Thursday, 28 April 2011

Kanchanaburi - ANZAC Day dawn service at Hellfire Pass

I will be writing up several blogs on the Burma Thai Railway, the Bridge on River Kwai, Hellfiire Pass and Three Pagodas Pass shortly, but in the meantime a few photos from the ANZAC Day ceremony held on April 25 in Hellfire Pass, which is always a privilege to attend ...

Hellfire Pass (or Konyu Cutting) was hacked out of rock with minimal equipment
and has come to symbolise the atrocities of the Death Railway. It was originally planned to be a tunnel through this rugged terrain, but tunnelling equipment could not be shipped from Japan in time.

The crowds have been growing in recent years, estimated this year by
Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum manager Bill Slape to be around 1500.
Many in attendance are veterans themselves, with a lot of Vietnam war veterans in particular joining tour groups.

The TWO minutes silence is stunningly powerful among the soaring teak trees and the dawn chorus of  bird song.
This wreath sums up the sacrifice. 12,800 Allied PoWs died building the railway,
as did around 100,000 unheralded Asian labourers.

The guest of honour in 2011 was the Governor General of Australia, HE Quentin Bryce, seen here chatting to some of the former PoWs, including Bill Haskell, Lex Arthurson, Cyril Gilbert and Neil Macpherson.
An Aussie flag in the wall near the spot where legendary Aussie doctor Weary Dunlop's ashes are scattered.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

iPad 3 g now available in amazing Thailand

Having trouble getting your hands on the new iPad? No problem, jing jing.

Spotted yesterday at the markets at Three Pagodas Pass on the Thailand Myanmar border ... cutting-edge original iPad 3 g imported from Myanmar (Burma), with authentic retro styling (special offer: free stylus while stocks last).




Tattoos -- (Th)ink twice, mark my words

Ok, here's your lateral thinking quiz for the day ...

You're one of many Thai girls with a farang boyfriend. You love him long time (like most bar girls do, jing jing). So much so, you decide to get a tattoo of his name, Mark.

So you head down to the tattoo parlor in Bangkok and request your boyfriend's name to be inked into your left arm.

You emerge with his name in 1.5-inch letters running gloriously down your left shoulder for all the world to see: M A R K.


But then, the unimaginable happens ... you break up with him. But you still have his name branded on your arm. Suddenly his name is a REAL four letter word!

So what would you do?

Scroll down for the clever solution I saw recently in Kanchanaburi (where said bar girl now works) ...




keep scrolling ...




keep scrolling ...




keep scrolling ...




That's right! She changed the word to M A R K E T. Full points for ingenuity; just a shame they didn't match the font size!

For the record she's no stranger to tattoos ... on her right shoulder is a tattoo of some kind of aquarium scene, a naga fish or something.

But it would be improper to suggest she was some kind of seafood market ...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Thailand travels just got cheaper -- hot hotel deals from Agoda

Hot on the heels of yesterday's Travel Easy 45% Thailand sale, Agoda have come out with their special hotel sale prices for the Kingdom too.

Click on http://www.agoda.com/asia/thailand.html now to save on your holiday to Thailand.

They have 3103 hotels in Thailand listed, jing jing, so choose from these exotic destinations:
Hmmm, just looking at that list I realise I've never been to Koh Chang yet. 

Time to pack the bags and head out ... 


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

In northern Thailand go go to the Wiang Haeng Cowboy Bar

As the marketing slogan goes, Amazing Thailand always amazes you. Well, I'm here to tell you folks about something truly surreal ...

Don't walk this line ...
Picture a scorching day in the mountains near the Thailand Burma border around Ban Chong, where the Wiang In temple has a rickety bamboo fence running between its two major Burmese-style structures. Half of it is in Thailand, the other Burma. The fence line is said to be mined and I'm prepared to accept that rumour without verifying it personally.

Skirmishes here as recently as 2002 pushed the Burmese back to the top of the hill, from where their border patrol now look down at us gawking at the temple complex and memorials to Shan state warriors in the area.
All of this puts you in a very exotic Oriental head space.

Then, 20 minutes down the road, through beautiful teak wood-lined roads, we arrive at the insignificant town of Wiang Haeng. A rice paddy here, a buffalo there, a temple on that side, and the Cowboy Bar.

A real cowboy town ...
What the ... ??? An imposing wood-plank structure with a pink sign on its roof reading, yes, that's right, Cowboy Bar, jing jing. East and West come smashing into each other in a spectacular and surreal cultural collision.


With a screech of brakes, I affect U-turn to check it out. Statues of cowboys adorn the veranda outside, with a set of real live swinging saloon doors leading inside.It's straight out of High Noon and I expect John Wayne to be propping up the bar inside.

Instead, I meet the grinning Mr Tan, who could pass for Charles Bronson after a few Leo beers. (Not that ever I've seen Charles Bronson drinking Leo mind you.)

Charles Bronson after 4 Leos
I buy Mr Tan (who pronounces his name to rhyme with 'fan' not 'fun' as most foreigners would) a beer and ask him some tough questions as I Walk the Line blares out from the elaborate KTV set-up on the stage behind. Yes, they play both kinds of music ...

So, how do you get a country and western saloon all the way out here? "This is a cowboy town," he says, "everybody work with cow and buffalo."

So, are you a big fan of country music, Mr Tan? "Yes."

So, Mr Tan, who are your favourite country music stars. Silence. Do you like Johnny Cash? Blank stare. Willie Nelson -- you've gotta love Willie Nelson right? Um, Hank Williams? After some considerable thought, a glimmer returns to his eyes, and the laconic Mr Tan delivers up his words of wisdom. "Lennon John."

He opened this place about 4 months ago now, and it seems to do a roaring trade at lunch, afternoon, and dinner. He's even got bungalows out the back across a big fish pond type thing. "You should stay." I will next time for sure now that I know the Cowboy bar is here. In fact, a posse of us are going to come back all dressed in black, with 10-gallon hats on, and make complete country bumpkins of ourselves.

As we enjoy the fading rays of evening sun, a few of the local cowgirls bring out some snacks. Nice and crispy french fries and, um, fried frog legs. Suddenly it's Le Coq d'Or or Le Cowboy Bar et Bistrot. We're a long way from France. In fact, we're even a long way from ANY damn place here. Especially Soi Cowboy.  Turns out the frogs are from the rice fields around; a local delicacy. I pass. One of our group, a Thai lass nicknamed Kob (frog) turns cannibal.

Charles Bronson MUCH later
In case you get the wrong idea about this place, it's not a Thailand Go Go bar. Simply a country-themed pub restaurant (and goodbye to those readers who were only interested in a story about a pub full of Thai girls) about 2.5 hours northwest of Chiang Mai. In fact Mr Tan has never heard of the notorious Soi Cowboy nor Patpong famous for their Bangkok nightlife. He's just an innocent country boy.

Yelps of "Yeehaaa!" echo across the valley as Johnny Cash's I Walk The Line comes on for a second time (maybe they only have CDs in their collection?).

So are we the first farangs to come here, I ask? "No, have a couple of Americans before." Gee, they must've been lost to find this place. Or Mormons on patrol.

With lots of back-slapping bonhomie, we promise Mr Tan we will be back. (I think he looked pleased!).

With that, we saddle up and ride off into the sunset out of Dodge ...

Go country at www.cowboywianghaeng.com








Thailand travels just got 45% cheaper with Travel Easy

Travel Easy just made your Thailand travels a whole lot cheaper.

Save big with their current deal of up to 45% off, jing jing


Whether it's a Bangkok hotel, Phuket resorts (who doesn't love a bit of sun and fun on Phuket beaches), Krabi, Ko Samui, Pattaya, Chonburi, etc, Thailand holidays just went from being a distant pipe dream to a 'mad if you don't'. This is crazy -- Amazing Thailand is already voted the world's best value destination each year.

So get your leave application in today, and suggest to your boss that he or she also needs a holiday to Thailand ... just not at the same time as yours of course!


Check out Travel Easy's sale here: http://www.traveleasy.com.au/hoteldeals?country=THAILAND

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Songkran Round Up -- best photos from around Thailand

Try as I might, words don't really catch the flavour of Songkran ... there's a special feeling in the air (er, make that a flying fountain of icy water headed your way in the air).

So here's a round-up of great photo galleries and info of this great festival in various parts of Thailand.

First, from Pattaya Mail (http://pattayamail.com/pictures/songkran-festival-2011/)

And from Phuket (http://www.phuket.com/festival/songkran.htm)

And from Koh Samui (http://samui.sawadee.com/festivals/index.htm)

And finally from Khao San Road, Bkk. (http://www.cnngo.com/bangkok/play/quick-guide-songkran-2011-thailand-386855)

Of course you can always check out Tourist Authority of Thailand's site at www.tourismthailand.org too

Now I know why the Thai word 'sanuk' (fun) was invented ...

They needed something to describe this, jing jing.


Wet and wild! Songkran festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Note lethal Hello Kitty spray gun
Imagine more loud shirts than a convention group in Waikiki. Imagine several rock bands belting it out on stages right next to and across from each other. Imagine your hottest summer's day. Imagine the booziest concert or festival you ever attended. Imagine the funnest New Year's Eve party you ever went to. And now imagine all of those things combined in one place, for three days non-stop.

That gives you an idea of Songkran in Chiang Mai, where the Thai New Year festival is celebrated longer and louder than elsewhere.

And still we haven't come to the best part: the water.

Guns 'R Us
Ambushes are set up along every highway, street, side alley. Garden hoses, buckets of water, water pistols. Did I say water pistols? I meant Rambo-style shoulder mounted spray guns. Loaded either with murky water from the historical moat, or with iced water that chills the very blood in your veins on instant contact. Followed by a cheery call of 'Sawatdee pii mai' - happy new year.

People on motorbikes are wood-ducks at a shooting range. Easy targets. Blasted with impunity. Open-backed red song-taew trucks are also fair game ... passengers huddled in the back are a captive audience for a dousing. Woe betide the driver who stops to pick up passengers or stops at a red light. Before he knows it, his truck is carrying 10,000 litres of excess liquid and his passengers are swimming for their lives.

And then there are the pick-up trucks. They cruise with malicious intent, loaded to the gunwhales with about 30 eager family and friends sardined in the back (this is a game for the whole family, after all, including grandma), plus barrels of water, blocks of ice, crates and crates of beer. The term 'drive by' was coined for this. Any vehicle they pass cops a spray. And any roadside groups are openly contested by pulling over and going toe-to-toe with them.

At traffic lights, two pick-ups side by side is like a series of point-blank broadsides in the battle of Trafalgar, jing jing.


Best of all, is the spirit of all of this. Shrieks of laughter, begrudging acknowledgement of a good shot scored, whoops and hollers, dancing in the street. And everywhere, great big shit-eating grins as people slop about completely soaked from head-to-toe. (The world's largest inadvertent wet T-shirt contest is a nice by-product of all of this!)

Feels like a beach party.
So don't bring your best suit and leather brogues -- you'll be over-dressed wearing crocs. But do bring your sense of humour. Especially as a foreigner, you are worth double points every time.

The moat of Chiang Mai serves as party central ... an endless ammunition dump of water to be tapped. So every car, tuk tuk, pick-up truck, and taxi in town heads here, like a drunken moth to a psychedelic lava lamp. A circuit of the walled city that would normally take, oh, 10-15 minutes suddenly -- rather, not suddenly at all -- takes you more like 3-4 hours.Like a lumbering bumper-to-bumper float parade.

People clamber on and off vehicles, re-supplying, re-loading, getting in cheeky revenge splashes for an earlier exchange down the road.

Of course water and electricity mix ...
Where bands are set up, fire engine-like high pressure guns are mounted on cherry pickers and douse at regular intervals the willing audience, traffic cops, and all cars and bikes trying to edge their way through the milling throngs.

I've been to all kinds of crazy festivals in the world, including the Hong Kong Rugby 7s which was previously my high-water mark, but Songkran wins by a mile. Or a smile.

So book your ticket today for Songkran April 2012, Don't forget to reserve your pick-up truck. Oh, and pack your wetsuit.

Question: where was the most fun place you celebrated Songkran?


The origins of the Songkran festival in Thailand

Officially Songkran (or Songkhran as many like to spell it) is a festival in which has its mystical origins in the Indian "astrological passage", but is more readily recognized these days as the Thai New Year festival.

Thailand for your information is now in the year 2554 ... way ahead of the West, jing jing. So you can never accuse Thailand of being behind times.

It is celebrated from 13-15 April each year, a fixed date, regardless of what the moon and other astrological bodies are doing. It happens to mark the end of the dry season at the hottest time of the year.

As such, water is a big feature of Songkran. It is used to cleanse any religious icons around the house, village or city, and pouring scented water (mentholated talc powder is often added in) over these is said to bring luck in the new year. Traditionally this water was then considered 'blessed' so the Thais collected it in a bucket, and then splashed a couple of dabs on the shoulder of people they respected to bring them luck ...

That was Songkran. Traditionally.  


My how things have changed. Read my next blog to enjoy the crazy reality of Songkran today ...


Question: Did you know that Thailand was in the year 2554 already? Anyone got a simple explanation for our readers?




Tuesday, 12 April 2011

His and Hers toilet signs from Thailand... #funnysigns

Truth in advertising. (Pattaya Beer Garden)

We all know how that feels, right gents?
Now that's what I call  serious wood (teak probably).

(Baan Suan restaurant, Chiang Mai)
Ladies apparently 'pick flowers' while men 'shoot rabbits' (Queen Sirikit Gardens, Chiang Mai)

So what about katoeys? Do they pick rabbits or shoot flowers?

All photos by Stu Lloyd. Copyright all rights reserved 2011.
www.thailandjingjing.blogspot.com


Carving out a nice niche for himself in Bangkok ...

This sculpture was so heavy it tipped the Mistral upside down.
Most boys want to be firemen when they grow up. Some want to be pilots. Some never grow up and just become travel writers (hey, hold it, buddy, I resemble that remark ...)

Khun Duangdee is a chocolate carver.

That's right, I'll say it again, just a little bit slower this time ...

C-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e  c-a-r-v-e-r, jing jing.

If you find that hard to swallow, the evidence is there every day proudly on display in Mistral, the Sofitel Silom Bangkok's all day dining area. He's even won awards for his artistry in China. Sweet!

But then in the afternoon, he changes gear. To ice carving. His work melts the hearts of those enjoying the contemporary Mediterranean buffet.

For more on Sofitel Silom Bangkok's restaurants and bars see www.sofitel.com




Shanghai 38 takes you back to those heady days of the 30s.

Shanghai, 1938, where Old Jake's jazz band held sway ...
As we sashay down the hallway, the strident notes of a saxaphone drift through the evening air, and soon the whole band joins in at full swing. Sepia tone photos of old China look down at us from the wall. Is that a disapproving tone I imagine? After all, Shanghai has become the Paris of the East in the 1930s, a wanton mistress of sorts, flirting openly and consorting wildly with the outside world.

A brass and wood gramophone sits off to one side. Velvet curtains. Muslin screens. Massive ornate vases. Plum coloured ceilings. Lush and plush.

So am I in the much-storeyed Peace Hotel on the Bund of Shanghai in that city's halcyon heyday, 1938? No, I'm actually in Shanghai 38 Restaurant at the Sofitel Bangkok Silom, 2011.

Customers ran when they saw my camera
Shanghai 38 is whatever you want it to be. A sophisticated place for lunch, where you can enjoy succulent Peking Duck, or savour Cantonese delicacies such as my personal favourite, dim sum.

At night, though, it takes on an altogether saucier atmosphere, jing jing.


From its commanding perch on the 38th floor (that's right, it's named for the floor it's on, although the year 1938 would be equally apt), Bangkok sprawls beneath you. With a bit of imagination (and a little Chinese wine) it's easy to imagine the Chao Phraya River in the distance is the Huang Pu River. And that downtown Silom is modern Pudong. It's not too much of a stretch given the convincing Art Deco ambience and conviviality of this outlet.

A traditional Chinese dinner, some drinks, some smokin' jazz tunes, a couple cooing in the corner. It seems like the Shanghai of old never really went away.


More details for Shanghai 38 available at: www.sofitel.com






And now for something completely indulgent ... a Chiang Mai Spa Tour


I've heard of kidney stones but this is ridiculous ...

Thailand has often been touted as the world’s Spa capital. After all, Thailand nearly invented the whole multi-billion dollar industry as we know it around the world today, and you can barely walk five metres without coming across a spa treatment centre of some sort, especially in Chiang Mai.
Some of the finest spas and wellness retreats are to be found in Chiang Mai, a laid back northern Thai city, and Greg Morling, Spa Indulgence Tours Co-ordinator, has the envious job of seeking them out and taking people to them. 
"Visitors to Thailand can experience a plethora of unique wellness treatments derived from ancient Thai traditions," says Greg, arguing that "the best of the best can be found in Chiang Mai, the pearl of Thailand."
And he should know. 
Greg has had a lengthy involvement with Spa and Wellness 
as a consultant, Salon and Spa owner, practitioner and writer.

"For the Spa and Wellness devotee there are just so many choices in Chiang Mai," he enthuses. "I first came here over 15 years ago and was really taken by the kindness and humility of the Thai people and their healthy, calm approach to life; mai pen rai, which means, don’t get mad, get glad! This attitude permeates everything in Chiang Mai. The serene ambience and spoiling Spa services are really just an extension of the Lanna (Northern Thailand) tradition. I have been here so many times now that Chiang Mai feels like my second home... and I love to come here to Spa!"
This guy is totally passionate, jing jing. 
And now you have the chance to join him on an eight-day Spa Indulgence tour, taking in four of his top selected spas. Talk about indulgence! It's just one spa after another ... there's barely a moment to relax. 



Visit www.spaindulgencetours.com

Asia's premier rehab facility scores 96% completion rate


Medical tourism is big news these days in Thailand, so I thought I'd share the following item which caught my eye recently ...

The Cabin Chiang Mai, widely regarded as the premier drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Asia, recorded an impressive 96% completion rate of all clients in 2010.

Though structured along the well-established 12 Steps rehabilitation lines, The Cabin’s drug and alcohol addiction treatment programmes comprise highly progressive evidence-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques and personalized counselling elements.

“Our clients greatly appreciate our intelligent approach individually tailored to each client’s personal needs. It’s an unusually intensive programme in which they become very engaged. Even while they are with us clients begin to enjoy significant life changes,” says Programme Director and Head Counsellor, Alastair Mordey.
Programmes are completely secular and involve no religious component, so are suitable for all races and faiths.

“We also focus on fitness and mindfulness components, making the most of our wonderful natural setting,” says Centre Director Peter Maplethorpe. “A great setting to kick-start a new mindset.”

The centre presents like a 5-star luxury boutique tropical resort with its riverside setting and comfortable teak-wood cabins in an area just outside Chiang Mai. 

A lot of top resorts would give anything for this setting, jing jing, because it takes in simultaneous views of both the River Ping and Doi Suthep.
“Your privacy and anonymity are absolutely assured in our secluded riverside facility far from the prying eyes of family, friends and colleagues. Our clients are also far from their usual addiction triggers, and enjoy a vibrant group dynamic in a fresh environment, living the healthy lifestyle they dream of, even while still in rehab,” says Maplethorpe.
Despite the fact that The Cabin offers clients an industry-unique pro-rata refund should they choose to exit the programme at any point, no one has exercised this option yet. “It shows our confidence in the quality of our treatment programmes,” says Maplethorpe. “In fact, an unusually high proportion of clients actually extend beyond the minimum 28 days.”
As Asia’s leading rehab centre, clients can expect the same high level of care they would get in, say, Australia, the UK or USA. The Cabin’s counsellors are British and Canadian, but clients also enjoy the renowned added care and compassion of local Thai staff, too, especially in the areas of fitness, yoga, and massage.
Exorbitant cost is usually the stumbling block for recovery at international treatment centres, but not at The Cabin Chiang Mai. Our affordability comes not from sacrificing professionalism, treatment or accommodation standards, but rather in the low operating cost of our locale,” says Maplethorpe. “We are able to offer a world-class recovery programme at a price almost one third of comparable treatment in Western countries, even though we employ highly qualified Western professionals.”

Thailand is furnished with a range of international hospitals, spas and wellness centers.  Just nine hours’ flight from Sydney (with direct flights from many other cities, too) it is a beacon for those wishing to improve their health in a safe environment.

Chiang Mai is also one of the world’s great adventure travel destinations and The Cabin offers an attractive array of excursions including elephant trekking, zipline jungle canopy tours, white-water rafting, Thai cooking lessons, fishing or hot springs each Sunday.

“One advantage of our location and excursions is that you can return home from your programme looking happy and healthy, and show everyone great photos of your adventure holiday in Chiang Mai. No one would ever guess you’ve been here for rehab treatment,” says Maplethorpe.

Know anyone who might need help? Refer them to www.thecabinchiangmai.com

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Trip Advisor's Best Beaches in the World 2011 ...

Koh Panghan ... not just for full moon parties.
Trip Advisor's 2011 Awards for best beaches -- or coasts with with most, if you will -- have just been announced.

So put on your sunscreen, floppy hat and budgie smugglers (Speedo swimming costume) and have a cruise through this list of Amazing Thailand award winners and the beaches that were voted by millions worldwide:

Koh Panghan - Thailand, #25 in the world, #3 in Asia. Salad Beach.
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g303907-Ko_Phangan-Vacations.html

Koh Samui - Thailand, #4 in Asia. Lamai Beach.
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g293918-Koh_Samui-Vacations.html

Kao Lak - Thailand, #5 in Asia. Khao Lak, Bang Niang, Khuk Khak Beach.
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g297914-Khao_Lak_Phang_Nga_Province-Vacations.html

Koh Phi Phi Don - Thailand, #6 in Asia. Ao Ton Sai Bay.
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g303908-Ko_Phi_Phi_Don-Vacations.html

Krabi Town - Thailand, #8 in Asia. Phra Nang Beach.
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g297927-Krabi_Town_Krabi_Province-Vacations.html

Koh Lanta - Thailand, #9 in Asia. Long Beach, Kantiang Bay, and Klong Dao.
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g303905-Ko_Lanta_Krabi_Province-Vacations.html

So Amazing Thailand has scored 6 out of Asia's top 10 beaches, jing jing.

This proves Thailand is not just Phuket, Samui and Pattaya. There are plenty of other beaches, bays and islands in Thailand to explore.

Is there a Thai beach that you think should be on that list? Let us know.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

April - Thailand News Splash, er, Flash.





Now that's what I call a Super Soaker!!!
Thanks to those who fell hook, line and sinker for my April Fools gag about snow in northern Thailand. (There will no naming and shaming, but you know who you are ...)

Summer of course is upon us now, with the mercury being tested in the upper limits. So time to find a nice hotel with a pool, or head to one of Thailand's many famous beaches for a cooling dip.

April is one of the biggest months in the Thai festival calendar. The highlight of course is the traditional Songkran Water Festival (a Thai word which translates as "Quick, splash the farang ... that's always funnier and worth more points!").

The main event is from 13-15th April, but in northern Thailand it seems to go on for about a week or so.

In Chiang Mai for instance, they don't stop until the entire 11th century moat is drained dry (or the Mekong whiskey runs dry, whichever comes first), jing jing.

Other things happening this month include the Chiang Mai Cricket Sixes, which has become the world's largest and funnest amateur cricket tournament, with dozens of teams from Australia (including the mighty Lik Lik Wombats), England, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Middle East, etc, competing for ... actually, I'm not sure they know nor care what they win ... that's what happens when your event is sponsored by San Miguel.


Then April 25th is Anzac Day, which is celebrated mainly in Kanchanaburi province where the Allied PoWs built the Death Railway. To mark this occasion near the original Bridge on the River Kwai is really poignant. But if you head up to Hellfire Pass, 88km north of Kanchanaburi, the dawn service up there is one of the most emotional events you'll ever witness, especially as some of the last remaining Railway survivors make the trip especially. The flickering torches lit in the pass reveal exactly how this place got its name ... like the jaws of the earth opening up.


So check back here regularly for my take on all of these events, plus a lot more, in April.


Important bit to read: Get more regular as-they-happen updates on all things Thailand by following my Twitter site @worldsmith360 or my Facebook page Stu Lloyd/ Worldsmith360.



Saturday, 2 April 2011

Thai Airways celebrates 40 years to Oz

Thai Airways started flying to Australia with its first intercontinental flight to the Land Down Under on April 1, 1971. That flight went from Bangkok to Singapore to Sydney, with half the plane painted in Thai colours, the other, its partner airline, SAS.

Picture me in khaki school shorts, and a cruel bowl-cut hair do. I don't think I'd even heard of Thailand back then.

To celebrate this, they are now having a 40-Day Anniversary sale with special airfares starting from just AUD $955 to Thailand, Asia, India, and Europe, jing jing.  Yes, that would be return.

Best to check out their website www.thaiairways.com.au for the fine print.

Thai Airways has aged gracefully since then. As for me, well, I can only dream of cruel bowl-cuts these days.




Friday, 1 April 2011

Northern Thailand blanketed in snow ...

Road inside Chiang Mai University campus
I was greeted by an amazing sight in Chiang Mai this morning ... snow!!!

I couldn't believe my eyes. Snow at this time of year -- April. Hold on, I thought. I'm now back in Thailand. It should be around 40 degrees celsius at this time leading up to the Songkhran festival, where the nation douses each other in water to cool off and have a few laughs in the name of New Year.

As far as the eye can see, Chiang Mai has been transformed into a Christmas card scene. Doi Suthep -- a wonderful wall of white with the golden temple on top.

All the neighbours' kids are out screaming and running around with excitement, and I can see young James next door starting on a snow man with his maid down the bottom of the garden.

A quick check with some friends as far afield as Chiang Rai, Pai and Mae Hong Son reveals they too are enjoying this freak occurrence, which is apparently brought to us by a low pressure system over China. So much for global warming.

It has snowed only once in Thailand before, in Chiang Rai in the 1950s, jing jing.

So this is so cool, literally. None of us who've seen this amazing vista of Chiang Mai carpeted in snow will ever forget this day.