25 July, 2012

Dear Diary: it's the dampish-and-not-too-wet-yet season in Chiangmai

OK I'm beginning to panic...mango and lychee season is coming to an end here in Chiang Mai. Guess we'll just have to fall back on emergency supplies of papaya, mangosteen, grapes, bananas, strawberries, custard apples, watermelon, purple figs, passionfruit, avocadoes, dragonfruit, kiwifruit, persimmons, pineapples, mulberries, sapodillas, jackfruit and durian ...plus the odd guava or longan (sigh).
This is just a brief catch-up on our latest exciting (legal) activities around Xiengmai and Huahin (yes, Huahin again!).  Not a heavy Wet so far this year, even though it sometimes looks promising.      
 Here, for example, is what is commonly known as a 'scattered shower':
 Now - continuing with the food theme - the latest Sticky-rice Burger with a finger-lickin' chicken-and-msg pattie, and other delicacies for when you're feeling a little squiddish:
WARNING: contains "pure evaporated cane juice"
...and of course it's just fine to install a hairdressing salon smack in the middle of a supermarket food aisle... well, isn't it? What could possibly be wrong with that?
Well yeah, food needs decoration to make it tastier:
...and there's colourful wine for the kids as well:
Then it was off in the Little Blue Bobble-mobile up north to Maesai because Nic needed to do a 'visa run', crossing over briefly into Burma (formerly 'Myanmar' :)  Stayed overnight at our usual thatched hut balanced on stilts over the river:
It rained hard all night, and the river rose spectacularly high and fast. Next morning, it was not possible for the usual crowds of illegal border crossers to wade accross. On a dry day, it's a very porous border indeed. Visa? What visa?
  Illegal? What am I saying? It's not possible for any human to be 'illegal'.
Chiangmai's scrambled egg trees are blooming:
 (photo sneakily stolen from Galen Garwood... thanky you, Galen):
...but they do seem to attract tiny Predator Drones: 
  The view of Mount Doi Suthep from our balcony.
 All that yellow probably made the local Redshirts feel uneasy, so they had a little strut around town, making a lot of noise with their Grateful Dead speaker-stack on a truck. They're upset because the Constitution Court just told them they couldn't single-handedly change the Constitution without a referendum. These guys don't want to understand democracy or the rule of law because they want their criminal leader (whose name begins with T) brought back and 'forgiven' for stealing billions of their own money. Huh?  They are an embarrassment to Thailand in the eyes of the world:
..and wouldn't you know it - as soon as we arrived in Hua Hin (the beach two hours south-west of BKK), who was the very first person we bumped into (in a fashionably sessee shade of red)?
The Thai caption reads: "Angel"
  For about 0.2 of a second I imagined this frothy kid's outfit on our granddaughter in Straya... but then, thankfully, the feeling passed:
We can reccommend the foodcourt at Tesco Huahin. This stall gets top marks for value and taste. $2 will get you a large and yumacious feed:
Hua Hin's seafood is to-die-for, cuz it's freshly caught and never frozen. Here's some of it at the KO Restaurant in the Huahin nightmarket, where $6 gets you a sizzling hotplate of the best and freshest spicy fried seafood ever. Get some before you drop off your twig:
'KO' is pronounced 'gor' and means 'island' - as in Ko Samui.
 Huahin's Scandinavian-Danish controlled real-estate market seems to still be doing OK, but we thought this was not a particularly auspicious spot to put an ad for a luxury condominium:
...and speaking of luxury, how's this for an expensive-looking chrome Thai-style gate with pretensions and false promises? You should see the fence! Yep, it's the Catholic Church at Huahin, where the church building is cunningly multi-roofed ...in fact, disguised just like a Buddhist Temple:
Back home again to Xiengmai to check on the progress of the new 8-storey building going up in front of Anne's cafe near the entrance lobby to our condo building. This funky pic was taken from the lift lobby on floor 14... What does it want, a cup of coffee or something?
...and a new shop display window:

They drive among us...

School bus in Thailand...

Finally, my usual 'Politics Postscript'...
First... Banksy's honest take on the Olympix:
 Second... an observation. Next door to us in Burma, things are alleged to be "normalizing" - if you choose to believe Americanized corporate hookers like Rupert Murdoch and his propaganda brochures like 'The Australian' newspaper.
In fact, things are FAR from what we think of as 'normal' for ethnic minorities like the Kachin, Rohinga etc, in fact most of the Burmese ethnic sub-groups ...except the Burmans themselves - the "aristocracy", in effect. During our five visits to Burma over the years we have observed both ends of Burma's social spectrum, but the most dodgy areas were carefully witheld from us... "Not allow go further, sir. Muss go back now".  Roadblocks prevent independent tourists from going to trouble-spots "for our own good". Yeah, right. Group-tour operators know not to bother.
Seveny-eight were killed in Burma's Rakhine State (mostly Muslim, near the border with India) just a few days ago in yet another episode of ethnic cleansing. I know only because I subscribe to local Twitter and sms feeds here in Thailand. However, the only thing that got to the mainstream News that day was the announcement of the huge new port at Dawei (Tavoy), near Rangoon. The Burmese know exactly how to use media smokescreens to distract Joe Public's attention.
Timing is everything.
It ain't over till the skinny lady sings.
(Same deal in Sri Lanka with the Rajapakse dictatorship).
The West is selectively blind when it comes to neo-colonial exploitation, and Burma is a seductively low-hanging fruit with plenty of resources and (above all) a non-unionized labour force that is willing to work for even fewer peanuts per day than Chinese workers. Unfortunately, few of the benefits and even less of the money/capital inflow will filter down to ordinary citizens, especially in the less-touristed and remote "no-go" insurgent areas where even Phillip Morris and Nike won't be allowed to build their sweat-shops.
You know who is going to benefit. T'is we who are fast becoming Burma's Big New Problem.
Corporations (ie, you and me) take by far the biggest slice, the Burmese military and fat-cat elite take a decent portion, and some among the Burmese middle-class will be handed a few symbolic crumbs whenever cameras are rolling:
formerly known as SLORC
The Burmese elite 1% understand very well that once the process of 'opening up the country' has begun, greedy western corporations and politicians will smell big profits. They know that the last thing any lobbyist wants at this stage of the cut-throat game of Burmese 'Monopoly' would be to have to defend its corporate investments against accusations of human rights violations. So something has to be made invisible to the media (or "disappeared") - either the investments or the violations.
Go on, guess which.