Having reported on and attended in other capacities an incalculable number of parades, festivals, street fairs and similar special events, I have become rather jaded about them.
But the 2017 Thailand Tourist Festival — which this year apparently replaced a celebrations of the Lunar New Year in Bangkok’s Chinatown in tribute to the memory of the late king — blew me away. By changing the focus, the government felt able to respect the year-long mourning period since his death last fall.
The event in the city’s centrally situated Lumphini Park took place from last Wednesday through Sunday. It was a triumph of organization, diversions and civilized crowds of almost impenetrable size on the weekend, somewhat less thronged before then. I was there on three days.
The organizers had divided the space according to five of the country’s regions, plus a section devoted to China.
I very much enjoyed Continue reading
This randomly photographed clinic is larger than most. Such clinics can be found all over Phnom Penh.
Not even Cambodians defend the quality of medical care in Cambodia. The king routinely jets off to China for checkups, and top government officials also head to other countries for the best care.
Ailments that otherwise are treated routinely elsewhere in Asia demand quick flights to Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore. Examples might include a sinus infection, certain bone fractures and diseases that internists in other nations can easily diagnose.
A related issued is that no one knows how reliable are drugs with foreign labels, and they fill the shelves of numerous pharmacies.
For me, the issue relates to Continue reading
There is no end to the number of food carts in Phnom Penh offering everything from fried noodles to crisp insects.
When I walk a few blocks up the street, I spot vendors of coffee, soft drinks, bread, fruit, those noodles, something like hotdogs and barbecued animal parts, of which only some am I able to identify.
Outside the French Institute, I have seen a man making crepes on a contraption that he somehow has mounted on a motorcycle. Someone sells pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven on a bulky portable cart.
But only in that last few weeks Continue reading
On a day of announced protests last Sunday, police and soldiers mostly just hung around a busy intersection that is flanked by high-end malls.
It was only on the day after our arrival in Thailand that we saw any soldiers — four of them routinely directing normally busy traffic. No one paid attention to them, and they were as casual and seemingly bored as supermarket cashiers.
Click to see seated soldier’s smile.
On Sunday, our fifth and final day in Bangkok, however, the announcement of protests scheduled for busy intersections and upscale malls, a few of which were closed, resulted in a show of force. By closing two Skytrain stations and gathering at intersections, the authorities kept protests to a minimum and hardly inconvenienced tourists, except those hoping to browse the shuttered malls.
I remember reading about a single arrest, for someone using two fingers in a peace sign as her presumed symbol of objection to the military coup. (I may have missed a couple of others.)
Certainly, Continue reading