There is a story, apocryphal, that the French at Agincourt had a propensity for cutting off the index and middle fingers of English and Welsh archers so they could never again draw a bow. In defiance the plucky Brits raised a V-sign to their opponents.

Warmonger Churchill subverted and inverted this sign to symbolise “Victory”, rather than the obscene meaning it had acquired in the UK, though in much of the world there’s no distinction drawn between the two forms. Both are victory.

The Japanese (and other Asian groups) like to hold up a pair of fingers whilst being photographed. Sometimes they’ll hold them up behind the head of a companion as “rabbit ears”.

The index finger is, of course, a miracle of evolution. It’s perfectly sized for the excavation of nasal orifices. To sit there, finger up nostril, whilst taboo in the West, is an every day feature of life here in Thailand; there’s no stigma here.

The Americans, not overly keen on raising two fingers to the world, have reduced the gesture to a single raised middle finger.

Curiously enough, the middle finger in Thailand has a similarly taboo value. To me, if I want to point to an item on, say, a menu, it makes sense to use the longest finger. It’s the pointiest, and requires least effort to deploy. However, its use will also cause offence. More than once have I been chastised for my deployment of my middle digit.

Whilst I may, from time to time, want to stick two fingers up to the world, for as long as I’m in Thailand, I’ll have to settle for the index finger alone.


It’s now 2 a.m.. I can’t sleep. It’s all too tragic. A few newspaper headlines for you:

  • At least 27 key locations in Bangkok such as Central World and the TV Channel 3 station have been set on fire
  • The red shirt bikers in Chiang Mai ignored the curfew, coming out in force to set fires to car tyres in several places throughout Chiang Mai (a large city in the north of Thailand)
  • Nine bodies were found inside the Pathumwanaram Temple (that’s bang in the centre of the current disturbances in Bangkok).
  • CentralWorld on verge of collapse

And to top it all, ex-Prime Minister Thaksin is predicting (i.e. doing his very best to create) guerrilla war.

My heart bleeds for Thailand.


Imagine that Selfridges or Harrods or Liberty’s had been burned to the ground.

That’s what’s happened here in Bangkok today.

Central World burning in Bangkok

Asia’s second largest mall (and Thailand’s largest) has been destroyed.


It’s been a very pleasant day. I had lunch at my favorite riverside restaurant – stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts, button mushrooms, spring onions, water chestnuts, onions, and a few dried chillis. It was a bit overcast and there was a pleasant breeze. Not too hot.

Meanwhile, in Bangkok, the army was advancing on the Red Shirt protesters.

The army seemed to exercise a lot of restraint. Only a handful of people have been killed. (Only?) No doubt the press will focus upon the Italian photographer. They always do. Every death is a tragedy.

Some of the Red Shirt leaders handed themselves in to the police just after lunch. (A few others fled.) There were impassioned speeches, and many of the rank-and-file Red Shirts said they’d fight on.

In response many of the Red Shirts went on the rampage. The Stock Exchange, department stores, a TV station are on fire. Protesters have destroyed ATMs and ‘phone booths in their rage.

From 8 p.m. there’s a curfew in Bangkok. That’ll mess up business tomorrow. (If you want to buy pig intestines to make sausages you need to be at the market around 3 or 4 a.m..)

The saddest comment (for me) was from a close friend, who sent a text: “What has happened to my country?”


I find it pretty outrageous that the cost of a new passport in Thailand is almost double the equivalent of the same passport in the UK.

32 page adult passport (UK) – £77.50
32 page adult passport (TH) – 6,656 Baht (£142.31 at current exchange rates)

It’s not as if I receive any special services from the British Embassy in Bangkok. Neither do they invite me to cocktail parties, nor provide informed information about the current political situation. (These are things that the Australian and US embassies have both done for me over the years.) They do nothing.

And now, to add insult to injury, passport renewals are now handled by Hong Kong, and the applicant is expected to fork out the fee for couriering the passports from Thailand to Hong Kong – a further 962 Baht, or £20.60.

So, in short, you can get a passport in the UK for £77.50, but if you choose to live in Thailand you have to pay £162.91.

And to make things worse, the process can take up to 4 weeks (providing that all the paperwork is in order and that your passport photograph meets their ludicrously exacting standards). Yet in Thailand it’s a legal requirement that you carry your passport at all times. There’s a stiff fine (or bribe) involved if you’re not carrying that precious booklet.

Such is the curse of being born British.


It’s not known by whom or when Wat Som (or, in English, the Temple of the Citrus Fruit) was established, though from the style of its prang it’s probably from the early Ayutthaya period.

Wat Som prang

It now sits desolate, unvisited by tourists, its information boards and name plate missing, presumed stolen. However, it has some of the finest remaining stucco work on its prang.

Wat Som prang close-up

Stucco detail on the prang of Wat Som

Behind the prang are the remains of a hall …

Wat Som, looking West

… with a few forlorn fragments of shattered Buddha figures.

Shattered Buddha Figures at Wat Som

There are also the stumps of a few small chedis. However, excavation in the early 90s revealed that the original floor level is about 2 metres below ground, so the chedi-bases are iceberg-like.

The sandy soil was alive with insects. Bright red beetles scurried everywhere, cicadas filled the trees, and the holes from which they had emerged were clear in the sandy soil. Here are a couple of cicadas enjoying themselves on the side of a tree.

Happy Cicadas