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Siem Reap. Cambodia. Again. Part Two

Siem Reap: 2012

Siem Reap, Cambodia…

Carrying on from Siem Reap. Cambodia. Again. Part One… Snap (Cooee) and I have been leapfrogging Cambodian posts (but she’s far quicker off the mark).

Onward to the Bayon and Thom: A good hour and a half later after wandering around Angkor Wat, we cooled down in a nearby café. It was SO hot, other tourists where asking the gardener to hose them off, instead of the plants.

Agreed! It was boiling HOT! The first time I saw this sign was in a ladies’ toilet at one of the Wats. I just had to laugh at the shower icon. I mean, who’d stick their heads under a [cough] bum-gun?

Siem Reap: 2012

The second time I came across the sign I knew just who. ME!

But hot or not, we still had time to fill. So, after sweating through the heads of Bayon, my group opted for a late afternoon elephant ride to the top of Phnom Bakheng hill. Without me. Needing a quiet space, sans elephants and people, I wandered around on my own.

Siem Reap: 2012

The elephant rides are relatively cheap and the view from the top of the hill is (apparently) worth it. To ride up the hill is a mere US$20 per person, and for the ride back down, US$15. Walking or riding, the entire trip is around 30-40 minutes. But, if you plan on taking in the ruins of Bakheng temple, you’ll (obviously) need more time.

Shagged out – them from their walk and me from being quiet – back we went for a shower, a change of clothes, and happy hour at the Heritage Suites Hotel. As promised, the Long Island Iced Teas were tall and cold. Needed.

After dinner is where the evening got interesting. And before you think it, no, I didn’t get arrested. Not me.

Siem Reap: 2012

Old town Siem Reap is loaded with places to eat. In search of a fit we made our way through streets lined with restaurants and heaving with tourists. The noise would be deafening, but then we’d turn a corner to find entire streets quiet of customers, sporting staff manning emptiness. What’s up with that? With a mostly tourist population, how can entire sections be unpopular?

Anyway… after an uneventful dinner [boring] we went looking for a fish massage [yeah!]

For years I’ve contemplated the experience of a fish massage. Whenever I came across massage tanks in Bangkok I’d take photos while avoiding the plunge. But Talen did go for it (check out his post, Thai Foot Massage Can be a Fishy Business – no longer online).

One of the main reasons for my reluctance was down to the reported health risks.

Feeding frenzy: Thailand’s fish spas nibble on despite health fears: Britain’s Health Protection Agency recently announced it was investigating the possibility of human infection from fish spa pedicures, but had no confirmed cases of disease.

Infected human blood can turn a fresh water aquarium into a potential mixing vessel. Pieces of uneaten, dead or diseased skin floating in the tank during the treatment add to the risk of additional skin diseases, according to health officials.

Sounds appetising. Yes? Seems with one Island Iced Tea (most) of worries were gone.

Old Siem Reap had fish massage places galore. Some of the tanks were milky-murky with dark bits attached to the glass. Hmmm. But two tanks, side by side, were crystal clear. And these tanks just so happened to be manned by a lovely, high-spirited character. So fun!

Seriously, I don’t know what he was on, but, wow. Our host bounced around. Cracked bad jokes. And then agreed to free Angkor Beers and a pee. Into the water we went.

Siem Reap: 2012: Fish massage

See that lovely Swedish couple in the photo? On the bottom left? They not only put up with fish nibbling their toes but with us as well. Oh dear. My friends and I were in an [um] cheerful mood and the free beers were possibly one drink too far. Poor things. Alexander and Mathilda, if you two are reading this, thank you for putting up with our merriment.

We were having such an amusing time that at first I ignored the fish nibbles going from gentle to pain. The fish had gone beyond the outer layers and were making inroads into my skin. Ow. I’d cover one foot with the other, and when the foot on top was hurting too much, I’d switch. Double ouch. And time to go.

Siem Reap: 2012: Fish massageIn the morning I woke up to multi-hued feet covered with red dots. The larger bites oozed blisters. Oh joy.

During the day my toes got fat. Just like little sausages. And angry red dots abounded.

And my friend? Nadda. Her feet were fine.

This is sooooo typical. When I went to write a series on Thai street food I came down with food poisoning. And that was before I even got a chance to review the first hawker stall!

Which reminds me… Pssst… Talen … I won’t be jumping out of a plane this coming May with you after all. I’m not overly superstitious but… three strikes at that height and I’d be seriously out.

Please stay tuned for the next post featuring Kulen Mountain (Valley of a 1000 Lingas) and Banteay Srei (Citadel of Women). Until then!

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Siem Reap. Cambodia. Again. Part One

Siem Reap: 2012

Siem Reap, Cambodia…

Siem Reap in Thai is pronounced in a slightly different way than you might be used to hearing: เสียมราฐ /sĭam-râat/. And funny enough (but perhaps not to Thais), Siem Reap in Khmer translates to ‘Siam Defeated’.

Wiki: Siem Reap: The name Siem Reap means the ‘Flat Defeat of Siam’ — today’s Thailand — and refers to the centuries-old conflict between the Siamese and Khmer peoples.

This name was baptized by King Ang Chan (1516-1566) as “Siem Reap”, meaning “the flat defeat of Siam” (Cambodians call Siam or Thailand “Siem”). It was because of the victory over the Thais which King Ang Chan counter-attacked, and shot Prince Ong dead on an elephant’s back, and routed the Thais and captured no less than 10,000 Thai troops.

Even with the Cambodian–Thai border dispute being manipulated by politicians on both sides, antagonism between the two countries has mostly slowed down to a soft boil.

And while I haven’t asked Thais, the Cambodians I’ve talked to admitted to a fondness for the Thai people. I’m curious, what’s been your experience, if any?

Siem Reap five years ago…

I’ve dreamed of walking around the huge stone faces of Bayon ever since National Geographic did a feature on the Wat. I believe I was around 14 years old. Or was I 16? Close enough.

Only back then I thought the area was called Ankor Wat. How wrong I was.

Five years ago I finally made it to Siem Reap. I’m told that partially due to the Khmer Rouge shutting down the country, many of the colonial buildings in the old part of town have been mostly preserved. Um. Thanks?

Using the quaint city as a base, during my visit I trudged through way too many Wats. Some were almost completely restored while others were distinguishable only as piles of stone. Yes. You got it. My long awaited adventure morphed from a thrill a minute to quite the dull drudge.

Even though the trip was exhausting, I absolutely loved the city and the main Wats. And no surprise to me, the enormous faces of Bayon stole my heart. Ok, Thailand owns the biggest part of my heart but there’s room for more. Seriously.

Each evening, after a long day of sightseeing, I’d head to the Viva Mexican Cafe situated in the old part of town.

Armed with an order of nachos and (small) buckets of margaritas, I’d sit beside the sidewalk to watch the street show. There’d be a smattering of tourists strolling the partially lit streets, street kids trying out their multi-language skills, and tuk tuk drivers parking and/or sleeping nearby.

Ever since that trip I’ve vowed to go back to Siem Reap. FINALLY, with well-traveled friends visiting from the UK this month, away we went!

Siem Reap in 2012…

Depending on the flight, Bangkok to Siem Reap is either one hour away via propeller driven plane, or a mere half hour by jet. We went during the week (less popular) so the airline used a small plane going over. In comparison, the return was booked for a Friday night so we were whoooooooshed back to Bangkok.

There’s no way getting around saying this (and I’ve tried) but the excitement of our arrival was deflated when the Heritage Suites Hotel neglected to collect us from the airport. After waiting outside the airport for what seemed like forever we gave up and traveled to the hotel via van instead of the promised vintage Mercedes Benz (formerly owned by Father King Norodom Sihanouk). Sigh. Riding in a van wasn’t special. It was merely ‘ok’.

During the ride to the Heritage we passed hotel after new hotel. A big change. When I queried the driver about the growth he mentioned that something like 150 hotels had gone up in the past few years. Wow. I hope their infrastructure keeps up with the pace.

Siem Reap: Hotel

Once at the Heritage Suites Hotel the manager, Magnus Olovson, took immediate charge of the situation. Apologising for the snafu, Magnus upgraded everyone to spacious suits. Is that impressive, or what? And I’m sure the next question is, how can you get a snafu too?

Thank you Magnus (but honestly, I would have been happy with a ride to the Viva Mexican Cafe in the ‘Bentley’ ;-)

Siem Reap: 2012

After jumping in and out of showers we called for tuk tuks to take us to dinner and drinks at the Viva Mexican Cafe.

Unlike on my first trip the now lit streets were filled with tourists and the restaurant heaving!

A further sign of Siem Reap’s recent success, the nachos at Viva went upmarket (but were just as tasty) and the actual buckets filled with margaritas were no more. The small buckets were replaced by large beer glasses instead. No matter. The margaritas went down mighty fine.

After wandering around the old part of town for an hour or so we headed back to the pool and our private steam rooms, deep bathtubs, and super comfy beds.

Magnus, it was mighty fine. So again, a ‘ta’ from me.

Siem Reap: 2012

Breakfast by the pool was rather good and the wait staff were exceptional. Congrats Heritage. Well done. In addition to the buffet, the outdoor chef cooked up delicious plates filled with omelets, bacon, sausage, and grilled tomatoes. The coffee was topnotch as well.

Siem Reap: 2012

Breakfast over, soon enough the guide arrived and off we went to our first stop, Ankor Wat. The sun was at a bad angle (not conducive for decent photos) so I won’t share my weak shots of the famous entrance over the moat. Apologies. Perhaps better photographers have light tricks unknown to me.

Wiki: Angkor Wat is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist.

Walking around the Wats our guide pointed out the many headless Buddha statues. He mentioned that their heads were chopped off and buried in the jungle by the rival religion. Nice to know. And all this time I thought the destruction of the stone Buddhas was due to the shameful (western) antique market.

Many, but not all, of the heads have been found. Sooo, is anyone up for a treasure hunt? Hmmmm?

Siem Reap: Ta Prohm

Next on the agenda was Ta Prohm, known for its impressive trees growing over stone buildings.

Wiki: Ta Prohm is the modern name of a temple at Angkor, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara.

Located approximately one kilometre east of Angkor Thom and on the southern edge of the East Baray, it was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university.

Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor’s most popular temples with visitors.

Siem Reap: Monk

I swear this very monk was walking in this exact same spot five years ago!

Siem Reap: Lunch

A fair bit of Ta Prohm was under construction so after seeing what we could, off we went to what turned out to be an excellent lunch washed down with coconut water (moi) and beer (them).

Why did I go for coconut water? On holiday no less? Sure, I do sometimes enjoy a good beer, but in the heat of the day a nap must soon follow. And hey, that’s just one of my many excuses for not drinking beer.

Cambodian food is far less spicier than Thai food but the lack is easily remedied by bowls of cut chilis. And every time we ordered chilis, broad smiles came too.

Siem Reap: Faces

Tip: If it’s absolutely crucial to get decent photos, and you don’t know any light magic, make your intentions clear to your guide.

Five years ago I was delivered to the Wats that mattered at perfect times. But, on this trip, I didn’t realise the importance until we rolled up to washed out Ankor faces. Boring.

I do understand why we arrived at Bayon when we did. These days there are HUGE numbers of tourists crowding the Wats, so after checking out the situation, our guide made a snap decision to change our itinerary.

Pity I didn’t come across this site in time:

The Bayon: Built by Jayavarman VII the temple stands in the center of Angkor Thom. With its 54 towers and 216 faces of Avalokiteshvara, this temple looks best in the morning just after sunrise or at the end of the afternoon as the sun shines on the faces.

After agreeing to make it back well before sundown we returned to the hotel for a needed rest.

Siem Reap: Faces

We got back to Bayon around 4pm. With hindsight, to get the best chance at catching more of the golden light, perhaps it should have been 3pm instead. Live and learn…

I saw noticeable renovation on the statues flanking one of the entrances to Bayon (shown in the bottom left photo). And most of the replaced heads were already showing considerable damage. Odd.

I asked the guide about the destruction and in his opinion it was deliberate. Supposedly the large chunks out of the renovated heads were done to make them look more like the originals. It looked like vandalism to me.

The day is not yet over, but as this seems a perfect place to stop this post, I will.

Before I sign off, Snap was at Siem Reap shortly before my visit so please stop by to say ‘hey’: Arriving in Siem Reap.

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Expat Living: Brother Dan is Still Sailing Away

Brother Daniel is Sailing

Photo credits: Daniel Anderson (Dan the Younger)

Expat living on the high seas…

This post has nothing to do with learning Thai or Thailand. It’s about expat living. And since I haven’t written an expat living post for awhile, and the opportunity arose, here you go.

When I was growing up I spent a bit of time on sailboats. It’s one of the many outdoors activities our family engaged in to keep three rowdy kids entertained. When we first took to sailing seriously, we lived in one of the most beautiful places in the world: Marlborough County, on the South Island of New Zealand. After New Zealand we started sailing the equally stunning waters around California, Nevada, Mexico, and more.

A few years after relocating to California, my father retired, gave away or sold most of his belongings, got on a boat and sailed away for good. He was in his early 40’s. His trip started from the Sacramento River, downtown Sacto, and ended back in Picton Harbour, New Zealand. His craft of choice was the family boat, a 23′ Islander (single hull), aptly named the Don Quixote (the impossible dream).

And for international waters especially, 23′ is a small boat.

How small is small? It was small enough for a teenage girl to manage lake sailing for a week plus on her own, no problem. But when small craft warnings went out on Californian and Nevada lakes, it had to come in. That’s small.

After his well-publicised launch (warmed up with a wake the night before), the Sacramento papers joked about there not being enough room left in the sailboat for a spare can opener. They were right. That boat was packed tight.

With parts missing (storms do take their toll) the Don Quixote made it all the way to New Zealand, limping the final stretch.

EDIT: Going through photos I came across a copy of a newspaper article written after his arrival in New Zealand: Pair Took Trailer Sailer from California to Wairau Bar! (apologies, but for the article to be legible, it needs to open outside of this post format).

Fast forward to the year before last.

After fulfilling his obligations, my older brother Daniel (Dan) upgraded his sailing skills, wrapped up his life in Hawaii, flew to LA, renovated a ’78 Cascade sloop named the S/V Leeway (he’s brilliant that way), and sailed off towards southern waters.

Dan’s adventurous shipmate Daniel Anderson kept friends and family abreast of first the renovation and then their travels via his well-written blog, dansailing (warning, they are both Dan). Dan the Younger is shown in the photo below (ahhhh, the life, yes?)

Daniel Anderson is Sailing

About a year later, when the younger Dan’s time on Leeway was up, we grew to depend upon my brother’s lively but sporadic emails.

This week I received such an email. And as it’s such an interesting (alarming?) update, I thought you’d get a kick out of reading it too. Note: for those without sailing experience, I’ve added links to a few boating terms. Let me know if I’ve missed any.

From Daniel: An update on my journey…

I left out of Moorea after Christmas. The southern oscillation had moved north displacing the 20 plus mph trade winds with a gentle 10 mph breeze. I figured that it would be a good time to start my first singlehanded passage: Moorea to Samoa.

My first 24hrs were a gentle northwest broad reach heading northwest to clear the Leeward Islands of French Polynesia. The second afternoon the wind dropped to a still, muggy calm with isolated thunderheads marching up from the east.

I spent the night in the cockpit tacking the boat north and south to avoid the worst of these. The gentle breezes and diminished storm activity came with dawn.

Daniel is Sailing

I slept a few hours as Leeway, sails set wing and wing, made her way under control of the wind vane. I was tired but in good spirits as I dozed off and on into the afternoon, catching rest to prepare for the night watch.

I awoke fully at 4pm with the sound of a pair of French Mirage fighter jets coming up low and fast from behind Leeway. I turned to watch them blast by only to see a whitewater torn line of wind racing toward me instead, close and fast. Too close, too fast. I hit the deck moving forward to release the guy out 140% genoa as the wall of wind hit us. The mainsail back-winded and bounced against the preventer which kept Leeway from a full-flying gype.

The boat spun a full 180 degrees, both sails now filled taut from the bow. Leeway was sailing backward!

I had been flattened to the deck by a blow to the head by the pivoting boom. Knowing from first aid courses that head wounds bleed copiously did not prepare me for the flood of blood down my face and chest. Blood splattered everywhere as I dropped and bundled the genoa on deck, heaving it out of the water and gasketting it tight against the lifelines.

The preventer had cinched the customary half hitch too tight to release. I made my way back to the cockpit on a nearly vertical deck returning with my emergency machete. With a quick stroke of the machete Leeway popped vertical, mainsail adding the timpani of outraged cloth to the roar and howl of rigging straining wind.

I knew I was hurt. Footprints of red went fore and aft. Chest to foot flowed red. Windswept splatters and sprays of red swept the cockpit, the coach roof, deck and sails.

With Leeway running downwind on mainsail alone, trusty wind vane managing beautifully and the nearest lee shore 30 miles away, I went below to tend to myself and ascertain the damage.

Using precious freshwater at the galley to wash my face, a gaping cut over my right eye showed in my shaving mirror. “This will need stitches” my mind flatly stated. I have everything aboard and the training to stitch skin. On someone else…

I had experimented with self stitching 10 or 15 years ago on my leg after an encounter with rebar on a job site. I didn’t do so well. Even with lidocane the sensation was just too weird.  

I tied two 4×4 gauze pads tight to my head with a strip of clean T-shirt and reviewed my options. In two weeks I could arrive Samoa with another interesting scar, or Bora Bora was a 6 hour beam reach south.

I wore about, still under full main, still in 40 knot winds. By 6pm I was outside the pass, motor wouldn’t start, wind coming directly out the pass precluding a sail in. I was dizzy and unable to make out the pass entrance lights against the backdrop of channel nav within the lagoon and lights of Vaitape.

Daniel is Sailing

I radioed Port Autonome Bora Bora on 16, on 14,  on 12, on 22. No response. I went back topside to set the sails for a heave to position off Bora until dawn or my vision cleared .

The radio squelched loud and a voice came out identifying itself as SAS Papeete, inquiring about my status and position. When the officer learned that I had a bleeding head injury he was not satisfied with my decision to stand off ’till dawn. He mobilized a rescue boat with a captain and three crew, a local Gendarme and an emergency room physician, and sent them my way.

I hoisted my emergency strobe to the spreaders, set a light on the mainsail, and hunkered down to wait. By 11pm Leeway was tied to the municipal quay in Vaitape and I was in the island’s emergency clinic (after hours but re-opened for me), getting 8 stitches to close me back up.

Daniel is SailingAdded to the crew of the rescue boat, the physician, and the gendarme was an ambulance driver and an on call emergency nurse. Eight residents of the island, the local Commune du Bora Bora rescue boat, an ambulance and a hospital were mobilized on my behalf. I am beyond grateful.

Thank you SAS Papeete, thank you Commune de Bora Bora, Doctor David and Nurse Michelle. This entire orchestration was a free event. There isn’t even a mechanism to make payment.

My emphatic “Merci Beucoup” is shrugged off, thumbs up’s are offered in return. I am going to sit out a few days here, check the weather gribs, and then see Doctor David for a follow-up before I depart for Samoa.

I have washed the blood off the boat and off my body. My shorts are rinsed and hanging on the lifeline. Tomorrow I can wash the blood out of my hair. Life is good.

To continue my sail to Samoa, I’m now waiting in Bora Bora for a weather window to open up. It ain’t a bad thing to be stuck in Bora…

Your brother Dan

Bora Bora

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Remembering Tsunami 2004: And Then One Morning

And Then One Morning

Remembering the Tsunami of 2004…

What happened on Boxing Day 2004 was horrific. Even though I wasn’t on the ground, it marked my life. And because of that, every year I’ve put aside time to honour those caught up in the events.

This year I made a point to read And Then One Morning, an eyewitness account written by Aaron Le Boutillier (interviewed earlier this month on WLT).

Aaron’s book saddened me but gave hope as well. It underlined how fragile life can be, but it also brought home how an event so massively terrifying can change lives forever. And not always for the worst.

I didn’t have an easy time writing this post so please forgive its faults.

And then one morning…

When the tsunami hit I was on the island of Borneo, wandering around packing boxes bound for Thailand. My Thai visa being delayed, I was experiencing the simmering limbo well-known to seasoned expats.

On the same side of the world Aaron was visiting Phi Phi, Thailand, to help a longtime friend and his family of five relocate to Phuket. It was meant to be their last Christmas on the island, with Boxing Day being moving day.

At about ten the next morning I was in that comfortable slumber zone… Suddenly my brain was registering the sound of children screaming. At first I thought some idiots were trying to scare them, but the screams were genuinely frightened, so much so that they were frightening me… Now fully awake, I could hear that the screaming was mixed with another sound – a crunching, grinding, roaring kind. It would be almost another two days before I would sleep again.

So while I was casually sipping coffee and recovering from Christmas dinner of the night before, Aaron was waking up to the fight of his life.

Through the noise I picked up the words “wing wing” which means “run run” in Thai and I heard the sound of feet pounding on the sandy street outside my room.

I jumped out of bed and pushed open my wooden window.

Down on the street, the first thing I saw was Heinz with Anna under his arm and Tina holding onto his hand. I shouted down to him and he looked at me for a brief second with eyes that will haunt me until the day I die.

An hour after the tsunami hit I was most likely moving slow, perhaps wondering what to wear that evening at Barnaby and Luciana’s. Or maybe, just maybe, I was thinking about what leftovers to reheat for lunch. But whatever it was, was not life threatening.

All I knew was that I was alive and badly cut up. There were many people who were alive but in desperate situations. Some would die but there were many, many who were already dead. Ten? Fifty? A hundred? Possibly more. But did I think tsunami? The answer is no… Life had truly been reduced to its very basics – trying to stay alive – certainly not trying to analyse what might have caused this hell. This was an obscene soup, not a tsunami wave.

For me, the quiet of lunchtime came and went. And as far as I knew nothing out of the ordinary was happening. It was just a typical day on yet another Christmas holiday.

I had lost count of how many dead bodies I’d seen already. Curiously, although my mission was now to find Heinz, Oiy, Tina, Anna and little Dino, it didn’t occur to me to look to see if any of these bodies were theirs. It never entered my mind that they might not have survived.

I scrambled up the hillside to join the crowd making their exodus from the beach and suddenly I saw them – Oiy and Dino side by side. Dino looked completely blank, like so many others. Oiy looked to be in total despair and I could see she was suffering from some nasty wounds… It was just the two of them – no Heinz or Tina or Anna.

That evening at Barnaby and Luciana’s I celebrated with friends made during nine years of Borneo living. At some point late in the evening there was a whispered mention of a tragedy somewhere in the region but the discussion never took hold. Too many rounds of holiday cheer? I honestly don’t know.

It was only when I checked emails that I read how serious it was. Arriving home I found an inbox filled with friends panicking at my lack of a response, some even posting alerts on design forums to see if I’d survived. But I was not in Thailand. Yet.

The day after the tsunami hit I bounced between the BBC and the Internet. The day after the tsunami hit Aaron continued his search for his dear friends.

Nothing could prepare me for what I was about to see. There must have been ten rows of bodies with a short gap between them for walking down. In total, there was about six hundred bodies. All of these were from Phi Phi: babies, toddlers, children, adolescents and adults… We stood there for some time with our own thoughts. After the spell was broken we made our way to the front of the row and then up and down six hundred corpses looking for Heinz, Tina or Anna.

From the quotes I selected above, it’s obvious that ‘And Then One Morning’ is not an easy read. Especially if you are reading this during the holiday celebrations of Boxing Day, 2010. But if you too want to understand just a bit of what happened during the Tsunami, then I highly recommend grabbing a copy.

Interview: Aaron Le Boutillier…

Aaron, one year, two years, three years… as time marches on, each year the impact from a life changing experience morphs. Looking back over the six years, how do you see the influence of the tsunami on your life?

And Then One MorningLooking back, while although I wished all those lives were spared, experiencing the tsunami gave me a unique insight into people and the fragility of life that we all take for granted.

In the space of a few hours, I saw the best and worst of humans, ranging from pure heroism that a person can have for a complete stranger to the human instinct of people benefiting from the misfortune of others.

To have faced death square in the eyes, then through sheer luck survived, is a rewarding experience. It gives an inner peace that you can never truly understand unless you have experienced such an event.

On a negative, I cannot stop my mind from playing games. Quite frequently in a crowded environment where everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves, I will imagine a tragedy, go through how everyone will cope and the horror of the aftermath.

I think all survivors have their demons and when you have been so closely linked to so much death it does affect your imagination. As a result it occasionally becomes quite dark.

All in all, I gained from the experience and have used it to make my future more rewarding.

Aaron Le Boutillier
And Then One Morning | Le Boutillier Group
Successful Thai Language Learner: Aaron Le Boutillier

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Chicky Net Relaunches

Chicky Net Relaunches!

Expat women in Thailand…

If you are an expat women in Thailand, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the overabundance of expat maleness. When I first arrived, I was. A bit. For a female focus, at that time there was BNOW (Bangkok Network for Women), your bog-standard womens’ groups (but early coffee mornings are not my thing), and the Ladies in Thailand forum at ThaiVisa (just gaining speed).

Several years on the situation for expat women in Thailand has improved. My buddy Amy created the resource Expat Women in Bangkok (now offline). And at the exact same time I launched WLT. Ok, neither of our sites are for women only, but hey.

Also an improvement for expat women in Thailand, is Chicky Net.

What is Chicky Net: Chicky Net is the online social network for women who have either relocated to Thailand or who are visiting for a specific period of time. The website offers an exciting and fun way to meet other expats and to best of all make new friends with whom they can share their experiences with getting the most out of their time here in Thailand.

When the groups were separated by location I wasn’t around that much. But now that Chicky Net has relaunched as one unit, I have do plans.

Chicky Net Relaunches!…

Before Chicky Net relaunched I contacted Berthe, the founder, for an interview.

Berthe, how did you find yourself in Thailand?

My boyfriend and I wanted to try something different and see what it would be like to live in another country. We have been in Thailand for about 2 years now and really love it over here. Thailand is a beautiful country and I like the mentality of the Thais, their friendliness and their mai pen rai attitude. It’s probably not for everyone but for me it works really well.

Where did the idea for Chicky Net come from?

Berthe from Chicky NetAfter being in Phuket for a while I found it difficult to meet other people and especially women. Back home I was part of an online group for women that wanted to expand their social circle and I had met some great people because of this group. So I thought why not try it here? I created a group on Facebook, posted a topic on Thai Visa and waited. Luckily 2 other girls quickly found the group, they invited their friends, and these friends invited their friends. At one point the group on Facebook just became too big. The Facebook group format was becoming very restrictive so we moved to our very own social network.

The idea behind Chicky Net has always been that the members should mainly run it themselves. Because Chicky Net has members of all ages and nationalities there is always something of interest for everyone and if there isn’t then they can create it themselves. The website itself is women-only but if the organizer of an event wants to to include partners as well then that’s her call. I really believe that this freedom and the space for initiative is one of the reasons that Chicky Net is so successful.

What are your future plans for Chicky Net?

Initially Chicky Net started in Phuket and its big success was the inspiration to create more networks in other locations in Thailand. It really was such a surprise that women were actually here in great numbers; we were just not very visible. In time there were suddenly 5 networks: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Koh Samui and Phuket. It wasn’t ideal to manage them separately and the idea came to combine all networks on the same website.

The new website has just launched and it looks just amazing. Members now have access to the members and information of the other locations which is extremely useful for traveling or even relocating. The mix of the activity of the different locations is also very inspirational. And most importantly, the new network created space to expand to other locations, which will be realized soon.

Eventually my dream is to expand to other locations in Asia. But first things first. For now the focus stays on Thailand. I do want to get more Thai ladies on board. We live in Thailand after all and I think that we could learn a lot from each other.

And before I forget… how are your Thai lessons coming?

I had a promising start when I moved to Thailand! Besides learning how to speak I also wanted to learn how to read and write. But then Chicky Net came along and I just couldn’t find the time anymore to review or prepare my lessons so I stopped for the time being. What I did learn comes in handy and I continue to learn as I go along. I especially love the Thai script and actually found it easier to learn than the spoken part. Knowing how to read Thai a bit has really been a blessing on many occasions and I always recommend it to people wanting to learn Thai. It’s a must for learning how to master the language properly, not to mention that it’s great when you can decipher menus, signs or even doctor prescriptions (well… that I can read that I should take this and that medicine for 5 days and 2 times a week)

Chicky Net
Facebook: Chicky Net

Chicky Net Thai…

On Chicky Net there is a Learning Thai group. When you think of ‘groups’, think ‘forum’.

If you are a women in Thailand (expat, Thai, whatever), or if you have contacts with Thailand, then go ahead and look me up at Chicky Net. So far I’ve connected with most of the lasses who comment on WLT. But if you are a lurker, be sure to give me a nudge too.

And if you are a guy, well, I’ve heard that guys are allowed in sometimes. But I imagine that being on your best behaviour will come into it quite heavily.

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The Grumpy Expat: Raising Turkeys in Thailand

The Grumpy Expat: Raising Turkeys in Thailand

The Grumpy Expat: Raising Turkeys in Thailand…

A post I wrote, Thai Turkeys for Thanksgiving, came to the attention of another Thai blogger, Stu Alan. Stu hosts The Grumpy Expat (no longer online).

The Grumpy Expat: Welcome. I’ve retired, in a way, to live with my wife in Thailand. I like it here! After more than 40 years of working to business schedules and deadlines, I’ve had the task of adjusting both to the pace of retirement and the pace of Thailand. Retired ‘in a way’ only because I can’t sit still doing nothing for the rest of my days. There’s so much to do and every new day reminds me that now I must get on with it.

And Stu just happens to be a turkey farmer (hence finding my post on Thai turkeys). I looked around for turkey farmers last year to interview, but nothing panned out. So here we are at Thanksgiving again, and Stu has agreed to tell all about raising turkeys in Thailand.

Interviewing Stu Alan about Thai, Thailand, and raising turkeys…

Stu, how long have you lived in Thailand?

Four years full time.

What is the level of your Thai language skills?

Beginner. I struggle with new languages and people here often mix Thai with Lao. Intonation is difficult to learn from books and I don’t want lessons. I have to make more of an effort.

Has your present Thai language skills in any way hindered your ability to raise turkeys in Thailand?

No. My wife translates when necessary and there are English speakers who are interested in turkeys to whom I talk.

What was the deciding factor of raising turkeys in Thailand?

We live in a village with some land and turkey keeping in a small way appealed to me as something else to do in retirement. You can nurture only so much pretty garden so some land was going to waste.

Have you run into any major snafus since you started raising turkeys?

The Grumpy Expat: Raising Turkeys in ThailandThe only real problem has been the loneliness of the learning curve. Local Thais who have turkeys take no more care of them than they do gai ban. Mosquito bites can kill poults so we had to learn the hard way that they can be protected against most ailments with a course of injections.

The standing water on some of our land, our own small flood, has isolated the turkey and chicken coops so we have to provide B&B near to the house. It’s like taking care of a bunch of two year old children but, hopefully, a temporary issue.

Why do so many expats have problems raising turkeys in Thailand?

If they do its because they don’t search for information and listen too much to local ‘knowledge’. Turkeys behave differently from chickens and that must be taken into account. Things are inconvenient for us at the moment for the reason stated above but they aren’t so difficult to care for. The main thing is to keep the newly hatched poults under mosquito netting until the course of inoculations is finished. That takes about seven weeks. After that, young poults need to be guarded from danger in the same way as human toddlers. We let the hens set on and hatch their eggs and then they stay under cover with the poults. After that, they care for their offspring for about three more months if they free-range. That all makes life for us easier than if we hatched in an incubator and then found ourselves appointed as parents. Nature’s way is better unless you have a factory farm.

What kids of turkeys are the best to raise here?

I have heard of someone who sells breeds but Thailand generally isn’t into that kind of fusiness. Ours seem to be mainly Bronze or close to it. The big white turkeys are Broad Breasted and developed for slaughter after six months. Kept longer than that and they are unable to walk and die young. They are intended for factory farms and I don’t recommend them for small producers or as pets.

How are turkeys in Thailand different than turkeys in the west?

I haven’t seen a difference yet but it’s possible that the laying season here is virtually continuous. Turkeys don’t lay as frequently as chickens. A hen will lay about twelve eggs and then incubate them. She may not lay again for some time but others will. It’s too early to be sure but we might be getting eggs throughout the year. What that boils down to, I suppose, is that the turkeys are the same but the climate makes some difference to their habits.

How long have turkeys been in Thailand?

I don’t know the answer to that. I suspect not long. I would guess that they were introduced within the last few decades by Westerners.

Do Thais have special recipes for turkeys?

As far as I can see they mince the meat and ruin the flavour with chili and garlic before adding hedgerow ‘vegetables’ and, of course, rice. I enjoy chili and spices but that’s not the way to enjoy turkey. Many Thai homes lack an oven, of course, and Thai cuisine favours small pieces of meat rather than slices. I intend to educate our neighbours but rural Thais are not adventurous in a gastronomic way.

What advice do you give potential turkey farmers?

Research before you start and do not plan to treat them the same way as chickens. There are books and websites that offer information. The climate here makes a difference and for that there is no useful literature. We learned a lot quickly and I’m willing to help people who want to keep turkeys. We can also supply inoculated and well fed birds to start a new flock.

Book: Not Just For Christmas – Janice Houghton-Wallace – is good for starters and available from Amazon.

Web: Here’s a great American based forum for all poultry keepers: Backyard Chickens

What was the most hilarious thing to happen to your turkey adventure?

The Grumpy Expat: Raising Turkeys in ThailandTurkeys are fun to watch. Probably the funniest moments are when one finds a tasty piece of protein. At the moment we have a lot of snails and minute frogs on the land. The lucky winner has to place the morsel on the ground to turn it ready for knocking back into the crop. If he’s spotted by the others before he can do that we are treated to a Benny Hill style single file run around the garden as they try to snatch it from him.

And if you can think of anything else…

What else? Well, I suppose the main issue is learning how to take care of them properly because few keepers do here and the mortality rate is high. We’ve had to learn from experience about medication (we are lucky in Thailand because many vets in the West won’t treat turkeys and the fees here are minimal), coop design, perches, feed, safety and security.

As I mentioned above, I would be happy to help others get through all of that learning quicker than we were able to. Also, we prefer to sell our turkeys to breeders and keepers and can guarantee that they have had the best care possible.

Stu Alan
The Grumpy Expat

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Hugh Launches eBooks in Thailand

eBooks in Thailand

Hugh’s Retired Life in Thailand…

Hugh is an industrious individual. No doubt. Besides gardening (yes, I’m envious, very) he’s always working on new and intriguing projects. Although retired, he authors books for the Thai professional market (impressed? I am). And as you all know, he also writes the instructive Thai Language Thai Culture for WLT. But that’s not all.

I have been writing about retiring in Thailand for the last four years. First, I started writing a monthly column for the Chiang Mai City Life magazine, and later developed a website, Retire 2 Thailand, where I lead prospective retirees to lots and lots of information about Thailand and how to retire here. Later, I started this blog.

Not done yet, from the material Hugh compiled about retiring to Thailand, he put together an ebook Retired Life in Thailand. During the process, Hugh started thinking about friends in the same boat as himself. Friends with something to say. Writer friends with something to say. And, ta da! eBooks in Thailand was born.

I realized that I know lots of people who write about their experiences in Thailand. And I set up eBooks in Thailand as Thailand’s eBook outlet for books about Thailand written by people who live or have lived here and know the country intimatately.

Hugh’s eBooks in Thailand…

For Thai language lovers, Hugh also has a talking ebook: Reading Thai Newspapers.

This book is meant to be used by the individual as a teach-yourself tool to help practice some of the skills one needs to acquire in order to read a Thai newspaper or magazine article. Reading Thai Newspapers has 13 lessons with line-by-line translations, a glossary of “newspaper” vocabulary, and all articles are accompanied by a recording of the article (innovatively embedded into the eBook itself), read by a Thai News Reader. This makes our book a Talking Textbook, something no paper textbook could be.

And at US$6.95 (225 Thai Baht), Reading Thai Newspapers is a great deal.

Be sure to check out the other ebooks on offer:

Guaranteed, more will be added. Many more.

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Survey: Expats Love Thailand, but the Thai Language Loses Out

 HSBC Expat report

No surprise, Thailand comes top for love

The latest HSBC report was emailed to me just this morning (thanks Lana)

Bangkok Post: Expats fall in love with Thailand but not the language.

Putting Thailand aside for now… I was not surprised to find that the UK’s scores were low, but I was surprised at how low they did go. Ouch. And while I agree with most of the UK’s ranking, I disagree with the results on food quality. Except for broccoli, as France has them beat.

Thailand, on the other hand, was not much of a surprise (does anyone disagree?)

Thailand country report:

  • Overall ranking: 3rd out of 26
  • Quality of life: 3rd out of 26
  • Ease of integration: 4th out of 26

Top reasons for staying in Thailand:

  • Length of contract (53%)
  • Career prospects (47%)
  • Better environment/quality of life for children (35%)
  • Lifestyle (28%)
  • The weather (24%)

Thailand falls looooooooooow on learning the Thai language, but climbs high on finding love:

Negatively, Thailand scored poorly when it came to overcoming the language barrier – over a third (38%) of expats in Thailand rated the language barrier as the top challenge while living in the country.

Despite this, however, over a half (58%) of expats have chosen to learn more of the native tongue and, not letting language get in the way, a staggering 76% of expats have managed to make local friends already.

However, the luckiest expats for finding love were found in Thailand – some 47%
admit finding love since moving to the country. This is in stark contrast to the
worldwide average of just 20%.

What I would like to know though, are the details of the expats contributing to the Thai survey: Male, female, profession, retired, long time tourist…

About the Expat Explorer survey: The Expat Explorer survey, now in its second year, is the largest global survey of expats. Commissioned by HSBC Bank International and conducted by third party research company FreshMinds, more than 3,100 expats were questioned between February and April 2009.

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From Bangkok to the Burmese


Burma/Myanmar, an expected treat…

Getting anywhere for a first time in this region is often a mystery. For me anyway. Myanmar was even more so as I was going in blind. Pretty much.

Personal visa experiences…

Chris Mitchell’s post, Myanmar Visa In Bangkok: How To Get It, covers most of what you will need to get a visa.

  • For a tourist visa: Passport, two coloured passport photos, 1000 baht (depending).
  • For paperwork (official time): Arrive before 9am.
  • Forms: Fill out the tourist visa and arrival form (but be prepared for ‘surprise’ forms).
  • For pickup (official time): Arrive before 3pm.

The Myanmar Embassy is located on the corner of Thanon Pan and Sathorn Nua Rd in Silom. And while it is a fairly easy address to locate via taxi, not all drivers are created equal.

If your driver gets lost (as mine did) tell him to get to the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple on the corner of Silom road and Thanon Pan, then drive all the way down Thanon Pan to the end of the street. The embassy is on the left side.

If your taxi driver is still lost, then get it into his head that the Hindu temple is on Silom near the British Club and the Narai Hotel (soi 18). You can easily walk from there.

Once at the Myanmar Embassy, scout out the seating arrangements. If you are aiming for a tourist visa, sit in the seats running down the middle of the room, as the occupants are first at the tourist visa counter. For a business visa, the seats of choice are along the right wall next to the far counter.

When filling out the forms, Chris advises to avoid putting ‘journalist’ or ‘photographer’ as your profession. I’m not working so I bypassed putting a profession. Instead, I ran that section through with a scratch of my pen.

Problem was, it threw the visa people off balance. ‘No employment? No working?’

Even so, several minutes later – after those behind the counter got into group huddles and made phone calls and such – I was told to pick up my paperwork in three days. Easy.

The hindsight of going to Myanmar…

I like to believe that I behave in the manner of a well seasoned traveller, but it is not always so.

When going to a country for the first time, months prior to departure I grab a selection of general knowledge and history books on the area. Sure, Google is helpful, but for travelling I prefer paper over digital.

But this time, in the month running up the trip, I found myself battling insomnia instead of researching for a trip to Myanmar.

‘I’ll just grab a guide book at the airport’… says I…

Rushing through duty-free at Suvarnabhumi, I purchased the Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma) guide. Sitting on the plane, I flipped through to this statement:

Few countries warrant more pre-trip reading than Myanmar.

Well, cacca.

At the bottom of the same page was section titled, ‘Get your cash ready’.

Considering Myanmar has essentially no places that accept a credit card, travellers cheques or ATM cards, you need to plan how much money you’re going to spend – and get the right kind of bills (clean, crisp, new US dollar bills) well before your plane lands in Yangon (Rangoon). Many, many visitors forget to do this, and end up heading back to Thailand to get some.

Double cacca.

For a seven day trip to Myanmar I had a grand total of US$200 and a few thousand Thai baht. And while the accommodation, main travel (car and plane), and most of the food was paid for, the rest was not.

For my seven days, I still needed money for tour guides and drivers, as well as the odd beer. And I especially needed mad money.

And believe it or not, Myanmar is not exactly cheap.

I was lucky in that I had people in both Yangon and Mandalay. I can only imagine the frustration others feel when realising there is no easy way to get additional money in Myanmar.

And that they would need to turn back to Thailand for more.

So when planning your trip to Myanmar, my advice is this: Buy the Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma) guide.

Like everyone else out there, I have a growing collection of travel guides. But, when it comes to value for money, this one is tops. Well done guys!

Money is important. Sure. But it is only a small part of what you need to know before visiting Myanmar. Or not.

Because after reading ‘to go or not to go’ in the Lonely Planet guide, you just might decide that a trip to Myanmar is not for you.

For me, it all came down to one major point: Whether or not I agreed with Aung San Suu Kyi’s stance on tourism.

I do support Aung San Suu Kyi, but I do not agree with everything she stands for. So while it did cause time for reflection, it was a decision I was prepared to make.

And off to Myanmar I went.

A few Myanmar tips…

My Myanmar visit lasted a total of seven short days, so if you have anything to add (or correct even), please leave your helpful tips in the comments below.

Money: In theory, you are supposed to change your US dollars to FECs (Foreign Exchange Currency), and only then can you change them to kyat (the local currency). In reality, some locals insist on being paid in US dollars, as will some government agents.

If you hunt down a money changer, you can bypass the FEC middle man, getting a much better deal on kyat in the process.

When you do exchange your dollars, make sure to get a sufficient amount of small notes. This is because (in the nicer hotels at least), the standard tip is 500-1000 kyat (luggage handlers, room service, etc) and your stash of small bills will run down quite quickly.

Also, not having the exact change will cost you. If you are haggling and do not have change, your haggle is wasted as they often won’t have change either. But they will quite happily take the larger note, and they may even throw in something extra.

At the airport I came away with a pack of gum instead of the expected change.

It’s a good thing I like gum.

Medicinal: Some pharmacies in Myanmar require a doctor’s prescription, some do not. Avoid the hassle by bringing any legal drugs you might require (painkillers, anti-inflammatories, anti-acids, etc).

This should not need to be said but I will anyway: Make doubly sure that you have a doctor’s prescription to go along with any prescription drugs that you bring into the country.

Ah, btw, at the top of your list should be antibiotics. My stomach started going south during the night, and by the time I received a treatment of antibiotics (mid-morning), the rest of my day was doomed.

Flights: Nothing new for the Asian traveller, some local flights are late (an hour or more), some flights get cancelled, some leave early. My flight to Yangon was an hour late. But, after being left in Kuching by Royal Brunei Airlines for three days, a mere hour was no big deal to me.

Plastic bags: Trash made up from discarded plastic bags is everywhere, but there is a push to ban plastic bags in Myanmar. If you want to help the cause (it is not in place yet), when making a purchase ask for biodegradable bags instead.

Beggars and trinket sellers: Just like in Cambodia, kids posing as trinket sellers will first start hitting you up to sell products, then some will switch to a zombie litany of wants and needs.

I am no more hard-hearted than the next person. But, from past experience, I don’t usually give over money. I either purchase food, or, if given a chance, I get creative.

And a word of warning: If you do give, you could soon be surrounded by a group clambering for the same. And they don’t give up easily, which means that if they are encouraged, they have the potential to drive tourists away. Have you ever been to Morocco? Point made…

Instead, why not give generously to their schools?

On my next trip I intend on bringing as many English books for school children as I can. In Myanmar copying books is a normal practice, so basically I’ll save luggage space by bringing in one of each (and most everyone wins).

Psst… There are many interesting items of advice in the Lonely Planet guide; pick the one that suits you best. And if I had read the Lonely Planet guide for Myanmar before my recent trip, I would have done just that.

Visiting Myanmar’s curiosities…

Driving: In the ’70s (I heard ’74, but online information states ’70), the Myanmar government changed from driving on the left side of the road to the right. But if you look around Myanmar, vehicles with the steering wheel in the correct side of a car or bus are rare. A worry, bus passengers are forced to get off on the side of oncoming traffic, and cars cut quite close to each other at times.

Mobile phones: After living in Bangkok, the lack of people talking on mobile phones in Myanmar is spooky. And (apparently), if you bring your phone into the country, not only will it not work but you are supposed to leave it with customs (apparently). Oops.

Internet: I read that the Myanmar government slowed down the Internet to slow down communication with the outside world, but I did not find this consistently so.

The hotel I stayed at in Yangon had Internet connection in the rooms for free, but it did not work on a Mac so I couldn’t tell how fast it was. On my return trip to the same hotel the Internet connection in the rooms had been scrapped, so if you wanted the pleasure you had to pay US$5 per hour to connect in the business centre. The connection was slow. I declined.

The hotel I stayed at in Mandalay had free wifi in the lobby. And while it was not slow (about Thai speed), it died on day two and revived on day three.

The Internet connection in Rangoon’s business class lounge at the international airport was via two PCs, and was excruciatingly slow.

English speakers: The Burmese I met spoke beautiful English. One of the busboys even sounded California hip! I tend to believe that SE Asian countries without a strong tonal language have it easier taking on English than the Thais do. But I could be wrong…

Photography: I found that the local Burmese women, more than the men, are painfully camera shy. So to avoid embarrassing the both of you, get that camera waggle down.

Besides, if a local wants their photo taken (especially the kids) they will often be quite verbal about it.

And compared to the sometimes moody Thai monks, the Myanmar monks are camera wonderful. Some monks placed themselves in my way, while others grinned when I waggled, then posed beautifully for my camera.

And when the Myanmar photos start rolling through at Catherine Wentworth Photography, you can see just how beautiful they are.

Learning the lingo…

Ah. And did I learn any Burmese while there? I sure did.

Easily memorised, Jay Sue Bay means ‘thank you’. Jay (for my programming buddy). Sue (for my Seattle Meet mate). And Bay (well, we all meet in the bay). Jay Sue Bay.

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A Year’s Worth of Women Learning Thai… and Some Men Too ;-)

Happy First Birthday

Blogging birthdays come but once a year…

A year and a month ago, on June 4th, WLT launched.

Sigh. I know, I know. It is already July 4th and I’m running late (it has been that kind of a month).

Aaron this manyAnd while a blogging birthday is not the same as your firstborn turning one, it is a cause for celebration.

When I came up with the idea for Women Learning Thai, I had set aims in mind. A given, I wanted to improve my Thai and increase my understanding of Thailand and Thai culture. But along the way (just to be difficult), I also hoped to upgrade both my writing and photography skills.

Confession time: In the past year I have not improved my abilities equally, but I have improved overall. And while I am quite chuffed at my progress for some, it may take yet another year before I’m out of one stage and into another. For all.

A bonus that I did not take into account is the online Thai community. Bloggers or otherwise. Expats and locals included. A nice surprise, the friendships gained since launching WLT are as equally important to me as my intended aims.

To celebrate, I decided to share the bloggers in my small Thai community, as well as those responsible for helping me succeed. And a given, I’ll include WLT’s highlights for the past year.

Apologies. But you first need to wade though the highlights…

Top posts on WLT…

In the sidebar are WLT’s most popular posts. Truthfully, they should be called resource-intensive content but as the title popular posts is shorter, there you go.

Learn Thai Online for FREE
Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review
Google Books: Thai Learning Resources
Top Thai Language Learning Resources
The Easy Way for Beginners to Read and Write
Thai Language Cheat Sheets
The Thai Alphabet Poem
Thai-English Readers with Mp3s
Byki Thai Language Course
Thai Typing Tutors: aTypeTrainer4Mac
Recording the Thai National Anthem
Google Translation & Thai Dictionaries

Thai phrase books…

After purchasing 99.9% of the Thai phrase books on the market, I tried to make sense of them all. I’m not sure that I succeeded, but it was fun trying. The island trip I took during the process was trying too.

Travelling with Thai Phrase Books
Using Thai Phrase Books
Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review
The Monty Python Phrase Book
Thai Phrase Books with a Twist
Pictures: When They Can’t Speak Thai…

Quick and Dirty…

My very first book review was Myke Hawke’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast. After tracking Myke down, I went further. Much further. And I’m not done yet.

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast
Quick & Dirty Thai Language Learning with Myke Hawke
Interviewing Myke Hawke: Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast
FREE: Quick & Dirty Thai Vocabulary Download

Thai alphabet cartoon…

The Thai Alphabet Cartoon was cleverly created for adults. And not all adults, as I soon found out. And boy, was this series ever an experience into Thai language and culture!

Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part One
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Two
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Three
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Four
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Five
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Six

Thai bumper stickers…

You can’t drive around Thailand without noticing bumper stickers everywhere. And as stickers are filled with real Thai, an ongoing series is a must.

Thai Bumper Stickers 1
Thai Bumper Stickers 2
Thai Bumper Stickers 3
Thai Bumper Stickers 4
Thai Bumper Stickers on Taxis

There are many more posts in my growing archives so please have a look around.

WLT guest posts…

Opening the conversation to include subjects that I am not able to write about in detail is important, so I am especially grateful to those generously sharing their knowledge and experiences.

Tina Gibbons: The Most Effective Way to Learn Thai and Why Learning the Thai Language Needs to be More Than a Study of Words and Grammar

Tony Wright: Let’s Talk Thai: How the Brain Learns

And stay tuned for a Thai learners series from Rikker of Thai 101!

A big blogging community thanks goes to…

In the past year I’ve met many bloggers in the Thai community. The six below not only throw comments my way, but they share time behind the scenes as well. In alphabetical order…

Expat Women in ThailandAmy: Expat Women in Thailand (no longer online)
Amy is married to Golf, a Thai translator. She blogs about the day to day expat living in Thailand. The information Amy gathers is not just for women, but for men too. For those heading to the land of smiles, she has put together an ebook – The Expat Woman’s Guide to Living in Thailand.

The Thai PirateBen: The Thai Pirate (no longer online).
Ben married into Suphanburi, where he now lives, works, and plays. And sometimes blogs. And except for when he’s playing around in the UK, his subjects cover all things Thai living.

To peruse: Driving in Thailand (no longer online), How far will 1000 Baht get you? and The Best Thai Blogs.

Beyond the Mango JuiceMartyn: Beyond the Mango Juice
Martyn works in the UK for most of the year, but as soon as he can, he hightails it to the wonderful Wi. Wi keeps their beautiful home running smoothy in Ban Norn Chad (thanks Wi!) With a humorous twist, Martyn posts about all things Thailand. His monthly reviews are a godsend for our busy community.

To peruse: Thailand Country Life – A Survival Guide, Always On My Mind and Giving a Little Bit Back.

FrogBlogPete: FrogBlog – Thaidings
A wonderful photographer and writer, Pete lives part of his time in the sunny south of France and the rest of the time in Changmai. He writes thought-provoking posts about the cultural and political aspects of living in Thailand. Btw – do you twitter? Pete does too.

To peruse: Thaivisa: Founder of Thailand’s largest online community answers the critics, Thailand’s tarnished image abroad: Thai tourism in decline and Brash Bangkok, culture-hound Chiang Mai, pornographic Pattaya, innocent Isaan – which one is your Thailand?

Thai 101Rikker: Thai 101
Rikker lives full-time in Bangkok. He is one of the few expats with in-depth knowledge of the Thai language. And while Rikker does not comment often, he does share his know-how on Thai 101, as well as via emails, forum posts and twitter. Starting next week, Rikker’s learning Thai series will launch on WLT.

To peruse: Thai jokes category, Farang Stuff and A look at the Ramkhamhaeng script.

Thailand Land of SmilesTalen: Thailand Land of Smiles (no longer live) Talen lives and works part-time in the US, but as his heart and the lovely Pookie are in Issan, he spends as much of his time there as possible. Talen has a good eye for a story, so we are often regaled by real life experiences from northern Thailand and elsewhere.

Note: While I am in contact with other fantastic bloggers, to keep this post a reasonable length I stopped at just six. I promise that the rest will be discussed at another time, so please do not send any bad mojo my way.

Photography, writing, book collecting and more… I owe… I owe…

Writing: I’d like to send a special thanks to two writing coaches: Joanna from Confident Writing (no longer online), and Paul from Bangkok BC Writing Services. Joanna released my writing fears, while Paul gives monthly tips on grammar, sentence structure, and more.

Photography: Gavin and Jackie from the newly formed Bangkok Photography School took my photography out of the 90’s and ran it straight into 2009. I’m still playing catchup, but I’m not having to run quite as fast as before.

Book collecting: When it comes to tracking down obscure books dealing with Thai culture and language, Danny at DCO Books is a lifesaver. Danny’s varied knowledge about Thailand has brought even more subjects to my attention. So much so, that I’ve ordered a new bookcase. Where it will fit, I don’t quite know.

Thai learning: As for my long suffering Thai teacher, she deserves an award for her patience. At times she calls me her best student, but I believe she means that in a special sort of way. I flit here and there, dragging her into technology and subjects far away from her regular curriculum. And she holds steady on for the wild ride. Bless her.

Programming: Oh, and I can’t forget my amazing programming buddy Jay, who puts up with a zillion frustrating emails about cacca code. Yeah, I owe, I owe. Hey Jay, even more chocolates are on the way!

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