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By On July 19, 2018

Fiona Bruce returns to Thailand after 30 years â€" can she fall in love all over again?

Should you ever revisit the past? Should you go back to somewhere you loved more than thirty years ago and risk shattering the dream? I backpacked around Thailand when I was a university student and have wanted to return ever since.

Then I stayed in basic guesthouses or A-frame huts on beaches, showers were saucepans dipped into oil drums full of rainwater and poured over my head. My budget was £3 a day and that had to cover food, accommodation and travel. Thailand was a revelation to me; the landscapes, the culture, the food and the people.

Fiona Bruce in Thailand 30 years ago
Fiona Bruce in Thailand 30 years ago Credit: SYSTEM

After decades of procrastination I decided to return but this ti me with my husband and two teenage children, Sam and Mia. With the internet making even the most exotic places seem familiar, now that you can find a Thai restaurant in most towns, would they experience the same culture shock I did? Would I fall in love all over again?

The first thing that hit me as I walked down the plane steps at Bangkok airport was the air - like a hot wet cloth laid over my face. I suddenly remembered the sensation of the humidity weighing on my skin, pressing into every crease and fold, beading my forehead with sweat. As we headed into the city, traffic snarled up in the morning rush hour, we had plenty of time to gaze at huge billboards lining the road, plastered on the sides of low buildings and skyscrapers, all showing images of the king who had died several months earlier. King Bhumipol Adulyadej had been the country’s longest serving monarch, on the throne for seventy years and deeply loved. Think back to the national geyser of emotion at Diana†™s death, multiply that by ten and you’re beginning to get close to how the Thais feel about him. When I was last in Thailand, I remember the bus I was travelling on came to a stop, all the passengers got out and stood stock still as the national anthem was played on loudspeakers to celebrate the same king’s birthday.

Bangkok has changed dramatically in thirty years. It was always hectic with tuk tuks and people rushing in every direction but now it feels like the set of Bladerunner. It’s a dystopian crush of choking traffic, neon advertising hoardings, thick skeins of looping electric wires overhead, towering skyscrapers with ancient wooden houses crammed in between with air con units hanging lopsidedly off the walls.

Bangkok, where old meets new
Bangkok, where old meets new Credit: Getty
< p>Fortunately, our hotel was a blissful oasis of peace with lush gardens along the side of the river where you could enjoy the breeze and a cocktail while watching the longtailed boats shoot rooster tails of spray out the back as they rushed past or the slow, stately rice barges, as long as a football field and carrying two thousand tonnes of rice, strain effortfully through the choppy water. The food in the restaurant took me straight back - peanut, lime, chilli, galangal, toasted coconut and lobster wrapped in a betel leaf. It was like a shot of intense flavour straight to the brain.

Our guide to Bangkok was the enthusiastic and good natured Gop who shepherded us around just a few of the city’s five hundred wats or Buddhist temples, all with pitched, brightly-tiled roofs with upturned points at either end and enough gold within to make the Catholic church look presbyterian.

In Wat Pho, a mammoth forty six metre long reclining Buddha covered in gold leaf looks as it’s been squeezed into the building. Wat Traimit is home to a solid gold Buddha weighing over five tonnes. The security is negligible considering it was last valued at forty five million pounds. But then how could you ever steal it? My children were as awe struck by the temples as I first was. But then we headed to the daddy of them all, the compound of the Royal Palace.

Thirty years ago my budget didn’t stretch to a visit here and I’ve been kicking myself ever since for missing it. Snaking a good mile round the block to the entrance was a queue of Thais dressed in black come to pay their respects to their beloved King who was lying in state. Gop told us she had been to see the king at rest no less than six times already and planned to take a week off for his funeral because she would be too upset to go to work. The Royal Palace is the Versailles of the orient, a stage set of gleaming spires and dazzling, jewel encrusted temples. It is ancient Thailand at its most mystical, marooned in the trappings of modern cities everywhere, a haze of traffic fumes, blaring horns and huge groups of Chinese tourists trying to preserve their pallor under umbrellas.

The Royal Palace, Bangkok's Versailles
The Royal Palace, Bangkok's Versailles Credit: Getty

I managed to show the family the Bangkok I remembered as we took a boat along the quiet canals and back waters off the bustling Chaopraya river; past traditional wooden houses teetering above the waterline on rickety stilts, women stoking woks on charcoal burners on lacework balconies hanging out precariously over the water, watched by unblinking monitor lizards basking in storm drains.

We strolled through the flower market open twenty four seven with new mounds of jasmine and rose petals arriving every few min utes, piled high in baskets tied onto the back of spluttering mopeds. I showed the children the array of alien herbs and vegetables on offer at the grocery market, with local shoppers picking through dozens of varieties of ruby red radishes, aromatic stalks and leaves, knobbly roots and huge piles of garlic. And I feasted on the one thing I’d been longing to eat since I was last in Thailand â€" mango and sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf. It has the magical combination of sweet and salty, sharp and unctuous that you only find here. It was just as wonderful as I remembered. The kids wouldn’t touch it.

Three days was enough for me in Bangkok all those years ago, and it was no different now. It’s like living in the mosh pit of the noisiest rock concert with the best acts and the most spectacular light show. To recover from our sensory overload, we headed south to the island of Koh Samui.

The Belmond Napasai
The Belmond Napasai Credit: SYSTEM

Last time I arrived by boat as there was no airport and I stayed in a hut on the beach as there were no hotels. I wasn’t seeking to recreate that particular idyll and was very happy to get on a plane and turn up at our beachside hotel on the northeast coast of the island. What had once been a sleepy paradise in the south China sea for unwashed backpackers with little money but lots of time has metamorphosed into an altogether sleeker and more affluent experience.

The roadside villages have grown, bookended with stylish hotels that wouldn’t look out of place in New York. Amidst the markets full of fresh fish, mini marts, tailors claiming to be Armani or Boss, open air cafes with plastic chairs and tables, massage parlours (one with a sign proclaiming ‘no sex, no happy ending!’ ) are swanky restaurants where you can eat in l uxurious comfort on the beach with the sand between your toes. I was glad to see the food stalls where fiery thai curries or banana pancakes are cooked by the roadside are still doing a roaring trade. Many Thais don’t cook at home; breakfast, lunch and dinner are all the same, they are all served hot and it is often cheaper to eat out. The stalls were just as good as I remembered and I introduced the children to red pork pulled so fine it turns into delicious fluff, giant barbecued prawns with thai basil and red chili followed by juicy mangosteens and hairy rambutans.

Koh Samui and its bath-warm jade sea
Koh Samui and its bath-warm jade sea Credit: Getty

This time on Koh Samui I could afford to enjoy more of what the island has to offer. We went snorkelling in the national marine park where limesto ne boulders thrust out of the depths of the south China sea, some as small as upended cars, others big enough to be islands in their own right, topped with dense jungle, home to snakes and lizards, cicadas chirruping in noisy chorus and delicate old lady’s slipper orchids waving from rocky crevices. The unearthly seascape was even more breathtaking beneath the waves where we swam among shoals of fish, darting in unison in one direction then the next like silvered arrows. We ventured into caverns lit with an eerie glow from holes in the rock above where brown brain coral grew among filigree lace white fronds and next to large pink funnel shaped corals with soft gaping mouths.

When we weren’t exploring the island we simply enjoyed beach life much as I did as a carefree twenty year old; swam in the bath-warm jade sea, lounged in the shade of palm trees on bone white sand, watched the sun set the horizon alight as it sank in the sky. Our hotel was built in traditional Thai s tyle with bright silks set against dark teak and each room had a vast panoramic view of the sea and a terrace from which to enjoy it.

To step back to the Thailand of my backpacker days took half an hour and a short trip across the sea to the island of Koh Phangan. It’s famous â€" or notorious - for full moon parties attended by thousands of foreign ravers. But thanks to our hotel’s motorboat, we could speed beyond the party beach to peaceful little coves with small wooden huts built into the rock and linked by winding boardwalks. These were the kind of places I’d once stayed in and I was thrilled to find they still existed.

I tried to persuade the children of the charm of island living with just the sea, sun, sand and books for entertainment. One basic but delicious beach café for all meals, no mains electricity and definitely no internet connection. And that is where I lost them. No internet? For the whole holiday? I looked at this unspoilt island and rea lised you can never really go back. I might have longed to recreate the carefree experience of my youth but I now realised I didn’t want it either. I’ve become too soft, too used to luxuries like an en-suite bathroom, air con, clean sheets and breakfast in bed if I fancy it. How could Thailand be the same when I’m no longer the same person? I needed to see this magical country all over again through new eyes and thanks to my children, I did. Now I can appreciate it for what it has become and I will be back to discover it all over again.

The essentials

Fiona Bruce travelled with Scott Dunn (020 8682 5060; scottdunn.com) which organises tailor-made trips to Thailand and other exotic destinations. An itinerary similar to Fiona’s, including three nights at Peninsula Bangkok and eight nights at Belmond Napasai, international and domestic flights, and private ground transfers costs from £2,250 per person.

Source: Google News Thailand | Netizen 24 Thailand

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By On July 19, 2018

Son-Tinh drenches North, Northeast

19 Jul 2018 Son-Tinh drenches North, Northeast Reportfrom Bangkok Post Published on 19 Jul 2018 â€" View Original

Major dams release water after deluge

Tropical storm Son-Tinh, which is gathering in strength over the South China Sea, will bring heavy rain to the North and Northeast until Saturday, the Meteorological Department has warned.

Son-Tinh (Vietnamese for "god of the mountain") packs a maximum sustained wind of 70 kilometres per hour, and was moving westward from the South China Sea at 35km/h, the department added.

The storm made landfall in the upper part of Vietnam Wednesday evening, before causing widespread heavy downpours in some areas of the North and Northeast of Thailand, according to the department.

The ravages of Son-Tinh have been already felt with many reports of flash floods in the provinces. Overnight rainfall in Sakon Nakhon prompted its governor Witthaya Chanchalong to release water from the Nong Han dam, the province's major reservoir.

The district experienced worse last July from flash floods. The embankment of the reservoir was breached, unleashing over a million cubic metres of water on communities and fields.

Nong Han currently receives 13.5 million cubic metres of water a day, Mr Witthaya said.

Officials will release 16 million cu/m of water a day with some diverted to riverside areas in Muang and Khok Sri Suphan districts to reduce the strain on embankments, the governor said.

Irrigation official Mueangphet Siri said 500,000 cu/m of water a day is being released from the Huay Som Hong reservoir in Nakhon Phanom as its level is currently beyond its capacity.

The reservoir was holding more than 3.6 million cu/m of water against its capacity of 2.3 million cu/m.

In other provinces, floods continue to affect residents. In Phitsanulok's Nakhon Thai distri ct, a 300-metre section of the Ban Sam Ru-Huai Hia road was flooded, blocking traffic. Nearly 100 rai of paddy and corn fields were also damaged.

In Khon Kaen's Muang district, strong currents in the Nam Phong River caused landslips, damaging riverside houses, officials said.

In the South, the intensifying southwest monsoon also hit the Andaman Sea, the South and Gulf of Thailand Wednesday.

The department warned villagers in the southern, eastern seaboard and Central Plains regions to prepare for heavy rain that will last until Sunday.

The monsoon could whip up waves up to three metres high so the department urged fishermen to be cautious or even avoid going out to sea if possible.

Since early this week, there have been several marine accidents with three people going missing off Phuket -- two fishermen and one jet-skier.

Bangkok Post:

Republished with permission. © Post Publishing Plc. www.bangkokpost.com

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Source: Google News Thailand | Netizen 24 Thailand

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By On July 19, 2018

Leave No Thai Behind: Promoting equality of digital access in Thailand

News

Article

Leave No Thai Behind: Promoting equality of digital access in ThailandBy:Michell ChristopherGeography:Thailandpublished:July 19, 2018originally published:

Thailand, having had a large digital divide in the past, is now looking to promote equality when it comes to digital access. The Thai government has partnered up with Google in a bid to reduce the digital divide that exists in Thailand.

Thailand, having had a large digital divide in the past, is now looking to promote equality when it comes to digital access. The Thai government has partnered up with Google in a bid to reduce the digital divide that exists in Thailand.

The first Google for Thailand event was held in Bangkok yesterday under the theme of “Leave No Thai behind”. During the event google announced a series of initiatives that it will be undertaking, in partnership with the Thai government. These initiatives include, free high speed public Wi-fi that will enable more Thai businesses and consumers to contribute to the growth of the digital economy.

In 2013, the Thai government announced that it was working towards increasing digital access in Thailand through increasing mobile penetration from 52% to 133% in 2020. This is done through the following, including the creation of a smart city development of a master plan, the development of mechanisms for public to private partnerships, the creation of a city data platform, the promotion of innovative solutions and the building of ecosystems for Smart City development.

This goal would not only increase the Thai GDP but would also have profound socio-econo mic impacts. These include improving productivity by simplifying jobs and allowing professionals to focus less on mundane activities, which will be automatized my technology, and instead, focus more on higher order work.

Increasing digital access will also help in driving the creation of new businesses. As the quality of ICT goods and services continues to progress, prices are being driven down and this will lead to an ever-widening range of new applications. People are becoming used to ICT, and business-to-consumer electronic commerce is starting to follow the lead that business-to-business electronic commerce set in the 1990s.

Increasing digital access would also help catalyse Thailand’s transformation into a Smart City. When digital access is increased, the government will be able to create national security and healthcare apps allowing the Thai people to access all the national information that they need on the go.

Thailand has faced many challenges when it comes to building its digital economy and society. One of these challenges was the lack of awareness by the less educated individuals and individuals from lower social-economic backgrounds. The Thai government had therefore set the goal to reduce the digital divide and has been implementing initiatives to promote the equality of digital access in Thailand. The partnership with Google, is an example of one of these initiatives.

The access to free, high speed public Wi-fi will allow individuals who cannot afford to purchase expensive data plans to experience what it would be like to be online. Given that they have free and easy access to the Internet of Things (IoT), they become motivated to learn how to use these services. When they are more comfortable with being online, they begin to feel more secure with accessing national and important information online as well and their dependence on hardcopy or visual information, such as those on the news on television, will decrease.

According to the Prime Minister of Thailand, the government is moving several critical projects related to the digital economy, including smart cities, digital government, big data management and cybersecurity the premier said.

When individuals with different socio-economic backgrounds can get access to the same types of information at the same time, the digital divide is reduced. The Thai government will then be at liberty to convert some of its national platforms and apps to be online, allowing Thailand to move towards its goal of being a Smart City.

Visit site to retreive White Paper:DownloadSource: Google News Thailand | Netizen 24 Thailand

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By On July 19, 2018

Elon Musk apologizes for calling Thailand cave diver a “pedo”

  1. Elon Musk apologizes for calling Thailand cave diver a “pedo” Fast Company
  2. Elon Musk apologizes for calling Thailand cave rescue diver a “pedo” The Denver Post
  3. Elon Musk Walks Back 'Pedo Guy' Attack on Thai Cave Diver New York Times
  4. Full coverage
Source: Google News Thailand | Netizen 24 Thailand

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By On July 18, 2018

Thailand Cave Boys Say They Want to Be Navy SEAL Divers in First Public Comments Since Rescue

The rescued members of the Thai youth soccer team appeared together in public for the first time since their astounding rescue from a flooded cave system in the north of the country last week.

The 12 boysâ€"aged 11 to 16â€"and their 25-year-old coach held a press conference at Chiang Rai’s provincial hall today, detailing their harrowing experience and thanking the determined rescue teams who saved their lives. All have now been discharged from the hospital and left the facility wearing their team’s soccer jersey.

The tightly controlled conference was broadcast as part of the Thailand Moves Forward show. All the boys, their coach and a handful of rescuers were asked pre-vetted questions submitted by journalists. Behind them, a large poster read, “Sending the Wild Boars home,” referring to the name of the team.

GettyImages-1001073370 The 12 Thai boys and their football coach, rescued from a flooded cave, attend a press conference in Chiang Rai on July 18, following their discharge from the hospital. The team’s coach said some of the team members had been quite deep in the cave before, but this time the complex flooded too quickly for them to escape.

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The boys, all looking relaxed, smiled and waved to the assembled media. A small soccer field had been set up in front of the stage, where the boys displayed some of their skills before speaking.

One of the doctors who had been treating the boys assured reporters they were in good health. They had regained the weight they'd lost while underground, and were now “ready to return to normal life,” he said. Every member of the team was “truly very strong.”

Lt. Col. Dr. Pak Lohanchun remained with the boys until the last one had been rescued from the cave on July 10. He told journalists the boys had not only been gaining weight but talking more since they'd been evacuated. He said the team could not wait to go home and have some “delicious” food now that their digestive systems had recovered.

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Being trapped underground for so long could also damage the boys’ mental health, experts said. But a hospital psychologist who was helping with their rehabilitation reported that all the boys were mentally healthy.

RTX6BCZG The 12-member Wild Boars soccer team and their coach pose with a picture of Saman Kunan, a Thai navy diver who died as he tried to rescue them, at the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital, in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 14.

The team’s coach, Ekaphol Chantawong, said some of the team members had been quite deep in the cave before, but this time the complex flooded too quickly for them to escape. Though Chantawong was initially confident they could find their way to safety, after several days and with energy levels dropping, he realized they couldn’t survive for much longer.

Eleven-year-old Chanin Wiboonrungruangâ€"nicknam ed Titanâ€"recalled that he'd tried not to think about food as the hours turned into days, and the days into weeks. The starving boys tried to fill up on water to keep their hunger at bay.

When they had the energy, the boys tried to dig their way out of the cave, they explained. Initially, they expected the water to recede and open their way for an escape, but the floodwaters continued to rise.

Describing their discovery by British rescue divers on July 2, one of the boys said he couldn't believe there was another voice in the cave, and was quite surprised that the diver was not Thai. Upon hearing that all 13 missing team members were there, the diver simply replied, “Brilliant.” One boy said it was a “miracle” they were found.

GettyImages-1001073398 Some of the 12 Thai boys who'd been rescued from a flooded c ave arrived at a press conference in Chiang Rai on July 18, following their discharge from the hospital.

While they waited for the rescue mission to begin, Thai Navy SEALs and doctors kept the team company and kept them busy with games like chess. The divers said that after so many days in the cave with the team, they had established a close bond, and now felt like one big family.

The team had ventured into the cave system on June 23 before getting trapped by heavy rains. Fleeing the rising waters, the team pushed deeper and deeper into the mountainside. The alarm was raised when the boys failed to return home that evening.

More than 1,000 Thai personnel and dozens of international specialists converged on the Tham Luang cave system in the north of the country for the rescue. After 17 days spent trapped in a dark and flooded cavern, all 13 stranded members were evacuated.

The rescue operation was risky, and had already claimed the life of former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, 38, who had suffocated after running out of oxygen in the tight tunnels. Chantawong recalled that the team was shocked when it heard of the accident, and felt guilty about Kunan’s death.

They brought out a large drawing of the deceased diver, and expressed their gratitude for his sacrifice. Each member of the team had written his own message of thanks and condolences on the picture, which will be given to Kunan’s family. “Thank you from the depths of my heart,” one read.

When the decision came to bring the boys out, all were sedated to keep them calm. The divers used a buddy system to ferry them 2.5 miles through treacherous blind twists and turns to safety.

Engineers tirelessly pumped water from the caverns to help the rescue mission. There were fears that a new bout of rainfallâ€"it was only the beginning of country’s rainy seasonâ€"might flood the entire complex. With no alternatives, the decision was made to bring the boys out. All those stranded were rescued in the space of three days.

Since their escape, the Wild Boars have been recovering in Chiang Rai hospital. Though all were weak and some showed signs of pneumonia, the lucky boysâ€"and their coachâ€"appeared to be in good health.

When asked what they had learned from their experience, some of the boys said they would be more careful in taking risks, and others said they would live their lives to the fullest. As for what the future holds, more than one team member said they hoped to become professional soccer players. A few even hope to become Thai Navy SEAL divers, following in the footsteps of their rescuers and newfound heroes.

The boys also apologized to family members, especially their parents, for not telling them they were headed to the caves. The youngest player, Titan, said he probably deserved a stern telling off.

Source: Google News Thailand | Netizen 24 Thailand

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By On July 18, 2018

Thai boys recall battle to survive cave ordeal -- and moment they were found

  1. Thai boys recall battle to survive cave ordeal -- and moment they were found CNN
  2. Thailand Boys Recount Their Ordeal in Cave Wall Street Journal
  3. Boys rescued from Thailand cave speak for 1st time ABC News
  4. Thai soccer team opens up about dramatic cave rescue CBS News
  5. Thailand cave rescue: boys leave hospital ahead of press conference â€" live updates The Guardian
  6. Full coverage
Source: Google News Thailand | Netizen 24 Thailand