Thailand sets date for election

Thailand has set a date for the first general election following last year’s coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from power. The electoral commission said the election would be held on 23 December, just in time for people going on holiday at Christmas – be warned!

Thailand’s military-installed government had promised elections by the end of the year after it won approval for a new constitution.

Nearly 58% voted for the changes in a referendum earlier this month, though many pro-Thaksin areas rejected them.

Podcast: Whirling Dervishes of Rumi from Turkiye

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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.

Whirling Dervishes of Rumi from Turkiye

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!

 

Podcast: Learning to Ride a Motorbike in Thailand

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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.

Tina learning to ride a bike in Chiang Mai

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!

A day at Huay Tung Thao lake, Chiang Mai

Huay Tung Thao lake, Chiang MaiWe often head out to Huay Tung Thao lake, about 12km outside Chiang Mai, to escape the heat of the city, have a swim and relax in a hammock. The lake is set at the foot of a mountain, and has some beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.

There are quite a few simple restaurants set around the lake, with huts on stilts in the water that you can sit in if you prefer some shade.

To get there, you head North along Canal road about 10KM, and take a left. After a further 2kms you will arrive at a ‘toll booth’ where you pay an entry fee of 20 Baht per person.

For those of you into more adventurous activities than swinging in a hammock or swimming, around the other side of the lake is a small painballing (that was not a deliberate spelling error but it seemed appropriate so I left it) range (why anyone would want to go paintballing in the Thai heat utterly escapes me), and some Kayaks for hire. There are also ‘cute’ little pedalo (pedal-powered) boats that look like swans if you like that kind of thing…

Mike, Huay Tung Thao lake, Chiang MaiIt is rumoured that there is some off-road back route up to Doi Suthep from here, but we haven’t explored this rumour further at this time!



Google Map of how to get there


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Colonic Irrigation: detox at the Chiang Mai Ayurvedic Center

I decided to write a small blog on colonic irrigation/ hydrotherapy. For years I have suffered from constipation and have been drinking herb teas, drinking lots of water and eating fiber and I still feel constipated from time to time. So after having been recommended to try colonic irrigation by an acquaintance of mine (who has done it 10 times and was very happy with the result) and reading lots about the topic on the internet I decided to try it out.

Colonic Irrigation

For those of you who are not aware what exactly the term covers – here goes: Colonic irrigation is the process of flushing large amounts of warm water into the intestinal tract, reaching the upper portions of the bowel. Basically you are cleansing the colon by passing several gallons of water through it with the use of special equipment. It is similar to an enema but treats the whole colon, not just the lower bowel. This has the effect of flushing out impacted fecal matter, toxins, mucous, and even parasites that often build up over the passage of time.

As you have probably already guessed the procedure it done by inserting a speculum the size of about 1 centimeter in diameter and 15 cm long in the bum much bigger than I had expected. Now I have often done coffee enemas myself at home in the bathtub but believe me – a coffee enema involves a thin tube whereas the colonic irrigation involves a much bigger instrument inserted in your rectum.

At first I entered the room which was serviced by two Thai women working at The Chiang Mai Ayurvedic Center (http://www.detox-chiangmai.com/). They asked me to go to the bathroom and take off all my clothes and wrap a piece of material around me. After this I was instructed to lie on a bed in the middle of the room on my side. The end of the bed was standing up against the colonic irrigation machine. During colonic irrigation, a speculum is passed into the bowel through the rectum. This is attached to a tube, which leads to the colonic machine that pumps temperature-controlled water into the colon at a controlled rate (they basically asked me when it was uncomfortable for me). It is important that the right amount of water is used, as too much will cause discomfort and too little will be ineffective. The temperature should ideally be body temperature but I think it was a bit warmer than that.

The amount of water in the intestine will wary from person to person. Most people can hold between two and six liters at any one time. The amount you can hold is also determined by your psychological state so to speak. Getting lots of water sprayed into your intestines makes you feel like going to the toilet and you may not like lying on a bed surrounded by strangers feeling like you are going to empty your bowel all over the place . The girls at the clinic told me that many people only like to have a little water sprayed in every time. This means that the process will be repeated many more times.

Filling the intestines with water generates peristaltic movement and you begin to expel the water along with fecal matter back through the tube and into the machine. The fecal matter is flushed out through a viewing tube, so that what is eliminated may be monitored. Quite often, unsuspected parasites are expelled, along with very old fecal material, very dark in color, which may have been in the colon for years.

During the treatment, one girl was holding the speculum in its place in my rectum and monitoring whatever was coming out with comments like "ohhh I think you have eaten mushroom" and "that must be passion fruit seeds" and the other girl was massaging my stomach to help dislodge impacted fecal matter. Unfortunately for me hardly anything came out and the girl who was first holding the speculum seemed to be assuming that the other one massaging me was not doing a proper job- so she took over. They were both giving me what can only be characterized as a hard massage and I didn’t feel comfortable at all to be honest.

After one hour of having water pumped in and water massaged out I was allowed to go and use the washroom. I went to the toilet and washed myself. After that I went back to the bed to have oil injected into the rectum. They told me that the oil would kill any worms etc. But as you can imagine it is not possible to retain oil inside of you- so it all went into the toilet.

Once I had dressed they served me a green drink and another hot drink with was suppose to generate healthy bacteria. I paid 1200 Baht (the equivalent of 38 $) and left.

On websites and at clinics advocating for colonic irrigation it is emphasized that Anyone suffering from gas, bloating, cramping pains, acne and other skin complaints, arthritis, and a list of bowel complaints such as irritable bowel etc., may benefit from colonic irrigation. Removing toxic matter is suppose to relieve you and can lead to the alleviation of symptoms such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, candidacies, and a host of other illnesses.

Some allopathic practitioners claim that colonic irrigation flushes out essential electrolytes and friendly bacteria from the bowel and that it can be dangerous. Practitioners counter that this can easily be remedied with the use of probiotics and that in any case, these possible disadvantages are easily offset by the benefits of having large amounts of putrefying matter, harmful organisms, and parasites removed from the system.

Now I had expected to feel immense relief but instead I had pain in my stomach and the pain continued the next day and I was constipated and had no bowel movement at all. But I had already paid for 3 treatments in advance and therefore I wrote to the clinic and asked them for advice. They responded very kindly and told me that I could get the money back that I had paid in advance or try to see if I felt better after another session. I chose the first option. I try as much as possible to listen to my body and due to the fact that my body reacted with pain, I decided not to do it again (for now).

I might try colonic irrigation later in life but momentarily I think I will stick to self-administered coffee enemas and raw food which so far has kept me happy.

Pun Pun Organic Vegetarian restaurant, Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai

You may also be interested in the podcast interview I did with the owners of Pun Pun (Peggy & Jo), where we discuss some of their views on sustainable living & organic farming, and talk about the courses they offer on their Pun Pun Organic farm outside Chiang Mai.

If you live in Chiang Mai, or even Northern Thailand for that matter, you may well already have heard of Pun Pun restaurant. It’s one of those word-of-mouth epidemics that spreads so fast that before you can recommend it to someone, someone else has got there first! Pun Pun opened a few months ago in a small area towards the back of Wat Suan Dok, which itself is located about 2kms along Suthep Road to the West of Chiang Mai’s old town.

Pun Pun restaurant, Wat Suan Dok

Pun Pun was set up by a Thai/American couple and sells organic vegetarian food, grown at Pun Pun Organic farm in the countryside outside Chiang Mai.

So what’s the food like? Absolutely amazing. Even for a non-vegetarian like myself it beats most other restaurants I have been to in Chiang Mai. Almost all dishes are 35 Thai Baht – about $1 – and the fresh fruit shakes are about the same price (The Passion fruit is recommended!) .

Atmosphere-wise, set in the middle of the Wat Suan Dok grounds, monks are continuously slowly wandering past, and the backrgound sounds are often interspersed with the monks chanting nearby. Finally, the friendly, smiling staff makes it one of our favourit restaurants in Chiang mai!

More info for those that need it:

Pun Pun’s opening hours are 9-7pm. They have a delivery service that costs an extra 20 Baht ($0.60) on top of the menu – the phone number for this is 086 573 7049 – the delivery service only runs from 9am-5pm. To get to Pun Pun, head to Wat Suan Dok then walk down the road to the left of the main temple towards the back of the temple grounds, it is on your right near the back.
Pun Pun’s website – www.punpunthailand.org.

Map showing Pun Pun restaurant & Wat Suan Dok


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Shoshana Restaurant, Bangkok

Shoshana is a small Israeli restaurant near the Khao San Road in Bangkok – it’s a popular hangout for the backpackers of nearby Khao San Rd. It is not really a place to go for a romantic dinner, but the food is very cheap and good. Felafel, Snitzel, Humus etc.

It’s near the Northern end of the Khao San Road (the Soi Rambuttri end) and down a little side street called Chakrapong Rd. We often eat there when we are in Bangkok as we can’t really get the same food at the same prices in Chiang Mai.

Here’s Tina looking satisfied having just finished a MASSIVE plate of potato salad, falafel and pitta: