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..
Good news for people who want to visit CentralPlaza Lat Phrao. Starting from 11th August 2019, the Green Line of the skytrain will be extended by one stop from Mo Chit (Chatuchak Park) to Ha yaek Lat Phrao. This is the five-way intersection in front of CentralPlaza. The service will initially be free. In addition, four more stations will be open for service in December of this year. Namely Phahonyothin 24 Station, Ratchayothin Station, Sena Nikhom Station and Kasetsart University station. The remaining eleven stations on the Green line extension are due to open for service late next year. The last station is at Khu Khot in Pathum Thani province. For those of you hoping to go to Don Mueang airport on the Skytrain, I am afraid you are out of luck. This route goes up the eastern side of the airport along Phahonyothin Road. The entrance to the airport is on the western side.
The Royal Barge Procession, the final event of the Coronation of King Rama X, will be held on Thursday 24th October 2019. The procession will begin at the Wasukri pier at 4:00 p.m., when His Majesty the King will travel along the Chao Phraya River to Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) on the occasion of presenting robes to Buddhist monks (Royal Kathin Ceremony). About 2,200 oarsmen will row 52 barges arranged into five groupings, from the Wasukri pier to Wat Arun, with a total length of four kilometers. Rhythmic barge-rowing songs are part of this ceremonial water-borne procession, which is a rare spectacle, arranged on special occasions only.
The Royal Barge Narai Song Suban H.M. King Rama IX has a figurehead of the god Narai with four arms bearing a trident, a scepter, a discus, and a conch shell on his celestial transport, a Garuda.
EVERYTHING WE KNOW SO FAR:
Please note, everything is subject to change including dates.
Preparations for the royal barge procession will start on 8th July 2019
There will be a merit-making ceremony at the Royal Barge Museum on 11th July 2019
The royal barges will be moved from the Royal Barge Museum to the Royal Thai Navy dockyard between 12th-23rd July 2019.
There will 2,200 oarsmen and 52 royal barges
The length of the route is 4.2 kilometers
The route of the procession will be the same as that for King Bhumibol (see map)
During the rehearsals, and during the actual event, the river and all piers will be closed to all traffic four hours in advance
During the actual event, all bridges across the Chao Phraya River on this route will be closed to vehicles and pedestrians
It will take about twenty minutes for the procession to pass one spot on the river and about 50 minutes for them to complete the route
DATES OF REHEARSALS:
There will be a total of ten rehearsals for the royal barge procession. Out of this, there will be eight minor rehearsals and two large rehearsals. The latter two will be full dress rehearsals. All of the photos on this page were taken in such a rehearsal in 2012. We don’t have the dates yet, but we expect the full dress rehearsals to take place in the first half of October. Minor rehearsals will take place during August and September. I will post dates here as and when I hear about them. Often minor rehearsals have short notice and so keep an eye on my @RichardBarrow Twitter feed.
First Full Dress Rehearsal – x October 2019
Second Full Dress Rehearsal – x October 2019
MAP OF THE ROYAL BARGE PROCESSION:
I have mapped out below the route of the royal barge procession and possible places where you can watch the event. I will update this with more details nearer the time.
A spectacular procession of royal barges will be seen along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok on the 24th October 2019 as part of the celebration to mark the end of the three month long Buddhist Lent and the coronation of King Rama X which took place earlier this year. The king will be on one of the barges and will travel from Rama VIII Bridge to The Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun). A total of 2,082 oarsmen will row 52 barges for the 45 minute journey along the river. At Wat Arun, the King will present robes to monks at the temple as part of the Royal Kathin Ceremony. Click here for more details of the event.
Krut Hern Het and Krut Tret Traichak are Garuda barges with a painted and gilded figurehead of a Garuda holding a Naga, one in each of his hands and feet. A red body is Krut Hern Het and a pink body is Krut Tret Traichak.
The bow of the Royal Barge Suphannahong is made into a head of a Royal Swan or Hamsa, painted with gold lacquer and richly decorated with glass ornaments.
Ekachai Hern How Barge and Ekachai Lao Thong Barge are Reua Ku Chak to lead and tow the Royal Barge Suphannahong in case it demands extra driving power. Both barges are gold-lacquered with the tapering column figureheads of a cross between a crocodile and Naga known as Hera.
Asura Vayuphak and Asura Paksi are Asura Barges with carved and gilded figureheads of Ogre-faced birds. Asura Vayuphak’s face, hands and feet are indigo in colour with a purple coat. Asura Paksi’s face, hand and feet are green in colour with a coat of a purple front and green back.
Seua Thayan Chon and Seua Kamron Sin are tiger barges of the Reua Phiket class. The hull is ungilded but painted in the colour and style of a tiger’s body and with a tiger’s head painted on the bow.
The graceful prow of the Royal Barge Anekkachatphuchong is intricately carved and gilded in a delicate pattern of small Naga figures.
Krabi Ran Ron Rap and Krabi Prao Mueang Man are Krabi Barges with uncrowned figureheads of Monkey Warriors, carved and gilded with a black body of Nilaphat and a white body of Hanuman, respectively.
The Royal Barge Narai Song Suban H.M. King Rama IX has a figurehead of the god Narai with four arms bearing a trident, a scepter, a discus, and a conch shell on his celestial transport, a Garuda.
The bow of the Royal Barge Anantananakkharat is made into the seven heads of a Naga, gold-lacquered and richly decorated with glass ornaments.
If you are traveling with children or you are an expat family in Thailand, then you might be interested in this new activity book called ‘Bangkok: City of Angels’. It is part of a series by My Globetrotter Books that helps children aged 6-12 discover and learn about major cities around the world including Bangkok. The A4 sized booklet contains fun-filled activities where the children can draw, color, decode, create, find and solve their way around the City of Angels. The book has been beautifully illustrated and will surely keep the attention of any child or even parent. Once they have completed all of the activities, they can unlock a secret web link where they can go to print a seal and print onto their very own My Globetrotter Book certificate.
Topics in the booklet include Bangkok’s skyline and landmarks, a monk’s day, Thai food and dance, speaking Thai, and visits to Wat Pho, the Grand Palace and the Golden Mount. I like the page where you have to use a map to navigate your way around the city. Overall, it’s a nice souvenir of Thailand for children and young adults. However, if it is for younger children, you will need to help them with a few of the quizzes. Luckily, there is a list of answers at the back of the booklet if you don’t know the answers yourself!
For some pages, no prior knowledge is needed as it gives you all the information that you will need. However, sometimes you will need to visit some of the places mentioned in the book in advance before you complete those pages. Other times it relies on general knowledge of the city. For example, knowing which temple is made from Italian marble and what used to be the highest point in Bangkok before skyscrapers. But, if anything, the book encourages you to explore the city and to discover new things.
‘Bangkok: City of Angels’ is available at branches of Asia Books in Thailand and on their website asiabooks.com. The format is A4 and there are twenty-four color pages. Included is a certificate for those who have completed all of the quizzes and puzzles. I will definitely be buying more of these as a gift and a holiday challenge for any young relations that come to visit me. I am sure it will be a good souvenir of their holiday. Something that they can look back on in years to come.
This is my experience of renewing my five year Thai driving license. It doesn’t matter which office you go to. I chose the one in Bang Chak this time instead of the one in Samut Prakan as it’s a few minutes walk from a skytrain station. Just go to BTS Bang Chak and take Exit 3. You are looking for a road on your left with a blue archway over it. It’s just after Sukhumwit Soi 99. Walk down the road to the Department of Land Transportation (see map). It is a three-story purple building on your left. You cannot miss it.
Entrance to Soi (left picture) has a blue archway. Walk down the soi to the purple building
When you enter the building, go to the information counter. They will check your documents. If you don’t have the correct photocopies already, she will direct you to the service for this to your right. In my case, I needed a signed photocopy of my passport (photo page, visa page and last entry stamp page) and work permit (photo page, last extension page, and page with my home address). If you don’t have the latter, you either need a yellow house registration book with your name on it or a letter from Immigration with proof of address. Please note, a sign on the counter says they only issue 250 queue tickets per day. I got queue number 247 at 10:45am, so, advisable to come early.
This is the information counter where you get your queue number. To the left is where you start queuing. To the right is the place where you have your photo taken.
After you get your queue ticket, wait near the counters to your left for your number to be called. The lady here will check your documents. Next up is the physical tests in the large room opposite. Apparently, you should wait for your number to be called but I went straight in without realizing. But you’re not really jumping the queue, as you use the same number to enter the seminar room for the road safety video and then later to have your photo taken.
There are three tests but two stations. First one is to test your peripheral color vision. You have to look straight ahead and then say what color you see to the left or right. It can either be red, green or yellow. You will fail if you look left or right or say the wrong color. Several people failed by saying yellow was red. So be careful with this color. If you fail, go to the back of the queue and try again. The next two tests are at the next station. For the first one, you have to press a button to align two sticks. This tests depth perception. For the next test, you put your foot on the accelerator and then, when you see a red light, quickly put your foot on the brake. This tests your speed reaction. Watch how others do it if you don’t understand the instructions in Thai.
Next up is the one hour road safety video. You have to wait for your queue number to be called. The times for this are on the hour from 9am to 12pm. I was in time for the last one at 12pm. As there were many of us and the room on the ground floor only seats 60 people, we were invited up to Room 301 on the third floor.
This is the final stop where you sit and wait to be called to have your photo taken.
Once this was over, we went back down to the ground floor to the section to the right of the Information counter. Sit down and wait for your number to be called. I had to wait here for over an hour. In this large room, you pay the fee and have your photo taken. They will then print out your new driver’s license. If you do like I did and wait for your license to expire first, then they will give you five years from the date of your next birthday. So, I got 5 years + 359 days. The cost for me was 555 Baht as I had to have some details changed. But the standard fee is 500 Baht.
If you had a different experience or you have some tips, please post in the comments below. Please note, It’s been twenty years since I applied for my first Thai driving license and so I cannot help you with tips for doing this. But, I do know that in this same building you can apply for an International Driving Permit if you want to use your Thai driving License abroad.
I had to renew my British passport in Bangkok this week. As it was different from my last time, I thought I would share with you the steps that I took to do this. It was all very straightforward to do and I had my new passport back within three weeks. To renew your British passport, you need to first book an appointment by sending an email to BangkokHMPO@vfshelpline.com. In your email, include your first name and last name and three alternative dates and times from 8:30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday except for public holidays. You will receive an email confirming your appointment.
Not everyone will be the same but my checklist was as follows:
Two recent passport photos. They are fussy about this and so make sure you follow their guidelines. There’s a shop on the ground floor of Trendy that does this for 200 Baht. More expensive than elsewhere but as they ask you for your nationality, you will know for sure it will be correct for a British passport. As it was a renewal, and my face hasn’t changed much, I didn’t get anyone to sign on the back of my photo. Your old passport. A color photocopy of every page in your passport. Yes, every page. Best to get this done locally as it will be more expensive at the Trendy building. Or you can get it done at work like I did for free on a color printer. Evidence of identity and address. For myself, I showed my passport as the photo identity and I gave them a color photocopy of my Non-B visa as proof of address. Yes, I know, weird. In the link above they list other ways but this was the easiest way for me. Whichever method you choose, the address has to be in English. My Thai driver’s license has my address in English on the reverse and so I could have used that.
You can download the passport application form in advance from their website (see here) or just fill one in when you get there. There is also a form for payment details. You have to decide how many pages you want in your new passport. The choice is a 32-page or 48-page passport. I don’t travel abroad much, but Thai Immigration is a bit stamp crazy and my 32-page passport filled up within eight years. For the payment, I used my Bangkok Bank credit card details rather than one issued in the UK.
The Trendy Office Building is a short walk down Sukhumwit Soi 13 on your right (see map). If going by Skytrain, you can either get off at BTS Nana (5-minute walk) or BTS Asok (7-minute walk). I prefer the latter. The VFS office is on the 8th floor. Go in, turn right and walk towards the back. If there’s a long queue for the express lift (like below), just take the lift on the right by the Dental Clinic. There’s usually no-one there but it stops at more floors.
Queue for express lift to 8th floor.
At the VFS office, you will see many Thais here. As they are applying for visas for various countries, you can usually ignore any queues outside and inside. Go through security and turn left ignoring the main counter. There’s a small desk by a door for HM Passport Office. There will be a list of people with appointments. Sign your name and they will let you in. As a foreigner, they will know why you are there. So, don’t worry.
If you have all your documents in order, you will probably be in and out within ten minutes or so. About three weeks later, you will get an email to say that your passport is ready to collect. You don’t need to book an appointment for this but you have to go within 30 days and during office hours. This is Monday to Friday and from 9am to 3pm. If you cannot go in person, just sign a power of attorney form stating the name of the person who will be collecting the passport on your behalf. Take with you your old passport (which they will cancel by cutting the corner off) and your receipt. Make sure you check the details in your new passport before they cancel the old one. They will also give you a letter to give to Immigration. You must have this to transfer your visa stamps.
Once I had my new passport in hand, I next headed to Immigration to have my valid stamps transferred over. You don’t need to rush there as I did, but I wanted to finish everything within one day. The procedure here is very simple. You will need to photocopy and sign the photo page of both passports. Then photocopy every page in the old passport that has a stamp. These photocopies need to be signed too. You also need to fill out a form with details about your old and new passports. Then, present all of this and the letter that you got from the British embassy to the Immigration officer. I was finished within about 15 minutes. The best thing of all, it was free to transfer the stamps.
The only thing I need to do now is to register my new passport at my local bank. If you didn’t know already, when you get a new passport, you get a new passport number. So, basically, any place that you used your passport to register for something, you need to go back and tell them. Again, there isn’t a rush and in fact, I didn’t do it for a few years last time. It is only a problem when you need to do something and your passport numbers don’t match. You will then need to take your old and new passports with you.
If you have any tips of your own or something has changed since I wrote this on 8th June 2019, please post in the comments below. Thanks.
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.