Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Airplane safety

When you've read my previous post two days ago, you might be under the impression I got ill or didn't make it, but the truth of the matter is; I'm healthy as a fish, just I didn't experience that much to make it interesting for visitors, or in other words; I lacked the necessary inspiration.
But let me tell you when I got here in S-E Asia last December from Holland by Malaysia Airlines.
On board they had inflight entertainment on a small 5 or 6 inch screen and since I always have problems to sleep aboard planes, I watched a few movies and afterwards went to the gaming section. Besides Connect 4, one of my favourite games is Reversi, sometimes referred to as Othello. On board it was presented as a multi-player game, so you were able to play it with fellow passengers. I tried it, (See photo 1), but unfortunately most of the potential opponents where asleep at that time.
So I choose the single player option, starting with medium level, but having played it for 3 years on my first Nokia years ago, I managed to beat the computer 2 times, which was not that challenging (See photo 2). Increasing level to expert, I lost the first time, then a win and subsequently a tie, which is for Reversi a bit of an exception. Numbed by the success I wanted to carry on, but  got a Linux error instead, taking about 20 minutes to recover (See photo 3, which is not the original, since the battery of my camera was empty by then).
So after recovery I played the same game again and after a while coincidentally got a tie for the second time, resulting in the same crash. Try it yourself when you're flying Malaysia Airlines or an airline having on board a Reversi game made by DTI and play the single user mode and attempt to get a tie maybe at lowest level, if you're not an expert. It's great fun, because I warned my Malay neighbour, who just woke up and told him there must be something wrong with the airplane's computer pointing to my screen, all other screens where out at the time and I must say; it didn't make him feel very much at ease.

On another occasion I saw a Windows crash screen at a local ATM machine here (Again having no camera at such precious moments) and thought: "Oh  my goodness, if that's the level of security they're maintaining, it's not very save to withdraw any money from ATM's driven by Windows OS", so I opened a local bank account and linked it up with a new Thai Paypal account and transferred money from my excisting Paypal  linked to my local bank. Paypal will charge you 0.5% to withdraw money from your account, which is much cheaper than the traditional way. Still it will take take you 5 till 7 days, similar as a normal bank to bank transfer.
In the mean time I found a potential better way, namely; Moneybookers.com who will do the same for you, needing just one account, they charge you 1% till 2,5% depending on bank or credit card remittance and a fixed fee of 1.80 EUR per transaction, but the good thing is they have a ceiling of 0.50 Euro per transaction, which is very favourable for higher amounts, but I'll get back on this subject later.
After I started this blog, I now always keep a fully charged camera within reach almost under any condition, except when swimming in the pool, since my new camera is not waterproof anymore like my last camera, which was stolen, but instead it has a zoom lense, which is very convenient I must say. And I will use it until I get hold of the Samsung W880 camera-phone, which besides the regular modern features has a 3x Optical zoom and will save space in my pockets, which are now mostly stuffed with 2 phones, petty cash and the camera.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Raw beef n' shit..

Okay, I have posted several items about special dishes I ate, which you will not find on the average menu in a Thai restaurant abroad, but I was under the impression that food in Vietnam and China would be much more weird than here.
Furthermore I have to admit I love raw fish, like Sushi and Sashimi. Also Yukke, Korean raw minced tail-end roastbeef with a raw egg, apple, sesame seeds and a soy based spicy sauce is one of my personal favourites But Isan has it's own variant.
Today my Thai friends proposed to order Sashimi , I quickly agreed and was looking forward to consuming a lovely dish, but after waiting some time, we were served fresh raw beef instead of fish. Still no big problem, as long as it's very fresh and the meat belongs to the proper parts of the cow, I have no objections eating it, but on the first picture you can see something what I first thought was a spicy sauce, and along with the raw beef it tasted deliciously, I have to admit. When one of my friends incidentally informed me, the 'sauce' basically consisted out of cow shit, I had to swallow twice.
After more research I found out that it is basically digested food, mainly grass or hay squeezed out with a stick from the first meter from the cow's stomach's intestine and then spiced up up with chili and lemon, I was a bit more at ease about not becoming ill, which so far didn't occur. Should you not find any new posts from me in the next days, you will know my optimism was in vain.

Friday, 23 April 2010

"I Want to Marry a Farang"

As many people who visited Thailand or are staying here will know, farang is the Thai word for a foreigner usually of European ancestry. For Isan being moneywise one of the the poorest area's in Thailand, the word farang is almost equivalent to rich people.
Marrying a farang, means for many women here a steady source of income and a secured future.
So far nothing new, women have been doing that for centuries, all over the world.
Different from the Western world, in major parts of Asia, part of the income goes to the parents and family, who will, following tradition, benefit as well.
The accompanying photo shows what foreign money can do for the people here.
There's a popular Isan song translated in English titled; "I Want a Farang husband" and the lyrics roughly go like this: "I want a farang husband, I don't care if he's from Switzerland, Germany or America. I don't care if he's young or old, I want to cover my body in gold", etc. etc.
Since the above song is somehow not available anymore Youtube, here's another link called "Where is my farang?"
In 2000, researchers believed at least 15,000 Isan women married foreign men, sometimes they are being called Cinderella's, because they found their 'white' prince.
(For more info see my page about Isan Demographics.)
Keeping this in mind, there's something special about the village of Baan Jarn, Ban Jarn or Banjan not far from Roi-Et City. According to a BBC article in 2004, Baan Jarn had 540 households, of which at least 100 have a foreign son-in-law. According to an anonymous source of the 330 women living there, 84 married a farang, which would mean 25% or in other words; one-fourth of Baan Jarn female population opted for transnational marriage, 166 times higher than the Isan average of 0.15% or 50 times higher than my own estimate of 0.5%. According to the BBC article, the husbands are almost invariably living in Switzerland together with their Thai wife, which gave Baan Jarn the nick name "Swiss Village". There are different stories about how it all started. According to some there was a poor woman called Mae Nang who had two children and struggled to survive. So she moved to Pattaya to generate a better income, where she met a Swiss man, married and moved to Switzerland. Hearing enthusiastic stories about a remote land of 'gold' and 'honey', part of her female family and friends followed her example and a more 'profitable' paddy field substitute was being discovered, resulting in a female exodus of Baan Jarn.
Baan Jarn parents usually are very happy when their daughters coming home with a Swiss, and through the years the Swiss Franc has proven to be very stable indeed. The women usually live with their husband and family in Switzerland and usually return once a year to attend the Songkran festival, the Thai New Year, occasionally accompanied by their husbands. Some couples chose to live in Roi Et province after retirement.
Foreigners are not allowed to own land here, but are allowed to own real estate. Unlike any other village in Isan, Baan Jarn is full of luxerious villas given to family and/or used a second house. Whether or not the story of Mea Nang is true, Baan Jarn has certainly prospered.

See also: Thaimarried.blogspot.com, Wiki/IsanWiki/FarangWiki/Demographics_of_Thailand, Bangkok Post, 1-4-2008

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

"I Put a Cell on You"

Since they were invented and marketed, people are talking about the risks of using cell phones, so far the discussion was limited to the possible danger of radio-frequent radiation effecting your brain tissue.
Since last year however there's a completely new potential danger when applying cell phones, namely getting cursed mobily.
Watch out making enemies here in Isan, Thailand, they might consider hiring a cyber-voodoo practitioner.
Cyber-voodoo practitioners don't need your hair, cloth or photo, just your phone number will do.
Lot's of people here don't pick up their phone anymore when receiving calls from strangers.
The danger might spread and smart cyber-voodoo's might open web-sites with easy Paypal paid services. An easy choice for pay back time to your ex-pal.
To prevent them from doing so, I registered the domain name cellcurse.com.
That's all I could do for the moment and don't tell me I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Separate toilets for ladyboys in Thai schools

Ladyboys or Kathoey, which are male-to-female transgenders or effeminate gay males, are a common sight in Thailand, some people estimate they represent between 10~20% of the population, other estimates speak of 180,000 which would account for 0.3% which is quite a different figure, but one thing is sure, Thailand can boast having the most male-to-female transgendered people in the world, followed by, of all places..Iran, which currently ranks as a good second. Recently some Thai schools have decided to create separate toilets for the so-called third gender. Furthermore Thailand has a lot of Tom boys, the lesbian masculine counterpart, too. Which toilet would they prefer, I wonder. Perhaps creating a fourth toilet will solve the gender problem once and for all, but if everyone would just put the toilet seat up before leaving the loo, there would be little problems I guess.

See also: BBC News

From begging monks to banking monks

I would be the last person to say anything unfavourable about Buddhism, but here in Thailand, Bhuddist monks do seem to enjoy lots of privileges. They ride buses for free and have reserved seats at Thai airports. Nowadays it's not uncommon to see monks using cell phones.
Today I opened a bank account and it happened to be the first banking day after the Thai New year. Quite a few of monks rushed in with big bags of money.
I don't recall having seen that much stacks of cash. The money was obtained from people 'paying' respect to their ancestors and hope for a lucky new year.
I noticed that the monks were allowed to jump the queue. Obviously in Thailand they do not need a cue ticket, which is customary for other banking customers. Of course monastries are better off depositing their wealth at a safe bank account rather than hiding it under a drizzly mattress at some monastry. After 45 minutes or so it finally was my turn. During the time I was being helped, a monk just rushed in with a plastic bag of money. He boldly interrupted the bank assistant as he wanted to be served first. The bank assistant kindly told him to wait and continued to enter my personal data.
At that moment I felt a slight sensation of victory: 1-0 for me vs. capitalist Buddhist clergy.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Sautéd Ants

A local delicacie; in fish sauce sautéd ants, they tasted a bit sauer, but as a snack it was not that bad, provided you flushed it away with enough beer.
Other delicasies here are raw or boiled dragonflies and gecko's. Furthermore grilled scorpions and cow embryo's seem to increase your libido and promise a long life expectancy, so I was told. I'm not particularely picky in my taste, but I would think twice when deciding to eat those rather than life a healthy life.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Chinese Medicine Soup

This was on the menu of a local restaurant here.
I cannot exactly describe the taste, but Chinese medicine soup is not that bad, and perhaps as the name implies, it is healthy too.

Happy Thai New Year!

The Thai New Year called Songkran is celebrated on April 13th till 15th.
Songkran is foremost a celebration to honour family and ancestors, and wherever in the world you might live it's a must to return to your home town, but that's only half of the fun.
Crowds of people are waiting for you to pass by or sit on the back of their pickup trucks with large jars of water and attacking each other with buckets of water, water guns, talc powder or decorate your face with clay.
The photo was taken with a big risk of getting my camera soaked.

Proof that Ska never died..

After Punk and Reggae, in 1979 a new trendy danceable music style emerged called Ska, unfortunately, at least for me, the period lasted only for a year or so, and then it seemed to somehow die off very sudden.. But the good news is; 30 years later, Ska is still alive and kicking, but this time not in the West, but miraculously it seemed to have survived in a small portion of the Eastern world, namely in the area of Isan in Thailand, situated North of Bangkok, neighbouring Myanmar/Burma to the North and Laos to the East.
By the enthusiasm of the crowd you might notice it's certainly not a one day's fly here.


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