03 February, 2008

More snapshots from Thailand

Electioneering, Thai style.

Politicians aligned with Thaksin wheel out an old 'revered monk' who (they claim) supports their party. Mm, I wonder who's holding the knife.

The interim prime minister, Saryud, helps out at a forestry event. Whoa, not in Australia: catapults are illegal there. Like many Thais, he sees fit to wear yellow to honour Thailand's King. The Royal Marketing Promotions have come up with a new auspicious colour lately - pink - so everyone's buying up pink because it symbolizes the King's recovery from illness. Then the King's sister died so everyone had to wear black for 100 days. Individuality counts less here.

The Royal Astrologers are important. They correctly predicted where to find auspcious yellow coral on the same day two years running. Lo and behold - it was discovered precisely where they said it would be.
Wax carving - a float in a procession. Astonishing craft traditions.

Each person adds an unopened lotus bud symbolizing future Enlightenment) in order to gain Karmic Merit for the next life.

Western AIDS activists and harm-reduction workers promote condom use in Bangkok. (Speaking of which, we'd love to see you Nicolette, if/when you get to Chiangmai/Bangkok/wherever.)

The noodle-boat lives on in 21st century Thailand, the boat image still permeating the culture.. This ageing specimen is prominent in the outdoor smorgasbord garden of a ritzy hotel near us. Noodle boats used to be the distribution system for food in times past when canals were the roads (Bangkok was known as 'Venice-of-the-East"). Now, if restaurant owners want to display their pedigree of long experience in the food industry, they do so by bragging with an ageing boat... way up on dry land. An anachronism indeed, when Thailand's highways no longer look like this:

I spoke too soon. As usual, all that is old is new again - flooding near Bangkok is becoming semi-permanent as Global Warming sets in. This road in Ayutthaya is inundated so often that raised wooden walkways have been built where pavements once were, and hey presto the noodle-vendor boat is back in business.

More pix of chronic flooding in the Bangkok river basin:

This flooded chili farmer would be amazed to check out this NASA-Google flood map of Thailand. You can deliberately inundate the whole country with up to 14 metres of water and watch which areas of the map go under. Zoom in on your favourite shopping street in Bangkok to see if it will still be dry after a rise of only 3 metres. I wrote this earlier article on Bangkok's prognosis.

Thais are oddly fond of Miss Jumbo contests. Heaviest wins.

There's always a festival. The monkey festival at Lopburi is a treat for local simians. This one licks a giant fruit icecream on a hot day. Below, they climb all over a man at this thousand-year old Khmer-style temple. Hey, better him than me - monkeys have fleas and can deliver a nasty bite is so inclined.

Meanwhile, the wildlife trade goes on. Eleven dead tigers and leopards, plus 300 rare pangolins were intercepted en route to Laos:

And the funeral pyre... Tiger, tiger, burning bright... [sorry, couldn't resist]

And speaking of conservation issues, try this rare Maekhong catfish, now on the highly endangered list. Tastes like chicken...

But having said that, there is a growing feeling for environmental issues in Thailand... at last. Here people protest about a proposal to build a smelter and deep water port at Bang Saphan. I can only agree - we often go snorkelling at a pristine reef on an island near Bang Saphan.

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