Thursday, March 22, 2007

Don't get confused - Bangkok Airports

Don Muang Airport opens again on Sunday, March 25, 2007.

After the opening of the new Suvarnabhumi airport in September 2006, rushed by the old Thaksin administration, problems never ended. Now the new Suvarnabhumi airport already needs some repairs. To easen up the pressure the government decided to re-open the old Don Muang airport for some domestic flights.

Here is a short guide:

Suvarnabhumi airport:

  • All international flights
  • domestic flights by Thai airways with a 3 digit flight number to and from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi and Phuket

Don Muang:

  • All flights by Nok Air
  • All flights by One-Two-Go
  • Thai Airways domestic flights to and from Hat Yai, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani, Surat Thani and Phitsanulok
  • All flights by Thai Airways with 4 digit flight numbers to and from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi and Phuket

So check your ticket for the flight number and cout the digits before leaving for the airport in Bangkok to make sure you end up at the right one.

The government did not rule out that in furture some International flights mights also go to Don Muang airport.

For this is good news. I always loved the direct connection of the old airport with the train station just across the road. Coming from Nongkhai by night train I could store my luggage at the train station which is much cheaper than at the airport (or better forward it by train), spend a few hours in Bangkok and be back for my late evening flights. Flying from the nearest airport (Udon Thani) safes some time, but not much. If you take into account that you wait for the limousine service Nongkhai - Udon Thani, 1 hour drive, wait for check-in to start, check-in and the one hour flight, you easily neeed 3 - 4 hours. The train takes 12 hours, but you get a bed to sleep in. And it is much cheaper after the tax rise and high oil prices.

What I miss most in Thailand

I love to read. One book per week is minimum and I try not to run out of new books. When I managed to pick up a whole bunch, it makes my day. One of the things I miss most in Thailand are books or better bookstores where one can spend hours looking for new reading material. Sure, there are bookstores in many places and they also have some English books, but the selection is limited. I do not talk Bangkok or the tourist areas, where one might find second hand book stores where travellers exchange their reading material. It needs some patience but sometimes you find something really worth the effort.

Upcountry, the picture is completely different. The bookstores carry very few English books and the used books available are often the typical holiday read, not what I am looking forward to relax with. One can only digest a limited number of John Grisham, Dan Brown or simiar books. And any textbooks are impossible to find. Inside the expat community there is some book exchhange going on in the place I live, but most books are not exactly what I would have choosen had I another option.

So I rely a lot on Internet bookstores like Amazon - and fortunately import of books is taxfree and normally the parcels do not get lost on the way. Maybe simply because nobody here is interested much in English or German books.

One could say I shoud learn to read Thai better and stick to Thai books. Let me tell you, that would not really be an alternative. It took me some time before I really enjoyed reading English books, my native language is German. With Thai I am far from this stage of mastering the language.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Students become monks

In March 12 students of Guanwan Highschool decided to start their holidays with some time as novices in the village temple. We joined the two days event in Baan Prao to watch normal boys change into monks.

You might have seen pictures of Thai monks. They all have very short or no hair. The first step for a boy or man to take is the shaving of his head. Not only the hair, but eyebrows too. Most Thais do not have as much facial hair as Westerners, but it would have to go as well. This changes the appearance of a person noticeably.

The parents will start with cutting a symbolical piece of hair. Then elder relatives and other respected persons, like village elders, teachers or volunteers will be asked to follow suit. The monk to be holds a big lotus leaf in which all cut off hair is collected so it does not fall on the floor.

Then the boys kneel in front of their parents and hand them a plate with three orange candles and white thread and thank them. The parents in return fasten the thread around their sons wrist with good wishes. Now the roles are reversed. The boys take their parents place and the parents return to their seats. Elders and respected people now have a chance to bless the future monks as well and wind a white thread around their wrists.

All boys get a set of white clothes to change into the next day from their parents. The monks to be then go home and have a huge meals with their families. The next morning everyone comes back to school to accompany the boys on their way to the temple. The parents carry the new orange robes and alms bowls to hand them over later.

At the temple the group walks three times clockwise around the bot. The boys now dressed in white and barefoot, holding three lotus flowers in their hands walk under huge orange umbrellas carried by parents or elders.

Now boys and parents moves inside the temple while some friends stay outside to prepare a meal. The boys sit in the front row, close to the monks. After some chanting, the robes are handed over in a traditional way and the monks take the boys aside to help them to change into the robes. Not an easy task to fix all the different items around your body in the proper way.

The boys have to answer some questions by the abbot in Pali. It sounds as if they practiced the questions and answers for some time.

Like most other ceremonies, this one ends with a meal for all guests and the new novices sit together separated from their families.