March 25-31, 2004
Last night I used a fisheye lens to capture both the Shangri-La and The Peninsula from our side porch.
PS (to the pre-journal of March 25th):
Here is a daytime view of the same scene ... again using the fisheye lens.
Last night we went to the 'Mecca' of geeks, which is the land of 'Sodom and Gomorrah' to the people of Silicon Valley: Pantip Plaza.
The International edition of NEWSWEEK recognizes the importance of Florida to Asian electors.
Meanwhile THE ECONOMIST recognizes me.
I fisheyed one of my travel routes yesterday:
|Siam interchange station.|
|Asoke SkyTrain station and Sukhumvit Road.|
|Nana Entertainment complex before 'opening'.|
|Mr. Ben's office.|
|Ruam Rudi motorcycle-taxi gang.|
Yesterday's Thai tabloids brought the usual (*) juicy breakfast fare (**) to the morning table.
(*) Including an unusual B/W photo of a human head to which something horrible had happened. What is coming out of the man's mouth ... ugh, I hate to think.
(**) Plus some cheesecake
PS: This German gentleman had just left a massage parlour with these two ladies ... he was on the way to his hotel when I passed him and overheard:
Lady #1: "Would you like three of us?"
German: "Ha Ha...two is all I can handle at one time."
Both Ladies: [Laughter]
Are Bangkok's 'shrines' in danger? This must be the most important question on the minds of everyone in the ex-Pat world. As readers of THOCBDC well know, this House has done a decent job of photographing much of Patpong and Nana (not only during the evening 'rush' hours, but at 'down times' as well). However your House has not photographically protected any of the sites (sights) at Cowboy (one of the few places that made the Vietnam War worth fighting). For this the House apologizes.
Later today THOCBDC will post some preliminary shots of Cowboy ... these were taken on the run and in bad light. If Cowboy survives the next few weeks your House hopes to update this historical collection with 'better' pictures.
Thailand worries about bomb impact on tourism
"This Songkran is going to be a disaster"
A remote controlled bomb exploded in the south of Thailand on Saturday. 30 persons were wounded, many of them tourists.
SUNGAI KOLOK: -- The first bombing of a tourist venue in Thailand's troubled Muslim south sparked a weekend exodus of Malaysian visitors and fuelled fears of wider hit to the country's key tourism trade.
Noodle hawkers, hotel operators and bar owners in the border town of Sungai Kolok were left counting their losses after a bomb ripped through a karaoke bar on Saturday night, wounding nearly 30 people, including eight Malaysians.
"Malaysian tourists fled after the bomb," a noodle hawker said late on Sunday, one of 20 vendors on the deserted narrow lane of beer bars and karaoke clubs where the bomb hidden in a motorcycle exploded.
Bar owners gazed at empty tables usually packed with Malaysian men flirting with scantily clad Thai bar girls.
The town, about 1,300 km from Bangkok, is known for its hotels, bars and brothels just across the border from Malaysia's northern Islamist heartland.
"My sales had just improved after weeks of few customers and now it's going to be terrible for some time," the noodle hawker said, nearly four months after a new wave of violence erupted in the region where many of Buddhist Thailand's Muslims live.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack in Narathiwat province, one of three provinces under martial law since gunmen raided a southern army camp in January, killed four soldiers and made off with many weapons.
More than 60 people, mostly police and government employees, have been killed in what some believe may be a resurgence of a low-key separatist war fought in the 1970s and 1980s.
Saturday's attack was the first on a tourist venue in the south where Malaysian visitors account for 90 percent of tourism.
"Certainly, the number of tourists will reduce and worries about safety and security will cause foreign tourists to cancel their trips to other spots along the border," said Anusart Suwanmongkol, chief of the Pattani Tourism Promotion Association.
BIG REVENUE EARNER
A bigger worry is the potential impact on Thailand's wider tourism trade and the country's reputation as a safe destination for international holidaymakers.
Senior government officials acknowledged on Sunday the threat posed by the shift to tourist targets in the south.
"These people deliberately want to damage the tourism environment of Thailand," Deputy Prime Minister Wan Muhamad Noor Matha told reporters after visiting bomb victims in hospital.
Thailand's beaches, temples and resorts lure around 10 million tourists a year, generating $8 billion for the economy, or about six percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The industry avoided a major hit from a bird flu epidemic, which killed eight Thais this year. But the SARS crisis in Asia last year cut tourist arrivals in Thailand by 10 percent.
Economists said they doubted the violence would have a serious impact on Phuket and other upscale resort islands which draw the bulk of Thailand's wealthier Western tourists. They expect the fallout from the bombing to hit hardest in southern border towns such as Songai Kolok.
That's bad news for Mahmad, a motorcycle taxi driver who was counting on thousands of Malaysians crossing the border next month to celebrate Thailand's water festival.
"This Songkran is going to be a disaster," he said.
Source: Reuters 2004-03-29
PS: For the philatelists among our readers Cowboy's "Penny Black" is a fillip.
Two Buddhist monks (*) have ordained that Watcharee and I do a particular 'something' at exactly 9:29AM today (Bangkok time). According to these men of the saffron cloth, this is the only auspicious moment that the month of March 'allows' for this 'something' to be done. Done at any other time (**) this 'something' might come off just plain badly ... or, in a worst case scenario, we could meet up with some really horrible consequences.
In the mean time ... while you are waiting to hear about this weirdly timed 'something' ... check out this girl and tell me who you think she is. Yes, you have seen her before ... but, only fully costumed.
(*) Independently consulted, both monks came up with the same tick of the clock.
(**) And, we are measuring this in seconds ... so if the big hand on my watch is even on the 6 ... well, we are 'off' as much as if we did the thing in May.
PS: As of right now (17:46 BKK time) only nine people have made a stab at who is the owner of this morning's 'abdominals' (*). All nine have been off base ... though one of you came fairly close (no, it is not Ning).
Does this help?
(*) Abs or Abds ... for short? Each looks strange ... but maybe that's due to my font.
PPS: CNN just announced:
Thai bomb theft sparks terror fear
Police are on high alert after a spate of violence in the region.
BANGKOK, Thailand -- The theft of a large stash of explosive material by suspected Islamic insurgents has sparked a terror alert in southern Thailand.
A group of about 10 men broke into a rock quarrying factory in Yala province on Tuesday, tied up two security guards and took the explosives away in a truck, The Associated Press reported a police official as saying.
He said 66 bags, each weighing 50 kilograms (110 pounds), of ammonium nitrate, 58 sticks of dynamite, 170 fuses and other objects were missing.
Lt. Gen. Thani Twibsri, the deputy commander of the regional police, said the theft was the work of terrorist groups "who must be planning a major attack and were running short of stock."
Three southern provinces have been under martial law since gunmen raided an army camp in Narathiwat in January, killing four soldiers.
"[The theft] is the work of the same group of terrorists who have been creating the violence and causing trouble in the area," Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang told reporters.
"We have to admit that the more the government tries, the more (the violence) escalates."
Police are on high alert after a spate of violence in the region.
More than 50 people, mostly security officials, have been killed since the January 4 attack.
The worst single incident was a weekend bomb attack in Sungai Kolok that wounded at least 28 people.
No one has claimed responsibility for setting off the explosives, loaded on a motorcycle.
The spate of violence has become Thailand's most serious domestic security crisis since the end of a communist insurgency in the early 1980s.
"The locals' greatest fear is about security. Now people are afraid of everyone and they are growing distrustful of the police," Chaturon said.
Islamic separatist insurgents are suspected to be behind the unrest, largely the result of disenchantment among the minority Muslims with the Buddhist government and the discrimination they face, experts say.
Muslims make up nearly 10 percent of Thailand's 65 million people.
Gen. Pallop Pinmanee, deputy chief of the Internal Security Operations Command, told reporters Wednesday there were about 500 separatist insurgents active in the area and that their goal was to become a force of 3,000.
"The militants are increasing at an alarming rate. A few years ago they had less than four dozen," he said.
PPPS: But this is 'CLASS'!
EL CAJON, California (AP) -- An elderly man recently diagnosed with a brain tumor leaped to his death from a vintage airplane he rented to celebrate his 88th birthday, officials said Tuesday.
Joseph Harold Frost took off his safety belt at 300 to 400 feet, stood up in the open cockpit of the two-seat biplane and went over the side Monday.
The pilot tried but failed to wrestle him back into the plane and nose the aircraft upward to force Frost back into his seat.
"I think that was Dad's idea, to go out in a flash of glory," said Robert Frost, who had helped his father arrange the chartered flight on a biplane similar to the ones the elder Frost flew in World War II.
The man landed on an apartment patio, horrifying those who witnessed it.
"I saw him hit the power lines, heard trees breaking. I really thought it wasn't real," Cynthia Lankford said.
Next: April and Songkran!