Barrow is the Big Daddy of Thailand blogging and although we’ve linked to just his flagship site above, he has other sites on such subjects as Thai prison life, Thai Buddhism and Thai festivals. undeniably prolific in his output, Barrow’s independent travel blogging is, above all, useful. There’s no fluff, just lots of information and photos on specific events, attractions and locations.
With the use of modern technology, there are gadgets that you can now use that help you have a more healthy environment. I’ve talked before about air quality monitors. Today I want to tell you about water quality testers. After all, about 60% of our body is made up of water, and so it is important that you are drinking good quality water. Back home in the UK, we are used to just drinking water from the tap. However, here in Thailand, our lives revolve around drinking filtered water or bottled water. We would never drink straight from the tap even though the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority assures us it is safe to drink. For general purposes, I use a water filter in my house. But, how to know when it is time to change the filter? As I neglected to note down the last time that I changed my filter, I decided to buy a Xiaomi TDS Water Quality Tester Pen to see if the purity remained good. This is the review of that tester pen and my experience of using it in my daily life.
Xiaomi is a well-known electronics company based in China. They make smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices like the MI Air Purifier 2 which I reviewed earlier. The Mi TDS Pen Tester is another of their products. As the name suggests, it looks a bit like a ballpoint pen though it is slightly bulkier. There is a cap at one end which protects the electrode sensors. The cap is also where you put the water that you are testing. The other end is for two replaceable button batteries. There is a small LCD screen which unfortunately isn’t backlit. So, not always that easy to read. To turn on the meter, just press the button. The reading should be zero. It will turn itself off after a few minutes or you can just press the button again.
TDS stands for ‘total dissolved solids’ which includes Soluble salts such as calcium, magnesium, etc, Ionic organic compound such as ammonium acetate, sodium, etc., and Metal ions such as chromium, zinc, lead, copper, etc. TDS is measured in PPM which stands for ‘parts per million’ or just mg/L which stands for ‘milligrams per liter’. Basically, the lower the reading, the higher the purity of your water. WHO says that any water with a reading of less than 300ppm is regarded as good to drink. Though you can drink any water up to about 1,000ppm. In theory, that is. It may contain harmful chemicals. More about that in a moment.
Lowering TDS is done through reverse osmosis (RO). A good RO filtering unit can reduce dissolved solids by more than 90%. Bottled water sold in Thailand and some home water purifiers may use RO together with ultraviolet treatment and/or ozone treatment. UV Water Purification systems remove 99.99% of bacteria and viruses. Ozone purifiers can remove 99% of all biological pathogens including Giardia and Cryptosporidium. The TDS meter pen can check for the purity of your water, but it cannot check for things such as bacteria, viruses and other harmful substances. For that, you will need a laboratory. All I wanted to do with the TDS meter pen was to see how well my water purifier was working. Was it reducing dissolved solids by at least 90%? First I tested my tap water which had a reading of 161ppm which is pretty good compared to some countries. I then tested my purified water and that was only 6ppm. So, I can presume that it is still doing a good job.
The Xiaomi Mi TDS Pen is easy to use. The meter pen comes with batteries already installed so that you can use it straight out of the box. All you have to do is put some water you want to test into a cup or the pen cap. Then press the button on the pen to turn it on making sure it says zero. Then put it into the water. You only have to wait a few seconds. Unfortunately, there is no hold button and so as soon as you take it out of the water, it quickly goes back to zero. So, putting the water into the cap is more efficient. In the photo above, the Mi TDS Pen is pictured together with the more bulkier TDS EZ which I bought a few years ago on Amazon. They are much alike, though the TDS EZ has a hold button which makes it easier to see the results. Their test readings were very similiar. Particularly for purer water. However, the large the number, say for example 200+ ppm, then the bigger the difference between them. But only by about 5ppm.
Once I had tested my tap water and filtered water, I naturally wanted to then check bottled water. Which brand has the purest water? But, before I give you the results, I need to give a warning. Natural spring water or mineral water will give a high TDS reading of say around 300ppm. Other bottled water may have some minerals added. Not just for health, but for taste too. Although my purified water having a reading of only 6ppm is very good, it is also tasteless and doesn’t contain any minerals that your body may need. But, I don’t care so much, I can easily get minerals from eating a balanced diet. So, here is the result of these popular brands of bottled water sold in Thailand. You might be surprised by some of the results: (1) Crystal 20ppm, (2) Chang 122ppm, (3) 7 Select 5ppm, (4) Singha 344ppm, (5) Nestle Pure Life 220ppm, (6) Namthip 25ppm, and (7) Avias 36ppm.
I need to emphasize again, that a higher TDS reading doesn’t mean unsafe water. It just means the water isn’t pure and has been fortified with something. As you can see from the readings I took, 7 Select, which is one of the cheapest brands available, had a reading of only 5ppm. At the other end of the scale was Singha Drinking Water with a reading of 344ppm. Which was very surprising. I actually went to a different shop to buy another bottle just to make sure. I also tested with the other TDS pen I had. The results were still high. I am not saying the water isnt clean. I am just saying it is not pure. Something has been added, but I cannot tell what as there is nothing mentioned on the label. It only says NSF certification (National Sanitation Foundation) which is an international standard of quality. Chang water and Nestle Pure Life also has this certification. The question is whether we trust them or not or just go for the purest water available. After all, as I said before, we can get our minerals from eating a balanced diet.
I bought the Xiaomi Mi TDS Pen on Lazada for just over 200 Baht. Here is a link to for all TDS pens on Lazada. Of course, other shopping venues are available. In every case, be careful that you are not buying a counterfeit item. I like the brand Xiaomi and I think many of their products are stylish. Their TDS pen seems reliable and is small and light enough to carry around on my travels. The price is not expensive too. If you have a water filtration system at home, I would strongly suggest that you buy a TDS pen to check on the purity of your water. You will find it invaluable. After I mentioned to a Thai friend of mine that I had bought a TDS meter pen, she asked me to test the filtered water in her house. Which I did and the results were a high 165ppm. This is basically the same as her tap water and showed me that her filtration system wasn’t working at all. So, basically, she had been drinking tap water thinking it had been purified by filters. She has now ordered some replacement filters.
As before, if you have had experience with this TDS pen or any others, please post your thoughts in the comments below. I’m also interested to have your opinion about the bottled water that I tested. Why did some test so high? Are they spring water or mineral water? There are also other affordable water quality testers on the market that test things like pH and EC. Do you have any experience with these? Thanks for reading and I hope I have helped some people.
The Tourism Department will organize the Thailand International Film Destination Festival 2019 (TIFDF 2019) from 25th March to 2nd April 2019. There will be free viewings of international films shot in Thailand from 27th to 31st March at Siam Paragon Cineplex. The movies are: Detective Chinatown (7:00pm on 27th March), Bounty Hunters (7:00pm on 28th March), Hangover Part II (7:00pm on 29th March), Gold (7:00pm on 30th March), and Changeland (7:00pm om 31st March). You can reserve tickets by calling the Hotline number on 097-045-8526 or going in person to the ticket booking point In front of McDonald’s store The Paragon Cineplex Theater. They will be open for booking from 26th – 31st March 2019 from 11:00am to 5:00pm.
Since 2013, the annual Thailand International Film Destination Festival has been important in promoting Thailand as a prime location for shooting international films and helped to generate income for the Kingdom. It has also drawn foreign tourists to the country’s famous attractions being featured in these films. The department’s data show that a total of 714 films were shot in Thailand last year, generating 3.1 billion baht in revenue. The Thai government’s policy to attract international filmmakers through various incentives have also contributed to the figure.
According to Director-General of the Tourism Department Anan Wongbenjarat , the 7th Thailand International Film Destination Festival will feature a competition on short films in Thailand being held under the concept “Beyond Destination Thailand.” He explained that these films had been shot in secondary destinations, which is part of the government’s policy to promote 55 lesser-known provinces. The result of the short film competition will be announced on April 2nd. Free viewing of international films being shot in Thailand will be held from March 27th to 31st at Siam Paragon Cineplex.
This year, it would seem that everyone wants to buy an air quality monitor. Which is a good thing as it raises awareness of the air pollution problem. But which one to buy and where to buy it? Prices vary a lot and they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. In addition, can you really trust them to do a good job? Particularly if they are so cheap? As people keep asking me where I bought my air quality monitors from, I thought I would gather information together on this one page to help answer that question. At this moment I am not saying which ones I like the best. But, as I gradually start doing reviews of these monitors, I will also add a star rating with pros and cons for this page. Please bookmark this page or the Air Pollution page on my website as there is more to come.
The following is sorted by price with the most expensive at the top.
PROS: It has four built-in sensors that record AQI/PM2.5, CO2, temperature and humidity. It also gives you a seven-day forecast and recommendations for what you should and shouldn’t do. The screen is large and clear. If you connect it to the Internet, you will be able to see what the AQI reading is for a local outdoor air quality station. It has a built-in battery so you can carry it around your house to test different rooms. You can also set it up as an outdoor station and share the readings with everyone.
CONS: It is very expensive. The battery doesn’t last very long and so you will need to keep it plugged in. The outdoor readings only work if you have a nearby air quality station. It cannot literally tell you what the AQI is like outside of your home.
Name: Laser Egg 2+ | Cost: $199 (6,200 Baht) | Website/Store:kaiterra.com | Click for My Review
PROS: It is small and handy and relatively easy to carry around with you. You can plug it into an electrical socket or a regular power bank. It records the PM2.5 levels and gives a US AQI output. The colors change depending on the level.
CONS: There is no built-in battery and so you need to have it always plugged into something. The screen is not that clear to read outside. The Mini USB socket seems fragile and so I leave the cable plugged in all of the time. It does not show temperature or humidity.
PLEASE NOTE: I hear that a new version is coming out in February 2019. You might want to wait to see what new features it has. I’ve been trying to contact them about this, but no replies so far.
Name: SNDWAY Air Quality Monitor | Cost: 1,439 Baht | Website/Store:Lazada | Click for My Review
PROS: It is small and compact and easy to carry in your pocket. It has a built-in battery that is handy when you are checking different rooms in your house or when you are out and about. It also charges easily by plugging it into a power bank. The readout is clear and shows PM2.5, the temperature and humidity. It flashes red when it reaches dangerous levels.
CONS: I am more used to understanding the AQI levels. This monitor only shows you the PM2.5. Nevertheless, it doesn’t take long to remember that 25-50 is starting to get unhealthy. Anything above that you shouldn’t have prolonged exposure. Certainly, you shouldn’t exercise.
Air pollution is a hot topic in Thailand these days. Everyone is talking about it, which is a good thing. In the past, it had mainly been swept under the carpet or regulated to the inside pages of the national newspapers. Now that it has become headline news, people are not only talking about where air pollution comes from and what we can do to reduce it, but they are also looking into ways of monitoring the air pollution themselves in their homes and their community. This year saw a run on both air quality monitors and air purifiers. To the extent that many shops quickly ran out of stock. I’ve had my own air quality monitor for about a year now. It is an Air Tricorder by Makerspace Thailand (see my first look review here). At that time, I was also interested in the AirVisual Pro by IQAir. But, the price was considerably more and beyond my budget. But then, in January this year, I finally managed to persuade my school to invest in this air quality monitor. The review on this page is based on setting it up at the school and our experience over the last month or so. But first, what to expect if you set it up in your home.
The AirVisual Pro (see their website here) is sold as an indoor and outdoor air quality monitor that has sensors for PM2.5 (fine particulate matter), CO2, temperature and humidity. For most people, they will use it indoors and if they connect the monitor to the Internet, they will be able to choose a local air quality station to show on the split screen. On the left will be inside their house, and on the right a local station. This is useful as it will give you an idea as to when it is safe to open the windows. In the case above, the air quality inside the house is perfectly fine (quite possibly an air purifier has already been turned on), but outside it is deemed to be unhealthy. So, in this case, you should keep the doors and windows firmly shut and wear a mask if you go outside. In the top left is the CO2 reading and in the top right the temperature and weather. Along the bottom is a graph of the AQI reading from the past 24 hours. I also want to point out that the 12 and 167 readings are AQI and directly below them, the 3.2 and 87 are the PM2.5 readings.
At the top of the device, there is a button which you press to toggle through a number of different screens. This second screen more clearly shows you the CO2 level inside your house (if the device is set to Indoors). The main screen is to do with the AQI reading and airborne particles. This is, of course, what we are mainly worried about. Particularly PM2.5 particles. But, we should also be concerned about carbon dioxide levels. After all, if the air pollution outside is so high that we close all of the doors and windows, the CO2 levels inside could then build up. I’m told that prolonged exposure to a reading of 2,500ppm or more could create a temporary effect such as headaches, nausea, etc. Much higher will result in more serious conditions. So, the AirVisual Pro monitor will help you make a decision as to whether you should open the window to change the air. Though, of course, if the same monitor is showing you that the AQI reading outside is very high too, you shouldn’t open the window for too long.
The third screen gives you a forecast for the next few days. This is useful if you are planning any outdoor activities at the weekend like camping or running in a marathon. Air pollution is not always just about traffic jams. It has a lot to do with weather conditions. One thing that I noticed from observing the statistics over a period of a few weeks was that the AQI level wasn’t always peaking during the rush hour periods, which is what I had expected. Rather it was peaking during the middle of the night. I also often noted that humidity increased around the same time as the AQI levels were going up. Another important factor is temperature inversion. In the case where ground level is cooler than up in the atmosphere, the air pollution is trapped over the city for what can be days if not weeks until there is a change in the weather. Wind also plays a part in clearing smog, though only if it comes from a clean area. In Bangkok, our AQI levels remained high when the wind was coming from the north or the east. But, when it switched to the south, the AQI levels dropped quickly. One final factor, a widespread heavy rain will help the situation. Though maybe only temporarily if there is no good wind as well. I have noted that the AQI level went back up in less than an hour after a heavy rainstorm.
The fourth and final screen gives you recommendations on what you should do. In this case, the AQI levels outside are deemed to be “unhealthy” and so you should close the windows and turn on an air purifier. The device is small and light and you could carry it around your home to check out different rooms. There is a battery, but it doesn’t last too long. But, enough time to check out the air quality in different rooms. Anyway, it is charged by a Micro USB cable and so you could probably plug it into a power bank if you want. One thing that you should note is that the AQI reading will be affected if you are cooking egg and bacon for breakfast. So don’t keep it in your kitchen. An obvious place to have it is in your bedroom. After all, you spend a large proportion of your life there. The massive 5-inch LED is bright and clear enough for you to see from your bed, but you can also set it up to turn off the monitor between certain times to allow you to sleep. Everything I have written about so far is for people who are using the AirVisual Pro as an Indoor station. I’ve never done that, so I cannot comment beyond what I have said above. What I will talk about next, is my experience of setting it up to be an Outdoor station at my school.
In a previous blog post, I talked about how to find out what the Air Quality Index is for your local area (see here). However, this is only good if there is a reliable air pollution station nearby which is connected to the Internet. Up to this point, I only had my Air Tricorder which I carried around with me when I went on trips in Thailand. But, it never really helped me when I woke up in my own bed and wondered what the pollution level was outside. Was the air clean enough for me to open the balcony door? That is what first attracted me to the AirVisual Pro. On the split screen, you could see what the AQI was in your house and then also at a local station. Unfortunately for me, at that time, there were no other air quality stations in Samut Prakan city. Plenty in Bangkok, but they wouldn’t really tell me what it was like locally. Reading further, I discovered it is possible to set up your AirVisual Pro as an outside air quality monitor. You could then publish your live feed so that other people, including yourself, could benefit from your readings by using the AirVisual website and free app. However, the big downside to this is that you won’t be able to monitor the air quality inside your house anymore. You would be sacrificing that feature to help other people in your community. A big ask as the monitor is not that cheap. But that is exactly how I sold this to the school administration.
During December and January, the pollution levels in Great Bangkok were starting to rise. I was talking about it a lot on my social media, but there wasn’t much interest or even concern among the Thai population. Some Thai friends even commented to me that there was a beautiful mist in the morning. What they didn’t realize, is that it was smog, and that the fine PM2.5 particles were not only damaging their health short term by giving them a sore throat, but it was also putting them at a higher risk for asthma and other respiratory diseases. In early January, I started to put together an air pollution policy based on international standards (see here). It was quite revolutionary as I was laying out conditions on when outdoor activities such as P.E. had to be cancelled, when everyone should be wearing masks, and even the point when school should be closed. No other regular Thai school had an air pollution policy at this point and people weren’t really taking my concerns seriously. Luckily by this time, the air pollution story was starting to be featured on the front pages and the general public started to talk about the air quality. It was then that I asked the school administration again if we could buy the AirVisual Pro air quality monitor to help implement the air pollution policy at the school. Fortunately, they agreed even though the cost was high.
Setting up the AirVisual Pro monitor as an outdoor device didn’t take too long. The main part was finding a place outside that had access to an electrical outlet and a good WiFi connection. But, it couldn’t just be anywhere outside. It had to be sheltered from weather conditions such as rain, wind and direct sunlight. There also had to be a good airflow around the sensor. Another important factor that they stipulate, is that it mustn’t be higher than 10 meters above the ground. It had to be air that we would normally be breathing. One final thing is that it must be away from cars, kitchens and any localized sources of air pollution that would affect the ambient air quality. In our case, I put it on top of a pillar in the waiting area for parents. It is sheltered from the weather but still has a good airflow. It is not too far from a road, but it is not a busy one and it shouldn’t affect the reading. It was also far enough away from the canteen, so it wasn’t affected by their cooking. One final plus about having it at a school is that smoking is banned on the premises and also within five meters of the entrance to the school. Someone smoking nearby would greatly affect the AQI level. So, I think in the end, we had a perfect location for a good reading.
Once this was all done, I clicked on the button for the device to become a public station. I gave it a name, in my case Sriwttayapaknam School and entered the GPS coordinates. I also had to select the city, province and country. In my case, Samut Prakan city wasn’t listed and so I had to add that. I then had to take pictures of the device and local environment and then submit all of this to the HQ of AirVisual. They then took nearly two weeks to validate all of this before publishing on their website and app. In the meantime, by using the code for our device, we were able to see the AQI for our school on both the AirVisual website and the free app for smartphones. We then shared this code with the parents so they too could follow our outdoor station. One small point that you can see..
This year saw a big jump in public interest in not only air pollution awareness, but also interest in finding out the air quality reading in their area. There are a number of websites out there that help you with this. The main international sites are aqicn.org and airvisual.com. I have used them both, but I find AirVisual more useful. Mainly because AQICN seems to rely a lot on government monitoring stations that are not always reliably updated. Yes, AirVisual sometimes has these problems, but most of their stations are run by ordinary people and schools and these are updated hourly. AirVisual also has the advantage that they have a good app for smartphones and widgets that webmasters can put on their blogs like at the bottom of this post.
Different thresholds result in different readings even at the same time. On the right is US AQI.
There are also two websites based inside Thailand that give air pollution readings. These are air4thai.pcd.go.th and aqmthai.com. Like AirVisual, the former also has an app for your smartphone. However, I would caution you in using this source. Firstly, their threshold is different and so when AirVisual and AQICN are showing orange and red levels, Air4Thai is showing green and yellow. This is because AirVisual uses US AQI threshold and says anything above PM2.5 25 µg/m³ is dangerous. The standard in Thailand is that it is not unsafe until it is above PM2.5 50 µg/m³ (see this tweet). The second reason is that their readings are a 24-hour average, unlike AirVisual which is an hourly average. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is not useful when there is a sudden change in air quality as it won’t tell you that you now need to put on a mask. AirVisual, with its hourly updates, does a better job of doing that (see this tweet).
I find this live AirVisual Earth map very useful. In the animated version, you can clearly see where the winds are coming from and what kind of air pollution they are bringing. Dark red is bad and green is good. In this screenshot, the winds in Bangkok are coming from the South and Southeast. As they are coming off the Gulf of Thailand, it does a good job of clearing any pollution in the capital. However, when the wind changes and it comes from say the North or East, then the pollution level in the capital rises. Click here for the live map.
I find this second map useful for a different reason. It is FIRMS’s fire map and it shows you all of the hotspots in the last 24 hours. As you might be aware, air pollution, particularly of the PM2.5 kind, is not all caused by traffic pollution. A fair amount comes from fires such as the practice of slash and burn. Sugar cane farmers, for example, use this quick method to clear the ground to make it ready for a new crop. Unfortunately, this greatly contributes to air pollution many miles away when the wind is blowing in that direction. Click here for the FIRM’s Fire Map.
The following are US AQI and PM2.5 readings for various stations around Thailand from AirVisual. Click here to see more and for a map.
If you have been in Thailand for any length of time, you probably already have the LINE chat app on your mobile phone. I use it every day to communicate with people at work and also with my Thai friends. It is the Asian version of WhatsApp which is popular in the West. But not everyone realizes that this same app also has something called Rabbit LINE Pay. You can use this to pay for goods and services. I signed up for it last year, but I never really used it. However, then I heard that you could link your Rabbit Card for the BTS Skytrain to your Rabbit LINE Pay account. Once you have done this, you never need to queue up ever again to top up your Rabbit Card when riding the Skytrain.
The Rabbit Card has been around for a while now. It is synonymous for use on the Skytrain system as a top-up card. But it is really more than that. You can use it at many merchants such as McDonald’s, Tesco Lotus Express, Family Mart, Burger King, Swensen’s, Sizzler, Major Group, SF Cinema, SE-ED Book Center and many other places. Now that you can link it to Rabbit LINE Pay on your smartphone it has opened up a whole new ball game. For a start, the stored value on my Rabbit Card is now on my Rabbit LINE Pay account. I can then use the app to pay for any services that I would have used the Rabbit card before. But now merchants can just scan the QR code on my LINE app to receive payment. Handy if you don’t have your Rabbit Card or any cash with you when visiting places like Starbucks and Pizza Company.
For me, the best thing about linking my Rabbit Card to my Rabbit LINE Pay account is that I no longer need to queue up at the ticket office at the Skytrain station to top up my Rabbit Card. It automatically uses the money I have in my Rabbit LINE Pay account. And if that is running low, I just use my banking app to top that up for free. I use Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), but you can also use banking apps from Kasikorn and Bangkok Bank. Alternatively, you can use your credit card or ATM card. Though I prefer to use my own banking app to top up. While I am talking about it, I also use my banking app to pay my utility bills such as for water and electricity and to top up things like the Easy Pass I use for the expressways in Bangkok. And if you have a SCB account, you don’t even need an ATM card to get money out of the ATM. You just use your smartphone. And while I am at it, you can also use your Fitbit Versa watch to pay for things at contactless service counters such as at 7-Eleven. This is linked to your SCB credit card. But that is for another blog.
To tie your Rabbit Card to your Rabbit LINE Pay account is easy. On the LINE app, click on the Wallet tab in the bottom right and the Rabbit LINE Pay button. Then choose the BTS menu. Press the + button to register the Rabbit Card. You need to type in the 13 digit number that is on your Rabbit Card. You also need to choose a payment method such as a credit card. But, like I said, I always top up my account by using my SCB banking app. Your next step is to register at a Skytrain ticket office. For this, you need to bring along your passport. Once they have activated it, the money that was on your Rabbit Card is transferred to your Rabbit LINE Pay account on your smartphone. You will receive a LINE message about this and you will also be able to see by checking your account balance. You still need to use the Rabbit Card to pass through the ticket barrier, but you no longer need to take it to the ticket office to top it up.
One final thing, what happens if you forgot to bring your Rabbit Card or you don’t even have any cash? How can you ride on the Skytrain? Easy, just use the LINE app to pay. I’ve already done this at the self-service ticket machines at my local Skytrain station. Make sure you choose one that can do QR Codes. They are still rolling these out and so they might not be at every station yet. Choose your destination station and then Rabbit LINE Pay as your method of payment. Then all you have to do is scan the QR Code using your LINE app. At the moment, you can get a discount on your ride if you choose this method of paying for your ticket. While I am on the subject of discounts, you can use Rabbit LINE Pay to get a good discount when buying tickets at SF Cinema. The regular price of 240 Baht will be discounted to only 140 Baht. Other places offer similar discounts if you use your smartphone to pay for goods and services.
How do you use Rabbit LINE Pay? Please post your tips in the comments below.