Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ice Cream Sandwiches, Thai Style

A girl waits for her ice cream sandwich by a market cart
If you're in a city in Thailand you won't have a problem finding a shop that sells ice cream cones as you'd expect to find "back home" (heck, even KFC sells those) but for a fine walk-away treat on a hot market day you can't beat a surprise like coming across an ice cream cart.

Instead of scooping the ice cream into a cone that will invariably drip out the bottom before you're finished the vendors there put it into a split roll, somewhat like a half of a hot dog bun. I've had several types of bread used, and the type that's closer to a Portuguese or Hawaiian-type sweet bread are the best. It's slightly sweet, slightly egg-y, and the aroma of fresh, yeasty bread is a wonderful compliment to the rich ice cream. I've seen coconut, mango, pineapple and a couple of other flavors over the years.

There are a couple of drawbacks: they can still be messy, and you have to ignore the lack of gloves on the hands of the vendor who touches your bread. That doesn't bother me, but I know some who would avoid it. It's cheap (maybe 10-15 baht) and delicious.

Detail of the lead photo

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Bit Pricey For Meat, But Worth It: El Toro

El Toro is easy to spot on Second Road in Pattaya
Restaurant reviews often fall victim to silly subjective rantings and ravings on public forums, so to save time let me say I'm not a professional restaurant critic. Somewhat like the old saying "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like", which can encompass "creations" all the way down to those paintings of the pope or Elvis on black velvet, so take this with as many grains of salt as you like - especially those of you who are hypertensive already.

The El Toro Steak House has been serving imported steak and other fine meals on Second Road in Pattaya since 1988, and I understand they've opened a second location in Jomtien.

I first visited there one trip a few years back when a falang friend suggested meeting there since he was on a schedule and it was close to his hotel. Here in California a place called El Toro likely to be a burrito shop or Mexican food place, but this turned out to be a steak house - and a good one, at that. That first visit I had a very nice sirloin steak, while my friend had pork chops. We chatted for an hour or so and both enjoyed our meals.

My second visit I was with a waiter I'd known from a previous hotel stay whom I've remained in contact with as he's changed hotels a couple of times. Normally it's just the two of us out for dinner and a walk or a movie or something, but on this particular evening he asked if he could bring his brother along. As it turned out, his brother sold human hair, and while that may not sound all that enchanting as a dinner topic his colorful stories were really quite funny and kept us laughing most of the meal.

That night I'd had the pork chops, my friend had a New York steak and his brother had a magnificently well-prepared slab of salmon. The pork was moist and tender, and the steak was the best I'd ever had in Thailand. We didn't dine "Thai style", but we did share so we could all try each entree. The service was quick and attentive, the orders were just as they should have been, and everything about the place made for an enjoyable second visit. It was after that visit that I looked the place up on line and learned more about it's good reputation.

Showing perhaps one quarter of the total dining room.
The last time I've visited was a little different, in that I was alone. I mean completely alone, as in nobody else in the place but the owner, a waiter and a cook or two. I was halfway through my dinner before a 50-something British man came thundering in and staked a table in the far corner, (thankfully) on the opposite side of the dining room from my window booth. The man was LOUD. Really LOUD. I suspect he'd already had a couple of drinks before he arrived, but he went on to order (and throw down) two large mugs of beer before his entree even arrived, waving his empty over his head and shouting - actually hollering - across the dining room to the waiter for his refill. Honestly...some people's kids!

That night I had a New York steak, a fresh variety of chilled greens topped with bleu cheese dressing, a baked potato that was a decent portion without going overboard, steamed fresh vegetables and  some coleslaw with a vinegar-type dressing. I'd added an order of tiramisu for dessert and had a bottle of water, but that was more than plenty. I passed on coffee, although I considered it.

Being used to eating for far less there I felt the total cost (with the service charge included) of Bt720 (about $24US) seemed just a tad high, but you sometimes do reliably get what you pay for, and this is a place I'd visit again.

El Toro Steak House - 215/31-32 Second Road, opposite the Royal Garden Mall and in front of the Royal Garden Hotel. 

[March 2012 Update: In the interest of preserving some nice memories of the place I'm leaving this story here, but the restaurant has closed.]

Monday, August 29, 2011

Night Photos, Part 17: Random Shots In The Dark

The Sun-Moon Chinese restaurant, next to the Pinnacle Hotel.  Good take-away food, too!

It was a busy weekend here, which for me means running on less than the minimum of sleep so I'm a bit sluggish and out of sorts today.  Nevertheless it is Monday, and to maintain anything close to regularity here there should be a posting of some kind.

A children's merry-go-round at a carnival in Udonthani featuring Disney-esque themed animals

While trying to come up with something that wouldn't require much more than minor mental gymnastics I found a batch of available light night photos that so far haven't fit into any other posts, so they're offered here with no particular rhyme or reason - just a variety of pictures for you. To the best of my sometimes faulty recollection only the Sun-Moon Restaurant photo up top may have appeared previously, but I may have posted it somewhere else and not here, too.

A very  l-o-n-g exposure, resting the camera on the rounded rail at the Chong Nonsi BTS platform. The Sky Bar atop the Le Bua Hotel is in the center

As of today there are 436 posts here (including this one), and well over 1,000 images, so I hope you'll cut me some slack if a picture gets repeated every now and again. My guess is most of you will.

Christmas lights at the MBK Mall

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thai Smiles, Part 39: At The Morning Market

You didn't think you'd get away without a "smiles" post after the last few days at the Takha morning floating market, did you?  To wrap the short series about the place up, here are a few photos of folks there during the few hours I was walking around, people-watching and trying new things.

By the way - if you found this by doing a search, there are three other posts about this morning canal-side market in Amphawa:  an introduction, a story about the morning I went and a third about things I saw while walking and shopping there.

One last picture, just because it looked like a restful spot to me when I came across it there, and it's time for a couple days of rest. As usual, I'm signing off for the weekend. With luck I'll see you back here on Monday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shopping The Takha Morning Floating Market

The day before yesterday you saw an introduction to this small "locals" floating market, and yesterday there was more about the place itself and my visit there a handful of months ago.

What I enjoyed about it most - other than not running into another Westerner the entire time - was how laid-back the whole area and operation was. While I did hear people bargaining as they negotiated a transaction, there wasn't the heated debate that you might hear at Jatujak market, Patpong or some shopping areas in Chinatown.

To the right you can see off down the canal, where others were buying and selling

As I mentioned, this was a smaller setting, which meant most of the people knew each other, and it wasn't uncommon to see trading of items with no cash changing hands.  The women below made an exchange, as one example...

Parents and their children walked along together, shopping and visiting with their neighbors; the kids shouting to friends and sometimes pulling free of their parent's hand to run off and play.

As the boats passed by each other changing spots or moving up or down the canal you could see their wide-brimmed hats tip in acknowledgement at their neighbors going by.

The woman below was one of a few boatloads of plants, and as she moved away and down the canal she almost blended in with the lush foliage that flanked the sides of the waterway.

Grow-Your-Own coconuts, ready to plant
The hulled garlic was Bt60 per kilogram

There were so many boats selling things to eat that I couldn't sample everything available - or keep up with trying to note what it all was. I suppose I could try to take better notes next time.

If I'd had a comfortable chair I'm sure I'd have been content to just sit in the shade somewhere along there and watch the gentle activity of this place, but my friend had plans and he's so often good at planning spots to share with me that I was OK saying farewell to the place and head back to the car... but in some ways it might have been nice to have simply paddled away and seen where the water took me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Morning At The Takha Floating Market

The Ban Kung Maenam Resort at "low tide" - my bungalow is on the far right
Waking to the gentle splash of an oar in the river just outside and below the head of my bed I turned and pushed the window further open and could see a woman slowly paddling her empty boat along with a stroke on one side, then the other, then back again, all the while looking straight ahead.  I could have walked faster than she was moving downstream, but it wasn't a morning for hurrying so I rolled over again to listen to the sounds of morning on the river and slip back into blissful slumber for another few minutes.

My friend was more used to being on a schedule.  He'd been up, showered, dressed and was soon waking me with a knock at my door, reminding me that we'd planned to visit the local's morning market along a nearby canal.  Wanting to be there before what I imagined might be a crowd (based on the floating night market throngs) I got up, quickly prepared myself for the day and went to meet him at the dining area where we again had healthy portions of prawn and rice soup.

The distinctive scent of lime as I squeezed it into my bowl was a refreshing reminder that I wasn't "in Kansas any more", and after finishing my soup I carried my mug of coffee down to the boat landing, took some slow, deep breaths and stood for a moment - grateful to be there and for the relative cool of this tranquil morning.

We walked over the footbridge to the parking area and my friend drove us off to the Takha morning market. I wasn't paying any attention to where he was heading so I'm no help with where it actually is, but it was only a very few minutes before he pulled off into a small parking lot and stopped the car. We walked down towards the canal along the road below, where people were either already doing business or setting up for the morning.

Bottles of honey in one stand, woven items in the next, sliced and bagged pineapple and mango and the next; the warm, yeasty smell of youtiao floating overhead, pulling us towards them.

These delicious donuts were shaped differently than the "X" shaped ones I'd seen in Bangkok, but the delicious aroma was unmistakable.

They reminded me more of the charity benefit ribbons you might see as promotional bumper stickers promoting awareness for one cause or another. I watched them bob in the bubbling fat, and although I wanted, oh, say, a dozen or so of them I decided to pass them up this morning. Who knows how much gunk I already have lining my heart arteries, and life's too short already.  As you can see by the photo to the left we did weaken and buy a half dozen to take with us on the way out, though.

The boats were jockeying for position along the steps leading down to the water at the side of the canal when we got to it, and what a variety of items they had for sale: sprouted coconuts, bagged to take home and plant, griddled rice and egg snacks, cut water lily blooms, house and yard plants, and bite-sized custards that had been steamed in small ceramic bowls before being scooped out of the dimpled cooking pan with a spoon and put into your take-away container.

There were several varieties of chilis and garlic, chompu (rose apples) and other fruits - and enough banana boats at one point to warrant Harry Belafonte showing up to sing "Day-O", but I suspected he was elsewhere so I sang it myself - to the mild chagrin of my friend who doesn't always appreciate my singing.

One young girl sat patiently tending her mother's boat full of house plants, idly playing her own version of "mind the gap" with her finger as their boat drifted against and away from the boat next to theirs, pulling her finger out of harm's way in a way only a seasoned veteran of the game could do it.

A girl playing "chicken" with the drifting boats
Day-O... Da-a-a-y-O... Daylight come and me wanna go home
There are far too many photos to dump on you unsuspecting folks in one day, so I'll hold off on some until tomorrow... but you've been warned.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Takha (Morning) Floating Market - An Introduction

The intent today was to begin a story about a true "locals" floating market, but appointments have kept me away from home (and the computer with my images on it) until just now, and I've only got a short window before I'm due out of here to attend a book event (yes, I hear you - and no, it's not your problem, I'm just telling you) so the best I'm able to do is share a few photos again today of one of the vendors from the Takha floating market in Amphawa.

The woman up top was bundling water lily blossoms for sale the morning we visited, and I suspect on many other mornings, too.  The blooms were coiled up like the ones directly above at the back of her boat, and she'd undo them and tie them into a bouquet of sorts.

There were perhaps three dozen or so boats there along the steps at a time, and my guess is they made other stops up and down the canal other than where we were stopped to sample and snack a bit.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at the variety of vendors there and I'll try to do a proper post.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sleeping, Part 9

Another photo project completely unrelated to Thailand has kept me staring at a monitor for enough hours today, and while I could sit and come up with something to share before preparing dinner I'm fatigued enough to like the sound of a short nap much better... and my guess is you can figure out which won the toss.

Speaking of sleeping...

Snoozing in a hammock between fares

On a picnic table at Rama II Park in Amphawa

On a construction site in Bangkok

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Evening In The Amphawa Police Station

On the second night of my short stay in Amphawa it was balmy and clear, and the gentle breeze provided just enough natural air conditioning to keep us cooled off as we walked farther and farther from the floating night market area and towards the shore of the Mae Khlong river.

Reaching the promenade alongside the wide, brown water I could see the crescent of lights curving off around the bend in the river and hear the conversations, laughter and song from people sitting in the restaurants around us. Those sounds were mixed into a chorus of insects on both sides of the river; from those directly below us and on the far side, where greenery reigned supreme. The sound from the opposite shore was louder overall, but muted slightly by the distance. It made me wish I had a recorder to capture it.

We walked for at least a half hour along the promenade. I stopped to take night shots and we simply sat and soaked in the surroundings, but my friend was getting tired; he was rubbing his eyes and I noticed he seemed a little sleepy. When I asked him if he wanted to get back to our cabins and turn in for the night he admitted he hadn't slept well the night before and was ready to turn in. His cabin was next door to one of several in a row filled with students in the 18 to 20 year old range, and with four to a room they were up late watching TV and horsing around, as kids that age will do.

I looked longingly down the promenade and I guess he heard me wish I could still walk along for a while because he said "I'll cut across here and get the car and come back for you. Would that be enough time for you?" I agreed that it would be, so off we went in two different directions. To make a long story short, he forgot precisely he'd left his car, so was looking for it for a while. I went down as far along the river as I cared to, and then came back up to a point near where we'd begun to listen to the karaoke that was now in full swing at one riverside restaurant.

Across the road within sight was a single-story building that had only two light on the outside but was absolutely ablaze with fluorescent lights inside. I walked over closer and began taking pictures of the place - without a flash, naturally, as it was the light spilling out of the place that made it interesting. One of those is below. I've darkened the interior of the place a little to get some detail to it because it was bright, even with the tinting on it.

I was just across the street by this point and wondering who on earth would be working at 10pm/22:00 in an otherwise dark area when I noticed people sitting at their desks, and it looked like one was looking back at me. Just then one of them stood up and I could see a familiar brown uniform. He walked towards the entrance, through the front doors and called out to me, just as I was in the middle of a long exposure (the result was interesting, but not worth posting here). He walked towards me, faster than I was comfortable with, frankly - and I just stood still and waited while looking around, hoping to see my friend returning.

"No photo. No photo." he said, somewhat emphatically, but not sounding upset, either. "Sorry," I replied, "No problem." By this time a few others were looking at us from inside the building, and one officer was halfway out the front doors, talking back and forth with the officer next to me. "No photo," he said again, and held out his hand for me to hand my camera to him. "Oh well," I thought "there it goes." In the distance, about a block away, I could see my friend's car approaching. He pulled up to the curb close to where we were standing and I was about to breathe a sigh of relief when I felt the officer's hand clamp down firmly on what passes for my left bicep.

My friend was already out of his car and talking to the officer in Thai. He looked a little concerned when he looked back at me and said "They think you're spying on them." The officer made it clear he wanted me to come with him into the police station, and - having already seen the insides of a Thai holding cell - I started to wonder if I would end up peeing my shorts before the night was over.

I was led inside the building, searched and patted down by one officer while another watched and a third took my passport off to copy, I supposed. My friend was kept away from me at first, but when there wasn't someone there who knew enough English to be able to question me they patted him down and checked his ID, too, and then allowed him to stand near enough to translate for me. No, I wasn't spying. Yes, I was a tourist. No I wasn't taking photos for anyone but myself.

It went on for what seemed like an hour, but wasn't that long. The officer with my camera handed it to me and said "open" so I powered it up and turned on the viewing screen, pointing to the button that would allow him to go back through my recent pictures. This he did, one after another after another; dozens of blurry attempts to take available light pictures without a tripod. I'd put in a new chip before leaving the resort, so there weren't all that many to go through, but there were well over a hundred from the river walk and the night market before it. I waited and worried. And waited and worried.

"AHH!" he suddenly exclaimed, holding the camera out to show another officer. "Oh shit," I thought, my mind racing immediately to an image of me sitting on a small cell's cement floor with 20 other hapless inhabitants. I looked over at my friend, and he seemed puzzled, thinking there couldn't possibly be anything of any legal interest in any of my pictures.

The officer said "AHHH!" again... and laughed. LAUGHED? Now I was ready to wet my pants, but then he said something to the officer he was holding the view screen out to and said something in Thai. My friend burst out laughing, too, but frankly I didn't see what was so funny. My friend translated for me: "He said 'That's my wife!'". While we were at the night market I'd asked a woman holding a small girl to stop and pose for me.

His wife and daughter.

To make a long story short (if that's still possible) the officer's entire tone changed, and since there were so many other night shots of random buildings and since they were more willing to accept that I was just another Big Pink Guy stumbling through their town it diffused the situation. They didn't offer me tea and something to eat, but I understood that I wouldn't be spending the night in a jail cell, and for that I was most grateful.

One of the officers gave me an email address to send a copy of the mother and child photo (I was told he did not want it on the internet, so I can't share it with you today) and the six of them there actually lined up and posed for me to take a picture that they also wanted sent to them. As I hope to return to Amphawa some time I won't post that one here, either.

By this time it was the witching hour, and adrenaline coupled with the resulting crash from it had left me wilted and sweaty, and I was ready for sleep. The same officer who'd pulled me by my arm into the station held the door open for us, and I could hear my pillow calling me as I walked, still shaky, back to my friend's car.

I slept like a rock that night.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Coconut Milk Guy Gets A Shower

The coconut drink stand from today's post is on the right in this photo
[Today's article is a re-working of a post I made on a Thai forum that many of you wouldn't know of, and since that post is now two weeks down the list I figured I'd share it here.]

After visiting the small tree-covered wat at Bang Kung (stories here about the inside and outside) I'd gone wandering around the grounds outside while my friend spoke with the police man near the entrance to get directions and information about another spot he wanted me to see but hadn't been to himself. The officer looked over and laughed when my friend pointed in my direction, because he recognized me from a recent night when I'd unknowingly been taking night shots of the front of the police station and attracted the attention of a few from inside. They'd come out to do a quick interrogation, but that's a different story I'll try to get posted tomorrow.

Walking across the road to the small grouping of animals they had caged on display I took a number of photos before going around back, looking for a hong nam to leave behind some of the water I'd been pouring into myself to avoid dehydrating myself (again), which is all a part of staying healthy there.  From around the corner I could hear a rhythmic chopping sound that I followed until I ran across the guy below.

Chopping open partially hulled coconuts for the milk inside
He was collecting coconut juice for the blue-canopied stand behind him to his right (and up top today) - swinging a 20" machete-type blade quickly and (thankfully) accurately, chopping open the coconuts and pouring the liquid inside into the stainless steel stock pot on the table to his left. He was opening and pouring the juice out of what I guessed to be about four a minute. The coconuts had been partially hulled to make it easier to open them, and when he got enough of them prepared he'd get to "juicing" them.

Not wanting to be the cause for him losing a finger - or worse - I stood quietly and watched, waiting for him to pause and look up so I could ask if he'd mind me taking his picture. I didn't have to wait long; the pot soon got as full as he wanted it to be and he carried it over to the woman working the stall. She then emptied it out and handed it back to him in-between customers. It was mid-day, and they were doing a brisk business.

When he came back he acknolwedged me and I held up the camera and asked, as I usually do "OK photo?" He smiled and nodded, and I took one photo of him posing and smiling. By that time my friend had spotted me and come over, and I'd asked him to ask the young man how long he'd been doing this and how his luck had been with that blade flying around so quickly. He said he'd so far not had a problem with the knife, but that sometimes he got doused with coconut juice if he wasn't careful. He picked up the knife, grabbed a coconut and went back to chopping.

The young man sprays himself from waist to chin with coconut milk
The very first one he hacked into sprayed his previously dry shirt liberally all the way up onto his face. I'd had the camera on him already, waiting to take another picture so I caught the shot above as he reacted to his dousing. It's probably a regular hazard because he didn't look all that surprised. After wiping his face of with the back of his wrist he said in Thai "my luck isn't so good today... maybe I'll slow down a little, too!" After my friend translated it for me I laughed, too, gave him a thumbs up and said "chok dee!" as we headed off on our way.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Woolgathering - And Other Worthwhile Pursuits

I've read that in days of old poor folks in sheep-raising areas would go through the brush and herding areas to gather the bits of wool pulled from the coats of the sheep as they went about their lives; waiting for the shearing, the mint jelly, or both. That occupational pastime was called woolgathering, oddly enough, and it was somewhat mindless work that anyone with or without any particular skill or intelligence could do.

Somewhere in the 1500s the word was also recorded as meaning a way of letting our mind wander or indulge in idle fantasies.  That's the usage I'm working with today, if you could call it work at all.  I've found myself lost in thought a lot over the last couple of weeks, some constructive and some merely daydreaming about walks in Thailand, places I've visited while there and the good folks who have accompanied me on my journeys.

There's a strong probability that I will not see the Kingdom I dream (and daydream) about any time in the immediate future, and that saddens me.  That may well be fueled by the overabundance of things on my plate at the present time, but it's also a nagging longing that I can neither minimize or ignore: I miss Thailand.

That said, I'm going to dock my boat canal-side and go delving back into photos today to assemble more for upcoming posts. Woolgathering at its finest!  Back tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Then And Now: Center One Mall, Victory Monument

The area after the protests of last May
We in the country I live in celebrate civil disobedience, as long as the thinking behind it agrees with our own and it doesn't inconvenience us personally. If those sound like foolish parameters to you it's because you're entirely correct.

Before the protests and problems in May of last year the view looking away from the Victory Monument BTS station looked as it did in the photo below:

Then came the stretch of protests, occupations, bombings, random acts of burning and shootings - and the entire area was trashed. The panorama up top was taken 7 months ago, so perhaps there's been more progress there, but I don't know.  You can see that the entire green complex is gone, and although the building's still there the Center One mall remains covered over with tarps.  The damage done near the Sala Daeng station (which you saw much more of in the news) was far more extensive than this.

These photos came to mind as I was talking with a friend about the violence that's happened recently in London, and the bombing throughout Iraq yesterday and today. Many of us do our share of protesting, but I've never been able to go along with the thinking that fuels such chaos and destruction as these three examples.

There's no message here today; just the frustration most of the rational on this planet feel when faced with such senseless acts. Performance artist Laurie Anderson noted once "You know... I think I'd rather see this on TV. Tones it down a bit" and I'm sure with her on that one, but in my heart and mind I still know it's real, and it's not only a shame, it's a senseless waste of life and property.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Flowers, Part 11: A Bougainvillea Devours A House

Bougainvillea are warmer climate plants sharing an unusual ability with poinsettias, another tropical plant: they don't flower, per se; they form brachs - leaves that turn color and mimic blooms, while the actual flowers are small afterthoughts, at best.  I've seen both in Thailand, but you'll see far more bougainvillea - and what specimens you'll see!

Poinsettias are more shrub-like and bougainvillea are more of a vine, but while both can grow to impressive size I've found the bougainvillea to be the more aggressive of the two. As you'll commonly see they can overwhelm an area and seemingly devour a house, as in the lead photo today.

The shrub to the left is a combination of two potted poinsettias that were pitiful, spindly specimens by the time they were put outdoors after a few weeks in the dry furnace heat of indoors a few Christmases ago, but three of them have found it acceptable in the ground near my front door here in California, and have even interwoven their roots to the point that some bracts "bloom" in both colors, as you can see if you look closely.  They need trimming in the Fall to encourage the colors, so they don't get to be more than a meter tall here at my house - but in Thailand, Hawaii and Mexico I've seen them used as hedges, easily 10 feet tall.

But getting back to the "mutant" bouganvillea in the lead photo - I'd seen this specimen looming over a family's home a ways outside of Bangkok, and as I was getting ready to take the picture several people buzzed by on a motor scooter.  Although their motion blurred them, I still liked the finished image, so although I took another one afterwards I'm using it today because it turned it into a three-in-one picture. In addition to the overall shot, if you look closely, you'll see detail from that shot I wish wasn't blurred: the box they're carrying has become a (admittedly risky) seat for their son as they went about their business (below).

The third part is somewhat hidden behind the scooter, so I've pulled that detail from the next shot to give you a more complete view. You can see the method to the madness in allowing a vine-like creeper with such wicked thorns to grow to such a size: shade. With very little attention this plant has grown to become shelter for both the house and inhabitants from the mid-day sun.

The way the house was situated this area was shaded from mid-morning until sunset by the pink canopy of the plant; creating open, usable living space for dining, visiting, playing and - as evidenced by the hammock - snoozing. As warm as it was when I took this it was a temptation to ask if I might try it out for a little while, but I didn't.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is It Art, And Is It Ethical?

It would be foolish of me to make a generalized statement about piracy in Thailand for several reasons, but mainly because few of you reading this view such things strictly in black and white, and everyone seems to have their own level of comfort regarding counterfeit clothing, movies, music and the likes - depending on their own personal code.  It's also sometimes difficult to know for sure what is "real" and what's not in the Land of Smiles.

I read the other day that counterfeiting is big business there, especially in tourist areas, but not only there.  Designs  for clothing are "borrowed" or blatantly stolen, knock-off copies of watches appear with only minor changes - the list goes on and on, and you're liable to see copied merchandise for sale in a rural village stall as you are at Jatujak Market. Imitation is said to be the highest form of flattery, but when it impacts the bottom line - people get testy.

Take for example the shops who will, for a fee, paint you a piece of art from a photo you bring in.  Some also have original pieces for sale, but usually they're copies of existing images: paintings, photographs, that sort of thing.  The shop up top today was one where several people sit day after day, carefully painting canvas after canvas of reproductions such as the one of Vincent Van Gogh's painting of irises.  You can see the image of his painting in the book clipped open to the right of the canvas.

The folks working in the shop seemed a little uncertain about my taking photos in there so I won't say where in Thailand this was, and I've obscured their faces. They were pleasant people, but obviously they themselves had some misgivings about the use of their skills in this particular instance.  One man was working from a snapshot a customer had brought in, and he was pleased to show that off, but I haven't included that shot, either.

While the owners of some of these works might just say "who cares" my guess is that a huge mega-corporation like Coca-Cola might not feel that way.  Van Gogh isn't here to get a royalty check, but monies are owed to someone, and where does one draw the line?  They're not being passed off as the Real Deal Originals at market value.  Personally I don't like the idea, but I'm not a lily-white participant in this arena, either, so I'm casting no stones.

We'll address the movie and music part of it another time.  Enjoy your weekend, all.