This third week of the year was a little odd, albeit rather routine.
I didn’t teach very much this past week, which doesn’t really bother me. Living and working in Thailand, you come to expect more cancellations than not. I don’t ever have classes on Tuesdays at the large municipal school where I spend my mid-mornings to early afternoons but I still journeyed to my agency that day in order to teach a two-and-a-half hour lesson in the evening. I was informed five or ten minutes before class time that the student was ill. Wednesday was National Teacher’s Day in Thailand so all the government schools were closed and the students were extremely ill-behaved on Thursday. I was quite strict with them on Friday and they settled down somewhat. My evening student cancelled again on Thursday and a young girl I’ve been teaching for nearly a year now cancelled her Saturday morning lesson. On both of these particular days, the students had cancelled at least a day in advance but nobody thought to inform me to save me the bus trip to the agency. It’s really annoying, but I can always find something to do in the office.
The week of January 7-13, 2019, was fairly active in my little world extending between my home in the heart of Old Town Phuket, Thailand, and a bit west to my office in the bowels of the Central Festival mall smack dab in the center of the island with frequent stops approximately halfway between those two locations on those days that I teach high school in the huge Plukpanya Municipal School. I rarely venture outside of this rather narrow band.
At long last, the silence has been broken! Honestly, I start too many entries in a similar fashion on this blog. The last period of activity stretched from the end of July 2018 until i posted my New Year’s Eve shaky-cam video earlier this week. I haven’t checked but I believe it to have been the longest gap in the history of Asian Meanderings and perhaps going back as far as ‘Burque Blog. Does anybody remember that incarnation?
As the end of 2018 approached, I thought that the best way to rejuvenate what was once my one and only blog was by taking a look at the year that was. I began sorting through photos taken and journal entries written each day in attempts to find something interesting to highlight. There were quite a few blog-worthy happenings throughout the year but I quickly bored of trying to find them and put them into a form that people would actually enjoy reading! I got as far as mid-March before I abandoned the project.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…