Archive for November, 2008
Balloon festival time again. Last year there was a wide selection of weird designs floating around the sky, like the one above. There were to have been even more this year, but the balloonists planned to cheat by flying into the country on commercial flights, rather than floating across the border, so most of them did not make it. What we were left with was a surprisingly large number of Thailand based balloons.
Dragged myself out of bed at 0500 and headed off to the site with Nik who is much better than I at getting up in the mornings. The dawn was just breaking as the first balloons were being readied for action.
As the sky lightened, a number of balloons were prepped and launched. More >
Yesterday was a typically lovely winter’s day. Clear blue skies with a very strong cooling wind, perfect day to be alive, perfect day to go windsurfing.
Of course, my injury precludes me from indulging at the moment, but I still like to go down to the club and see others enjoying the weather. It reminds me that the wind will be waiting for me once I am recovered, and it is good to catch up with what others in the club are up to; makes me feel like I still belong. Even so, it is somewhat frustrating to be stood on the beach when I should be out there on the water. Broken back’s suck.
Once upon a time, in a land not too far away, there was a man called Thaksin. He was a successful businessman, he formed a political party, and became prime minister.
Traditionally, Thailand had been run by politicians who did nothing for the poor people, they were far too busy giving jobs to their friends and lining their pockets. Thaksin was also an expert in cronyism and pocket lining, but he also, for the first time in Thai political history, implemented schemes to help the rural poor, and they loved him for it.
Less impressed were the traditional elite. Thaksin was disrupting the status quo and they didn’t like it. And nobody liked his increasingly blatant corruption and cronyism. So the military staged a coup and Thaksin was out.
After a period of military rule there were elections and it was no surprise that a party sympathetic to Thaksin won. Their focus upon taking office seemed to be on planning to change the constitution to allow Thaksin to return to Thailand. The prime minister was a joke and eventually had to resign after appearing on a cooking show. The replacement prime minsiter just happens to be Thaksin’s brother in law.
These are the muppets that are currently running the government of Thailand. We will call them the red muppets, based on the colour of the shirts that their supporters wear. But at least they are the democratically elected red muppets (give or take a few thousand bought votes).
Enter PAD, the yellow muppets. Formed by member of the Bankok elite, they want to eliminate the democratic process in Thailand, using the argument that people from the provinces are too uneducated to be trusted with a vote. They have vowed to bring down the red muppets, although it is not clear what they offer as an alternative. If the governmment collapses, a fresh election would undoubtedly see a fresh version of the red muppets returned to power.
So we have the red muppets playing around at running the country, with the objective of finessing the return of Thaksin to power, and the yellow muppets trying to stop them by occupying various buildings and, most recently, the international airport. Neither group has any real interest in the good of the country, greed and power form the basis for their actions. Many of their “supporters” are of the rent-a-crowd variety; 300-500 baht will buy you a supporter for a day, and their is plenty of money behind each group to pay for a substantial crowd.
In most countries, the illegal occupation of the international airport would be addressed promptly by the security forces. Here, the police seem unable or unwilling to take on PAD. And the army… well remember they were the guys who threw out Thaksin, they seem unwilling to do anything to assist his brother in law. They did come up with a statement suggesting that parliament should be dissolved and that PAD should stop occupying the airport, a statement that was ignored by both of the factions.
So there we are, two sets of muppets screwing up the country while the security forces look on. The Thai people deserve better, but there is little sign that anything better is going to show up anytime soon. There is talk of civil war, but that really means no more than muppet vs. muppet rent-a-thug fights.
Meanwhile the rest of the country tries to get on with life. Here in Pattaya there is no sign of the strife. I understand there is a yellow muppet camp somewhere outside a police station, I might go and point a (long) lens at it sometime.
There are obviously less tourists than last year, this latest nonsense is not going to help, other than the fact that the tourists that are already here can’t leave.
Oh, and she who must be obeyed has bought a handbag via eBay. Until the impasse is resolved, the bag of joy cannot be delivered. Reason enough for some decisive action I would have thought.
Finally manage to arrange a meeting with the man who picked me up off the side of the road on the night of my accident and carried me to hospital. I wanted to meet him personally and thank him.
He turned out to be a friendly guy with a big smile. I thanked him for his rescue and apologised for any blood I may have left behind. He confirmed that I had bled copiously over his back seat, as if it were no more inconvenience than a dropped sweet wrapper. He also told me that I had spent the trip asking him where we were going, in a pretty impressive Thai accent apparently. This was a revelation, because normally my Thai is crap. I will get she who must be obeyed to knock me over the head next time I want to hold a conversation in the language of my adopted country.
After a chat, I pressed an envelope containing several high value notes into his hands which he seemed reluctant to accept. A very decent man, of which this country seems to have more than the average number.
I love this time of year. Apart from the cooler weather and better wind, not a week goes by without an event worthy of poking a lens at. This weekend we have had polo, longboat racing, buffalo racing, and yesterday morning a bunch of mountain bikers in action on the hill on the south side of Pattaya bay. More >
It’s three month since I last reported on the remarkable progress on the construction of Ocean 1, the planned 91 floor super-tower that would be a solid investment, a dream place to live, a landmark building in Thailand blah blah blah.
Since that time, there has been bugger all construction, and bugger all news from the developer. It is now clear that the project is dead, and has been for some time. Don’t blame this on the global financial meltdown credit crunch banking wanking crisis, blame it on a developer who failed to manage their ongoing projects, and failed to manage this one.
The developer goes by the name of Siam Best Enterprises and is known for the development of View Talay Villas, View Talay Residences and Majestic Villas. Not to be confused with the developer of the View Talay concrete cereal box monstrosities, the Siam Best developments are actually well built and attractive, if they ever get finished. View Talay Residences 4, next to Pattaya Immigration, should have been completed more than a year ago, but remains without electricity. Residence 5 appears to be stalled, having made little progress since I last reported on it in August. Many of the houses in the Majestic Villas development remain incomplete, with rumours that a bank has the land title deeds and is not being paid to release them.
As for Ocean 1, well the rumours are flying. It is certainly true that the owner of Siam Best Enterprises, Bruno Pingel, leads a lavish lifestyle. He has a penchant for fast cars, he especially likes new Ferraris at 20 million baht plus a time. He sponsors a racing team, and generally seems to have a lot of money to throw around. Of course, none of this cash comes from punters who have invested in Ocean 1 or any of the other unfinished projects. It’s just that they haven’t sold enough units to enable them to commence the development. Probably.
I am sure that, any time now, Siam Best Enterprise will formally announce the cancellation of Ocean 1, and on the same day will refund, in full, all those who have invested in the project. They will also compensate those who have invested in other developments and who are still waiting for their home. And for those who are lucky enough to have a completed unit in Residences 1-3, Siam Best will comply with the Condominium Act by issuing financial statements and calling Annual General Meetings so that owners can choose their own management company, rather than being forced to continue using Siam Best Enterprises as managers, at a price decided by Siam Best Enterprises.
And pigs will fly.
I am sure that some of you who read the previous post, and learned that I was not to attend the longboat racing, were thinking “what a shame Spike, I would love to see some of your shots of this excellent sporting enterprise”. The rest of you were thinking “spare us from yet more photos”.
For the more discerning visitors, I do have some images from last year. Sorry.
The format of the event is similar to the buffalo racing. Spectators eat and drink, competitors take an age lining up the boats, and then they race; although the races last considerably longer than a buffalo race. More >
Every year around this time, there is a day of buffalo racing next to the local reservoir; while, on the reservoir, there is longboat racing.
In my weakened state (cue violins), I decided I could only shoot one event, so I chose the buffalo racing. Not perhaps a wise choice given my weakened state (cue entire orchestra and something in D minor), because shooting buffalo racing requires you to stand in the way of large animals with no brakes, wait until the lens is full of buffalo, and then run out of the way. I had visions of going to see my orthopedic surgeon with a newly buggered back and a face covered in what looked suspiciously like hoof imprints…. More >
Those very clever people from Google have “upgraded” the Google search application for the iPhone. No longer are you restricted to typing in your query on the iPhone keyboard (somewhat of a challenge); now you can speak your search terms and Google will interpret them.
A couple of problems with this. First of all there is the problem of yelling your search terms into your phone in a public place. You may be comfortable with typing “Norwegian nympho nurses” using the keyboard (and if you are, you are one sick individual; everyone knows that Danish nympho nurses are best); but shouting out the phrase in a public place may get you some looks.
The other problem is that the voice interpretation is a little flaky, to the extent that it doesn’t really work. Scream “global financial meltdown” in the general direction of the phone and it will be OK, it was obviously expecting that. But “Pattaya Days” produced “mafia Denny’s”, “Bangkok protests” gave me useful information on “Macbook Pro Tennis” and “this is a raid, give me all your money” promptly returned “the civil rights grab all my money”. All useless, apart from the last one which was fun to shout next to a line of people queuing at an ATM.
I then got bored and offered it nonsense, to see what nonsense I would get in return. “I’m a pink trombone” returned “line dancing Toronto”, and a come-hither look from a passing ladyboy. Finally I shouted the immortal line from The Prodigy, “slap my bitch up”, which provided “slipknot dick chop”, and a very interesting selection of websites.
Google voice search, you won’t find what you are looking for, but you will find some surprisingly gruesome videos of genitals being removed.
It’s the polo season again. Normally I would be standing in front of the goal, snapping the approaching riders, ready to take evading action if several horses arrive right in front of my camera. But given my current frail condition, this would not be wise behaviour, so someone else is assigned to take the “in your face” action shots.
Instead I take up residence on the sidelines where I am furnished with an excellent cappuccino, and relax to enjoy the action, while catching a few shots as the polo ponies go thundering past.
Crazy sport. It may have a reputation as being a plaything for the upper classes, but anyone who takes part is committing themselves to an athletic and dangerous pastime. Respect.