Travel podcasts from Thailand, Europe, podcasts from Central America & podcasts from South America. There’s a list of all the podcasts we’ve ever done here. All you need to do is click the play button below to start listening…
Last Friday evening, straight after putting the Givetoburma.org website live, I raced down to the Three Kings Monument in Chiang Mai to meet Tina and attend the Peace in Burma protest. You can listen to the podcast we made at the protest below.
Peace in Burma are a Chiang Mai-based coalition of people and organisations who support peace, freedom and democracy in Burma.
Since August 15th, when the military government dramatically increased fuel prices in Burma, thousands of monks started to lead peaceful demonstrations through the streets against the Burmese military government.
The fuel price rises were the catalyst that brought a population already striken with poverty onto the streets. The hikes hit Burma’s people hard, especially the poorest, forcing up the price of public transport and triggering a knock-on effect for staple foods such as rice and cooking oil.
For more information about the protests and fuel price rises, the BBC website has an informative Q&A here. To make a donation to help the protesters, please visit the Givetoburma.org website. To find out more about some of the Human Rights abuses against the ethnic minorities in Burma, please visit the Karen Human Rights Group website (the group I volunteered with when I first came to Thailand). Finally, on the BBC website is an interesting article called Burma unrest: Account from a monastery.
Every Sunday in Chiang Mai, from about 4pm until as late as midnight, a market known variously as the ‘Sunday Market’, or the ‘Walking Street Market’ takes place in Chiang Mai. The Sunday Market has, in recent years, become a bit of an institution in Chiang Mai – with many thousands of locals and foreigners turning up to browse, buy, and eat from the various street stalls or simply socialise with their friends.
The Sunday Market is also the best place in Chiang Mai to see genuine Thai style street entertainment. Right along the length of the Ratchadamnoen Road are pavement artists – from traditional musicians, Thai dancers and living statues to puppet shows and busking bands.
This weekend Tina and I headed to the Sunday Market with our recording equipment in hand, in an attempt to bring you some of the sounds and atmosphere. We hope you enjoy it!
Sunday Market location
Ratchadamnoen road, running East-West from around Tapae Gate (the East gate of the Chiang Mai Old Town) – every Sunday from about 4pm.
Last Friday evening I decided it was far too long since I went to the Brasserie – a Jazz/Blues bar on the river Ping in Chiang Mai – so I rode across the city on my motorbike attempting to ‘narrate’ on the way.
Over the last couple of years the Brasserie has become a bit of a Mecca for us, and when I lived in Mae Sot before I moved to Chiang Mai, we’d look forwards with huge anticipation to listening to their resident guitar genius ‘Took’ playing his renditions of Eric Clapton, Bob Marley, Hendrix, The Doors, Pink Floyd and lots of other Blues legends.
Although this recording doesn’t contain any clips of Took’s amazingly talented guitar playing, I’ll try and record some in the future and possibly even interview the great man himself.
It was a rainy Thursday evening in Chiang Mai, and we’d heard the day before that at Payap University there would be a free performance by some Turkish ‘Whirling Dervishes’. They’re on a world tour sponsored by UNESCO, to mark the 800th birthday of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi – the 13th century Persian, Muslim poet, jurist, and theologian.
A friend of ours in Chiang Mai told us that this paticular group performed in London and sold out very quickly – so we thought we’d go and check it out. We turned up ticketless & wet at Payap University, waiting about 20 minutes outside, then were presented with our 3 tickets. We were sitting 5 rows from the front, in seats that would surely have cost $100 or more in the UK!
As we waited in the auitorium, the mostly Thai audience fiddled with their bleeping mobiles whilst a Turkish man explained in English some of the history behind the Whirling Dervishes. The performance then began with some music from a 6 or 7 piece group playing traditional Turkish instruments. Living in a musical void – Thailand, where all we ever hear in the way of music is karaoke pop, we were absolutely mesmerised by the beautiful sounds coming from the band (you can listen to a clip of the music below).
After a while the dancers came on, whirled around alot and left us feeling dizzy. They dance as if they are in a trance repeating the poetry of Rumi: “Come, come, whoever you are, come and come yet again, come even if you have broken your wows a thousand times, wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire, ours is not a caravan of despair, this is the date of hope, come, come yet again, come.”
The show was amazing and if you ever have a chance to go and see “Whirling Dervishes of Rumi from Turkiye” -do go!
Tina has been wanting to learn to ride a proper motorbike for a while now, so on a cloudy Saturday morning in Chiang Mai, I gave her some lessons in the road that we live in.
Earlier this year we spent some time trying to find an official driving school in Chiang Mai where we could both learn. In the end, having searched everywhere, we came to the conclusion that not only were there no driving schools geared towards foreigners here, but that there were no driving schools at all. This realisation fitted well with the general level of road chaos in Chiang Mai.
On the BBC website, there is a guide to ‘Driving Etiquette’ in Thailand. It states:
The first rule of driving in Thailand is: Don’t!
The second rule is: Don’t!
The most incredible thing about driving in Thailand is that a people who are so lovely, friendly and forgiving turn into complete monsters when sitting in a car or complete idiots when sitting on a motorbike. Actually driving in Thailand isn’t quite so bad as its reputation would have you believe, but it still is not to be undertaken by the faint of heart.
Despite know this, I ended up buying a bike to learn on, the bike in the photo – a Honda Phantom 200cc. I had already been driving mopeds around Chiang Mai for a year. After a quick lesson from a friend, and a few thousand kilometres in the surrounding countryside (including a mountainous trip to Pai) I decided it was worth trying to get my Thai Motorbike license. I drove on my moped to the test centre, and immediately got issued with a car license based on the fact I had a UK car license. Easy!
However, as I didn’t have a motorbike allowance on my license, I was told I would need to do a motorbike test. They sat me in a room and tested my reaction time and eyesight with various archaic-looking contraptions, before taking me to a room full of computers. I had 30 minutes to answer 30 multiple choice questions chosen randomly from 80 questions in the system. To cut a long, frustrating story short, the pass mark is 23 out of 30, and I got 21 the first time and 22 the second time I took the test. I therefore failed.
To compound my misery, I realised that some of the questions I had got correct had been marked as wrong – for example – a picture of a blue circle with ’30’ inside apparently means “You must go a minimum of 30km/hour” in Thailand. When I questioned the examiner on these surprising answers he replied “Haha! Computer in Bangkok wrong….you want to do test again?”
I left the test centre on my moped, promising myself I would never return. I could now legally drive a V8 Toyota Landcruiser out of the test centre, and park it illegally on a junction just like everyone else, but alas, not my 100cc moped.
For more information, check out the Golden Triangle Rider website for excellent maps and tips on some of the possible motorbike trips in Northern Thailand. Take it from us, don’t go on a ‘elephant trek’ in Chiang Mai – hire some bikes and head out into the mountains!