Follow me

Search This Blog

Friday, December 30, 2011

Thai Nudity... no images- culture.

This blog looks at where, why, when nudity in Thailand happens seen from the perspective of a normal Thai National and a European. The blog has been written without nude images in an attempt to make it serious.

As I have commented in previous blogs this month, Thai Culture maintains a rather conservative and traditional form and public nudity in Thailand is rare. When you compare the tabloid newspaper images from Europe with those of a Thai newspaper you can see that Europe is far more at home with topless female images on display every day. In Europe these tabloid papers show a daily diet of provocative and racey images that would not be accepted in Thailand.

Even when many people from outside Thailand point to the well publicised girlie bars, go-go clubs and shows and say this can't be true, the fact remains that the vast majority of Thai culture looks down on, frowns at and rarely gets involved in nudity.

'Thai Face' ensures that only those who have been forced or dropped to the lowest levels and find themselves in the sex industry would show themselves off in public. How you look is of key concern to Thai people and being nude in public is not seen as desirable in anyway.

As in Europe, it would never be seen as a worthwhile drunken prank, to pose nude for a picture or an expression of free will to be nude in public. The European act of nudity of enjoying time with no clothes on in public or at a nudist camp, would be a complete anathema to a Thai National.

Nude or topless beaches in Thailand
I know this is a complicated area of thought and a potential minefield for opinion but in my humble opinion, your average Thai citizen would react as much, and if not a lot more than a European in seeing a nude lady or man. This isn't an issue for tourist in Thailand in the norm except when Europeans visit Thai beaches.

Topless female sun bathing in a hotel or resort is not really seen as the done thing even though it does happen. Most of the time the hotel or resort owners would be too embarrassed to comment to a guest, but take it from me, it is not considered normal.

Nude beaches are not formally sanctioned in Thailand but some beaches are more known as more tolerant than others. Many tourists to Thailand from Europe will go topless but not on the main beaches. When women go topless they will get many admirers and often unwanted attention so these places are typically off the beaten track. The vast majority of Thai men are not used to seeing topless and so nudity creates quite a stir.

By the by....

Thai men and women.

Thai men and women are strong characters when it comes to marriage and living their life. By comparison European men and women share a lot more equal status with their wife's. There is a culture of acceptance among many strong Thai men for having affairs or taking up with a girlfriend while married. This is certainly not the rule but compared to Europe it is more common.

Coffee House sexuality.
The coffee house, often found in an established hotel is a feature in towns where men would go to be sung to /crooned at by Singers, women who, over time, might be asked out on a date by the men in the coffee shop. But this is more sensual entertainment and fully clothed.

Sex outside marriage
It might be argued that there are less cultural barriers to sex in Thailand than in Europe. Older Christian values of sex outside a marriage are similar to Buddhist values but failure to stay faithful in Christian lore brings out emotions of guilt where in Thailand the values it would be more to do with loss of face for your self or within the family.

Girlie Bars.. a go-go entertainment.
There is a lot of nudity inside the streets in places like Patpong in Bangok and Soi Bangla in Patong, Phuket but this is not the focus of this blog subject.

To help promote this blog I have listed the search words with a similar theme
Thai nude
Thailand nude
Thailand nudity
Thai nudity
Thai nudist
Thailand nudist
Thailand nudist beach

No Caveat
Again, these are my personal thoughts on nudity in Thailand.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What is Thai Face or 'saving face'?

What is face, or saving face?
Thai face saving is about how Thai people conduct themselves in their lives, a key components of the glue that holds Thai society together. Keeping Face is closely entwined with the many Thai hierarchies that exist in society, class, seniority in age, social or business position. Face is partly respect (giving face) but also defines the defensible boundaries between people in these different hierarchies (saving face). In a further expansion of the idea, face is used to define and measure acceptable social mobility between people, positions in an organization and class.

Thai face.
The vast majority of children in Thai schools are taught a strict moral compass at school, almost Victorian or Edwardian in it's attitude to style and content. These ideals place strong pressures on children but also give them a strong sense of what it is to be Thai and what is acceptable behaviour.

On raising the Thai flag every morning, school children are imbued with the strength and glory of the Thai Kingdom, a strong reverence for The King, fundamental respect for the authority of the state and an all important sense of where they fit into society.

Explaining why this is so effective in Thailand, 95% of all Thai's are 'same culture Buddhists'. Culturally and religiously they are the same, there is very little history of immigration. Their is a strong buddhist culture that ensures there are many children brought up by monks, especially in the poor areas of Thailand. Also deciding to go into the temple for 3 months absovles you from doing National service.

Aligning their similar education with a strong cohesion of religious thought makes for a strong sense of what it is to be Thai. This is something to be proud of and also something to defend. Thai people are fiercely proud of who they are, a country never conquered like so many others, during the colonial era of history.

Family Loyalty, society and Face
Living in Thailand is more based on the extended family than a European sense of the political society. Having said that, the the last few years has seen a massive upsurge in political demonstrations and a commentary on the political elite. As the Bangkok middle class voice grows, Thai society is changing, as the use of social networks and phones become more ubiquitous out side the capital, change is inevitable. However, whether it totally changes the family I doubt.

Families can be large organisms in Thailand with the extended family coming to dozens of people. Along with the family's trusted friends you can get almost everything done. Whether it is advice on the law, finding the right doctor, helping with a loan, knowing which governement officail to work with, the family knowledge bank is essential.

Within the family there are weak or strong bonds but when an indiviual is pushed, the collective face, support and help of the family will often ensure that the family stays protected and it's bond stays strong. As Thailand is a lot more focused on the family than many northern European countries beware crossing someones family face. Family will look after themselves.

Personal face
The way the shopping malls in Thailand are packed every day testifies to how important the visual impression of ones self is in Thailand. People dress very well and will tend to dress up rather than slovenly. How a person carries themselves and how they expect to be treated is important as it defines who they are. As with many Asian cultures who adhere to the virtues of a society with face, shopping by brand name is critical as it allows the buyers to define who they are and what group they follow.

Thai people don't take kindly to being put down, told off as this can be seen to breaking their face. This is an attack on their deepest held beliefs and if you push someone to this point expect a very strong reaction.

Issues come when foreigners (holiday makers) use of language pushes a Thai person into a corner from where their good manners can't move. Thai people are very forgiving towards foreigners who do not understand these rules of face and will let us make many mistakes but if cornered they will react very quickly.

Is face the same or similar to European 'Pride'?
As the saying goes, Pride comes before a fall. European values are based on Christian virtues, a list of moral do's, dilemmas and character styles you should steer clear of. Pride is something that society tends to steer clear of where as face is something that everybody in Thailand possesses. So on my take on face, you can be a European without pride but it is difficult to be Thai without face.

Having said all the above there are many Europeans who do have a similar or equivalent personality traits. The politician, the salesman, the perfect house wife, the guy who is never wrong, all have a similar traits. They will defend and justify their action, word or deed in spite of vague realities. This can have some aspects similar to face but deep down is something quite different.

Giving face
'Giving face' is the term used to show that you act in a way where you know the other persons boundaries or hierarchy and enforce these with simple respect and in some situations, flattery. This can appear from the outside as facetious but it has an important role of keeping the structure of the hierarchy in place.

If you are trying to work with someone who holds the power for getting something done, the process of 'giving face' can be a way of making the other person feel comfortable with you. I personally, will go out of my way to dress smartly and act courteously if I am going to see a doctor, policeman or government official as this seems to get the best and quickest results.

The digital new Age the youth and face.
The anonymity of driving a car, the phone and Internet means that since 1980 some of the traditional face values are diminishing country wide. The common theme with the car, phone and Internet is that Thai people do not need to be face to face when they interact. However once these same people are face to face their demeanour changes and people drop into the role they see themselves best representing.

Face in Asia
Face is very common in Asia but varies depending on where you are. Understanding the face issues and boundaries are essential for doing business in the these countries and greatly help visitors if they want to enjoy an extended stay.

All the views above a self observed from living and being strongly connected to Thailand for 20 years. I am exceedingly pro Thailand and if anything said here offends, I apologies.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thai food court

If you are a lover of Thai food in all it's guises then a trip down the local food court is one of Thailand's great foodie pleasures. Food courts are a name for an organized places to eat where the landlord will bring together a full and wide range of differing food types. These mini shops are owned by individuals who share their profit with the landlords and have 2-3 meters shop front to sell their specialities. As you go in you buy coupons and use them to buy your meals at the stalls. This ensures that the landlord controls the amount taken. The stall holder gets a percentage of the profit. You can return the coupons for cash at the end.

If you love curry you will love this!

Lining up for the coupons. This doesnt take long.

You might get a couple of curry stalls, a couple of noodle soup variations, Thai salads, chicken and rice, pork, rice specialities and Thai deserts and drinks. You might get Northern Thai food delicacies in the south and southern delicacies in the north so you might find it an excellent place to find food types you cant get in your hotel or resort. There are rarely less than 7 or 8 of these mini stalls in a food court but sometimes, like my favourite in Bangkok Airport, over 20.

Pahd Thai heaven.

I like going to the food courts as my Thai wife can eat something totally different to me and we are both happy. The food show cased is rarely available in restaurants at the same level of originality. I find menus catering to the westerner's tastes relatively mild in flavour and small in variation and so I appreciate this real deal. It is disappointing to me when hotel Thai food is so without any spice and too often lacks the intensity of preparation. The food courts are also fast and very good value.

Thai desserts

The food courts are packed at office meal times but as many people will snack these places are often busy throughout the day. Traditionally the meals are small because it is common to have
a couple of dishes rather than one large meal, European style. More often than not people will eat with friends rather than be alone as is the norm for most of Asia. This means the process of sharing food will allow you to try more than a couple of dishes. This is very Thai, very communal and very sociable.

Variety of food in Thailand often takes a traveller by surprise. The number and variation of ways of preparing rice or noodle, the number of soups types not to mention the variations of vegetable and fruits makes this experience truly memorable if it is your first time.

Fresh Mango with Khao Niaow rice and coconut sauce

Thai food courts are inexpensive, often street food brought into a collective environment to give the eating public a great variation in one location. Nearly all large public buildings seem to have them. They are an essential ingredient of the Shopping mall and can be found in their older format next to old markets.

Issan Food from the North

One of my favourites is at the salubrious Supercheap wholesale market on Thepkrassattri Rd Phuket. Here you can get meals with the freshest ingredients and the tastes that really jump out at you. The curry stall owners vie with each other on choice and variation each day creating over 20 different dishes just on each stall.

As it is linked to the wholesale market it brings in fresh produce and the meals are sold to those who know fresh and in that sense have high standards. It's not the cleanest of venues, it is open air without air con but the through put of food and the 600 degrees in which food is cooked ensures safe eating (well for me anyway).

A mix match plate from a curry stall

Another surprise food court I love is at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. Click on the link to see a video. You have to dig through the airport map to find it as it is there for the workers at the airport and anybody wanting the original local tastes of Thailand. (The food court is near the MRT, the modern rail link, entrance).

One final gem. Seafood which is so hard to find in many parts of Europe can be found at many food courts especially if you are near the sea. As well as having a stunning variation it comes at fantastic value. This is worth checking out.

Bar BQ squid .... wow

If you are staying in a Hotel or resort or seviced apartment you will not find food like this around the premises. If this kind of food exploration excites you then take a walk or get down to the nearest shopping Mall and head for the top floor.

More links to articles on Thai Food
Dining on Phi Phi Island
Recommended Trendy Restaurants in Phuket
Thai cooking classes
Restaurants in Haad Rin
Bangkok restaurants
Recommended Restaurants in Pattaya

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Diving in Thailand

Thailand Diving is an experience to match the best in the world though not all reefs and seas are equal. The Similan islands enjoy the premier diving sites but are out in the Ocean and so many visitors end up diving the Thailand's inland reefs which are closer to the main resort destinations of Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi, Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. These diving sites are more variable and are more influenced by local conditions such as the state of the moon/ tide, weather and season and their position in the greater ocean reefs.

Often diving is organised and pre-booked before departure. It gives you a chance to research the dive company, and work on any reviews, good or bad that might make your decision  easier. Having said that, if you are staying a luxury island 4 and 5 star hotel or resort then you will be able to organise your diving 'in house'.

Euphoria. Loving it

Thailand's most famous diving islands.
The Similan diving experience is perhaps the stand out dive location in Thailand as it is a series of small islands surrounded by beautiful reefs far from the mainland shores of Phang Nga Province. Diving in the Similans give you the best waters in Thailand, clear and free from any fishing debris and any of the coastal villages. The western coast is on the Indian Ocean and shares a similar but diverse habitat of all the islands that stretch from Koh Tao in the south, Past the vast array of islands off Burma and up to the Bay of Bengal.

Similan Islands

Turtle in the Similans... beautiful sand!

In the deep waters off the Similans there are a series of migratory paths for some of the Thailand's migratory pelagic species and whale shark, manta are a common sight. Many dive boats leave Phuket island or Khao Lak (Tapla Mu) to reach the Similan islands which lay out to sea and just over the horizon. It is only recently that day diving from the mainland has been made possible with the introduction of large and fast speedboats to take divers out as for nearly all the history of diving in the Similans diving has been done by live aboard. There are many live aboard operations that cater from simple to the high end luxury diving experience.

Phuket Diving
One of Thailand's key tourist destinations, Phuket has has a wealth of diving sites though there is very minimal diving from the shore. Most diving centers on taking the day boats from Chalong Bay going out to Racha Island, Shark Point and Phi Phi Islands. On Racha island the visibility is excellent with 40 meters being common. This is one of Phuket's closest reefs and enjoy all year conditions. Phuket Shark Point is one of Thailand's iconic dive days where you are able to dive 2 submerged reefs and the Wreck all within a 600m square.
The wreck dive. Reached from Phuket or Phi Phi
Cuttlefish off Shark Point

Phi Phi Island.
The famous Thailand island of Koh Phi Phi lies some 45km-48km from Phuket and Krabi respectively and is home to more reefs, rock walls, caves underwater pinnacles than most other areas of Thailand. It has the reputation of a mecca for divers. Not only does it have an extraordinary array of dive sites, they are often no more than 15-20 minutes by boat from the shore. On top of this and with speedboat transfers you can get to Koh Ha or Hin Daeng with in a days dive where you can get to see Whale Sharks in the right season. PADI courses are taught at the 15 or so dive schools on the islands.

Day Dives off Phi Phi Island

Manta off Hin Muang

Swim through Phi Phi Island

Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao
Diving off Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao is diving in the southern reaches of the Gulf of Siam and part of the Pacific Rim diving experience. This zone of diving is nearer the historic start of marine life and is open to more variety of sea life than the Thailand's western shore. However geographically this area is at the end of the diving archipelago starting nearer Papua New Guinea and Indoneasia. Although excellent diving it has less migratory traffic from the larger species of marine life.

Off Sail Rock

One of the key dive sites is Sail Rock, a large granite pinnacle that breaks the surface. Far from land it is an obvious location for schools of trevally to feed off the juveniles that cloud together in defense of these dangerous predators. It is also home to large schools of long fin batfish. 30 meters deep it has a glorious swim through that can be entered at 20 m and left at 5 m. This cavern like structure can be full of glassfish, confusing the way through. Home to morey eel and the occasional passing whale shark, Sail Rock is one of Thailand's key dive sites.

Whale shark off Sail Rock

PADI Courses to learn diving are taught at Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

Dancing Durban Shrimp

Friday, December 9, 2011

Phi Phi Thailand

Phi Phi Thailand commands a magical place in the hearts of all those who have travelled there. The sheer beauty of the sea and landscape of the island is enough for you to just stop and gaze, stunned. When you round the corner of Phi Phi Don, coming from Phuket or Krabi, the ferry boat rails are full of one scene every day. In some of the smaller boats you can even detect the boat leaning over fractionally with the numbers of people all on the left side, taking in the scene of Phi Phi Don or shooting off a picture for memory. It's as if Hollywood has taken the most glamorous tropical setting ever and plonked it in front your very eyes. It is truly inspiring.

Phi Phi Thailand. Phi Phi Ley

And yes it is the place where Leonardo Di Caprio made his famous movie, 'The Beach'. It was set in the jewel of Phi Phi Thailand on Maya Bay. You can see why this one Bay has the pull that it does. It is a near perfect example of that Hollywood improbable landscape that is just too pretty to ignore. I like to visit before 9.30am and after 3pm as it is alot cooler then and the tour boats from Phuket have gone back.

The Best of Phi Phi Thailand
The best place to start is with a list of all that is great on Phi Phi, the must see, top activities to do, where to go and then take a deep breath. For such a small island it has a superb selection of attractions, activities and nightlife.

If you like diving then Phi Phi has some of the regions best dive sites and dive schools. Phi Phi is at the center of things good in the dive world in Thailand. Whether you are new to the underworld experience and need to take a PADI course, or whether you have just trained and needs some beautiful yet non technical diving, or finally if you need something challenging, Phi Phi has it within 1 hour speedboat trip. In fact 85% of all the reefs are just 20 minutes from Phi Phi Don main pier so there is plenty of opportunity to dive and still get to see the rest of the island. This is why Phi Phi island is a magnet for divers and there are over 20 dive schools on the island.

The image below is of Blue View Divers that has an interesting policy of going out with the traditional longtail boats rather than the large dive boast. This has a double advantage to the diver that make it unique. Primarily you are very limited to the numbers in the dive group as the longtail boat has a maximum loading limit. The other advantage is that it can enjoy a different surface time between dives. Where as the traditional dive boat anchors off a beach, a longtail can go onto the sand so you can have a bit of an explore or a lazy moment on the sand.

Blue View Diving Phi Phi Thailand

Similarly, snorkeling in the shallow reefs of Phi Phi Don Island and Phi Phi Ley Island, some 20km of reef are tremendous fun place to explore. My favourite time on Phi Phi is snorkeling with the sharks, see image below. These black tip reef sharks are harmless to humans and yet make a thrilling morning out down on Long Beach. There is nothing like getting your heart racing than having an encounter with a 1-2meter long shark. The Black Tip Reef Shark are timid and time in the water must be spent without disturbing the sea or thrashing around for the best success.

Phi Phi Thailand. Black Tip Reef Shark
Kicking Back
Many of those who travel to Phi Phi Thailand just need the beach, a place to sit and relax. There is nothing quite like sitting in a world beauty spot, maybe with a drink and a chance to be still, take it all in and just breath. It's no suprise that people love to do nothing on their holiday as it is the way to unwind. As my heart beat lowers to my minimum, I find true relaxation.

Phi Phi Don Village
The village at Phi Phi Thailand is a mesmerizing mix of restaurants, bars, dive schools, souvenir shops all connected by pathways. There are no cars on the island so you just walk around. If there is one thing that gets you slowed down into that holiday mode, it is walking. At 30 degrees C, a brisk pace doesn't cut it. You must walk slow or you over heat.

The village is a curious mix of tourist land and the village. Thai people work on the island and they have their market center, their mosque and life goes on in parallel and yet both sides of the tourist industry walk along the same paths going to the same destinations. The walking brings everybody down to the same level and this gives a great village feel, a shared experience.

The Muslim aspect of the village does not have a large impact on the tourist experience. The Phi Phi Thailand Muslims are very tolerant and used to holiday makers. In fact 95% of the population has an income from tourism.

Phi Phi Hotels and Resort

Most Phi Phi Accommodation is right on the beach and there are still many resort offering the bungalow / cottage or villa style so loved in Europe. However in the last 5 years there have been some new low rise hotels put up that have increased the number of quality rooms on the island (namely PP Palmtree Resort & PP Andaman Legacy).

Prices are quite high on Phi Phi but you can understand that there are real additional costs in getting all your provisions from the mainland 48 km away.

Thailand Phi Phi. Phi Phi Island Village Resort

If you are choosing a place to stay on Phi Phi it is good to work out how close you want to be to the main Phi Phi Don Village. Some people hunt out the beach party scene and wouldn't be where it is inconvenient to get late night longtail boat taxis. Others need the peace and quiet of the north of the island at Laem Tong. I love Long Beach as it is close to the village so you can get a 10 minute taxi boat but far enough away so you can really get away from the village.

In the days of yore
I first arrived here in 1992 and for me, the charm of the place is that not much of the scenery has changed. (sure the village has changed and the hotels have improved). I have spoke to many of the people who travelled to Phi Phi before me and they talk of the time when the Cabana Hotel was a few grass huts on the beach. This part of Phi Phi Thailand has changed out of sight but in many ways it has become more accessible to more of the world. It is a great shame if you get to Thailand and you don't get time to see one of the truly classic island get aways in the world.

Phi Phi Thailand. The Remote Lanah Bay

The spelling of Phi Phi Thailand.

Phi Phi Thailand is sometimes referred to as Co Phi Phi, Koh Phi Phi, Phiphi, PP or Ko Phi Phi. Co Phi Phi is the latest spelling for the island and the Co part of the Phi Phi has all that modern SMS texting, twitter and facebook spelling cache that might catch on in a big way. The Co is the spelling of Koh which means island. From Koh to Co is a short step so you can see why it's happening. The jury is out on this blog on whether Co Phi Phi is cool!

See more Aerial shots of Koh Phi Phi here.

Thailand property,

Thailand property.
Many people from outside Thailand become so in love with the country that they can think of nothing other than buying a place in the sun, a bit of real estate property that can act as their get away from the pressures of work, an investment for the future or retirement home. Many expats living in the neighbouring countries of Singapore Malaysia and
Hong Kong are drawn to comparatively inexpensive property prices that can be found in Thailand.

Bangkok the hub.
Bangkok Thailand is the main town in tropical Asia. No other town has it's size and complexity, it's variation and business dynamism. It is no surprise that a lot of inward investment aims at getting a bolt hole in 'The Big Mango'. From here, a lot of business gets done, connecting South East Asia with Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. No self respecting businessman will fail to recognise this. There are many high rise luxury smart condo's in Bangkok and in the Pattaya (Bangkok-by-the-sea). These are taken up by all the world as they come to join one of the world most vibrant economies.

Second Home
If you live in
Asia in a town like Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore you might want your weekends on the beach. A lot of people think like this and there has been a striking number of upscale property developments catering to space bound town dwellers. What's more appealing than leaving the smog and congestion of the large urban metropolis's and heading for the Thai Islands of Phuket and Samui. A 1-3 hour flight and you've kicked your shoes off and are strolling down a sandy beach with a sunset a head of you, and a cool sea breeze un-knotting the stress lines accumulated during the week.

When you do an analysis of the living expenses in US, Northern Asia, Europe and Thailand there is a striking difference between the countries. Many people from Europe and the Americas choose to relocate to the tropics. Many combine the best of the seasons by living in Thailand during the northern hemisphere winter and then returning to summer in their own country. The perpetual summer feeling is a great pull and many gated communities have large number
retirees enjoy a great life style.

A house in the image above might cost you around £70,000/85,000Euro/US$ 110,000. You can see why many people are intrigued by the idea of down sizing their lifestyle and living in the sun for a few years.

What I have outlined below are the broad strokes of buying a property in Thailand. You will need to consult a property lawyer to get the full detail for a purchase.

Buying a property on Thailand.
Everywhere you look Thailand Property is for sale. The Thai economy has gone through as massive improvement of smart and upscale property development
. Initially in the 70's, 80's and 90's and the first few years of the 00's it was more difficult to find a well constructed house or villa with an equally good legal structure that gave security to the owner. There are now many property developments that have it all wrapped up. You might pay a price for it but they do exist. And what is more, the property variation has improved so that there are now many more lower budget properties of value.

Legally speaking, a foreigner can own a Thai Property but the land must be in a Thai National's name. This has lead to a dearth of legal companies who specialize in getting non Thai Nationals their dream property, condo or land. The vagaries of the Thai Law mean that there is a very definite way in which you can own your own property and very definate ways in which you cannot. It is important to understand that the law in Thailand assumes that the land is owned by a Thai national.

It is possible to buy land in Thailand but it m
ust be bought in a Thai national's name (or a Thai company's name). There are few restrictions to building in Thailand and so for those who know what they want, for those who have a vision this can be an exciting project to get into. There are many good architects and project managers, Thai and western, who can put the right team together to make a house.

Law and the Land
The land paper is a key aspect of Thai property.
By referring to the address and showing a simplified planned drawing of the footprint of the shape of the land and defining;
Title Deed 78699.
Land No.61.
Book No. 787.
Page 99.
Survey No 2586.
each plot of land is logged and is distinct from each other.

Issues of boundaries can happen depending on the age and style of the survey of the land plots. Imagine 200 years ago a piece of Forest is claimed as settlement land and turned over to grazing farmland with a farm property. The boundary markers are in the initial owner's mind and could easily be 'this tree to this tree, straight down to the stream and then nearest line to the road or track'. As a neighbour arrives this is not discussed in detail and a rough zone of influence builds up between the neighbours. After a few years, when asked to define the boundary both neighbours give a different boundary line.

Move on to this 1900-1990; newly settled land and subdivided land was marked by numbered concrete posts which were driven into the land. These points referred to exact points on the land title that could define the land. The only problem was that inaccurate placement of these posts meant that there could still be argument.

The latest survey techniques involve using GPS and having a very exact location for the post. This isn't always plane sailing as the team that puts the posts in the ground might not always get the posts to the correct positions for technical reasons, (granite boulders in the way) or laziness, to clear the undergrowth and jungle.

For these reasons it is important to understand your land titles especially in Thailand's holiday destination's of Phuket and Samui) as you don't want to have a land title that is in dispute with a neigbour.

The different names for the land titles reflect the type and age of the survey that define the land plot and the differing rights of use.

Chanote (Nor Sor 4 Jor)
This is the best title and is deemed full ownership and prevelant throught Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin. This land parcel is GPS surveyed and compared to the fixed national map. This will have exact land size and written on the chanote down to a square wah which is 2 meters x 2 meters. This land can be subdivided,
the right of use has been confirmed.

Note this anomaly even with a Chanote title; a land buyer agrees a price with the seller. The land is surveyed again and if the land amount varies to the sale contract, the difference is resolved by the buyer paying more or less from the value agreed.

Nor Sor 3 Gor
The survey here is done be aeiral photograhy and focuses on the boundariy posts between neighbours.
This land can be subdivided, the right of use has been confirmed.

Nor Sor 3 Kor
This is similar to the Nor Sor 3 Gor but there are no concrete posts to define the land.
This land can be subdivided, the right of use has been confirmed.

There are multiple more land titles defining communes, agriculture, settlement and squatting with poorer rights of use and land will be priced accordingly. As an indicator Chanote land may cost 10-100 times the price of the Por Bor Tor 5.

Por Bor Tor 5
This is an old right that means that Tax has been paid on the property but gives the owner no official rights except...the owner can apply for a Sor Kor 1 which allows the possessor to farm the land.

Upgrading land
The key to understand the title issue are rights. Some people have got a good deal by buying land with low value rights and then applying through the Thailand Land Department and the courts to upgrade the land title. This takes some perseverance and time but allows you more security on your land and increases it's value.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thailand with kids

Space, quality time with kids
If you don't get to see your kids a lot because of work and commitments, your vacation time can be very precious, a time away from the hubbub of the daily grind, the kids out of the repetitiveness of school life and the Xbox.

If I am honest, I don't really get to play as much with the kids as I want, as life is a frantic rush between, getting up, getting everybody to school, getting fed in the evening, homework, down time in front of the TV or machine and sleep. Weekends are not much better as the kids have their sport, their sleep overs, their list of must do's.

It's difficult to have strong bonding moment without distractions, or a common task or family chore. Travel can bring all these things back to the family in spades so in my opinion, the family vacation, though expensive is essential for a happy life.

Thailand with kids
I am often asked how to travel in Thailand with the kids and I say easy. Once you bite the bullet with the cost of the air fare I find it straight forward. I am looking for kid friendly hotels that have plenty of space, have good pool facilities and are on the beach. I am looking for hotels and resorts that have family rooms, connecting rooms or who can make up an extra bed in my room. I am look for resorts with easy access to international hospitals (God forbid) and are not too far from the airport. These can be found and a tour through the kingdom can be as fun and outward going or inward resort looking as you like.

Thailand for kids
Thai people love kids. They love kids and I don't mean in a creepy or oddball way. It's as if kids can do no wrong and hotel staff are more than happy to give kids attention or even play with them for hours on end even if they are at work.

Having said that, an area where Thai people can be a bit over playful is when they see children with fair and white hair. It can be a bit off putting as people will come up to the children and touch their head, their hair or might be inclined to give a friendly pinch on the cheek. If this type of thing would unnerve you be prepared.

Thai people love babies and again will be inclined to touch and pat which does make a lot of families uncomfortable. If this doesn't worry you too much it can be made use of. Often my wife and I had many pleasant meals down by the beach while a member of staff either held the babies or played with them.

On the whole Thai people are very generous and accommodation towards kids and go out of their way to help families travelling in Thailand.

Thailand for children
Children like many things about Thailand. There are many reasonably priced hotels that have wonderfully playful water pools, and water parks, have games rooms and have great in room facilities... like the dreaded gaming machines.

Western food is available in all 3-5 star resorts although my kids were happy with fried rice and fried eggs, or noodle soup or fried noodles as Thai food for ages. The bar B q chicken or pork appears every where and of course the ubiquitous fruit is a Major pull to all those who appreciate healthy eating. Now in their teens they eat a far wider selection of simple or light curries.
Playing on the beach is one of life's great pleasures and no less on Thai Resort destinations and Islands. Those families with kids new to Thailand might want to start their first couple of days on the beach at either sunrise or sunset as the sun can cause all kinds of sun burning or heat stroke. Shade time, Sun cream and covering up are strongly advised.
Thailand is a great Vacation for the family
The right hotel or resort for your family in Thailand can be a difficult thing to prescribe but here is a list of hotels that might be of interest.

3 star Merlin Beach Resort

Phi Phi Island
3 star Andaman Beach Resort
Family Bungalow (sleeps 4)

Samui4 star Amari Palm Reef Resort

Marriott Resort And Spa Bangkok

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thailand Tipping Custom - culture.

Tipping custom in Thailand.
A very common question for visitors is how much to tip in Thailand. Thailand is a tipping place and are expected. Wages are not large by western standards and the custom to tip helps keep a good quality of service and a smooth relationship between the tourist and the tourist worker. Thai people do tip each other so it does reflect society's practice in general.

Tipping amounts will vary according to who you are, what country you are from and where you are in Thailand. Some find tipping as natural as breathing and will put there hand into their pocket at the smallest trifle and some are a lot more careful. This is human nature. However it always nice to find the right balance.

When you compare the American attitude to Tipping (a real tipping people) to say the English (many people are down right squeamish when it comes to tipping and are considered poor for tips) it is easy to see why Thai people working in the travel industry contrast the different cultures.

Some tourist areas are more likely to require a tip than others. A 5 star hotel or resort in Phuket get on better with tips and tourists in will get preferential treatment if the tips are right.

How much to tip
Having lived in Phuket for some time and watching my Thai wife tip, the right protocol seems to be about gauging the salary of the person working for you. It is easy to over tip but this will cost you and there will always be a limit to how much better a service can be provided. It is better to tip with the right balance as this keeps everybody happy.

Tipping Restaurant Staff

Restaurant staff will probably get minimum wage in a simple local restaurant so 10-20 THB is greatly appreciated. In a smart local restaurant 20-50THB is good. In a full-on 5 star resort it can be 50-500THB depending on the size of the meal.

Tipping Hotel Staff.

I always tip the hotel or resort door man or bag carrier ( I stay in 3 to 4 star hotels) as this is the first time that the hotel staff will see you. I will tip above average here as this means everybody will naturally help you out during your stay. This isn't big money, 100-200THB to the bag boy, 50 THB to the door and the rest of the time during your stay, you can give 20-50THB and everybody seems happy and willing to help you at any turn. Some might consider this excessive but I often consider this a small additional price compared to the hotel room price and well worth it.

Tipping and tours

You don't need to tip a boss unless he is a one man band tour guide, ie a self employed. You would tip a a boat man in a kayak tour who helps you in and out of your kayak. The same for snorkeling diving and fishing tours. Aim to give a little something, 100THB to no more than 5% the cost of the tour.

Tip a Taxi?
Taxis don't need tips unless they go out of their way or move your heavy luggage around. But there again 50-100THB gets a smile that you remember as you get out at the airport when you return home. Tipping for a limo can start from 100THB but would rarely go beyond 500THB.

Tip on a shared bus.
On the whole I would not tip here unless the bus man moves heavy luggage or goes out of their way to help. Here I would rarely give 100THB but might easily give 50THB.

Tipping as a family
As a family of 4 I would not give any more than the figures above and would probably not give any less. How ever I would give on the higher side for the family and the lower side if it were just myself. The larger the group the more important it is to tip generously.

We only live once. I say, make someone smile!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Driving on Phuket

Driving on Phuket Thailand.

If new to driving in Thailand but intend to have a go in Phuket you might want to peruse these tips before you start. Although there are many many places worse for driving in the world, if you are only used to driving in Europe or US, it can come as quite a shock to be faced with the dynamics of the Phuket road. Although the great majority of tourists who drive get on and adapt and enjoy it, driving in Thailand doesn't cater for the faint hearted, so be careful.

Driving on Phuket. Kata and Karong beaches
Might is right.
If you are driving down the Thepkrassattri Rd from Phuket Airport towards Phuket Town you will be on the main artery for Phuket Traffic. These means you will be on the road with all the trucks coming down from Bangkok and other provinces. Many of these truck drivers have driven non stop through the night to off load in Phuket and often do not take a break. With out sleep, often on a lot of caffeine they are pumped up to driving fast. They don't take any nonsense, and believe they are in the right. Keep out of their way!

Meek has some significant powers.

The other key aspect of Thailand roads is that all motor bikes have great protection in Thai Law. The motor bike is the transport of most of Thailand's villagers and for many of the poorer people and in an accident situation between a westerner and a motorbike driver, it is all too easy to create a blame culture where the foreigner, who cant defend himself in Thai, is wrong.

Driving on Phuket, Driving amongst the bikes
Motor bike riders are everywhere and there are probably 5-10 bikes to every car on the road at any one time. I have seen up to 5 people on one bike. I have seen 10 year old's driving bikes and so there a can be a carelessness and randomness to the way they are driven.

Keep clear of the bikes! The way to do this is always check your rear view mirror on the undertaking side, at any real movement from your lane. Motor bike drivers drive on the inside lane, even if they are going faster than a car or truck, and so can come up underneath you without any notice.

Another way to keep clear of the bikes is to drive in the middle or the fast lane, though you will have to have a speed to justify sitting in these lanes.

Tour Buses and Taxis in Phuket
Similar to the Trucks on Phuket, Taxi Drivers and tour bus drivers some can be paid for results, miles driven and so there are some very aggressive bus drivers on the road. If you see what you think is aggressive driving, keep clear.

Going over the hills on the windy roads
Just after a dry patch of weather, often in March and April, the oil from any badly kept cars trucks and bikes which has spilt onto the road can be a very dangerous hazard. As the rain falls it combines with the oil and makes for a deadly slippery surface. The main accidents happen with motor bikes and especially when going over the Patong Hill down into Patong Beach. Take extra care during the rain.

Loi Kratong, New Years Eve, Chinese New Year, Thai New Year (Songkran).
The main festivals in Thailand are often celebrated with Whisky and beer. Driving after 3pm during Loi Kratong, New Years Eve, Chinese New Year, Thai New Year (Songkran) can have the added excitement of drunken driving.

Road Works.
On the hole, the roads in Phuket are good but potholes are an issue on the quieter roads and there are regular road works. Often there is no warning for road works and the first time you know there is any obstruction is when you are right on top of them.

Traffic Lights on Phuket
Traffic lights in Thailand have a peculiar variation that is worth commenting on. At quiet times in the day they get locked into a flashing amber mode. The idea is there is no right of way. As you approach the lights you must check to see if there is any traffic and avoid it. Often the wilder drivers just drive through without looking too much because it is not a red light.

Traffic is an issue on the from about 7.30-9.00am and then 4pm-5.30pm most days but especially during the Thai school terms which are November til April and May till October.
  • by-pass roads near Phuket Town at Sam Kong and the Central Festival (Thai Naan ) intersections
  • the main Patong- Phuket road
  • Phuket town north for 1.5km on the Thepkrassattri Rd
  • Phuket town south for 1.5km on the Chao Fa Road (from Chalong to Phuket Town)
It rarely gets badly snarled up but it does take time to run through.

One great system Thailand has on traffic lights is a count down shown above the lights between red lights. This allows you to know how many seconds before the next green lights. I think they should employ in the rest of the world. It is an excellent system.

Thai Law insists that you cannot move the vehicles from the scene of the accident. In fact you cannot move them at all until okayed by the insurance companies. This is because all accidents reports must be written from the last position for the vehicles involved. It is worth taking some pictures if you have a handy camera to remind yourself of the scene.

Be insured
I all things be insure and be insured for a comprehensive cover. The reason for this is that accidents do happen in Phuket and it is great to be able to phone the Insurance company. They will have English speakers who will argue your point as they are definding the insurance claim agaisnt their company. In this situation you will not need to to try to get involved with the other party.

Death toll
Last time I heard a statistic, 20-30 people die a month on Phuket Roads each month. Many of these accidents can be attributed to late night speeding, drunkenness. An aweful lot of these accidents involve carelessness on motorbikes. It is rare for tourists to get hurt. Be ever awake!

Car Rental
Driving on Phuket; getting a jeep down the sea front
There are the standard car rental places with standard saloon cars up by the Phuket Airport. Branches of Avis, Budget, PureCarRental can be found just outside the gates of the airport (on the left).

If that is not your scene, check out the jeeps on Patong Beach seafront if you like to get the air running through your hair.

Your Guesthouse Hotel or Resort
It's worth checking your Guesthouse Hotel or Resort in case it doesnt have parking. Some of the places in the back streets of Patong do not have onsite parking which can make having a rent a car a pain.

I love driving in Phuket. It gives me a totally different perspective from being driven around, a chance to explore a stunning island. Some people get upset with the style of Phuket driving but I marvel at it. It is an amazingly rich culture that can drive so freely without systems, and not worry about it so much. People get where they are going and life goes on.

Happy driving!