Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Elephant Invasion

Judgement day is tomorrow! Well for the Thai Rak Thai and Democratic Party in Thailand. Tomorrow it will be decided if they acted fraudulently in the last elections and, if so, whether the parties should be dissolved. Needless to say this raises all sorts of issues and there are so many groups with differing viewpoints, it is clear that someone will not be happy with the verdict. For my part I wonder: How will fair democratic elections be held in September (as promised after the coup) if the two main parties are dissolved?

But back to tomorrow. The rumour is that 99 Elephants are marching on Bangkok as I write. Will they stampede the court house? Trample a corrupt official? Stage a coup and take over the city? Who knows! However 13,000 troops are being mobilized to maintain peace and hold anyway wayward elephants as political prisoners.

Rumours abound, but both Thai Rak Thai and the Democratic Party claim that they are not holding any marches or protests, however clearly the authorities do not believe them and embassies are suggesting caution. Whatever the outcome tomorrow, hopefully it will be a peaceful one.

(for members of my family who may be concerned: I will be on the beach and not taking part in any political marches).

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Being 30 is out of this world!

At 30 years old, look as good you will not.

Today Star Wars turns 30! And it is still as cool as it was at 1, 5 and 20! Discussions about Jedi, the Millenium Falcon and light sabers are still an integral part of playground discussions (however girls didn't understand why I thought Han Solo was so amazing - they will learn!). So Happy birthday Star Wars, and here's to being 30, we may be a bit dated but was are still as good as ever!

Sunday, 20 May 2007

I'm a Whistle Blower!

Although I do have a whistle at school it is a low quality plastic imitation with a pathetic little toot, so it was only this week at netball that I experienced the true power of the whistle. I have been seduced by its authority; its whisper of glory, the knowledge that men will cower at its sound and cities will fall. It is my preciousssss.

My Thai education is now complete – I understand the thrill of whistle blowing. Walk blindfolded down any street here and you would think you had stumbled into the midst of a gay pride march. The sound of traffic is continually punctuated by the insistent trills of uniformed young men with their silver artillery. Intended to direct traffic out of condos and sois it is unclear if there is an actual whistle code. Does a short burst mean go or stop? Never fear for the shrill ear-piercing whistles are usually accompanied by frantic arm waving and the stares of men possessed. If you have misunderstood the intention of the whistle then a crescendo of penetrating screeches will follow until windows shatter and babies cry. This headache triggering, irritability inducing phenomenon that haunts Bangkok used to infuriate me, but now I too am governed by a new master. It will not be long until the one true whistle will rise again. One whistle to rule them all, one whistle to find them, one whistle to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. It will be in Bangkok where the battle for the sanity of middle earth will come to pass.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Beach Life

We had a long weekend here last weekend and my plan was to head to the beach and relax on the sand for a few days. However, the rain refused to abate and I made a last minute decision to sack it off and stay in Bangkok. Needless to say Saturday was beautiful and the rain only hit in the evening which left me yearning for the beach. So instead of sunning myself I came up with some rules for beach life. These are not negotiable and should be adhered to at all times.

Buckets: these should only be used for creating sandcastles and should under no circumstances become vessels in which to serve alcoholic beverages. If there is no other option then try not to mix any beverages, particularly sangsom and redbull (Check out The Lost Boy on Sangsom http://whatismatt.com/red-bull-and-sangsom/ ) or the consequences could be dire. You have been warned!

Hair: Unless you are an 8-year old blond Swede then hair braiding is not an option.

Attire, Boys: Daniel Craig – you have a lot to answer for! Over the last year I have noticed a disturbing emergence of Casino Royale-esque trunks. Unless you have the physique of 007 I beg you please don’t do it. Normal trunks or boardies are the order of the day. (If you do have the body of 007 please come and sit next to me!).

Attire, Girls: Yes I know people in glass houses should not throw stones but wearing a bikini that fits is of utmost importance. But even more essential is the whole bikini! It may be welcomed on the Continent but it really is NOT appropriate to topless sunbath, or (lord forbid) wander along the beach in just a thong. If you visit a beach frequented by Thais you will notice that they sit in the shade eating, chatting and generally having fun –sunbathing really is not their style - and once late afternoon hits and we are debating our first beer you will find them frolicking, mainly fully clothed, in the sea. Please think about the sensibilities of the people whose country you are visiting. In case you haven’t noticed it there is a Do’s and Don’t section in the Lonely Planet – read it!

Eyecontact: Avoid making eyecontact at any time! (Unless it is James Bond emerging from the surf). Barely a glance at the wares of any hawker is dangerous – you will be singled out as a soft touch – you do not want to be approached by every salesperson on the beach. After all the beach is for relaxing not for shopping. The only exception to this rule is the mango-man – a beach delight. However, I would also suggest caution when catching the eye of your beach neighbours. Yes, great friends can be made on the beach and no one wants to be a Billy-no-mates but that welcoming smile can land you in some awkward situations. Apart from having the embarrassment of having to subtly ditch the dork who has latched on to you – you may attract a much more dangerous creature: The beach psycho! This strangely accented and unkempt individual can be found practicing unconvincing martial arts in the surf or seen gyrating in young girls faces while they try to eat their beach bbq. When their usual medication is mixed with some other contraband, as well as some Viagra for good measure, the results are repulsive for all. Avoid eye contact in the beginning and you will be spared this unnecessary exposure.

Sun cream: WEAR IT! Spot any shirtless, lobster coloured man swaggering down the beach, beer in hand, and you could be 90% certain that they are a Brit. We have the reputation of sun recklessness. Look after your skin and break some stereo-types at the same time why don’t you.

Exercising: Going for the occasional dip is acceptable, jogging is not – you are on holiday. End of.

Relax: And finally, the most important rule: find yourself a hammock with a view, purchase a mango shake and lose yourself in that book or close your eyes and listen to those waves lapping on the shore. Ahh, bliss.

Climate Change

While the rain beat down outside last week environmentalists, scientists and economists debated the exact wording for the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It seemed apt that this meeting was being held in Bangkok. At this time of year we are normally experiencing scorching heat and unbearable humidity. Only a few days before the meeting began Thailand recorded a 48 year high (yes it was roasting) only to be followed the next day by torrential rain that continued day after day. The rainy season definitely seemed to have come early! Remember all this is after the coldest winter on record. Climate Change indeed!

The report concluded that climate change is a reality but that it can be stabilised at a reasonable cost, (a reduction of just 0.12 percent in global economic growth) as long as nations act now -with scientists predicting severe consequences including droughts, floods, storms, heat waves and rising seas if no action were to be taken.

This action includes using renewable energy, fuel efficient transport, improved agricultural land management, afforestation and reforestation. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m sure the same things have been said since I was at school – it doesn’t sound new. Admittedly, they have outlined other technologies that would be available by 2030 (I thought we were meant to be taking action now?) and they do have the ear of governments worldwide. However, the IPCC does not agree policy and as the report states this action plan only works if all countries follow the recommendations. The optimist in me would like to think that some real decisions and a workable plan could be agreed at the G8 summit in June. Hmmm, We’ll see.