Monday, December 22, 2008

Workin hard for the money, honey

...sorry I've not posted much in a while.

Have had a fair bit happening at work with tainted milk crises, 2009 planning, launching mobile internet banking and website restructuring - all on top of the usual trials of negotiating my way through two different working cultures...Arab and Asian!!!

Have a bit of time off coming up over Christmas, so will post some stuff up soon. To keep you entertained in the meantime, here's something that Willis shared with me on facebook:

No one epitomises the Christmas spirit more than John Rambo.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Joke for Angus

Four fonts walk into a bar.

Barman: "Get out of here! This is no place for your type!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Clare @ Kylie

I love this photo of Clare - I took it at the Kylie Minogue concert last Sunday night.


  • The glowstick.
  • The beer...we smashed a few that night.
  • The knee-high strap-up boots, pink skinny jeans, black corset and pink flanney.
The concert wasn't too bad...the dancing was pretty cool and despite being a bit over the hill, Kylie looks like she's still got the ability to put on a decent show.

Most people fell into the following categories: Female pop fans, gay male pop fans, awkward boyfriends not sure why they're at a Kylie concert.


This is a picture of a few blokes fixing a wind break on the 17th floor of a building being constructed near our apartment. Clearly not ones to worry about heights.

Unabashed grooming

Image is everything here in Bangkok. You see hundreds times each day people checking their reflection in mirrors, spoons, shop windows, computer screens - the works.

Here's a video of a cabbie here in Bangkok who used his rear vision mirror to perform some extra special nasal grooming as we waited in traffic...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanks all those who sent messages to Clare and I over the past week.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thailand sucks right now

Usually when I tell people I live in Thailand, their eyes come alive with exotic mental images of saffron robes, beaches and bucket boozing. However, they often forget that there's at times an emotional tax in living overseas.

Yesterday morning, a dear friend of Clare and mine died suddenly in Australia.

Paul was a delightfully thoughtful husband and father, a godfather to Clare, close friend to the O'Connor family and no doubt many others.

Spending time with him was as crisp and refreshing as a morning springtime walk...he seemed to have that knack of energising you in a way that only a new morning could.

In our private discussions, Paul was an amazing source of confidence and quiet advice. Apart from being a first-class, fun bloke to hang out with, he was a wonderful support as I awkwardly shuffled my way into Thailand. We discussed everything from dealing with different cultures, family and relationships, work and improving my terrible golfing short game.

And this is exactly one of those times I wish he was around for.

So right now, we have mates and family in Australia who we can't look after, and an impending funeral which we can't attend.

Those that have lived overseas know what I'm talking about, some more so than others.

Thailand sucks right now.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Boeing boozing

I wrote this post while flying from Bangers to Dubai for quick business trip...I'm not really flying and blogging right now...

There's something quite enticing about a 3049 mile trip with free booze.

Not only am I excited about being on my first fully-paid overseas business trip, but also the fact that it's Friday night and I'm in the mood to have a couple to relax after a massive week at work.

Right now I'm flying over India, roughly about 500km east of Mumbai. I've so far tallied a jovial two beers, five wines, three X.O.s and two shots of port...oh, hang on...another X.O. has just arrived.

Right, back to it.

So anyway, I'm bloody excited.

The problem is, the bloke next to me is an Arab who, despite intermittently hocking up the most obscene wads of phlegm from his throat, doesn't look like he's keen for a drink.

Meaning - there's free booze and I don't have a drinking partner.

Which made me think - who would I most want to spend a few hours of stratospheric boozy bliss with?

Well, I reckon Barrack Obama would be a good start. Just picking his brains on his campaign strategy and the whether secret service agents actually have a sense of humour would be pretty sweet.

But then again, seeing as he's now just made President, he's probably not really one to risk a hangover, not to mention the fact his surrounding agents would be clicked off safety with all of our middle-eastern brothers sharing the flight.

So what about Germaine Greer?? Could be an interesting discussion. I think I'd start proceedings off with an ice-breaking joke: How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb? None. Feminists can't change a thing.

Oh the hilarity! Her voracious and much more educated tongue may get a little too intense for me though...and I'm not sure what her aim is like with a wine glass...

Tom Jones? Dig it. But only if there's karaoke. I've always wanted to do a topless rendition of 'It's not unusual' with the big man.

A trio of my all-time favourite three ex-international rugby hookers, Phil Kearns (Australia), Keith Wood (Ireland) and Sean Fitzpatrick (New Zealand)? Loose. Talking rugby and getting on the cans for 7 hours with these blokes would make a bloody good trip. We could even pack down a few scrums with the Thai hosties.

Prince Harry? I'm not usually one for the British Royals, but I reckon this fanta-pant regal bad-boy might have a bit of bubble inside him...I could easily see us spraying beer about the cabin and partaking in the odd push-up comp.

The mind boggles, really...

Who would you like to spend a boozy flight with?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I live in a fashion hub

Paris...Milan...New York...Soi 12...

Yep, that's right, my street is right up there with the crossroads of world fashion - as evidenced by this guy from my building who I shared a lift with one day.

Note the matching blue leather slides and tweed pants.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fat panda

There were several comments about my “Steve looks like a fat panda” status on facebook.

Why? During a game on Sunday, I copped a very athletic knee or some other such limb from a member of the Thai Army rugby team whilst pinned at the bottom of a ruck. Now I have a slight dark patch around my left eye.

Back to the good old days of rugby, there was plenty of rucking, smashing tackles, a muddy pitch and delightfully more scrums than backline moves. Loved it.

We also won 22-19.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Got milk?

I really don't want to sound like one of those career tossers, but I reckon it's important to share some good news with my close friends and family...

Work has asked if I'll take on an extra client. The role is with the world's third largest dairy company, which is also NZ's biggest company and one huge bloody business to get my head around. I'll be overseeing the PR for the Middle Eastern and North African markets.

I'm stoked because it has fulfilled one of my career goals which was to work with an agriculturally-based company. My family's roots have instilled a facination with the land and how it fits in with people's lives. I would never have the right stuff to be a farmer, so I guess this is the next best thing...

So this means a couple of things:

  • A shitload more work
  • A shitload more opportunity
  • Trips to Dubai for work (and play with Cantwell and Fletch!)
  • My first serious management/leadership role
  • Possible trips to the Middle East to check out the area...Clare and I were talking about possibly heading to Egypt or Syria next year...Europe's not too far from there as well!!
Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be getting any free milk samples.

Please note, I haven't disclosed client specifics on this blog as, a) It's not a professional blog; and b) I don't want random's finding my blog on google when searching for my company. Sort of like my policy with people's full names.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I'm so much better looking in Thailand...

The locals often say to me, "herro, sexy boy" or something along the lines of "oooh, strong man, vewy good rooking".

For some strange reason, I just don't get that in Australia...

I'm so much funnier in Australia...

Here in Thailand, no-one gets my jokes, as universally bad as they may be.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bangkok bookworm

Here in Bangkok, you need a book. You experience hours of dead time, waiting in cabs, in airports and on buses - not to mention the countless hours in shopping centres as your beautiful girlfriend sorts out her shopping addiction!

Being unemployed for the first few months of being in Bangkok gave me a rare opportunity to consume a variety of books, which when working, tends to be a hell of a lot harder to do...something I'm glad I had the time experience!

My chosen subject matter spanned politics, history, travel, pop-fiction, pop-culture, sport, humour and Thai culture. Here's a list of the books I read in my first seven months of being in Thailand...

My Life: The early years (Vol. 1)
Bill Clinton

"The book shows us the progress of a remarkable American, who, through his own enormous energies and efforts, fueled an impassioned interest in the political process, and made the unlikely journey from his birth in Hope, Arkansas, to his election as the 42nd President of the United States."
Bill's obviously got a lot to say. I admire him for many of his progressive policies, his intelligence and non-elitist approach in helping people from all walks of life.

I don't respect his disrespect for family, but overall, I think he's done some great work for America.

Autobiographical in approach, the book runs from his dusty childhood, through his college years and genesis as an ambitious young Kennedy protege, all the way through the many Arkansas gubernatorial election campaigns and eventually his run toward being elected as US President.

Bill used the book as a platform to thank his many supporters, which at times bored me with the tiny, seemingly insignificant memoirs. At the time I was reading it, Hillary Clinton was getting busted by Obama in the Democratic primaries, so it was certainly an opportune time to also get to know Hillary a bit better through the eyes of her husband.

As a writer, he's so eloquent and is a wonderful storyteller. I'll be reading hi second volume, 'The Presidential Years' soon.

The Beach
Alex Garland

The Beach was recommended to me from one of our friends here in Thailand and could possibly be, after the Lonely Planet guides, the most read book in Thailand by fisherman-pant wearing holiday hippies.

And it's one of the most captivating fiction books I've ever read.

The novel follows Richard, a rambling traveler wandering his way across SE Asia and to a secret utopian island off the coast of Thailand. There, he encounters a secret commune, fit with its own internal cultures, rules and social order. At first, Richard revels in the paradise, but slowly (and masterfully, from a literary perspective) slips into madness. From there, you'll have to read the book - it's bloody gripping stuff.

The novel works on a number of levels - on the surface it's a fast-paced adventure novel. If you delve a little deeper it explores concepts spanning the validity of communism and western humanity's desire for personal paradise (whether in the form of an island holiday, a great job, better coffee, or the latest in fashion); the importance of environmental sustainability; and the raw realities of human nature.

Maybe that's why I liked it - it's stimulating and thought provoking on so many different levels. Maybe, it was just a bloody good story - either way, go out and buy it.

Vietnam: The Australian war
Paul Ham

"Drawing on hundreds of accounts by soldiers, politicians, aid workers, entertainers and the Vietnamese people, Paul Ham reconstructs for the first time the full history of our longest military campaign. From the commitment to engage, through the fight over conscription and the rise of the anti–war movement, to the tactics and horror of the battlefield, Ham exhumes the truth about this politicians' war – which sealed the fate of 50,000 Australian servicemen and women.

More than 500 soldiers were killed and thousands wounded. Those who made it home returned to a hostile and ignorant country and a reception that scarred them forever. This is their story."

One of the best-written, most supremely researched books I've ever read. Not only does it illuminate the bravery and stoicism of the Australian soldiers in Vietnam from the bottom up, it also articulates the arguments for and against Australia's involvement in the Vietnam war and looks at life for the soldiers and the country, post-Vietnam.

'Vietnam: The Australian war' provides an Australian perspective on a subject so often skewed or lost amongst the colossal mountains of text written about the US's role. So much is still not understood about the effect of the Vietnam war on western society and on countries that were directly or indirectly involved in the conflict.

What I admire most about this book is that Paul Ham has translated his first-class journalistic skills into a text that is informative, accessible, non-conformist and fluid in both style and substance.

It's also interesting to see whether there is any alignment between current US foreign policy and that of the administrations of the 1960's and 1970's. I also found the chapters and references to the media's role in the conflict of particular interest.

I rate this as one of the best books I have ever read. For anyone looking to understand more about Australia's role - both politically and militarily - it's an excellent start.

Culture Shock! (Thailand)
Robert Cooper
"The book provides a valuable crash course on the who's who, and the whats and hows of the country, guiding readers through a wide range of topics for day-to-day living including how to interact with the locals and fit into Thai society."
This was a brilliant book and very fitting at the time I was reading it, as I was beginning to feel like a real alien in this foreign and very different land. It's chapters ranged from first impressions, religion, politics, fitting in, having fun, doing business and the bare-bones practicalities of life in Thailand.

A wonderful, honest account of life in Thailand that provided some comfort at times of intense frustration.

Halfback, Half forward
George Gregan

I received this one along with 'Line & Strength' (see below) from my parents as an early birthday present when I was last home.

For those with no idea about rugby, George Gregan was a former Australian rugby captain, making more Test appearances than any other player in the sport's history. He strikes me as a determined, tenacious kind of bloke - in the book, he writes with a similar approach.

It's always interesting to see how a person, who has copped some serious flak in the media (rightly or wrongly), reacts when they write their autobiography. In his book, George Gregan still holds back a wee bit in terms of naming names, but he provides excellent insights into the character and makeup of the Australian rugby team, behind the media veil.

Most impressive was his documentation of all the hardwork 'on and off the ball' that he did to maintain his status as one of the world's best ever halfbacks.

It was a pretty soft read - I think I smashed it in 3 days - but a thoroughly enjoyable on for the holiday. Ghey name though - seriously...'Halfback, half forward'???

Line & Strength
Glenn McGrath with Daniel Lane

The second of my birthday books, it's a very sporty read about a bloke who I respect as one of Australia's best ever sportsmen, both on and off the field.

Shocker of a title though.

For those with no idea about cricket, Glenn McGrath was one of Australia's best ever fast bowlers, capturing 563 Test wickets in a team that was arguably the best ever in the history of cricket. He is also well-known for his late wife's battle with breast cancer and the corresponding charity work they undertook.

It's a weird structure - it reads more like a collection of newspaper feature pieces than an a traditional autobiography. Editor Daniel Lane draws from many sources in the cricket community for comment on some of the more memorable times in Glenn McGrath's cricketing career.

Eerily, the book was released just before Glenn McGrath's wife died. Her quotes and the humanising of their love and struggle adds an extra, moving dimension.

Balancing the sombre tone, the book is full of cricket anecdotes and descriptions of performances of a bloke I grew up loving to watch play. Like 'Halfback, half forward', it also provides an insight into the personality of the Australian team...something that at times is lost amongst all of the statistics etc.

Again, a pretty soft read, but one which I enjoyed immensely!

Inside Delta Force
Eric L. Haney
"In this dramatic behind-the-scenes chronicle, Eric Haney, one of the founding members of Delta Force, takes us inside this legendary counterterrorist unit. For the first time, here are the details of the grueling selection process - designed to break the strongest of men...blow by blow accounts of actual a gripping chronicle of what its like to enter a hostage-held airplane."
What a cracking book! I picked this one up at Asia Books and couldn't put it down. Even though some of the content at times seems a little far-fetched and (Heeellll YEAH!!) American, it's still an entertaining read.

The book has some straight-edged anecdotes of some of the hairier aspects of being at the peak of the American military. Haney recounts stories from his time on operation in southern American jungles and on the streets of Beirut in the early 80's, as well as the weapons, skills, knowledge and physical training he and his unit undertook.

It's amazing to also draw some parallels between the dogged mindset of elite sportsmen (like Glenn McGrath and George Gregan) and that of the soldiers that succeed in the counter-terrorist arena.

Counter-terrorists, win. (For Gab0r)

Scar Tissue
Anthony Kiedis
"In 1983 four self-described 'knuckleheads' burst out of the neo-punk rock scene in LA with their own unique brand of cosmic hard-core mayhem funk. Over twenty years later, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, against all odds, have become one of the most successful bands in the world. Though the band has gone through many incarnations, Anthony Kiedis, the group's lyricist and dynamic singer, has been there for the whole rollercoaster ride. Scar Tissue is Kiedis' searingly honest memoir - a story of dedication and debauchery, of intrigue and integrity, of recklessness and redemption. It is a story that could only have come out of Hollywood."
This book was recommended to me from a few friends and certainly didn't disappoint.

Whilst Kiedis' writing style was somewhat remedial and convoluted at times, the content was absolutely jaw-droppingly first class and gave insight into the personal trials behind the bloke's and the band's key stages.

It also provides an honest account of life as a narcissistic junkie rockstar, something which, judging by the subversive references in the book, I think has been part of his overall rehabilitation process put forward by his psychologist - to admit to all of the horrible things he's done in the past to pave the way for a positive future.

A terrific book that will rock your senses and roll your perspectives on the relationship between drugs and rockstardom.

Lonely Planet
"Weave through buddhas, flowers and roosters, enjoy a tuk-tuk ride and visit the Oriental Hotel where the literati have been inspired. Whatever your Thai temptation, this smart, stylish and streetwise guide will satisfy them all."
A good start to our time in Bangkok - the book has all the basic maps and information to help get us by over the first month or so. 'Bangkok' was also a very useful, quick grounding in Thai culture and experiences. It doesn't go into too much depth though, so don't expect much.

SE Asia on a shoestring
Lonely Planet
"Hit the SE Asian hippy trail in a rickety bus packed with chickens. You'll find your nirvana at a Buddhist temple, on a perfect beach, or in a bowl of noodle soup. Written for backpackers by backpackers, this guide to 11 countries lets you go further, stay longer and pay less for an adventure of a lifetime."
This one's helped Clare and I find our way up into the mountains of Thailand's north; helped Angus and I negotiate ferries and buses during our trip in the Andaman Sea; delivered me life-memorable advice on Phnom Penh's best Himalayan restaurant; and acted as a cracking little tour guide for the sights of Kuala Lumpur.

Some of the stuff is already outdated though, and you have to put up with slightly inflated prices for all the restaurants and hotels quoted within. But overall, invaluable as soon as you touch down. As many of you who've used one would know, the facts at the beginning of each chapter really are also quite delicious.

Chart Throb
Ben Elton
"Chart Throb. The ultimate pop quest. Ninety-five thousand hopefuls. Three judges. Just one winner. And that's Calvin Simms, the genius behind the show. Calvin always wins because Calvin writes the rules. But this year, as he sits in judgement upon the Mingers, Clingers and Blingers whom he has pre-selected in his carefully scripted 'search' for a star, he has no idea that the rules are changing. The 'real' is about to be put back into 'reality' television and Calvin and his fellow judges are about to become ex-factors themselves. Ben Elton returns to blistering comic satire with a savagely hilarious deconstruction of the world of modern talent shows."
There's a reason why I don't usually like reading fiction - I find it searingly difficult not knowing the ending. Chart Throb was an entertaining book, but really something for light coffee shop reading.

The character development was quite clever, as was the imagery and wit, and I particularly enjoyed Elton's take on the media construction - techniques I use every day!! Something I'd suggest for a flight somewhere to block out a fat man's incessant snoring.

Staying at the top
Ric Charlesworth

This book was lying around home when I was last there. Ric Charlesworth is a former Australian women's hockey head coach, the most successful of all time, leading the team toward international dominance over seven years.

Interestingly, he has only two weeks ago been appointed as coach of Australia's national Men's side.

In the book, Ric Charlesworth outlines the fundamentals of success in managing a team and sustaining success. My new job entails the management of a few staff and I thought this one might help build my knowledge in the area.

Whilst the fundamentals are insightful, the book itself was very repetitive and could have been condensed into a 5-page essay.

I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for a bit of bathroom reading...the chapters are the right length to cater for a colonic movement, whilst the content is not overly complex to 'digest'.

The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho
"This is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shpeherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and into the Egyptian desert, where a fateful encounter with the alchemist awaits. This story teaches us, as only few can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life's path and above all following our dreams."
A nice story, and one quite parallel to my current experience - I was reading this just before I got my job.

All in all, reading The Alchemist was like watching water flow down a bath plug hole. It was mesmerising, but at the same time exasperatingly boring as the story wound its way round and round toward the last page. Nice literary imagery though.

Voices from S-21
Professor David Chandler
"The site had been a prison, code-named S-21, where in just under four years, some 14,000 men, women and children had been incarcerated, interrogated, tortured and killed by the Khmer Rouge in a demented effort to cleanse the country of its perceived political enemies. How could a place like S-21 happen? By analysing the mass of documents, supplemented by interviews with survivors and former workers, and then examining this alongside such horrific 20th century phenomena as the Holocaust, the Moscow Show Trials and Argentina's 'Dirty War' in the 1970's, Chandler looks at what was uniquely Cambodian and what was universal about what happened at S-21."
I purchased this in a book shop whilst visiting Phnom Penh, as I wanted to learn more about the places I was visiting on my tour.

Academic in style, it's actually quite a cumbersome book to digest, with much posturing and indirect language - a style that may alienate some readers. However, the referencing and body of research is astounding and would make a valuable text for anyone wishing to delve into the depths of the Khmer Rouge psyche.

I don't think it's the best book I've seemed to lack specific direction and became a little convoluted by an almost overuse of sources and underuse of structure.

Dr. Iain Corness
"Corness provides comfort for the aches and pains of ex-pat life. His stories and anecdotes are full of the joys of life, and celebrate this exotic and exciting land in all its glory, with painfully funny observations."
Corness provides an honest first-person account of Thailand - however like most in this book's genre, it must be taken as 'in the eye of the beholder'.

Most of his stories were entertaining, however his writing style was average at best - the content was there, but his editor really should have provided a sharper direction.

He also criticises countries like the UK and Australia, but is imbalanced in his appraisal of Thailand's glaring shortfalls, such as its astonishingly high road toll, lack of scientific research or democratic foundations.

He was also patronising at times, assuming his readership lack the intelligence to understand large words like "oesophagus" following them up with a bracketed "(gullet)". If a writer assumes his readership won't understand a certain word, I would suggest they use a simpler one. Write for your audience, not your ego.

Overall, a soft read, something relevant for a hung-over bus ride.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Kung fu fighting...

I love this photo with my sister Amelia - it was taken just before I left for Thailand. I just found it again randomly...

Friday, October 03, 2008


One of the biggest advantages of working in Bangkok is that the cost of living is substantially less than that of Australia.

So I’ve been looking into ways to invest my savings – call it a beacon toward adult sensibility.

However, with the economic landslide happening at the moment over in the US, tax disincentives to keep my money in Australia and my overall lack of knowledge in what constitutes a solid investment, I’m pretty unsure of what to do, so have turned to my sister’s boyfriend – a man of finance – for a bit of advice.

Here’s what he sent me:

Subject: Investment Advice

If you had purchased £1000 of Northern Rock shares one year ago it would now be worth £4.95.

With HBOS, earlier this week your £1000 would have been worth £16.50.

£1000 invested in XL Leisure would now be worth less than £5.

However, if you bought £1000 worth of Tennents Lager one year ago, drank it all, then took the empty cans to an aluminium re-cycling plant, you would get £214.

So based on the above statistics the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and re-cycle.

I'm off to the pub to 'invest'!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I’ve found the holy grail of overseas airline travel.

Traveling back from Sydney to Bangkok last weekend aboard a Thai Airways Boeing 777-300, I found a friend – ‘62H’.

Let’s be honest - licking one’s knees whilst being concertinaed into an economy class seat certainly promotes some serious character building. And as they say, character building is the foundation to success.

But I say bugger that. I reckon I’ll pass on the lesson in character building and spend my hours transiting the globe at 950km/hr in relative economy class comfort.

So this seat – 62H – doesn’t have anything in front of it (ample leg room), is strategically placed 2m from the drinks galley (which I amply took advantage of…), is 3m from an emergency exit, and is situated near the wing, typically the strongest part of the airplane fuselage (important during a crash, I hear).

On the downside, there’s nowhere to safely stow your hand/manbag. Shocking.

All in all, a pleasant flight experience – remember it when you’re flying next. Check out Seat Guru for other awesome seats.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Thailand politics: What the?

Wondering what’s going on in Thailand at the moment?

Clare and I have received countless messages, texts and emails asking if we are safe from Thailand’s chaotic current political situation.

In a nutshell, there has been some violent and aggressive protests happening at the moment, with a group trying to oust an apparently corrupt but recently elected government, all in the name of democracy. There has been at least one reported death and 48 people injured from the protests.

To be honest, I haven’t seen much of it. I’ve merely felt the subtle shockwaves emanating from the protest’s epicentre about 6kms north of the area where we live and work – mainly in the form of reduced traffic, lunches with Clare (she had a couple of days off) and an increasingly crappy exchange rate.

The issue has undoubtedly been the talk of the town over the last couple of weeks, and with international reports covering the more outrageous of protest scenes, Thailand’s image is suffering immeasurably.

Amidst all of the images of machetes, marble guns and military, how can we distill what really is happening???

Well, I started to pull together my take on the events thus far…halfway through I read an article courtesy of The Economist which came out today. The article provides an excellent analysis of the current political environment and perfectly sums up my views on the situation. Here’s a slightly cut down selection:

Sep 4th 2008

An authoritarian rabble should not be allowed to turf out a deeply flawed but popularly elected government

STANDING up for democracy sometimes entails standing up for some unappealing democrats. Thailand’s pugnacious prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, is an especially hard man to defend. A ferocious rightist, Mr Samak was accused of inciting the policemen and vigilantes who slaughtered dozens of unarmed student protesters in Bangkok in 1976. On becoming prime minister following the election last December that restored democratic rule after a 2006 coup, Mr Samak chose for his cabinet some of the most unsavoury figures linked to the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister deposed in the coup. But with the army on the streets of Bangkok again, Mr Samak is for once, if not in the right, then at least less wrong than those calling for his head.

His government is deeply flawed. But it would be wrong and dangerous if the authoritarian rabble who have seized Government House in Bangkok forced it out of office. After violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the government, Mr Samak this week declared a state of emergency in Bangkok.

If the protesters, the woefully misnamed People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), do succeed, democracy in Thailand — not so long ago a beacon, by Asian standards, of pluralistic politics — will be in grave danger.

PAD...argue that the rural masses who favour Mr Thaksin and Mr Samak are too “ill-educated” to use their votes sensibly. This overlooks an inconvenient electoral truth: the two prime ministers had genuinely popular policies, such as cheap health care and credit.

The palace and a Burmese road to ruin

As in the build-up to the 2006 coup, PAD leaders are trying to oust a popular government on the bogus pretext of “saving” Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol from a supposed republican plot. Some of the PAD protesters reportedly believe their sit-in has the crown’s tacit backing.

In the official version of modern Thai history, the king is the great defender of peace and democracy, who comes to the rescue at moments of crisis. Now would seem to be one such moment: some wise words from the king could do much to defuse tension.

Thais like to believe they are good at seeking compromise to avoid conflict. But there has been little sign of compromise in the past three years, and there is now the risk of a bad one.

It’s really just a case of which is the lesser of two bad situations – stick by a democratically-elected, but corrupt, government representing the views of the majority of Thais; or dissolve Thailand’s fragile democratic foundations by bowing to the violent and stubborn demands of a large minority group trying to gain influence in a seemingly corrupt political environment.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Word of the day - Gubernatorial


I came across this word many times whilst reading the first volume of Bill Clinton's autobiography. I came across it again today in reference to the experience of Sarah Palin, John McCain's presidential running mate.

Definition: "Of or pertaining to a state governor or the office of state governor."

I don't know - it just sounds weird.

Any other votes for weird-sounding words?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Social garlic

As many of you may know, my Mum is on Facebook.

She recently uploaded a terrific photo album of her garden, including the developmental stages for the rose contingent. One of the photos included a curious-looking light-green spear-leafed shrub.

It also caught the eye of my mate Whitnall all the way over in the UK.

Our question was, what on earth is this so-called ‘social garlic’, and how can it help the blogging geeks of the world get out and about and become more popular???

The answer follows from a string of emails between myself, Whitnall and our resident botanical expert:

Subject: Social garlic
Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2008 17:33:59 +0700

Hi Mum – this from a recent email from my mate Whitnall all the way over in the UK:

“Can you ask Maria Bell what exactly is ‘social garlic’? Does it mean it mixes with the onions?”

It seems your gardening photos on facebook have caught the eye of more than just your son…

Please help clear this question up. We’re both want to know more about social garlic’s social habits…



Subject: RE: Social garlic
Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2008 2:54 AM

The correct common name is actually 'society garlic' (I have always called it social garlic for some unknown reason!) and it gets this name because - when used as a garlic-flavoured garnish it doesn't leave that nasty 'garlic breath'.

It has strap-like leaves which are a bit fleshy - the leaves are chopped for sauces, soups etc. It also has quite a pretty mauve flower on a long stem.

But to answer your question - 'society garlic' does not carouse with chives, osculate with the onions nor frolic with the fennel.

Catch ya soon, Mum.

So it seems social garlic can’t help one’s social life, but it can perhaps make a nice garnish or additive to a variety of dishes. Perhaps the answer is in reviving the humble dinner party, backed by the brilliance of social garlic…

Gourmet club anyone???

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

News just in...

I just accepted a fulltime offer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bush blokes battling

According to Mount Isa’s mayor, times are tough in the Australian bush at the moment, especially if you’re a hetero bloke living in the town.

This from BBC online…

The mayor of a remote Australian mining town has come under fire after saying
that female "ugly ducklings" might benefit from its shortage of women.

John Molony told a newspaper last week that "with five blokes to every
girl, may I suggest that beauty-disadvantaged women should proceed to Mount

The council has since been swamped with complaints from both men
and women.

But Mr Molony has refused to apologise for the remarks,
saying he was "telling it like it is" in the Queensland town.

With a supposed ratio of 5:1, I can’t help but wonder why Cr Molony hasn’t used the opportunity to sell the town’s man-tourism…just think about the $$$ that could be made from conducting tours for single gay men looking for their own ‘brokeback bloke’ holiday fling!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gooder grammar

This from one of the stalls somewhere within the depths Bangkok's colossal Chatuchak Markets.

No doubt worth every baht.

Clown boots

Seeing as the US-AUD currency exchange rate is so favourable at the moment, I've been thinking about buying some boots online.

I came across this - would you trust a clown's advice?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Blogging is back

My friend Edwina has cracked into the world of blogging.

First stop, documenting her experiences working on the Olympics in Beijing for an Australian TV channel.


Check it out here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Thai business quirk #1

I got my Thai business cards delivered today. One side English, the other Thai. My Thai name and title has more squiggles than an ABC children’s TV show.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Nit Noi

This is our new fish (and first ‘joint’ living organism) ‘Nit Noi’.

His name means ‘small’ or ‘little bit’ in Thai.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bangkok best city

So there’s a fair few expats who read this blog. Most are quite driven, intelligent, talented, and naturally slightly competitive individuals.

To keep the competitive juices flowing, I’d just like to announce that Bangkok has been awarded the coveted title of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best City for 2008.

Yep, that’s right, Bangkok. Where I live.

Cities were evaluated according to the quality of their sights, culture/arts, restaurants/food, people (Clare, me), shopping and overall value.

The top ten were as follows:

  1. Bangkok
  2. Buenos Aires (Kylie, we rock)
  3. Capetown
  4. Sydney
  5. Florence
  6. Cuzco, Peru
  7. Rome
  8. New York
  9. Istanbul
  10. San Francisco
Controversially, Alice Springs didn’t rate on the list. Nor did London. Or Limerick. Disgrace?

The awards also covered Hotels (value, service and destination separately), Islands, Airlines, Cruises, Car Rental, Tours, Spas and Business-specific hotels. Definitely worth a look.

I’d like to see a new category next year – world’s best hotel pools/lagoons.

Travel+Leisure's World’s Best everything:
  • Hotel - Singita Sabi Sand & Kruger National Park, South Africa
  • Island - Gal├ípagos Islands
  • Large cruise-liner - Crystal Cruises
  • Small cruise-liner - Silversea Cruises
  • International Airline - Singapore Airlines
  • Domestic Airline - Virgin America
  • Tour operator - Micato Safaris
  • Car rental agency - Hertz
  • Hotel for $250 or less - Domaine des Hauts de Loire, France
Agree? Disagree? Comments?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Happy birthday Hoff!

It's David Hasselhoff's birthday today - he's 56.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cambodia (Phnom Penh)

I've wrestled for a few weeks now as to what to write about my trip to Cambodia a month ago. I'll give it a run over the next few posts...

I had 5 days all up, planning to stay two days in both Phnom Penh and Siam Reap. After arriving, I decided that spending a whole day all up on a bus was a bit of a waste, so I stayed in Phnom Penh for the full five days and checked out the city and its surrounds.

As a whole, Cambodia is like no other place I have visited. The place has bloody struggled over the past half-century with unrest and subsequent extreme poverty. However, it's an interesting time to go as you can witness first-hand the developmental growing pains it's currently experiencing.

Partying hard

I reckon Cambodia (at the moment) is like an 18 year-old in his/her first year out of school. The teen is now free from the rules and routine of high school and home. They've never experienced such freedom, bright lights, sexual adventure and alcohol-fueled nights out on the town. They party hard. Maybe a bit too hard. They get themselves a little off track.

Cambodia is saying to itself at the moment "Holy shit, this freedom is amazing. I've got more money! Where do I start??".

Cambodia has essentially been given the opportunity for rebirth and in my view, will still take some time to shrug off its seedy undertones...natural in any semi-developed country. Corruption is rife, drugs are easy to attain and sex is seen as a commodity with unspeakable plunderous depths.

An honest conversation

In between a course at a terrifically fun local cooking school, I asked my 22 year-old cooking course instructor a few questions about Cambodian cuisine, regional varieties, what he liked to cook, eat etc. Briefly forgetting Cambodia's recent past, one question I stupidly asked was what he grew up cooking and eating.

His manner changed immediately.

With a visible sense of shame and lament, he told me he grew up in a poor rural family who were lucky to eat dog and rat to get by. And not just its meaty bits, but every conceivable part of their anatomy.

This bloke is only 22. When I was eating chicken nuggets at Belconnen McDonalds in '91, his family were still scraping for basic food and rice as his country struggled back into economic subsistence.

He was quick to tell me that those days are gone, and that his family is now able to afford pork and foul to supplement their rice staple.

The future

On the outside, there are indeed signs of solid development, with the presence of companies like PriceWaterhouse Coopers and a number of travel companies setting up more frequent tours...always a good sign. However, underlying corruption is still spoiling much opportunity for meaningful core development - Cambodia ranked last year 162nd out of 180 countries in Transparency International's yearly corruption survey.

I'll look with interest as to how Cambodia develops in the coming years.

Final thought

Some of my mates absolutely loved the country. I can't say I loved it - I just didn't feel safe. Walking along the Mekong in a busy street, I was offered weed, coke, heroin and a small bag of unclassified pills. It's just bloody dodgy. Definitely a place to be enjoyed by experienced travelers, not holiday makers.

However, I may well be wrong.

But I still believe that a nation's capital city is its flagship, and should boast the very best the nation has to offer. Case in point - Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin...what a marvel of modern aquatic engineering!

I WILL go back and I WILL check out more of the rural areas of the country, including Siam Reap. I feel I need to see more of the country before I fully write it off.

For those that have been, what did you think of the place????

Singapore Zoo & Botanic Gardens

I was thrilled when Clare agreed to join me in Singapore for the weekend. We decided to focus on visiting places very unlike Bangkok...the Singapore Zoo and the Botanic Garden's were full of greenery and placid, quiet places to relax. A nice antidote to the sensory overload we experience each day.

Here's a few snaps:

At the start of the Singapore Zoo circuit. The zoo itself was extremely well laid out and provided easy, close access to many of the animals.

A 'front row' of rhinos. I couldn't decide whether the rhinos or polar bears were my favourites for the day. The polar bears were a real highlight as I'd never seen any before, but the rhinos, well, I feel for them. I understand what it's like to have short stumpy legs, cankles and a big ass. Note the small bird.

Zebras are like the rockstars of Africa. Flamboyant, fast and just very, very cool.

After working in health PR, this is a lesson of what NOT to do.
DO support programs like the zoo is doing. DON'T name a giraffe after your product, as Abbott have done. More pure CSR, less focus on ROI. When will companies finally get it??

A visibly majestic animal. Kind of smelt though.

Clare laments as the crime scene is sealed off.

Me a little earlier at the Botanic Gardens. The Heliconias were excellent - reminded us of Kuala Lumpur.

Steve 1, Crab 0

Chilli crab - Singaporeans reckon it's a cracking dish, one not to miss whilst visiting their fair city.

And as they say, when in Rome...

Clare and I stumbled upon a very-Chinese Chinese restaurant...the kind where the local mafia might enjoy a bowl of fried rice. They even had private rooms fitted with karaoke machines. Very cool. Nice cover.

After ordering, I went to the live seafood 'salad bar'...there you get to choose the species and size of animal fit for your fry. I chose a 1kg Canada White crab.

There's no dainty way to eat crab, you've just got to hook right in. For those singles out there, a terrific 1st date icebreaker...

So Clare and I cracked, sucked and slurped our way through every delicious claw and leg.

What an experience!

What a mess!!!

Ah, the joys of being further up the food chain.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Cultural seensitivities

Picture this scene:

Partner of my NZ-based public relations firm walks over into my office area and starts chewing the fat with myself and the bloke who sits next to me.

Parter: "...yeah so he's retired and has bought a farm in the South Island to take up sheep and deering"
Me: "Is this one of your mates, *John*"
Partner: "Yeah - an old friend who used to work for the company"
Me: "And he's into deering"
Partner: "It's a good environment for it down there - a bit cold, but great pasture"

I think to myself, "I've never heard of blokes running deer on their farms, especially in New Zealand"...

Me: "Is deering common in New Zealand?"
Partner, puzzled: "Well, yes, has been for over a hundred years"
Me: "Oh, well I never knew, you learn something every day I guess. Must be a good market then for deering - what do they use them for, snags or something?"
Partner, even more puzzled: "No, milk"

Now by this stage, I've got absolutely no idea what's going on. I have NEVER heard of deer milk being sold as an agricultural commodity...better cut my losses and not ask any more questions...

Me: "Oh, OK then, cool"

It wasn't until about an hour later that I figured out he was saying "Dairying", not "Deering".

Cows, not deer.


Friday, July 04, 2008

You must be kidneying

Last year I took the piss in a post about how much my body would be worth with a humourous little online test called the 'cadaver calculator'.

This morning, I feel like a bit of a boob.

Page three of The Straits Times this morning features a couple of stories about a 26 year-old Indonesian bloke who will go to jail after selling one of his kidneys for 186 million rupiah ($AUD17,000).

In Indonesia, that amount of money equates to a staggering 16.5 years of hard labour - his previous occupation. After being layed off six months prior, he needed the money to support his parents and family.

The sentencing judge was reportedly quite lenient with his sentencing, taking into account his poor background, remarking "when he was identified by the syndicate as a potential donor, he was approached with an offer which for a person of his social and economic background would have been difficult to resist."

And it's not an isolated case. About a fortnight ago, The Taipei Times reported on a Vietnamese bloke who died after selling one of his kidneys in China. He went through with the ordeal because he didn't have enough money to ask his girlfriend's family for her hand in marriage, a customary cultural practice in Vietnam.

Something I'll keep in mind next time I think about whinging about the cost of beers in Singapore.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Hello Singapore!

I'm in Singapore - here for a bit of business and to sort out a few things with my work visa.

There are plenty of ways to get from the airport to the city - taxi, minibus, underground train or public bus. After arriving last night, I chose the bus. Not just because I'm Captain Tightass, but because I figured it would be a cheap (SGN$2) way to see a bit of the city at night, rather than going straight to my hotel in the back of a taxi.

What struck me most about Singapore was its cleanliness and order. It's been a while since I revelled in the thrills of a stable footpath, or felt excited at the sight of a motorcyclist patiently obeying a traffic light.

However, it comes at a cost. After going for a night swim in my hotel pool (Angus - 6.5/10), I wandered down to the Darling Harbour of Singapore for a cheeky beer and a feed. The food was reasonably priced, but the beer...sweet baby Jesus...SGN$12 for a pint of local brew (AUD$9).

It made me think - when you pay for a pint, you not only get a beer, but also the footpaths, clean streets and stable public transport (tax). An old Greek bloke I used to labour with during my uni days used to say, "You pay shiiit, you geta shiiit", and the same applies when comparing Bangkok to Singapore.

With it's agricultural labouring past (and present!), it's really interesting to see the Thai forces at work struggling to convince traditionalists that complex exports (like IT, finance and investment) are the way toward the term 'Developed country'.

Anyway, enough about economics and standards of living.

I think I'll go to little India tonight. Should be a cracker.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

El spido, near vomito

I had to leave Thailand to get another 30-day visa, so I decided to take the opportunity to spend about 5 days checking out neighbouring Cambodia.

The tour started off well. I was moderately hungover after a night out with some rugby mates, which saw me jump off a mechanical bull in a disco at 3am, sleep for an hour, then leave home for the airport at 4.30am.

Despite the lack of sleep, I managed to have a look around a bit and met a couple of fellow travelers on my first day in Phnom Penh. Over a couple of beers that night, they mentioned they had gone out and eaten tarantulas at a restaurant the night before.

I couldn't imagine a more ridiculous exercise.

Now, for those that know me, I absolutely hate spiders. Maybe it stemmed from the multitude of redbacks in my family's back shed during our days in Canberra. Or maybe it results from some suppressed memory of me being molested by a man wearing a spiderman outfit...I don't know - either way, they scare the absolute crap out of me.

But I though to myself - I'm young, traveling and a mate of mine back in Oz needed some help with a work project. Mon works for a production company in Sydney and needed some video blogs developed and posted on one of her client's website.

So off I went to this restaurant with these two crazy-ass travelers and an American woman who personified nails down a chalkboard. You can see/hear them in the clip.

Check out the action here:

Go to 'Recent Posts' on the lefthand side nav-bar, then click on the video 'Munching Spiders'.

Thanks to Mon for cutting up and posting the footage for me. She had the laborious task of cutting out most of the painful comments from the yank bird, so I am forever indebted. Apologies as well for the odd expletive, but I really was packing it.

If anyone has some recent footage of them doing anything adventurous in Australia or across the world, jump onto the website, sign up, and post it! It's a really cool initiative and something I think has the potential to collate some excellent experiences! I think there's some prizes up for grabs or something as well.


Classic Thailand (2)

After watching the All Blacks play England today at a local pub with a few mates, I was walking home when I came across this.

Please note:

  • Two dudes. Fixing a bundle of lines. One balancing on the powerline, the other on a makeshift bamboo ladder.
  • No protective equipment.
  • Other dudes just sitting around having a smoke.
  • The hazardous, contorted pavement.
Classic Thailand.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I've got a job

That's right, I've stepped out of the dole queue and onto the fast-track to employmentville.

Only moments ago, I formally accepted an offer with a NZ-based agency with an office here in Bangkok...a 3-month trial contract predominantly working on a prominent bank here in Thailand.

I will be flying to Singapore in a couple of weeks to meet the members of the office based there, as well as sort everything out on the visa front.

In the words of Mark Occhilupo: "Stoked".

Isn't life funny?

I have toiled.

Every day, I have located 15-20 jobs I can do, only to read three lines into the job description either "Thai Nationals Only", "Female, 24-30 years" or "Foreigners need not apply".

Of the ones not including those phrases, I have distilled, researched, applied for and followed up over 35 different jobs - not one reply.

I have been to several 'networking' functions and talked absolute shit - to people who talk and promise an equal amount of shit.

I have met innumerable people in the industry for coffees, lunches, beers and chats.

My CV has traveled more in Bangkok via the internet, than I have by taxi, tuk-tuk, foot and skytrain.

I have gotten involved with a Chamber of Commerce here in Bangkok - volunteered to help develop their publication and produce an upcoming issue.

I have been worried I wouldn't get a job and be able to stay in Thailand with Clare.

And today, after 3 months and a whole lot of crap, I had two 2nd interviews - one yielded an offer, the other a "your in the front running". Isn't life funny like that?

So I reckon I'm going to take the offer, pending visa and salary requirements. It's with a consultancy, doing PR for one of Thailand's biggest and most established banks.

And I may, or may not have, celebrated with a few schooners (pints) here tonight after cricket training.