October 16, 2016
I want to express my deep condolences to the good people of Thailand for the passing of His Majesty King Rama IX.
In his honor, I thought I would recall the two times I got within arm’s length of His Majesty. You might wonder, but these are true stories.
The first time we “met” was by pure accident. Pikun and I were married on Loy Krathong Day 1971. But we were in the middle of a teaching semester and had no time to take off. So we planned on a “honeymoon” around the New Years, 1972.
I had a friend who did a lot of upcountry travel at the time and he had just visited a Lisu hill tribe village way up north on the Kok River, near the Burmese border. At the time the Kok River was quite isolated and one had to go way off the beaten trail to find it. Today it is smack-dab in the middle of Tourist County and the river is now a tourist highway for leisurely rafting trips. Not so back then. It was considered a “wild river”.
My backcountry friend knew we were planning a trip to that area so he gave us a picture of the headmaster of a tribal school in a village he had just visited (photographs were hard to come by then and were prized possessions). He said to give the headmaster this picture and he would probably feed us and let us stay in the village and sleep on the school floor overnight. Our honeymoon wasn’t going to be Paradise Island, but it was to be one we would never forget.
The Lisu village was on the Kok River. You had to take a long tailed canoe taxi a couple of hours down the river from the town of Fang. It was New Year’s Day by the time we got there. It was a steep climb from the river to the village and along the way we encountered some very strange goings on. Every few feet along the climb were heavily armed Thai military, M16s at the ready. We didn’t say anything right away. Quite often during those days bandits roamed this area so we thought maybe this was the soldiers’ station. But it soon became apparent that this was more than that.
As we reached the top of the climb, in view of the school building, I noticed that the whole village was out on the school playground. They were dressed in their most beautiful traditional clothes and they were all at attention. I had a feeling this wasn’t in our honor, although that would have been pretty cool. It turned out to be even cooler than that.
I turned to the last soldier on the trail, “Excuse me sir. Is there anything special going on here?” “You don’t know?” he asked surprised. “His Majesty is visiting the village today. It is New Years and every New Years the Royal Family visits the tribal villages and gives out gifts to the people.”
Just then we heard the beat of chopper blades and looked up to see two helicopters descending onto an open flat area. Within a minute or two of landing, out came the King, the Queen and all the whole Royal Family, accompanied by a load of military brass. As I looked around I noticed that Pikun and I were the only people there who weren’t either villagers, military, or part of the Royal Family. And I was secretly hoping we were not going to be arrested.
As we were shaking in our hiking boots, the Royal Family casually walked within a foot or two of us, over to the waiting villages to hand out their gifts. The King was wearing a military uniform as was the Crown Prince. Queen Sirikit was wearing a big floppy hat and looked as beautiful as a queen in a fairy story. Pikun and I were both left breathless.
After a few minutes greeting the beautifully clad Lisu tribesmen, the Royal Family came back the same way, boarded the choppers and flew off to the next village, never knowing how they had helped us to celebrate our wedding and had given us a honeymoon story like no other.
Our second encounter was a bit more formal. Later that year Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, and Prince Charles came to visit Thailand and they planned on staying at the royal Phu Phing Palace on Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep. That meant that the whole city would turn out to greet them. Every school would wait along the Royal procession. We were all given British and Thai flags, placed along the road and waited.
Down the road they came, slowly, the King’s very famous Yellow Royals Royce leading the way. As they drove down the road they were greeted by our shouting, flag waving students There was Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip of Great Britain sitting alongside their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand. And Queen Elizabeth was doing her patented Royal wave. We of course all waved back. The motorcade made a turn and went to the recently completed Huay Kaew Road and up the mountain to the royal palace.
As a side note, the day before the Royal motorcade, Pikun and I had taken a motorcycle trip up the Mae Saa Valley. We almost literally bumped into a pack of about 50 elephants. They were all in a field and doing all sorts of elephant tricks, playing football, pulling logs, playing music. Lots of stuff they do for tourists now, but rarely ever seen back then.
It turns out that we had come across a dress rehearsal of the elephant show that was to be given especially in honor of the British Royal Family the next day. According to The Telegraph report at the time: (Queen Elizabeth saw) elephant logging in Chiang Mai. A sacred elephant she was due to feed ‘sat on a police car in a fit of temper, and was sent back to the zoo’. I am sorry I didn’t get to see that.
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was on the Thai throne as long as I have been on this planet, 70 years. No one did more for his country, and no one was loved more.
October 6, 2016
It’s been a while since I have sat down and did some writing. Maybe it is “writer’s block”. But probably not, since I have written lots of stuff on Facebook – mostly about the election campaign shenanigans going on back in my home country. Which brings me to the reasons I have been too occupied to write about a retired life here in Thailand.
- It’s the rainy season. And when it rains that means lots of tree trimming and weed pulling. In Thailand a gardener doesn’t need to encourage things to grow, they have to cut things back so they won’t take over the garden.
- My addiction to politics. I can’t seem to pull myself away from Facebook, YouTube, et.al. And when I hear about ridiculous stuff politicians say I can’t help but comment. One more month and I will have to go cold turkey.
- The NFL is playing – and what’s more, the Seattle Seahawks have a really good team this year. But to watch a Sunday afternoon game I need to get up at 3am Monday. Mondays are not good days for me.
So because of these obstacles I haven’t been near MS Word for a while but there isn’t a presidential debate today, and the Seahawks don’t play this week, and most of the alien trees have been chopped down and I have a bit of time today. I thought I might share how I connect up to watching the debates live and news shows live, and the NFL live, since most of these aren’t on Thai TV (although for some reason the first debate was telecast, and they always seem to get the Super Bowl, with Thai announcers though).
Some of this may have appeared in earlier posts but no harm in updating and repeating.
Downloading TV shows and movies
In a post in Oct 2011 “Keeping Up With Popular Culture While Living in Thailand ” I covered how I download “torrents” from the Internet. You’ll also see what I was watching on TV 5 years ago. Some good stuff that’s gone now.
Some of the sites I used are now closed and new ones have opened. If you are interested in downloading TV shows, sports, and movies, as well as music, and eBooks (all illegal and we don’t suggest that you would ever do anything illegal) do a Google search on “download torrents” and find out what is presently available.
(Mostly American centered news, maybe some people from other countries can tell us what they do)
CBSN – Live programming and podcasts. They have televised all the debates live.
MSNBC – Some live programming but many podcasts of their regular shows.
Fox – For people interested in real news this is not recommended.
Reuters News – Very good 15 minute news summaries.
Democracy Now – Very good left leaning news and commentary.
CNBC – Economic and Wall Street news.
Ajazeera – Contrary to what you might think, a very good news site. Used to have live TV but have changed recently to written news.
BBC World Service – Podcast updated twice daily
National Public Radio – Morning Edition, and weekend editions, and more.
Diane Rehm Show – Probably the best interview show ever.
You can also do a Google search on your own favorite radio stations from back home and most of them now will steam their shows in the Internet.
You can download torrents of all sporting events (not quite legal of course). But then you will be a day or 2 late. I used to do this and had to avoid reading the news, especially the sports for 2 or 3 days so I wouldn’t know the results ahead of time. That didn’t work too well. Now I have a new way to do it and I watch sporting events live.
I know some people who pay the NFL to get live streaming. A friend visiting from the U.S. just told me he pays $99 a year and can see all the games, and replay them anytime. I don’t know if it is available in Thailand, but you can check out NFL Game Pass for availability
Betting sites will have live sports feeds where odds are displayed, and one can bet on results. I don’t gamble but I go to the sites to watch just about any sporting event live. Do a search on “vipbox” and see what you come up with. You’ll have to deal with lots of popups and ads but once you get the hang of it It will be fine. I have not had any problems with viruses or Trojan horses (yet).
Then there is always YouTube.com for just about everything. Sometimes a debate or sporting show will be available within minutes. It is also where I see The Daily Show, Seth Myers, The Late Show, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. These are shows where I and lots of Americans, get their news fix for the day.