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Safety last

Posted March 22nd, 2011 by debritz

I know a lot of Thai families don't have much money, and their options in all matters, including transport, are limited. However, this picture may offer a clue as to why the country's road toll is unacceptably high. There are six people on this motorcycle, which I snapped while I was in a taxi heading inbound towards the Silom intersection along Rama IV (a major road/highway) about 4.30pm yesterday. If that's not bad enough, only one of them is wearing a helmet -- and it's not one of the four children.

That's shoe business

Posted January 24th, 2011 by debritz

This is by no means scientific, I know, but it seems US cultural imperialism is spreading in Thailand. I saw a rack of kids' shoes outside the play area* at Rama IV Tesco-Lotus in Bangkok's Klong Toey district, and noticed that most of them had cartoon characters on them. Of 13 pairs, four featured Ben 10, two depicted Barbie and two had Disney motifs. Only two pairs featured Asian characters: one each for Doraemon and Hello Kitty.
* Yes, I had a good reason to be there.

A matter of timing

Posted January 2nd, 2011 by debritz

In Bangkok, when something doesn't occur until well after you expected it, it's often put down to "Thai time". Well, today, I experienced a case where "Thai time" was actually running ahead of the clock. When I went to get a bus to Bangkok from Pattaya, I was dismayed that I'd have to wait two hours for the next available seat. I was going to wander off and come back just before the time printed on my ticket. Good thing I didn't. All the buses ran at least 25 minutes early; some as many as 40 minutes ahead of the time on the ticket. They just filled them up, and sent them off. As each bus was packed, I'm not sure what would have happened if I'd returned at my alloted time.

Too close to a tragedy

Posted January 1st, 2011 by debritz

Pattaya, the former fishing village and now heaving beach resort about 150km south of Bangkok, has something of a bad reputation, mainly due to the proliferation of sleazy girly bars and associated drug, alcoholand sex-crimes issues. Civic officials are apparently trying to shake off these negative images with positive "family friendly" events such as the 10-day Countdown to 2011 that ended last night. It was a huge event, involving nightly fireworks, activities for children, carnival-style attractions and, inevitably for Thailand, lots of food. New Year's Eve saw its culmination in an extravaganza at Bali Hai Pier that attracted a huge crowd. Too huge, in fact. Just after midnight, as the families with young children were trying to leave the beachside venue after the spectacular fireworks display, a popular band cranked up, attracting a crowd of young adults who wanted to party all night. Problem is, all those leaving and arriving had to pass through the same narrow passage leading to and from the Walking Street. In the wake of the recent tragedy in Germany, you'd think somebody in authority would have foreseen this as a problem and put in place a strategy to avert the human crush that ensued. It was nothing short of a miracle that nobody died. As it was, we saw people struggling to breathe, screaming children (one of them vomiting through fear) separated from their parents, plenty of tears, shouting and a barely controlled panic that threatened to spill over in a full-blown riot. Crowd control? Forget it; of the tens of thousands of people we saw, none of them were police officers. We did, however, see that several potential exits at the venue and along the Walking Street had been deliberately blocked. It was a disappointing, and extremely worrying, conclusion to what had been a highly enjoyable night. I urge the Thai authorities to address this issue before the next big event (and not just at Pattaya), and not wait for a human tragedy to spur them into belated action. I certainly won't be putting myself or anybody I care about in that kind of situation again. I'll spend my money elsewhere.

I'm not paranoid and I'm not being followed

Posted October 19th, 2010 by debritz

For a short time last night, I thought I had a stalker. I was sent a Twitter link to this picture, with me at its very centre (yes, the healthy looking chap in the blue shirt walking down the stairs). It was taken last week in Kuala Lumpur, when I was on my own and where I know nobody. The accompanying message on YFrog said: "Does the person in this picture look familiar?"Because of the time difference between Thailand and Australia, I couldn't contact the sender, my nephew, until this morning. It turns out that the picture was a random crowd shot taken by a colleague of his who was in Malaysia last week. As she was flicking through her holiday snaps at work yesterday, he recognised me. What are the odds?

Back in Bangkok

Posted September 12th, 2010 by debritz

And here are some pictures ...

Just don't do it

Posted August 4th, 2010 by debritz

This sign was posted near the toilet on the Nile riverboat during my trip to Egypt. I think it's telling me not to sever bits of my arm and try to flush them. Or maybe I shouldn't deal cards into the loo. Any other ideas?

Perfect with chips

Posted July 14th, 2010 by debritz

Just in case you thought it was a rumour, the Scots (well, at least some of them) really do like their Mars bars fried. Here's a photo I took of a shop window in Edinburgh.

Blackpool bound

Posted June 3rd, 2010 by debritz

Am I setting myself up for disappointment? Today I'm off to Blackpool, the fabled British seaside resort. I've wanted to do this since I was a child, even though I have since learned that British beaches are nothing like their Australian counterparts. Still, the film Funny Bones (with an incredible against-type performance by Jerry Lewis -- yes, the Jerry Lewis) reignited my passion. More soon ..

I'm on the move: follow me on Twitter

Posted May 23rd, 2010 by debritz

I've just arrived in London after an eventful month in Thailand. As I'll be on the move, it might be difficult for me to blog every day - but I will tweet as often as possible (although, hopefully, not about bomb blasts, arson attacks and rising casualty rates as I have in the past week from Bangkok). I'm at and you should be able to see my latest musings on the right in the blue box.

Anarchy in BKK

Posted May 20th, 2010 by debritz

The sun is rising over a burning Bangkok just as last night's curfew ends. What the people of the Thai capital will find this morning is the result of a day and night of arson attacks, sniper fire, explosions and looting following the armed assault on the main protest camp and the surrender of key Red Shirt leaders. At least two classic cinemas, the Siam and the Scala, have been burnt down or damaged by fire, along with Central World, Asia's second-largest shopping mall, and up to 25 other buildings, including banks and stores. I have been tweeting the events - follow @debritz - and here is some audio of me speaking to Spencer Howson at 612ABC this morning. I remain safe, and I am sure everybody here is hoping that this is at least the beginning of the end to the current violence.

Bangkok update

Posted May 13th, 2010 by debritz

May 15 update: The Guardian has some disturbing footage here.
May 14/15 update: Internet problems, but still safe.
Rumours are sweeping Bangkok tonight about the government crackdown on the Red Shirts in the centre of the city around Silom and Sala Daeng and Siam BTS stations. As I write, I am well away from the fighting and safe. I have received several reports by email and phone, some of them contradictory, and I have been posting updates on Twitter. The internet is patchy here, so I may not be able to continue to post, but - as I said - I am OK.
See my Twitter feed - @debritz - for updates.

What Maske's up to

Posted May 12th, 2010 by debritz

Maske, supplied picture
Congratulations to Brisbane's Maske trio who, among many globe-trotting adventures in recent weeks, performed at Cambodia's World Heritage-listed Angkor Wat temple.

On the streets

Posted May 5th, 2010 by debritz

While it's true that the army is out in force in Bangkok, and they are carrying some serious weapons, the mood remains light. Here, a couple of soldiers catch up with their shopping. Some of their colleagues spend the day broadcasting messages, telling stories and singing popular songs over a loudspeaker set up on a truck outside the school I'm attending in Silom.

Weekend chill, Thai style

Posted May 2nd, 2010 by debritz

How better to spend a Saturday afternoon than chilling out with a beer and a karaoke number at a bar in the back streets of Bangkok?

Meanwhile, though, there was serious spiritual business for the novice monks at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace.

Old Thai saying

Posted April 27th, 2010 by debritz

"If you're drunk, you can't count chickens."

Water world

Posted April 25th, 2010 by debritz

I'd been in Bangkok less than 24 hours when I had a unique culinary experience. The seafood restaurant in questions bears writing about in greater detail, and I will do that (hopefully) for publication elsewhere, but the picture here will give you some idea of the surroudings where I spent the evening with friends and friends of friends. Let it suffice to say, for the moment, that the venue and the means of getting there would have given a Western health and safety inspector nightmares, but it was well worth it. Meanwhile, I have had a lesson in compartive economies. A text book I was going to buy in Brisbane for $90 cost me just $15 here in Bangkok. The internal economics are a little stranger though; the cab ride home from the shopping centre was half the cost of a regular cup of coffee.

So far, so good

Posted April 24th, 2010 by debritz

I've been in Bangkok for only 16 hours and, after my first limted walk around the city, I've seen just one sign of the security crisis: car boots being checked at the entrance to a shopping centre. I've seen that twice before - once in Belfast during "the troubles" in the late 1980s and once in Manila nearly three years ago during a failed coup. My plan is to avoid demonstrations and to try to understand the situation. After watching a lightweight current-affairs program on local television, I at least know that it's not just the red shirts versus the yellow shirts. There are also anti-protest protestors calling themselves the multi-coloureds and the threat of "men in black" and "men in white" who want to join in the general disruption for their own purposes. I also overheard, in a lift, two foreigners commenting how the situation was such a tragedy for a beautiful and friendly country. I can't argue with that. I'm heading out with friends this afternoon, but not to the Silom district, where the trouble is.

On the road again

Posted April 23rd, 2010 by debritz

I am flying to Bangkok today, where I will be until May 23, and then on to the UK until early July. However, I will be updating my blog as often as possible with the normal content plus some news about my travels.

Nigel's back on the hippy trail

Posted January 23rd, 2010 by debritz

Remember Neil the hippy from The Young Ones? Well, actor Nigel Planer has written about his own adventures in the 1970s and 1990s on the "hippy trail" in India -- and he's just been there again. Here's a picture taken this month of Planer, whose screen credits range from The Bill to SpongeBob SquarePants, exploring the subcontinent.

Telstra bites tourists

Posted January 16th, 2010 by debritz

I just received an email from BT Openzone saying that "Telstra is unfortunately withdrawing its wireless hotspot service to roaming partners so you'll be unable to use this network in Australia." Presumably, the Australian carrier wants international roamers to sign up to its own, almost certainly more expensive, service. Give the genius who came up with that one a promotion!

Joe Jackson: right or wrong?

Posted January 12th, 2010 by debritz

A few years ago Joe Jackson, one of my all-time favourite musicians, made the decision to move from New York City to Berlin. He cited, among other reasons, the fact that he could no longer smoke at his favourite places in NY. (Here's an article he wrote for the New York Times about the smoking issue. I found two relevant videos on YouTube. In the first, below, comedian Sara Schaefer rallies New Yorkers to urge Jackson to return:

In the second video, Jackson shows us around some of his favourite places in the German capital. Embedding has been disabled, so you'll have to follow this link to watch it.

Sign of the times

Posted December 29th, 2009 by debritz

You can find these signs in various parts of Russia. Presumably they are aimed at the owners, rather than the pets themselves, but I'm not sure how you stop a dog from answering the call of nature. Cleaning up afterwards is another matter, of course.

The cat in the crypt

Posted December 26th, 2009 by debritz

I'm still sorting through hundreds of pictures from my trip to Russia, but here's one of my favourites -- not because of its quality (which, admittedly, is poor) but because of its subject. This cat apparently has run of the Peter and Paul Cathedral, where the tsars of Russia from Peter the Great onwards are buried. I also learned from a television report that there are cats at the Hermitage Museum, where their job is to keep the magnificent former Winter Palace and its surrounds free of rats and mice.

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