being right is my religion650

In western countries, like the US for example, being right is like a religion. People are absolutely convinced that their opinion is the only correct one, and they feel compelled to tell everyone. Read the rest of this story

Why do the Thais always ask you how old you are?

In the western world you don’t dare asking a woman how old she is. It is considered rude and intrusive, and many western women will flat out refuse to tell you their age.

The implied concept is that aging is a bad thing for a woman and should be hidden as much as possible. Being secretive about age and even lying about it is considered acceptable.

Now let’s move on over to Asia. Here comes our first time Thailand visitor, a woman for our story, and she is taken aback since people regularly ask her how old she is. Why are they so nosy in Thailand? Why do they pry into such intimate subjects? Read the rest of this story

thai massage session

Thailand is the land of massage. It’s everywhere. You don’t have to look for it. It will find you. The easy and very affordable access to massage in Thailand is one of the pleasures of living here.

Like everywhere in the world, the quality of massage varies greatly. I have received many wonderful Thai Massage sessions in Thailand, but I also had some rather bizarre experiences. The silver lining of those sub-standard massages was that they helped me to develop an approach to finding good therapists.

One story sticks out in my mind which in hindsight seems quite funny, but when it actually happened, I wasn’t laughing. That was the point when I decided that I needed a better method for finding good Thai Massage. Read the rest of this story

Thai Massage and Yoga connection

Thai Massage and Yoga are family members

Thai Massage has its origins in India’s yoga system. According to legend, an Indian physician came to Thailand and introduced what is now called “Thai Massage”. His name is a tongue breaker – Shivaka Komarpaj -and nobody agrees on the spelling. I always called him “Dr. Shivago” for simplicity’s sake which is fairly close to how his first name is actually pronounced.

He is still revered as the founder of Thai Massage and many massage schools display his picture or statue. He was a contemporary of Buddha, which makes Thai Massage about 2500 years old.  Many Thai therapists begin their sessions with a prayer to him. Read the rest of this story

tourists posing with soldiers

Tourists are lining up to pose with the soldiers in Chiang Mai’s Sunday Market

I have lived through two military coup d’etats here in Thailand. They were both very uniquely Thai style affairs. Normally we associate coups with violence, shooting, arrests, and political prisons, in other words very unpleasant events.

However Thailand has come up with what I call “velvet coups”. I remember the first one in 2006. The army rolled out tanks in the streets of Bangkok. But instead of creating an atmosphere of terror among the citizens, many Thais took it as a fun event.

They climbed up on the tanks, handed flowers to the soldiers and had their pictures taken while posing on the tanks with the soldiers. No shots were fired and nobody got hurt. Read the rest of this story

Crazy House in Dalat, Vietnam

Would you believe that you are looking at a house?
Yes, you are – the Crazy House in Dalat, Vietnam.

I went to the Crazy House today here in the city of Dalat in Vietnam. No, not to the loony bin – I did not go crazy.

The truth is that there are no crazy people in the Crazy House at all. But there are plenty of tourists who are happy to pay the entrance fee to see this really unique house. Actually it is several houses, not one. Read the rest of this story

Hanoi in the north is Vietnam’s capital and political center whereas Ho Chi Minh City in the south is its economic engine and power house. Many people still refer to it by its previous name, Saigon.

Since Ho Chi Minh City is a little cumbersome to write, it is generally abbreviated to HCMC, kind of like Los Angeles is often spelled as LA and New York City as NYC. Read the rest of this story

traffic gridlock In Saigon

Wherever you look in Ho Chi Minh City, there is always an
overwhelming number of scooters around you

Ho Chi Minh City used to be known as Saigon. Many locals are still using the previous old name which rolls off the tongue much better than the new name. And the one area where I am staying is officially called Saigon, a district within Ho Chi Minh City.

So what brought me to Vietnam? I actually live in Chiang Mai, Thailand. That’s a great city with one BIG exception. During March and April the weather is extremely hot. And at the same time there is lots of agricultural burning going on during that time. The result of this is extremely high air pollution which is dangerous for your health. Read the rest of this story

Motorbike parking at the mall in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Motorbike parking at the mall in Chiang Mai, Thailand

There are lots of motorcycles in Thailand. Most of them are of the variety which we would call a moped or a scooter. They have small engines, between 100cc and 125cc in general, and they cost somewhere in the neighborhood of US $1000-$1300. They are easy to drive, easy to park and they are very maneuverable. And surprisingly they can carry quite a lot of weight despite their small size.

The Thais have been quite ingenious in coming up with lots of methods to use them. I have identified 8 methods how I have seen them used, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Read the rest of this story

Thai/Burmese border post

Thai/Burmese border post

Here in Thailand there is a kind of visa which requires that you leave the country once every three months, even if only for 5 minutes. It’s called a non-immigrant visa, and like thousands of other foreigners I have to make a “visa run” to the Burmese border (The country is called Burma or Myanmar) to get my new stamp. Read the rest of this story