Monday, December 31, 2007

Oh Yeah!

What did the kids think of the trip? A picture tells a thousand words!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Offensive Signs

I saw these signs while in Hong Kong. Somehow I think if they were in the U.S., someone of asian lineage would cry foul at this racial offensive word.

For those of you not in the know, "slope" is sometimes used as a racial slur towards asian people. It deragatorily refers to the shape of their eyes.

I'm Back & Happy New Year!

Just got back last night from our week in Hong Kong. We didn't get to the house until 3:40 a.m. I guess that's the difference between $200 and $400 airplane tickets.

Still tired though, because we celebrated Christmas this morning at

The trip was a lot of fun, and I have a lot of pictures and blog ideas. They will probably trickle out at times, followed by a deluge.

Here are some ideas:

- Hong Kong Disney on Christmas
- Signs
- Thai Elections
- Hong Kong at a Glance
- Transportation in Hong Kong
- Culture Differences
- Forming a line

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

The family and I will be leaving for Hong Kong in a few hours, and I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I probably won't be posting to the site for about a week, but when I return, I hope to have a lot of stories and pictures to share.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Drive Away Driver

Today is the last day of employment for our current driver. He is not aware of this fact as of yet, but he will find out tonight.

When we get back from Hong Kong, we'll have a new driver. He is a little more expensive, but we are hoping that the fourth time is a charm.

Horray for Hollywood!

I took the kids to see the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie this afternoon. If you are looking for ground breaking cinema with a riveting plot or a dynamic action thriller, this isn't your film. Still, it wasn't bad, and the kids really enjoyed it. The movie was in English, with Thai subtitles.

Seeing a movie in Thailand is a bit different than in the states. In some ways, its more like attending a sporting event than a movie in the states .

It all starts with buying your tickets. In the States, movie theaters generally operate on a festival seating, or first come, first served model. You buy a ticket and go find a seat. Here in Thailand, you purchase a ticket for a particular seat. There is a computer screen that shows what seats are available, and you tell the cashier (or in my case point to) the seats you wish to purchase. There are a few tiers of seat prices, with the choice seats costing more than the seats in the first few rows. Of course, like Americans at a sparsely attended baseball game, some Thais buy "cheap" seats and make their way to more choice ones.

Before the start of the movie, the theaters show a video tribute to the King. Everyone stands up to show their respect, while the video and music play. Its very much akin to the playing of the National Anthem in the States at sporting events. Of course, its not a live performance, and even if it were, no Thai would disgrace himself or herself as did our very dear American role model, Rosanne Barr.

Another difference is the selection of movies. A 16 screen cineplex might have ten to fifteen different movies playing at once in the States. Here, there may only be two or three, with each playing on four or five screens.

The snack selection is pretty similar here, with popcorn and soft drinks holding places of high prominence in the snack display. The portions are a bit smaller, although the prices are smaller still.

The movie prices are less than in the states, plus their policy on children is very forgiving. I paid for tickets for Jacob, Cat (the nanny) and myself, while Aleena and Nalin were free. So the five of us attended the move for about $15 U.S., plus $1.50 for a large (U.S. medium) caramel popcorn.

The seats, sound and video quality were all quite good. The only real complaint that I have about the movie theaters here are the previews.

We've taken the kids to see three different movies here in Thailand; Bees, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and a Japanese cartoon for kids. At every one, they played the preview for Alien versus Predator II. Its certainly not the scariest preview that I've ever seen, but it is a bit intense for kids. It scares Aleena, Jacob and Nalin. Jacob recognized the preview when it started and turned his head, while Aleena buried her head in my chest. I understand that there are adults in the theater who might be interested in seeing that movie, I might even. The movies we attended, however, were aimed largely at kids. I just don't think they should scare the crap out of little kids by showing previews of a violent rated R movie before a G rated film. If I had taken the kids to see a PG-13 movie, I might understand, but I think the preview was not appropriate. Of course, the ratings to which I refer are U.S. ratings, if there are Thai equivalents, I cannot read them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flat Jacob - Famous Places

Sliding into Adventure with the Pyramids.
He towers above the citizenry of France!

Jacob Stands Astride the Great Wall!

A new face on Mount Rushmore!

Flat Jacob - Famous Events

Fruitcake in Paradise?

One of Nalin's classmates gave us a fruitcake for Christmas. That's right, the butt of so many jokes and mockery back in the states is alive and well here in the Kingdom.

Tim told me that the fruitcakes are better here, and that people actually eat them. I've not yet tasted this one to confirm her theory.

Travel's of Paul

I know a lot of my blog is about my adventures in Thailand, but I also want to share some other stories that I think are interesting from other parts of my life.

Prior to my junior year of high school, I attended the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership seminar for Kentucky students. It was a 3 or so day enrichment program that was a lot of fun.

One of the speakers was a member of the Kentucky State legislature. When he spoke, he opened his remarks with a story. Unfortunately, I cannot remember his name, and I am far from certain that he is the origin of this story. In any case, its one I enjoy very much, so I will repeat the story he told as best I remember it.

During my last semester at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, I had a huge course load. I had eighteen hours of high level courses in my major, and needed another three credit hours to graduate. I decided to enroll in New Testament Studies. The reason for my choice was that this was widely regarded as the easiest class in school. The entire course grade was determine by the final exam. Every year, without fail, the final exam question was a single question asking the examinee to discuss the travels of the prophet Paul.

I devoted myself the entire semester to the classes in my major. I only attended the New Testament class on the first day to get the syllabus and find out the day of the final exam.

A week before the exam in my New Testament class, I threw myself into studying the life and travels of Paul. By the morning of the exam, I knew Paul's travels almost as well as did he.
As I sat for the exam, I was extremely confident. The professor passed out the exam books. As it I turned the exam over, it was as I expected, a single question. I read it to myself, "Critically discuss the Sermon on the Mount."

Now not only did I receive an "A" on the exam, but they framed and hung my exam in the sacred halls of Xavier. Here is the first sentence of my response:

Let those who will criticise the world of the Lord, I shall discuss the travels of Paul.

Even after twenty plus years, that story makes me smile.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wai Ronald

I think this image is a great illustration of American and Thai culture hand in hand. It is a statue of Ronald McDonald performing the traditional Thai wai greeting.

Is there any image more representative of American commercialism around the world than the golden arches of McDonalds? Of course Pepsi and Coke are everywhere, and there are probably more KFCs than McDonalds here. But even these formidable brands cannot stand up to the iconic greatness of Ronald McDonald.

In some ways the wai is the western equivalent of a handshake, but it is really much more. It represents the respect and politeness that people show each other in Thai society.

Whenever I see this symbol of America embracing this Thai custom, I sniff a bit and try to suppress the tears of true joy. It is a symbol of how people of the world can unite and come together.
If Ronald McDonald can wai, then can't the Muslims and Israelis get along? Shouldn't the Nobel peace prize awarded to Al Gore more rightly gone to Ronald McDonald? Could two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun replace the dove as the universal symbol of peace?
Or maybe its just a great way to market hamburgers.

Dry Elections

On December 23rd, Thai's will turn out at the polls to elect a new Parliament to replace the interim government installed by the master minds of the 2006 coup. This weekend there was voting for people who were traveling outside there voting precinct. Reports are that they are getting a large turn out.

While its certainly a good thing that Thai's are once again taking a step towards democratic rule, there is a drawback. During these two weekends of voting, bars, restaurants, and other establishments are not allowed to serve alcohol. The ban does not extend only to Thai's to ensure that they are not under the influence of alcohol (instead of the more benevolent influence of bribes), but it extends to us falangs as well.

To paraphrase an op ed piece in the paper, it would really suck to have picked this weekend or next for your vacation if you are into the bar scene. Heck, would put a damper on having a nice glass of wine with your dinner. Fortunately for those who frequent the sex clubs, the drinks that patrons buy dancers are usually non-alcololic, so you can still put some more money in the bar and the girls pockets before bar fining her.

In any case, I'm glad the elections are taking place. I'm tired of seeing the billboards every 20 feet. I need to snap some pictures of them before they are all torn down.

Hillary 08?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend invited me to a fund raiser for the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. With the election going on over here, I almost forgot that an election is going on back home. Okay, that is a complete lie, I read just about every day, so I know what's going on.

If Oprah is pulling for Obama, do you think other day time talk show hosts might get into the act? I mean, Geraldo could do a special where he goes exploring around some empty crypts to find Dennis Kucinch's and Ron Paul's chances of winning. I know Ron Paul has raised a lot of money, but I half expect he is going to advocate reverting back to the gold standard.

Actually, Ron Paul would probably be better served with radio talk show host extraordinaire Art Bell. For those of you not in the know, Art was the long time host of a conspiracy theory talk show. It was funny, Bell had a bunch of 800's to call based on your location. He had one for callers west of the rockies, east of the rockies, first time callers, wild card, and probably others.

The hottest free agent talk host would have to be Cincinnati's own former mayor and Jerry Springer. They say Oprah brings people to the polls who normally don't vote? Hell, think of the kind of people Jerry could bring to a rally.

In reality, Springer is too hot for any one candidate. He could host the debates and conventions. Who wouldn't enjoy watching the candidates get up and personal with each other. I mean, who wouldn't want to see Edward get in Hillary's face, and say "Oh no you ditn't", or Romney telling McCain to "bring it on". Maybe Jerry could have all of Guiliani's ex-wives on the show at once. That might spark some fireworks.

Of course, a Republican would have the brilliant idea to pick up Montel to show that they are ethnically sensitive. Maybe Romney would to help people forget that not too many years ago, Mormons forbid blacks to be leaders in their church.

In any case, I politely decline the offer to attend the rally.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Although it can be very hot here, one of the benefits is that its almost always swimming weather. I went swimming with the kids the last two days.

Since winter is over here, we don't have those chilly days with a high of only 85, rather the thermostat reaches a respecatable 90 degrees or more each day. There is not even a chill in the water, its perfect for swimming.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Maid In Uniform

When I think of a maids uniform, an image bubbles to the surface of my mind of a revealing black and white lacey outfit, complete with a feather duster, and a pouty smile. I can almost see the ad campaign now. "Impractical yet ellegant, this pushup black brazier will keep all eyes on your chest, and not the one you were supposed to clean."

Well, for better or worse, the fantasy inducing "French Maid" costume is not the uniform of choice for maids and nannies here in Thailand. Not surprisingly, most wear more practical attire when cleaning, cooking and performing other sweat inspiring and dirt attracting household chores.

Maids will typically wear old tee shirts and faded jeans or three-quarter length pants. Nannies might replace the tee shirt with a yellow king shirt. As you might expect, most don't include applying make-up and hair styling as part of their daily routine.

Its pretty easy then, to tell the maids from their employers around here. First, the majority of employers here are falangs. As the maids are all Thais or Laotians, light skin and non-black hair are a dead give away. The Asian and Thai female employers are also usually easy to distinguish from the maids. Middle and upper class Thai women tend to dress very nicely. You can also usually tell from the way the person carries themselves, and particularly how they interact with the kids. As I explained before, the maids are very deferential to the children.

Recently, however, I was a bit perplexed by someone. My neighbor owns a successful Vietnamese restaurant here in Bangkok. There was a young woman who I saw around the house. This young woman would wash the car, walk the dog, and sweep around the front of the house. Her actions yelled that she was a maid, but her dress told another story. She would wash the car in low heals, a nice blouse and a skirt. Time for sweeping? Our mystery woman would wear a dress. She was doing maid's work, but dressing like she was going to a mall.

While not a mystery for the ages, I was at a bit of a loss. Perhaps she was the daughter of my neighbor. When I asked Tim about it, she was equally perplexed.

I was ready to call in the help of Encyclopedia Brown when I brought in bigger guns. We decided to ask our maid and nanny about this woman. They started laughing, and told us that indeed, the woman was a maid. They thought it was very funny that she would dress so nicely when cleaning.

At first I thought it was ridiculous that someone would be so vain as to wear nice clothes to do dirty work. Then I thought about it a bit. Status is important here in Thailand, and by wearing nice clothing, the maid was able to put doubt in my mind. When she is walking a dog, people that she passes by have no way of knowing that she is a maid.

Perhaps people treat her differently because they think she is a "higher" social class. Are people more polite and deferential to her than they would be if they knew she was a maid? I cannot be certain, but I think they just might.

Food and Christmas

Haven't been doing a lot of in depth blogging recently because I've been working on the application for Tim's company. I am enjoying the work, although I always am doing it in the margins, in my spare time. Tonight, however, I am too tired to think of 1's and 0's, so instead I will paint my thoughts with the colors of the alphabet.

Today was the International Food Festival ("IFF") at ISB. The school put on a nice festival. There were booths boasting foods from at least fifteen countries. The American booth sold chili and cornbread. The food was good. Tim really liked the Korean food, while I thought the Latin burrito was solid.

They also had games and crafts for sale. The cub scouts ran a couple of booths, which meant I worked. The dart throw was very popular.

Later in the afternoon, we went to a Christmas party hosted by the family of one of Jacob's classmates. We were asked to bring a dish to share, and a gift for each of our children for "Santa" to pass out.

Turns out Santa is the guy sitting behind the keyboard typing this blog. Of course, my kids recognized me immediately, as did a few other kids. The hostess gave me a Christmas story to read. After almost ten minutes, I was only half way through the book, so I improvised, and the last half took about a minute.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Let's Dance

Jacob's teacher sent me a link to this, and I created dancing elves of the family. Check it out, its pretty funny.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Constitution Day

Today is Constitution Day in Thailand, a national holiday created to celebrate Thailand becoming a modern nation state in 1932. Many offices and schools were closed today.

A fair question would be what constitution is being celebrated today. It may seem strange to those of us, but since 1932, Thailand has had seventeen different charters and constitutions. After a successful military coup, the coup leaders would disolve the old constitution and create a new one.

The latest constitution was ratified by the voters just this fall. It replaced the 1997 constitution which was put to rest by the 2006 coup.

Perhaps its only fair that each constitution gets its own day. I'm sure that children and civil servants would appreciate seventeen paid holidays.

Burning Down the House

Perhaps the bear was right that only I can prevent forest fires, on Sunday I almost created a house fire. Tim was finishing up some work so I decided to make some fried rice.

I put the wok on the stove, put some oil in it, and cranked up the burner. I then cut up some leftover meat and mixed some eggs in a bowl. I smelled something burning, looked over, and saw the pan on fire. The flames danced two or three feet from the top of the pan. Lacking a fire extinguisher, I picked the pan up by the handle. I realized that I couldn't put it in the sink, as the flames might reach the cabinets. I gently sat it down in the middle of the tile floor, and ran upstairs to soak a towel. By the time I returned, the fire had burned through its fuel.

The house was smoky and smelled of buring oil. We went to eat at the club.

Coach for a Day

There was a mixup on Saturday at Jacob's soccer game. Someone on the team distributed a schedule that had the game at 10:30 instead of 9:20. As Jacob joined the team late, I didn't have that schedule, and instead looked on the league web site.

The kids usually have 30 minutes of practice before they start. By 9:50, however, there were only 5 or 6 of the 11 players present and none of the coaches. So your favorite blogger about life in Thailand, despite knowing virtually nothing about soccer, coached the kids.

We ended up picking up another boy who played on a different team, so we started at 6 versus 6 instead of the usual 9 versus 9. Over the courese of the game, a few more players showed up. With about five minutes left, the coach actually showed up and took over.

The kids did a great job. It was a bit sunny and warm, so the boys were pretty tired. I didn't have subs, so they all were iron men, er iron boys. I think the final score was 2-0 against them. Had they been at full strength and had a coach, I think they would have done much better.

One of the parents wasn't happy with me. When I told his son to play defense for a while, the dad yelled that his son was the only one capable of scoring and intimated I didn't know what I was doing. I told him he was welcome to take over for me if he wanted, but I took the fact that he turned and walked down the sideline for a no. I think I broke out the "Look, they are second graders." Oh well.

In fairness, most of the parents were very appreciative. I think just about everyone else thanked me for helping out.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Immigration Sensation

On Friday, Tim and I went down to the Thai Immigration office so that I could apply for a one year visa based on having a Thai wife. The passport stamp actually reads "Thai Wife".

The reader's digest version of the day is that we spent about four hours there, including the time we spent at lunch. The application is complete, and I have to return to the office on January 4th to find out the results. I don't want to be too confident, but part of the process was an interview of me. They told Tim that everything was in order so they didn't have to ask me a single question.

Of course, this trip to Thailand is about experiences. During my four hours, I had some experiences that I'd like to share.

A couple of immigration officials that we worked with really represented the best and worst of Thai people and culture. Its not that they as individuals are the best and worst people in Thailand, but how they interacted with us reveals a lot about this land of smiles.

The "best" was a woman who is a friend of a friend. She doesn't work directly in the visa department, but she knows the people and the system. Over the course of our two trips, she has probably spent seven or eight hours helping us. It started with our arrival. As parking is horrendous at the office, she came out and opened up a reserved spot for us to park. She helped Tim fill out the paperwork, took it to the proper official, and arranged appointments for us so that we did not have to take a number and wait in the queue. She stayed with us while we waited for our interview and sat close by during the interview in case we needed help.

The entire time, she had a smile on her face. She responded "mai ben rai ka" (which means don't worry about it or no problem) and genuinely seemed as though she meant it. She was very nice, and it was clear that she really wanted to help us get this completed, and not just so that we would get out of her hair. She really epitomized "mai been rai ka" for me.

The worst of the Thai people was represented by the supervisor who conducted our interview. To describe the process as an interview is a bit misleading. We sat at her desk for approximately thirty minutes while she reviewed our paper work, and asked Tim a few questions.

Her behavior might have been the rudest that I have ever experienced here in Thailand. Its not what she said, but what she didn't. Not only didn't she say hi, but she didn't even glance at me the entire thirty minutes, although I was sitting two feet away from her at her desk. The only acknowledgement that I was even present was when she put a piece of paper between Tim and I and she pointed at it for a signature.

Even from a western perspective, its rude to not even acknowledge someone sitting at your desk for thirty minutes. But here in Thailand, where people typically great each other with a "sa wa dee" and a wai, it seemed ominous. If she hadn't wai'd me, I would have understood. The when and where to wai has a lot to do with social status and I have hardly mastered its nuances. The fact that she didn't look at me, however, prevented me from saying hello and wai'ing her. I guess on the plus side, she didn't ask me any tough questions.

The woman was also curt with Tim. After the interview, I said to Tim that I thought that this was one of the rudest persons I had met here. She readily agreed, confirming that in this case, I was not the ugly American put off by having to deal with third-world officials. Tim's insight on such matters is valuable to me, because not only is she nicer and more tolerant of ass-hattery than I, she is more in touch with Thai behavior.

I think this woman represented a combination of difficulties working with any immigration service and the hierarchical nature of Thai society. People often complain about difficulty working with governments. I think immigration departments are by nature the most difficult. They are dealing with people who are not citizens of their country. Say what you will about an unresponsive DMV in your county, but if enough voters make a fuss about it, a responsible official hoping to keep his job just might intervene. Immigrations officials are usually working with people who are not citizens, but have not choice but to take it.

Thai society is very hierarchical, with people of a lower social status generally showing a great deal of respect and deference to someone of a higher status. People of a higher status can easily abuse their positions of power and could run roughshod over others. Perhaps the fact that she was a supervisor who had the power to approve our deny our visa request caused her not to show me and Tim much respect.

One final thought on the supervisor. Personally, the fact that she showed me not a modicum of respect caused me not a moments unrest. The fact is, her actions were notable only in that the so differed from how others have treated me. So long as my visa is approved, which is almost certainly will be, I could not give a shit less what she thinks of me.

There were some other interesting things I observed that day. I saw first hand how Thai's different treatment of men and women could affect a family staying together. As you may remember, I described how a woman needs to prove that she makes at least 30,000 baht per month and prove she has paid taxes on it to obtain a visa for a foreign spouse, while a man merely has to sign that he can provide. The amount is actually 40,000 baht per month.

A Thai woman and her German husband talked to the supervisor while we were there. There household income was 30,000. The average Thai income is about 24,000 baht. The supervisor told them that if they didn't have 40,000 baht in monthly income, that he would have to leave when his visa expired. So, unless they increased their household income by 10,000 baht or the wife magically sprouted a penis and the husband a vagina, they very well could be separated.

Adding insult to injury, the supervisor reminded the woman that if he overstayed his visa, the fine was 500 baht per day, which he would be forced to pay if he ever wanted to re-enter the kingdom. The supervisor "confided" to Tim that they had bumped up the fine to 500 baht per day, because foreigners didn't seem deterred by paying 200 baht per day that they overstayed their visa. Given that 200 baht a day would come out to less than $200 a month, I can understand while some westerners might not be bothered. If I were going to overstay my visit for only a month or two, and I had to go through the normal immigration process (i.e., sans our friend who took us to the front of all the lines), I would be sorely tempted to just pay the fine.

Honestly, their story did not completely tug at my heart strings, it was a useful instrument to talk again about how Thai's treat men and women differently. Perhaps I am being too hard on her, but I would not be surprised if they met in one of those establishments where foreigners exchange hard currency for hard "fun".

There was a delivery man who walked by me while I was waiting who walked with a noticeable limp. A quick glance showed that his right foot was turned in, and that he walked shoeless on the side of his foot. I had to think that working a job requiring one to talk a lot, as delivery men are wont to do, would be difficult for someone so situated. In any case I admire his perseverance. Strangely, as we left, I saw a one-armed man order food from a side-walk food stall.

Overall, I would hardly describe the experience as fun, but on reflection it was interesting. Still, I'm hoping the blog entry from January 4th will read "Its approved!"

Thursday, December 6, 2007

What's In a Name

The name of one of the store's in Tim's plaza is named "a cup". I always chuckle when I walk past, and Tim always explains that they prounce it "ah", and not "ay".

I keep telling her she need to get Dunkin Donuts next to "a cup", so you can see the double d's next to the a.


Tomorrow I head back down to the immigration department to get my visa renewed for a year. As you may remember, last time we were missing some paperwork so they wouldn't extend my visa based on Tim's status. They did renew the kids for a year, and then gave me a few extra months because of the kids.

For those of you who didn't read, here are the requirements for a visa for a spouse:

Thai Husband For Foreign Spouse
- Thai husband signs a form saying he can and will support the spouse.

Thai Wife for Foreign Spouse
- Wife signs paper stating she can and will support the spouse.
- Wife provides letter from employment demonstrating she makes at least 30,000 baht per month. (The average Thai man doesn't make 1/2 that much).
- Wife provides documentation proving that she has paid income tax for the past three months.

So, if we are lucky, we'll just drop off the paperwork without any problems. Tim just told me that it might take a few weeks to get approved. Its never easy.

Look, two wheels!

I'm helping Nalin learn to ride her bike without training wheels. We tried it in the spring back in Ohio, but she really wasn't interested or ready.

She's doing a great job. We've practiced the last two days for twenty or thirty minutes each. I help her get started, and she is riding about thirty or forty yards. She only fell once, and that was after the bike stopped, it tipped and took her down. She cried for a minute or so, then was okay.

At the current pace, she'll be on her on in a few days.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happy Father's Day

Tomorrow, December 5th is the King's 80th birthday. It is also Father's Day, which is always celebrated on the King's birthday. Mother's day is celebrated on the Queen's birthday. It is also a national holiday, and the kids are off school.

There will be an absolute sea of yellow shirts as Thai's go out of their way to show their love of the King. Some people have been wearing yellow shirts for five days in a row to mark the occassion.

There have been celebrations underway for several days, and you can see decorations around town in his honor. I can hear some fireworks in the background as I type this blog.

I'm really not sure how we will celebrate. Nalin made me something, and is very excited about giving it to me. Perhaps I'll take a free ride on the train, as all father's, even falang, ride for free on Father's day.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Drinking Water

Water, we can not live long without it. It quenches our thirst, keeps us clean, is a source of food, and is used in the generation of energy.

The Thai word for water is nam (pronounced like the last syllable of Vietnam). The word for thirsty and hungry is the same, hue. If you are thirsty, you would say hue nam. Its customary when someone enters your home to give them a glass of water.

One thing that you do not want to do is to drink water straight out of the tap. Most native Thai's don't engage in that practice. That water that flows so freely out of the spout is carrying passengers. Yes, plain old tap water is not so plain in Thailand, it is also chock full of those wonderfully painful bowel and belly emptying micro-organisms. Imbibe them and while they take a ride around in you, you'll be earning frequent squatting miles on the porcelain express.

Drinking at Home

Okay, so you can't drink straight from the tap, what is a thirsty Thai or falang to do? There are three ways to get clean and safe drinking water at your home. Some people boil the water prior to drinking it. They will keep a a half a dozen or so bottles of boiled water in the refrigerator. Its a cheap way to do it, although you need to remember to keep supply refreshed. You don't want to be thirsty and have to wait ten minutes for the water to boil and then cool it. For people on a budget, this is probably the most common solution.

Middle and upper class Thai's may install a water filtration system. This is convenient, as you can drink straight out of the tap. The up front cost are the highest for this solution. Just remember if you are staying someplace with a filtration system, that all the faucets may not be filtered. If your host has installed the filtration system only on the kitchen faucet, you will sorely regret quenching your midnight thirst with a glass of water from the bathroom faucet.

Another option for clean drinking water is to have a water service deliver water to your home. This is the option we chose we didn't want the hassle of boiling water, but as renters we couldn't justify investing in a water filtration system. We have a water cooler in our kitchen, and the service delivers 18.9 liter bottles every week. We go through four or five bottles a week. The cost is pretty affordable.

Having a water cooler is nice for a few reasons. It cools the water, which is nice, because our refrigerator here doesn't have a water dispenser. The water cooler also reminds me a bit of my office daze. Jacob and I will be standing around the water cooler chatting soccer, cartoons, or the environmental merits of a flatulent powered combustion engine when one of us spots the boss. Jacob will usually glance up at his mom before saying in that slightly too loud voice something on the lines of "Okay then dad. I'll have that TPS report on your desk by 8:00 a.m. sharp." I don't think she is fooled, but she hasn't fired us yet.

Water Out & About

Virtually every restaurant that I've been too has served bottled and not tap water. The charge is usually fairly small, between five and twenty baht. The bottles are usually brought table side and set on a tray with a bucket of ice. The servers generally open the bottle in front of you. This can help to allay worries that an entrepreneurial Thai might have refilled a used bottle from the tap.

Some people are concerned about the water used in making ice. For the most part, I think this is not an issue. Certainly it is possible that a vendor might make ice out of tap water and expose the drinker to unwanted micro-organisms as the ice melts. I usually have ice with my drinks and have never had an issue with it here in Thailand. I don't know if its because I've never had "bad" ice, or that the amount was small enough that it didn't affect me.

The key is to be aware. If the water tastes funny or smells, don't drink it.

Incidentally, I thought I had a bad experience with ice once in Boston , but fortunately it was just "poison". While visiting my friend Tracy, I drank a coke with ice. It had a funny taste, and I thought maybe there was something wrong with the ice. I said something to Tracy, who got a horrified look on her face. She ran over to the cupboard and pulled out one of the glasses, which she kept rightside up. There was a film of pesticide in the bottom of the glass from the recent spraying that she had. Fortunately, I did not consume very much pesticide and did not become ill.