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December 8, 2007

Mugged by Midgets

In Pantip Plaza, Bangkok's huge electronics mall, I bought myself an Asus eee pc - their new ultra-cheap, ultra-portable laptop for 175 pounds. Walking into Siam with the laptop box in a carrier bag I crossed a canal bridge, packed with crowds, where the footpath narrows so much that two people can hardly pass each other. Suddenly, a guy nipped around in front of me and bent down - I thought, hang on - and realised that I was closed in on all sides, unable to move or get away. I pulled my bags in and hung onto them just as someone started pulling at me from behind. Next thing I knew one of my ankles was grabbed and yanked up to try to knock me over. I began yelling at them as loudly as I could to attract attention but I could only see the crowd around me. A brief struggle ensued - they kept pushing and pulling, I continued yelling - then they disappeared, back into the crowd.

I stopped and looked around to see the whole crowd staring at me; a white madman yelling and waving his bags around in the air for no apparent reason.

December 9, 2007


Seduced by the promise of a tiny, cheap laptop and stories of people running Mac OS X on it, I bought an Eee pc the day after I arrived in Bangkok. Smaller than I expected, it fits into the bag I carry around and weighs under a kilo. As it's so small the keyboard does take a bit of getting used to, but it's quite useable for typing on.

It comes with Linux pre-installed but can run Windows if you're that way inclined. Having read up a bit more about it now, it sounds as though no-one has OS X running smoothly on it yet - so I guess I'll hang off with that for the moment. If only Apple would bring out their long-fabled ultra-notebook! There are so many times when you want to check a website or have something with a full-size (ish) keyboard for typing on but don't want to lug around a huge laptop. So far it seems to be fitting those uses for me pretty well.

December 11, 2007

Curry Express

I caught the train to Kanchanaburi to see the Bridge over the River Kwai and get out into the countryside for a while. One of the best things for me about Thailand is the fact that you're never very far away from food, and that's just as true on the trains. There's a constant stream of food sellers who get on and off at stations, walking through the train with delicious, freshly cooked food for sale. Chicken satay on a stick, chicken or pork green curry in small folded banana leaf bowls, fresh fruit and cold drinks.

So, as the package tourists on the train stared at me in horror as if I was braving salomenella, I ate far too much, sampling my way through dish after dish.

December 13, 2007

Death Railway

My guidebook notes that most people are disappointed when they see the River Kwai Bridge, which is odd as it looked exactly how I expected it to look. Maybe they expect it to have more architectural merit, like a Sydney harbour bridge dropped into the jungle, or maybe I should have more of an imagination the next time I head off to look at an unknown bridge. Ironically, the movie about it was filmed in Sri Lanka so I guess I could have gone to see the fictitious bridge without even leaving home.

In the centre of Kanchanaburi, the Death Railway Museum covers the atrocities involved in the construction of the railway line and it's interesting and informative. Then, once you've finished going around it you walk into the cafe which has a panoramic window that looks out across the prisoner of war cemetery. Nicely done.

What surprised me about the whole thing was to discover that most of the people who died building the railway line into Burma weren't prisoners of war but Asians forced to do it by the Japanee; Tamils, Malays and Chinese brought up from Malaysia, an workers from Burma. 42,000 workers brought from Malaysia died, 40,000 Burmese died, and around 13,000 Allied prisoners died - but the Asians, who are in the vast majority, are hardly ever mentioned at all.

December 17, 2007

Quote of the Day from AFP

"International rights groups have said Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places for aid workers and journalists."