Okay, so where we left off was that I was going to bail down to Hua Hin with my friends. That we did. No pics to post at the moment though because my laptop got completely hosed (more on that later) and I’m still waiting on an internet connection at the new apartment so at the moment I’m having to beg, borrow, and (literally) steal a network connection when I can get one. Not exactly ideal conditions for uploading a ton of photos.

Hua Hin

Last Friday my friend Rob, his wife, myself, my girlfriend, two of her friends, Geee, Bua, and Ken from Thailand Friends drove down to Hua Hin (technically Ken didn’t show up until Sat but . . .). Hua Hin is a little beach town about 2 hours south of Bangkok. If you’ve been to Pattaya you make a right instead of a left at the Gulf of Thialand and it’s down that coast a ways.

We initially thought about going to Pattaya but Pattaya had the same curfew in effect as Bangkok so going there to relax didn’t see appropriate. Hua Hin is Yellow Shirt territory (enemies of the Red Shirts who burned down Bangkok) and the king owns a sick summer palace down there so no curfew was in effect.

We stayed at a nice little place called Top Marks about a block and a half from the sand. Not exactly 5-star but at 750 baht ($22 USD) a night there’s not a lot of room to complain. You get a basic room, air con, television, shower, etc.

We also picked the place because Rob wanted to bring his Labrador with him and we needed to find a place that accepted large dogs.

All in all, not a bad little place.

After checking in and relaxing a bit we took a walk down to the beach. Nice warm water, beautiful beach, and a few beers. You couldn’t ask for better alternative to Bangkok.

Later that night we gorged ourselves on seafood and then went to a bar that’s owned by one of the Thailand Friends members. It’s a serious pool bar but we desecrated the place with our novice skills.

Saturday Rob and I shot 18 holes at one of the local courses. My golf game is shit so for me it’s more about how many balls I lose in a round than my actual score. Just for the record, bought twelve balls and came home with ten. That’s how good my game is.

We got back around 6 or 7pm and showered up and went with everybody for a nice Thai meal. Actually, everybody else went for the meal. Rob and I had seen a sign for Burger King and filled ourselves on Whoppers and fries only an hour or two before so the most I could choke down was some fried pork.

Then we went a bar hopping. We ended up for awhile at a nightclub called China White. Strange little place. We ran into some regulars around Soi 22 in Bangkok. Small world I guess.

Nightclubs really aren’t my thing though. Packed nightclubs with standing room only, 20 minute waits for drinks, and drunk expats are really, really not my thing though so we bailed from there and found a bar that was open past 2am where we watched the football (soccer for my fellow Americans) championship.

Sunday, after a decent little breakfast, we packed up and headed back to good ole Bangkok.

Bangkok The Aftermath

Even as we rolled up Soi 26 to the apartment my girlfriend pointed out the Bangkok Bank branch that was completely gutted. It’s a white building and out of every window the building was scarred with black soot that had billowed out.

On Monday I went back to my old apartment to pick up some more things and I was blown away at how quickly they had cleaned up the neighborhood. Fresh grass was being planted, all the graffiti was gone, and one could hardly tell anything had gone on if it wasn’t for the fire-scorched steps leading up to the skytrain.

On Tuesday, I had to take my laptop over to Siam Discovery to find out how much it was going to cost to repair (I’ll get to the laptop shortly). I decided to hoof it from Siam Discovery to Central World to see everything with my own eyes.

As I got close to Siam Paragon I saw on the other side of the street where many of the buildings had been torched. As had been reported the landmark theatre in Siam Square that had been there for something like 40 years was completely gone. The only thing you could recognize inside was what remained of the escalator.

I kept walking and you could see how discolored the building was at Central World. Much of the glass had either been blacked by smoke and heat or had busted out entirely. The sign for the Zen department store sadly served as an indicator of how bad the place had been damaged as parts of it had melted away.

They had put up metal siding around Central World to hide the eyesore but you could still see everything above about 10 feet. I walked around the front of Central World and they had left open a section. I don’t know if it was kept open to accommodate vehicles that needed to access the area or for people to see how bad it really was.

First reports as soon as the fire had been put out said that the owners planned salvaging as much of the shopping center as possible. They said they were going to reopen the least damaged areas in six months and then slowly open up the rest as it was restored.

Once they got in and began doing a thorough inspection that assessment changed. Now they were saying the place was beyond any repair and it needed to come down. The structural damage was just to severe. The place had been built to a spec that would leave it relatively intact being exposed to fire for a maximum of three hours. Because of asshats firing guns at the firefighters who came to battle the blaze it burned for seven hours.

To actually see the damage though was akin to seeing the massive hole where the World Trade Center in New York used to stand. Parts of the building had caved in on itself and everything was in ruin.

People stoop around just looking. Some came and placed flowers outside the open section of metal siding. I assume they were honoring or mourning the nine or ten people who died inside. I haven’t heard much follow up on the bodies they pulled from the building but I would assume they were just security guards or maintenance people doing their jobs. Such a shame.

The State of Emergency in Bangkok (and other areas)

Generally, things seem tense but slowly getting back to normal. The helicopters are gone. The protesters are gone. Now it seems like a big cleanup operation.

The PM extended the curfews until Saturday. At first most places respected the curfew. But this is Thailand so you know that laws will only be followed as long as they’re convenient. Many bars simply locked the doors at 12 and had a “private” party until 4am when they would unlock the doors and let people go home.

Of course, the taxi drivers took advantage of curfew and at 12 fares shot up to 400% – 500% above the meter rate. On one level you can see how they’re just trying to make up for lost wages but it still sucks to have someone tell you they want 200 baht for something that costs 40.

Don’t be a twat

During the protests here in Bangkok two expats stood out for asshatedness above and beyond the call of duty. Conor David Purcell is an Aussie who decided to get up on the Red Shirt stage in Ratchaprasong and tell the red shirt crowd that he was some sort of military expert and that the grenades that the government claimed had been shot from the red shirt side of Rama IV could not have come from their side.

Well first off, his own embassy said his military credentials might not be everything he claims they are. Plus he’s broke here in Thailand, taking food handouts from the red shirts, and lost his passport. Can you spell L-O-S-E-R?

I actually saw this guy near my apartment coming out from taking a shower in one of the outside showering stations set up for the protesters. He was walking around with just a towel around his waist and flip-flops.

The other asshat award goes to Jeff Savage who was caught on video in the middle of a red shirt protest saying that they were going to loot and set fire to Central World just days before the red shirts looted and set fire to Central World. He looked like a raving lunatic in the video and even the guy who was shooting the video seemed surprised at his manic call to arms.

Well both of these douchebags were arrested by Thai police. Seems part of that old State of Emergency thing prevents foreigners from getting involved with the protest. So nice going you two. I hope you both spend the maximum two year sentence at the Bangkok Hilton. Then you can tell us about the plight of the Thais.

Burning Questions About Thailand

Because I get asked so many questions from people about the same things I thought I would just answer here.

1. Are you okay?

Yes. At no point have I felt any sort of serious concern about my life or safety here. It can be disturbing. It can make you say WTF???!!!? It can make you take precautions. But I’ve never felt in any sort of actual danger.

2. Is it safe to visit Thailand

If I was some security advisor consultant getting paid to write a risk assessment of Thailand, yeah, I guess I would elevate my risk level a bit but you have to consider that Thailand has been relatively low risk to begin with. For all it’s imperfections, Thailand is a pretty laid back place.

And in today’s world, my guess would be that you are just as likely to get killed or injured in a terrorist act in New York or London as you are in Thailand. Probably even less so.

If anything I feel safer here because hurting foreigners is like the nuclear option for Thai people. If innocent tourists become a target that completely changes everything. Nobody wants that.

So what’s the deal with the laptop?

Hmmmm . . . about a year and a half ago I bought a shiny new Macbook Pro. I loved it. It’s been a trusty old friend.

When we got home from Hua Hin on Sunday night I had plugged in my computer near the window because we have free wifi access in the pool area and the only way I can steal some bandwidth until I get DSL installed in the apartment is to put the computer as close to the window as possible.

Well, it rained Sunday night after we went out. Normally that’s not an issue but it was a pretty huge downpour. And the winds had kicked up so it blew the rain inside the apartment and right onto my laptop.

When we got home there was a pool of water on the sill where the computer was sitting. I picked up the computer (carefully – electricity and water don’t usually mix) and unplugged everything. I turned on the fans and blew out the innards of the laptop hoping I might get lucky.

But when I tried to turn it on it was obvious something was amiss. The backlight for the display was not coming on. I could faintly make out what was on the screen but it was definitely unusable in that state.

I put it under a fan all day Monday hoping that maybe it needed a little more airing out. No deal.

I took it in to a Mac repair place in Siam Discover and they told me that they would call me back with a prognosis.

They finally called on Thursday to tell me the bad news.

Parts along would run over 50,000 baht ($1,500 USD). I had fried the backlighting, the logic board, and the carger. With labor and everything else I was looking at about the cost of a new computer.

They did say I could make some minimal repairs (like the charging unit) and then use an external display but that seemed rather . . . stupid. Why have a laptop that you isn’t portable?

So I bit the bullet and bought an iMac for home and I’ll use my old MacBook for travel. Not ideal conditions but it works for now.

As soon as I get my DSL set up I’ll post some pics.

FeedBurner

I’ve always liked FeedBurner but recently they’ve been teh suck one!111!! I’m sort of used to their reports saying fluctuating a bit. One day they say I have 1750 RSS subscribers. They next day it’s 1700. The next day it’s 1780.

I get it. It’s hard to calculate who is and is not an RSS subscriber if you’re not posting every single day multiple times a day. That’s just the nature of the beast.

But I’ve recently dropped from close to 1800 subscribers to under 1000. I googled around a bit and found out this has happened to many sites. The numbers just fell off a cliff.

No explanation from FeedBurner. Nothing. And it’s been this way for a week or two now. What’s up with that?

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