Friday, 31 July 2015

Cobra Village in Khon Kaen province

Cobra Village in Khon Kaen province

Baan Khok Sa-nga (King Cobra Village)
บ้านโคกสง่า ต.ทรายมูล อ.น้ำพอง จ.ขอนแก่น 

I have seen snake show at the snake farm in Bangkok and on Koh Samui, and one would have been enough, but it was an invitation and in their schedule so I couldn't decline. 

The large snakes are made of painted styrofoam, show was about 10:50 to 11:10. 


This snake can jump about a meter high:

Men put python head in mouth or in pants:

"Small public zoo" and market:

I was the only Foreign visitor, about 30 Thais in audience. No entry fee, but they collect donations (Thais gave 20 Baht per family per act). At the end they take picutures of selected visitors with snake around neck with instant camera (Thai friend passed me 100 Baht to donate). 

It confirmed what I have seen before: the snake sees the human as a threat and either tries to escape or attacks. Unless a herpetologist tells me otherwise, I will stick to: snake show is unethical treatment of animals and ChristianPFC will not go to snake show (this one was special circumstances) and advises his readers to do the same.

Quality articles on the internet:

Copyright 2015 ChristianPFC

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Snake shrine on Huay Yai road

Snake shrine on Huay Yai road

Only weeks after the Shrine of Cobra Queen on Rama 2 road, I discover another snake shrine, this time in Chonburi province.

12°51'30.3"N 100°55'03.6"E = 12.858419, 100.917675 
950 m east of Sukhumvit road (hwy 3), on the southern side of Huay Yai road, next to Tesabal road 1 Soi 2. (Huay Yai and Na Chom Tian 6 are on opposite sides of hwy 3.)

หมู่ 1 ต.ห้วยใหญ่ อ.บางละมุง จ.ชลบุรี

"Welcome to the shrine of the sage snake (hidden behind lantern)"

View from main road. Left, front, right:

That leaves to wonder if there are any more snake shrines (real snakes, not Naga mythological snake or dragon).

The shrine in Rama 2 road is for a king cobra (งูจงอาง ngoo jong-aang), the shrine in Huay Yai for a jungle/forest cobra (เห่าดง hào dong)
There is Thean Hock Keong temple, popularly known as Snake Temple, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

and a cobra village in Khon Kaen province (post tomorrow).

Update: for more about snakes see here 

Copyright 2015 ChristianPFC

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Sakon Nakhon various impressions

Sakon Nakhon various impressions

A Thai friend in Sakon Nakhon สกลนคร invites me to stay with him and he will take me various temples. A full invitation: free accommodation, food, driving around.

Wed 15.07.2015
My first domestic flight in Thailand, DMK-SNO 17:50-19:05, AirAsia 1100 Baht (can be had for half if booked a week in advance).

Small airport, our plane is the only one. B is there, with his grandson T (about 15 years old) and driver D and monk M (actually abbot of the temple where we will stay). Only now do I learn that will travel all five throughout my stay. Monk has higher status than farang and gets the front seat, I sit in the back with B and T, less comfortable than most public bus or van.

Arrive at M’s house, a few km out of SN. Rather spacious and luxurious, same for another monk’s house I saw from inside.

Thu 16.07.2015
Trip to various temples and chat with monks there. In one place, there is a gay monk. At a moment when we are alone, he says something which I don’t fully understand but interpret as “I want to make love with you” and pretend not to understand, then he gently puts his hand on my crotch and afterwards shakes my hand, tickling my palm with a finger (invitation for sex), and invites me to stay overnight, he would pick me up and bring me back. He offers the same to T. I don’t spot any cute novice monks in the temple (unlike the pink temple in Nakhon Nayok where there were three cute novice monks, I was wondering if the abbot is gay and selects only handsome novice monks). Later I would see M eat in the afternoon, hand money to a woman to pay for goods, and observe another monk smoking cigarette. And the two houses I saw were luxurious. Everything together very un-monk-like and deeply shattering my beliefs.

Fri 17.07.2015
Trip to more temples, Kham Hom waterfall (dry) in Phu Phan National Park (but no entry fee to waterfall) and Phu Phan palace (entry on the palace grounds is permitted, nice garden, but palace nothing special). Visit Catholic churches in Tha Rae subdistrict (my idea).

Back home, take shower. Returning from shower, I notice someone was in my room, more precisely in my pants and in my wallet. I keep used bus tickets in my wallet, and one is lying on my pants. Check my wallet: money is missing, around 5000 Baht (low estimate 4000 and high estimate 6000). Button of other pocket is open, but passport still there. Mobile and camera still there (charging in remote corner my room). It was most probably D who saw me wrapped in towel at the fridge before I took shower, and whom I shortly spotted on 2nd floor (where my room is; D sleeps at his place nearby). That was the only time I saw him on 2nd floor, I thought he would use the bathroom because ground floor bathroom is occupied, but with hindsight time was too short, he was checking if I’m in the shower!

Dress and go down, where I find D cleaning the car. Look under all seats and ask him if he found money in the range of 3000 Baht, because I just noticed I lost 3000 Baht during the day (better way to introduce the subject than accusing anyone of theft, and give a lower amount so the thief can “find” 3000 Baht and still keep the rest). Just when he replies “No”, he gets up from cleaning the tire and hits his back, that must be karma!

Later I raise the subject (lost money) with B, T and M, rather weird suggestion that the money must have fallen out of the car; we got in and out many times and the pocket with wallet was next to door. Another idea is that they sent T to bring me down, and T found I’m in the shower and opened my pocket and wallet. B and M are well off and don’t need to steal money. What would you have done? I didn’t want to accuse anyone or spoil the other’s mood, but let the thief know I noticed.

Usually I split my money, half in my wallet, half in my room (usually between the pages of a book – most Thais I know wouldn’t touch a book with a barge pole). When I have a guest, I go into bathroom with my trousers on and take them off there. But here, in friendly territory, I abandoned these safety measures.

Sat 18.07.2015
Luk Nimit (the 9 stone balls that are buried under Bai Sema to mark the borders of a Ubosot) consecration ceremony in a temple in Khon Kaen province. Leave 5:35 (morning! I haven’t been up that early for a long time). In the course of the day, the plan slowly unravels: Go to temple with Luk Nimit 11 for a short visit, go to Cobra Village around 12 then come back in the afternoon about 13-15, and two more temples 15-17. Then to Khon Kaen airport.

Having tasted the sweet fruit of domestic air travel, and trying to salvage at least Sunday (couldn’t take advantage of Friday night, can’t take advantage of Sat night in KK due to lack of money and clean clothes), and finally exploring if you can buy a flight ticket just before the flight departs (I asked this question last year on thaivisa, I ask to be taken to KK airport. And indeed, 17:45 I can get a ticket for the 18:25 flight (AirAsia, 1796 Baht, pay in cash). Both flights about 80% occupancy and hand luggage restrictions not enforced. Will do more air travel in the future (places that have no railway station and airport conveniently located – unlike Roi Et Airport which is 16 km out of town).

Such home stay (with travel and food taken care of) would be great for someone without experience, but I found that the advantages balance the disadvantages. You can get to some places much faster (what can be done in 30 minutes by car can easily take 2 hours by bus and walking and hitchhiking), but then I am taken to other places where I wouldn’t go. Change in daily routine no problem (alone I would be up 10am-midnight, now 8am-10pm). At night I am stuck at the house with nowhere to go, compensated by going to bed early and getting up early. If I were in a hotel in town, I would tour the town in search of gay activities. We eat together, which was not always when I was hungry, but I can adapt.

A lot of time is spent socializing with people in village and at temples, which quickly becomes boring. B would tell them all details, from me picking up a paper clip from the floor of the airport to a chronological list of meals I had to the fact that I sleep with light off and curtains closed.

Weather was good throughout. Mostly clouded (I don’t like sunshine: sunburn and shadows when taking picturs), little rain. From Sakon Nakhon to Khon Kaen everything lush green, but on flight to Bangkok there were many grey/brown fields visible from airplane. Apart from lack of water in Kam Hom waterfall (Phu Pan National Park), there were no signs of drought in Sakon Nakhon and Khon Kaen province.

T would look at me and mumble “Harry Potter” and later switch to calling me “Harry”. Thai boys quite often liken me to Harry Potter because of my glasses. Only one boy likens me to Steve Jobs.

Next year, T will go to New Zealand (student exchange?). Currently, he speaks about ten words of English. B wants me to teach him English by phone (which would be an exercise in futility and a waste of my time, the boy had enough time to learn English in school, nonetheless I agree to it, like I agree to all stupid requests – take someone to Germany for holiday, find someone a German husband – knowing that nothing will happen).

When driving by car, B would open the window to throw out rubbish. I observed this many times before (train or boat) that Thai adults just throw their rubbish out of the window, but then it were strangers, now it’s someone I know, in presence of a minor!

Having spent the entire time with my friends, I didn’t use public transport, didn’t even go to bus station to take pictures of timetables. Hence I cannot regale my readers with a list of public transport options in Sakon Nakhon.

I inquired about dog meat on sale or dog bones scattered in the forest in Tha Rae ท่าแร่ subdistrict. Recent (5 Jul 2015) report in Bangkok Post: but they told me there is no dog meat trade and not bones scattered in the forest, so I abandoned this subject (if I had been traveling alone, I would have inquired in Tha Rae and made an excursion to the forest).

All other request to go to places (wats, national park, waterfall, palace and churches) were answered positively.

During our trip by car all except me and driver would look on a pad at a picture of an object that looked like ice cream with chocolate splits and try to read numbers for the next lottery from this.

My request to go swimming at the waterfall (wasn’t possible due to lack of water) caused great mirth, probably due to mispronunciation ว่ายน้ำ “to swim” and ไหว้น้ำ “to pray to water”. Same for my reluctance to have a snake around my neck (not because I’m afraid, but because I don’t want to participate in mistreatment of animals and spend money on it) at the snake show (details soon).

We passed a shrine with a rhinoceros on hwy 2218 (southern side, before km 20) in Sakon Nakhon province.

We passed statue of crocodile and temple outer wall decorated with crocodile in Wang Sam Mo (Udon Thani province), spotted bus 4381 (Udon Thani - Wang Sam Mo) pass. 

Copyright 2015 ChristianPFC

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

What the fuck?! Plastic waste in restaurants

What the fuck?! Plastic waste in restaurant

ChristianPFC disapproves of single-use plastic (or other material) cutlery and crockery. Single-use (for take away - then throw away) plastic cups for drinks are common in food courts but a recent visit to a fast food chain* shocked me: everything except the tray is single use! Outrageous!

*Idea of the boy I was with. ChristianPFC once sat in a McDonald's (with friends) and once ate at KFC in 2011 (again suggestion of a friend). I now learned that it depends on the branch how much is single use and how much is multiple use.

ChristianPFC suggests there be a tax on single-use cutlery and crockery to stop this waste of resources and energy, or even ban them altogether.

It will reduce pollution as well; when ChristianPFC's hometown got a McDonald's, you could soon afterwards see McDo boxes litter along roads.

Thai street food stalls show that you can wash plates, cups and cutlery even with limited resources:

Under optimum conditions (no plastic bottles, but free drinking water from reusable large containers), there is only the straw for drinking that is going to waste (and sometimes single use chopsticks made of wood or bamboo).

Copyright 2015 ChristianPFC

Monday, 27 July 2015

Wat Bhoman Khunaram in Yanawa district

Wat Bhoman Khunaram in Yanawa district

วัดโพธิ์แมนคุณาราม เขตยานาวา, various romanizations: Wat Bhoman Khunaram, Wat Pho Maen Khunaram, Wat Poe Man Khunaram, but in Thai it's written and pronounced like the famous Wat Pho.

13°42'03.1"N 100°32'24.2"E 13.700869, 100.540056
170 m west of the crossing of Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Road ถนนนราธิวาสราชนครินทร์ and Rama III Road. 410 m north-east of Central Plaza Rama III. 

Accessible from Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Soi 24 = Sathu Pradit สาธุประดิษฐ์ Soi 19 (but much closer to NR than to SP).
From BTS Chong Nonsi สถานีช่องนนทรี, take BRT to Thanon Chan ถนนจันทน์ and walk 700 m.

Aerial view from a nearby high building:

perpendicular view via a friend's drone (enter via orange arrows on bottom; Narathiwas-Ratchanakarin on the left, Rama 3 top left corner, Central Rama 3 top right corner):

Large, beautifully decorated and centrally located, but hasn't received much attention. Further reading:

A day to visit three Chinese temples in Bangkok and Nonthaburi provinces Sunday, 23 June 2013

Chinese New Year February 2013:  

update: pics from 26jul2017

Copyright 2015 ChristianPFC

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Siam Gypsy Junction market ตลาดนัด ชุมทาง สยามยิปซี

Siam Gypsy Junction market ตลาดนัด ชุมทาง สยามยิปซี

Wed-Sun 6pm-1am
Wednesday-Sunday, 6pm-1am; entrance is on Krungthep - Nonthaburi road between Soi 27 and 29.
13°49'20.2"N 100°31'57.2"E = 13.822283, 100.532569

I spotted this market when returning to Bangkok by train, and search on the internet gave details:
so I went to explore by foot.

Entrance is 2.9 km by road north-west of MRT Bang Sue; across the road from completed but not in operation yet MRT Bang Son บางซ่อน. 

There is no railway junction nearby, and I wonder how they came to call the market Gypsy market. Thailand is blessed with not having Gypsies. Unfortunately we have Gypsies (Zigeuner in German) in Germany; and it's not politically correct to call Gypsies "Gypsies".

This train (at the entrance on Krungthep - Nonthaburi road) is fake (however the person sitting in it is real):

but this train is real (left side; unlike the Railway markets - see next post - this market has real trains passing in 20 m distance for the full length of the market):

The market is nestled between railway line (20 m south of the market, all trains to/from south and west pass) and MRT line (above the market), which makes it one-lane about 30 m wide and 500 m long. At the eastern end (dead end), there are many unoccupied stalls.

And there is construction of an elevated road above Bang Son wet market (on the other side of the railway line from Siam Gypsy market):

This market used to part of JJ Green (Chatuchak Green, one of the places the original Railway market moved to), and stuff you find there is similar to the Railway markets.

Part of the market has a Wild West theme (albeit that's an Australian flag). "Wild West" is how the US romanticize the genocide on the native Americans.

From researching these markets, I can now draw a tentative timeline:

Original Railway market Chatuchak ends 2013, splits into Railway market Srinakarin and Ratchada Night market. Ratchada night market moves to Chatuchak and becomes JJ Green / Siam Gypsy. Siam Gypsy moves to Bang Son (2015). New branch of Railway market at Ratchada (2015).

Suan Lum Night market (closed 2010) moved to Ratchada Night Bazar, now closed but still a banner สวนลุมไนท์บาซาร์รัชดาภิเษก in the south-western corner of Ratchada-Ladprao intersection.

Copyright 2015 ChristianPFC

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Ratchada Railway Market ตลาดนัดรถไฟรัชดา

Ratchada Railway Market ตลาดนัดรถไฟรัชดา

I recently learnt of a new (open Jan 2015) railway market in Ratchada, behind Esplanade. Open Tue-Sun  5pm - 1am. Easily accessible by MRT Thailand Cultural Center (exit 3, walk north), then walk around the southern end of Esplanade. There is little signage on Ratchada road.

Merchandise is similar to other markets (clothes, mobile accessories, cosmetics, restaurants), and you can find antiques/collectibles/retro as well.

I spotted the first around May on cars or mocy helmets:

Esplanade in the background:

The original Railway Market (ตลาดรถไฟ dtà-làat rót fai, Talat Rot Fai which actually means train market, not railway market) was in Chatuchak area on grounds of the State Railway of Thailand (hence the name), but had to move in 2013. 

It moved to behind Seacon Square in Srinakaran (no MRT or BTS access, far away from central Bangkok)

and now a new branch opened in Ratchada (much closer to central Bangkok and easy access by MRT) with both branches retaining the name, even though there is no railway anywhere near the market.

Copyright 2015 ChristianPFc

Friday, 17 July 2015

Wat Hua Krabeu - Temple with buffalo skulls

Wat Hua Krabeu วัดหัวกระบือ

Famous for a collection of old cars (mainly Mercedes) and buffalo skulls.

Others have written about this place:
book Bangkok off the grid page 106-7
ebook Thailand - A one weird globe guide page 61-2

And there is not much to add except for directions to go by public transport. On a previous trip, I spotted a songtheo (blue, line 1501) with วัดหัวกระบือ as destination at Central Rama 2, which was the incentive to go there and invite a Farang friend.

From Sathorn (Rama 4) take bus 141 (aircon) to Central Rama 2, 21 Baht, 12:01-40. From there to Wat Hua Krabeu was easy: blue songtheo line 1501 to วัดหัวกระบือ (final stop), 7.3 km, south-west along Rama 2, south on Bang Khun Tian road ถนนบางขุนเทียน, east on Thian Thale Soi 19 เทียนทะละ ซอย 19, 7 Baht, 14:20-36.

Return was not that easy as there are different lines 1501 and there are detours for U-turns. The first songtheo took us to Bang Bon market ตลาดบางบอน, the second to Central Rama 2. Total 14 Baht and 16:34-17:29, with 5 minutes wait at Bang Bon market:

Location (ubosot or wiharn?)
Thian Thale Soi 19 เทียนทะละ ซอย 19, Bang Khun Tian district เขตบางขุนเทียน

There are life turtles

and even life crocodiles (one can be seen in the cage):

The temple is famous for a collection of old cars (mainly Mercedes) and buffalo skulls.

Buffalo skulls are scattered all around the temple, even a mosaic in the ground:

This pile of buffalo skulls differs from pictures I saw on the internet, maybe they rearranged them or there are several places with large numbers of skulls, I found only this one:

Copyright 2015 ChristianPFC