Sansiri (the developer of the moobaan where I live) has removed the hanging debris from the billboard advertising the development. What is left bears a striking resemblance to a certain popular sculpture. As they say in Private Eye, could they possibly be related?

Sansiri sign and Angel of the North


Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne
And smale foweles maken melodye

I suspect that from a meteorological point of view Chaucer was the Michael Fish of his day. But let me begin at the beginning.

Yesterday was a fine day, a little overcast, but no sign of impending rain. I put a load of washing in the washing machine (which resides outside), and an hour later put the laundry out to dry. I then summoned a taxi and headed off to central Bangkok for a bit of kultcha, for this was the day of the concert by the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra.

I’ve known for a while know that Bangkok boasts a symphony orchestra, but, to be honest, I’d assumed it was largely an affair of talented amateurs. But no! It’s a full time, professional orchestra.


Before the concert I had dinner with G.. We wandered around a shopping centre for somewhere to eat, and eventually plumped for a Chinese place – a small, simple, concrete shell decorated with cheap paper lanterns and little else. The omen were propitious, with several men (already a little drunk on rice spirit at six in the afternoon) talking loudly in Teochew. The food was good and filling, if not sensational, and the portions were generous: deep fried tofu stuffed with minced pork, hot and sour soup, and Peking duck with all the trimmings. Finishing dinner a little early, we decided that a brief sojourn at a traditional local coffee shop trading under the name of “Starbucks” was in order. One green tea latte frappuccino served, we were ready to head on. And then the heavens opened – a tropical storm, whipped horizontal by the wind. Twenty minutes before the conductor picked up his baton, we had no option but to brave the elements and scuttle to the concert hall.


Two sodden rats sat down twenty minutes later, ready for Weber, Mozart and Tchaikovsky – though somewhat less ready for the effect of the freezing air-con upon their chilly cladding.

The concert was a pretty good stab at some challenging works. There was some hesitancy in attack in some of the string sections, the French horns split their notes a few times in Tchaikovsky 4, and I didn’t like the tone of the clarinets – too woolly. Somewhat bizarrely, for me the star performer was the only member of the orchestra who doesn’t have a Thai name – Daisuke Iwabuchi, the Timpanist – I presume he’s Japanese. His precise, sensitive playing really stood out for me. More generally, the whole percussion section was excellent.

Of course, I should mention the soloist, Cho-Liang Lin, a Taiwanese-American violinist who scratches a mean Stradivarius. The richness of the tone of the lower strings was particularly magnificent. He makes a lot of what is obviously a very fine fiddle.


After the concert I took a taxi home. The driver drove with a certain reckless abandon, but by this stage I just wanted to get home to take off my sodden clothing and, in particular, my soaked through shoes and socks.

An hour or so later the driver was approaching my moobaan – but there was a barrier in the way. It seems a major power line had fallen across the road. In normal circumstances this wouldn’t been too much of a problem, but I live off a one way road with no other entrance.

After a bit of head scratching it was agreed the driver would head for the opposite end of the one way road and drive up it the wrong way. (The concepts of “legal” and “illegal” in Thailand tend to be a little nebulous.) Twenty minutes (and a generous tip to the driver) I was home. Time to check the laundry…

As I’d feared, all my freshly laundered clothes were scattered across the ground; the waterproof cover over the washing machine had been ripped off by the aeolian breezes, too, despite being anchored by hefty cables.


This morning I resolved boldly to venture forth, bread and milk to buy. Whilst the destruction was hardly post-apocalyptic, it was striking. Here’s the sign at the entrance to my moobaan.

Sansiri sign, storm damaged

Doesn’t look too bad? Here it is from a different angle.

Sansiri sign, storm damanged, 2

(Michael Bay, if you’re going to steal this idea for your next Transformers movie, I will sue.)

And some trees are now relaxing taking a well-deserved rest:

Sansiri blown over tree

Whilst others are simply slanting at jaunty angles.

Sansiri, leaning treet

[The above engraved etchings are courtesy of mine mobile telephone, so may not be up to my usual (and thoroughly mediocre) standards.]


Vote buying is a long-established tradition in Thailand. You give 500 Baht a head for each constituent to the village headman, who will pass on 200 Baht to each voter to secure their vote, and keep the rest of the money for himself. Et voilà, you’re elected. However, it’s an expensive business – at least 5-10 million Baht [£100-200,000 minimum]. Fortunately, according to Police Colonel Chatchai Rianmek, would-be people’s representatives have found a cheaper way of securing their post: they have their opponents murdered. According to the Police Colonel “killing politicians during the lead-up to an election is a common tactic to eliminate opponents”. He goes on “It’s an inexpensive investment. Gunmen are usually hired for between 100,000 and 300,000 Baht [£2-6,000], depending on how difficult the job is.”

Earlier this month Anon Jaroensuk, a sitting MP. was seriously hurt recently when a bomb planted in the car he was in exploded, and, in a separate incident, Kowit Charoennontasit, mayor of Bang Bua Thong, was shot and killed in front of his home. It seems that election season is upon us once again. At least, this time the candidates will be spending less to win.


A couple of photos from my recent trip to Greece.


Actually not, it’s a new shopping mall that’s opened just a stone’s throw from my house. It’s the second such mall to open in the last six months in my neighbourhood. Neither is very large, but both are anchored by upmarket supermarkets carrying a lot of imported foods and other goods. I tried to visit the Amorini mall when it opened on Wednesday, but I just drove around and around – there was nowhere to park. Today I did manage to find a parking spot.

There are a handful of restaurants, an ice cream parlour, a book shop, an optician, a bank or two, a shop selling imported Japanese tat – everything 60 Baht – probably about 20 outlets in all at the moment, but many places haven’t opened yet, and the third floor is completely undeveloped. However, the main attraction for me was Tops Market. Tops has a tie-up with Waitrose, so there were Waitrose sausages, cereals, jams, biscuits – all at eye-watering prices. However, mango chutney was “on sale” so I bought myself a couple of jars and felt pleased with myself. (However, if I convert the price to sterling my eyes still water.)

One of the restaurants sells a traditional Thai delicacy of minced meat served between two pieces of what we call “khanom pang”. I think it’s known in English as “bread”. This dish is usually accompanied by deep fried slivers of potato.


Quite charmingly, on entry one is greeted with a “wai” by staff wearing traditional Thai dress.

Ronald McDonald wai-ing

Knowing how popular Thai food is in the West, I think this might just catch on.


A few years after the new Bangkok airport opened, the rail link to it opened too. The rail link is fast, efficient, and totally useless. It terminates in one of the most congested parts of Bangkok, and there’s no connection to public transport. You have to haul your luggage across a busy road to get to the nearest skytrain station – not much fun in Bangkok’s heat or in the rain – or take a taxi.

Of course, if your flight is in the early hours of the morning – as most flights to Europe are – you’re out of luck with the train: it only runs from 6 a.m. to midnight.

It was obvious when it opened that passenger numbers were low, so in January the operators decided to increase the fare by 50% to 150 Baht (about £3). That means that if there are two of you it’s actually cheaper to take a taxi which will take you in relative comfort to your home or hotel. Even if there’s only one of you, the relative cost difference is marginal if you’re going to have to take a taxi when you get off the train in central Bangkok.

And now it’s reported that passenger numbers are down to 700 per day.

This white elephant apparently cost over 30 billion Baht to build. For that amount of money you could pay the taxi fare of 700 passengers every day for the next 391 years.

(I’m not being completely fair here. The same new line is also used for a commuter service which is proving popular.)

Given that the airport link was destined to failure, why was it built in the first place? What springs to mind? Vast opportunities for graft and corruption? I couldn’t possibly comment.


There’s a project in the pipeline to build a 50 km elevated walkway in Bangkok. This to me seems to be another crazy project at so many levels.

  1. Thai people in general don’t like walking anywhere. The planned routes of the walkway means it would be useful to tourists, though.
  2. It would be cheaper and easier to rehabilitate the pavements. Get rid of the food vendors and small stalls that block the pavements making it easier to walk in the road. (Of course, that will never happen since the police collect “rent” from these vendors to supplement their pay packets.) Repair the cracked, uneven paving stones. Get rid of the many, many ‘phone booths – redundant since the advent of the mobile ‘phone – that impede progress. Teach drivers the meaning of the black and white stripes painted on the road so that crossing doesn’t mean a mad dash avoiding the speeding cars. Ban motorcycles from riding on the pavement. Nothing difficult, really.
  3. As soon as the walkway opens it will become virtually impassable, crowded with vendors. More tea money for the police, but an inconvenience for the rest of us.

The cost of the walkway is estimated at 15 billion Baht. That’s about 300 million Baht per kilometre. Another, similar project, elsewhere in Bangkok, involves building a 17 km walkway for 59 million Baht per kilometre. That makes 300 million Baht per kilometre seems rather steep. Of course, it’s possible that the nuts and bolts will be of the finest gold and the handrails made of platinum, but I think it perhaps unlikely.  What springs to mind? Vast opportunities for graft and corruption? I couldn’t possibly comment.


Thailand, to this day, is primarily an agrarian society and, as you might expect, many of the common idioms relate to animals. Some are quite fun. For example:

“A frog in a coconut shell”

refers to someone who is aloof and ignorant, like a frog living in a coconut shell.

“A rabbit aiming for the moon”

Don’t aim for the impossible; keep your feet on the ground.

“Riding an elephant to catch a grasshopper”

To make heavy work of something. This idiom can also mean use the right tool for the job.

“To catch a fish in each hand”

Don’t multitask.

“To catch a tiger with bare hands”

Don’t start something unprepared.

“To buy a buffalo in a swamp”

To buy a pig in a poke.

“To flee from the tiger, to stumble upon the crocodile”

Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

“black sheep”

This almost certainly comes from English – there aren’t many sheep in Thailand, it’s too hot for them and their woolly jumpers.

“The chicken gets a gem”

A person who doesn’t know the value of what they have.

Some can be rather politically incorrect:

ไก่งามเพราะขน คนงามเพราะแต่ง
“Chickens are beautiful because of their feathers. Women are beautiful because of their clothes and make-up.”

“If you love your cow, tie it up; if you love your children, beat them.”

And some are scatological:

“Nobody lifts a dog’s tail when it’s pooing.”

Don’t praise yourself.

เห็นช้างขี้ ขี้ตามช้าง
“See an elephant poop and poop the same way”

Keeping up with the Joneses