Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fines for feeding elephants in Bangkok

In a move aimed at discouraging elephant handlers from bringing their animals into Bangkok, authorities in the Thai capital have recently introduced a new law stating that foreign tourists caught feeding elephants will be fined 10,000 baht (approximately £200).

That’s a pretty hefty fine for giving a poor, starving pachyderm a 25 baht bunch of bananas or a corn on the cob!!!

This practice has been going decades, despite the fact that the elephant owners or mahouts are already banned from bringing their creatures into the city and are supposed to face substantial financial penalties if they are caught.

However, the owners often bride local police to allow them to work in the red light districts and other tourist hot-spots and when money is changing hands, existing rules and regulations are rarely enforced.

Whilst I believe that elephants shouldn’t be roaming the streets of a busy, polluted city and I commend the authorities for trying to take positive action, criminalising tourists is not the way to tackle the problem.

I am concerned that this will just become a revenue generating exercise and an excuse to line the pockets of those who are enforcing this law.

I would like to remind my readers that this law came into force on 1st July 2010, so if you do see and elephant wandering the streets, don’t be tempted to feed it unless you want to be 10,000 baht lighter!!!

This story was widely reported in the British press and a good report can be read by accessing the link below….

If you are interested in elephant conservation in Thailand there is a fantastic organisation called the National Elephant Institute who run an elephant conservation centre in Lampang near Chiang Mai.

There is also an elephant hospital on site, although it is a separate organisation. For more information you can visit their website at......

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wet Thai Pussy

If you have ever been to Thailand, there is a fair chance that you will have seen a wet pussy or two, particularly if you enjoy the night-spots of Nana Plaza or Walking Street in Pattaya!!!

But, if you think that I’m going to tell you a raunchy story featuring naked pole-dancers, a jacuzzi and a jar of nutella, then not only are you a pervert but you’ll also be very disappointed!!!

This story actually features real felines and how they are used in a traditional ceremony to encourage the monsoon rains.

Many of you will know that parts of Thailand are experiencing some of the worst droughts in decades and worried villagers in the Northern town of Phichit have turned to ancient rituals and superstitions in an attempt to appease the rain gods.

As we know, rural folk in Thailand can be a pretty strange bunch, probably something to do with working in the glaring sun for 12 hours a day or drinking too much rice whiskey. But, whoever it was that came up with the idea of a “cat-calling” procession, had clearly been growing and consuming something other than rice!!!

The ceremony is one of the most bizarre things I have ever heard about on my travels and I’m not sure that the practice would be condoned by animal rights organisations.

The way it works is incredibly simple; all the local female cats are rounded up, put in cages and paraded through the town, before being doused in water in an attempt to make them meow. It’s is believed that their high-pitched calls will be heard by the rain gods, who will then reward the farmers with some much needed precipitation.

The noise made by the moggies must be horrendous, but I’m sure the caterwauling is slightly more preferable than listening to the garbage that masquerades as pop music today!!!

I found this smashing story on the Phuket Gazette website and you can access this and many other gems by clicking here....

The story was also reported by the following blog.......

Monday, July 19, 2010

Brutal and Beautiful: The two faces of Burma

Thailand is hardly a bastion of democracy, freedom, truth and good governance....but, if things are that bad, then why do boat loads of Burmese immigrants regularly turn up on the Thai coast or flee to jungle refugee camps in the border regions?

What is so dreadful, that it forces Burmese citizens to risk life and limb to reach Thailand? When most of them are well aware of the historic animosity between the two nations and knowing that they will receive a less than coridal welcome and leave themselves open to exploitation.

The reason is very clear and his name is General Than Shwe, head of the Burmese military Junta.

Don't be fooled by that smile, because underneath lurks a nasty, brutal and treacherous despot, who, for nearly 20 years, has run a regime synonymous with violence, murder and political oppression.

I am not normally one for politcally-motivated rants or explicit demonstrations of support for particular regimes or individuals, as I think most people involved in politics are avaricious and corrupt!!! But, I am a supporter of free speech and democracy, which is the principle of choosing your government (albeit corrupt!!!!), through free and fair elections.

This is why, I feel it necesssary to use my blog to support the people of Burma in their struggle.

Burma is due to be holding a general election soon and the international community needs to ensure that the rights and choices of the Burmese citizens are respected and the election isn't rigged or subject to interference!!! But I fear that may be wishful thinking, as governemnts around the world have been indifferent to Burma's plight for nearly 50 years!!!

On the occassions when the Burmese have protested against their dictatorial regime, this is what happens.......

An excellent website, highlighting human right's abuses in Burma and worldwide, can be accessed by clicking on the link below. But, caution is advised as there are plenty of graphic images of dead bodies!!!!

Here is an equally good website supporting Burmese democracy and freedom.....

When Than Shwe and his cronies are finally brought to justice, the beauty of Burma will finally emerge and even more tourists will be able to experience the history, culture and majesty of this neglected country.

Just look at some of the spectacular sites below!! They rival anything you will see in other popular South East Asian destinations...

My girlfriend, Apinya, who as you know is Thai, beautifully summed up her feelings about Burma, during a recent trip Ayutthaya and Sukothai.

Looking at some of the blackened temple ruins, destroyed during one of Burma's many invasions over the centuries, she began shaking her head and turned to me full of indignation and exclaimed......."bad, naughty Burma"!!!

The simplicity of her argument, yet the forcefulness with which she made her point, caused me to break into fits of laughter!!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Thailand waives tourist visa fees

If you are planning an extended stay in Thailand and you haven’t already organised your visa, then I have some good news for you.

Thai embassies and consulates are waiving the fees for all tourist visas issued between 11th May 2010 and 31st March 2011, which in the UK is £28 per entry.

I recently applied for a 3 entry tourist visa and saved myself £84 in the process. I can assure you that money will be put to very good use when I arrive in the LOS……it will buy me well over 100 bottles of beer Leo or a nice handbag for my better-half!!!

I had heard mixed reviews about the quality of visa services at the main Thai Embassy in London, so I decided to try the Royal Thai Consulate in Hull instead. They accept applications by post and in person, but if you want to apply in person you must make an appointment with them first.

I made an initial enquiry, via email, which was answered within 7 hours (I think this is incredibly good when compared to some other organisations!!!) and when I submitted my postal application, it was dealt with promptly and they returned my passport and visa in 3 days. The only cost involved was an £8 fee, charged by the embassy, to cover return postage.

I was very pleased with the overall service and level of efficiency and would have no hesitation in recommending their services. I would like to say thank you to all the staff at the consulate and commend them for their professionalism.

Here is their website which is very user friendly and easy to navigate……

And you can download visa application forms and other useful information by clicking the link below.......

More information, on the temporary waiver of tourist visas charges, together with details of other Thai-related events and activities in the UK, can be found on the following site……

Monday, July 5, 2010

Book Review: Good Medicine for Thailand Fever

Given that my last book review was so well received by my readers, I thought I would have another crack at this type of post.

The book that I have chosen to comment upon is entitled "Good Medicine for Thailand Fever".

When I first picked up this book with it's unusual title and garish yellow cover, I must admit that I was intrigued and as soon as I'd read the first few pages, I was hooked.

A lot of books which deal wth the topic of Thai-Western relationships, are written by Westerners, for Westerners and tend to be full of hubris and pathos, focusing on how gullible farangs lose their hearts and life savings to devious bar girls.

"Good Medicine for Thailand Fever" is a refreshing change from this staid format and far from being a skewed, one-dimensional and one-sided portrait of Thai-Western relationships, the book is bilingual guide, dealing with all aspects of cross-cultural relationships and offering advice and help to both parties.

Written by an Amercian man, Chris Pirazzi and a Thai lady Vitida Vasant, the book describes itself as "a road map for Thai-Western relationships". It is thoughtfully designed and laid out, being printed both in English and Thai, with the English sections found on the even-numbered pages and the Thai sections found directly opposite, on the odd-numbered pages. It is also made abundantly clear who is narrating the chapters, whether it's Chris, Vitida or the both of them.

The topics that are covered are varied and include many common issues faced by Thai-Western couples such as sex, money, meeting the parents, the dowry, independence and saving face.

The book attempts to break down the cultural and social boundaries that exisit and to challenge the pre-conceptions and misconceptions among both foreigners and Thais. It is written in a very light-hearted and informal style which is particularly helpful when broaching sensitive topics. Although, with such a familiar writting style, I don't think it will win the Nobel Prize for Literature any time soon.

One criticism that has been levelled at the book, is that it fails to offer much practical problem solving advice. However, I would like to offer a rebuttal, by saying that the book is merely a guide, highlighting the potential stumbling blocks and encouraging you to develop a better understanding of each others values and culture. It is up to you to find your own solutions to your own relationship problems, as although most Thai-Farang couples will face similar difficulties, every relationship is different and there is no"one-size-fits-all" solution.

Overall, I think that "Good Medicine for Thailand Fever" is an excellent read and an invaluable tool for anyone who is considering a relationship with, or, already in a relationship with a Thai person. The book has even been translated into German and Dutch.

If you would like to know more about the book, its authors or to order a copy please visit the website.......