January 1-10, 2007
As certain as the sun will rise my morning's email had a warning from my official minder:
A series of bombs exploded Sunday evening December 31, 2006, and Monday morning, January 1, 2007 in several locations in the Bangkok metropolitan area. The explosions killed two persons and caused numerous injuries. The US Embassy has confirmed that no American citizens were injured or killed in the explosions.
The Department of State and the American Embassy in Bangkok urge all American citizens in Bangkok to stay indoors whenever possible, to avoid all public gatherings, and to remain extra vigilant as they travel in and around Bangkok. Please monitor local news channels or CNN for further information.
For additional information on traveling in Thailand and on traveling abroad, consult the Department of State's latest Consular Information Sheet on Thailand and the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov. American citizens may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from overseas.
Last night Watcharee and I celebrated the final hours of 2006 at The Oriental hotel. Our guests were Alex, Golf and Keng.
A couple of wealthy members of the Mercedes Benz Club of Thailand came to dinner in their very best rides, I only 'caught' these cars as were leaving the hotel well after midnight.
Now that the floors have stopped rising the windows are going up.
And a Bangkok landmark has lost its Johnny Walker. And this is how it looked back in October before it lost its famous walker.
My minder is such a minder.
This information is current as of today, Tue Jan 02 15:02:08 2007.
January 1, 2007
This Public Announcement is being issued to alert U.S. Citizens traveling to and residing in Thailand of a series of bombs that exploded in the Bangkok metropolitan area during the evening of December 31, 2006 and shortly after midnight on January 1, 2007. This Public Announcement expires January 31, 2007.
At approximately 1800 hours on December 31, 2006, bombs exploded at five different locations throughout Bangkok, including Bangkok’s Victory Monument, various police traffic control booths, and in the parking lot of a shopping mall. These bombs killed three Thai citizens and injured over two dozen additional Thai citizens.
Shortly after midnight on January 1, 2007, two additional bombs exploded near the World Trade Center shopping mall on Rama 1 Road in Bangkok’s main shopping district. One bomb exploded near a pedestrian footbridge and the second in a beer garden. Bangkok’s largest New Year’s celebration, the "Bangkok Countdown," was to be held at this location, but had been cancelled by local authorities after the bombings earlier that evening. Six foreign tourists and an unknown number of Thai citizens were injured in these bombings.
The U.S. Embassy has confirmed that no Americans were injured or killed in any of the bombings. Additionally, the bombings appear to be limited to the Bangkok area. No incidents have been reported in any cities outside of Bangkok, including Chiang Mai and the popular beach resorts in Thailand.
Given the fluidity of the current situation, the Department of State advises all American Citizens residing in or traveling to Bangkok to continue to monitor events closely, to remain indoors when possible, to avoid any large public gatherings, and to exercise discretion when moving about Bangkok.
The Department of State and the Embassy in Bangkok are continuing to follow developments closely. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). American citizens traveling or residing in Thailand are encouraged to register with the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy. The Embassy is located at 95 Wireless Road in Bangkok. The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy can be reached by calling 66-2-205-4049 and by e-mail at ACSBKK@State.gov. For additional information, please refer to "A Safe Trip Abroad" found at http://travel.state.gov.
Further Department of State travel information, including the complete text of the Consular Information Sheet for Thailand, is available at the Department of State’s web site: http:///travel.state.gov. U.S. travelers may hear recorded information by calling the Department of State at (202) 647-5225 from a touch-tone phone, or receive information by automated fax by dialing (202) 647-3000.
Last night in our continuing quest for the best Bangkok buffet we dined at "Café at 2" in the Conrad Hotel which is located just off Ruam Rudi. As it is only 50 meters from the Athenee Residence this place will play an even bigger role in our lives starting at the end of this year or in the beginning of 2008.
The atmosphere is a bit coffee-shopish for what you would expect in a five star hotel. The service was lackluster. The food display was somewhat random. But, the oysters were very fresh ... shucked right when I chose them. The balance of the selections: nice but not remarkable. OK, this was just one day after the long Thai New Year's holiday (December 29 to January 2) so maybe the place should be cut some slack. We'll give it another try another time.
The Conrad offers a SLK 'limousine service': for one passenger with next to no luggage. I am not sure how may takers it gets but the car is prominently displayed in the front driveway. Maybe being black with red seats is what attracts the single-male-passenger-market.
Our stairwell ... looking down and up.
PS: Our take-out dinner in two bags.
PPS: Wisdom from my Shanghai and Taipei friend Dan:
At age 4 success is . . . not piddling in your pants.
At age 12 success is . . . having friends.
At age 17 success is . . having a drivers licence.
At age 35 success is . . having money.
At age 50 success is . . . having money.
At age 70 success is . .. having a drivers licence.
At age 75 success is . . . having friends.
At age 80 success is . . . not piddling in your pants.
I am a sucker for lawyer jokes.
River City and the Sheraton hotel as seen from the Millennium Hilton's bar.
Last night we went to China House, the Chinese restaurant at The Oriental hotel. The last time that we had eaten there was about four years ago. At that time it was light and open. Several months ago the place was closed for extensive renovations; when it opened a few weeks ago it sported a whole new atmosphere. From Cantonese airiness it morphed into Shanghai 1930's decadence. I don't mean that in an insulting way. The dark atmosphere brightened with deep reds gives the restaurant a sexy feel ... like the opium dens of pre-war Shanghai. In fact, the small dining areas are characterized by the restaurant's menu as being like "opium beds".
We started with Sichuan soup. But, the main fare was the Peking Duck. The duck was prepared in the 'old' way ... with some meat still attached to the crispy skin before it was folded into its edible carrier. [The 'new' way this dish is prepared was first experimented with in Hong Kong; it involved serving the skin alone ... the meat followed in a separate concoction.] Back to the China House: the service was excellent and the serving girls were beautiful.
Now for a lot of photographs of food and people and things.
On the far side of Bangkok ... out where the Chalongrat Expressway meets Ramindira Road (*) ... there is a field where the Mercedes Benz Club of Thailand holds its meetings (**). Watcharee and I tried to find this place on Soi 69 a couple of weeks ago but one wrong turn off the expressway sent us into a disastrous traffic quagmire (***). Sunday, being a relatively slow traffic day in Bangkok, I tried again. This time Watcharee insisted that I take a living Garmin (****) with me.
After 33 minutes and 29 kilometers we arrived on the scene. The MBCT was not in session when we got there, but a far more interesting vehicle than any Mercedes that I have ever seen was parked near the club's headquarters. It was a Batmobile (*****)! Anyway, Bangkok's version of the Batmobile! The owner still drives it daily; I got this bit from the owner's nephew who appeared bemused that I was taking photos of his uncle's truck. He wanted to know if I wanted to have my photograph taken next to his uncle while the two of us posed in front of the truck. I said "No!"
I went a bit overboard with the pictures ... but, it is not very often that you see something like this.
(*) Really useful coordinates, right?
(**) Car club members love plenty of open parking spaces.
(***) It took Herculean efforts on the part of my Garmin Street Pilot to get us 'home'.
(*****) It is not uncommon to find Bat-on-a-rope or Bat-on-a-stick being offered at Thai up-country food stalls. Admittedly, this 'delicacy' is not found in farang frequented restaurants. I have never tried it, and don't want to.
THOCBDC was unusually quiet today so this e-mail from my friend, Suz (*), was very welcome. Can any of you relate to any of these photographs?
(*) Longtime readers will best remember Suz as the girl who was captured on film by the world's press while she was applying her makeup while sitting atop a bull elephant during the World Elephant Polo Championships in Nepal about 8 or 9 years ago.
Does your local cop give you a 'pass' when he sees an "I support the Fraternal Order of Police" sticker on your car? Probably not; he might even stick it to you harder for testing his integrity.
Golf's boyfriend's father is a top cop here in Thailand. He says these two stickers 'work'. We'll see.
Next: Part II