Update #2019-10

Greetings, readers! I’m (almost) back to “regular” blogging.

No, I didn’t fall off the edge of the Earth. I am just trying to recover from what was simple exhaustion. My 53-year-old body essentially rebelled against my unrelenting schedule.

For weeks, I had been looking forward to taking a bit of a vacation/holiday break at the end of the school year. That came at the end of the first week of March. However, on Wednesday of that week I was asked to plan for and run a two-week Summer Camp due to start the following week at a Buddhist temple school on the opposite side of the island. While we are normally given much more advanced notice for even the one- or three-day camps, I told my boss, “Sure, no problem!”

The Summer Camp was held each morning between 11 and 22 March 2019 at Wat Kitti Sangkharam in Kata Municipality on the west side of Phuket island, Thailand.

Continue reading “Update #2019-10”

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The Week That Was #2019-09

Wow! Last week was extremely busy and the week to come looks to be even busier. As I start to write this, it is early Sunday morning and I need to depart soon on a “reconnaissance mission” to the unknown reaches of western Phuket. I need to find the location of an obscure temple where I will be starting a 10-day English camp tomorrow; supposedly, it is on the route of a songteaw (local bus service) and I want to ascertain the travel time and observe local landmarks so I know when to tell the driver to stop.

I only took a few photos since my last update (and absolutely no video), including several of my two classes at Phuket Town’s oldest and largest school…

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The Week That Was #2019-08 (The Music Video Edition)

This is actually the second version of this particular installment of my “weekly” update column. I only needed to add a few images in order to finish one I wrote earlier in the week. However, I got busy and forgot about it. I decided to scrap it and start fresh.

Thus, this will be a very brief update.

Continue reading “The Week That Was #2019-08 (The Music Video Edition)”

A Flag for Phuket

Tri-Color Flag of Thailand, 1917-2017
Tri-Color Flag of Thailand, 1917-2017

I love flags. Since starting my A Stamp A Day blog some fourteen months ago, I have made flags and coats of arms a feature of each entry.

Indeed, my daily commitment to that blog is one of the reasons that there are often long periods of inactivity on my other blogs. I decided to take a brief break from “ASAD” this weekend; I’d published a more than 16,300-word article about the discovery of RMS Titanic on Friday that wore me out. My intention was to stay away from the computer this weekend…

“Creating” a flag for Phuket was never on my to-do list.

Phuket Provincial Emblem
Phuket Provincial Emblem

I never really paid attention to provincial flags growing up and very few of the flags of the individual United States intrigued me aside from those of Hawaii and New Mexico. I was thrilled, however, to discover the flag of Penang in Malaysia when I first visited there around 2010. I wondered why didn’t Phuket have its own banner.

Recently, I taught a class about the current tricolor flag of Thailand which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its adoption later this month. The main reason that the colors of red, white and blue were chosen were that the king of Siam wanted to show his support for the Allied nations against Germany after he’d joined them in the First World War. I thought again that Phuket needed its own flag.

A design idea popped into my head as I was writing my “ASAD” entry last night about taking a blogging break. The entries there always end with an appropriate flag and coat of arms.

Some of my favorite flags have always been those of the British Commonwealth which featured the Union Jack in the canton (upper left portion) of the flags along with an emblem, coat of arms, or other symbol in the fly portion. It’s an enduring symbol of power, I feel. It was only recently that I discovered a few French territories had the same sort of flag with the French tricolor in the canton.

This provided the inspiration I needed for the Phuket provincial flag design. I placed the Thai tricolor flag in the canton and placed the provincial emblem in the fly. Simple but it looks great. I only tried two backgrounds — red didn’t look good (too much like the British red ensigns of the Royal Navy, plus the red “bled” into the Thai flag portion); light blue reminded me both of the surrounding Andaman Sea (one of the colors of the Penang flag) and the Royal Standard of Her Majesty Queen Dowager Sirikit, the widow of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

I like it!

I then decided to find out how to make an animated “waving” version, expecting complicated Adobe Photoshop tutorials. While I did see a few of those in the Google search results, I found two websites with online tools to create the effect. One didn’t work but I’m very pleased with the results from Marijn Kampf’s abFlags.com. I simply uploaded a (maximum) 500 pixel version of my image and waited a couple of minutes before downloading a zipped folder containing static and animated waving versions of the flag. Very cool!

Don’t be surprised if I start creating even more flags. I am just now thinking of how a Muang Phuket Local Post flag might appear. Or a Jochim Family flag…


10 Years Ago, Part 7: First Songkran

This is the sixth of a series of photographic blogs highlighting my last days in the U.S.A. and my first full year as an expat in southern Thailand.

My girlfriend-soon to be fiancé-later to be ex-wife at the time was from the north of Thailand and shared her birthday with one of the grandest of the nation’s holidays, that of the Thai New Year or Songkran

Rot Nam Dam Hua, a traditional way to celebrate with elders. Most Thai people go back to their hometowns to meet their elders.  Photo taken at Wat Khung Taphao Ban Khung Taphao, Khung Taphao subdistrict, Mueang Uttaradit, Uttaradit Province, Thailand.  Courtesy of WIKIPEDIA

Traditionally, this was a sprinkling of water over one’s wrists from a small bowl during the hottest time of the year as a sign of good luck.  In the past decade or so, it has become an all-out water fight fueled mainly by sweaty foreigners bringing their SuperSoaker water guns on holiday and fully embraced by Thais who love a bit of fun.  Now, it’s one outlet for Thai youths to peacefully take their revenge on foreigners (farang) by dunking them with water filled with ice cubes and smearing powder on their faces.  It can be a lot of fun but can also wear one’s patience to the bone, particularly in the north where it can go for as long as five days and more.  At least in Phuket, the water festivities are limited to a single day – 13 April – and many businesses are closed in order to keep out the damp.

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As Dtim’s birthday occurs on Songkran Day, we originally planned a birthday party but eventually pushed it back to a later date so we could celebrate the Thai New Year together in full-on water fight mode.  She felt for me to truly experience all that Songkran has to offer, Patong Beach was the only place worth going.  As with many things, the first time was the best. 

We set out on a tiny Honda 100cc motorbike fairly early in the day.  As we lived in Chalong, it was quite a long ride to Patong.  The narrow road west was soon clogged with motorbikes and pickup trucks.  The beds of the trucks invariably were packed with people and huge barrels of icy water.  My girlfriend delighted in slowing down whenever their were groups of kids alongside the road armed with buckets and water guns so they could get a good shot at the farang (me!).  I was soon drenched and shivering.  At least I had thought to wrap my camera in a plastic bag but the shots I made while it was inside left a lot to be desired.  Each year, I make the vow to buy a waterproof camera but I never seem to get around to it.  Once we finally arrived at Patong, we spent some time just walking up and down the beach road and the main bar street of Bangla Road just watching the water battles.  Even the local fire truck got into the act with it’s high-powered hoses!

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The following two years, we spent Songkran in Patong as Dtim set up drink stands and made a little money selling water and soda.  We separated in 2008 and I spent the next couple of Thai New Years with friends in Chalong rather than brave Patong.  Twice, I tried to escape the holiday by leaving Thailand altogether – first, I went to Laos where I found that Luang Prabang had a similar water fight and another year I traveled to Cambodia where they don’t throw water but I got stuck in the mayhem when I took the train back into Bangkok.  It was so bad that it was impossible to get a taxi to take me from the main train station to the Southern Bus Terminal.  Last year, I returned to Patong for my first Songkran there since 2008.  My bus broke down on the hill going into that coastal town and we had to talk a few kilometers, walking targets the entire way.

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I’m not sure how I’ll celebrate the Thai New Year this year.  I don’t want to stay home nor do I want to deal with the crowds in Patong.  The government is urging it’s citizens to practice traditional Songkran celebrations due to the dire water shortage but I’ve seen the giant water cannons on sale at numerous locations around town.  We’ll see…


10 Years Ago, Part 6: First Thai House

This is the sixth of a series of photographic blogs highlighting my last days in the U.S.A. and my first full year as an expat in southern Thailand.

Now that I was a full-time expat in the Land of Smiles, the time came to find a home to live in rather than the dingy but cheap Thai motel in the center of the island.  It was important that we have someplace by the Thai New Year (Songkran) holiday on 13 April as this also happened to be my girlfriend’s birthday and she was planning a huge party. 

Continue reading “10 Years Ago, Part 6: First Thai House”

10 Years Ago, Part 5: USA To Thailand

This is the fifth of a series of photographic blogs highlighting my last days in the U.S.A. and my first full year as an expat in southern Thailand.

20060406-090505_10yagoTen years ago – on 5th April 2006 – I left U.S. soil for the last time to date.  However, I have very little recollection of the journey.  Seeing how I had been in Kansas City for a week prior to leaving, I assume I began my flights that day from there.  I really don’t remember, to tell the truth!  I have vague memories of having overweight charges levied against me at Los Angeles International Airport – I was carrying my computer backpack as well as a very large (person-sized) red duffle bag with roller wheels that broke before I’d left the States.  The first set of airport photos seem to be in the terminal and from my plane (China Airlines) in Taipei, Taiwan (the only clue to that location being the “R.O.C.” mentioned on the drug warning signage).

The time-stamp on the photos was read from the metadata, and is some 18 hours behind.  Thus, the first photo in Taiwan (stamped 16:32 5 April, was actually 07:32 6 April local time).

The leg from Taiwan to Thailand went via Hong Kong.  I do remember that we had to deplane on one level, make our way down a series of long hallways, go up a level and we eventually arrived at the gate to board the SAME airplane we’d arrived from Taipei on!  The weather in Hong Kong was much better than my previous 18-hour layover during which the city was being battled by a monster typhoon.  I arrived at Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok mid-afternoon on 6 April 2006, landing alongside a golf course between the runways.  That airport was downgraded to a domestic airport a few years later when Suvanabhumi International opened on the eastern fringes of Bangkok but I believe it is once again handling a few international flights.

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I probably flew on to Phuket later that same day and by the evening of the 7th, I was enjoying my first sunset on Patong Beach as an expat rather than as merely a tourist…