Bangkok, December 2006
Part III

After Part II

December 22-31, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

I wandered over to the building site with not much in mind to aim at. After that food looked pretty good.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Day and night on the Chao Phraya River.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

A new shopping/restaurant area has just opened very close to River Garden. It is named Baan Silom (Silom House) and unlike most Bangkok retail projects it is not a mall. Rather it is more just a couple of courtyards surrounded by tall buildings. The anchor restaurant "Maxx@Baan Silom" is actually two restaurants in one: Mezza for Chinese food and Dao Vien for Vitnamese. We are going to try it right after the New Year.

Tonight we are going to The Oriental for Christmas Eve dinner.


PS: Here are the ladies applying make-up in preparation for tonight's big dinner at The Oriental.


Sunday, December 25, 2006

Today's photos of last night fall into two bundles: one came from Bow's cellphone camera; the other originated in two of my own cameras. All of them are presented here in what appears to be a random disarray. Yes, there is a lot of truth to that. Whatever chronology is evident in the time stamps (solely evidenced by the order of their respective appearance) is totally lost in the meandering gait of the two photographers during the course of the night.

The evening started in 5A with the dressing of the participants. From there it went by elevator and car to The Oriental hotel. After that it was a scattershot performance: people, food and fireworks.

The players: Self, Watcharee, Alex, Bow, Beam, (their Mom and Dad: Patchara and Suchao), Golf and Keng.


Monday, December 26, 2006 (Boxing Day)


PS: My friend, Anna Vassilieva, visits us. Can you find her in this photo? Can you GOOGLE her?


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

THOCBDC apologizes for the delay.

SINGAPORE (Reuters) -- Telecommunications around Asia were severely disrupted on Wednesday after earthquakes off Taiwan damaged undersea cables, slowing Internet services and hindering financial transactions, particularly in the currency market.

Banks and businesses across the region reported problems with communications, with some telephone lines cut and Internet access slowing to a crawl.

South Korea's top fixed-line and broadband service provider, KT Corp, said in a statement that six submarine cables were knocked out by Tuesday night's earthquakes.

"Twenty-seven of our customers were hit, including banks and churches," a KT spokesman said. "It is not known yet when we can fully restore the services."

Banks in Seoul said foreign exchange trading had been affected.

"Trading of the Korean won has mostly halted due to the communication problem," said a dealer at one domestic bank.

Some disruption was also reported in the important Tokyo currency market but the EBS system that handles much dollar/yen trading appeared to be working.

Global information company Reuters Group Plc said all users of its services in Japan and South Korea had been affected.

One Tokyo foreign exchange trader said: "There are many currencies in which market-making is being conducted via Reuters and such currencies such as the Australian dollar and the British pound are in a very tenuous situation now."

State secret

In China, trading in currencies and copper appeared to be normal and both the Shanghai stock market and money market were working.

But China Telecommunications Group, the country's biggest fixed-line telephone operator and parent of China Telecom Corp., said the earthquakes had affected lines "from the Chinese mainland to places including the Taiwan area, the United States and Europe, and many have been cut".

"Internet connections have been seriously affected, and phone links and dedicated business lines have also been affected to some degree," it said.

Officials declined to give further details. "Undersea communications cables fall in the area of state secrets," said a ministry of communications official in Beijing.

The main quake, measured by Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau at magnitude 6.7 and at magnitude 7.1 by the U.S. Geological Survey, struck off Taiwan's southern coast at 1226 GMT on Tuesday. Two people were killed.

Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom said two of four major undersea cables out of Taiwan had been affected. Voice circuits had been reduced to 40 per cent of capacity to the United States and just 2 per cent to most parts of Southeast Asia.

KDDI Corp., Japan's second-largest telecoms company, said communications along submarine cables out of Japan went through Taiwan before reaching Southeast Asian countries, which was leading to disruption.

But it said communications were unlikely to break down completely since there were alternative lines.

PCCW, Hong Kong's main fixed-line telecoms provider, said several undersea cables it part-owned had been damaged. "Data transfer is down by half," a spokeswoman said.

Both Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), Southeast Asia's top phone company, and local rival StarHub Ltd., said customers were suffering slow access to Internet pages.

But SingTel said traffic was being diverted and repair work was in progress, adding: "Our submarine cables linking to Europe and the U.S. are not affected."


Thursday, December 28, 2006

The 'outage' is bigger than first thought.

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- With one blow, Mother Nature triggered the largest telecommunications outage in years, cutting off or slowing telephone and Internet traffic in Asia from Beijing to Bangkok.

A powerful earthquake off the southern tip of Taiwan late Tuesday damaged up to a dozen fiber-optic cables that cross the ocean floor south of Taiwan. They usually carry traffic between China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, the U.S. and the island itself.

The magnitude-6.7 tremor, which struck near the town of Hengchun, killed two residents of Taiwan and injured more than 40 people.

It also showed the vulnerability of the global telecommunications network.

Chunghwa Telecom Co., Taiwan's largest phone company, said the quake damaged several of the undersea fiber lines, and repairs could take two to three weeks.

Taiwan lost almost all of its telephone capacity to Japan and mainland China. Service to the United States also was hard hit, with 60 percent of capacity lost.

Later, Chunghwa said connections to the U.S., China and Canada were mostly restored, but 70 percent of the capacity to Japan was still down, along with 90 percent of the capacity to Southeast Asia.

Stephan Beckert, an analyst with the Washington-based research firm TeleGeography, said it was the largest telecommunications failure in years.

"The magnitude of the break is surprising because Taiwan is otherwise a very well connected system," Beckert said. He noted that cables get cut and disrupted all the time, but there's usually enough backup capacity on other lines to keep traffic flowing without customers noticing an interruption.

But with multiple cables broken at once, Internet traffic around the Pacific was disrupted. Hong Kong telephone company PCCW Ltd., which also provides Internet service, said the quake cut its data capacity in half. Internet access was cut or severely slowed in Beijing, said an official from China Netcom, China's No. 2 phone company.

The official, who would not give his name, said the cause was thought to be the earthquake, but he had no further details.

The Internet Traffic Report Web site, which monitors Internet connectivity in several countries, showed that packet loss, or the percentage of data that doesn't reach its destination, spiked sharply in Asia at the time of the earthquake, rising from about 10 percent to more than 40 percent.

On Wednesday afternoon U.S. time, the Web site showed limited connectivity to China, Singapore and Indonesia, while Japan and Taiwan were apparently back to normal.

KDDI Corp., Japan's major carrier for international calls, said its fixed-line telephone service was affected by the quake. Company spokesman Haruhiko Maeda said customers were having trouble calling India and the Middle East, which usually use the cables near Taiwan. Maeda said the company was rerouting calls through the U.S. and Europe.

South Korea's largest telecom company, KT, said that the lines it uses were damaged, affecting dozens of companies and institutions, including South Korea's Foreign Ministry.

In the U.S., Cisco Systems Inc.'s Linksys division warned that customer support call centers for its home networking gear were affected by the outage, but other companies with overseas call centers reported few problems.

Molly Faust, a spokeswoman for American Express Co., the global travel and payment card company headquartered in New York, said the company "wasn't experiencing any customer service issues in Asia."

She said that there were "some interruptions" of the company's computer systems in Taiwan, but added: "It didn't impact customers because we could use backup systems and manual processes."

Tyco International Ltd. said it has a Taiwan-based cable-laying ship heading to the area for repairs.

"Pretty much everything south of Taiwan has been reported at fault," said Frank Cuccio, vice president of marine services at Morristown, New Jersey-based Tyco Telecommunications.

Cuccio expects the ship to be in position in a few days. It then takes three to five days to repair each cable, but mudslides set off by the earthquake can complicate matters by covering the cables, making them harder to retrieve from the bottom.

Cuccio said the ruptures are more than 10,800 feet below sea level, too deep for the remote-controlled submersibles that otherwise would find the cables. Instead, the ship will drag grapnels along the bottom to find them.

The cables on the deep ocean floor are just two-thirds of an inch, a testament both to the immense data capacity of optical fiber and the fragility of the links that form the global telecommunications network.


Friday, December 29, 2006 (Pre-journal)

Due to Tuesday's Taiwan based earthquake, Internet connections all over Asia have plunged back into the 1200 baud world of the 1980s. But, what is really strange is this: several distant servers I can easily reach (e.g., I have no problem with touching base with my own THOCBDC[*]) ... but with some local ones (like the Thai Forum) it take ages just to download a single page of text.

Right now I'll attempt to send a couple of photographs of Anna which I took yesterday in the Author's Lounge at The Oriental Hotel. Anna spent two nights here in Bangkok before going on to Burma for a meditation course.

While these pictures are uploading I'll pop over to the Shangri-La Hotel for dinner. By the time I return perhaps they will have reached their destination.


[*] Maybe because it is in my computer's memory ... in some local cache? Who knows!


Friday, December 29, 2006

Though I have lived in BKK for 7 years and I have been in River City countless times I have never visited the roof at River City. And I only discovered it today because I had to go to one of the highest floors in the building's garage to find a parking place. And, when I walked out onto the roof I realized that this was the place that I was curious about when we last stayed at the Millennium Hilton ... at the time I took a couple photos of the place (exercising my telephoto lens), but I don't think I published them then. But, I am going to do so now.


Anyway, this roof is awash with hundreds (maybe thousands) of ornamental brass castings. As I was the only 'customer' my guess is that the place will be inhabited by more and more castings rather than fewer.

Maybe I am missing something ... but I do not understand how all these casting shops (there are a lot of them around Bangkok and THOCBDC has peered at them on more than one occasion) stay in business. It seems like the same inventory is always on their sidewalk displays. And, who buys this stuff? You'd need a major freight shipper to get it home ... and what would you do with it when you finally unwrapped it?


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Yikes! Did the big tree lose?


PS: In all the excitement yesterday over the roof discovery I forgot to show you the exhibition floor at River City: Siam art.


Sunday, December 31, 2006

The fireworks barge is being prepared. As are the outside tables at The Peninsula's Verandah and those at the Sala Rim Nam restaurant at The Oriental.


PS:

Update:
Four Bombs Kill Two in Bangkok

BANGKOK: -- Four explosives went off almost simultaneously in Bangkok, injuring at least 20 people as the city people have just started to celebrate the New Year's eve.

Two people were killed and 20 injured at the Victory Monument when a powerful bomb went off near a bus station.

One person was dead near the Big C supermarket, Sapan Kwai branch, where witness saw a man dropped a grenade from a pedestrian bridge just over the police box.

At the Klong Toei area near the Na Ranong intersection, a bomb hidden in a trash can near a Chinese spirit shrine exploded and injured two bypassers. The explosion caused a secondary explosion to a number of cookinggas cylinders that were situated nearby.

At the Seacon Square Shopping Mall, a loud explosion went off at the parking space, creating a panic but no injury.

Authorities ordered all shoppers to evacuate the mall, one of Bangkok largest, and all shops to close down for business.

Government's spokesman Yongyuth Malyalarp urged the public to remain calm, adding that police officers have been instructed to stay on high alert, including areas where high concentration of people are expected to take part in the New Year's count down.

"Police reinforcement have been sent to various areas in the city. We urged the public to remain calm, continue with the celebration but at the same time keep a look out for any irregularities," Yongyuth said.

Another police box was hit with a bomb but not injury reported, said Police spokesman Pol General Ajiravid Subarnbhesaj said.

-- The Nation 2006-12-31


PPS:

Three more bombs explode at Central World, Pratunam, Khao Sarn Road
Full story:

BANGKOK: -- Three more bombs exploded in the heart of Bangkok once the new year started, severely injuring many foreign tourists.

The two bombs exploded nearly at the same time seconds after the new year started and another bomb exploded about half an hour after midnight.

The first bomb exploded at the Best Sea Foods restaurant on the Saen Saeb Canal near the Pratunam Pier.

Two foreigners and a Thai were injured. One of the foreigners had one leg amputated by the blast. The foreign tourists were having dinner at the restaurant.

Police said the bomb was hidden in a tire at the pier.

The second bomb exploded at a public telephone booth at the pedestrian flyover linking Central World and Kesorn Plaza. Several foreigners were injured and rushed to hospitals.

The third bomb exploded at the Buddy Bar on Khao Sarn Road.

-- The Nation 2006-12-31


PPPS: NY Times Article on the bombings ...

BANGKOK, Thailand, Dec. 31 At least six small bombs exploded around Bangkok today, killing two people and injuring at least 20 in a city that remains under martial law following a coup three months ago. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Moments later two more bombs went off near a downtown mall, injuring eight people, including six foreigners, the police said.

New Year's celebrations were canceled both in Bangkok and in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

The national police chief said he doubted that Muslim insurgents from southern Thailand were involved, leaving the likelihood that the violence was tied to the country's continuing political tensions.

Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted as prime minister in a non-violent coup on Sept. 19, and the junta has warned of a continuing threat of instability from his backers. The civilian government it appointed approved funds last week for a 14,000 member special operations force to maintain civic order.

"The bombs exploded almost simultaneously," said Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont as he visited the injured at a hospital. "It must have been planned." But he said it was too early to conclude who was responsible.

Police officers were sent to guard the sites of the bombings and to secure other possible targets. Hotels tightened security, shopping malls closed early and the police cleared the Khao San Road walking street, where backpackers from around the world gather at New Year's.

The national police chief, Gen. Ajirawit Suphanaphesat, said at least six bombs exploded and that the police were inspecting suspicious packages in several other areas. Officials said two people had been killed and more than 20 injured in scattered locations that included a bus stop, a parking area near a shopping mall, a small open market and two police posts.

Bangkok's mayor, Apirak Kosayothin, carried out the New Year's countdown in a public square more than three hours early.

"Due to several bomb explosions in Bangkok and for the sake of peace and security, I would ask all of you to return to your homes now," he told a crowd of 5,000 people. The police then began clearing the square.

Some people remained in the streets, however, waving from behind television reporters at the scenes of some of the bombings.

"Police reinforcements have been sent to various areas in the city," said the government's spokesman, Yongyuth Malyalarp. "We urge the public to remain calm."

An insurgency in the three largely Muslim provinces of southern Thailand has taken more than 1,900 lives over the past two years. Shootings and bombings have become an almost daily occurrence. But so far, the violence appears not to have spread to Bangkok and other parts of the country.

The southern violence appears to have a number of causes. The ethnic Malay Muslims have complained over the years of neglect and discrimination by the distant capital in this largely Buddhist nation.

Thailand's political crisis did not end with the coup, which brought to a halt a period of mounting tension that included large demonstrations against the prime minister earlier in the year.

Mr. Thaksin was abroad at the time, and the question of his possible return continues to preoccupy people here. The junta has said its interim government will draw up a new constitution in preparation for an election late next year.

But it has delayed the lifting of martial law, saying unnamed "undercurrents" of pro-Thaksin opposition continue to present a threat.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the minority Democrat party, said on Saturday that he expected Mr. Thaksin's backers to step up political attacks on the military-backed government in the coming year.

He referred to recent accusations of corruption against the interim prime minister, Surayud Chulanont, and said, "Such fighting will be more fierce next year."


PPPPS: 2AM Thai Visa news:

Bit of a breakdown from Scandasia and Ron..with thanks..

Explosives went off almost simultaneously in several places accross Bangkok at around 18:00 local time, injuring at least 20 people as the Thai capital had just started celebrating New Year's eve. This news will be continuously updated as more details become available.
By Gregers Moller (from Scandasia ...with Thanks)

Year end revellers leav the Seacon Square shopping comple. All public parties were cancelled. The largest at Central World in Bangkok reported the lost income to be around 30 mill baht.

At Anusawari Chai / Victiry monument the most people were injured.

Police gathering evidence at the bomb scene near the Victory monument.
An injured person receives treatment at the Rachawithi Hospital at the Victory Monument.

Around 18:00 on Sunday evening local time in Bangkok, bombs exploded in several places acccross the Thai capital killing several people and injuring many more. All public Count-Down-Parties across the city has been cancelled.

The first bomb exploded at 17:47. The number of bombs and the size of the damage may be wrongly reported by the sources used for the following report, based on Thai news sources. Feel free to call the mobile phone of Editor Gregers Moller +66 8 1629 0117 if you have corrections or first hand knowledge of any further details.

The bombs reportedly exploded in the following locations:

Victory Monument (in Thai "Anusawari Chai")

Saphan Kwai

Saphan Kwai BTS station

Seacon Square

Klong Toey

Khae Rai

Sukhumvit Soi 62

Yaowarat

Macro on Chaengwattana
Confusion:

Major Cineplex, Rachayothin

As the news broke, all department stores in Bangkok asked customers to leave and closed down.

The Bangkok Skytrain system, BTS and the Subway train system, MRT, announced that they would keep running untill 12 midnight the 31 December and open again 6 o'clock.

Thai Airways say they have increased safety measures. More vigil checking of luggage and safety checking onboard the planes. All flights have moved check in times forward to be 2 hours before departure.

Government's spokesman Yongyuth Malyalarp urged the public to remain calm, adding that police officers have been instructed to stay on high alert, including areas where high concentration of people are expected to take part in the New Year's count down.

"Police reinforcement have been sent to various areas in the city. We urged the public to remain calm, continue with the celebration but at the same time keep a look out for any irregularities," Yongyuth said.

Thai New Agency quoted Surayud as asking people wishing to join new year party on Sunday night to avoid crowded areas.

The premier has ordered all security officers; police and soldiers, to reinforce in many areas in Bangkok. He ordered crime scene inspectors to collect all evidences from the attack scenes in order to know which groups mastermind the attacks. Later in the evening, Prime Minister Surayudh visited injured people at the Rachawithi Hospital and from there he went to Chulalongkorn Hospital where other injured were hospitalized.

Soldiers manned security check points at several MRT and BTS stations. Througout the city and its suburbs, many road intersections had soldiers deployed.

Elsewhere in Thailand, the news resulted in count down parties to be cancelled in Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen.

Midnight bomb attacks

Central World at the Pradoo Nam harbour on the Klong Saen Saep

The Police Hospital informed at 01.10 that the nationalities of the injured were:

Big C in Rajadamri

Khao San

Lumpini Night Bazaar

Who did it?

The police say they suspect people discontent with the military coup in September to be behind the attacks. The police does not believe it was people in the south of Thailand who have been exploding bombs and setting schools on fire who were behind the attack.

Next: 2007!

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