Thursday, April 30, 2009

The 8th HUA HIN Jazz Festival 2009

This year, The 8th HUA HIN Jazz Festival 2009 is scheduled to be held from 12 – 14 June 2009 in honour of the Musical Talents of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand and to celebrate the occasion of HUA HIN’s 100th Anniversary with the HUA HIN GREEN JAZZ concept.

Highlight of this year HUA HIN Jazz Festival will be the performances of Thai, Asian and world famous International Jazz musicians during the 3 days in different locations; on the beach and at Phonkingphet Public Park.

Those musicians appearing have not yet been disclosed.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

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Honda Summer Fest@ Hua Hin

OK, you rock and rollers. If you recognize any of these bands, you get in free. Otherwise, you don't have to pay.
Honda Summer Fest@ Hua Hin The 2nd Summer Music Festival will be held on Saturday 2 May, 2009 from 12.00 -24.00 pm. Located at Khao Ta Kieb beach, Hua Hin There will be more than 20 bands, both Thai and Foreign. Bands include Groove Riders, Joey Boy, Scrub, Lipta, Poe Yokee Playboy, Som Amara, Mild, Creshendo, Teddy Scar Band, Sri Racha Rocker, Madacasca, Joe-Fax, Kai-Joe Brother, Tmon, Okey Mocca, Superglasses Ska Ensemble and Foreign Band; Nossa Alma Canta from Italy. For more information please kindly contact Honda 24 Hours Hotline at Tel: 02-341-7777

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Hua Hin boasts sunflowers, too

As The Post says, we've got lots of sunflowers, but be careful what you believe about the elephants.

Hua Hin boasts sunflowers, too

The resort town of Hua Hin has added a 100-rai sunflower belt to its growing list of attractions.

The flowers, on view since Songkran on a plot that belongs to Wat Huay Mongkol, are expected to remain in bloom until early May. The temple is home to the largest statue of revered monk Luang Pu Thuat in Thailand, 11.5 metres tall and 9.9 metres wide.

To begin with, the temple planted sunflower on 50 rai at the start of this year. It drew huge crowds, said Pinnart Charoenpol, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Prachuap Khiri Khan office, prompting the abbot to expand cultivation to 100 rai.

As is the norm, Thais visiting sunflower fields like to get themselves pictured in their midst, but additionally, here they can take a tour riding elephants.

Wat Huay Mongkol is located in Tub Tai, a tambon of Hua Hin District. From the town take Highway 3218 and drive for 14 kilometres to Nhong Tapeo intersection. There turn left. The temple is four kilometres from the intersection.

For details, call the temple at 032-576-187 to 8 and 032-576-296 or TAT at 032-513-885 and 032-513-871.
We did the sunflowers right after New Year and we didn't even have to climb up the Wat. Now they've replanted with twice as much as they had before.

The elephants are a different story, however. They claim to have an Elephant Rehabilitation Center, but the elephants that need rehabilitating are the ones they have you ride.  It's hot out there in the sugar cane/sunflower fields and even elephants need a break from the hot sun. On the day we were there, the elephants were literally crying for water, the mahouts couldn't control them, and the elephants were doing everything they could to stop and eat any weed they could find.  It wasn't a pleasant sight.

Enjoy the sunflowers but help your karma and the elephants by taking comfortable shoes, sunscreen, an umbrella, and your camera and don't ride the elephants.


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Friday, April 24, 2009

More On Using Google Earth with a GPS Device

There's probably a very limited audience for this but FBF thinks it's pretty cool so will share it anyway.

Until a few months ago, Google required that one upgrade to Google Earth Plus in order to use a GPS device with Google Earth. However, Google Earth 5.0 was introduced in February 2009 and incorporated for free most of what Google Earth Plus had offered for a premium, including GPS services.

This means you can how run Google Earth on your laptop, connect your GPS device to the computer and monitor your movement on Google Earth in REALTIME while on the road. I've got a dinky little Garmin hand held device with a screen smaller than most modern cellphones. I usually pretty much know where I'm going anyway and the GPS is just another toy so it's no big deal. Now, the sky's the limit on the size of your screen. There's got to be some fellow with a Winnebago somewhere who's got a 47" LCD monitor hooked to the video out of his laptop which is connected to a GPS. Talk about not ever having to ask for directions again.

Another interesting feature of the realtime tracking is that an internet connection is NOT essential. If one has the foresight to track the route in Google Earth prior to making the journey AND has set the option to store the largest cache possible, the maps will be in the cache and while Google Earth will give a couple of error messages about 1) not being able to connect to the server so will use cache and 2) another nag about not being to access the server, the realtime display will continue as long as the cache contains maps of the route taken. Of course, this will probably not work on a trip such as the one Al made to escape the ASEAN conference though updating the cache each night along the way would help.

This is very nice for those of us who don't have unlimited budgets for mobile internet access or are outside say, the Hutch CDMA coverage area.

I don't know what happens when one is using mobile internet access and moves from one cell to another. The cache may help here and may not.

At any rate, this takes GPS usage to another level and we can even do it here in Hua Hin.  FBF thinks that's more than pretty cool.

A couple of privisos on the above mentioned use of a laptop in an automobile.

  • Having a laptop displaying maps in the passenger seat of a moving car is not very safe, especially if you're already watching a DVD in the dashboard player and/or are talking on a cell phone.
  • You better have the mother of all batteries in the laptop as not only are you powering the laptop but also the GPS and mobile internet device, if used.

FBF is now looking for a mount for his laptop or, alternatively, a small LCD display that might be more easily mounted on the dash or console AND a converter/power supply that could power the laptop from the cigarette lighter socket.

For more information on using Google Earth with your GPS device click here.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quiet in Bo Fai

Not a whole lot going on in Bo Fai or Hua Hin these days. The Bangkok hordes finally had to return to work after their 10-day Songkran holiday and the tourists have fled the scene once again so parking and traffic are back to just bad rather than terrible. They say tourists arrivals will be down at least 25% this year over last. Probably NOT a good time to buy that bar or open that restaurant you've been thinking about.

FBF has been spending much of his time working on a new page for the Hua Hin Pages on Thai Fruits.  It's still under construction but is now up at Fruits of Thailand. Those who don't have Thai fonts installed on their OS will notice some odd characters as the Thai names have been included. Do not adjust your set, either ignore the odd characters or add Thai fonts.

FBF has also been working on getting his notebook to work as a real time GPS using Google Earth and his Garmin GPSr. The CDMA USB stick from Hutch may be the answer.

Trying to keep up with what the different colored shirts are up to has also taken a bit of time since our local press is so intent on sanitizing what we read and see. Former mayoral candidate, Nattakorn Devakula, had an interesting  op-ed in the Post the other day and the winner of that mayoral race, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, had an interview with Der Spiegel on a similar subject. Even the Nation slipped up and let Chang Noi get some words in that were pretty much opposite of what their headlines normally claim.

As always, where ever you are, if you've seen something that affects Hua Hin, let me know and I'll do what I can to spread the word here.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chaos in Bangkok, Traffic in Hua Hin

There's been an inordinate amount of traffic on the blog the last couple of days, especially from overseas visitors.  My bet is that folks are wondering if the chaos in Bangkok is also going on in Hua Hin.

My answer would have to be an emphatic NO.  This is pretty much a typical Songkran holiday time in Hua Hin. There are too many cars from Bangkok and, as always, never enough parking places.

Songkran in Hua Hin is pretty much one day of splashing and several days of traffic jams.  With what was supposed to be a 5-day weekend turned into a 10-day weekend, we can expect this to continue for a few more days.

My family didn't go out on Monday, Songkran day, but we went to Market Village this morning as it was FBF junior's birthday.  The mall was pretty much filled to capacity by 11:00 and no one cared what color shirt anyone was wearing.  The food court and the ice cream places were doing a booming business though we managed to escape the throngs before the lunch time crowd arrived.

We stayed away from Petchkasem, the main drag through town, to avoid the traffic, but could see that it was backed up from the Villa Complex to the traffic light as we headed west and up and over the hill to get home.

Along the canal road, all the hotel parking lots were full and the shops popular among the Bangkok crowd were extremely busy, especially the quitio shop with fish noodles.

If you're planning on coming to Hua Hin, I wouldn't let the yahoos in Bangkok keep me away.  It seems to be quite now, Tuesday evening, and I would think it should remain so for several days.

It's not over by a long shot and FBF won't be going to Bangkok in the near future but he makes a habit of not going there anyway.

Some color shirt will be back out within a week or 10 days but they will mostly congregate around Government House.  There shouldn't be any problem getting from the airport to Hua Hin.

FBF tends to keep to Bo Fai so if any of the local readers have seen anything untoward that I haven't, please let us know

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Austin Bush Does the Hua Hin Night Market

Austin Bush has come to Hua Hin.  If you like food and/or like to look at lovely photographs of food, Austin Bush is the guy to visit.  He knows Thai food better than most and his photographs are much, much better than most.  He's in Hua Hin this week and the latest post on his blog is the Hua Hin Night Market.  I hope he's here for a few days and posts more.  In the meantime, click on his name at the beginning.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rumors and Hersay

No one likes to spread stories, least of all FBF, but the word is that the new hole on Petchkasem behind what used to be the District Office and the Police Station, may very well be the new Immigration Office. If it's true, you heard it here first; if it's not true, blame it on Not The Nation.

FBF did the one year today and a casually dressed, name not given, immigration official, or not, said that he heard that Immigration would be in the present office for about one year. He hoped that the office would stay in suburban Bo Fai and NOT return to the jungles of Singh Khon, and understood (his italics, not mine) that the office going in where the sub office of the Red Cross was located on Petchkasem Rd. would be the new home of Immigration, opening around Songkran of next year.

This unnamed, perhaps an official, perhaps just a rumor monger, didn't like the location on Soi 102 anymore than anyone else, but likes Singh Khon even less.

FBF would like to see them stay in Bo Fai, obviously due to the amble free parking, but could live with the new location near the Post Office.

Here's hoping rumors become reality.


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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thailand: The Land of the Free

FBF is not the biggest fan of The Nation but figures if one is going to say anything on this subject at this point in time, it's better just to quote something from the established press.

Better ways to save thai online freedom

SUWICHA TAKOR was the perfect fall guy for the dysfunctional bureaucracy and officials that have been assigned to protect the monarchy. He is just an ordinary online user who passed on "offensive" materials that he received to other surfers on the Internet. The court decision to sentence him to 10 years in prison last week was disproportionately harsh.

His conviction will have far-reaching repercussions on two fronts. First of all, it would imbed a culture of fear deeper into Thai society, especially its netizens, and that would further sterilise society. In that sense, Thailand, which means the land of the free, is no longer free with gagged citizens.

Second, in the long run it would sow the seeds of discontent within the young generation and awaken the silent majority with unimaginable consequences.

On April 3, the court decided that the 34-year-old father of three children was guilty of offences under the 2007 Constitution, the Criminal Code and the Computer Crime-related law of 2007. Suwicha Thakor was sentenced to 20 years in jail on two counts of 10 years each. His sentence was halved due to his confession that he sent pictures offensive to the heir apparent to the throne via the Internet.

Truth be told, from 2004-2008 there must be several thousands of online users, Thais and non-Thais, who have done the same thing as Suwicha - knowingly or unknowingly. After all, it just takes one click. Just imagine what Thailand would be like if thousands of netizens were imprisoned on a similar charge. Just think of the public's reactions.

In fact, an urgent and frequently asked question is quite simple: why were these offensive pictures, including old and fresh ones, posted in cyberspace in the first place? Who were these people?

Investigations should have been seriously conducted to go after the culprits, who could be far or near to the sources.

After his arrest, Suwicha's life was completely shattered. Now the future of his family of five including his father is in limbo as he is the only breadwinner. Worst of all, he was dismissed from his job without any compensation. His company reacted quickly for fear that the case would affect its reputation and business interests.

During the uproar over the controversial 44-second clip on YouTube in April 2007, the authorities took down the whole site, attracting severe criticism from around the world. The source was identified and subsequently an apology was issued. Further negotiations with the officials at Google hosting the popular online video-sharing site, have successfully blocked and banned the indecent uploads to the site.

After the YouTube incident, more websites have sprung up with materials considered by Thai authorities to be indecent and offensive. Their standard response has always been to take down these websites.

Interviews with the authorities involved in monitoring and surveying these websites have yielded a one-pattern answer: shut down the sites, otherwise they have to face the consequences at their own peril.

This kind of insistence can also be found in other related laws such as the Official Information Act of 1997. For instance, according to Article 40, officials who disclose information incorrectly to the public would face a harsher term of punishment of a one-year jail term and Bt20,000 fine.

In case they simply break the law and refuse to disclose any information, they would face only three-month imprisonment and Bt5,000 fine. The choice is very clear on what the officials would do.

Naturally, when it comes to the revered institution, nobody wants to be perceived as a recalcitrant public servant. That explains why there are many pending cases of lese majeste and more than 4,000 websites to date have been shut down.

For the time being, officials would be content now that they have taught a lesson to Suwicha and in the process scared millions of online users.

But this tactic would eventually backfire and turn into frustration and could yield worse results in the future. The best preventive measure is to educate online regulators and enforcers as well as online users. Most users are teenagers, who rely on digital media as a means of communication.

As previously stated, authorities must change their mindsets in tackling such a sensitive issue. And netizens must learn that freedom of expression must not infringe on other people's rights, whether they are ordinary citizens or members of royal families.

Young users, who often do not read newspapers, must be acquainted with cyberspace and criminal laws. If this unhealthy trend continues, which is likely the case, Thailand's reputation and the effort to recoup from the past calamity would be wasted.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has personally tackled this sensitive issue. After the police raid of the office in early March, two days later he quickly met with the representatives of netizens to assure them that his government respected freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the new Constitution.

He vowed to work together with online communities to come up with Internet norms and standards acceptable to all. Besides, Thailand is the first Asian signatory to the 60-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is an uphill task as authorities are apparently not on the same wavelength with the prime minister. They continue to follow outmoded standard procedures, which only create more problems and fear than provide solutions.

Like all previous cases, the only way to rescue Suwicha's family from the quagmire confronting them is by a royal pardon. His lawyer said that he would seek one.

This is a matter of urgency as lives are at stake here. It is hoped that common sense will prevail in our country with its long tradition of freedom of expression and pragmatism. 


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Sunday, April 5, 2009

UPDATE: Top Charoen Invasion

Has anyone NOT seen this logo:

As far as I know there are now 6 locations in Hua Hin (so far none in Bo Fai).  FBF has discovered another TC shop.  It's in the Villa Market Complex.

  1. Just south of the Yamaha/Honda dealer north of the Phetkasem/Palau Rd traffic light.
  2. Just north of the clock tower.  Store extends from Phetkasem through to Naepkhaehart Rd.
  3. Next door to Time Optic, just north of the Hua Hin Shopping Mall.
  4. Next door to Burger King.
  5. The north east corner of Dechanuchit Rd (Soi 72) and Sra Song Road across from the 7/11
  6. The north west corner of Dechanuchit Rd (Soi 57) and Naepkhaehart Rd.
  7. Villa Market Complex

View Larger Map

I can't figure this out.  These are not franchises; they are all owned by the company.  These are not inexpensive shops to set up and operate. All of these shops are on prime real estate. When Starbucks opened by the clock tower a few years ago, there were many rumors as to how much they had to pay for the lease on that location just a couple of doors down from a (now) Top Charoen Optical. When Billy's lease at the British steak house next door to Burger King was up, we heard about the exorbitant fees the owners of the property were demanding to allow him to stay.  That didn't stop Top Charoen.

I get stuck at traffic lights in front of these places very often. I don't mind admiring the long-legged ladies that lounge out front/staff the shops but I seldom see any customers. All that glass and chrome and those long legs cost money. I realize that the mark up on eye glasses is quite high but even then, we're talking about a lot of Hi-So frames just to pay the overhead. As I've sat waiting for the lights to change, I've wondered if these shops aren't really just a front for something more profitable than eye glasses.  Perhaps a soapy place or something like that.  Don't know.

I looked into store placement and learned that Wal-Mart's strategy in a urban area is to place stores within a 10 mile radius of each other in order to saturate the market and undercut their competition. I can understand that. 10 miles is 16 km or 804 sq km for each store.  The Wal-Mart stores are making it difficult for their
competitors to survive without damaging the sales of their own stores.  But we're talking about 6 Top Charoen stores in a 0.385 square kilometer area!  From the central location by the clock tower, there are 5 more locations within a 350 meter radius. This can't work.

This ad look familiar?  For those who can't read Thai, it's NOT Top Charoen.  It's Beautiful Optical.

There's been a Beautiful Optical shop across the street from Chatchai Market since probably just after they completed the railway line. I always figured it was owned by the Gee Un Tung folks or some other old time Hua Hin family and I was concerned that they, or Time Optic or some of the other optical shops that have been around Hua Hin a while would suffer from the Top Charoen advance.

FBF was wrong again.  I noticed the other day that the Beautiful Optical shop across the street from the market has been remodeled and that the row of leather shops and tailors that used to be across the street from Burger King AND across the street from Top Charoen have been taken over by a huge Beautiful Optical.  Not only are they not suffering from the Top Charoen invasion, they're fighting back.

Or so it would seem.  Turns out, at least what the Thai web sites say, is that they are owned by the same company.  I can't be certain but I tend to believe it.  Promotions and ads are very similar.  Ads are award winning and very quirky.  Web sites are IDENTICAL.

I have no idea how many Beautiful Optical shops there are in Hua Hin.  My brain is numb trying to keep up with the Top Charoen shops but it just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Years ago we joked about how many tailor shops there were in Hua Hin.  The tailor shops gave way to jewelry stores on every corner, and then there were real estate agents.  I don't think anyone has any idea how many 7/11's there are here but my bet is that soon there will be a Top Chareon kiosk in each 7/11.  Would you like a pair of designer frames with that Spicy Dog?

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