Monday 31 March 2014

WAT DHAMMAKAYA - and my visit to the largest structure on EARTH ! Part 3

The Dhammakaya enthusiasts I spoke to on my visit would appear to consider that conventional Thai Buddhism has seriously lost it way and had become innately corrupt , promoted outdated superstitious practices and had many temples and monks which  tolerated poor behavior amongst the monks and the laity and they seemed set up to encourage regular donations and 'merit making' - (tamboon in Thai) for the  laity without equally encouraging and directing them to make real changes in their lifestyle and spiritual commitment that they feel ought to be made to become a true follower of the renunciant Buddha. In effect they wanted an easy life with occasional visits to the temple to top up their supplies of 'Buddha Magic' to help with problems in their life that need solving.

You will find no faint hearts or weekend part time Buddhists in Dhammakaya - when you join it's a 24/7 , for life full time existence and it appears that you must leave your old ways behind when you begin this journey and you will be encouraged to and will no doubt willingly donate any extra money you may have (or not have!) to the 'Movement'. It is this obsession with money and wealth that is part and parcel of the Dhammakaya movement that leads many ordinary Thais to hold the movement in great suspicion and with some fear.

My 'down to earth' , rooted and wise minded wife whilst dropping me off at the temple refused to come and have a look alongside me and showed no curiosity whatsoever and showed much disdain for both the temple and it's values and to a lesser extent my visit.

Undoubtedly I'd posit that lots of its enthusiasts really do cleanup their lives and live disciplined and useful existences with meditation and a devotion to the temple and movement at their heart. While you walk around Bangkok you are easily able to place a Dhammakaya business because they will always prominently display a picture of the Dhammmakaya founder - the meditation master monk Phra Dhammachayo in a high position in their business premises. These businesses in my humble opinion frequently appear clean, well-organized and thriving in comparison with that of some of their non Dhammakaya neighbours.

I'd urge anybody who's remotely thinking of visiting to study its curious and rapidly growing worldwide movement or simply really wants to visit a gob hitting illustration of what can certainly be called and merits the title  'Amazing Thailand' to visit and take a look.

So in conclusion and particularly since you can travel there on a brilliantly cheap12 baht city bus picking up just outside of Rangsit Future Park that takes about twenty minutes for the journey and stops just outdoors the temple I would urge you to go and HAVE A LOOK !

Oh and for the record whilst I was enormously impressed by their enthusiasm , undoubted huge endeavors and gob smacking breadth of their vision I will certainly not be joining them - it looks far too much like a cult and far too intrusive into my existence for my liking !

If you were ever wondering what kind of temple and cult that alien beings from another world would create then in my opinion Wat Dhammakaya would tick most of the boxes !


WAT DHAMMAKAYA - and my visit to the largest structure on EARTH ! Part 2

Main pagoda and towers for the roof.

I asked the tour guide whether there have been any nuns - and he responded no - not now - but you will find well over 1200 monks on-site housed in condo like structures and a number of them work in an enormous Buddha statue factory on the  temple site that has produced over a million Buddha statues up to now which comprises the outside and interior from the primary pagoda.

I also came across in addition a volunteer village , a medical facility along with a school for child monks and a monk dining hall using the familiar huge UFO dome that can house all 1200 monks in a single sitting.

 Initial meditation hall can house 100,000 people with underground car park. 

It should also be said that the original temple is a modest , ultra modern and chic Thai temple which is beautifully designed and executed and sits in verdant gardens and behind it lies a lake and a golden pyramid structure which houses the remains of Kuhn Yay Acariya.

Original white ultra modern temple begun in 1970 with just 3000 baht.

Their overarching concept of growing their religion is to set up modest 'branch offices' of Dhammakaya around Thailand and also the world these outlying 'temples' are relatively simple and modest structures and the energy and donations are channeled to the primary temple ,Wat Dhammakaya. The temple publicizes itself as a place designed for the whole world and a major centre for promoting world peace they hope it will remain for well over a 1000 years. Enthusiasts are urged to go to the primary temple as frequently they can and when they do should wear only white and modest clothing  The most important day of their year is Magha Puja day and when I visited in 2014 it fell on the 14th February  when they expected in excess of  500, 000 supporters to attend. I really wanted to see this (see the stunning video below) but my wife vetoes it and it was Valentine's day ......


Maha Puja day at Wat Dhammakaya - Official Video

Nevertheless everyone I met in the temple were very friendly and welcoming and there was no hustling for any money on this my first visit. I additionally discovered a semi-falling apart 3 story shopping mall of which just the first floor was occupied by Dhammakaya companies for example votive shops, a massage shop and many food shops. The massage shop that I  visited and had an excellent foot massage for 250 baht had their round-the-clock DMC TV channel on quietly in the background for the entire time. Also close by to the compound was a housing estate with houses available for sale known as 'Meditation City'.


Semi Moribund Wat Dhammakaya shopping mall

WAT DHAMMAKAYA - and my visit to the largest structure on EARTH is continued in Part 3.

WAT DHAMMAKAYA - and my visit to the largest structure on EARTH ! Part 1

Wat Dhammakaya - main pagoda surrounded by 10s of thousands of white clad devotees
The Thai Buddhist (and some critics would label it a 'cult') order of Dhammakaya has it's roots nearly 60 years ago way back in 1959 and was started by the renowned Thai meditation master Phra Dhammachayo and has grown in numbers , reach and influenceever since.

The 'movement' has grown meteorically when after his death the leadership was passed to his most devoted (and disciplined) disciple of his leading 'nun' Khun Yay Acariya (Chandra Khonnokyoong) who established the temple at its current site near Rangsit in the northern Bangkok suburbs.

Founded on its new green field site in 1970 it has grown year on year from an initial 80 acres to now occupying well over 1000 acres and frequently holds congregations of its followers that can be in excess of 500,000 people.

I'd first visited the temple just over 10 years ago and I was then staggered by the scale and almost insane vision of the environment, people and buildings and on my recent two month visit to Thailand I wanted to visit the place again and find out what had happened in the following ten years.

Suffice to say the spiritual vision and its physical execution as befits a now truly worldwide movement is now well beyond crazy and also the huge , inhuman scale of the vast concrete and gilded structures is gob smacking , redolent of something which the Nazis or even the North Koreans would build and something warrants a sharp intake of breath and a heart stopping ' WTF'  Amazing Thailand moment.

The place lacks any homeliness and roots in the local population that is the mainstay of most Thai 'wats' (temple in Thai) and in my humble opinion  represents a gross perversion of mainstream Therevadan Buddhism with it emphasis on personal liberation, mindfulness and non-attachment along with 'doing good' . Dhammakaya temple is using its focus on huge structures and mass events to act as a massive show of spiritual energy and power designed to show to Thailand and beyond it is a force to be reckoned with.It would appear that building the temple and mega super-sizing the vision has become the foremost guiding principle of the movement.

UFO like pagoda made up of million Buddha statues

On entering the temple site you are first confronted by the dome of the underground meditation hall with its surrounding cascading fountain and moat. Past that you soon come across the largest structure on the site and also on EARTH!

The primary UFO shaped and alien looking modernist pagoda is encircled by a 3.2km of  a two story doubled deckered huge concrete structure that took ten years to construct which will remain unpainted (as a pint job would require huge efforts and materials and require constant updating whereas the concrete will age and stain with the passing of the years to achieve a more natural look).

It like the concepts of the Nazis Third Reich is designed to last a 1000 years and bisecting one side there is an enormous hydraulic bridge to ensure that it can open when necessary to receive huge ornamental carriages and barges where necessary. It looks rather like some vast unfinished airport building with no planes and when I visited virtually no people save for a few mediating woman dressed in white.

They also have just began setting up some support towers that eventually will support a vast roof and which will go to  make it the biggest structure ever put together on planet earth !  The 'UFO' pagoda consists of 300,000 identical Buddha statues constructed in the familiar Dhammakaya Buddha alien type shape - and now the interior of the pagoda has become sealed and full of over 700,000 Buddha statues.

After being stopped a couple of times by a pleasant  girl in white on a motorbike and then a monk I was 'encouraged' to join an organized tour group from the visitor centre which I was happy to do.

I checked into the tour centre and became a member of a Burmese tour group that led by an English speaking Burmese guide so we continued the visit on an electric golf cart around the site also, he also asked regarding who I was and whether I was in fact a journalist and likely to talk about them (for the previous 2  hours I was traveling around unchaperoned and on foot filming most of the structures).  I suppose the fact that I am blogging this now and spent much of my time looking for good video shots mean that in a way he was astute to my intentions and was right. There seems to be some degree of paranoia to the outside world and their perceptions of them.

Sunday 30 March 2014

A Thai Girls Night Out in the Karaoke Booth - Photos !

Just thought I would get used to the Google Photo album and put up some photos  in the beautifulthailand99 album and see how they integrate into Blogger. These are some photos taken by my wife at the recent Thai karaoke session mentioned in my previous blog entry. Her and a number of her friend's were celebrating a pre (gay) wedding party by going for the traditional karaoke session to which I made my excuses.

Whilst writing this I thought I would have a quick look at the Wikipedia Karaoke entry to see what is the history behind this ahem wonderful 'art form'. It would seem rather like Kamikaze bombers and hara kiri we have the Japanese and their fetish  for technology for thank for this as it started back in the 1960's 

You will find various accounts about who first invented the title 'karaoke'. One of the most predominant claims would be that the karaoke styled machine was introduced by Japanese music performer Daisuke Inoue in Kobe, Japan, way back in 1971.

After becoming more popular in Japan, the karaoke craze spread to all parts of  East and Southeast Asia throughout the eighties and subsequently to other parts around the globe. Even though the audio company Clarion is deemed to be the very first commercial producer of the infernal machine and they invented the device, there's no information about them on any of the patents.

It should be noted finally that in face saving Asia 'Karaoke' has a slightly more risqué reputation and one can see so called karaoke bars in the red light districts of many Asian cities often with seductively clad attractive young ladies sitting outside to lure what are most often Asian punters to share a booth and a lady for a few hours. and often at enormous expense. It is not that these ladies are prostitutes per se but in some cases rather like the bar beers in Thailand if they like the customer then they may arrange some after hours liaison.

Also some of the videos (they were often originally VCDs which was video version of the CD featured scantily clad young ladies often in naturally beautiful locations. Here is a good example of the genre !

Saturday 29 March 2014

The Ultimate HORROR that is Thai Karaoke - NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH !

What is the worst thing about Thailand, is it the constant 'saving face' lies that occur , the frequent scams on the naive or unwary newcomers , the insane traffic in Bangkok or the near and often suicidal driving by just about everyone on  the world's 2nd most dangerous roads ?

Maybe but I thinks one things just about pips all of these to the winning post - all of these are obviously bad and compelling reasons to get annoyed but there is one thing that I feel trumps all of these by a long way - and that is the Thai people's obsession - and we are probably 30 years into the craze that is 'Karaoke' or คาราโอเกะ in Thai.

So bad has this phenomenon become in Asia it has even led to the so called My Way killings where violent disputes broke out over renditions of Frank Sinatra' classic My Way that reportedly led to at least 6 deaths in the Phiilipines. 

And we are not talking about the euphemistic  'karaoke' here where Asian businessmen or others sit in some padded booth and pay way over the odds to sing songs with some young Thai bimbette with snacks and drinks with the intention of maybe going somewhere else after - we are talking the group karaoke sessions that seem to be an essential part of many young and not so young Thais idea of a good night out

The one where they collectively hire some dining soundproofed booth (thank god for the neighbours) - and order plate after plate of Thai food and snacks  (often not the tastiest grub in town because after all it as karaoke place) and wash it all down with beer, whiskey soda or some other relatively inexpensive Thai alcoholic drink (SPY anyone or the equally grim Thai wine coolers ) which ensures as the night goes on the singing gets ever louder and more raucous but overall totally tuneless and painful.

Suffice to say 99% of all Thais CANNOT SING - it needs to be said CANNOT SING AT ALL - but that doesn't stop them as they caterwaul-er into the mike and chalk this up to a GOOD NIGHT OUT.

The following videos come with a health warning - that cannot be watched or listened to by anybody with any sensibilities of any kind without severe ear ache and mental anguish and were thankfully taken by my wife who remained sober and fulfilled her social duty to go with her friends to a pre-wedding party in @Siam in Frith Street , Soho , London.


Be warned they are not for the squeamish or faint hearted and good luck .

Friday 28 March 2014

Is this a real GHOST sighting inside a Buddha Cave near Phattalung City - Southern Thailand ?

This is not actually a Buddhist temple - which are called  'Wat' in Thai  (it lacks the minimum number of monks to be regarded as such). That said Thais simply call it ถ้ำพุทธโคดม Tham Phutthakhodom (Buddha Gautama Cave) .  It is an amazing, tranquil and most delightfully beautiful  cave and can be found just off the main Trang to Phattalung road. Phutthakhodom Cave is next to Samnaksong Tham Phutthakhodom and is located in Phatthalung Province, Southern Thailand

This big and delightful Buddha cave features stunning and large stalagmites and stalactites, in addition to a huge natural rock formation hall which was thronging with bats and wildlife when I visited and it's a natural and most stunning natural rock cathedrals of beauty. The Buddha cave has two levels with the first being  on the ground level whereas the second is much deeper underground. This cave houses many Buddha images in several different positions and is well lit wit electric light and most safe to visit..

Aside from its natural peaceful demeanour and its reputation as a place of solitudinous retreat , the Buddha cave is also significant as a famous spot for meditation practice , particularly with Southern Thailand and Malaysian Buddhists.

The Buddha cave resident monks are renowned for eschewing commercial activities and the trappings of some of the more commercialized Thai temples (such as fortune tellers and amulet making and selling ) and it is presently the place to find three monks and a location for teaching  pure Dhamma ('The Truth' - the teachings from the Buddha) to those that visit.

Although walking alone within the cave which I accessed from behind the hill housing the temple from a seldom visited but comfortable home stay resort I was profoundly struck by the calming tranquillity and peace the cave offers and that I wanted to carry and share this more widely by videoing the cave area and surroundings for a short film that I had been planning to create around the temple, cave and grounds. This went on for maybe 20 minutes and though I was mildly creeped out by the quietness and eerie nature of the place I returned to my companions upbeat and refreshed by the experience. 


But on carefully analyzing the footage after we  had left the area and we were returning on the plane from Trang to Bangkok I spotted a most  unusual artefact on the video at approximately the 1.5 minute  mark for a couple of seconds which seems to be a shadowy monk like figure fleetingly walking over the cave entrance .

Is this truly the picture of a real ghost actually caught live on camera  or just an artefact of the light ? I really don't know - but it should be noted that  I didn't hear the sounds of another body within the cave and also, since it features a sandy gravelly natural cave which crunches noisily underfoot and echoes off the hard rock cave walls I'm sure I would have heard the 'thing' had it been real and of physical substance.

I posted this on the most popular expatriate Thai hangout Thai Visa Forum to seek out views and make more public the  video I had unwittingly taken.

Maybe a job for the redoubtable Ghostbusters ... who ya gonna call ?

Is this the coldest beer in Thailand or even the World ?

Thais love to put ice in your beer and as an apparent warm beer loving Brit (this has always been a cliché and in this day age you would be pushed to find someone who confessed to this) we would rather have a beer cold but without the ice please. Ice just melts in the warm Thai climate and weakens the beer - which is of course a big no no

So it is  with a sense of surprise and some delight I can report what I am pretty sure is the coldest beer I've ever tasted and also one of the best. I'm not usually a Singha beer fan (I seem to think it causes worse hangovers due to some unspecified 'contaminant's in the beer and so stick to the more farang like Heineken when imbibing beer in the Land of Smiles) but the special and unique Samsen Villa style won me over.

A friend of the missus - Khun Allin - now lives in an elegant and gastronomic retirement in Bangkok and as our most generous local host treated us to a visit to one of his best and most favourite Bangkok restaurants- The Samsen Villa. This is a tucked away little gem of place down a relatively quite soi off the tourist beaten track in Bangkok.

The day I was there it was totally farang free except for me and the inexpensive but absolutely tasty Thai food was both a revelation and a huge delight. So much so we were to visit three more times in the two months we spent there and each time was as perfect as the last . Dishes included sumptuous finger licking tasty satay and sauce, marvellous crispy tod mun plah (always the signature dish of a Thai eatery in my opinion ) and then plate after plate of perfectly cooked, beautifully balanced Thai dishes which were a pleasure to view , delightfully aromatic  and then delicious to eat right down to the last morsel and crumb.

But the biggest delight of the night was their signature ,  ice cold Samsen Villa beers. These are served from frosty large glass mugs deep frozen and then filled with similarly below zero frozen beer (not with ice) that forms some sort of slush-puppy style beer mush. It shouldn't really work - but it does marvellously and I and the rest of my party found ourselves quaffing delightedly Singha beer delivered Samsen Stylee.

So if you are looking for a real beau of a restaurant that break the bank , is loved by Thais and at the moment doesn't seem to have been  invaded by farangs then seek it out on your next visit to Bangkok.

Oh and say beautifulthailand99 told you to go

Aroy mahk mahk , jing jing !

ร้านอาหาร สามเสนวิลล่า สาขาราชพฤกษ์

Life , Death and Rebirth in a Thai Buddhist Temple - 'Buddha Magic'

In a couple of recent blog posts I told about a visit my wife and her two twin nieces made to a Buddhist water blessing ceremony in a temple deep in the jungle near Hat Yai , Southern Thailand.

Well on this trip one of her older sisters told her about a rare and special Buddhist blessing by the Abbott of a temple in the rural countryside outside the Thai city of Nakhon Pathum which is located about 80 km north of Bangkok. It is a beautiful and relatively tranquil temple and in the midweek when we visited was home to a large population of feral cats and dogs and kittens in this case who are looked after by the monks and lay people and fed on scarps of food left after the clergy and laity have eaten their fill.

It took a while for the Abbott to arrive and when he did he ordered me to one side and began the chanting and blessing in Pali which seemed to go on for some time and handed over two clean white linen sheets folded for my wife and my her sister to hold. When that was complete he first ordered one of the ladies to lie down on a rug and with their hand supplicated in prayer had the white sheet placed completely to cover her body and head rather like a shroud covers a corpse. With his chanting seemingly at a turning point he whipped the sheet off the lady and revealed them back to the world.

The symbolic death and rebirth were now complete. After the event they donated some funds to the
temple in an envelope (tamboon) and with that complete - we set off to a nearby restaurant to enjoy some beautiful duck and rice - a speciality of the region. What does it mean , is the Abbott a wise old monk or a charlatan who has some Buddhist 'shtick' to get in the followers (and the money - for this Thailand and if so it worked !) - who knows and who is to judge - all I know is that after the event my wife and her family were happy and content and went on their merry way with a resolved sense of determination and purpose .

 Job done once more for Amazing Thailand. 

To commemorate this I have made two slightly different videos of the same event which I hope will elucidate and you can enjoy the spectacle of Buddha Magic ! My 'concept' video as a companion piece to the 'Buddha Magic' movie about my wife's visit to a Thai temple just outside of Bang Len where she underwent a ritual of symbolic death and rebirth using this white funeral cover. You can read more about a similar death and rebirth ritual at a another blog ...

The Rise and Fall of All Things

 “Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” Mahatma Gandhi 

Filming a Western Movie in Bangkok's Soi Cowboy and encountering a rather large Thai ladyboy !

On my recent trip to Thailand I found myself with a few hours to spare and as a curious soul thought I would wander around Bangkok with my video camera looking for interesting things in my eye to film and to record for all time on my You Tube channel beautifulthailnd99. At this time February 2014 Khun Suthep - the rabble rousing Thai politician  and his PDRC yellow shirt movement had taken to organising protest rally sites at some of the major intersections of downtown central Bangkok.

One such protest stage which was host to any numbers of what to my trained ear where rubbish pop groups and croaking 2nd rate karaoke singers was at the Asok intersection normally host to any numbers of hot and sticky traffic jams. On approaching from the Sky Train station or the underground Sukhumvit station you could her the raucous din as soon as you had left the train and I stayed for a few minutes observing the crowd and speakers on the stage. 

At the comer I also spotted the now infamous Soi Cowboy an infamous street full of go go bars popular with thrill seeking males both expatriate and visitors from abroad. I strolled down the Soi until at the far end I came across a bustling scene where there was a lot of commotion going on.

It would appear they were filming a major western motion picture and had a camera crew, actors and crew milling around. This was too god a chance to miss so I seat at and adjacent bar ordered a cold Singha beer and watched the lights,camera and action unfold. They had turned a real life bar location into one called 'Bar Bang Bang' for the movie and a number of scantily clad beautiful young Thai ladies came and went including what I think was most probably a Thai lady boy given her striking angular beauty and tallness.

Also amongst the cast extras was a most striking and beautiful young Thai lady who sat immediately near to me and was part of the extras playing a sophisticated streetwalker who was at the edge of the action. Not wishing to miss a moment of this event I took the opportunity to film her several times and on returning to my home in Rangsit knocked up a quick music video homage to the lady. Hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did making it. Enjoy !

Monday 24 March 2014

Secret and Mystical Thai Buddhist Temple Deep in the Jungle near Hat Yai - Part 2

Continues from the Secret and Mystical Thai Buddhist Temple Deep in the Jungle near Hat Yai - Part 1.

The entire ceremony was starkly elemental and it should be stated very moving being akin almost to some sort Christian baptism or rebirth ritual - the cleansing energy of the water and also the other worldliness of the occasion contributed to its spiritual impact. The environment also had a cock crowing with the gentle strains of the nearby river running by and a mother rocking her baby inside a crib all lit by the soft light of  the sun strained with the leaf covering made all of us stop and stare and listen and reflect.

It ought to be noted the Abbott was resolutely non-commercial in his approach not seeking donations and abnormally for most of Thailand the temple didn’t sell Buddha statues or amulets. He pointed out that the region was poor which the local people had little of their own and that it be wrong for that temple to take and consume scarce local assets before people had been fed and housed.

The temple compound also seemed to house a destitute mother and baby as well as a toothless old guy who both appeared to be happy and incredibly grateful to be cared for in such an environment. When my wife asked if the temple had a bank account where we could send donations - he stated that it did not have  - simply remarking that we should return when you can and produce whatever donation you believe appropriate at that time.

His approach and attitude were amazing -  especially so for Thailand where cash is frequently a problem. It got me thinking - is the Abbott a deeply spiritual man who truly has adopted his life work and teachings from the Buddha and had gone beyond attachment - attachment to creating the temple - attachment to money and possessions  as well as being attached  to being seen as a 'success' and by so doing he has produced a place of true spiritual presence and good feeling - faithful towards the message and path of Buddha from over 500 years ago. No Ipads or mobile phones here to distract anyone from the tranquil nature of the place.

And by doing this had created a place shunned by most Thais who see the buidling of vast and ornate temples and monks who encourage large donations to seek this end. It is not the buidling or the Buddha statues that is important but the intent and purpose of the place,

OR alternatively (as my wife suggested might be the case) - is he just damaged after 4 decades of attempting to attain his dream and today being old and with the temple only half-built is seeing his vision fleeting away?

He looked old and ill it should be stated that his face and eyes seemed far away and in appearance sad. I do not know may be the true answer - however I and my loved ones feel attracted to explore further and experience this place's compelling presence once more.

Of all of the temples that I've visited this is actually the one that seems to want to pull me back.

Secret and Mystical Thai Buddhist Temple Deep in the Jungle near Hat Yai - Part 1

Are you looking for a most tranquil and isolated Buddhist temple - seemingly pure in intent and direction ?  Then you may well have found it in what remains one of the finest places I have visited in over 15 years of visiting all parts of the so called Land of Smiles and one that continues to dwell in my mind over two years since last visited.

These videos were shot on a holiday to Thailand in 2012 with my spouse. One of her nieces who resides in Hat Yai, Southern Thailand had been told by a nearby papaya salad seller of a most beautiful and almost secret temple located deep within the Thai jungle near the famous water fall of Ton Nga Chang (that is about 23km from Songkhla) and where the Abbott was to carry out a most distinctive water blessing on the papaya seller after which found her fortunes enhanced substantially.(Money is a driver for much of activity in Thailand as it is still a developing country with little in the way of a social welfare system and every baht has to be fought and won over).

The name of the water fall means 'Ivory Tusk Falls' and is the biggest of many beautiful waterfalls to be found in Songkhla province (it rains a lot in the south of Thailand!). Ton Nga Chang waterfall cascades in total down seven tiers in the national park and at the 3rd tier of the falls , the waters cascade down a rock formation which is said to be like a set of ivory tusks from where it takes its title.

This temple is approached by a dirt road with a turn off from the main road being marked with a granite sign and located just before the National Park entrance.

The Abbott has been focusing on creating a Buddhist temple (Wat in Thai) for pretty much over 4 decades of striving but the primary temple hall is still incomplete and houses a sizable golden brass Buddha statue. You will also find concrete posts which indicate the plans for other large structures nearby which as of now still remain unbuilt.

The temple sits near the river which carries the pure water that is cleaned and oxygenated  by the 7 tiered waterfalls. Also in the temple were a youthful monk and a few nuns in their traditional white garments. The lady who seemed to be the chief nun was smiling and happy and came originally from Bangkok and spoke English very well. There was a small Buddha shrine which she assiduously cleaned- and this was lit with a brilliant shaft of sunshine over and was very evocative and added to the calm , meditative peaceful atmosphere.

The area is extremely tranquil and pastoral - with chickens playing around and the air is cooled and shaded by large trees and the natural air conditioning of the jungle canopy. My spouse and nieces had chosen to go for the lotus flower water blessing ceremony that they had heard of from the papaya salad seller. Firstly the nun cut the lotus heads which they had especially bought for the occasion  into small pieces and added them to a large black dustbin filled wit water from the river.

Next the Abbott came to sit down in front of the three girls that had now been transformed into white clothes and were ready for the water blessing ceremony to start. He began chanting in Pali traditional Buddhist incantations and added some more of the flowers directly into the dustbin full of river water over which he stirred and chanted over - this action completed he started to pour it with a plastic ladle onto the three of the ladies  who repeated his words as the ceremony unfolded.

At the finish of the process,  which went on for around 3 minutes in total  they  changed their wet clothes and took some of the water remaining to pour down a Buddha statue in the adjacent Buddha shrine. The story will be completed in Part 2.

Secret Hat Yai Jungle Lair of a Thai Hermit

Often it is the out of the way , unusual places and people that go to make up for a fascinating visit to Thailand. And certainly in terms of my family a visit to the secret jungle hideaway somewhere near Hat Yai of my sister-in-laws common law husband comes over as one of the most interesting.

My wife's sister has a boyfriend of many years standing (or they maybe married - this is Thailand and sometimes it is hard to define the 'truth') who bought a plot of land very cheaply many years ago somewhere in the jungle outside of Hat Yai - Southern Thailand, He then proceeded to build himself a simple A-frame house out of tin and bamboo and natural materials he had to hand and drilled a well for water and had electricity provided to the property on bamboo overhead poles.

There he lives mostly alone except for the company of his chickens and is quite happy in his very low cost but functional and to this farang's eyes - very nice home. Unlike the UK from where I am writing this is almost impossible owing to planning regulations and government regulations that must be considered when building a house.

Of course to Thai eyes this is probably regarded as only one step up from living in a shanty town slum - but the air in the jungle is cool and clean and the lack of traffic noise or neighbours makes for a lonely but elegant solitude.

Plus he is relatively safe - few know he is there and his lack of possessions or any noticeable wealth would deter any wrongdoers from trying to burgle his isolated home. So welcome to the world of Thailand Low Designs - or how an aging hippy found his peace with the world by living in mostly solitude away from the noise,pollution and hectic pace that is much of modern day urban Thai society.

Playlist for the Thai Hermit's Jungle Hideaway Home


Mud and his Shopping Mall Hotel California - Thailand's Most Popular Farang Song

They always say when you start a blog it should be little and often and so as I've now uploaded over 1400 videos over on my beautifulthailand99 You Tubechannel there is a lot I want to talk about.

One song that you hear continuously all over Thailand is the old US favorite by the Eagles - Hotel California. It is a rite of passage for any Thai band or singer to have it in their repertoire and I find myself hearing it everywhere - over and over again - even once as an instrumental muzak in a lift and as taped background music in a shopping mall.
So it was with interest whilst strolling round Sukhumvit Road one day near the Landmark Hotel that I wanted to use a toilet and knew that the nearby shopping mall would afford me shelter from the relentless Bangkok air and heat and also a toilet stop.

In the mall there was a sole Thai guitarist playing in one corner and his sound and demeanor was very pleasant, playing Spanish flamenco style. On leaving the toilet I was delighted to hear the Rod Stewart favorite I Don't Wanna Talk About It (another overused Thailand perennial favorite!) so I along with a few other folk stayed to listen.

It seemed to good a chance to miss - when he had finished the song I went to thank and chat with him and he asked me if I had any requests. Well of course for the first time instead of having the song imposed on me I selected it - though he did warn me it was  a long one.

Anyway he's a brilliant chap , and his name is Mud and I promised him I would put the video on You Tube sand so here it is....

So over to Mud and his Spanish Classical Guitar and Hotel California.

Thanks Mud - you made my Amazing Thailand day !

Sunday 23 March 2014

Some thoughts of my time in Rangsit , Thailand and some videos to illustrate the points

On my last visit to Thailand I was there for just over two months staying in places as diverse as Phattalung, Hua Hin, the beautiful tropical island of Ko Chang and the inevitable Bangkok - namely Rangsit a mostly Thai place in the northern suburbs currently untouched by underground or sky train,. I used my tine to get to know my Thai family better and to explore the neighbourhood.

Some of my first thoughts are that Thailand starts to get very hot from the beginning of March , that there are dogs everywhere - some good and some wild and feral and they inhabit some of the desolate and deserted places my curiously wanted to visit.I was attacked by some vicious looking wild dogs and I mean wild as I ventured into some waste ground down the end of a quiet soi and ran almost screaming back to 'civilization' - much to the amusement of locals watching the mad farang wander where he should not.

Also fly tipping or just dumping waste by the side of the road is common and widespread and that Rangsit sadly had suffered from the devastating floods of 2011. Whilst most of the houses and buildings have been repaired and repainted - you see a number of abandoned and unsellable houses and a dirt tide line on streets especially on lamp posts and the like.

Here's a few of the videos that I took that show some of these things. And finally a video I really love of my young 5 year old niece giving my wife a foot massage in the bedroom. She has suffered with a problem with her back and really appreciated the efforts that she made. 

Howling feral dogs and the mum of the puppies defends her territory on waste ground in Rangsit.

Broken spirit houses and other Thai religious artefacts abandoned on waste ground in Rangsit, 
Bangkok - along with other flytipping. 

                                  Beautifulthailand99 You Tube Channel - home to all things Thai !

Thai Culture - the important do's and don'ts of visiting and living in Thailand

Exactly what do local Thais see once they help you as an overseas tourist or visitor ?

They say information is power - so knowing this gives a good beginning point for comprehending the most common methods for having good relations with Thai people that you may meet on your travels in the so called Land of Smiles.

It is said that Thais like to categorize people into 1 of 3 'circles' of influence with the closer they are to the person, the greater demands that will be made of that person and the more they will give back. The 3 circles are broadly:
  • Close relations - family people, buddies, co-workers - anybody that you simply have dealings with on the personal and everyday basis.
  • Close environs - neighbors, clients inside a shop, business partners. These could all pose some risk so you will need  to act nicely and friendly towards them. Most importantly smile a great deal when you meet them and make them feel relaxed and happy in your company.
  •  'Unknown folk' who they haven't met before who they may be considered to unreliable until they know them better. Thailand is a hard , sometimes unforgiving developing country where every Baht is fought over so they are culturally right to be wary of what they don't know.
Of course this analysis of Thai behavior is excessively simplified but still holds lots of truth. And keeping these points in mind can help you realize why things sometimes happen in a different way in Thailand than they might in your own country.

Did the friendly taxi driver overcharge? You might believe that this will make him a poor person - "a cheat". But no - not really , he's just proficient at his job with regards to earning his money and thus his living. Did the smiling shop proprietor "swindle you with that Buddha figurine? Depends on how you look at it - may be worth whatever he is able to get the customer to pay ...which if they see you as a foreigner may be a lot ! It's your job to bargain hard and be wary - not his !

When hailing taxis, you should hold your hands horizontal, with fingers facing palm down. Holding your hands with fingers up is recognized as rude. Exactly the same is true when beckoning servers, or anybody else, do this with your palm lower and fingers straight by having an up and lower movement. Never clap, snap your fingers, or whistle. To some Thai this is one way you demand the interest of the dog, not really a human.

When going to temples, dress cautiously (ideally in white clothing ) - women particularly should put on lengthy skirts or pants, get their shoulders covered, and not wear sandals.  Many temples have as a condition that photography isn't permitted.  Even when there's no sign, be sincere and think about whether it's appropriate to be taking  too many photos.  Also speak softly much more whilst visiting a temple. Even much more if monks can be found worshiping!

Always remove your footwear and hat when entering temples, and don't sit together with your feet facing the Buddha statue or image - sit either mix-legged, or together with your feet hidden behind you.  In Thai culture the feet are seen as the basest, filthiest area of the body, and also the mind and the brain is the greatest.  Hence don't indicate things together with your feet, hold doorways open together with your feet, point your feet towards Buddha images, point at or touch peoples' heads, or under any circumstance, touch monks triply so if you are a woman.

The King and also the Royal family are EXTREMELY highly regarded as in Thai society, as evidenced through the pictures and shows of His Majesty and the Royal family everywhere.  Don't say or act disrespectful in anyway for the King or any member the Royal family and this respect applies to the currency bearing his images don't stamp on it or throw it around carelessly.

Possibly probably the most fundamental of Thai etiquette, that's frequently overlooked by budget vacationers is individual hygiene. Thai individuals are fastidious and meticulous within their personal hygiene practices. As Thailand is  tropical hot and often wet tropical country also it appears that lots of synthetic materials at home often promote odor building bacteria taking a shower frequently is important and not simply every few days! So there is really no reason wearing to be wearing yesterdays T-shirt. So show respect and consideration, as no Thai will dare mention your insufficient hygiene to you it's just not their way.

Tossing things before another person is recognized as very rude.  One once put some paper bills in a desk-- to find the best of reasons - to prevent them being amazed through the draft in the open door as the clerk finished his work. He immediately frowned and stated: "Don't throw things, mister, you're a gentleman ...".

Don't expect Thais to stick to the guidelines of your culture. - Thais fight to decline a request. Rather than simply saying "no", they will explain "Yes, but ...". "Have you got mustard?", "Yes, but ketchup" comes the waiter's answer, having a somewhat insecure smile. What this means is, "No mister, we don't have mustard, but we all do have tomato ketchup". Don't take that it is a manifestation of foolishness or mess. It is only a way of being polite.  In general, Thais consider saying "no" to some request a really uncomfortable factor to complete and therefore avoid doing this.

For similar reasons, Thais will ‘lie’ about things e.g. if requested direction to some place and they don't know. They'll give false directions to prevent showing up ignorant. If requested if your temple is open or closed, they're not going to say it normally won't know ... rather they'll lie! Thus, I discovered I possibly could rarely believe the things they stated! Again, Thais dislike showing the absence of understanding, so could give you a solution-- any answer-- to prevent being seen as ignorant.

The Royal Thai Police (broadly viewed as corrupt by Western standards) if attending an incident involving a foreigner may be expected to cover the costs of their presence. Speak it softly but paying Thai police a small 'fee' may help top expedite any problem you may have.

Finally enough words for the time being much better to watch this wonderfully fine young Thai lady with excellent English tell you the ins and and out of Thai culture.

Smile and the whole world smiles with you .....

And after all that if you feel you would like a Thai massage to soothe your troubled brow then why not - Thailand is the home of some of the best massage and masseurs in the world!

Sawatdee Khrap - a big welcome in Thai from beautifulthailand99


Welcome to my first blog post from the creator of the You Tube channel beautifulthailand99 which is dedicated to showcasing some of the most beautiful and interesting things I come across in my travels.

Just a little bit about me first I am in my 50s very happily married to my Thai wife for well over 10 years now and travel regularly to Thailand for business and leisure. I previously spent a year working there back in 2003 and can just about speak enough to get by. I traveled all over the place and have yet to find my favorite place - but the search continues unabated.

My Youtube channel now has over 800,000 views and profiles all aspects of Thai life, including street scenes, temples, tourism, politics, wonderful scenery, unusual sights and where possible some of the beautiful girl and ladies that are part of this wonderful country.

Please subscribe to this blog, follow me and come and have a look at our dedicated Google Plus community Thai Girl Videos where I publish new content daily.

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BeautifulThailand99 You Tube Channel 

Finally I'll be featuring a lot of videos on my blog and I'm very happy to have as the first my homage to Thailand that I made following my visit in 2012. About 10 hours of video distilled down to about 3 minutes - quite a feat !