Monday, March 31, 2008

Nakhon Chaisri and Nakhon Pathom

On Sunday I had a chance to take a friend out to the Jesada Technik Museum in Nakhon Chaisri and then onto Nakhon Pathom for a bit of a walk. An early start meant we got out of Bangkok quite easily but we did hit traffic out of town and on the way back. It's so hot at the moment that everyone with a car is trying to get away on weekends.

So first the Jesada Technik Museum. This is a place for grown up boys to go look at cars from their youth. I've talked about this place before and it's definitely for boys not girls. The owner, Jesada Dejkulrit, is a millionaire who has built a museum any 11 year old boy would dream of. It's pure collecting for the sake of collecting and I'm really jealous. I wish all millionaires spent their money as sensibly as this.

I took 277 pictures and my friend a similar amount. They are of old cars, some just wrecks, motorbikes, scooters, trucks, helicopters, a DC3, rice barges, old fire engines and even a tank. The new museum building looks like it is getting close to being finished inside. Another trip would be in order when that happens.

Jesada Museum Entrance
Old Jesada Technik Museum

From the museum we drove onto Nakhon Pathom with no real plans on what to see. Nakhon Pathom is a fairly ancient town in Thailand and pre-dates the Tai race entering what is present day Thailand. The town was probably part of what is called the Dvaravati Kingdom which was inhabited by the Mons. Strange therefore that we ended up looking at buildings from the late 19th. and early 20th. century.

We had a walk through the well kept grounds of the Sanam Chan Palace. This complex of Royal residences is 101 years old and features a building that would pass as a castle in a Disney movie. Click on the picture below.

Chali Mongkol Asana
Sanam Chan Palace, Chali Mongkol Asana

Taking care of this fairly large area were young women dressed in black. They looked like fashionable version of the Khmer Rouge but on reflection I suspect they were students from the fine arts department and black would be for mourning the recent death of the Thai King's elder sister.

Palace Cleaning Crew
Sanam Chan Palace, Samakkhi Mukamat Residence

The last stop was at the Phra Pathom Chedi built in the 1870's which is the tallest stupa in the world at 127 metres. It is much revered in Thailand.

Phra Pathom Chedi
Phra Pathom Chedi

Wat Khu Sang, Samut Prakan

Not much exercise on Saturday. A drive over the new bridge to the Chulchomklao Fort navy base for lunch in their seafood restaurant and then a drive out on some of the small roads going west from there. Going along the northern bank of Klong Sapphasamit and turning right just before the cement road runs out at the large rice mill takes you on some small roads back towards the river. Close to the canal is Wat Khu Sang with many colourful temple buildings. Below is one that was really shining in the sun. Click on the picture for a better resolution one. This temple is well kept and clean and obviously the center of the local community. In the Bangkok suburbs this role has largely been taken over by the large shopping malls.

Wat Khu Sang, Samut Prakan

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blame it on Harry Potter!

Not really Harry Potter's fault here in Thailand but he did help. I went to the Bangkok International Bookfair yesterday to meet some people. In Thailand we always have the book fair during the school summer holidays; it's our very hot season here. There were tens of thousands of kids, mainly teens, camped out on every available bit of floor space and they were reading! I hope there are similar scenes in the UK and rest of the first world otherwise we will be left behind in twenty years.

Split this Blog

I have been thinking about splitting this blog. Maybe my minority views on UK politics don't really fit in with canals and walking although that's where I fine tune them;-) On the internet we tend to niche everything. The more we niche the easier it is for people to find us. So maybe I will take new political posts onto a new blog. I will ponder this some more.

This is what you get for the money!

I couldn't let the British Airways Heathrow Terminal 5 story go by this week without a comment. I live in a third world country where two years ago they moved from one airport to another 25 kilometers away overnight and still had passengers flying with their baggage the next day. So why couldn't British Airways, and maybe the British Airports Authority (BAA), get it right?

Well you would have to go back to 1981 with British Airways when Maggie Thatcher put John King, later Lord, in as chairman of the company to set about privatising it. Two years later he brings in Colin Marshall to run it and from then on you have a history of job losses, bad labour relations and crooked dealings. While the Tories held up British Airways as what could be done by privatisation, experienced travellers avoided the airline like the plague. If it hadn't had its sinicured atlantic flights out of Heathrow it would have died years ago.

I suspect I could make a similar case about the now Spanish owned BAA. How did British Airways hope the move would work out when the staff-management relations are so very poor. Where was the needed enthusiasm from the labour force meant to come from. The whole Thatcherite policy on privatisation needed a beaten labour force to make these companies succeed without state support. The chairmen of these companies were picked to do the job. You only have to think back to bringing Ian MacGregor in as head of the coal industry.

So which of the many companies privatised have worked out as successes. Sure there has been some success for asset strippers and those that hold a near monopoly position in their industry, but for the customers and staff there has not been an overall benefit. Will train commuters in the UK claim they are better off. I suspect not many of the remaining small shareholders feel particularly happy. Those in British Airways should demand a change in management at the very least. How about those who invested into the Channel Tunnel. I guess the then Tory cabinet didn't put anything into that one.

Read Diamond Geezer, he was there.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

West Samut Prakan Walk

The province of Samut Prakan, like Bangkok, spreads across both sides of the Chao Phraya river. It sits at the mouth of the river between Bangkok and the sea. Since the recent industrial ring road bridge, and even more since the new Bangkok Ring Road bridge have connected both banks of the river below the city, new places of interest have become easier to access. One of these is the Chulachomklao Fort.

We went over there for a walk yesterday. I found this about year ago by following signs which took me to a guarded naval base at the mouth of the river. Apart from the fort we found a museum naval ship, a fine seafood restaurant and wood decked pathways through preserved mangrove swamp. Yesterday with a friend we walked around them all, playing with the six inch guns that were fired at the French Navy in 1893 and walking through the dry-docked corvette, HTMS Maeklong, which was built in 1935 in Japan.

HTMS Maeklong
HTMS Maeklong

British WW2 25 Pounder
25 Pounder at Chulachomklao Fort

There is a display of various guns in small park and it includes a ex-British WW2 vintage 25 pound artillery piece. The two pathways through the mangrove swamp were interesting with plenty of birds, a couple of large water monitors and some mud-skippers which are fish that can breathe out of water. An 11 AM stop at the restaurant gave us some coffee and another stop outside the gates for a soft drink let us watch the guys fishing off the bridge over one of the large canals in this area. It really is a good place to visit if you haven't been before and great if you have kids. For foreigners you should have your passports and for Thais your ID cards to get through the navy guards.

Heron in the Mangrove Swamp
Heron at Chulachomklao Fort

From there we headed back along the riverside road until a left turn took us out to Ban Sakhla. The road ends after about 8 kilometers in the car park of Wat Sakhla. From here we could walk through Ban Sakhla village where access is only by the pathways or by canal. Of course now-a-days everyone has a motorbike, but most houses also had long-tailed boats of various sizes. From this village boats go to Klong Sapphasamit which joins the Chao Phraya River to the port of Samut Sakhon to the west.

Ban Sakhla Houses on Canal
Ban Sakhla

Wat Sakhla is lively place, being the center of village life, and the car park for anyone visiting. There was quite a bit of karaoke and eating going on while we were there. At the northern end of the temple is an old leaning stupa that I suspect dates back many centuries. I think this is in the Mon style of temple building.

Wat Sakhla Leaning Stupa

Old Hall at Wat Pounwanaram
Old Temple Near Ban Sakhla

Going back down Ban Sakhla road we stopped at another old temple hall at Wat Pounwanaram. This old building, although not as old as the stupa at Wat Sakhla, was interesting as the walls were wood planks, I guess teak. The last stop and walk was on the river at Wat Traimit Wararam. Most of the buildings here are more recent although I suspect there has been a temple on this site for a very long time. There is a great river view here and just behind the temple an old large wood hulled and decked river boat is moored. A man came over and offered us the boat for 200,000 Baht, but I supect that's a bit like buying Tower Bridge in London.

Old Wooden River Boat
Old Boat at Wat Traimit Wararam

Charlton Athletic 1-1 West Brom

It's hot in Bangkok right now. Everyone is complaining about it. Weekends it becomes more noticeable as we are out of the office air-conditioning. Being hazy I left my hat off for some of yesterday's walk and burnt the top of my head. I get lazy, find more to moan about and even Charlton can't help me. A one-one draw with West Brom doesn't help. It's good not to be losing but now really only wins help.

The only upbeat football story to come out of the weekend was in Frankie Valley's new blog where he stood next to the great Garry Nelson, footballer and writer. Shouldn't have peed on his shoes though Frankie.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Short Term Planning

So the British banks have gone, cap in hand, to Mervyn King at the Bank of England. These bastions of the British establishment and great supporters of the Tory party have been caught short. The very fault that Cameron is been attacking Brown for, not putting anything aside for the bad times, is what he friends in the banks have done.

I don't believe anyone thought that economically we would continue just to see growth with no downturns. There might be wishful thinking that the downturns can be moderate, but not that they will not come at all. So why were the banks not ready?

I think pure capitalism works on a very short term view of the future. Plans don't seem to be made for that far ahead. With socialism with see the attempt at long term planning with the disastrous Soviet five year plans. Up until the 1930s both America and the UK had almost pure capitalism. This probably explains why the Great Depression was so bad.

With Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the Second World War and the 1945 Labour Government we see the beginning of a mixed economy. This mix should give us hopefully a little more forward planning. To me Thatcher and Reagan represented one last throw of old style capitalism but even they couldn't turn the clock back that far.

So what's the answer? We live in a economic balance between capitalist growth and socialist planning. Getting the balance right should let us have a moderate growth with a lack of recession, but one thing that will be needed is reduce the power and independence worldwide of the banks and oil companies.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Credit where credit is due 2

Congratulations to the 19 brave Labour MPs who voted against the government on Post Office closures. It's going to be interesting to see Brown's response. Does New Labour seem to have far more Stalinist tendencies than old Labour?

Good to see Diane Abbott in the list - I enjoy watching her and Portillo with Andrew Neil on the BBC. Not surprised that ex-post office worker's union leader, Alan Johnson, isn't on the list.

Here's the full list - thanks to the BBC website.

Diane Abbott (Hackney North & Stoke Newington)
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North)
John Cummings (Easington)
Andrew Dismore (Hendon)
David Drew (Stroud)
Frank Field (Birkenhead)
Paul Flynn (Newport West)
John Grogan (Selby)
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North)
John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington)
Eric Martlew (Carlisle)
Alan Meale (Mansfield)
Gordon Prentice (Pendle)
Alan Simpson (Nottingham South)
Geraldine Smith (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester South)
David Taylor (Leicestershire North West)
Mike Wood (Batley & Spen)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oath of allegiance - bring it on!

I'm all for. Make all the school kids swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen, or a King Charles or William or whoever. Being a English republican I figure that should just about finish off the monarchy in the UK as that generation are empowered.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saturday walk on Klong Saen Saeb

Yesterday's walk was about 9 kilometres from and back to the truck on Klong Saen Saeb. This canal is 170 years old and was built to move troops faster towards the eastern borders of the then Siam. You can get the history on Wikipedia here.

The walk covered an section of the canal going east from the watergate called GP8 on the eastern side of Minburi town. I had pleasant company so spent a great deal of the walk in conversation but there was still plenty to see. It is mainly a Moslem area with at least three mosques on the route. The paths were pleasant and lots birds and fish and other animals to see.

The stand out location on this walk was the Kamalulislam Mosque for a number of reasons. A BMA history notice board told us that the mosque is also known as Sai Kongdim which is the name of the small canal joining the Saen Saeb next to the mosque. We walked a few hundred metres along this canal until the path run out but have a fairly spectacular picture of a lizard on a water hyacinth from the end. (I didn't take this picture or the one of mosque.)

The board told us that the King Rama V, (Chulalongkorn), visited a mosque on this site by boat in 1907. Again it would be interesting to know the history of these Moslem communities east of Bangkok as this shows they were here at least 100 years ago. The path along the klong next to the mosque has a frame with a climbing plant growing over it. The path becomes a tunnel as on the klong side it has dropped roots down to the water. It's gives a beautiful shade from the sun.

There wasn't that much going on in the canal but in the houses on the side there seemed to be a few places getting ready for some sort of celebration lunch. We were invited into one but by then we needed to get back. See the map below for this walk. There are also a few pictures from the walk. Minburi is just to the east of Bangkok.

Lizard in the Canal
Lizard in the water hyacinths

Kamalulislam Mosque
Kamalulislam Mosque 6

Kamalulislam Mosque Canal Path
Kamalulislam Mosque 7

Spirit House in the Klong
Klong Spirit House

Ipswich 2-0 Charlton Athletic

Hard to find any positives to take out of this result. The manager, Alan Pardew, seems to be trying to find some on the BBC website. Good luck to him.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Burnley 1-0 Charlton Athletic

Another loss and the second loss to Burnley this season. We are 10 points behind the second positioned team and even the play-offs are looking a bit dodgy. Not a happy supporter today.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Klong Bueng Khwang

This weekend I finished most of the top end Klong Song Ton Nun and walked a large part of Klong Bueng Khwang. (I guess that seeing as I don't put a "h" in klong I shouldn't put it in Khwang either but I will go with the spelling on Google Earth for now.)

These were longish hour-and-a-half walks through almost entirely Moslem rural communities. The growing of grass turf was something I hadn't noticed before and I got some good pictures of this farming. The pathways were in fairly good condition and clean although one area I found where there obviously was not too much human traffic had become a good perch for the little brown herons. I have never seen so many together and their guano is far better than the dog mess I find in other areas.

Click on the map to see update of Rom Klao area walks

Can you see the 3 brown herons?

Growing grass turf near the klong
Grass Cultivation near Klong Song Ton Nun

You can see why they are called water hyacinths
Klong Beung Khwang 011

Mr. van der Veer I just don't believe you!

In the early seventies Edward Heath, probably the last "One Nation" Tory prime minister, called Tiny Rowland, (a horrible little shit in charge of a company called Lonrho), "an unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism".

35 years I would like to give that title to the boss of Royal Dutch Shell, Jeroen van der Veer. While we are giving out this title let's give honourable mentions to the US oil companies and the pharmaceutical industry who are all doing so well by being so bad.

What upset me was watching Mr. van der Veer go on TV and defend their massively increased profits against any talk of a windfall tax by arguing that most of their profit was made outside of Europe. Does he really think we all fall for that legend they created of their retail operation losing money while the overseas production operations made all the profit. His bean-counters can put the profit where they want and of course they put it in countries with the lowest taxes and most corrupt governments.

What a surprise that Wikipedia tells us that van der Veer was awarded honourary doctorate from the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

Charlton Athletic 1-2 Preston

Well the dream is dead. I no longer think we will get one of the two automatic promotion spots this season. Unlike last time we were relegated we haven't kept an almost intact team from the premier. We have a virtually brand new team, thankfully as last season's team was just not good enough for the Premier Division wages they were getting paid. This new team might make it, but probably not year.

A new dream - we will get one of the four play-off spots and ten years after we did it at Wembley we do it again. Last time I sat in a bar in Soi Cowboy and watched grown men, Sunderland supporters, crying as Charlton won a match which many describe as the best they have ever seen.

At least this way I will get to see them on TV.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Won 15, Drawn 11, Lost 10

Last three games were lost to Blackpool, beat Sheffield United and drew with Bristol City, and so goes Charlton's season. Just not consistent enough for one of the top two spots and automatic promotion to the Premier League. Then again they just needed to win 3 of the games they lost to be top of the division.

Still it might keep us away from Richard Scudamore, that spin doctor in charge of the Premier League with his £800,000 salary. According to Wikipedia he is a Bristol City supporter though.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Klong

Klong Song Ton Nun is another canal that links to the two large canals running east from Bangkok, Klong Saen Saeb and Klong Prawet Buriram. This one is almost due north of the new Bangkok airport. It runs parallel and just west of Rom Klao Road that goes to Minburi. With walks on Saturday and Sunday all I have to walk is the last few kilometers at the Minburi end.

There are quite a few communities living on this klong and as you move north it becomes very rural, with even rice paddy between the klong and Rom Klao Road. There are the usual religious splits with both Buddhist and Moslem communities. The last two canals have had a real excess of bad mannered dogs and it's good when you get to the Moslem areas that there are no snarling dogs and no dog shit on the path.

A quick note on the wildlife I see on these walks. The only dangerous animals I see are dogs. I thought I would see a few snakes warming themselves on the paths but all I have seen is one swimming across the canal and a couple of dead ones in the water. Maybe snakes have been driven out of town now which would be a shame. I have seen a few water monitors, smaller lizards and turtles but mostly birds.

I wish I knew a bit more about birds, but there is always something look at. Today there were swifts catching insects over the water, herons and storks catching fish and the last few weeks I've been noticing the blue and orange of the small kingfishers which never let you get too close.