Category Archives: daily life

The President

So America has a new president.  It’s not the person most people were expecting to win.  I was expecting Clinton to win but was not very excited about it.  Both candidates in my mind were equally poor choices for different reasons.  Somehow both parties picked despicable candidates which could explain Trump’s upset victory.  Despite trumps sexist and racist rhetoric during the campaign, 42% of women voted for him and 21% of non whites voted for him according to exit polls.  Clearly there were larger issues at play here.

Well, there are so many things I could say here but it’s already been said elsewhere.  Hopefully the Democrats learned from this and will pick a candidate for 2020 that will unite people instead of divide them.

I do not think Trump will be the leader America needs.  But I’m hopeful things won’t be as bad as everyone makes him out to be.  Time will tell.  I’m willing to give him a chance.  I think everyone else should to.



The King

By now, the whole world should know, the king of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej (Thai:ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช) died on October 13, 2016.  He was the 9th king of Thailand beginning his reign on June 9, 1946.  At the time of his death, he was the longest serving head of state in the world and the longest reigning monarch in Thai history, serving for 70 years and 126 days.  For nearly every Thai person, he was the only king they knew.

The king of Thailand was highly revered.  People considered him a family member, and often he would be referred to as “father”.  He had reached a nearly divine status.  For the first week after his death the entire country was extremely somber.  A 1 year mourning period was declared and overnight wearing black became the new fashion trend.

Thailand has had a turbulent history.  Frequent military coups and 30 prime ministers since the king took the throne.  Like any leader some of the king’s decisions and actions were controversial.  But he did a lot of good for the country.  He helped a lot of people.  He was the one constant in Thailand over all the changes of leadership.  He held the country together and prevented the coups from developing into civil war.  He was an honorable person.  He was a humble person.  He loved Thailand and he loved all Thai people.  He understood his great responsibility and served with pride, dignity, and grace.  For these reasons, he was universally loved by all Thai people.

It is my hope that one day America can have a leader like this.



We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming for something completely different.  A few days ago there was yet another mass shooting in America.  Over the last few days without fail people have been using this tragedy to advance their own political agendas.  Democrats are calling for a ban on scary looking guns and magazines with a capacity over 10 rounds.  Republicans are saying it’s not guns but our failing mental health system even though they have no intention of actually fixing it.

So I thought it would be interesting to compare the United States gun ownership rates, murder, and suicide to some other countries.

Country Guns / 100 people Murder* Suicide* Gun Murder* Gun Suicide*
United States 112.6 4.7 12.1 3.55 6.70
United States 1995 8.2
Japan 0.6 0.3 18.5 0.0 0.4
Switzerland 45.7 0.6 9.2 0.23 2.68
Sweden 31.6 0.7 11.1 0.19 1.20
Thailand 15.6 5.0 11.4
Australia 15 1.1 10.6 0.11 0.62
Australia 1995 1.7 13.0 0.3 2.1

*Rate per 100,000 people



United States – ‘Merica Fuck Yeah!  We’re number one in gun ownership.  We have the highest murder rate of other developed countries but despite the high rate of gun ownership we’re about average when compared to the rest of the world.  Suicide rates are similar to other developed countries.

Japan – Has almost no guns in private ownership and also has an extremely low murder rate with 0 murders committed with guns.  Amazing!  It would seem to support the Democrats conclusion to ban guns but what’s up with Japan’s suicide rate?  It’s off the charts.  Perhaps this suggests that banning guns would not do much to reduce the suicide rate in the United States.  If people want to kill themselves, it seems like they will find a way, gun or not.

Switzerland – Pro Second Amendment groups often like to use Switzerland as an example of guns not causing murder.  Switzerland has the second highest gun ownership rate in the world yet the murder rate is much lower than the United States.  It’s also interesting in that Switzerland allows people to store fully automatic assault rifles in their home while serving in the military and gives them the option to keep them when their service is done (after being converted to semi-automatic) yet these scary looking black rifles aren’t indiscriminately killing people on the street.

Sweden – Another country that has a relatively high gun ownership rate yet low murder rate.  It should be noted that Sweden (and I presume Switzerland) have stricter gun control laws than the United States with laws that require licensing and registration but I’m not yet convinced these laws are responsible for their drastically lower murder rates.

Australia – Is interesting because in 1996 there was the Port Arthur massacre.  In the wake of this tragedy the prime minister basically said, “OK, no more guns”.  There was a massive gun buyback and strict gun control laws were put into place.  So this gives us some data to compare the effect of these laws on the murder and suicide rates before and after they were implemented.  Since 1996, Australia has seen a decline in murder and suicide rates but the United States has also seen similar declines over the same period. Yet over this same time period, Australia has actually seen an increase in robbery and sexual assault while the United States has seen a decrease. Before 1996 the murder rate in Australia was already relatively low so I’m not sure how one would conclude gun controls similar to Australia would solve the United States gun violence problem.

Thailand – Oh Thailand!  My beloved “Land of Smiles”, full of kind, gentle, and peaceful Buddhists actually has a thriving gun culture!  Who knew!?  The firearm ownership rate is very close to Australia and has licensing and registration requirements but has murder and suicide rates similar to the United States.  I’m not sure how to explain this one.

To me it seems obvious guns are not the root cause of the gun violence problem in the United States.  It’s not even mental health.  Would stricter gun control and increased funding of mental health reduce gun violence?  Maybe, maybe not.  I picked the countries to compare above because they all have very different cultures.  I believe it is these cultural differences that are responsible for the varying murder and suicide rates.  Not the types of inanimate objects that people own.  When will people wake up and realize it’s not just guns or mental health but the entire culture of the United States?  Gun violence will not be reduced until a meaningful conversation on the root cause of these problems can take place.  I’m not sure what the solution is but it’s not banning guns and it’s probably something more along the lines of better education, eliminating poverty, social injustice, police brutality, and inequality.  Big issues that will take generations to address.  Not passing a feel good, do nothing gun control law.

I’m not confident any real change will take place when the media, society, and politicians are more interested in “calling out”, “slamming”, and “shutting down” other people through sound bytes, click bait articles, and deceptive tactics.


A friend of mine from work was coming to Bangkok so Anong and I booked some airplane tickets to visit her (thanks for the hospitality Jackie!).  During the day Anong and I explored Bangkok, visited temples, and sampled the many options for food in the city.  In the evenings we met up with Jackie and her friends for dinner and drinks.

On the 17th, we arrived in the afternoon.  Getting from the airport to the city isn’t too difficult but it does take some time…  We flew into Don Mueang Airport which means we had to take the A1 bus to the Mo Chit Bus Station which connects to the BTS (Sky Train).  Once in the sky train station it was pretty easy to figure out how to get to Jackie’s place.  I think it took about 2.5 hours to get there though.  Once we got off the BTS is was a 20 minute or so walk.  It didn’t take us long to find some street food.


If I go to Bangkok again I think I will try flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport which I think connects to the subway and BTS which would save lots of time by avoiding the bus ride.  A little later in the evening we all went out for dinner at a Thai restaurant then met some other friends for drinks at a place called Small’s Bar.   They had a pretty cool rooftop seating area.

The next day was a gruelling tour of all the wats (temples) in Bangkok.  Well, not all of them but we went to 7 or 8 wats and a couple other shrines so it felt like we went to all of them.  But first Anong and I went to a yoga studio for a nice morning workout.  It was interesting trying a new yoga studio with different teachers and a different style of yoga.  Anyone in Bangkok should check out Roots8Yoga.


Now for the wats!  I think the first place we went to was called Chao Pho Suea Joss House.  I can’t recommend going there.  Once we got close to the entrance a few ladies selling incense, candles, and other things start quickly talking to us and showing a price list of various things.  Anong is discussing various things with them.  This is all happening in Thai so I’m not really sure what is being discussed.  I don’t have a good feeling about this but I thought I’d just let Anong do her thing since it’s important to her  and it seems they agreed on an offering tray with a few things on it for around ฿200 which didn’t seem too bad.  So we go in side, light the prescribed number of incense sticks at each spot, burn some candles and do our thing.  Meanwhile some dude is talking over a loudspeaker and some lady is following us around seemingly explaining various things to Anong but this is all unusual to me so I ask why is this lady following us around.  Not getting a clear answer I just go with the flow.  About 10 minutes later we walk out and back to the stand that sold us the tray of things and they tell us it’s ฿790!  What!?  Being in a little bit of shock I just pay it unsure of what service they provided for 10 minutes that was worth ฿790.  After explaining to Anong that I don’t like being taken advantage of and that we can not spend ฿790 at every wat we go to we were on our way.

For any visitors to Thailand, here’s the standard operating procedure when visiting temples.

  1. You can bring your own incense and candles.  But if you use the incense and candles at the temple, they usually suggest a donation of ฿5 to ฿20.
  2. More popular temples will have vendors selling flowers outside.  Flowers will cost between ฿25 to ฿100 but none of this money goes to the temple so skip it.
  3. When going inside the temple, take off your shoes.
  4. When inside, light incense, say prayers, burn candles, take pictures.  Pictures are almost always ok.  Just be quiet and reverent.
  5. There are usually 1 or 2 monks inside the temple.  It’s ok to talk to the monk and you can get a blessing from the monk.  It’s not required but a ฿20 donation is appropriate.
  6. There will be other donation boxes inside the temple.  Donate any amount you feel is appropriate.

The next stop is Wat Phra Kaew.  It’s inside the Grand Palace and is one of the most popular tourist spots in the city.  Outside they have a recording that plays every minute or two to remind people the palace is open every day and to be suspicious of anyone approaching you.  Apparently a big scam is to tell tourists the palace is closed today then take them on a tour of gem and tailor shops with high pressure salesmen.  It’s nice to see something being down to cut down on the tourist scams.  The price to go inside was ฿500 for tourists!  Thais are free.  Thanks Thailand for yet another reminder that although you are happy to take my money, I am not really welcome here and do not belong.  Still feeling sick from the last experience it was an easy decision to wait outside while Anong went in.  It was so crowded that Anong wasn’t able to take any pictures so I feel like I didn’t miss anything.  Here’s a couple pictures I got while I waited.



Before Wat Phra Kaew we saw this:


Mother Earth Squeezing Her Hair. A shrine to Queen Patcharindra who set up access to clean water for the people.

And this:



Next was Wat Pho.  ฿200 to get in (free for Thais).  No thanks.  Here’s a picture of the ceiling over the bench I sat on while waiting outside.


After Wat Pho we went to Wat Arun.  Wat Arun had lots of interesting things to look at.  Most of which can be seen without paying a fee.  There is one section that does have a fee but it’s a more reasonable ฿40 so I ended up paying that and got a few more pictures.











IMG_0858After Wat Arun we bought some boat tickets and rode up and down the Chao Phraya River (Thai: แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา) and saw a few more temples.  Note the “Ch” is pronounced with a ‘J’ sound.  At this point all the temples started looking the same so here’s a few more pictures:








Done with the temples!  Here’s another street food picture.  They are making Kanom Krok.  My favorite Thai snack / dessert:


On the 19th, I went to yoga in the morning.  After yoga we relaxed then headed out on the BTS to explore Bangkok a little bit.  We did a little shopping at MBK but didn’t buy much.  Walked around, and ate some food.

On the 20th, we went to see the Erawan Shrine.  It’s a statue with four faces.





Then we went to China Town.


Durian Gan Yao!


Of course we went to more wats!



Painting on a ceramic pot.


This is a solid gold statue of Buddha. This picture cost me ฿40



The temples in China Town reminded me of Hong Kong.


The durian was delicious.






Then we ate pizza at Via Vai.  A guy we were with is friends with the owner so we got this extra fancy pizza.  We drank red wine and ate some more normal pizzas.  Best pizza I’ve had in Thailand so far.


 And on our last day, we just went to the airport.  Back on the BTS to Mo Chit.  Then take the A1 to the airport.  It was a bit of an adventure finding the bus station and the bus.  I learned that Thai people are happy to give you directions even when they don’t know the location of where you are trying to go.  The bus stop didn’t list the A1 bus so I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to come here.  Anong asked someone and they said walk up to the next spot about 100 feet away.  Still no indication that the A1 bus would come here and nobody can explain to me why it comes here when it’s not listed as stopping here.  Eventually a #29 bus comes.  I’m not sure how but Anong quickly figured out it also goes to the airport and we confirmed it with the bus driver.  So we get on the bus and about a half mile up the road pass another bus stop with clearly marked sign for the A1 bus.  Eventually we made it to the airport and got to the gate 20 minutes before boarding.

Bangkok was a fun city.  I’d like to go back to sample more of the street food and see some of the other areas.  I was really amazed at how much food is in the city.  There are many restaurants but the sidewalks are packed with food vendors at all times of the day.  I was also pleasantly surprised with the taxis.  I’d heard horror stories about taxis not using the meters, over charging, and refusing to take you to where you wanted to go but the couple times we took a taxi we did not have any of those problems.

One Phrase Every Visitor to Thailand Should Know

Thailand is a beautiful country but it has a trash problem and most of the people here do not respect the environment.  I think this is slowly starting to change though with the Trash Hero movement.  There is also a local chapter in Ao Nang that I participated in a few weeks ago when they went to Koh Poda.  It’s nice to see locals and tourists working together to keep the beaches clean.  The amount of plastic, styrofoam, and other garbage picked up just this one day from the beach was staggering.  I think it was over 1000 Kilograms.  It’s not just the beaches that have problems though.  Many roads are littered with trash.  I think most people don’t really see it because almost nobody walks along the road so it’s not seen as a problem.  Most of the trash is plastic bags, water bottles, straws, and styrofoam containers used for takeout food.

I’m not sure why but Thailand really loves plastic bags.  I’m no environmentalist and thought the plastic bag ban in Seattle was silly but even I can see the use of plastic bags here is excessive and damaging to the environment.  It’s not uncommon to see somebody buy a bottle of water at 7-11 then have the cashier put the bottle in a plastic bag with a few straws then as the customer walks out the door throw the plastic bag and straws in the garbage can then drive off on their scooter.  That plastic bag was used for about 3 seconds.  Such a waste.

So I’ve started refusing plastic bags every chance I get.  I also got this sweet stainless steel food container that I use when I want to bring food back to my room to eat.  So, before the cashier has a chance to put your items in a plastic bag say this: Mâi sài tǔng ná kráp / ไม่ใส่ถุงนะครับ.  It means “Do not put in a plastic bag”.  Note that women should say ká / คะ instead of kráp /ครับ. When the cashier looks at your like you are crazy (because nobody ever asks for this), you can say: Mii tǔng léao / มีถุงแล้ว.  It means “I already have a bag”.  Then the cashier will probably smile and happily let you put your items in your bag.

It’s not much but I’m trying to be more mindful of the amount of plastic I use.

Don’t Take a Dump

It’s always fun reading signs that are in Thai and English.  I haven’t seen any horribly bad translations but there are definitely a few that have raised an eyebrow.

  1. From a roadside fruit stand near my room in Ao Nang.  Here is a sign selling pineapples.  ฿15 per pineapple or a little bit less than 50 cents.  Pretty good.  No apples or pies were to be found.
  2. This is a sign in the Krabi Immigration parking lot.  The Thai script basically says “Parking lot for people who come to contact the government office”.  May I suggest simply “Visitor Parking”.
  3. IMG_7178Here’s a sign on Poda Island.  I find this very funny for childish reasons.  A mostly literal translation of the Thai script says “It is forbidden to dump trash of all kinds within the national park.  People who infringe will be penalized according to the law”.  Also note the oddly placed comma after “law”.  A better translation would be “It is forbidden to dump trash.  Violators will be prosecuted”.  Or simply “No dumping!  Violators will be prosecuted.”
  4. IMG_7105Here’s a sign at Wat Sai Thai.  I haven’t translated the Thai script yet but I really want to know what this marine transgression was and if the sea has been properly punished for its crimes.


Yesterday was Anong’s birthday so we went out and did a few fun non-climbing things.  We slept in then went to the Catfish Farm.  It’s sort of like a zoo.  They have lots of catfish obviously and a few other animals.  It costs ฿50 to get in and they also give you some food for feeding the fish.  It was fun throwing the fish food in the lake and watching the fish try to be the first one to eat it.

IMG_6657Next we went to lunch.  I don’t remember the name of the place but it was on the way back from the catfish farm.  The food was pretty good but the best part was it was next to a creek and under a canopy of trees so it was relatively cool.  The weather has been quite hot this week.  Getting up to around 37C.

After lunch we went back to the room to relax for a bit then went out and got massages.  There are dozens of places to get a massage in Ao Nang and most of them are pretty cheap with an hour long massage costing ฿200 to ฿300.  Quality of the massage is hit or miss but it’s usually not bad.  When paying for the massages I was reminded that not every Thai person is out to scam the tourists.  I accidently gave a ฿1000 note instead of ฿100 note and the lady let me know I gave her too much.

After the massages we went back to the room again to get cleaned up for dinner at Lae Lay Grill.  The food is pretty good but the view is amazing.


Ao Nam Mao

Yesterday I went to Ao Nam Mao.  It’s about a 15 minute drive from Ao Nang.  There was some place called “Heaven-7”.  It was really weird.  It almost looks like an unfinished amusement park.  They were playing what I think the kids these days call EDM (Electronic Dance Music) really loud.  They also charge ฿50 to get in.  Not sure why.  There’s nothing to do except walk around.  But it’s on a big hill and at the top of the hill is a nice view of the Andaman Sea.


View from the top. Not sure if it was worth ฿50.

Next I decided to walk along the beach.  It was free and lots of fun.  There were all sorts of crazy rock formations.  I kept thinking there should be rock climbing here.  It would be lots of fun but people probably don’t climb here because access is dependent on the tide and the beach is very rocky.  But it was still fun to look at all the rocks.  Lots of stalactites, stalagmites, and this one section had a super huge roof section.


Though I am not good enough now, this looks like a lot of fun to climb.


A little cave I wedged myself into.


Definitely not Railay beach but the rocks are cool!