Saturday, February 20, 2010

Some Oddxs and Ends of News

Just a few bits of news to pass along this time around.

If you're planning on being in Thailand soon, you may be concerned about the sometimes dramatic news reports about plans supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin will hold demonstrations. While the leaders of those supporters are being quiet about where they might arrange rallies, the places I've read and heard speculation about are the places one would expect, such as the Government House and Parliament.

As always, a little common sense will go a long way. The most obvious thing is to avoid going to places where large crowds are milling around. And for heaven's sake, don't take part in any such rally unless you're a Thai national (since that's your right, of course). I personally would not even getting into a conversation; passions are reportedly high in some instances, though I've run into any of that.

There are other steps that are advisable anytime you travel, and anywhere. For instance, it's always good to leave money, credit cards, and other valuables in your hotel, preferably one with a safe in your room. You'll have to have some money, naturally, but leave a chunk in your room, and your air ticket. What you do need to take with you, including a camera, be careful with it. I carry my cash and wallet in my front pants pockets, as it's harder for a pickpocket to fish them out of front pockets instead of back ones. Ladies, if you don't to weak slacks, at least get a bag you can strap around your waist or dangle from your neck inside your blouse or dress. Actually, that's a good idea for men as well.

Try not to walk alone, especially at night. Be wary of strangers -- Thai or foreign who try to start chatting with you for no clear reason. And for sure don't go somewhere with a stranger who approaches you -- well, okay, taxi drivers are generally okay, though do insist on using the meter if there is one.

Almost forgot: before you even leave home, list and photograph everything you'll be taking with you If you take photos with a digital camera, you can e-mail them along with the list to yourself -- that way, if you get something stolen, you'll have those to help the police. And don't forget to photograph and list your credit/debit cards, driver's license(s), etc., too.

Try to have a good idea of what goods and services should cost. I once had a taxi driver ask me for 5,000 baht to take me to Jomtien , which is about 135-140 kilometers away. At the time, the going rate was in the 1,000-1,200-baht range! I just chuckled and declined.

If you happen to be headed to the far north of Thailand, places such as Chiang Mai, Pai, and over by the border with Burma, there was a lot of smoke a few days ago., or so I read in a newspaper and saw on a local TV news report. I haven't been able to find out if it's gone yet, but I would be surprised if it is

Okay. Enough with the cautions.

If you are going to be in Bangkok and are an aficionado of the "Green Demon" buses, you're out of luck. They were finally ordered off the streets effective today; the Bangkok government is phasing in brand-new bright orange buses. Hundreds of them. The green buses were notorious: surly, unsafe drivers, and poorly maintained equipment. The owners kept putting off changing the buses' engines over to NVG, and after several deadlines were extended, whoever in government who makes such decisions decided "no more!" (The new buses do run on NVG.)

I keep hearing that Pattaya and Jomtien are basically empty. One friend went a few days ago with the idea of staying several days, but he took the time to walk all the way from the end of North Pattaya Beach Road to its southern end then on into Walking Street, detouring a block or two up each side soi along the way, and he said many places were literally empty of any customers. So he went right back to the bus station and came back to Bangkok.

There's a new bar in Washington Square called "Easy Bar." It's on the south (back) side to the right of the Hare and Hound if your looking at the Hare and Hound. I think they open at about midday. It's run by several Thai ladies, all well-known on the Square, so they're getting some immediate support.

Happily, I've heard of no deaths, illnesses, or injuries -- I don't count my hip, which I manged to whack pretty good on the mirror of a parked car last night, but it's not bad, if I am a little stiff!

More irritating is I managed to lose my hand phone night-before-last. I made the rounds of my usual haunts yesterday afternoon, but it wasn't to be found. A friend came to visit today and tried to call my number several times, but calls were diverted and a message came on directing callers to use the call-back service. I haven't gone out today, but I guess in a day or two I'll go buy some low-end, cheap phone -- they can be had, new,s for not much over 1,000 baht (about US$30.00). So for now, I'm telephone-less -- my Internet line is working, but my voice one is out. TOT is responsible for the line from the soi to the office of my apartment building, and True is responsible for the line connecting from the wall box beside my desk to the phone and ADSL modem. True sent a repairman out, and he checked True's part here in my living room, then took me to the office, found the incoming TOT line, and hooked up a technician's phone to it and made a call then handed me the phone. a nice lady on the line explained to me that my apartment house is responsible for the line from the office to my desk. However, my particular apartment is owned by a couple, not by the apartment -- so *I'm* responsible. So far, the manager hasn't been able to arrange a private repairman to come replace the stretch of the line. Sigh.
There's really  no news about any of the Squaronians to report that I know of. But that's GOOD news in itself!

Finally, it's getting pretty warm; the other day it was 36C/97F, which quite warm enough for me.

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