“Student Faces Prison for Speaking out in Royalist Thailand” 

“Student Faces Prison for Speaking out in Royalist Thailand”

“The fate of Kanthoop, 20, who faces up to 15 years in jail for ‘having opinions’, highlights country’s harsh pro-monarchy laws.”

Feature article on the Guardian yesterday, interesting insight into some of the sticky issues in the Land of Smiles.

Pertinent quotes:
“This is about national security, not just about the king,” said royalist Dr Tul Sittisomwong. “Thai people are not well educated, we’re not open to layers of discussion without fear of violence [regarding this subject]. The king makes peace in our society.”

Or conversely…

“Just look at the hyperbole [used] to describe the monarchy, the religiosity with which Thai people love the monarch and the public participation of all this royalism,” [Thongchai Winichakul, professor of South-East Asian History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison] says. “People are now afraid of their colleagues”– because anyone can bring forward a charge of lese-majeste, he adds.

Worth a read!

(And don’t forget that Thai people aren’t too fond of Bhumibol and Sirikrit’s only son [strangely that link won’t actually open for me… my first run-in with Internet censorship in Thailand?! Or just a dead link?] and heir… Begs the question of how the “religious royalism” will play out when it’s time for him to take the throne.)


Graffiti (et al) in Bangkok

So you probably guessed that I went to Bangkok for more important things than to check out its numerous graffiti displays, but the number of pictures I took of graffiti turned out disproportionately high, hence the title and this quick stream:

I don’t know if it’s the reference to the squatters’ 15-cans-of-chemical-swirl-mural of a Mexican girl (standing in the ashes at the end of the Earth, four winds blowin’ through her hair) in that Bright Eyes song I like so much (awesome video, by the way, and only recently did I notice the possible tribute to the Blues Brothers? Speaking of which, when Wayne gets a few whiskies in him he does his own excellent Blues Brothers tribute dance… next time you get him liquored up do yourself a favor and request a performance.), or the fact that I enjoyed Exit Through The Gift Shop so much, but I’ve come to quite enjoy me some good old fashioned street art.

And speaking of Bangkok, and of Bright Eyes I suppose here’s as good a place as any to share the trivia with those yet unaware that Thais don’t call Bangkok, well, “Bangkok.” They call it Krung Thep, which means “City of Angels” and is a short version of the longest place name in the world (check your Guinness Book of World Records! Or… don’t. I just did, and while Bangkok apparently has a lot of records– including some pretty stereotypical ones like, “Longest Line of Bowl Noodles” and “Longest Massage Chain”– I don’t actually see anything about its name there. But here’s some further info if you’d like.). And in that Bright Eyes song I’m sure you’re all familiar with, “Cleanse Song,” he talks about waking up purged as a wailing infant– in Krung Thep, Thailand! How clever, how knowledgable, how worldly of our dear Conor, right? Right?!

Except… he mispronounces it! The “TH” in “Thep”, just like that in “Thailand” is pronounced only as an English “T” (more or less). As any English teacher vainly trying to correct her Thai students’ pronunciation will tell you, Thai doesn’t use either of our “Th” sounds. Or V. Or Z. Or S (at the end of words). *Palm to forehead*

But enough about Bright Eyes (story of my life) and trivia you’re sure to never use (also) and graffiti. This is why I’ll never be Freshly Pressed (*envious sniffle*).

Plans for my trip to Krung Thep/Bangkok originated out of necessity to add pages to my nearly-full passport before hopping over to Indonesia in April. When I found out my good friends and former fellow Thung Song locals Jack and Grace were going to be passing through on their way to Myanmar/Burma this past weekend, it made my scheduling of the trip real easy. Though most people I know tend to take the sleeper train such long distances, I’ve been stuck taking the bus every time. And by “stuck” I mean that I totally chose to take it the first two times because it’s cheaper and I was on a time crunch and trains are notoriously unreliable. But of course all it takes is a few conversations about how reliable buses are to ensure that your 10 hour journey beginning at 7:30 pm becomes an 11 hour one that begins at 8:15.

Nevertheless, I made it to Bangkok with time to spare before my 9:15am appointment at the American embassy. Time to find and take the SkyTrain, time to “find” the “American embassy” before grabbing a Burger King breakfast in a swanky tower, time to take pictures of all the cheese in the Tops in said tower as I shopped for all the toiletries I forgot in order to make myself presentable in the bathroom of said tower, time to attempt to force my way through the gate of the “American embassy” only to be informed by a clearly amused security guard that it was the residence of the ambassador (I told him I had an appointment! lolzlolzlolzlolz. I suppose here it’s worth mentioning that as I child I assumed teachers lived in schools so. Old habits die hard I  guess.).

And most importantly, time to go to the real embassy an hour early, get my ish taken care of with no hitches (and with the added perk of watching the Bulls/Celtics game on AFN! Daaaa Bulls!).

leaving the skytrain at peung chit.

and we were impressed with eight whole stories in penang!
so much cheese… and caviar? i really did not belong in this swanky tower in clothes i’d been wearing for 14 hours.
had to pass the dutch embassy. somehow this makes way too much sense to me. painted cows wandering all willy nilly? the dutch must be responsible.

I was finished with my business by late morning only to find out Jack and Grace would only finish theirs around 4 pm. So what did I have on my hands? More time! Time to go back to the interesting-sounding SkyTrain stop, Victory Monument; time to take pictures of the monument; time to shop at some stalls around the monument; time to work a taxi-less route back to the Khao San Road area; to grab lunch at the awesome vegetarian restaurant Wayne and I discovered last Spring; to find the guesthouse/do more shopping/get a massage. I stayed busy.

heading to victory monument

in pursuit of a bus to khao san road.

paparazzo shot from the bus.
nothing like 10 baht fresh coco water on a hot day!

bangkok in all it’s clean-aired glory.

courtyard of the guesthouse.

The guesthouse Jack and Grace had recommended was about a 5-10 minute walk off Khao San Road at the Villa Guest House, 230 Thanon Samsen 1. A bit dark, lots of mosquitoes in the courtyard, and (as Grace forewarned) the beds are a bit hard, but it was very charming with an equally charming proprietor. Singles for 300 baht/night, doubles for 400-600.

By the afternoon it was finally time for the happy reunion with my long-lost friends. We chatted for a bit amongst the mosquitoes in the courtyard, got some Indian for dinner, had a few drinks in the Rambuttri area, met up with another friend of theirs, and called it an early night. Jet/bus lag (just coined the term) don’t make for crazy partiers!

The next morning it was back to Ethos for some insaaaaane vegan pancakes. But no Coke or Sprite:

upshot from the courtyard.
crocodile in the canal (or so i like to think).


big jack and tiny cat.


momma and sissy lookin on.


haha, commence my new favorite series of photos. jack wonders just WHAT to do with that moustache-shaped falafel.
use it as a moustache!


or how bout this way?

awkward candid.

i just missed a performing arts festival! but we got to watch rehearsal.

whatever you do, do NOT smoke alcohol in bangkok.
haha! funny top-of-palm-nut-eatin’ squirrel. (video to come, hopefully?)

On Saturday we just killed time shopping and eating (see above pictures of falafel moustaches) around Khao San. I’d wanted to take a train back but they were full so it was another lengthy bus journey for me and a 6 am wakeup call Sunday morning for Wayne to come pick me up off the side of the road where I was dropped. A quick but successful and enjoyable weekend in Bangkok! And best of luck to Jack and Grace as they take their journey to Burma.