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  1. The Associated Press BANGKOK -- Attention Internet-savvy travellers: Thailand is giving away free trips to five lucky couples who don't mind sitting in front of a computer while on vacation. The Tourism Authority of Thailand launched a new campaign Tuesday offering five couples fully paid trips to the country's most popular cities and beaches. In return, they will be asked to blog, chat and tweet about their holiday in a bid to win a grand prize of $10,000, a BlackBerry and a video camera. Applicants should be "good storytellers" and must know how to navigate YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, the TAT said on the contest's newly launched Web site where one-minute video auditions can be submitted until Oct. 15. Thailand's tourism industry is facing its worst crisis in years, with foreign arrivals down 15 per cent so far this year because of political upheaval and the global recession. Tourism officials say they were inspired by Australia's recent highly publicized campaign dubbed the "Best Job in the World." The contest to serve as the caretaker on a tropical Australian island for six months, while promoting the destination on a blog, drew 35,000 applicants and worldwide media attention. "We got the idea from Australia," said TAT official Phanom Kaributra, who is co-ordinating the contest. "We think it's a good way to use social networking to promote Thailand." A panel of TAT officials will select 25 semifinalists by Oct. 15 and the winning five couples -- and grand prize winner -- will be chosen by worldwide online voting. Each of the five couples will be sent early next year on a six-day trip to different destinations: the capital Bangkok, beach resorts Phuket, Samui and Pattaya, and the northern city of Chiang Mai. Phanom said the couples would be free to explore but would not be encouraged to "go to red-light districts and places like that."
  2. Venue: Thailand Cultural Centre Time: 7:30pm, with an extra 2:30pm show on Sept 26-27 Mon, Sept 7 La Traviata, three-act opera by Moscow Ekaterinburg Theatre Tickets: 4,000/3,000/2,200/1,700/1,000 baht Wed, Sept 9 Tosca, three-act opera by Moscow Ekaterinburg Theatre Tickets: 4,000/3,000/2,200/1,700/1,000 baht Thur, Sept 10 Symphony Concert by Ekaterinburg Symphony Orchestra Tickets: 2,500/2,000/1,600/1,200/600 baht Fri, Sept 11 Madame Butterfly, three-act opera by Moscow Ekaterinburg Tickets: 4,000/3,000/2,200/1,700/1,000 baht Sun, Sept 13 Carmen TV, two-act modern ballet by Kiev Theatre, Ukraine Tickets: 2,500/2,000/1,600/1,200/600 baht Tue, Sept 15 La Forza del Destino, modern opera-ballet by Kiev Theatre Tickets: 2,500/2,000/1,600/1,200/600 baht !Thur, Sept 17 Punarnava, Indian classical dance by Kathak Kendra Tickets: 1,500/1,200/1,000/800/400 baht !Tue, Sept 22 & Wed, Sept 23 Moon Water by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan Tickets: 2,500/2,000/1,600/1,200/600 baht Sat, Sept 26 & Sun, Sept 27 Cinderella on Ice by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions Tickets: 2,500/2,000/1,600/1,200/600 baht Tue, Sept 29 Carmina Burana, contemporary ballet by Spellbound Dance Tickets: 1,500/1,200/1,000/800/400 baht Thur, Oct 1 "Evening With Jazz" by Starch jazz band from Switzerland and Beets Brothers jazz band from the Netherlands Tickets: 1,500/1,200/1,000/800/400 baht Sun, Oct 4 Romeo and Juliet, ballet by Shanghai National Ballet Tickets: 2,500/2,000/1,600/1,200/600 baht Tue, Oct 6 La Sylphide, two-act ballet by Shanghai National Ballet Tickets: 2,500/2,000/1,600/1,200/600 baht Thur, Oct 8 Mariza, world's leading Fado singer, Portugal Tickets: 2,000/1,600/1,300/1,100/600 baht Sat, Oct 10 & Sun, Oct 11 Fuego! by Carmen Mota's Flamenco Dance Group, Spain Tickets: 3,000/2,200/1,700/1,300/600 baht Fri, Oct 16 & Sat, Oct 17 Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, New York Tickets: 2,5000/2,000/1,600/1,200/600 baht - Tickets available from Thai Ticket Major, tel 02 262 3456 or visit http://www.thaiticket (24 hrs).
  3. PAKA LUE SONG, THAILAND — The Thai soldiers patrolling this hamlet racked by insurgent violence measure their progress modestly: two years ago, villagers closed their shutters and refused to greet them. Now most residents peer out of their wood-frame houses and offer strained smiles. Skip to next paragraph “The local people have started to open their hearts,” said Capt. Niran Chaisalih, the leader of a government paramilitary force garrisoned at the village school. Paka Lue Song, only a 15-minute drive from the provincial capital of Pattani, is ground zero for Thailand’s “surge” of troops into its troubled southern provinces, where ethnic Malay Muslims are battling for autonomy from Thailand’s Buddhist majority. The number of Thai security forces, including the army, the police and full-time militiamen, has doubled here over the past two years to about 60,000 personnel, said Srisompob Jitpiromsri, a leading expert on the insurgency and the associate dean at Prince of Songkla University in Pattani. The huge increase in security forces initially helped bring down the overall number of violent incidents as well as the death toll, which fell by 40 percent last year. But more recently analysts refer to another surge: the number of killings has risen sharply in recent months. More than 317 people have been killed so far this year, compared with 284 in the same period last year. The dead include civilians, soldiers and insurgents. “The militants have become more efficient,” said Supaporn Panatnachee, a researcher at Deep South Watch, an organization that compiles reports of casualties from a police radio scanner and local news accounts. Since 2004, when the insurgency flared up after a period of relative dormancy, militants have learned to kill with more precision, often attacking villagers with ambushes, Ms. Supaporn said. The surge in troops is palpable across the three southern provinces, which are only a few hours’ drive from Thailand’s main tourist beaches. There is now the equivalent of one soldier or police officer for every seven households. Humvees patrol the main roads, and police and military checkpoints screen motorists every few kilometers. Sa-nguan Indrarak, the president of a federation of schoolteachers in the south, questions whether the army’s presence has been worth the 109 billion baht, or $3.2 billion, that the government has spent in the south over the past five years. (Teachers, obvious symbols of the Thai state, have been prime targets in the insurgency, with 95 killed since 2004.) Troops should leave and the government should train local security forces, who have a better understanding of the terrain, Mr. Sa-nguan argues. Soldiers are resented in part because they behave inappropriately around both mosques and Buddhist temples, drinking and dancing and flirting, he said. “Thai Buddhists and Thai Muslims have been living together in the same society for a long time,” Mr. Sa-nguan said. “But since the military came in, they just destroyed the local culture.” There have been so many killings in the three southern provinces — some 3,500 since 2004 — that the government began distributing a glossy brochure last year guiding victims’ families through the process of applying for government compensation. The insurgency has been distinct from other rebel movements in the region because the perpetrators remain shadowy, ill-defined groups that do not claim responsibility for the violence. Experts believe the aim of the groups, among them the Pattani Islamic Mujahadeen Movement (or GMIP by its Malay acronym) and the National Revolution Front-Coordinate (BRN-C), is to cleanse the area of Buddhists, discredit the Thai government and put into place strict Islamic laws. But their exact goals and motives are unclear. Although the groups appear to have communicated with and received financing from foreign organizations, most experts discount significant connections with other militant movements, such as Al Qaeda and the Indonesian group Jemaah Islamiyah. The movement in southern Thailand, they say, appears to be a localized struggle over territory and control overlaid with historical resentment over the domination of the Thai state. For the rest of the article:
  4. Hua Hin No visit to Thailand is complete without a trip to the beautiful resort beaches of Hua Hin. Located 200 miles south of Bangkok, Hua Hin is one of the oldest and most popular sandy destinations in the country. While many of the other beach resorts in Thailand – including Phuket and Samui – have been over developed and overrun with tourist hotels and restaurants, Hua Hin has retained its traditional charm as both a resort and a working fishing village. The beach is over five miles long and surrounded by some of the best, yet least expensive, golf courses in the entire world. The city itself was discovered more than 80 years ago by King Rama VII. He chose the place as his home away from home when he wanted to escape the heat and humidity of the capital city. Once King Rama built his palace in what had up until that point been a fishing village, other Siam nobility were soon to follow – which fueled the growth and popularity of Hua Hin. The king's palace – called Klai Kangwon, which means “Far From Worries” - remains an official royal residence and popular attraction to this day. Public tours are easy to arrange – even when members of the royal family are staying there! Be careful outside the palace, however, because security is very tight and any type of public intoxication or other bad behavior near the palace is dealt with very strictly by the local police officers. While the main tourist activity is to lie out on the sandy beach and have locals bring your drinks or provide massages, there are sites to see when you've decided you've had your fill of fun in the sun. Most of the wealthiest families in Thailand have built their summer homes near the palace or on the beach, which means there is beautiful architecture to see as you stroll around and explore Hua Hin. Khao Takiap is a large hill that is filled with beautiful Buddhist temples and offers the best overhead view of the city, the port and the ocean. It is a four-kilometer hike, so you may want to rent a bike or motorcycle to take you to the top. The Hua Hin railway station is one of the oldest stations in Thailand and is so beautiful that it is considered one of the country's landmarks. The Spirit Houses of Brassiere Beach has a really odd history. Legend has it that the daughter of a local fisherman was eaten by fish because she was too beautiful to live in the world. Today, men and women leave brasseries on the beach in order to ask the gods for good luck. Namtok Pa Lau is an 11-tier waterfall located about 30 miles outside of town. It is easy to get to by bus, and is particularly popular on hot and humid days. Wat Huay Mongkol was where famed monk Luang Phor Thuat lived his life. He was known for performing miracles and his former residence is now a large public park featuring a giant statue of him as its centerpiece. At night Hua Hin comes alive with a large open-air market where you can buy nearly anything under the moon, and see what types of interesting fish and fruits the locals like to eat. You can also sample any of the many excellent seafood restaurants that surround the market. If you want to sample local products, look for things made from Khommaphat, which is a type of cotton unique to the Hua Hin region. They use it to make everything from shirts to large decorative pieces of art. The one downside of Hua Hin is that it does not have as active a nightlife culture as the other beach resort towns in Thailand. Your best bet is to hit the Soi Bintabaht and Soi Selakam areas where you can find local beer bars. By royal decree, there are no go-go bars in town. Hua Hin has three important regional festivals, including: • The Thailand’s International Kite Festival is held from March through May in Hua Hin during even numbered years. It features stunt kites, big kites, little kites, high tech kites, traditional Thai kites, and displays of international kites. • Hua Hin Jazz Festival is held through the month of June on the beach. It attracts world-class Jazz musicians and is considered one of the most popular events in Hua Hin. • Hua Hin Vintage Car Rally. Sponsored by Vintage Car Club of Thailand and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the car rally is held every December. All of the cars in the rally are vintage from the 1920s, in celebration of when the King discovered the city. Getting to Hua Hin is easy from nearly any part of Thailand. It is hooked up to most of the major rail lines and you can get a direct train from Bangkok. There are also several bus routes from both Bangkok and Malaysia. Overall, the weather is temperate. There is a brief rainy season in the spring, but the showers tend to be very short and are often over in five minutes or less – so you can get right back to the sun and fun! You will notice that there are many, many more Thai tourists in Hua Hin than in the other national beach resorts. While westerners do come to Hua Hin, there are far fewer of them here than in Phuket or any of the other beach towns. This leads to a certain charm, because Hua Hin has yet to be completely corrupted by tourists - and you can feel like you are having a very authentic Thailand vacation experience! So, next time you are in Thailand, hop on the train and check out the beautiful beaches, waterfalls and temples of Hua Hin. Consider it a royal experience! You'll be glad you did! cc 2009
  5. Banking in Thailand One aspect of Thai banking that becomes quickly noticeable is there often is no consistency. Different banks have different rules, regulations, and procedures. Sometimes that lack of consistency exists between different branches of the same bank. It is more of an annoyance than a serious problem, but often in one branch you will be told one thing and then something entirely different in another branch. Thai banks have main branches and mini branches. The mini branches are found mostly in shopping malls. The mini branches are quite convenient because they have longer hours than the main branches and are open every day, with the exception of certain holidays. The mini branches open when their mall location opens and usually remain open until about 9:00pm, depending on their location. Nearly every branch, even in small cities, has someone on staff whose English is acceptable. If you are to be in Thailand for on a long-term visa, such as a Retirement Visa, holding a Thai bank account is required. Many Thai banks no longer allow foreigners to open an account if they are in Thailand without a non-immigrant visa. There are still some, however, that allow you to open an account even if you entered Thailand on the 30-day privilege you receive upon entry at international airports. If one branch refuses to allow you to open an account, try another branch. Remember about the inconsistency. If you intend to retire in Thailand, but do not yet hold a Thai bank account, it can be quite a problem if you cannot find a bank that will allow you to open an account. However, if you apply for the Retirement Visa while still in your home country, provided that you are otherwise eligible, the visa will be granted without holding a Thai bank account. Once you hold the Retirement Visa you will be able to easily open an account at any bank in Thailand. All Thai banks permit opening an account with a minimum deposit of 500 baht. Upon opening an account you will be issued a passbook. The ATM card is called Visa Electron. There is a fee for the Visa Electron card. Most banks charge 200 to 300 baht for it. When it expires, the banks charge a fee for renewal, usually 100 baht. Banks that offer interest to a foreigner’s savings account usually offer only a very low interest rate. Thai ATMs are sophisticated and plentiful. Even the smallest towns will have ATMs. In larger cities they are virtually everywhere. If you make a withdrawal at an ATM at which you hold an account, there is no fee if you are within the province at which you opened the account. If you are in a different province, most banks assess a 25 baht fee when making withdrawals. If you make a withdrawal at an ATM other than your own bank’s machine, a 25 baht fee is assessed no matter where you are in Thailand. The Visa Electron card also works outside of Thailand. You can make withdrawals at most ATMs anywhere in the world. Most grocery stores, department stores, restaurants, and nearly anywhere in Thailand that normally would accept a credit card will allow you to pay with your Visa Electron card. PayPal now allows you to hold an account if your bank is a Thai bank. When registering for PayPal they ask for a credit card. The accept the Visa Electron card, which means you can have PayPal deposit funds into your Thai bank account. It takes 5 to 7 days for the funds to reach your account via PayPal. PayPal does not yet issue their ATM card for Thai-based accounts. If you go to an ATM representing your own bank, anywhere in Thailand, you can do much more than simply make withdrawals. You can do balance inquiries, even for other banks. You can pay bills, add time to your mobile phone, pay bills, and transfer funds to any Thai bank, including other banks. For example, if you hold an account with Kasikorn Bank, but wish to transfer money to a Bangkok Bank account, you can do so at any Kasikorn Bank ATM, but many banks restrict the hours in which those types of transactions can be done. The hours available for those types of transactions are usually 6:00am to 8:00 or 9:00pm, depending on the bank. At branch locations there are usually Cash Deposit Machines available. You can deposit cash into your own account or any other account. The machine checks the cash to verify the cash is genuine, not counterfeit. In most cases the funds are immediately available once the machine accepts the cash. In some cities that service is available 24 hours per day. In other cities that service is available only during restricted hours, even when it is the same bank. There are usually passbook update machines at branch locations. Depending on the bank, ATM withdrawals are limited to 20,000 to 25,000 baht per day. All Thai banks have online banking available. Some banks, however, permit online banking only if you hold a non-immigrant visa. Depending on the bank, establishing online banking ranges from quite simple to quite complicated. Once you have established online banking, you can check your balance and do transactions from anywhere in the world. Short of withdrawing cash, you can use online banking to do every kind of transaction that can be done at ATMs. Online banking also includes bill paying services. Billers that have contracted with the bank will have their names appear on a dropdown list. You select the company to which the bill will be paid. When filling out the form you will be asked for two reference numbers. Both reference numbers appear on the bill. Banks charge a 10 baht fee for each bill paid via their bill pay services. Some Thai banks have non-commercial branches in foreign countries. Bangkok Bank, for example, has a branch office in New York. That branch office has a routing number, which means that any funds you can receive by direct deposit can be sent to your Bangkok Bank account via the New York branch. You will normally receive the funds the same day they are deposited. Several banks now offer mobile phone services. If your mobile phone has Internet capabilities, the banks that offer such services provide secure services and allow you to fully access your account via mobile phone. You can check your balance, pay bills, top off your mobile phone time, and transfer funds to other accounts. Thai banks do not offer account insurance similar to the USA’s FDIC. It is advisable to be very careful when using an ATM. Make sure no one can see you enter your PIN. Change your PIN code on a regular basis, which can be done at an ATM. Do not let anyone approach you when using an ATM. If you use an ATM at night, try to use one in a well lit location with plenty of people around. If you are a regular traveler to Thailand or stay in Thailand on a long-term basis, then holding a Thai bank account is convenient and cost effective. Nearly every Thai bank assesses a 150 baht fee for transactions and withdrawals if the ATM card being used is a foreign ATM card. cc 2009
  6. When you go to an exotic new country, one of the best parts of the experience can be sampling new taste sensations at the local restaurants. Thailand is no exception. This is a country of culinary delights. From the extra spicy to interestingly sour you will find a wide range of local foods that will delight your taste buds, fill your belly and soak up tons of booze before you hit the town. Thai food is typically spicy and has many herbs and spices; this is for a few reasons. One, Thai’s love spicy food and two, the spices often have medicinal purposes. Many of us from major western cities already have a fairly good idea of what Thai food is from our own local restaurants. Still, the food here is obviously going to be better, made with local ingredients and not exactly what you expect. The first major difference that you will notice is that there is no knife on your place setting. Instead you get a spoon! This goes back to ancient Buddhist customs where serving someone a large piece of meat would be deeply offensive; so all pieces of meat or fish are already cut into small portions that can be easily brought to your mouth with a Thai spoon. Another big difference is that Thais rarely eat alone and everyone shares each other’s plates of food. Typically, if two Thais go out together they will order three main courses. If three Thais go out together they will order four main courses, and so on and so on. Soup also comes with every meal; but unlike in the west they don’t eat it as a separate course. Instead it is enjoyed at the same time as the main course as a way to incorporate a variety of taste sensations. Almost all Thai meals are served with a plate of rice. Every course brought to you will provide you with complete taste balance. If one part of your meal is very spicy, the other part will be very bland. If part of your meal is sweet, another component will be sour. This is also part of the Buddhist way of looking at meals. A Different Type Of Curry Curry is used in many Thai dishes but in a different way than you will be used to if you associate it with Indian food. Indian curries tend to burn in your mouth for long periods of time Thai curries, on the other hand, tend to burn hotter at first, but quickly diminish in your mouth. Nearly all Thai food is spicy. Hot peppers are in most dishes. If you want non spicy, make sure to request that! Indian curries are also made from dried spices while Thai curries are made from fresh herbs. A Typical Thai Meal A typical Thai meal incorporates many different courses including: • Tidbits: Small items to get your appetite going including spring rolls, satay and puffed rice balls. • Hot Salads: These are often spicy and more often than not have meat or fish in them. • Main course: Served with soup and rice. • Dips: Sometimes a main course all their own, sometimes they are included to be shared as part of the tidbit or main course. They are accompanied by vegetables or small pieces of meat. • Curries: These can also be a main course or stand out on their own. Curries almost always have meat or fish in them. • Desert: Because of how spicy most Thai meals are, Thai deserts are often much sweeter than you may be used to. They may add the pounds but they will be delicious! Remember that Thai’s don’t differentiate between Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. So you will not find the wide variety of breakfast foods that you will in most places. There are tons of restaurants that cater to foreigners and that have excellent Breakfast food and buffets. It is not unusual for Thai restaurants to serve food as it is ready. It is not considered rude to begin your meal when your food arrives. I have been to restaurants where I was finished with my meal before my friend’s food arrived. This is not uncommon and not considered rude to eat when your plate arrives. It is also not uncommon for a group to order and all share the same meal. I have seen many Thai’s order 3 plates of food and then just share at will. If you have an aversion to someone taking food off your plate, you need to make this clear as most people that eat here do so in group settings and it is considered part of the meal to share. Most places you eat will not offer ‘real’ napkins or paper towels. Instead, they bring you toilet tissue. Again, don’t be offended by this. It is just part of the course. You will also notice that after a meal, most Thai’s get up and go to the rest room and wash their hands carefully. Tipping is not considered necessary but it is VERY appreciated. I suggest a tip of 20 baht to 100 baht for a meal. It all depends on the price. I know most that read this will disagree but if you have a great meal and you had good service, give a nice tip to your waiter. To do this, you place the tip outside of the bin. If you place the tip inside, it is shared with the entire staff or goes to the owner. If you want to tip your waiter, pay your bin and think separately give them 50 baht (or whatever amount you have decided on) in another hand. This assures that the tip goes to them. cc 2009
  7. Because Thai boxers are allowed kick with their feet and use their elbows, Muay Thai requires a lot more skill than western boxing and can seem to be a much more brutal show. Yet, there is often a level of respect between the fighters that makes it a more honorable sport than the pugilism you may be used to back home. And, rather than the rap or heavy metal music that plays at many American matches, you will often hear traditional wood winds and chimes at a boxing match in Thailand! What you may not know is that Muay Thai is part of Thailand’s ancient heritage. Thai Boxing In History Traditional Thai boxing goes back hundreds of years and has been an important part of the country’s history. Many people are surprised that Thais, a notoriously peaceful people, excel at this beautifully brutal sport. The reason they do so is that for hundreds of years the survival of their nation depended on it. Because the terrain on the Thailand borders is often rough and uneven, it was not in the Thai’s advantage to develop long range weapons to ward off invaders. Instead they decided to create a close hand to hand style of fighting that would lead to battles that favored the defenders over the invading armies – who would never understand the local terrain as well as the patriots they were fighting. As long ago as the mid 1500s, the celebrated warrior king Naresuan The Great – a boxing legend – made Muay Thai a mandatory part of his army’s military training. Perhaps the most famous instance of Thai boxing in the countries history came 200 years later when the warrior Nai Khanom Tom was kidnapped by Burma during a raid on Siam’s capitol. After he was captured he made a challenge to his Burmese captors. If he could take on 10 of their best fighters at once and win, Burma would free him and his people. Thinking that they would easily prevail, the Burmese agreed. Nai Khanom then used his Muay Thai skills to defeat all 10 adversaries and return to Thailand as one of the nation’s greatest heroes! Modern Muay Thai For much of its history Muay Thai was a brutal dangerous sport. It was raw hand to hand combat – with ropes and cords wrapped around the hands instead of gloves. As Thailand has entered the modern age, the rules have changed slightly to protect the fighters, who now wear padded gloves and protection for their groins. While boxers can still use their elbows and feet during the match most of the other rules have been modified to comply with international boxing regulations. This has allowed the popularity of Muay Thai to spread throughout the world and today you can find Thai Boxing training centers in most of the western world including the United States and Russia. In Thailand itself Muay Thai is even more popular than soccer and is broadcast on television five to seven nights a week. Many of the fighters begin training when they are only seven or eight years old and some have made the move to western style boxing – and become international stars in their own right! The best modern Muay Thai combatants fight in the Lumpini or Ratchadamnoen stadiums to a universally packed audience. If you want to see a fight and not have to face very long lines, your best bet is to go to one of the stadiums around 6:30 p.m. on a Sunday – when attendance is at its lowest point for the week. There are usually several lower ranked fights before the main event – which you can expect to kick off around 9 p.m. The Rules Of course, Muay Thai has its own unique set of rules which may be confusing at first to a western spectator. Before the fight can begin, each fighter must perform a wai khru dance as a way to show respect for his teachers and trainers. There are only five rounds. Boxers must wear gloves. The gloves must weigh at least six ounces. Gloves can not be squeezed in any way that would alter their original shape. Each round is three minutes long and there is a two minute break in between rounds. The winner is decided by knockout or by points. Whoever wins the most rounds wins the fight. Contestants can only wear red or blue trunks. Shirts and shoes are not allowed. Both fighters must wear groin protection. Before the fight a sacred cloth called the Mongkol may be worn as a headband. It must be removed before the fighting begins. The cloth is worn to pay homage to the fighter’s trainers and heritage. It is also thought to give the fighter good luck. All equipment must be provided by the stadium. This includes a stopwatch, a signal gong, a warning bell, boxing gloves, water, jock straps and surgical tape. Learning Muay Thai Some men, after watching these beautiful guys pummel each other in the ring are tempted to learn the sport themselves. While that used to be impossible – as local trainers for centuries would only train local Thai men starting from a young age, all that changed in 1997. That’s when the World Muay Thai Council established the first recognized training academy for the sport. The Muay Thai Institute in Rangsit, just north of Bangkok was created as a way to make this cherished sport accessible to everyone and preserve its fabled heritage. All of the teachers at the institute are former champions and they are required to speak English. They will teach anyone and everyone – including women and foreigners. The course covers most of the historical and cultural background of Muay Thai as well as the physical skills and fitness training. You can take classes to learn how to be a referee or on how to start your own stadium or training program. Dormitories are available but you might be considerably more comfortable taking a nearby hotel for your 15 day stay. The first three levels of training cost roughly $160 per course, while the fourth, expert level course is much more rigorous and costs about $1,200. School management can help you with any student visa issues that may pop up. Come And Enjoy The Show Whether you want to just sit back and watch the guys fight, or if you want to lace up your gloves and join in yourself, Thai boxing is something no one should miss on any trip to Thailand. cc 2009
  8. As you travel through Thailand you will be amazed at the number of orange robed men and boys who seem to be everywhere. With their well shorn hair and constant smiles, the Buddhist monks are an iconic image of Thailand. Yet, while monks are an integral part of the local landscape, many westerners know very little about their lives or what makes them tick. How are they different from Christian monks? What goes on in their day to day lives? The answer is that Thailand monks live a very different lifestyle than their western counterparts. Buddhism is a much less restrictive religion than Christianity and a monk’s life is reflected by this. Unlike Western monks, the brothers of Thailand do not necessarily sign up for life, do not do penance and are often an integral part of the community. The monks of Thailand are encouraged to find joy and happiness in their lives – while Christian monks live a life of pain and sacrifice. While Western monks are seen as solitary dour men, in Thailand they are seen as normal joyful members of the community. Part of this sense of community stems from the fact that Thai monks are seen by the people nearly every day. When was the last time you actually saw a monk in America? Overall there are roughly 300,000 monks in Thailand that come from all walks of life – rich and poor, urban and villagers. The Way Buddhism is not only one of the world’s oldest religions – it is also one of the most widely followed. Nearly 1/5th of the world’s population follows Buddhism in one way shape or form – yet nearly all of them live in the East. The purpose of Buddhism is to find The Way – and that is the goal of every monk, whether novice or elder. The Way is a mental and physical outlook on life designed to eliminate sadness and misery and create a sense of joy and calm. This view of life celebrates education, compassion and a rejection of personal possessions. A monk’s true ambition is not physical assets, but true emotional happiness and acceptance of the irony inherent in every life. At the nation’s roughly 32,000 Buddhist monasteries the monks follow the teaching of the Buddha to find The Way. This is why you will often see monk’s smiling, laughing or simply sitting at peace with themselves and the people around them. Because the monks never require a lifetime commitment from any of their members, many adults will join the monastery when they face a particularly difficult part of their lives – more often than not for a period of three to six months. The idea is that they can use this time to realize their mistakes, plot a new path in life and get closer to finding The Way. The Young Boys In Orange One of the most striking things about Thailand is the sheer number of young boys who wear the orange robes that signify monastery membership. Many tourists seem shocked at the idea that boys this young may be pressured into dedicating their lives to a religion they may be too young to really understand. Don’t worry. Most of these boys will not spend their lives as monks. They will grow up to live completely normal lives in society as doctors and lawyers and laborers. Most of these boys are Novices – sent to the monastery in search of a better life than can be found in their families’ villages or inner city ghettos. Unlike in America it costs money for a child to be educated in Thailand. Many Thai families can not afford the costs of the local schools. In fact, Thailand faces such poverty that many families can barely afford to keep food on the table for their children. That is why the monasteries are popular. A child sent to a Buddhist monastery will be taught to read and write and gain the education skills he will need to live a happy productive life as an adult. A child in a monastery will also never go hungry. So, sending your child to wear the orange robes is often the best thing a loving family can do for their young boys. While some of these boys will choose to become an elder and stay in the monastery their entire life, most will not. All that have spent the dawn of their lives in the monasteries will carry the experience with them forever and have an understanding of The Way that will help them through life’s inevitable challenges. There is a saying in Thailand that means “A boy does not become a man until he has been a monk.” The Shaved Heads Other than the bright orange robes – which cover the entire body except for the right shoulder – the shaved heads are one of the most striking visual representations of Thailand’s monks. While all of the monks do shave their heads the sheering is done with as much reverence and care as any other part of their lives. Once the hair has been cut from their heads it is placed on a lotus leave and then put in a river to float off in honor of the Buddha and nature itself. A Day In The Life As you would expect, Thailand’s monks follow a remarkably regimented life. Every day is much like the other and every monastery follows about the same schedule as all of the others. These schedules are literally thousands of years old and are not likely to change in our lifetimes. Most monks wake up around 4 or 4:30 in the morning to the alarm of the temple bell. They rise quickly because it can take up to a half hour to properly arrange the orange robe in any of the four ways that have been prescribed by Buddha through the ages. Around 5 a.m. the monks – fully robed – gather in a central temple area and begin their morning chants. Immediately following the chants, the monks – elders and novices alike – then engage in group meditation until the sun rises – signally the beginning of their day. As the light of day starts to spread around the village it is time for the monks to begin walking through the town seeking alms. The monks need these offerings because they are permitted no worldly possessions of their own and are at the mercy of the kindness of the villagers. While there is no obligation for anyone to give offerings to the monks – most people are proud to offer what they can to these robed men. The monks walk barefoot with a tray over their heads. When they get to a home where a family is ready to make an offering, there will be someone – typically the oldest woman in the household – on her knees awaiting the monk’s arrival. Most villagers will offer food, flowers, cake and fruit. It should be noticed that the monks make their rounds in silence and never ask for the offerings. Even the poorest villagers are happy to show that they can contribute as it is part of their long local traditions. After the rounds, around 7 in the morning, the monks return to the monastery to eat breakfast. The next few hours are spent doing the work that needs to be done to keep the monastery running, including washing of robes, cleaning and physical maintenance. When a monk is done with his chores he will then begin reading and studying until 11 a.m. when the temple bell rings to announce the second meal of the day. As the monks prepare for their meal, peasants will again come to the monastery with offerings of simple items the monks might need – like toothpaste or soap. This meal is eaten with care, because it will be the last time they are allowed to eat until breakfast the next day. After the meal, the monks return to their primary responsibilities which include work, study and meditation on The Way. If a monk needs some simple possession he can ask an elder for permission to visit the village again, though this is not very common. Around 7 p.m. the monks once again gather together for the evening chant and group meditation celebrating the Buddha. When this is done the monks return to their huts for the rest of the evening. Mon’s typically share their hut with one other brother and have to maintain a certain level of conduct in the dwelling. Their bare feet can never point towards any book or image of the Buddha. It is forbidden for a monk to sleep in an elevated bed or to have any soft material in his sleep quarters. Therefore nearly all monks sleep on the floor. Treat The Monks With Respect When you visit Thailand it is important to remember that the monks are not tourist attractions. They are dedicated individuals who are revered in their communities. The monks will often be friendly towards you – and some will allow you to take their pictures. This does not give you license to treat them as simply a fun part of your trip. Treat the monks as you would any religious person in the west and you will avoid getting a reputation as an Ugly American. cc 2009
  9. Car Ownership in Thailand Owning a car in Thailand is not difficult, although coping with the way many Thai drivers operate their cars can be hazardous. In Thailand both new and used cars are available. You can also import a car, but the import duties are heavy and you could run into problems with parts and maintenance if it is a brand not readily found in Thailand. Foreigners cannot obtain financing for a car in Thailand. Your options are to pay cash, use a credit card if you have enough credit available, or buy through a Thai citizen. The car can be purchased in a foreigner’s name. If you opt for financing through a Thai friend, you must be absolutely certain he is someone you can trust. If the person is not trustworthy, he could let you make all the payments and then make the final payment himself and take the car. The car is in his name and there would be no recourse for you. However if he is trustworthy, after making the final payment the ownership of the car can be converted to your own name. Thailand is a right-hand drive country. If you are from a country that is a left-hand drive country, you will have to accustom yourself to right-hand driving. For some it is a difficult adjustment, especially if you are driving a stick shift. For others it is easy. While buying a used car is available, it is probably best for most foreigners to buy a new car through a reputable dealership. In most cases the only cars on the lot will be display vehicles. You will most likely have to order the car and wait for delivery, which can take as long as two to three weeks, depending on your location. If you wish to purchase options, in most cases you must pay up front for them. Service is readily available throughout Thailand. If you buy a common brand, such as Honda, Mitsubishi, or Toyota, most cities have at least one dealership. Independent service shops are everywhere, even in some of the smallest towns. Maintenance is relatively inexpensive in Thailand. Parts and labor are also relatively inexpensive. Service stations in Thailand are full service. If, for example, you come from the USA, then you are probably used to self service. In Thailand, however, the service stations do everything from pumping the fuel, to checking your tires, to washing your windows. All fuel in Thailand is price regulated. All service stations sell fuel at the same price throughout the country. Car washes normally cost between 120 to 140 baht. Car insurance is relatively inexpensive in Thailand. There are three classes of insurance. First class covers collision and personal injury protection. There is no deductible. Second class covers collision and personal injury, but will be covered only if an accident is determined not to be your fault. If the police hold you at fault, then there can be a large deductible or refusal to pay, in which case you would be responsible for damage to other involved vehicles and any injuries. Third class covers personal injury protection, but does not cover collision. It is recommended that foreigners carry the first class insurance. In most cases, provided there have been no claims during the year, depending on the make and model of your car you can expect first class insurance to cost between 18,000 baht to 25,000 baht annually. You must pay the full premium annually. Most insurance policies do cover other drivers of your vehicle if, and only if, the other driver holds a valid Thai driver’s license and is sober. If he is under the influence when an accident occurs, many insurance companies can refuse to pay. You will be covered if you are sober and either hold a valid Thai driver’s license or have both a valid driving license from your home country and an International Driving Permit. You must have both. Despite the fact that an International Driving Permit has a one year validity period, Thailand honors it only 90 days from the date of your entry into the country. Thai law requires you to have the license and your valid passport with you at all times when driving a car. Talking on a mobile phone while driving is prohibited in Thailand. If you are caught talking on a mobile phone, the fine is 2000 baht. You are required to display a valid insurance sticker and a valid road tax sticker on the left side of the car’s windshield. The annual road tax depends on the make and model of your car. The tax is usually about 2500 baht. You can normally pay the road tax through your insurance company. If you prefer, many bank branches can handle it for you. One consideration is dealing with the police. Quite often the police set up road blocks and flag down drivers if you have made a violation or if they wish to inspect your documentation. Thailand does not have probable cause rights, so the police are at liberty to stop you even without cause. For minor violations the fines are usually 200 baht to 500 baht. Quite often the police officer will allow you to pay him immediately, without having to find and go to a police station. If the police officer decides to send you to the police station, in most cases the police officer will confiscate your driving license and return it only when you bring a receipt proving that you paid the fine. If the police officer confiscates your license, make sure to ask where he can be found after you pay the fine. If you are driving in an unfamiliar locale and are sent to the police station, if the police officer does not accompany you, then in order to find the police station it may be necessary to hire a taxi lead you to the police station. If there has been an accident that resulted in injury or death, even if you are clearly not at fault you still may be arrested and released on bail while a final determination of fault is taking place. The vast majority of Thai drivers were licensed without any kind of driver education at all other than a 2 hour film they must watch at the time they apply for a first driving license. That can make driving quite hazardous and it is imperative that you drive cautiously at all times, making sure to be very observant. The sheer numbers of motorcycles on the roads can make driving all the more hazardous. While becoming accustomed to driving in Thailand can often be unnerving, being able to drive a car makes shopping much easier, getting to and from wherever you wish to go in the rain much easier, and opens all of Thailand for exploring. You might also wish to get a GPS. You can find a good GPS easily in Thailand, loaded with highly detailed Thai maps, but all in the English language. Having a GPS makes finding your destination quite easy and it can be very reassuring. Driving from city to city with use of a road map is fairly simple, but once you arrive in an unfamiliar city having a GPS can be extremely helpful. cc 2009
  10. Buying Property in Thailand A foreigner can buy a condo in Thailand. A foreigner cannot buy land or a house in Thailand. There are ways, however, to get around buying a house. When one is considering living in Thailand or buying property as an investment for renting out, one must consider whether it is more individually beneficial to buy the property or rent it. Most rental contracts do include sub-leasing privileges. If you intend to obtain property for your own residence, whether permanent or when you are present in Thailand, one of the advantages of renting is the ability to simply walk out if the need to do so ever arises. If you own property for your personal residence, one of the advantages is the ability to resell later at a profit or eventually rent it out. First, buying a condo. A foreigner can buy a condo in Thailand under his own name. The law allows 49% of all units in an individual condo to be foreign owned. The rest of the units must be Thai owned. In other words, if a condo has 100 units, 49 of them can be sold to foreigners. If you have the means to pay cash, you can buy a condo that way, of course. Many condos offer financing terms, especially new condos or condos under construction. Mortgages are available to foreigners. At the time of this article, Bangkok Bank offers mortgages to foreigners. A house is more complex. There are housing developments that have actually been designated as condos. Those, therefore, can be purchased under a foreigner’s name. However, a foreigner cannot buy a standard house under his own name. In times past it was possible to establish a Thai corporation and buy property under the corporate name. However, Thailand no longer permits that. If you already own property under a corporate name, Thailand has not grandfathered in the restrictions, so you do not have to fear losing your property. You can, however, buy a house under a Thai citizen’s name. The way that is done is to buy the property and take out a long-term prepaid lease on the property. That is done at the time of closing and it is highly recommended to do it through a competent Thai attorney. All at one time, the final payment on the house is made. The rental contract is signed. Then the rental contract is registered at the local Land Office, thus making the property effectively your own for the duration of the contract. There are pitfalls to consider. The Thai person with whom you are working must be someone you can be absolutely certain you can trust, especially if you are financing the purchase. There have been cases in which a foreigner makes payments on the house, and then when the final payment is to be made the Thai person, in whose name the property is being purchased, makes the final payment himself and now the house is his. There would be nothing you could do about it. Also, if you buy the house without taking out a lease, then at any time the Thai person could force you out since the house is in his name. Also, when the long-term lease expires, the Thai person could refuse to renew the lease. Another consideration is resale of the house. Because the house is in a Thai name, there would be nothing to prevent him from selling the house once the lease expires. If you have no lease, then there is nothing to prevent him from selling the house out from under you at any time. There is also nothing to prevent him from taking out a mortgage on the property, whether via a bank or legitimate financing agency or via an individual. If he does not pay off the mortgage, then the house becomes the property of whoever is holding the paper. However, if you have a long-term lease, the lease must be honored no matter whose name the property is in. Obviously, buying a condo eliminates those risks, but there are still risks to consider. If you are buying a condo that is under construction, there have been incidents in which major delays, sometimes for years, have occurred. There have also been incidents in which the builder goes bankrupt or simply abandons the project and it becomes extremely difficult, probably impossible, to recover the money you have already invested. If you are buying a condo under construction, it is essential to make certain you are dealing with a reputable company with an established reputation. If you are buying an established condo, it is also necessary to check for any problems before you buy. The types of problems people encounter have included maintenance fees, but little or no actual maintenance. There have been “condo commando†types of problems. Other considerations include general condition of the building itself, location, availability of transportation, parking, security, fire escapes, sprinkler system protection, condition of elevators, proximity to shopping, etc. You should also check things such as the availability of Internet or how well WIFI works in the unit you are considering. Provided that you consider the risks and check all that needs to be checked, property ownership can be the best way to reside in Thailand for a great many foreigners. It all depends upon your own needs and desires. cc 2009
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  12. Welcome! We hope you enjoy it. We have just opened up to the portal to the world so it may be a little slow going but we will work hard to keep it active and fun.
  13. We currently have them member ranks set to: Newbie 0 Member 10 Advanced Member 30 We are looking for more creative names for the ranking of members. Suggestions are appreciated. 0-10 11-30 31-50 51-100 100-250 250-500 500-1000 1000 plus We will also be having a contest that will be a great prize for those that obtain the 500 plus posts in the first year and another contest for those that obtain 1000 plus posts. Lets have some creative ideas guys and gals!