June in Bangkok, Part III

After Part II

June 15-21, 2005

Wednesday, June 15, 2005 (pre-journal)

I have discovered an Athenee Residence construction site ... from which I have just swiped a few photographs. They were taken back in January and February of this year ... much has been accomplished since then. I really like the aerial shot.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bo is 24 years old.

Bo is Watcharee's niece. We took her, her mother and her brother (aunt and cousin of Watcharee) to dinner at ... you guessed it ... the Shangri-La.


Hi Dad,

Have you seen this news item? A DC3 crashed 800 yards from my house on our street.



Thursday, June 16, 2005

While stuck in Bangkok's notorious traffic this afternoon I found myself just to the left and to the rear of this vehicle.

For a second I was not sure if this was part of a do-it-yourself funeral or just the delivery van for a local coffin-monger. Though, I'm pretty sure it was the latter as almost everyone who dies in Thailand is cremated.

Many of the coffin makers in Bangkok have their workshops located on the riverbank ... I'm not implying that they float their wares to the clients; no, it's just that bulk deliveries of raw wood (*) are easier when transported by boat from the forest.

(Parenthetically, most of Bangkok's klong tours have to pass by any number of these woodworkers for the dead. And, the local tour guides seem to perversely enjoy reminding their older clients that this is their inevitable bed).

And, as with furniture for the living room, coffins come in many prices; but, unlike more normal furniture, these coffins need be useful for only a few hours (**).

(*) Obviously, the preferred choice of cremators: soft young wood with sap. Flammable paint is also a selling point. Fast burning internal fabrics, too.

(**) Coffin-mongers have few warranty issues.

Thursday, June 17, 2005

One more use for cyanoacrylate: Suicide by "super glue".(*)

The following I stole from Howstuffworks.com:

Super glue deserves its name -- a single drop can permanently join your thumb to your index finger faster than you can say "Whoops," and a 1-square-inch bond can hold more than a ton. So how does this remarkable substance work? The answer lies in its main ingredient, cyanoacrylate (C5H5NO2, for you chemistry buffs).

Cyanoacrylate is an acrylic resin that cures (forms its strongest bond) almost instantly. The only trigger it requires is the hydroxyl ions in water, which is convenient since virtually any object you might wish to glue will have at least trace amounts of water on its surface.

White glues, such as Elmer's, bond by solvent evaporation. The solvent in Elmer's all-purpose school glue is water. When the water evaporates, the polyvinylacetate latex that has spread into a material's crevices forms a flexible bond. Super glue, on the other hand, undergoes a process called anionic polymerization. Cyanoacrylate molecules start linking up when they come into contact with water, and they whip around in chains to form a durable plastic mesh. The glue thickens and hardens until the thrashing molecular strands can no longer move.

(*) In the past the greatest abuse of the qualities of super glue has been aboard commercial aircraft. When the glue was applied to all of the toilet seats on 13 hour trans-Pacific flights everyone suffered ... not just those joined to the johns.

Saturday, June 18, 2005 (pre-journal)

"Tens of thousands of birds were recently destroyed in Indonesia in an effort to curb the spread of the avian flu virus: H5N1." - Reuters

Hey, could this double as a Kentucky Fried Chicken advert?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Today was the last day, as we know it, for the Fitness Center at The Oriental!

It will be shuttered for the next two and a half months while it undergoes extensive renovations (*). In the mean time The Oriental will place a few cardiovascular machines in two adjacent hotel rooms on the seventh floor in the Garden Wing of the hotel. (**) Due to this limited acreage the space will only allow entry to hotel occupants.

So, last night Watcharee and I booked onto a year's membership in the Shangri-La's Health Club. It is located on the 3rd floor of the hotel and most of its machines overlook the pool. No, I am not abandoning the Fitness Center ... I just need a place to go until Yo and Noi are back on the right side of the river. (***)

Does our Mercedes look lonely?

(*) There is an artist's rendition of its future lying around this place somewhere.

(**) Old timers will remember that about five years ago THOCBDC was exiled to two connecting rooms in the Garden Wing while The Oriental was gutting its River Wing property. Back then I dramatized it as the assault of the ALIMAK siege-engines.1

(***) Can you identify Yo and Noi in the photo?

1 My words were:

Dearest reader, many of the suites have been abandoned. The lesser rooms, too.

The first siege engine leveled its attack shortly before dawn, while the floor attendants were still attending to the morning papers, croissants and coffees. Their great rams started their smash through the perimeter walls at the hotel's most vulnerable spot: the little room near the elevator where the attendants prepare the morning trays.

My excitable neighbor, Ms. Cawfield, a medievalist who stays in 1414, is always quick to run with the ball:

"To capture the scene in all of its horror one would have to go back to the Middle Ages, to the great siege of Malta: where the Knights of St. John tossed sheets of blistering lard over the screaming ranting infidels as these heathens clawed their miserable way up the ramparts. These defenders of the chalice, keepers of the Virgin's chastity and protectors of the sacred robe also knew that the battle would be lost."

I think that I am the only guest, aside from Ms. Cawfield, left on the 14th floor. Throughout the day people have come and gone taking with them salvageable bits of furniture and appliances. Beds have been stripped and broken down. Mini-bars wheeled out of the rooms. Curtains slipped from their rods. Paintings unhung from the walls. In my mind it's like end of term at boarding school.

Tomorrow I'm moving over to a pair of rooms in the old wing.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Yesterday we visited an adoption agency. Several Buddha images (*) ... [in both the lotus and standing positions] ... were there to help us make the right choice ... as was Ganesha (**).

Our local monk suggested that this coming Wednesday at 10:09AM (Bangkok time) would be the most auspicious moment to take delivery.

But, as is usually the case, money may trump God. (***)

(*) One of which rests upon a branded platform. You have to look closely; it is the one on the far left.

(**) "The son of Shiva and Parvati, Ganesha has an elephantine countenance with a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being. He is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. In fact, Ganesha is one of the five prime Hindu deities (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Durga being the other four) whose idolatry is glorified as the panchayatana puja." - GOOGLE

(***) Adoption fees can't travel 11 time zones in such a short period of time; it's the paper work at this end of the line that is the tar that slows the baby.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Yesterday I drove to the site of the new but not yet opened Bangkok airport. As it is still pretty much an ongoing construction site, I passed on giving it any time with my camera. Instead I shot a roll of film on the campus of ABAC ... the new campus of Assumption University. Here all of the courses are taught in English.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 (pre-journal)

I wonder if they torched the school.

Rebels attack remote town in Nepal, killing 5 policemen and freeing inmates

12:39 AM EDT Jun 21

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Hundreds of communist rebels killed five policemen, destroyed buildings, freed scores of inmates and took eight government employees hostage Monday during a raid on a remote town in the mountains of eastern Nepal, officials said.

An additional 12 policemen were missing and the bodies of at least two rebels were recovered after the clash in Diktel, about 200 kilometres southeast of Kathmandu, said Information Minister Tanka Dhakal.

"Our troops have taken control of the area and hunting the surrounding areas for the attackers," said Dhakal.

The 63 freed detainees included suspected rebels, but it was unclear how many.

The rebels destroyed six government buildings, including the local courthouse and district administration office and the local jail, said the information minister.

Three policemen and a wounded soldier were airlifted to nearby hospitals for treatment.

Rebel violence has escalated since King Gyanendra seized direct control of the government in February, citing the need to quell the Maoist insurgency, which has left more than 11,500 dead over nine years.

The nighttime attack on Diktel followed a pledge Sunday by rebel leader Prachanda not to target civilians in his group's violent campaign to replace Nepal's government with a communist regime.

The rebels two weeks earlier killed 38 people and injured 71 in a bomb attack on a civilian bus that was widely condemned, and which the rebels later said was a mistake. In their statement sent late Sunday to news organizations, Prachanda said his fighters had strict orders to "stop physical actions against all unarmed persons."

The rebels had also seized eight employees of the government's agriculture agency, which supplies farming equipment and seeds to local farmers. All of them were freed by Monday afternoon, the minister said.

Rainfall was making it difficult for troops to reach the remote town. No roads link it with other districts and army helicopters were unable to land.

The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, began their violent campaign in 1996.

© The Canadian Press, 2005

Next: Part IV

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