Tuesday, 17 November 2015
Jonah Lomu 1975-2015
Very sad to hear of the passing of this guy, one of my favourite players from the world of rugby. I had the privilege of watching him live in Edinburgh and accidentally (well planned) walked into the All Black's hotel with Jonah and the team after the game. Sadly, security were as alert as the New Zealand defence and I remember him smiling as we were bundled out.
Monday, 16 November 2015
Saturday, 14 November 2015
You get those weeks, don't you? Sunday comes and you look back to last week and it's fairly blank. Did I live? Did I work all week? Was it same old, same old?
This week I went to so many places and did so many things, my head can't take it all in. I'm absolutely knackered. China Town, India Town, Sikh Temple, Buddhist Shrine, Lebanese and Thai Restaurants, it never seemed to end. 2 days on a Grammar refresher course with Soda from Cambodia, Michael and Jack from the States, Tanita from Australia and Dawn from England. I wished them well as they start their CELTA tomorrow. I start mine early January and hope to qualify as an English Teacher in early February, teaching adults of mixed nationalities.
Great, no, AMAZING news from the UK about my late Mother's estate. At last we are going to see some justice from a process that's dragged out for nearly 2 years.
My PSA result returning another zero, though sad news for others not so lucky. I always think and wish the best for them all, feeling guilty and relieved at the same time.
Paris? What the hell went on there? Organised religion showing it's ugly face again. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families as they try and cope with this.
My guess is that I'll never have a week in Bangkok where 'nothing much happened'.
It's crazy here in a lovable way, and yes, this week, I'm lucky, I lived.
Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Sunday, 8 November 2015
5 years since surgery and my PSA was checked in Bangkok today. After diagnosis in June 2010, I would have settled for being here 5 years later in this crazy city that we both love.
My odds of a bio-chemical recurrence at this stage are just over 8%. That's like putting 12 cards on a table every 6 months and drawing one. Ace of spades and you go down a different route, but you get 11 fresh cards every time, which I think are decent odds.
Today I picked from the pack for the twelfth time and hey, I missed that card again. PSA ZERO for the twelfth time since surgery.
In the UK it takes 3-5 days to get the result back, so I was impressed when they could do it next day in South Africa. However, in Thailand, I gave blood this afternoon and then enquired how long for the result. I was ready to put it on my phone diary, but the nurse said 1 hour! I had to check my understanding, after all, when I enquired at a supermarket a few months ago when they would be getting new stock in, the guy said 7 years, but he meant 7 days. No mistake, an hour later the lab report was in my hand. Relax until May now, or should I take a chance and leave it a year?
Friday, 30 October 2015
Tuesday, 27 October 2015
Monday, 26 October 2015
I attended Cumbria University 2009/2013 where I gained a BAhons Degree in Wildlife and Media. On that course I met a young student, Matthew Leiper, an eccentric but really nice guy, who many thought would have gone far on the stage. Well this is a short wildlife film that he, along with Maria Cristina Ramasco and Nicolo' Roccatagliata, have just released. It introduces us to a new way of monitoring biodiversity, with a particular focus on sharks. I think you'll agree, they've done an amazing job.
Thursday, 22 October 2015
Wednesday, 21 October 2015
We are right in the middle of a mass extinction.
What can be done? How can we stop this?
Or is the earth just healing itself from the 'human' rat?
We are right in the middle of a mass extinction.
What can be done? How can we stop this?
Or is the earth just healing itself from the 'human' rat?
Tuesday, 20 October 2015
|From our balcony|
Some very special friends have given us access to a beautiful apartment overlooking the Bay of Thailand, south of Hua Hin. It’s their winter here, so temperatures have dropped to the high 80’s at night, not a cloud in the sky, and you still melt during the day. It’s dark now, and the fishing boats are dotted around outside, their green fluorescent lights like some UFO invasion staring in on us. These little boats are fishing for squid that are attracted nearer the surface by the lights. The green glow from thousands of vessels around the coast of Thailand can be seen at night from the International Space Station.
I could easily live here, it’s much smaller than Bangkok, the town running off just one main road makes finding and remembering places far easier.
A strange phenomena that was apparent also in Bangkok, but is far more 'in your face' here, the vast amount of older men from Europe and the States, with very young Thai women. OK, I’ve been out with girls far younger than me, 10 or 20 years is cool, but this age gap is massive, as much as 50/60 years. It looks strange, but I guess it wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t something to be gained by both sides. When I go out alone in Bangkok I’m often approached by women asking if I’m looking for a wife. I make light of it, saying, “No, certainly not, one is all I can cope with”.
I’ve certainly fallen in love with this country and moving outside Bangkok for the first time has confirmed this. Why? That’s very difficult to quantify. Respect for older people has to be the 'big one', similar to South Africa in that way. I’ve said it before, but in the UK we treat older folk as an inconvenience, but here you are more of an icon, someone to be listened to. Am I old? I think of myself now as one of the younger ‘old people’, a more comfortable position than one of the older ‘middle aged’.
What else? This is a respectful society here, it’s completely unacceptable to be anti-social, so people rarely are. We think we live in a freer society in England, because it’s ok to fall out of a bar, get sick in the street and your mates think you’re a hero. Family matters here and you wouldn't want to disgrace them, however, the family unit is very weak in the UK, and as such, society as a whole suffers. There was a time when children could be chastised by any adult if they were found misbehaving, but now we offer a ‘no rules’ package which leaves our kids floundering as they enter adulthood.
Then there’s the obvious, the price of almost everything is cheaper. We fill our car up with £18, food is generally half price, though a nice piece of cheese is double the UK price. Eating out is silly money, with lunch around £1.50 and dinner maybe £3 in most small Thai eateries. You can pay more at upmarket places but why bother when you can get authenticity by the bucket load.
NHS? Well everyone in Thailand has access to some sort of hospital, the main difference, if your poorer you wait a bit longer and your hospital isn’t as nice. Many hospitals here are like 5 star hotels and offer world-class treatment, but at a price. Taxis are ridiculously cheap, as are the busses and trains. A 3 mile taxi ride, maybe £0-80, a 3 mile train ride £0-20, a 3 mile boat ride £0-30 or a bus or motor bike taxi at £0-15.
Are there any downsides to living here? Yes, if you’re a twat, you could find life constantly ‘uncomfortable’ because society will view and treat you as such.
I continue to enjoy life here and ever week gets better and better. I can imagine the day I leave Thailand will be the unhappiest day ever.
So now it's morning and I thought we'd try and find where these little UFO's park up during the day. The little fishing port was just around the headland, with dozens of boats tied up after the night at sea. Nothing fancy here, just hard working, rugged little ships that look like they'd been around for a very long time. Nobody minded as we strolled along the harbour, amazed at everything we saw. 'Sawadikap' (hello) was all it took for people to warm to us, and they were happy to show what they were working at. Squid in abundance, all sizes, but also a variety of crabs, fish, prawns and even things we'd never seen before. The processing was going on all round us, the whole family involved in gutting, cleaning or repairing nets.
|I love fruit|
What do monkeys eat? Bananas of course! Not around here! Crabs, and they love'em. Do monkeys dive and swim in the sea? Of course not! Oh yes, they do here and they're in and out of the water just for fun, dive bombing each other.
We had a mixed seafood lunch in a little place across from the boats, £3 fed us both, including the tip. This little port/fish market was the highlight of my time in Thailand to date, and we'll definitely visit again before we go back.
|Crab lunch? Well, on the table next to us.|
|Squid, out to dry|
Wednesday, 14 October 2015
I've taken this great article from 'Travel Fish', as we head down the river to China Town for this evenings celebrations at the Vegetarian Festival in Bangkok's China Town.
As Asian countries go, Thailand is not so easy for vegetarians or vegans. Yet for nine days each year during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar (typically late September/October), a large portion of the country’s population eat exclusively vegan foods in observation of the Chinese cleansing festival known as Tesakan Kin Jay (literally, ‘festival for eating vegan’), or the Vegetarian Festival. Elaborate festivities take place in Phuket, but Bangkok’s Chinatown is also a great place to sample vegan fare while soaking up the festive atmosphere.
An expression of the deeply rooted Chinese influence in Thailand, the Vegetarian Festival honours the nine Taoist emperor gods embodied by the nine stars of the big dipper constellation. Although its popularity has declined within China itself, the festival is also a big deal in Singapore, Malaysia and Burma.
The festival is most prominent among Thailand’s Chinese minority, but it’s also observed by millions of Thais with little or no Chinese background. Throughout the nine days, Chinese temples and shrines are abuzz with a carnival-like atmosphere that incorporates chanting by monks, noisy percussive routines (to awaken the spirits) and plenty of vegan feasting.
Many in Thailand celebrate the festival in whatever way that suits them, but 10 rules are traditionally observed. These are: to keep the body clean; to prepare food only with utensils that have never touched meat; to wear all white or yellow; to keep the mind mentally calm and serene; to eat entirely vegan and to refrain from pungent foods like garlic and onion; to refrain from sex; to refrain from alcohol and drugs; to refrain from attending the festival while in mourning; and to refrain from attending while pregnant or menstruating.
In Phuket, the festival also incorporates acts of self-mutilation known as maa song. Maa is the Thai word for horse, and those who carry out this custom are believed to become possessed by the emperor spirits as a horse is controlled by a rider. The most common act of maa song is to pierce the cheeks with large knives and swords, and those who participate are thought to be protected from pain by the spirits. This aspect of the festival never existed in China and is believed to have been adopted from the Hindu festival, Thaipusam, which is celebrated in Singapore, India and Malaysia.
For the casual traveller who’s not keen on sticking blades through their face, a day of sampling ahaan jay (vegan food) is a less dramatic way to enjoy the festival. Countless regular noodle shops, street stalls and restaurants discontinue serving meat during Tesakan Kin Jay, instead preparing totally vegan dishes that often incorporate tofu and a range of delicious handmade meat substitutes.
Vendors taking part in the festival are marked by yellow flags and aprons with the word jay written in red Thai script. Vegan food sellers may be found in urban neighbourhoods and rural villages throughout the country across the Vegetarian Festival, but in Chinatown you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone selling meat. Strictly speaking, those who aren’t refraining from meat are not permitted to enter an area surrounded by yellow flags for fear that they'll attract unwholesome spirits.
A dizzying array of vegan dishes and finger foods are found during the festival in Chinatown. We sampled fried bean cakes, grilled lotus root and a range of vegetable dumplings before choosing from a healthy selection of kap khao style vegan curries and stir-fries and sauteed egg-wheat noodles tossed with meat substitutes and veggies.
The average Thai will eat vegan foods for three to 10 days while making a conscious effort to cleanse both the body and mind. Observing the festival each year is believed to contribute to a long and healthy life.
No matter where you are in Thailand, Tesakan Kin Jay offers a unique opportunity to enjoy some fantastic vegan food in an otherwise meat-obsessed country. If you happen to be in Phuket, an unexpected dose of self-mutilation might sneak its way into your beach holiday, but Bangkok’s Chinatown offers a worthy alternative. The festival culminates with a rip-roaring street procession on Yaowarat Road. Hope you like the sound of huge cymbals and drums being banged upon.
Sunday, 11 October 2015
Tuesday, 6 October 2015
Just about every Thai person has a nickname by which they are known informally, given to them by their parents at birth. The pervasive use of nicknames in this way apparently comes from the old belief that evil spirits ( ปีศาจ ปีศาจ ) are constantly on the lookout for newborn children to snatch away and control, but using a nickname instead of a normal Thai name confuses the spirits and helps to keep the child safe. This is not a widespread belief nowadays of course, but nonetheless the use of nicknames remains so widespread in Thailand that it's not uncommon for friends to know each other for years and yet not know each other's real name and surname.
The nicknames given may be a contraction of their real name, but most often Thai parents take inspiration for the nickname from a wide variety of other sources instead. Names based on someone's appearance at birth are common. I've come across a variety of others, such as 'Link' 'Stingray' 'Hulk' 'Tree' 'King' 'Gold' 'Moo' 'Cake' and 'Ping-Pong'.
So can I have a Thai name? Why not!
I have decided on 'Bacsi', pronounced 'Bartchi', similar to 'Bhaji' as in 'Onion Bahji'; don't you love them?
When I was visiting a marvellous little town in Romania a few years ago, called Ozsdola, the locals started calling me, 'Daniel Bahji'; well that's what it sounded like. When I enquired, it was a word of respect, usually given to older people. Not always though, you had to earn it, and it could be taken away if you didn't deserve it. So you couldn't give yourself that name, it was bestowed upon you.