October is National Stamp Collecting Month

Since 1981, the month of October has been celebrated as National Stamp Collecting Month in the United States and Canada. November is National Stamp Collecting Month in the Philippines.

I began collecting stamps around the age of nine years old; counting a few breaks for other pursuits (girls, music, travel to name but three), I estimate that I have been involved in the hobby for a little more than 30 years. I promote it whenever and wherever I can these days, having begun collecting again following my move to Thailand more than a decade ago.

At the beginning of July 2016, I started a blog called A Stamp A Day on which I feature a different stamp (usually from a different place) each and every day. Different countries and territories have been included in a more or less alphabetical order and historic anniversaries and birthdays have been marked on occasion with an appropriate stamp. The write-ups (background histories on the issuing entities and details about the stamps) are often quite lengthy!

“ASAD” is my second stamp blog; Philatelic Pursuits is still active with a post or two each month. I also have a blog dedicated to postcards that I receive through Postcrossing, trades, or traveling friends and family members. I feel that the hobbies of philately (stamps) and deltiology (postcards) compliment each other. I recently changed the name (for the third time) and it is now called Postcards to Phuket.

I live in Phuket, an island province in the south of Thailand. It wasn’t long after I’d arrived that I discovered the Phuket Philatelic Museum in the administrative capital of Phuket Town. My first visit was in the midst of celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the reign of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I’d already been struck at how Thai people worshiped the king as a deity and had been swept up in royal fever. Seeing the beautiful stamps issued in his honor spurred me to return to the hobby.

While never much of a museum (a few dusty displays of telegraph equipment and several frames of stamp “reproductions” at the present), the Phuket Philatelic Museum contained a large shop which was filled with Thai stamps dating back to the early 1970s (all sold for face value), first day covers for the previous year’s releases, albums and supplies in a dedicated room.

About three years ago, the shop was moved to a counter in the museum lobby to make room for Thailand’s first drive-thru post office. Many of the supplies such as albums and ornate stamp pages plus older stamps were gone but at least I could still purchase the new-release stamps and first day covers (going back a year or so) as well as the annual yearbooks. The main clerk spoke good English and was extremely helpful. She was reassigned about a year ago, replaced by a woman who speaks very little English but is quite cheerful and always let me go through the stock books.

I recently visited the Phuket Philatelic Museum for the first time in quite a while and was told that they weren’t selling stamps anymore. There were a few first day covers remaining (most of which I already had). The clerk told me she didn’t know if they would receive any stamps in the future. She seemed quite upset about it. I’m actually worried that the museum itself might close down as I believe the sales counter was the only income source. There’s a meeting room that I believe used to be used by a local stamp club but I could never get any information about meetings, etc. I’ve had ideas in the past to organize a Postcrossing meeting there amongst members who live on the island or to form my own stamp club, but I just haven’t had the time.

I am now unable to purchase any Thai stamps locally; one visit to a nearby post office left me wondering if the two clerks on duty even knew what a stamp was!) I will have to rely on mail order until I find someplace else. It’s a shame as there have been some very interesting stamps issued by Thailand recently. I am looking forward to finding out what Thailand Post has planned to mark the one-year anniversary of King Bhumibol’s death; there’s already been an extensive series of banknotes and coins announced by the Royal Thai Mint.

The whole of October leading up to His Majesty’s cremation at the end of the month will be a period of intensified mourning in Thailand. The initial period lasted from his death on October 13, 2016, to the beginning of December (his birthday) when his son formally accepted the succession and became King Rama X.

While a number of people have remained wearing black for the entire year (including all teachers such as myself), it will once again be expected in public starting (I believe) today. Since midnight last night, all Thai television stations are broadcasting in black and white only; most of my Thai friends have changed their Facebook profile and cover photos to greyscale today. The public are requested not to engage in any festivities during the month of October and many entertainment and sporting events will be canceled.  There will be many other signs of mourning and I will put together another article in the near future detailing some of those.

I plan to do my part by combining my celebration of National Stamp Collecting Month with a memorial to the late king. I’ve decided to feature only Thai stamps on A Stamp A Day during the month of October, mainly those portraying King Bhumibol. I plan to keep the commentary to a minimum so that I’ll have the time (and energy!) to write a few how-to-collect articles for Philatelic Pursuits and add a few things to Postcards to Phuket as well.

Happy Stamp Collecting Month(s)!


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The Old… and the New

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I kept my previous design for Asian Meanderings for more than six years, using a modified version of WordPress’ Twenty-Ten theme with black background, customized headers, and other little tweaks here and there. The new design is actually the Twenty-Sixteen theme with gold-based background (although I may change this in the near future). It’s still basically the same, but different…

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Changes Are Afoot….

I would very much like to resurrect this blog and return to semi-regular posts. Over the past year or more, I have had very little motivation as I have developed into a very solid routine of working (I’m an English teacher in Phuket, Thailand) and being lazy during my limited days off. Indeed, the last time I went anywhere significant was my Cambodian trip in mid-April 2013 although there have been a few English camps in neighboring provinces since then.

With Aed Carabao, lead singer of Thailand's most popular rock group -- Carabao -- in Patong, April 2013
With Aed Carabao, lead singer of Thailand’s most popular rock group — Carabao — in Patong, April 2013

Asian Meanderings has never been the “chronicle of my life in Thailand” that I’d envisioned when I arrived here some twelve years ago. While I do a fairly good job at detailing my day-to-day activities on Facebook, I’ve never done the same with this blog. Too much “work” involved? I seem to suffer from chronically-slow Internet service whenever I do want to do something “significant” (such as uploading photos) online. I soon become frustrated and give up.

Aside from attending various local festivals each year, I don’t really do much during my free-time aside from read and work on my stamp and postcard collections. I have other blogs for those activities (and I haven’t missed a day on “A Stamp A Day” since I started on July 1, 2016). I have written about a number of the festivals over the years but, the only thing that really changes annually are the attempts at different photographic angles.

To put it simply, Asian Meanderings is in a RUT!

"I'm King of the World!" - High above Luang Prabang, Laos - mid-April 2010
“I’m King of the World!” – High above Luang Prabang, Laos – mid-April 2010

In the past, I tackled such lethargy simply by starting a new blog as a new theme/look surrounding my words always seems to do something to my brain.  Most of those attempts quickly fell by the wayside. I had reading and teaching blogs in the distant past that are long- (and best-) forgotten. My postcard blog (originally called “Please, Mr. Postman!” but re-titled The POSTCARD TRAVELLER Blog last year as I had begun creating a website by that name) and first stamp collecting blog (Philatelic Pursuits) are two that I’ve enjoyed doing and have new entries in the works for. Both were somewhat curtailed by my determination to maintain A Stamp A Day…

I have some ideas…

Rather than starting a new blog for my plans, I will try to incorporate them here. I am thinking about creating a new blog name (Mark’s Mindless Meanderings, perhaps?). I am also trying to decide on a new theme. I do like the old black-and-gold design but it hasn’t been changed for more than six years, I think, and these days I prefer something lighter. Other changes may include revamping categories and tags (daunting, to say the least).

What about content?

In Tiananmen Square, Beijing - June 2003
In Tiananmen Square, Beijing – June 2003

My idea is to create entries based on past experiences in my life. I have very few photographs that predate 2004 other than a mixed box of pictures my sister sent a few years ago. There are a few scattered from the earliest years of my childhood and then quite a few from around late 1992 through mid-1994 or so. I’m currently scanning the lot of them and trying to determine ballpark dates. I have long maintained a spreadsheet of significant events in my life and will attempt to assign spots to the scanned photos. From time to time in the recent past, I can use these resources as the basis for various articles, sort of a “jumbled autobiography”. If I tag them properly (year/month), I could use the entries as the basis if I ever decide to write a full autobiography (something I’d like to do for myself, at least; my grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease and that experience resulted in my becoming afraid of forgetting my own past).

One other change I would like to make is to cut down on the sheer wordiness of my entries (present one excluded). I may post a number of photos simply with (estimated) date and location/event. Other posts may include a bit of history surrounding the location/event or how it related to what I was doing at the time. In short, I’ll be making it up as I go along but with certain goals in mind.

Return to Johnson County Industrial Airport (Olathe, Kansas) following Damage Control training at the Fleet Training Center, Naval Air Station San Diego (California) - just prior to Christmas 1983
Return to Johnson County Industrial Airport (Olathe, Kansas) following Damage Control training at the Fleet Training Center, Naval Air Station San Diego (California) – just prior to Christmas 1983

Apart from these few general ideas, I have no clue as to when and in what form these changes will occur. I can only say that I am motivated enough — for the first time this year — to write on Asian Meanderings and let anybody still around know that, yes, changes are afoot….

I hope to be back here very soon!


Back to Blogging

This past November, I took over the position of Deputy Head Teacher for a large language school and teachers’ agency in southern Thailand.  In addition to overseeing some 40 teachers from around five different countries and a myriad of administrative duties (i.e., staffing our contracted government-run schools, organizing local English camps, writing course syllabi, etc.), I am still required to teach a minimum of 75 hours per month.  Some of these classes are “in-house” (at the air-conditioned, in-a-shopping-mall language school itself) but most are substitute-teaching assignments for the regular teachers when they take ill or need to deal with periodic immigration requirements.

The end result of this workload is that I have had no time to write for fun (nor have I had much inspiration or desire to) since long before Christmas.  The month of March – the hottest in Thailand, a country already boiling twelve months of the year – brings the end of the school year and a general slowdown in duties.  Most of my in-house young students have gone on “summer holiday” and my business students mostly learn in the mornings or evenings.  I don’t have to worry about filling-in at one of the myriad of schools scattered about the island (none of which are air-conditioned and all of which feature between 40 and 50 kids crammed into each classroom).

I finally have time for blogging once again.


Monthly Meanderings: October 2015

20151006_180341October was one of my more active months in recent memory despite the fact that I didn’t work at all during the majority of the month.  I’ve been an hourly employee for my teaching agency the past three-and-a-half years so I don’t earn any income if I don’t work.  Luckily, my savings cover those rare lean months of the between-term school breaks but that tenuous existence is about to change in a big way.  More on that in a bit.  As my “forced” holiday coincided with the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival, I took full advantage of the time off and participated as much as I could.  Both during and following the festival, I finally started exploring the many interesting cafes and restaurants that have been sprouting up all around the Old Town area.

Continue reading “Monthly Meanderings: October 2015”

A Year In The Life: 2014

SAM_1660The beginning of a New Year brings the traditional “year in review” post on blogs all over the world.  Thus far, I’ve managed to avoid such an annual wrap-up as I’m not certain it serves much of a purpose.  Now that I’m blogging much more, and am on the verge of several major changes in my life, I feel that I should finally make an attempt to look back on the year past before moving forward. 

ASEAN-member-countriesThe year just begun – 2015 – promises to be a significant one for many reasons.  Not only does it mark the tenth year anniversary of my arrival in Thailand but also the fiftieth anniversary of my birth.  In Southeast Asia, there has been a battle cry of sorts – “Are you ready for 2015?” — for several years now as the Asian Economic Community comes into full affect with English as its official language.  Am I ready, indeed…

Continue reading “A Year In The Life: 2014”