In light of recent bombings in Hat Yai

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Hat Yai, the city that I grew to love and called home for almost two years has once again been targeted with a series of bombs.

Luckily, no one was killed although some were injured.

While living in Hat Yai I developed a passion for life in the deep south of Thailand and would (and still do) get frustrated at it being written off as too dangerous to travel to.  Hat Yai is the gem of the south, with beautiful temples, bustling markets, fantastic shopping and a wonderful mix of Thai, Chinese and Malay cultures, including Buddhists and Muslims living and working side by side.

This hodgepodge of cultures results in an array of Chinese, Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist temples and grand mosques flanking the same streets.  You can hear the call to prayer while walking past a golden statue of the buddha.  You can dine on the spiciest southern curry Geang Som, some finger lickin’ good halal Gai Yang  (think KFC on flavour steroids) and some crispy won tons all picked up at the same food market.  And that is what makes Hat Yai unique, and special, and so worth adding to your travel plans.

Hat Yai is by and large a safe place for a foreigner to travel to or live.  There is a sizable expat community of teachers and oil industry workers, and Thais themselves flock from across the country to take advantage of the economy of the transport, commerce and tourism centre of the south.

Yes, there is an active insurgency taking place in the three provinces further south of Hat Yai – Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat – and the bag checks and scans when going to Tesco or the cinema remind you of that daily.  But the insurgency unfortunately goes on and we are all but blissfully unaware of it up in Hat Yai.  Such is the way of the media that to find out what is going on in the deep south you need to trawl the internet and make use of Google translate – it simply isn’t of interest to the global media aside from blanketing the entire deep south with a do not travel advisory notice.

When I heard that a series (the exact number is disputed from 2 to 5) of bombs went off across the city on Tuesday I was firstly worried for all the friends that I have still living there.  One of the bombs went off at the police station next door to immigration – what if one of them had to go for a visa check?

Once I’d established that everyone was OK, my feelings went from concern to upset and anger.  I was saddened that the city I have been defending so much and promoting as safe would be targeted in what is largely assumed is an over spill of the southern insurgency.  I was angry that this will no doubt have a negative effect on the number of people willing to go to this city, which had been rebuilding its tourist trade after being victim to a more deadly explosion in 2012.  I was also angry that yet again these attacks would be going unnoticed by the world media, and the daily plight of people living in the deep south would continue to be allowed to go on as long as we tell people not to go there and they keep themselves to themselves.

A lot of the facts are uncertain – how many bombs, who is responsible and why they did it are all being disputed in various sources across the internet.  I’m not going to get into it here but it does look like these most recent bombs weren’t aiming at killing scores of people but were more of a way of proving that despite strenuous security, Hat Yai isn’t untouchable.

And that’s right – Hat Yai isn’t untouchable.  But is any large city in any country around the world?

Please, don’t be put off from visiting Hat Yai.  It is an amazing place brimming with things to do and see and taste and experience.  t is an assault to the senses.  Yes it is busy and noisy, hot and sticky and at times confusing, but this is Thailand, the centre of south east Asia – what more would you expect?  And actually, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

If you’re adding Hat Yai to the top of your travel plans, check out this article by Sandy Dhaliwal, a fellow writer and teacher currently living in Hat Yai and loving it just as much as I do.

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Thailand protests claim innocent young lives.

A 12 year old boy, and now a 4 and 6 year old brother and sister are the latest victims of grenade attacks at protest sites in Thailand.  If grown adults want to pelt explosives at each other that’s one thing, but when the victims are innocent children something needs to be done.  On the other hand, who takes their children to protest sites in the first place?  This ‘picnic mentality’ to protesting needs to be quashed; it’s not all a walk in the park any more.

It seems that nothing is being done to deal with the ongoing protests.  I understand that because of the amount of deaths the last intervention resulted in, the state are being reserved in their reaction.  But how many innocent young lives need to be lost before something is done?

Click here to read about the latest infant fatalities.

I find it really upsetting and angering that this can be allowed to go on with seemingly no recourse, but we all know that any response is likely to be violent and will result in more bloodshed.

The land of smiles is certainly not such a happy place right now.  I hope that things can be resolved soon.

Sunday Papers – peace confusion, apologies and aliens.

It’s Sunday morning and every week I like to cast my eyes over the morning’s papers at home and in Thailand. Thailand’s news is still focused on the protests which came to a (once again) violent point yesterday afternoon as tensions raise ahead of the elections taking place today.  With many polling stations unable to open due to the delivery of ballot papers being obstructed and protests outside of the polling stations that have managed to open it is hard to see many people braving the frontline to cast their vote, especially with violent outbursts such as this captured on video yesterday taking place; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wVmQAp13kI&sns=tw Scary stuff. On a lighter note, but still not a particularly positive light for Thailand, shopping mecca Central Festival had to release an official apology after the world of the internet brought it to their attention that maybe their advert (below) for Chinese New Year featuring a model pulling a ‘slanty eye’ maybe, just maybe, might be offensive to… the rest of the world who now have a grasp on things such as racial prejudice and the like. How many times must we tell you, Thailand?! It’s not all violent protests and racism in the Land of Smiles – these lovely people had the greatest intentions, staging a candlelit vigil for peace in Thailand… only their candles seemed to be displaying the Mercedes Benz symbol rather than the peace symbol… oops. Heading over to the homeland, things of an extra-terrestrial nature are taking hold of the county of Cornwall with the alleged sighting of a UFO at Mounts Bay – which to my untrained eye is clearly a meteor.  Judge it for yourself:-ufo1web It comes as no surprise to me that Cornwall is the number one area in the UK for UFO spottings – there a quite a lot of strange people with a lot of time on their hands!

Sunday Papers

Every Sunday morning I check the morning papers for all the weird and wonderful news that Thailand has to offer, as well as some things closer to home (Cornwall can be pretty weird too!)

I can’t write about the news in Thailand without mentioning the protests that have been going on all week as part of the Bangkok shutdown.  Things were going along nicely and relatively violence free until Friday, when a grenade/small explosive device went off, injuring a handful of protesters and killing one man.  One can only imagine that this could escalate things in a tit-for-tat fashion.  Only time will tell.

It’s hard to find any non-protest related news this week as obviously it is the main thing on people’s minds across the country.  But I did find a couple of things…

Like this man who was found taking an intoxicated cat nap behind the wheel in the middle of the traffic lights at a busy intersection in Lampang.

After trying to wake him by shouting and even rocking the car, the police ended up having to smash the window in to finally awaken him.  Don’t drink and drive kids, and don’t sleep and drive either.  It was noted that he did have his indicator on, so at least he was following that part of the highway code.

Then there was this poor woman whose skin died and peeled off after taking bogus diet pills.  Yes, they suppressed her appetite but what’s the use in being skinny if you are rotting from the outside in?  She’s OK now but is hopefully steering clear of those diet pills being sold in the markets – if you’re going to take these things guys, at least pay the full price and get them from a pharmacy.

I imagine that it might have looked something like the de-masking scene in The Witches movie…

Now a venture into the animal world, and what better than my favourite, the Thai street cat?!  Five kitties have taken up residence in a Bangkok train station and are quickly building up a social following with their own facebook fan page, which obviously I have liked.

Lets head over to the homeland, where after skipping past stories not only about a shed fire but two chimney fires too (yes, this is big news in Cornwall) and even another champagne thief (a copycat from last week, perhaps?)… I realised that it has clearly been a slow news week.

However, a local student has created a village for insects in some public gardens in my hometown.  Which is nice.

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Like I said, slow news week.

Sunday Papers

Sunday morning, cup of tea, breakfast and a nose at the newspapers.

Here are the top stories from my Sunday morning.

It’s the story in every paper and on every news channel across Thailand right now as Bangkok prepares for the ‘shutdown’ due to start tomorrow.  But why is it happening and how much will be shut during the ‘shutdown’?

Unknown gunmen opened fire on protesters yesterday in two separate attacks.  A sign of things to come as the protests develop?

A Muay Thai fighter ups the game in the worn underpants underground market by making mega-baht selling his underpants having worn them in the ring.  Mmm, sweaty.

I can’t find an image of the man or his underpants (thankfully) so here is an Asian Catwoman-Man that I pulled up from google images instead.  BTW, never google ‘Asian man underwear’ unless you are prepared to see a lot of Asian peen.

Woman blames ‘mysterious cat-loving Chinese man’ for the mystery meth that turned up inside her cat food cans when she flew into Chiang Mai.  My cat would go INSANE on crystal meth.  She’s mad enough on Tiger Balm licked off my skin (my newly discovered Asian catnip equivalent – who’d have thunk it?).

I don’t condone drugs kids, but I do condone all things cat.

I can’t check the weird and wonderful news of Thailand without visiting the homeland either. 

This week’s top news in Cornwall is SUPER STORM HERCULES or whatever they decided to call it.  Over 2 million GBP of damage to Cornwall’s coastline as roads were ripped up and building demolished by crazy spring tides alongside SUPER STORM JESUS.  2 million pounds is a lot of money in Cornwall.  You can still get a cup of tea for 20p in certain establishments.  That’s like, a million pasties (if you don’t know what a pasty is, LEAVE NOW AND GOOGLE).  Or just click that linky on the word google, I did it for you.

THESE PEOPLE ARE SILLY.  Probably holiday makers.  Us Cornish know the last place you would want to be in the face of a SUPER STORM is on the end of the pier.

That was literally it on the Cornish front other than bin fires and a man who stole champagne, vodka and a canoe.  Oh, to be at that party…

So that’s all folks.  Enjoy your Sunday.