country hospitals.
I have had 2 near misses this past week and the scenario is the same. Tourists on a motorbike, taking delight in going through red lights or crossing traffic to get to the other side and forgetting that the oncoming traffic is opposite to what they have at home. The screams of the girlfriend on the back still resonate in my ears and I was proud to be able to control my skidding on hot asphalt, although Clive was certain that he would be watching me fly through the air. Of course going 50KM or less is a good factor in my favour, and knowing that you always look left, look right, look left again and then right and then go. There is no forgiveness at the red lights, as the crossing traffic has begin to rev up when they have 4 seconds left on their red light and as it blinks green, they are off like a herd of stampeding horses. Perhaps I have become too adjusted to riding here and the defensive training I have had suits me well, it's the people who put their bodies and minds into vacation mode that scare me now.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bang Bang

Well this is the day after the official Vegetarian festival kicked off. It was clear at 5AM that the day had arrived, as firecrackers began exploding in the neighbourhood. The past week has seen period of sporadic firecracker activity, but tonight I felt like I was back in Kosovo listening to gunfire, and by now getting as used to the sound as I did then. The intensity is increasing now with what they call firebombs basically about 1000 firecrackers wrapped around a large firecracker, so that as the 1000 finish their blasts, the big daddy goes off. The smell of gun powder is in the air and the dogs are all hiding in the bedroom. Annie is more stressed out than usual, but even the seasoned dogs headed for shelter after a few fireballs went off. This activity is to continue for the next 7 nights, culminating is what is called a big blast and fireworks display at midnight on Saturday next. I am getting my batteries charges for the cameras and will begin my photo documentation, with a full kite on the sights, sounds and experiences of the festival.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Getting the Job Done

Workmen on bamboo scaffolding on Big Buddha

Of all of my observations, the most prominent recollections is how geared this place is for getting the job done. By some North American standards, the safety features employed here would startle some occupational health and safety committee's at my previous work sites, and maybe even yours.  Living in Thailand you quickly realize that there is a huge population base to draw from and, given it's geographical location, we are lucky to be able to get materials and goods from around the world. Most of it is available made in Thailand as well, and there is the constant flow of mass produced goods from China. I recently went to the pottery market and bought some plates and bowls. We had company coming and no crockery to feed them from. The crockery market is about 1/2 a city block long and sells every type of crockery, pottery and dish-wares you can imagine. It was not until I got home, and washed them, that I noticed the IKEA marking on the bottom. It dawned on me that these are actually made in Thailand for sale through IKEA. I was buying direct from the factory. A television documentary last week on the Asian Food Channel was about 8 young British students who come to Thailand and work for 2 weeks in the industries that mass produce the food they eat in the UK. Thailand is one and in many cases the largest supplier of chicken, tuna and rice in the world. I recall seeing frozen seafood and canned tuna in the grocery store, and they all came from Thailand. In the documentary the students went from picking rice by hand in the north, through a fish cleaning house to the monstrous chicken processing plants near Bangkok and ended in Bangkok with the bar girls who play for money.The bottom line for the documentary showed how people in other parts of the world have little understanding of how they contribute to the abject poverty in countries like Thailand.