Monday, December 22, 2008

Xmas Greetings 2008

Another year about to finish and that winter solstice celebration known by a number of names--I grew up with Christmas--followed by what many call New Year.

Living in Asia we have a shifting calendar of New Years. With several to chose from, we can celebrate accordingly.

For me, 2008 was a stellar year, but my scale may be different from others. Travel is a heavy determinant in my personal yearly ratings and once again, this year was a winner.

Trains have obsessed me since childhood, and with the exception of the interrupted stretch continuing on from Kazakhstan, I indulged in a train odyssey of my dreams. Up through western China, a month's stopover in Mongolia, on through portions of Siberia and then south to Kazakhstan.

A small glitch in the form of corruption at the Russian Embassy in Alamaty, Kazakhstan, required that I fly out to my next destination of Ukraine. From there, back to trains and on to visit friends in Europe. (The trip is posted on my companion blog:

At the end, it was south through the Balkans to fly back from Athens. Over four months "on the road." What more could any travel-addicted nomad ask for?
Let's just say...Santa came early for me this year.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas season and a Happy New Year!
May All Your Dreams Come True!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Politics & Protests

It's a done deal! As of Monday, Thailand has a new urbane Prime Minister. The Democrat coalition held up and their candidate, Oxford-educated Abhisit won. Many Thais are already referring to him as "Their Obama." He's young, he's educated and he's smart. He has a reputation for clean politics and heaven knows Thailand can benefit from that.

The yellow shirts prevailed, in spite of Potjamon's phone campaign and Thaksin's last minute video message at a huge rally held in Bangkok trying to destabilize the process, or in his own words, "create social dislocation." At the important moment, the opposition votes remained intact.
The Bangkok Post article stated that "...he brings to the job a mannered civility that has been sorely lacking in recent dust-ups." But that may not be enough. The red shirts are promising more protests. According to them, democracy has been subverted by a judicial coup d'etat.

Like America's Obama, Abhisit has a formable job ahead of him to try and unite a badly divided country. His support is strong in the south and central parts of the country, but "Thaksinmania" still prevails in the northern regions. The threat of more protests and the potential subsequent violence is enough that the army chief is planning a peace-making mission to those areas to try and quell the unrest. As everywhere in the world, money and power are at the root of things.

He takes office as the 27th Prime Minister in a country where democracy is still evolving. Those of us living here who are tired of the corruption that thrived during the Thaksin years wish him well and hope he can bring some stability to Thailand. Thais just want the rest of the world to move beyond the images of mass sit-ins and airport closures and once again travel to the "Land of Smiles."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Color Clashes

Friday, 5 December, 2008 was the 81st birthday of Rama IX, the longest reigning Monarch on Planet Earth, and perhaps, one of the most beloved for good reason. He is a stellar example of the benefits to a country under a conciensously good Monarchy.

But the celebration was muted from past years. King Bhumibol was unable to give his anxiously awaited yearly birthday message. His daughter insisted it was not serious, but the diagnosis sounded serious to me--bronchitis & esophagealitis. In the paper it said..."he couldn't eat." Not good news! We all pray that he will recover and be with us a lot longer.

Things have been a bit chaotic here recently with two Bangkok airports shut down. Dissolution of three political parties accused of voter fraud and corruption cleared the way for a new government and satisfied the demands of the PAD (opposition party). For the moment! Nothing in this political game of chess is certain.

Latest news today...Potjamon (ex-wife of Thaksin) flew in from Hong Kong. Does not bode well!

I avoided the election year color clash in the US simply by being in Thailand. Now I have my own color clash here. Across the ocean it was the red states and the blue states, and our President-elect Barack Obama did blur the colors a tad. Turned a few states purple--my favorite color. Can't wait until he's innaugerated.
Now here in Thailand we have our own color clash--red shirts vs. yellow shirts. Yellow is the color for the King who was born on a Monday, so that was the day of the week to wear yellow shirts and they were seen everywhere. Now with the take-over of the airports and the escalation of political unrest, it's not safe to even wear your yellow "I love the King" shirts. I miss not seeing the sea of yellow shirts on Mondays.

Red shirts are the color of choice for the supporters of Thaksin [UDD] and they are strong in chiang Mai province. The go around the old city here with bull hors and flags flying off the top of Tuk-Tuk's that quintessential Thai transport.

They did stop that once the airports opened. Unfortunately, nothing is resolved with the current political situation. Only a stalemate at the moment. As the Thai say, "jai yen" and that's all we can patient, watch, listen and be flexible.