Last day Songkhran in Chiang Mai and back to Bangkok

Today I take it easy. I spend some time walking around in Chiang Mai and visiting some sites around town with a tuk tuk. One very unfortunate incidence is that the tuk tuk I am siting in hits hard an old man in the middle of the road. The man falls and is dragged along for some meters. The poor guy is down for about 5 minutes on the middle of the road obviously deeply shocked and probably also with immense pain. Then we manage to lead him to the roadside. An emergency team arrives after some time and takes him away.

It is afternoon when I meet Chingya again. Songkhran is still ongoing and we decide to join the water battle again. This time we take the moto. Chingya has brought a water canon. Obviously, I do not make the same mistake again and this time round I leave my camera at home.

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Doi Inthanon, hill tribe village, waterfall, Songkhran, bars in Chiang Mai, all on just one day

Today is holiday and since nobody is in the office, I decide to spend a day more like the many people who come here as tourists. The guesthouse offers a number of day trips and following the recommendation of the receptionist, I booked one of them the other day, which involves visiting Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand (2595m), as well as a close by waterfall and hill tribe village, among others. The price is about 20US$.

We start at 8 am in the morning with a mini bus. We pick up a number of other guests before we leave the town, an elderly Thai couple, a middle aged British couple who lives in Bangkok, and two Germans in the company of a young Thai lady. Then we leave Chiang Mai to the south. It takes about 2 hours from the town to the gate of the national park in which the mountain is located. The ride is comfortable, the road is pretty good and the bus is air conditioned.

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Songkhran in Chiang Mai

Today is Wednesday. As far as I know, this is also the first official day of Songkhran, the Thai New Year. In the morning I have a meeting with Helen in the office of the International Alliance. The office is outside of Chiang Mai and she has explained to me yesterday how to get there. However, it takes me more than 30 minutes to find the office. A number of children splashes significant amounts of water at me on my way through the city center. I like it, and by now I can manage to ride on the wrong side of the road.

Finally I find the office. We spent the morning with discussions. Later we leave to visit a party of indigenous peoples from Burma (Myanmar) who fled from their evil government to Thailand. Although Helen speaks Thai very well it takes us quite some time to find the place. Here I meet again with Chris, his wife, Jannie and Chingya. The party takes place in some sort of garden and there are about 40 or 50 people, including a life band. Most people are from Burma.

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Consultations in Chiang Mai

After I have breakfast in a restaurant close to the guesthouse I call Chris. Chris is Swiss citizen and works as Asia Officer for the International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), an international NGO from Denmark. He picks me up, I rent a moto scooter and we ride to his office, which is also is home, a bit outside of town. It takes me some time to get used to driving on the left side of the road. Meanwhile some people have started already splashing water at us, which is quite refreshing given the overall fairly hot temperatures.

I meet Chris’ wife (unfortunately I forgot her name), who is an indigenous person from the Naga in Manipur, India. We discuss for some time. Later Jannie joins us, indigenous, too, Kadazan from Sabah in Malaysia. Jannie is Secretary General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), a regional network of indigenous organizations. Their office is just on the other side of the road.

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From Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Today is Monday. I have a number of meetings in the ILO’s subregional office in the afternoon and fly to Chiang Mai in the evening. I start with breakfast in the hotel, prepare the meetings and pack my stuff. Then I take a taxi to the UN building in which the ILO office is located. Not exactly close to the hotel. My bags are checked carefully by security before I am allowed to enter. I spend the afternoon with fairly productive meetings, the content of which I do not wish to repeat here. In between I check my email and find a message from the Canadian embassy in Berlin saying that I was granted the research scholarship I applied for more than one year ago. This makes mee very happy and presumably I will travel in late 2005 or January 2006 to study under the supervision of my ‘guru’ Will Kymlicka at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

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Sightseeing in Bangkok: Wat Benchamabophit, Siam Center, Khao San Road

As agreed upon with the travel agency I meet the guide and the driver in the hotel lobby at 2 pm. The guide is about 30 years old and tells me that he is deputizing for his colleague who has fallen sick. I learn that he has studied design in Bangkok and works in his family’s company which produces clothes.

The guide suggests visiting Wat Benchamabophit, a temple which he considers the most beautiful in Bangkok and I agree. We reach the temple after about 30 minutes, during which he tells me all about his job but nothing about Bangkok and its sights. In addition, he suggests that I should buy a suit and some shirts in his shop which I kindly decline.

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From Berlin to Bangkok

My journey to Cambodia starts on April 10. I fly from Berlin to Frankfurt and from there to Bangkok. Not much happens during this trip that would be worth reporting. I tend to find long distance flights rather annoying and this one is no difference. In Frankfurt I find that my luggage is checked in all the way to Phnom Penh, while I want to stay in Thailand for one week where I will need my stuff. I talk to the people from the airline and they ensure me that they will make sure that I get my bags in Bangkok. I try to get a seat at the window but no such seat is available any more and I find myself between two mid aged men who appear to be sex tourists and spend most of the time sleeping and snoring.

We reach Bangkok very early in the morning of April 11 and like all the other travelers I wait for my bags at the luggage claim. Unlike them I wait in vain. So I talk to a number of airport staff. These people are very helpful and after about half an hour I get my bags. A person from a tourist agency approaches me on my way out. What he offers is a taxi to my hotel now together with a sightseeing tour in the afternoon with a private car and tour guide for about 30 Euro. The taxi to the hotel would cost me about 8 Euro anyway. Moreover, it is weekend and a guide seems to be a nice thing to have for just one day in a city like Bangkok. So he and his numerous colleagues manage to persuade me, not least by showing me certificates that appear to show that the services of this company are audited and recognized by the Thai government.

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