April 2005 Archives

Late Night Hospital Run to Bumrungrad


This last week has been a rough one for me. In the week before, I was scrambling around trying to catch up from the trip to Australia and starting to prepare for the next research trip (more details on that later) when I was forced to take a painful bed-ridden mini-holiday.

When I clocked out of work on Tuesday at 5:00 PM, I felt a little tired, but I figured it was just because I had a grueling two and a half hour class where I taught binary and hexadecimal math. Ouch. But within five minutes of getting home I was in bed with a terrible fever.

It got worse and worse for the next few hours, until my entire body was blazing hot. But around midnight, the advil and paracetamol started to kick in and I got better and better through the night.

I went back to school the next day because I had to teach class. It wasn't a very pleasant experience for me. My students probably didn't enjoy it much either, since it was more binary math!

Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse later that night, and I decided I had to go to the doctor. I won't give details about why I had to go, but let's just say that the sight of fresh blood appearing where it shouldn't is Reason #1 to get myself to the hospital.

I was afraid that this might be something serious, so I decided to go to Bumrungrad Hospital -- the hi-so, "international" hospital. It is supposedly the best hospital in Thailand. It's definitely the swankiest and the most expensive.

And actually, it did turn out to be quite nice. I was in a lot of pain at the time, but I appreciated the efficiency of the staff with my paperwork and the fact that I got to see an English-speaking specialist doctor in the emergency room instead of the usual "guy who sews people up" who is there late at night. I also admired the huge flat panel LCD monitors on the doctor's desk.

The final bill for seeing two doctors in the emergency room at 9 PM and receiving medication came out to 1,600 baht (or US$43 on my credit card). Even though that's expensive compared to other Thai hospitals, it was worth it, as the meds seem to be working. It's Friday now and I am feeling a lot better; let's hope it continues. I have work to do!

Update: I just found out that Bumrungrad Hospital was featured on CBS' 60 Minutes. An article from Thailand's Nation newspaper covers the 60 Minutes coverage. According to 2bangkok.com, the actual video is available on CBS' website.


This post was selected as one of the "Favorite Posts of 2005". To read more "Favorites", then visit Favorite Posts of 2005.

After one full day of riding the new bike around town a bit, I'm finding out that it's really not so bad. Traffic moves very slowly, for the most part. And the fact that everything just kinda flows together makes it not too difficult to drive.

The difficult thing, however, is breathing. I think my lungs are now filled with black smoke belched from old busses. When driving in the car, I never had to worry about the pollution, but this morning I was behind a bus pulling out of a bus stop and I thought I was going to die. Not from the traffic, from the exhast.

Maybe they sell helmets with built in air filters. If they don't, they should!

Last night, I finally did it: I bought a motorcycle. Well, it's not really a motorcycle, as in a big black Harley; it's more like a scooter. But whatever you want to call it, it will improve my daily 3 KM commute drastically.

The shop that I bought the bike from is on Sukumvit, just down a bit from On Nut. Of course Bangkok traffic is notorious, and so after I had paid for the bike and was sitting on it for the first time, waiting to pull out into the heavy traffic on Sukumvit I had a flashback.

It was the winter of 1990. I was spending my February school break with my friends at a ski resort in Vermont. Being from Florida, I had never skied before. This is usually not a problem; one just takes ski lessons the first day and then sticks to the green colored beginner slopes for the first few runs.

My problem was that the house we were staying in was on TOP of the mountain, next to a medium-difficulty blue run. To get to my very first ski lesson, I first had to SKI DOWN the hill. Needless to say I spent most of that first run on my butt.

So last night, there I was again on another trial by fire. My first bike ride in Bangkok was going to be Sukumvit at rush hour. (Oh yeah, did I mention it was also dark?)

But once I got started, it actually wasn't that bad. Of course I felt like I was driving like a Grandma, but that's ok. Slow and sure wins the race, right? At least hopefully slow and sure keeps me out of the path of oncoming cars!


This post was selected as one of the "Favorite Posts of 2005". To read more "Favorites", then visit Favorite Posts of 2005.



I am back home in Bangkok now and cursing the heat. I am sure I will get used to it after a day or two, but after enjoying the cool weather in Melbourne, I am not too thrilled with the idea of sweating every time I step outside.

I don't think I will have time to give more details about the trip for a few days. As always, the work was piled up waiting for me to return. But maybe by the end of the week I might be able to give some updates. Who knows, I might even be able to post a picture or two.

Melbourne Rain

Unfortunately, I haven't had time to update my site this week. Things are still going well for us in Australia, though. We are now in Melbourne, where, as the weather sticker says, it is 60 F / 16 C and raining. Not terribly pleasant weather, but I guess we can't complain too much since the weather on our first five days of our trip was absolutely perfect.

The interviews have been going well, too. Luckily we selected a good cross-section of people and are getting a lot of different perspectives on the issues surrounding the funding of children's television. Even though this topic is not necessarily my passion, we've had several very interesting conversations.

Hopefully, I will be able to post more later...

Waking Sydney


We've arrived safely in Sydney. Unfortunately though, we arrived at 6 AM and were at our hotel by 7. Of course we can't check in until around noon, so we are hanging out at a local breakfast place and watching the city wake up.

Well, actually, I'm the only one doing any watching. Piyawat is propped up against the glass wall overlooking the sidewalk sound asleep. We didn't get much sleep on the overnight flight because the turbulence was quite rough at times, so I can't blame him for resting a bit now.

In fact, I think it's a great idea; I just don't think I can sleep in a busy breakfast restaurant. So what will my first activity in Sydney be, after we check in? Taking a nap, I'm sure!

Packed and Ready for Australia


The last few days have been a blur. I have been working very long days and very long nights. And what is my reward? How about a free trip to Australia?

That's right, later today Piyawat and I are flying to Australia. It's mostly a work trip -- remember that Educational TV research project I mentioned a while back? Well, we are going to Australia to interview some of the biggest names in Educational Television down under. It's going to be an interesting trip.

Of course we have a little bit of time to do some sightseeing as well. I'll do my best to send updates from the road.

The last few days have been painful, to be sure. But now, hours away from leaving Thailand, the interviews are scheduled, the reservations are made, the questions are written and printed, the laundry is done, the house is clean, the bags are packed, and the excitement is starting to build...

Yahoo 360


Being a big fan of blogs (obviously) and moderately interested in social networking websites (e.g. Friendster), my curiosity was piqued when I heard that Yahoo would soon be entering the fray. Blogs are pretty cool, but the Friendster-type websites have so far left me very unimpressed. I wonder if Yahoo can do a better job.

The service is called Yahoo 360. It's in beta now, and like Google's beta email service, it is invite only at this point. However, I was lucky enough to get an invite from Stephen Downes.

And so now I have a few invites to give out as well. Let me know if you are interested in giving the new service a try. Email me at "sgtowns at yahoo" and I will hook you up.

Oh, and I have lots of Google Email invitations too. Let me know if you want one! You can email me at "sgtowns at gmail" and I'll invite you.

Mu Ga-Ta. Aroy!

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I complained about having to drive through the rain in my last post, but one good thing about a nice day-long shower is that the next day is often much cooler. This was the case with yesterday's weather.

So, we took advantage of it by eating at an outdoor ga-ta place. Basically, the ga-ta is similar to the Mongolian BBQ place I used to visit in Raleigh, except that this one is all-you-can-eat and you have to cook it yourself. But cooking it on a big grill at your table is half the fun!

I have been to a similar place near Victory Monument, but the one I visted last night near Tesco-Lotus On Nut was a bit better. Not only did they have piles and piles of fresh raw meat waiting to be BBQ'ed, they also had other snacks like geow tawd, gai tawd, som tam, and larb mu (fried wontons, fried chicken, spicy papaya salad, and spicy minced pork salad).

The best part about the whole ga-ta experience for me is the soup. Around the outside of the grill there is water, which quietly simmers as it collects all the juice from the grilling meat. Throw in some cabbage, corn, mushrooms, noodles, and fish balls, and add a little bit of lemon juice and fish sauce and you have a real treat. Last night's soup was amazingly delicious.

And all this for the unbelievable (even in Thailand) price of 79 baht. ($US 2)

Piyawat flew to Phang Na for a business trip yesterday, and being the good guy that I am, I offered to drive him to the airport. Or did I do it just so I could use his car for the weekend?

In any case, yesterday after I dropped him off at Don Muang around noon, I had an itching for a road trip. I used to love to get behind the wheel and go exploring, but since I haven't had a car in years, it had been a long time. Yesterday was finally my big chance.

So I headed north from Bangkok towards Ayutthaya. My only goal was "go somewhere new". I had a map of Thailand in one hand, my Thailand Lonely Planet in the other hand, and the steering wheel between my knees as I tried to figure out where to go. (Just kidding, Mom!)

I wanted to visit a province within 200 KM of Bangkok. Nonthaburi, Chonburi, Lopburi, Suphanburi, Ratchaburi, Katchanaburi and Singburi were crossed off the list since I had visited them before. Not to mention, I just wasn't in the mood for a Buri.

While I was loving the ride through the green countryside, Ang Thong and Chai Nat provinces flew by. Ahead of me lay Uthai Thani province. I consulted my Lonely Planet book and found not a single shred of information about the place. So I figured it was the perfect destination for my little road trip.

Once I finally arrived, the rest of the evening was fantastic. I walked around the tiny provincial capital and through the fresh produce market next to the small river. The river was choked with weeds and floating houses. Crossing a footbridge at the end of the market, I visited a 200 year old temple.

After exploring on foot, I got back into the car to drive around a bit. When I first started driving in Bangkok a year or so ago, I felt incredibly claustrophobic. Cars fit in to every possible space on the road: in front, behind, and on all sides. But in Uthai Thani, I had the opposite feeling. Where are all the cars? Why are the streets so empty? And why is everything and everyone moving so slowly?

I headed up the nearby hillside to visit the temple at the top. Sitting at the temple overlooking the town with a plate of gai yang (barbeque chicken) and kao neao (sticky rice) in front of me, the heat of the day began to wear off and a cool evening breeze began to blow. I was very conscious of the stresses of city life slowly lifting away.

Unfortunately, the relaxation had to come to an end. After spending the night in a local hotel (380 baht = US$10) I drove back to Bangkok this morning. The two and a half hour joy ride to Uthai Thani yesterday turned into a painful four hour slog through rain and rush hour traffic this morning.

So now, I am back in Bangkok. But if I close my eyes for a moment, I can feel the river breeze and smell the gai yang, taking me back to a slower, calmer place that no Lonely Planet backpacker will ever have the chance to visit.


This post was selected as one of the "Favorite Posts of 2005". To read more "Favorites", then visit Favorite Posts of 2005.

April Fools!


It's official now, I was tricked. I'm an April Fool.

Yes, the "blocking" of 2bangkok.com was, in fact, an April Fool's Joke. And a good one at that! Not only was it successful in its execution, this joke was one to make everyone think a little bit about the world around them. Unfortunately, the Thai Government does block websites that it feels are unappropriate or dangerous. For those who think that the Internet (or any kind of media) should be censored might have thought twice when the censorship seemed to affect them directly.

In any case, the site is back up. I for one hope it stays that way!

2bangkok.com Is Gone


As I have mentioned on this site a few times, one thing that I don't like about living in Thailand is that it is impossible to be an informed citizen. It is very difficult for me to actually figure out what is really going on around me.

Of course, this is mostly because of the language barrier. Culture sometimes plays a role as well. For example, if I want to make a big purchase at a store, I have to take a Thai friend along because there is no way I can figure out what to buy. Why is this TV selling for 10,000 more baht than this one? I have to take someone who is willing to ask a lot of questions so that we can together figure out which is the best product for the money.

Getting news is another problem. The English language newspapers are mostly worthless. The Bangkok Post has no teeth and The Nation has too many. These two newspapers will report on the same story and the Post will praise the efforts of the government while the Nation will slam them.

I was, therefore, very happy to find 2bangkok.com. Reading it has become part of my daily routine, and I have linked to it many times from here (for example, last week's photos from the Russian Embassy).

I loved their coverage of the SkyTrain and Subway, and of big construction projects like the Mega-Bridge, and information warning about gem scams, and even translations of the headlines of the many Thai language newspapers.

sorry.jpgBut now, the site is gone. And it's not just that the owners of the site decided to remove it. That scenario I could accept. After all, I wasn't paying them anything to feed me news stories.

Instead, the Thai government has decided that the people of Thailand should not view this site. If you are in Thailand now and you go to the 2bangkok website, you will see something similar to the screen shot I posted to the right. (Click on it to see a bigger version.)

It's no secret that the Thai Government censors websites. They have a black list of about (last I heard) 20,000 sites that are blocked inside Thailand. But almost 100% of them are pornography or gambling sites. So, you can argue that pornography sites should be blocked because the children of Thailand shouldn't see them, but once you start blocking one site, where do you stop? Who decides what is good and what is bad?

For me, the 2bangkok site was an important part of my life here because it informed me about living in a foreign country. But someone, somewhere, thinks otherwise.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2005 is the previous archive.

May 2005 is the next archive.

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