I just don’t give a coup

Coup?  What coup?

You may have noticed that I have remained silent on the topic of the military regime that we currently find ourselves under in Thailand.

It’s not advised (read: illegal, people are being detained…) to pass comment on the current situation; well, at least negative comment, of course.

So here’s my disclaimer: this is in no way taking either side of the coup/anti-coup camps.  No opinion at all thank you very much – I value my ‘freedom’ far too much (‘freedom’ is all relative when you’re living under military regime…) wait, too opinionated already? Oops.

I also haven’t written about it because in all honesty it has barely made any difference to my day to day life.

The curfew was initially annoying when it was imposed on a weekend and dictated that all people should be inside between 10 pm and 5am (how dare the junta try and limit my social life).  This was then gradually eased to 12 midnight – 4 am and finally lifted completely (one of the benefits of recently moving to a tourist destination is that those were the areas first considered when lifting the restrictions). Bangkok is still under curfew and will be the last place to be released from these controls.

To be honest, I was having my own personal crises combining being cut off by the electricity company and not being reconnected for four days, failing to get a working visa because of one pesky piece of paper and my cat running away for a week of what I am sure was full of fun and frivolity but had me in a state that can only be described as full panic and hysteria as I thought she was dead.  Turns out she was just being a cat but that’s a whole other blog post (and probably destined for another blog although I am holding back from starting a crazy cat lady blog quite yet).

So I didn’t really notice the curfew in any way, other than if I had a craving for a 7-eleven cheese toastie, I had to hold off until morning.  Not only my social life but my midnight munchies?  Junta, why you do this to me?!

Look at that face, how can you neglect this poor child?

Other than the curfew, there is the TV and radio shut down that is still going strong for certain non-approved channels.  I don’t have a TV and I don’t listen to local radio so that has no affect on me.  Although I am borrowing a car this week and the only thing I seem to be able to pick up on the car radio is some easy listening awfulness punctuated with BBC world service news and Thai public service announcements about who knows what.  At least my Love Duets CD featuring all the classics covered by generic Thai artists is getting some use.

Of course, there is the other matter of some pretty prominent political figures being detained, the lack of active government and no sign of elections any time soon.  Oh, and if five or more people congregate in public they are disturbing the peace and may be dealt with accordingly. But none of this seems to be affecting day to day life in Phuket, at least not for me.

In order to soften the blow of the military coup, food prices are being fixed and VAT is being lowered.  Life in Thailand is about to get even cheaper.   Note, I don’t have any sources for these claims as I heard them on the aforementioned easy listening/public announcements radio station so it could all be propaganda (not that they have that kind of thing here…).

Something interesting (maybe not to everyone) is that those on the anti-coup side have adopted the three finger salute from the Hunger Games, representing defiance and overcoming the powers that be.  Of course, anyone who has ever been a brownie, guide, cub scout etc., will know that they have in fact adopted the international guiding and scouting salute which has a different meaning altogether including helping others, keeping your promise and being prepared.  Which is nice.  Maybe they can sell cookies too while they’re at it.

Finally, the Army chief has written a song to make everything OK; Return Happiness to Thailand.  Here it is for your enjoyment.  I’ve put the English translation of the lyrics so you can get the feel for it.

The day the nation, the King, and the mass of people live without danger
We offer to guard and protect you with our hearts
This is our promise
Today the nation is facing menacing danger
The flames are rising
Let us be the ones who step in, before it is too late
To bring back love, how long will it take?
Please, will you wait? We will move beyond disputes
We will do what we promised. We are asking for a little more time.
And the beautiful land will return
We will do with sincerity
All we ask of you is to trust and have faith in us
The land will be good soon
Let us return happiness to you, the people
Today, we will be tired [because of our mission], we know
We offer to fight the danger
Lives of soldiers will not surrender
This is our promise
Today the nation is facing menacing danger.
The flames are rising
Let us be the ones who step in, before it is too late
The land will be good soon
Happiness will return to Thailand

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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.

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!

The faces of the protests – Thailand, 2013.

Today marked a seminal point in the protests that have been taking place in Thailand for the past month.

This morning, protesters returned to the streets after four days of peace in honour of the King’s birthday.  PM Yingluck quickly made an announcement, dissolving the government and calling for an election.

The protests went on, across the country – only now it was more of a victory march.

I went to the municipal centre of Songkhla province in the deep south of Thailand to see for myself what kind of people were involved in today’s activities.  Young and old alike had taken to streets, proudly wearing yellow or pink for the King and countless accessories in the red, white and blue of the Thai flag.

It was a real celebratory atmosphere, the sun was shining and people were happy.  It was a world away from the scenes broadcast around the world from Bangkok last week.  Let’s hope the feeling continues in this direction.  Thailand is the land of smiles after all.

© Kylie Millar and cornishkylie, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kylie Millar and cornishylie with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Home and Away; beasts and mutants

This week’s Home and Away stories explore the weird and wonderful, the mythical and the mutated.

…..Home….

BEAST OF BODMIN SPOTTED!

When I was growing up in Cornwall there was sometimes news of sightings of an animal that became known as the Beast of Bodmin Moor.  Commonly considered to be an escaped big cat now roaming the moorland, the Beast has been ‘spotted’ on numerous occasions across the county.  I can’t remember the last time the local news has re-ignited this story, but in the past week a man has claimed to have spotted the creature up a lane near his house in Redruth, Cornwall (a good drive down the A30 from Bodmin Moor may I add).  Now, I’m not ageist but our eye witness is a 72 year old gentleman, who has claimed to have spotted the Beast a total of three times during his lifetime.  Maybe he’s just a batty old man?  Perhaps he has an obsession with the strange animal.  No-one else can support his claims, and the Beast seemingly wandered off across farmland, leaving all animals untouched and wasn’t seen again.  I’ll leave you to decide the solidity of these claims.  Click here to read the full story and make your own mind up.

Some pictures of previous ‘Beasts’ that have been sighted in Cornwall…

Copyright Google images
Copyright Google images
Copyright Google images
Copyright Google images

….Away….

MUTANT PIGLETS LEAD TO LOTTERY WIN

More beast-like animals in this week’s story from Thailand, in the form of two separate births of mutated piglets.

The first, a piglet that had, “…five legs, two tongues and fangs sticking out of it’s mouth.  Its feet, rather than having trotters, were capped with five eerily human toes.” (www.phuketgazette.com, 2013) was born in the north east of Thailand.  Unfortunately the little pig beast didn’t make it into the evening of it’s first day alive.

The second piglet was born in a province that neigbours my own, Nakon Si Thammarat, and was described as having, “…two heads, two mouths, two tongues and three eyes.”  (www.phuketgazette.com, 2013).  Again, it didn’t live very long.

Despite not being alive for very long, both cases of mutant piglet births resulted in local villagers gathering to look at the animals to gain an insight into sucessful lottery numbers, which is apparantly a custom that I am not aware of but does not surprise me.

In both villages, on opposite ends of the country, the same winning lottery numbers were seemingly drawn from viewing the piglet beasts.  Strange… but true!

I couldn’t find any pictures of these specific mutant piglets but I am sure you can use your imaginations…