Thailand, Fall 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008 (D-Day)
Happy Thanksgiving! I was supposed to fly out of here at 6:40 this morning after leaving Pattaya at 2:00am. However, it didn't happen and it seems that I am stuck here for the duration. Frankly I wish the authorities would bash a few heads and clear these idiots out. This protest is really going to hurt this county's already ailing economy. The airport alone is losing over 1.5 million dollars a day. Tourists will stay away in droves. The balance of trade here is zero and Thailand, a country of 65,000,000 people, depends on exports and tourism to stay afloat. They are expected to lose 1,000,000 jobs and these assholes want to return to a monarchy so they shut down the airports and (for the last three months) blocked access to government buildings.
United Airlines moved me to a December 4 departure date, one week after my original date. I am calling them once or twice a day to see if there is any change. While the airport is closed, the military has opened several of their air fields for any commercial airline that wants to use it. United has not taken them up on the offer so I'm stuck. The closest other commercial airports, Chiang Mai and Phuket, are functioning but are at least an eight hour drive from here.
We went out to a restaurant called Shenanigan's for Thanksgiving dinner. It was overpriced and the turkey was overcooked. There was a lot of food and it was an open buffet so nobody went hungry. The place was filled with mostly American expats, many with Thai wives or girlfriends. We were joined by Mac, a fellow I had met years ago on my first trip to Thailand. He was as jovial and humorous as I remember him though his hear, then brown, if I remember correctly, is now all white.
Back at the ranch and checking the news I read that the Prime Minister has declared a state of emergency and ordered the police to restore control of the airports. A couple of months ago when these protesters blocked access to Government House, he ordered a similar state of emergency and told the army to clear the protesters. They ignored his order and the protesters are still blockading the place. This doesn't give me a lot of confidence but on the upside, the police appear more likely to follow the order and thirty medical teams have been assembled in case of bloodshed. The protesters are armed by the way.
The army doesn't want to get involved and in particular does not want to have another military coup like they did two years ago when they ousted Prime Minister Thaksin. However, if there is bloody fighting, they may have to get in the middle of it according to the army chief.
Friday, November 28, 2008 (D-Day + 1)
There is no change in the news. The siege is still in effect and the police have done nothing. They say they are negotiating but are ready to clear the airport if the protesters don't leave.
The PAD protesters say they're doing it for the king and to prevent the country from becoming a republic like the United States. They also say they will fight to the death but they are grandstanding for the press. However they are armed with guns and clubs and the blockade includes vehicles, razor wire, stacks of tires, hundreds of luggage carts and anything else then can use to fill up the five-lane highway for a mile from the airport.
Well, I guess I'll just have to try to enjoy my forced captivity. Because of my trip to Cambodia, my visa doesn't expire until December 9 by which time I hope to be safely ensconced back in Oregon.
I didn't bring enough of the prescription medications I take for this extended stay but it was easy to get more from the pharmacy here, no prescription required. The prices were a small fraction of what they charge in the U.S. and are from the same big name manufacturers.
After working on the computer for the afternoon, I was told we were going to a fancy restaurant called Bruno's for dinner. I'm on a budget and I'm blowing it going to dinner at these expensive restaurants. I go only to be sociable with my friends rather than because I want to dine there. I would much rather eat at some of the more local and less expensive places. There is a nice one within walking distance (though nobody here walks anywhere). It's serves Thai food and is out of doors with one section floating in a small lake The other section is higher and overlooks the lake. They sell bags of fish food and the lake is loaded with some really big fish that commence a feeding frenzy when a handful of the fish food is tossed into the water.
Saturday, November 29, 208 (D-Day+2)
Nothing much happened today and that usually means that I worked on my computer; writing software, handling issues from my office, reading and writing email, and writing this journal. I find it hard not to get distracted here. It's not like my office or even my home office where I am in control of my environment. Here, I am sitting at a tiny desk with a shelf where my legs want to go so that if I try to stretch them out at all, I bruise my shins. Also, it still feels like a vacation regardless of my anxiety not being able to get out of here and go home.
On this night, we had dinner at the Thai place I mentioned earlier, the one with the lake and fish. Rudi's daughters were with us and they delighted in feeding the fish. I delighted in eating the Thai food.
Sunday, November 30, 2008 (D-Day+3)
I figured that today would be much like the previous ones but instead Barry and I hopped on motorcycles and drove to an amazing place called the Sanctuary of Truth. There were several "attractions" included with the 500 baht (about 12 dollar) admission price. Starting with a horse drawn cart that took us from the entrance to a place where those who had coughed up another twenty five dollars could ride around on elephant back. We didn't do that but Barry shelled out 40 Baht or about a $1.10 for some bananas to feed the elephants. The staff swore that it gave us good luck. I told them to open the airport but it had no effect.
We then walked a short distance to a bluff overlooking the ocean and the Sanctuary of Truth. This is a huge Buddhist temple being constructed completely out of teak using all traditional joinery with no nails, screws, or other modern fasteners other than to bolt the structure to its concrete foundation. Set on a small peninsula and surrounded on three sides by the ocean, the structure itself is about an acre in size and rises to a pinnacle of 345 feet. Every inch of the exterior is intricately carved, even the roof "tiles", also made of teak, are carved to facilitate water runoff and joined together with wooden pegs.
The outside appeared to be complete from a distance but not when seen from up close. The inside is mostly finished, at least to my eye. They expect it to take another 15 to 20 years to final completion. What remains to do are many of the wall and column carvings and several statues. When done, every bit, both inside and out, will be covered in detailed carvings. Each of the four wings, north, south, east, and west, depict various gods, Buddhas, and animals or scenes carved in different styles. I took a bunch of pictures, some of which are on the web site.
After going through the structure itself, we were lead to a big tented area where dozens of carvers were working on different pieces that will go inside when they are finished. They let the tourists, if they were so inclined, to carve a few shavings off of a big piece where they couldn't do any real damage if the screwed up. I was not so inclined and merely took a few pictures and after a few minutes we were lead to the obligatory gift shop. I got an iced tea to assuage my thirst.
Finally, we were cajoled to our final destination, the restaurant overlooking a lagoon where they put on a small dolphin show followed by a display of traditional Thai dance and then Muay Thai, Thai kick boxing. The kick boxing was artificial and completely choreographed but well done, I thought. The light snacks we ordered merely whet our appetites and we planned to get something more on the way home.
We then climbed the stairs back to the top of the bluff to catch another horse cart back to the entrance and our motorcycles.
But home was not our next destination. First we had to go to Bob's condominium. It's not a large or fancy place but it is in a great location on the sixth floor and has a fantastic view of the ocean. He and Da were getting ready for a long bus ride to Chiang Mai where his airline, China Air, could fly him back to Japan where he is a civilian employee at a U.S. Air Force base near Yokohama. We chatted a few minutes then he gave Barry two CDs of software he needed to fix a friends computer when he goes back to Bangkok on Monday and we were on our way. We never did stop for more food.
When I got home, I once again (for perhaps the hundredth time) checked the news about the airport and while there was some violence between the pro and anti-government crowds, there was no change that affected my ability to get home.
That night I announced that I would be cooking dinner in collaboration with Thyda who cooks her own food, always the same thing. She knows how to cook only those things and has no desire or imagination enough to try anything else. It worked ok for this dinner because I was making a main course of my special curried fried rice with onions and chicken. We got some red curry past at the market a few days earlier but it was much less spicy than what I use at home so the dish, delicious as it was, didn't have that zing that lets you know you are eating Thai food. Add a little chili sauce similar to ketchup but made with chili peppers and it was great. An interesting point, the brand of chili sauce we had was made by Heinz and was in a bottle just like the ketchup bottles with which we are familiar.
Monday, December 1, 2008 (D-Day + 4)
This was another down day. I spent most of it alternating between checking the news and working on the computer. No news.
We ate dinner at a sea food restaurant on Pattaya bay and right next to the water. The view was beautiful if you ignored the disgusting amount of trash floating in the water. People here dump their trash anywhere and everywhere. The sides of the road are filled with it as are any vacant lots. The people here do things as cheaply and with as little effort as they can get away with. There is no consideration for the environment or other people.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008 (D-Day + 5)
Just another lazy day. I'm sitting in my room writing this journal when I probably should be getting some real work done. Yeah, there is no probably about it, I should be getting some real work done. So I will, and will stop here and upload the journal to date along with the pictures of the Sanctuary of Truth.