Archive for March, 2013

Books: ‘Java’ by Friedrich Gerstäcker

Posted in Books, Latest of Asienreisender on March 31, 2013 by Thim Kwai

Friedrich Gerstäcker (*1816 – 1872) was a German travel writer. He became famous after his first journeys to north America and his publications of his adventurous life there. He wrote and published a large number of books.

In later years and aftermath Gerstäcker’s writings were a model for adventurous travel novels of the 19th century, inspirating many other authors who followed him, including Karl May.

In 1849 Gerstäcker started a great journey around the globe, starting in south America, followed by California, Tahiti and Australia. In 1851 he arrived in Batavia (Jakarta) on Java. One of his books is exclusively dedicated to his journey on Java.

Read the review on ‘Java‘…

Luang Prabang / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Sights on March 29, 2013 by Thim Kwai

The legendary town of Luang Prabang in the north of Laos is a centerpiece of the country for it’s cultural heritage and it’s attraction to international tourists. The historical Laotion architecture here consists of a number of temples, of whom only one is really old (Vat Xieng Thong Ratsavoravikanh, 16th century); the others were all destroyed in the 19th century and later rebuilt.

Read the whole article on Luang Prabang

Ban Pak Beng / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places on March 29, 2013 by Thim Kwai

The little place at the banks of the Mekong River was a few years ago merely a mosquito infested hamlet without electricity. In the last years it more and more developed into a tourist trap. Due to the fact that every day a number of tourist boats are coming and going between Luang Prabang and Huayxai/Chiang Khong, having a one-night stopover here, a fast growing number of guesthouses spread up in the place, accompanied by restaurants and street vendors.

Read the article on Ban Pak Beng

Thailand and European Community start talks on bilateral Trade Agreement

Posted in Countries, Latest of Asienreisender on March 22, 2013 by Thim Kwai

In a meeting between the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand’s Prime Minister, on the 5th of March 2013 in Brusseles, both sides started talks on a free-trade agreement.

Merchandises worth 18 billion Euro were imported 2011 from Thailand into Europe, and the export from Europe to Thailand was of 12 billion Euros.

The EU (European Union) is working on bilateral agreements also with south Korea, Singapore and Japan. Thailand is a strategical access country for the European export industries onto Asian markets. "Thailand is a central player in the ASEAN-region", Barroso said. "The EU has a great interest to a closer cooperation".

The original intention of the European Union was a trade agreement with all the ASEAN states, but it failed in 2009. Since then the focus is on bilateral agreements.

Read the whole article on Thailand’s economy
Read the whole article on Thailand

Tropical Rainforest and Jungle

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , on March 19, 2013 by Thim Kwai

Jungle and primary rainforest was in the past the most widespread vegetation form in Southeast Asia. In 1960 for example Thailand was covered by 80 % with primary forest. Due to slash and burn, logging, urbanization and agricultural monocultures (palm oil trees, rubber trees and other cash crops) primary forest is rare nowadays. The last remains are to find in the mountains, particularly in the higher parts, on steep slopes where it is extremely difficult to cut the big, not seldom several centuries old trees. In the plains there is no primary forest left, it’s almost all cut and replaced by agriculture or urbanized.

Indonesia is covered with the second biggest tropical rainforests on earth, following the south American area around the Amazon River. There is a drama going on since decades, in the long run since the 19th century, which led to the destruction of already a great amount of it. Annually fires eat it up piece for piece. That’s so mostly on Sumatra and Borneo (Kalimantan), but also on all the other islands of Indonesia. Java‘s rainforest is almost completely gone, only very small islands remain under official protection, but the protection means in fact very little. Poachers enter the National Parks and hunt out what they want to sell the animals on the animal markets in the big cities. Jakarta is said would have the biggest ‘black animal market’ in Southeast Asia. Check therefore the example of Pangandaran at Java‘s south coast.

Read the whole article on Tropical Rainforest and Jungle

Noise Pollution in Southeast Asia and Thailand

Posted in Countries, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , on March 18, 2013 by Thim Kwai

In Southeast Asia, wherever I travel and stay, it’s always noisy. On the streets anyway, but also in almost any place where I stay it’s difficult to find a rest and to recover without being disturbed by noises. There is either just a building site, or there is a building site next door, or at least they make up a new building site after a few days, or they have a party, or the party is next door, or there are loudspeakers around, a noisy temple or, worst of all, a mosque. That I avoid to stay next to busy roads does not need to be mentioned, but there are everywhere vehicles around, and they are always noisy. Silence is as precious as rare nowadays.

The impact of noise pollution on humans (and animals) is still widely underestimated and / or seen as the price we have to pay for the development of our modern society. But there are serious concerns. The World Health Organization’s Guidelines on Community Noise listed up a number of noise-induced illnesses (1999). Among them are sleep deprivation and disruption, memory deficits, stress, high blood pressure, dizziness, cardiovascular diseases, ringing ear, frustrations, accidents, negative social behaviour, restlessness, moodiness, a tendency for higher aggressiveness and hearing impairment. Children become aggressive and shout to each other. Communication is interrupted or impossible, a society of aggressive and disturbed people grows up. Some people even become suicidal.

So, being repeatedly or longer exposed to loud noises leads to numerous diseases. One can not get used to noise pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) called in spring 2011 noise pollution as the second biggest health threat in the world.

There is much more to say about noise pollution. Read the whole article on noise pollution at Asienreisender

Thailand’s Population Growth

Posted in Countries, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , on March 17, 2013 by Thim Kwai

In most of the 20th century Thailand had a dynamic population growth. The estimated population in 1900 was between five and eight million people. In 1982 it was around 50 million inhabitants. In the following years the birth rate lowered considerably. In 2012 there are some 70 million (Thai) People living in Thailand.

Particularly steep was the population growth in the north of Thailand. The territory of old Lanna was at the beginning of the 19th century completely depopulated. Despite population efforts the northern parts of Thailand remained almost unpopulated until into the 20th century. What is now the province of Chiang Rai was populated in 1905 by 5,000 people only. In Chiang Saen only 70 people lived.

Now the population of Chiang Rai province is officially at 1,1 million inhabitants. Around 12.5 percent of them are ‘hill tribes‘.

Read the whole article on Thailand by Asienreisender…

Thailand’s National Anthem

Posted in Countries, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , on March 16, 2013 by Thim Kwai

For unprepared visitors to Thailand it might be surprising to see that the national anthem is played twice (8am and 6pm) on every public place and blared out of a great number of loudspeakers all around the country. It’s played in the radios and the TV’s, the schools, all official buildings and, of course, in the barracks. It’s expected to stand up when sitting and to stop walking, holding the arms downwards. It’s according to a law made by Prime Minister Phibunsongkhram in 1939. If you don’t obey, even as a foreigner, you harvest some ugly glances from decent Thai People. It can even be fined. Greetings from George Orwell. Do you remember ‘1984’, where they had the daily ‘5 minutes hate show’ in TV?

It can happen that the national anthem appears preceded or followed by advertisements, local official announcements or merely radio broadcasting through the loudspeakers.

The Thai national anthem (Phleng Chat Thai) was composed in 1932 (the year of the ‘coup d’etat’) and officially introduced in 1939. The official predecessor of ‘Phleng Chat Thai’ was ‘Pleng San Soen Phra Barami’, which is used nowadays as the ‘king’s anthem’ and played in the cinemas before the main movie starts. If you don’t stand up in the cinemas when it starts, you get fined as well. Guess why I never go into a Thai cinema…?!

Peter Feith

The contemporary national anthem – Phleng Chat Thai – was composed by Peter Feith (also: Feit, Veit; *1883 – 1968), a German composer. Peter Feith was born in Thailand and lived here. He was the son of Jacob Feith, a German immigrant in Thailand who was appointed as a royal advisor for music by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). Peter Feith changed his name later to Piti Waityakarn (also: Phra Chen Duriyang). He collected all pieces of Thai music who were until then only transfered orally from generation to generation and payed so a relevant contribution to preserve Thailand’s culture.

The words of the national anthem are by Luang Saranuprapan.

The Text of the Thai National Anthem:

Thailand embraces in its bosom all people of Thai blood,

Every inch of Thailand belongs to the Thais.

It has long maintained it’s sovereignity,

Because the Thais have always been united.

The Thai people are peace loving, but they are no cowards at war.

Nor shall they suffer tyranny.

All Thais are ready to give up every drop of blood,

for the nations safety, freedom and progress.


Listen to an audio of the Thai national anthem

Read the whole article on Thailand by Asienreisender

Thailand’s Immigration Concept

Posted in Countries, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , on March 16, 2013 by Thim Kwai

There must be some 100,000 Westerners living in Thailand, either retired, working here or married with a Thai wife or just travelling or doing whatever. Thailand as a still relatively attractive country to live in has, as a state, to deal with the immigration.

So, the buerocracy brought out a number of different categories of foreigners by status who fall under different regulations. They all have one thing in common: they have to make a so called ‘visa run’ every at least three month. If one has only a tourist visa, the ‘visa run’ is due either after a fortnight, thirty days of sixty days. ‘Visa run’ means exactly to leave the country just for the only single reason to reenter it again for the purpose to get a new or refreshed visa.

Depending on where exactly the Westerners live and in which status category he (mostly ‘he’, sometimes also ‘she’) is packed in it means a considerable and perpetual annoyance. It clashes with other plannings, consumes time and money, is uncomfortable, enhances the traffic in the traffic system, fills up the passports with stamps until they are full and a new passport is due, it creates work and long lines in the embassies and, best of all, it’s completely unnecessary.

Not to mention that the very authorities change the rules from time to time and to whom it is concerned has to find that out by himself. And that leads, inquiring at the immigration offices, not seldom to contradictive informations.

Well, one problem is that in general the decision makers at the top of the social pyramid, including the state buerocracies, do not suffer the consequences of their decisions. In fact they create problems the people at the bottom of the social pyramid have to solve then – if they can. If not, they get easily criminalized.

Seemingly the Thai immigration politics lack something what could be called a ‘concept’. It’s not only superfluous to do journeys to the next country just to receive a stamp. It brings money to the neighbouring countries. From the perspective of the Thai authorities it would make sense to cash the foreigners inside the country and receive therefore a revenue. Would be bad enough. But they let it trickle to the neighbouring states who themselves charge the applicant for a fee (see the examples of Tachileik and Kawthaung in Burma/Myanmar, or the miserable example in Vientiane/Laos).

So, to conclude, there is not much of an immigration concept in Thailand.

4th Thai/Laos Friendship Bridge at Chiang Khong/Huayxai

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Politics on March 16, 2013 by Thim Kwai

The bridge over the Mekong River at Chiang Khong/Huayxai is completed now. Also the road connection to the main road (highway 1020) five kilometers south of Chiang Khong is done. Allegedly there was a ceremony at December 12th, 2012. For some people, according to the ancient Mayan calendar, the world would be destroyed at this very date, for others, particularly the Chinese, it’s a symbol of luck. And luck means always, above all, good business.

Nevertheless, the bridge and new border-crossing is not in use yet. The immigration buildings on both sides are still under construction. In January it was supposed to be ready for operating in April 2013. But meanwhile there appeared another delay. Due to information I got from the custom officials in Chiang Khong, one of the construction companies has ‘money problems’. It concerns probably to the construction of the new customs buildings. The officials told me that the new bordercrossing point will supposedly open in July 2013.

Read the whole article on the 4th Thai/Laos Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River…