Monday, March 31, 2008


To the dismay of army surplus stores in the land of smiles, the government announced that it is now against the law for civilians to wear military uniforms and clothing. So those who like to look bad ass in camo are now out of luck. The reason given for the law is that it is important that civilians be able to easily tell who is actually in the military. They expressed concerns that civilians in military uniforms could trick other people and take advantage of them.

Pawn Shops

I recently discovered that there are a number of state owned pawnshops here in Thailand. The government recently loosened restrictions on the pawnshops in order to try to help lesser income people to help stimulate the economy.

No ID Please

We took our passports on our trip to Krabi. They never checked any identification for our flight from Bangkok to Krabi. I was a little bit surprised that they didn't.

It turns out that it wasn't a waste to have brought the passports with us. On the return flight, they did check our passports. I'm not sure what would have happened if we had left them at home. Perhaps a ten our car ride home.

Krabi Vacation

The kids had a four day weekend so we flew down to Krabi in the south of Thailand. Krabi is a small beach town located near Phucket and Pee Pee Islands. The sea in this part of Thailand is full of small islands. These islands were used in a boat chase in a James Bond movie.

We left Bangkok at 8:00 a.m. and arrived in Krabi at around 9:30. The airport sent a car to pick us up, but unfortunately they were late so we waited about 15 or so minutes before we took our 30 minute ride to the hotel and the beach. Our rooms at the Pakasai Resort were not yet ready, so we took a stroll down along the road with the shops on one side and the beach on the other. The shops mainly consisted of vendors selling clothes, sunglasses, and beach gear, massage parlors, restaurants, travel agents/tour bookings, and bars.

We had lunch at a Thai Seafood restaurant which was decent. After lunch we checked in and spent the afternoon at the pool. The hotel was nice, but it was spread out. There were a series of buildings with 4 rooms each. It took us about 5 minutes to walk from the lobby to our room. What made it more challenging was it was an uphill walk.

We were all pretty tired, as we had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to make it to the airport by 7:00 a.m. For dinner, we went to a seafood restaurant on the beach which was decent.

On Friday, we rented on a long tail boat and visited four islands. A long tail boat is a wooden boat powered by a gas powered propeller. There are pictures of the long tail boats in my pictures from the trip.

The boat ride is absolutely beautiful. The contrast of blue sky, white clouds and the green islands dotted around the blue sea were just gorgeous. Even though it was quite hot, the wind over the swift moving boat (had to put a verb between swift and boat to avoid any political commentary) made it quite cool and comfortable.

Our first stop was a beach that is only above water during low tide. It was a strip of sand between two small rocky islands. This was a national park which cost 100 baht for me and 20 baht for Tim. When the tide comes up, the sand bar is under water.

The next stop was an island with a small restaurant. Jacob was the first to comment on the topless woman sun bathing about twenty feet away from us while we ate. I think we only saw two or three topless sun bathers the entire time that we were there. While I generally have no issue with topless sunbathers, its not something that the Thais do or care to have on their beaches, so I think its a little bit rude to do it. Its unlikely that they would say anything to you, but think about it this way, there is only one profession of Thai ladies that would go topless on the beach.

Our third stop of Friday was a nice beach where the kids swam and played in the sand. Jacob asked me to bury him in the sand, which I was happy to do. He did not ask me to give him the form of a mermaid, but I was happy to do that as well. Jacob was not at all pleased by the boobs that I gave him. Fortunately for him, I didn't take any pictures.

The final island was not as nice as the third. I can't remember that much about it.

On Saturday we rented another long boat and went to Hong Island. The highlight of our four trip stop was a bay where kids could feed fish, snorkel and play in the sand. Jacob made a friend there and was building a sand fort. Aleena got bitten by a small crab and did not want to get too close to the water after that.

The long tails are supposed to be in by 4:00, but of course we pushed it until 5:30. Tim had asked why they needed to be in so early, and we found out why. The water on the way back was a lot choppier than the ride out in the morning. The waves really weren't that big, but the boats don't sit that deep in the water, so you could definitely feel them.

Aleena was being a real trooper all day, but at the end of our boat ride she was just exhausted. She really tries to keep up, and we help her by carrying her sometimes, but its not easy for her to do everything like her older brother and sister. She felt kind of warm when we got to the hotel, so we decided to just eat at the hotel restaurant so we could get back and put her to bed.

It turns out that this was the best meal of the trip. They had a seafood buffet, which we were the only guests at for about 45 minutes. Aleena slept through the entire meal. I think one other group joined later.

The food was pretty good, particularly the grilled shrimp, but a few things made it really fun. At one point Tim sent Nalin over to ask the waitress for something. Now, if I haven't mentioned it, Nalin is getting very good at speaking Thai. When the waitresses learned that she could speak Thai, four of them came over and started talking to Tim and Nalin. They were asking Nalin questions and doting over her. You could tell that Nalin was enjoying being the center of attention. They asked if they could braid Nalin's hair, which Nalin eagerly accepted. They took her over to another table and one of them braided Nalin's hair. Nalin told Tim that she was very happy because she had wanted the pretty girl to braid her hair, and she had.

While Jacob was not particularly impressed by Thai waitresses, hair braids, or the woman singing in English with a strong Thai accent, he was thrilled by the fire show. While we ate desert, we were entertained by a performer who breathed fire and had spun two flaming pots. My description doesn't do it justice, but it really was a pretty neat show. He spun the pots like flaming nunchuks. Jacob moved up to the chair closest to him and watched in silent rapture. At one point, the performer spun the flames closer and closer to Jacob who let them get within a foot of him and never flinched.

Our flight out was at 4:30 on Sunday. We spent the morning and early afternoon doing some shopping and hanging out at the pool. As we were getting ready to board our return flight, we noticed that we were flying into a different airport. Domestic flights here can originate out of either the new or the old airport. We had left from the new airport, but would return to the old one. Unfortunately, this was one of the few times that we had driven to the airport (we are usually dropped off), so Tim called Top who sent his driver to pick us up. There is a free shuttle between the two for ticketed passengers, but we didn't want to the kids to be up too late.

Overall the trip was a lot of fun. My pictures didn't turn out as well as I would have liked. I accidentally changed the auto focus setting on my camera so that it didn't lock focus. I thought it was broken, so I was manually focusing. Tim was using auto focus, and while it would focus, it wouldn't really lock. While we have some nice pictures, there are a lot of ones that would have been good if I hadn't screwed up the focus. Of course, I finally figured out what I had done when we got home.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Well, it seems like I confused some people with my post last week about our trip. We are actually leaving on Thursday morning (3/27) to go to Krabi. We'll return on Sunday the 30th.

Tim and I went out with a real estate agent on Monday to look at some houses. We can terminate our lease in July, and we are thinking of moving to a different house in Nichada. The townhouse that we live in now is not bad, there are a just a lot of steps and it seems like things have been breaking. Not big things, but just lots of little things.

We really haven't decided whether we want to rent or buy. If we buy a house, then we will keep it as an investment property or sell it when we leave. One thing that we have decided is that we are going to stay in Nichada. We could get more for our money elsewhere, but its location relative to the school is a compelling draw.

We went and visited about a dozen or so places. Some of the places were for sale, and some for rent. Some of the places were privately owned, and some owned by the Nichada group and rented out.

Out of the dozen or so places we visited, I think that there were 4 or so that we thought were nice. All of those were only for rent and not for sale. I think our favorite was a house that had a pool just outside the patio doors, and a common play area for kids outside the back gate. This house, like the others we liked, had a more open floor plan.

One common theme of the places that we didn't like was the closed floor plan. In a lot of the Thai houses, the rooms are very much separated and distinct. Many don't flow into each other. Thais tend to close off the kitchen or keep it distinct in order to keep the smell of the food from the main part of the house.

I was a bit surprised at how poorly some people presented the houses that they were selling. Tim pointed out that it was different for the rental property. The property for rent generally looked very nice and well kept. The property for sale looked, as Tim described it, as something that they just wanted to rid themselves of. Take for example the house we visited where we were greeted by a rusty metal gate, a rusty bike in the drive way, paper garbage piled in the driveway, and a swimming pool that was half filled with yellowish brown water. The house itself had other issues, but the initial presentation was off putting. Its not like they were offering the house as a cheap fixer up, the purchase price of this would have been significantly more than our house in the U.S. How much could it cost to drain the pool, paint the fence, move the bike and clean up some paper refuse? Probably less than the lost sales opportunity or reduced sales price.

More Changes?

The PPP announced that instead of targeting only one constitutional provision, that they want to make much more sweeping changes. We'll see what happens.


Its been a while since I posted any pictures. I took this one today. Aleena saw my green headphones and wanted to listen to my iPod.

What was she jamming to you ask? Well, I was actually listening to a podcast about the television show Lost. Exciting stuff I know.

Constitutional Changes

The PPP and its allies are seeking to change one section of the 2007 Constitution. There is an article that states that if an MP (Member of Parliment) candidate engages in voter fraud and if the party leadership knows and does nothing about it, that the party will be disolved.

The largest two PPP allies have already had their leadership found to have engaged in voter fraud by buying votes. Additionally, the PPP itself has senior leadership under investigation for voter fraud. Some pundits are saying that the courts will have no choice but to dissolve the parties. Disolving the parties would probably result in the collapse of this government, and likely new elections.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Democrats, the only party not part of the coalition government, are very cool to the idea of changing the Constitution. While their leadership supports changes for the better of the country, they expressed opposition to changes to help a political party.

There is some concern that the uncertainty about the stability of this government is hurting the economy by keeping foreign investment away. Proponents of the change argue that the true victims of disolving the political parties are the people through the economy. Cynics might claim that those who engage in voter fraud in the first place might not have the best interest of the country in their heart at all.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

U.S. Embassy Trip and Monica Lewinski

Today I went to the U.S. Embassy to get a document to allow me to get a driver's license. The lady at the American Citizen Services was pretty abrupt and curt with people. When you enter, you take a number and wait until it is called. At one point she called a number, waited about 5 seconds, barked another, and then another.

So as to not miss my turn (and due to the fact that there were no seats available) I stood near the service windows while waiting. One American stepped up to the counter and asked about a form to export a Buddha statue from Thailand. She said that she was told that she needed a form from the U.S. Embassy. The clerk told her that she didn't. The woman responded that she had been told by someone earlier today that she would need it. The clerk told her "we have a lot of summer interns working here and they don't know what they are doing. You know, like Monica Lewinski." It was pretty funny.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Krabi & Burning Alive

We are going to Krabi next week for a four day holiday. Krabi is in the south and is popular for its beaches. We are probably going to do some snorkeling.

My main objective, however, is to make sure that I have the proper sun screen. The last time I went to the south with Tim was on our Phucket trip, back before we were married. Phucket is around 6 degrees from the equator, so the sun is pretty strong there. Tim went and got me sun screen which I dutifully put on. As I read the bottle, however, I noticed that she had gotten me UV protection 2.

No, I didn't leave off the second digit, she bought protection two. I think that cooking oil may be related a two, because cook I did. Even though it was cloudy a good part of the day, my shoulders and back turned bright red. By evening it was almost too painful to wear a shirt. We went to the night market and bought the softest shirt that we could find. We flew back a few days later, and by that time my skin was peeling like crazy. The person sitting next to me on the plane probably thought I had the worst dandruff ever.

Telephone Poles

Telephone poles in Thailand are square and made out of concrete.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Scotch - Loch Lomond

A couple of years back, a friend of Tim's (actually the spouse of a friend of Tim's) introduced me to Scotch. I'm not a beer drinker, and up until then never drank a whole lot of the harder stuff either. The taste of beer and hard liquor just didn't appeal to me.

The Scotch that John introduced me to was Glenlivet, a fine 12 year old single malt Scotch. I really enjoyed it, and have been drinking Scotch ever since. Don't get me wrong, I don't down a bottle every night (well, not usually anyway (just kidding mom)), but I enjoy the taste, and if I am going to drink it will almost certainly be Scotch.

There is really good Scotch, good affordable Scotch, and then there is stuff that is better served to clean off paint brushes. As I do not have an endless supply of money, I tend to avoid the first category, and I try to avoid the last category for health reasons.

I am hardly a connoisseur of Scotch, but I am going to blog about what I try in order to advise others and so that I remember what is good and bad. Tonight I tried a bottle of Loch Lomond, a single malt Scotch. It cost about $33 a bottle here, about the same price as Johnnie Walker Black Label, a passable, but hardly spectacular selection.

My first clue as to my reaction should have been the fact that there was no age on the bottle. After I got home, i scoured the label, the only clue being that it was aged "the perfect amount of time". When I opened the bottle, and poured a glass, I didn't like the smell. It had a strong and sour smell. Unfortunately, the taste was consistent with the smell.

I really don't like this Scotch very much. Its definitely no Glenlivet (which in fairness costs about 50% more here) and its not even a match for its equal priced Johnie Walker Black. This is one of those bottles that I will probably finish eventually, but I'll probably try some others prior to forcing myself to finish this one.

BBQ Denied

I had lunch with the mom of one of Nalin's classmates today. I know her from the cub scouts and from when I pick up Nalin after school.

There is a new restaurant named the BBQ Sandwich King close by which serves American BBQ. I was really looking forward to it. We arrived at 11:00, entered the restaurant and were greeted by the wonderful smell of smoked meat. Unfortunately, we were then greeted by the owner who informed us that they were not open until noon.

As we didn't really want to wait an hour to start lunch, we went to a close by Thai place. I ended up getting some fried wings and sticky rice. It was pretty solid.

I don't understand how a place doesn't open until noon. The owner did say that he plans on opening up at 10:30 starting next fall, and the menu says they deliver. Perhaps there is still hope for it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

PM's Say the Darnedest Things

Thailand's Prime Minister (PM) extraordinaire again shared his unique wisdom with his fellow countryman. You might recall that he has offered such opinions as corruption isn't really bad because it doesn't kill anyone, and denied the killing of forty-six protesters thirty years ago.

Yesterday, PM Samark expressed some admiration for the military junta leaders in Burma. For those of you who follow the news, a few months ago the military junta (a dictatorship) in Burma violently cracked down on protests led by monks. The junta shot and killed protestors and raided monasteries, dragging monks off to prison.

PM Samark said that critics were too hard on the junta leadership. His reasoning was that the generals stated that they meditated prior to making decisions. That was enough to impress the Thai PM. As we all know, anyone who claims to meditate or pray is a benevolent and wise leader. I think that we all admire those genuflecting leaders of the Spanish Inquisition.

I understand the reasoning for Thailand's relationship with Burma. They are a neighbor from which Thailand buys energy and does business. While isolating Burma might have little impact on the U.S., it would be somewhat painful for the kingdom here. Does that mean I think that Thailand should turn a blind eye? Not necessarily, but I understand the reason for the relationship. Even so, the PM's comments lead me to believe that either he is stupid or that he believes that others or stupid. My bet would be the later.

When discussing this, PM Samark talked about how Thailand is surrounded by three neighbors, Laos, Burma and Cambodia. The last line of the newspaper article adroitly pointed out that Thailand is also bordered by Malaysia to the south. Those PMs say the darnedest things.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Clowning Around

Today we had brunch at the Next 2 Cafe Terrace in the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok. Everyone had a very enjoyable time.

The Shangri-La hotel is an upscale hotel in the heart of Bangkok. It sits on the Chao Praya river. As we made our way through the hotel to the restaurant, it became very clear that this was not the refuge of backpackers and those on a tight budget. The walls were decorated with expensive art and expensive chandeliers hung from the high ceilings. We had to ask the concierge for some directions on our way out, and the service was just what one would expect from a very high end hotel. The person giving Tim directions saw Nalin, and commented on how the half Thai children are always so cute. When she responded that they were also often little trouble makers, he was quick to respond with "yes, but the intelligent ones always are." Telling someone that their children are beautiful and smart with out sounding phony is a good way to make someone feel good. Kudos for the staff.

The restaurant hosts a Sunday brunch from 11:30 to 2:30 every Sunday. The restaurant is divided into three sections, an outdoor terrace next to the river, and indoor dining room, and a children's dining room. We arrived at 11:25 and chose to sit in the children's dining room, and were lucky to get a seat, as it is usually full from reservations.

The children's room had about 10 tables, a small stage for a show, a small stage, a food area, and a small play area with a tv and a plastic playset. The food in this room was the typical food loved by Western (and other) kids; pizza, hamburgers, french fries, hot dogs, fish sticks and more. They showed Shrek 3 and Alvin and the Chipmunks movies on the TV in the room, and there was a clown entertaining the children. Eckie the clown performed a show at 1:00 p.m., and before that went around blowing up balloons and entertaining the kids.

Eckie's show was pretty entertaining, particularly to the kids. One thing that struck me as funny, but that you would never see in the U.S. Eckie said he had a baby, and brought out a baby doll. The then said he was going to give the baby something to drink, asking the kids what you give babies. Of course, they all yelled "milk!" Eckie proceeds to pull out a bottle of beer with a nipple on it and acts like he is going to give it to the baby.

Of course, Jacob managed to end up on stage during the show. The boy is amazing in his ability to get on stage, he's even better than me. I mean, I have been to the Disney MGM Indiana Jones show twice, and both times have managed to be picked out of 100's of people to go on stage(my secret is when they ask for a pose is to do a "sexy" pose with one hand on my head and the other on my hip like an old pinup girl, it sure as hell ain't sexy, but it gets attention which is what you want). Jacob is probably 75% overall in shows. Its amazing, if he is sitting in a place where there is a chance for him to be picked, he is almost an automatic. His role this time was to help blow up a balloon.

So from the kids perspective, the experience was great. They had the kind of food they liked, movies to watch, balloons to grab, a place to run around, and a clown show to entertain them. What was it like for us adult types? It was great.

Needless to say, Tim and I did not get much food from the children's buffet (although I admit to grabbing a few french fries), we ventured out into the indoor restaurant and terrace. There was an incredible selection of entrees, starches, vegetables and deserts. I mostly feasted on smoked salmon, grilled rock crab, grilled shrimp, lamb, grilled veg tables, and even some sushi. I even got to enjoy some nann (Indian flat bread for the uninitiated). I can't recall everything that passed Tim's lips, but she also really enjoyed the food. By the end, we were stuffed.

We ended up staying for the full buffet which closed at 2:30. They didn't charge us for the kids, but the entire bill was a little over $100. That is a bit pricey for brunch (especially here), but it really was more than just a brunch. The kids were thoroughly entertained for almost three hours. Tim and I were able to enjoy brunch because the restaurant entertained the kids.

The only thing that I regret was that I forgot to bring my camera. The view from the terrace was definitely worth a few dozen pictures. It was right on the water, and boats on the water and buildings on the opposite shore would have made for some great shots. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to go back.

The overall experience was great. This is a place that I would definitely take friends visiting.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

You Can See Its Weiner

I went to work with Tim today to install some software for her employees. As the nanny and maid are on a four day vacation, we took the kids with us.

Around twelve o'clock, we were all pretty hungry so we decided to get lunch. My assumption was that we would go to the KFC here in Tim's building, as it a favorite of the kids. When we left, we were accompanied by one of Tim's clients and two of her employees. Instead of eating here, they decided that we would go to a different restaurant. Tim, the kids and I followed the other three. After a forty minute drive, we stopped at a Thai restaurant that was virtually identical to the dozens of Thai restaurants that we had passed to get there. It was kind of like driving forty minutes to go to an Applebee's, all along the way passing Applebee's, Friday's and other such restaurants.

I said virtually identical because there was one thing that made this restaurant a little different than most others. In addition to a small play area, they had some dinosaur statues that were about seven or height feet high. As we were leaving, I looked over and saw the T-rex and mentioned it to the kids. As I looked closer at the statue, I was a bit surprised. Jutting out between the fearsome t-rex's leg was a penis. The dinosaur must have confused our car with a lady dinosaur because his member appeared to be fully engorged. Of course Jacob saw it and said "look you can see its wiener".

Friday, March 14, 2008


As I believe that I have mentioned before, Jacob and Nalin are taking tennis lessons on Thursday nights. They absolutely love it.

This past week, I started taking tennis lessons with the same instructor. I actually had a lot of fun. Perhaps not surprisingly, my backhand developed on Wii tennis doesn't completely carry over to the real court. I was shocked. Or not.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Political Update

An article in today's Bangkok post stated that the Election Commission (EC) is probably going to rule that the PPP party has acted as a nominee for the outlawed Thai Rak Thai party. I guess the fact that the Prime Minister basically campaigned on that platform was probably evidence enough. The article stated that they want to interview a few more witnesses before rendering judgement. One of these witnesses was deposed PM Thaskin.

So what does this mean? Well, it could mean an end to the PPP party, and possibly the current Thai government. I'm not sure that this would be the best thing for the country, as many blame the turmoil of the coup for some of the economic problems. True or not, I think most agree that a stable government is a necessary ingredient for a stable and strong economy. We'll see what happens.

On Our Own

Tomorrow our nanny and maid leave for a four day vacation. They are going to a cousins wedding. While I wish them a good time, I'm going to have to pick up the slack when they are gone.

I don't expect that I will be doing extensive cleaning in their absence, and I plan on ordering food most of the time instead of cooking. Their is a new BBQ place close by which is supposed to be very good, and this is the perfect time to try it out.

I think I'll survive, but as Tim will be working 3 of the 4 days, I will miss having someone home with the kids if I need to run somewhere for a few minutes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

To Kill or Not to Kill

Yesterday at Tim's work, we were standing around the desk of one of her employees talking when we saw a flying ant land. As the women were trying to figure out what to do, I smashed it between my fingers. Tim jokingly said, "oh you sinned." This reminded me of an interesting quirk among Thais and perhaps Buddhists more generally.

Many (and perhaps all) Buddhists believe that killing not only people, but also animals is a sin. They believe that animals have souls and are part of the reincarnation circle. This extends not just to cute and cuddly puppies, but to less popular creatures such as mosquitoes. Indeed, the worse you are in this life, the lower on the totem pole you'll return in the next life. So a lot of times a Thai might shoe away an insect instead of squashing it dead. This is certainly not universal, because I've seen quite a few Thais smash mosquitoes between their hands, while I've yet to see one wring the neck of a kitten. I guess its a lot harder to seen your long lost Uncle Fred reincarnated in a dog than in a fruit fly.

The aversion to killing animals affects not only pest control, but also the dietary habits some Buddhists. Vegetarianism is a lot more popular here than in the United States. There are all vegetarian restaurants, street food vendors, and even a vegetarian festival that lasts several weeks. Tim tells me that the vegetarian fare is excellent and she's probably right.

The majority of Thais do eat meat though, and many of those are the same ones who believe taking an animal life is a sin. How does such a Thai resolve the contradiction of not wanting to sin by killing to eat? Tim said its simple, just have someone else kill it and you eat it. That answer makes me shake my head and laugh because it is so Thai. You essentially hire the butcher to kill the animal for its meat, but your hands stay clean because you did not administer the killing blow? Pardon the pun, but that seems a bit fishy to me.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with someone not wanting to butcher their own meat. I certainly don't want to do that myself. Nor do I take issue with someone choosing not to eat meat for religious (or any other) reason. If someone thinks that killing any animal is a sin, I respect their right to that belief.

I do find it hard though to accept that one absolves oneself of the sin by outsourcing the dirty work. I mean come on, if you put a contract hit on someone, is their no sin because you don't actually pull the trigger? Its such a Thai thing though. It doesn't matter if the reasoning falls apart at close examination, so long as there is an explanation in place, no-one wants to dig very deeply.

Warm and Humid

The temperature has increased a bit lately, and its also gotten quite a bit more humid. I've noticed the change for about the last week or so. I had a tennis lesson on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. and was absolutely drenched in sweat afterwards. You can even feel it in the morning.

While certainly not as nice as the weather was for the past few months, its really not that bad. Or more precisely, I think the heat doesn't bother me like it used to do. Part of the reason is that while I am hot, I don't have to dress up to go to work. My dress code usually consists of shorts and a tee shirt or golf shirt. It also helps that I keep my hair very short. While I'm sure that the hip sweaty matted down look is just around the corner, I prefer not to have wet hair plastered on my forehead.

I still don't miss the cold.

Long Tao

The Thai word for shoes is long tao. As in much of Asian culture, Thais treat the wearing of shoes a little differently than many of us in the West.

As people who have visited our home in Ohio may remember, Thais do not wear shoes in the home. Its actually pretty practical in that it keeps the house a lot cleaner, preventing the tracking of mud. When we lived on Portsmouth, we were pretty strict about the rule, but we mellowed a bit when we moved to the suburbs. Here in Thailand the shoe ban is in full force. The only time I don't like it is when I just put on my gym shoes and realize that I left something in the house. I don't particularly relish taking them off, going back upstairs, and then redonning them. In the overall scheme of things, its a pretty minor point.

They also do not wear them in certain public places like temples. There will be a shoe rack where people leave their shoes. I'm surprised that there aren't more shoes stolen at these places, but I don't think that it is generally a problem. But if someone tells you that they got their shoes at the temple, I guess that means that some poor sap walked home barefoot.

Another intersting difference is wearing shoes to work. In the U.S., employees who have to walk a bit as part of their work commute might wear comfortable shoes on the way to work, and change into their nicer work shoes when they arrive. I've done this myself when I would ride my bike 6 miles to work and carry it up 17 flights of stairs. Yeah, the carrying up the stairs was a bit excessive, but I had a bike stolen while parked in the building. Plus I liked doing it just because it wasn't easy.

Thais have a different arrangement when it comes to shoes in the workplace. Some Thais will wear their really nice shoes on the way to work, but once they arrive, they change into a more comfortable pair. Its not unusual to see someone wearing flip flops or crocs at my wife's work. While I would like to attribute this to Thais sense of comfort over fashion, I think its actually the opposite. They wear the nice shoes when people in public can see them, and something comfortable behind the closed doors of work.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Still Not in the Driver's Seat

Today Tim and I set out to confront one of the most feared government bodies in any country. That's right we went to the DMV so that I could get a driver's license.

Fear not for my lovely wife and I are not neophytes when it comes to dealing with machinations of the Thai bureaucratic system. Obtaining an international driver's license is not supposed to be a very difficult process. Assuming that one has a valid driver's license from another country, you much go to a doctor and have a cursory exam which consisted mostly of a blood pressure test. I paid my $15 and had my exam results in hand well in advance of our trip. In addition to the medical exam, applicants have to take a color blind test and a breaking test.

We did not venture down to the dmv without experienced help. A long time employee of Tim's had connections down at the DMV that would allow us to circumvent the queue and hopefully make the process easier. As we found out with immigration experience, having an insider helps a lot, but it does not ensure a smooth and painless process. That lesson was reiterated today.

Things started a bit auspiciously when we had a mix up between Tim and her contact. After we waited for him for 30 minutes at Tim's office, she called and found out that he was already at the DMV. By the time we arrived it was 9:30 a.m. We wanted to get this completed before everyone goes to lunch at 12:00, lest we have to sit around for an hour until the lunch break has ended.

Tim's employee went up and talked to his contact, and within ten minutes Tim was seated in front of an official's desk, much quicker than if we had drawn a number for the queue. For some reason, my presence was not yet required, so I sat next to her employee who spoke to me in Thai. I understood only a small portion of what he said.

After fifteen minutes, Tim came over and told me that we couldn't finish it today. Apparently, we needed a letter from either the Thai immigration authorities or the U.S. Embassy confirming my address here in Thailand. This is not an issue for people who work here, as their work permits have their address. Tim tried without success to argue that my one year visa was proof that I had a permanent residence (indeed, we had to prove that to obtain the visa).

Tim was able to win one argument with the DMV official. Upon examining my driver's license, the DMV employee said that my license was expired. In reality, my license expires on my birthday, June 1st. The problem is that Thailand, like most of the world, writes dates as day/month/year. In the U.S. we write them month/day/year. So the employee interpreted the 06/01/2008 as January 6th. Tim tried to explain the difference in writing dates, but the dmv employee would not believe her. He wanted proof. Tim finally pointed out that I had renewed my license on May 28th, written as 5/28/2004. The fact that there are not 28 months finally convinced the employee that my license was not expired.

We were going to get the letter from the Thai immigration authorities. About ten minutes after we left the DMV, Tim's contact in immigration called her back and said that we would need a letter from the dmv to immigration explaining what they needed. When we drove back and asked the DMV, they said they could provide no such letter.

I called the U.S. Embassy which put me in touch with their American Services department. I explained what I needed, and they understood immediately. All I have to do is bring my passport and $30 and they will write the letter.

We decided to wait until Wednesday to go to the U.S. Embassy. This was in part due to the fact that Tim has to go there anyway to pick up the document approving her stay outside the U.S. As a green card holder, if Tim stays outside the U.S. for more than six months, the government presumes that she wishes to relinquish her green card. When she attempts to re-enter, they would deny her entry. There is a process whereby you can inform the government that you intend to leave for a certain period of time but intend to return. Its largely a formality, but an important one. Tim's application was approved, and she can pick it up at the U.S. Embassy. She didn't have her passport or green card with her, so we decided to just go do both on Wednesday. I hope that we are successful.


While nick names are certainly a part of American culture, they are no where near as widespread or common as in Thailand. Everyone has a nickname and some have several. The parents usually give their children a nickname when they are babies, and those nicknames are used throughout their lives.

Take my wife for example. Her given name is Pawaree, but her nickname is Tim. The only time that she really uses Pawaree is on legal documents.

Of course the name Tim can cause quite a bit of confusion in the U.S. where Tim is nearly exclusively a male name. I was practicing law with a large law firm with several offices when Tim and I got married. Before leaving for our honeymoon, I sent out an email to my office's distribution list thanking everyone for their kind words of support for Tim and my marriage. Well, what I didn't know was that the distribution list included some people from our Louisville and Lexington branches. When I got back, Rick, our office manager, told me how he had gotten calls from both offices. They had assumed that Tim was a guy, and were surprised at how the Covington office was so open about such a relationship. Rick laughed and explained to them, that I was indeed not gay. Not that their is anything wrong with that.

What made me think of the nickname story is that I was eating lunch with Tim today and one of her employees came into the room. She asked him if he had eaten, and he responded that he had "eaten rice with banana". She thought that was funny and asked him if he had really eaten rice and banana. The other girls laughed because what he had actually meant that he had already eaten rice with their co-worker named banana (gloy).

Banana isn't even the most unusual nickname. Tim has cousins, "A", "B" and "C". She has another cousin named Sweet. Some might find her parents choice to nick name their children Top, Tip and Tim worthy of a light chuckle. I have a nieces named Nudee and Pinkie. I've heard people with the nickname shrimp and dog. Really most any moniker is fair game in the Thai nickname game.

I'm glad that we don't name our kids after food in the U.S. "Hey mom, Pizza, Pickles and I are running over to Club Sandwich's house." "Okay Ketsup, make sure you are back for dinner, Uncle Turnover is bringing over Saccharin".

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Hard Six

In many ways, Thailand and Ohio are worlds apart, geographically, politically, and culturally. One thing they share is that they are both debating whether to allow casinos in their border. PM Samak is a proponent of legalized gambling, and has vowed that it will come to pass if he serves his full four year term.

Interestingly the arguments for casinos are much the same. Supporters in both Thailand and Ohio point to increased revenues which could be used for education and other social welfare benefits. They also point out that many of their neighbors have already legalized casino gambling and that this is resulting in local money going to those countries. Legalize casino gambling, they argue, and not only will our money stop flowing out, there will be an influx of cash from foreign (or out of state) gamblers.

Opponents in both places argue that legalized gambling acts as a magnet for other crimes. In the U.S., prostitution is one of the crimes associated with gambling, although here I can't imagine that it would noticeably increase a profession already widely and openly practiced. Those against legalized gambling in both places also fear for the impact on families. Many who gamble bet much more than they can afford to lose. That argument is probably even stronger here than in the U.S. There are a lot of uneducated people here, and the get rich quick instinct is very strong among Thais.

In Ohio, much of the opposition is based in religion. Even those who argue against in on social grounds are often motivated more by religion than the arguments they publicly expound. I'm not sure that religion plays as much a part of the opposition in Thailand, although it certainly might. Gambling is against Buddhist teachings, but so are a lot of common practices in Thai society.

Political Correction

I made a mistake in an early post stating that the PPP had been cleared of charges that they were a nominee party for the defunct Thai Rak Thai party (Thaksin's party). There was an article in the paper today stating that the investigating committee turned over their report to the Election Commission to decide the case, so the matter is not decided.

It is not clear when the Election Commission will render a decision. The impact of this case could range from an acquital to the end of the PPP led government. The sooner the decision is made the better, as it will remove at least one cloud hanging over this government once and for all.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Yeah, that's right, we lost another driver. This was was probably the best of the lot, but things just did not work out. There were probably a few reasons for it. I think working for us is probably more like working for a traditional Thai employer than for a lot of the foreigners who live here. A lot of the workers around here are more accustomed to easier schedule and higher pay of more traditional falang employers.

I won't go into all the details, but I walked outside yesterday about 10 minutes before the kids tennis lessons and the driver wasn't there. I called and he said he'd be there in 10 minutes. We let him standby at his house which is only a few minutes away, but he is supposed to let me or the nanny know before he leaves. He had dropped us off less than an hour before, and hadn't mentioned leaving. I was pretty annoyed and called Tim. She called him and told him that if he keeps doing this she won't be able to keep him on. He said "fine" and hung up.

Next week I think I'm going to get a driver's license. It will just make things a lot easier. The nice thing about a driver is that they know there way around and it avoids the parking mess that is Bangkok. It is, however, pretty frustrating to deal with drivers.

Children's Museum Pictures

Bangkok Children's Museum

Today I took Jacob and Nalin to the Bangkok Children’s Museum. They were off school as today and tomorrow are the progress report days at ISB. They each got to bring a friend, Domi for Nalin and Benjamin for Jacob. Originally I had invited Nalin’s classmate Luca to go with us, but he declined because he had been there twice before and really didn’t want to go back.

Like a lot of things here in Bangkok, the Children’s Museum just wasn’t up to what you would find back in the U.S. We’ve been to a number of children’s museums in the U.S. and the science museum in Hong Kong. Cincinnati has a very nice children’s museum, and the Indianapolis children’s museum has been voted the best in the states. The science museum in Hong Kong was also first rate. You could easily keep the kids entertained in one of those museums all day long. We were at the Bangkok Children’s museum for about three hours (including lunch) and pretty much had seen everything that we wanted to see.

The price for the museum was 170 baht for kids and 190 baht for adults. The museum consists of several buildings. The main building has a few interactive exhibits on the first floor, including one where the children can stand on a platform, and have someone try to make a giant bubble around them. There are also ones on the human body, including one on the digestive system. This exhibit shows a boy sitting on a toilet. You can see his digestive track. You are asked a series of five questions about the digestive process. If you answer correctly, a blue ball moves through the digestive track. As you answer the final question correctly, the ball “disappears” and you hear a flushing sound. It was kind of funny if not a world class exhibit. The second and third floors had a few displays, although nothing to keep the kids interest very long.

There was an outdoor playground with a giant rope pyramid that the kids can climb. Jacob easily scaled that of course. Tim told me that he had climbed it when he was three. That is actually pretty impressive, because his friend at least wouldn’t or couldn’t make it to the top. There was also a small obstacle course outside. Fortunately, the weather was mild today, so playing outside was pleasant for the kids.

The museum has a Disney Princess display which the girls did like. The boys were less enthused to say the least. I have to take the boys side on this, and its not because I detests princesses. The whole thing seemed very cheap. I guess the highlight was the carpet ride where they sat on a magic carpet that moved up and down a few inches while it appeared that they were flying on a big screen. It sounds better than it was in reality.

There was a building that had a sylvan motif with books, comfortable chairs and a little area for a puppet show. I entertained Jacob and Benjamin with the puppets for about 10 or 15 minutes, but this building wasn’t anything spectacular.

Overall the museum really lacked a lot of quality exhibits. One of the keys to the really good museums is to have a lot of hands on exhibits that really engage the kids. If you only have three or four of those (at most), you are just not going to keep kids attention very long. Even something like a big area of wooden building blocks or legos would have been a welcome addition.

Hey, I understand that Thailand is not the U.S. or even Hong Kong. It is still in the developing world, so don’t expect it to rival what I find in Indianapolis, Hong Kong or even Cincinnati. Still its disappointing, because I really wanted it to be one of those places where the kids love to go.

Perhaps the reason is that there is just not the critical mass of customers that you find in the U.S. While an average U.S. family may be able to spend $30 in a month to take the family to a museum, for an average Thai family, dropping 900 baht on a day at the museum might be out of the question. The only way a lot of Thai kids might be able to see the place is on a class field trip.

Part of me thinks that there is more to it than that. Sometimes I really get the feeling that Thais are often penny-wise and pound foolish. They will take shortcuts to get things done quickly at the expense of quality. So instead of spending a bit more money to create a place that children want to return to over and over, they create one that in the eyes of one of Nalin’s classmates, just wasn’t worth a third visit. Even if they had to charge an extra 10, 20 or even 50 baht per visitor to pay for the improved exhibits, that this would not cause a problem. For the most part, the people willing to pay 900 baht for a family (price of 4 kids and 2 adults) would be willing to spend 950 or even 1,100 baht. Even more importantly, they might return more often.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Jacob and Friends

From left to right, Jacob, Benjamin, Joe and Kevin.
Here is a picture of Jacob and some of his friends from school.

Aleena Pictures

A couple pictures of Aleena here.

Something Amusing

I was talking to one of Nalin's classmates mother about getting the girls together for a play date. She told me that her daughter was representing Thailand in some ice skating competition in Hong Kong.

For some reason that struck me as funny, along the lines of the Jamaican Bobsled team. Its hard to think of ice skating and Bangkok together. I guess that it does dip down into the 80's during winter. O.O

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

D&D Creator Dies

The created of the Dungeons and Dragons game, Gary Gygaxx died today. There is a story on CNN here.

Although Gygax has not been directly involved with the game for quite some time, he was obviously an important figure in role playing games. Its a sad day for all of those polyhedron chuckers.

Hillary Hanging Tough

Well, the democrats are certainly providing some drama to this years presidential race. Senator Clinton had her back against the wall in the March 4th primaries, and she pulled out crucial wins in Ohio and Texas.

While the wins will not eat much into Senator Obama's small delegate lead, these wins were clearly symbolically important. They show that she can still win, although it seems like momentum is still with Senator Obama.

With Senator Clintons wins, it seems assured that neither will drop out and neither will have enough delegates to win outright. The super delegates will be even more important. These super delegates can also change who they pick, they are not bound by their initial pledge.

Will this come down to the Democratic convention this summer? Is the race going to turn nastier as both seek to get the nomination?

Senator McCain now has enough delegates to win the Republican nomination. I'm sure that he would like the Democrats to prolong this fight and rough up the eventual winner a bit.

More Elections

The lower Parliamentary house elections were last December, where the PPP won the most seats and formed a coalition government with everyone but the Democrats. This week, there were elections for the Thai senate.

Half the Thai senate is elected, and half is appointed from academia and other institutions. The senate doesn't really appear to have any real power.

The lack of power was certainly evident in the campaign and turnout. While over 70% of the Thai voters turned out back in December, just 56% voted this week. The discrepancy in the number of campaign signs was staggering. I saw a handful of signs this time around, while they were ever where in December. My guess is that there were fifty signs in December for every sign for this election.

One positive note is that this was probably a much cleaner election than the one in December. Its not likely that people were buying votes in order to win a seat in an advisory body. My guess is that the Election Commission will not yellow or red card any senate winners.

Messing with the Cops

Don't get the wrong idea, I'm not messing with the Thai cops. A few years back there were about twenty-five hundred alleged drug dealers gunned down by the police. It was reported that they had all fired on police. Yeah, okay.

This past week Prime Minister Samak transferred the police chief, effectively stripping him of all power. The purported reason was allegations of corruptions againt Police General Sereepisut Taemeeyaves. Quite possibly it could have something to do with the fact that Sereepisut was appointed by the coup leaders, and Samak is cleaning house where he can. The Prime Minister's ability to effect transfers in the militar is limited, so the police department is a place that he can weild some influence.

The article in today's Bangkok post revealed that perhaps Sereepisut will not go quietly into the night. He called the transfer irrational, and warned that he was capable of revenge. When asked about Samak, Sereepisut replied "I am healthy and will keep myself fit for tomorrow so that I too can attack others. I have a lot of supporters, if I whistle they will come out."

In addition to the corruption charges, Sereepisut was also critisized for yelling at a subordinate in public. His response certainly showed spirit, "Who the hell should bother to be concerned?"

Thai politics are just at such a differnt level than in the U.S. It is so easy for Americans to take our democracy for granted. We are incredibly lucky.

I can't imagine such a public challenge in American politics. Can you imagine the head of the FBI challenging the President of the U.S. in such a manner? It just wouldn't happen.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Birthday Pictures

We didn't do anything crazy for Jacob's birthday. We went to the local mexican restaurant (Jacob's choice) and came back and had cake. Tim got a Garfield cake, which Jacob loves.

Jacob's cake.

The present still a mystery.

Jacob is just a tad bit excited.

Robotic spiderman. He loves it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Jacob

Today is Jacob's 8th birthday. Tim and I went to his class today and delivered cupcakes and goodie bags. I then put on a puppet show featuring some of his favorite puppets. It was really nice that Tim could make it, Jacob was surprised and pleased to see her there.

Tonight we are going out for dinner, and Tim got a Garfield cake. Jacob has become a very big Garfield fan over the last few weeks. He checks out Garfield books from the library, and reads the strip in the paper.

We are not doing a big birthday party with friends this time. We missed it with Nalin because we had just moved. I think that we are going to let each of them bring a friend or two and go bowling or some other activity.

The kids are off of school on Thursday and Friday for progress reports. Nalin's is a more standard parent-teacher meeting, while Jacob presents his portfolio during his time.


Yeah, I finally broke down and created a facebook account. I'm finding a few friends on it, but I think that my generation hasn't embraced it like those a few years younger. Anyway, its an interesting way to pass a little time.