30 Sep 2006

Koh Samet, My Secret Island!















Koh Samet, Samet island, lies in the Siam bay, like a pearl gleaming in the sea. It is so beautiful that I can't stop myself going there again and again.

Samet is in the province of Rayong, southeast of Bangkok. From Bangkok it takes about 2.5 hours on the bus to get to the port named Ban Phe and then a 20 mins boat trip to the island. It is not difficult to get there. Most tour operators on Kao San road offer "VIP bus" service, though not really VIP service, to the island now, but I still prefer using the public bus from Bangkok Ekkamai, eastern bus station, which is cheaper and safer.

I had a horrible experience with the Kao San tour operators last time to Koh Chang. Because we were lazy to sort out the ticket problems and wanted to save time, we decided to get "VIP bus+boat" tickets from Kao San travel agencies. Two friends of mine got their tickets later than us and paid more. (I should feel lucky not paying more) They tried to argue but got nothing. The agency said you either take it or give it up because they will not pay the difference. Then, we found out the "VIP bus" is just a bit better than the public one. It is very different from the VIP bus I took couple years ago to Krabi. We think maybe only the 10 hours or more journey can get the real VIP bus. Everything was fine for the first 2 hours, then we had to stop every now and then cause the driver had to check the tire and the break. Okay, good for all smokers! But the scary part came, after about 9 hours of driving, one sitting at the back smelled something burning and saw fire coming out of the tire! We had to pull over and put out the fire. The bus was really on fire! We were only like 30 mins ride to the port, so we decided not to continue the bus journey. The angency sent some vans to drive us to the port. We almost missed the last boat to Koh Chang. From bankok to Trat should only take about 6 hours, but this one took us 10 hours. We didn't get a real VIP bus but had to rescue the bus.

Back to Samet. I would suggest those who want to go there use the public transportation. You can easily get bus+boat tickets from Ekkamai. If you are interested in going there, check out travelfish website. On this website, you can also find accommodation information though most of Samet's budget bungalows do not offer online booking service. This is quite troublesome since most bungalows are full during the peak season. If you go there during the rainy season, you should be able to find rooms easily. Though this island is named the driest one in Thailand, it still rains a lot. I was there this June for 5 days, and I got only a half day to do sunbath! What to do for the rest of days? Massage, drinking, chatting with stangers, eyeing cute guys, and then having great party with everyone who got bored there.

To be honest, there is not much you can do on that island. It only takes you about 30 mins to go around the island if you are on a motorbike. I can ride both motorbike and scooter, but I would not do it on that island. Only 1/3 of the road is paved, the rest is rocky and bumpy. I go there to relax and enjoy my time at the beach, not to risk my life. By the way, the island is so tiny, and everything is grouped around the white sand beach. You don't really need a bike unless you stay on the other side of the island that takes about half an hour to walk to the lively area.

This island only got famous recently, it was mainly the spot for locals before. I still remember the first I went there, all I saw was locals spending their holiday with families. But this time, I was surprised to see VIP bus service to Samet from Kao San. My friend and I thought it would be easy to find rooms because of the rainy season, but we were wrong. Still we were very lucky to get our desired bungalow, the last one available in that resort. So lucky that we also got a very good bargain price for that bungalow. Though it rained almost every day when we were there, we still had a great time. Who will feel sad when you have the amazing sunset view right in front of your bungalow? Our bungalow was right in front of the beach, and we had a large porch where you can sit and do whatever you want, such as singing. (Beware of the mosquitos, they are huge and mean.) If I go next year, I definitely will stay there again. I hope they will not raise the room rates again. Samet is becoming more and more expensive.

There is a saying about the name of this island. I heard this from a friend who lives there now. He said that Samet island is cursed. If you are a couple spending passionate nights on that island, you two will break up for sure once you leave the island. I am not sure if this is true because I did not go there with a lover, but I really want to give it a try. The view and the atmosphere on the island are just perfect for lovers. Don't be sad if you are going alone. You may be very lucky to find one on the beach. For no reason, people natually become relaxed, sexy, and charming on that island. You see, this is the charm of the island.

Yes, I am planning to go there again next June. I am only hoping that the weather will be just fine, and I can still be lucky to get that bungalow I want. Next time I am there, I will do snorkeling. I read on the internet that good underwater view is only couple steps away from where I stayed last time. If possible, I hope all my friends can join me so that we can have a cool beach party there. Of course, a handsome and nice partner besides me would be an asset. I believe I can break that myth!

28 Sep 2006

Suvarnabhumi Airport


Suvarnabhumi, the new Bangkok international airport opened at 3am this morning. The main building of this new airport is the world's largest single building. It has 120 aircraft parking bays and can handle 45 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of cargo per year. This airport is new and very big. Its opening shows Thailand's ambition of wanting to be the air hub of Southeast Asia. This is the time to say goodbye to Don Muang Airport which I have visited so many times. I agree that Don Muang is always crammed with tourists, but it is so close to the city, and I know exactly where to get what I need there.

Suvarnabhumi means 'The Golden Land'. Gold is important to Thai culture as it is to Chinese culture. Gold usually symbolizes high quality, and its meanings include wealth, illumination and prosperity. This bright colour is also used to represent fertility. The old Chinese royalty used gold as its symbol, and only the king had the privilege to use this colour. In Buddhist tradition, especially in East Asia, the image of Buddha is always depicted in gold. This color is widely used in Buddhism to show that Buddha's teaching is like the ray of sunlight. It penetrates darkness and brightens our mind. Though yellow is the royal colour in Thailand, they have used gold in everything related to the royalty and Buddhism. I believe many tourists who visited Bangkok will be impressed by the use of gold in the grand palace.

I guess the king chose this name to hope that this airport will be like gold shining in Asia. In the introduction film of this airport, I saw this intention of which they tried to create the image of the airport on a golden field. Aircrafts taking off at sunset with beautiful reflections of golden sunlight from the surroundings. I must say this short video is a very good promotion for both the new airport and Thailand. It not only tells its audiences how big, new and effective the new airport is, but also introduces Thailand as an ideal place for all international travellers. I have been to Thailand so many times, and I think I have known quite a lot about this country. However, after seeing this film, I get the feeling of going there again to experience the charms of the country. Despite all the delays of this new airport and scandals of the current political situation, this short video is truly a good promotion to the country's tourism industry.

I cannot help myself but think of my country's policies on promoting Taiwan. Recently, our government announced a very strange decision. They decided to change the full name of Taipei C.K.S. International Airport to Taoyuan International Airport. I don't understand the decision. Further, we always say that Taiwan has the best location to be the hub for Asia Pacific, but I have not yet seen any positive policies to make this real. Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Shanhai and Guangzhou all have their big new airports now, and Singapore will complete their new terminal in Changi Airport in 2008. We are only starting to plan the new terminal and a new runway for our newly named airport. How can we compete with our neighbours when we are always couple steps behind? What is truly sad is that our current government never admits that we are losing our place in the international society, but tries to comfort the public by making false statistics. The worst is that they try to divert the attention of the public away from criticism by creating group conflicts. It seems that these politicians only care about maintaining their political power and privilege instead of lifting the living quality of the public and the national competitiveness.

Our world is losing its old geographical boundaries, and it is becoming a flat world, as proposed by Thomas Friedman. We should look forward and position ourselves as a constructive part of this flat world. In the meantime, we should put the needs and the welfare of the public as the priority and work on it. Changing the name of the international airport will not bring good welfare to the public but create confusion in the international society. I strongly believe that the government should take immediate actions to lift the service of the airport and to attract more international airliners. Though it is simply not possible to promote Taiwan through political measures, we should focus on what we have already established and succeeded in the international society. When Taiwan takes its good position in the international society, naturally the world would know Taiwan as a political state and would continue its positive, though not political, connections with Taiwan. This good connection would bring beneficial effects to the people of Taiwan.

Though we are not sure if Suvarnabhumi Airport can achieve its goal to be the air hub of Southeast Asia, its opening in fact promotes Thailand once again in the international society. Now I am expecting my next trip to Thailand because I know I will be landing in this brand new airport. I am hoping that I will have a good experience using this airport in the coming future. At the same time, I am also hoping that our government can really open their eyes to look forward and do something positive to promote Taiwan to the rest of the world.

20 Sep 2006

A new government

Thailand's military coup declared martial law just last night. According to the full statement, the army chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin said the reason of doing so is to
"control and rectify the situation and bring normalcy to the country and quickly restore the people's unity."
He further said
"(the group) has no intention to become the administrator of the country itself ... it will return the democratic administrative power with the king as the head of state to the Thai people as soon as possible ... (the group) has pledged to maintain peace and order and preserve the stability of the beloved nation of the Thai people."
In this statement, the leader of the coup explained the mismanagement of the current government resulted in this extreme action, and they were forced to take this action. He claimed they were in fact acting in accordance with the wishes of the Thai people. This extreme action, according to the army chief, will stop when the new prime minister is appointed and the new permanent constitution is written.

The current prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been involved in corruption since this January. There are harsh criticism on his failure to stop Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand and his control over the media. All have made him the main target for his opposite party and most Thai people. In April this year, most Thai people walked on the street to protest that Thaksin is no longer qualified for the position of prime minister. Though he promised to step down, he resumed his position after a short period of time.

The political situation in Thailand is in fact quite similar to the one in Taiwan now. However, I must say that Thailand and Taiwan are different, and I do not support military coup d'état. I believe that a democratic country should have an appropriate measure to discharge the power of the disqualified head of state. This disqualified head of state should accept the criticism from the public and consider the best for her/his country. When the public says that they do not have the confidence in her/his ability to manage the country and walk on the street to pretest against her/his leadership, she/he must immediately take good actions to solve the problem. The solution, in my opinion, includes resignation and the reform of the congress. Only by taking good actions that the democracy of the country could be maintained. After all, democracy is what we have gone so far to fight for.

In terms of the case in Thailand, the situation is not out of control, and we have seen the intention of maintaining a peaceful and nonviolent coup. I believe the reason why peace could be maintained in this coup is the intangible power of the king. The king of Thailand is a supporter of democracy, and because of his good deeds, he receives great love, respect and support from his people. Though the king of Thailand seems not to have real political power (royal powers), the image of him symbolizes the true national identity. We can see this through the celebrations in June this year. Every woman and man wore yellow T-shirts to celebrate the king's 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne. This immense popularity has made him the true leader of the country. We have also seen his influence in the 1992 crisis. He intervened in this crisis so as to keep the democratic progression of the country. The same goes with this time, the coup leaders pledged their loyalty to the king right after they declared the martial law and announced their intention for a new parliament. Later on, the king endorsed the coup that gives the coup its legitimacy. The king has taken his action to stop further dispute and keep the country from military dictatorship. Though this political crisis is still in process, at least, what we have seen here is a nonviolent one that is well received by most Thai people.

Of course the use of military power to overthrow a corrupted government is quick and powerful, but it is dangerous when we do not have a leader that gains absolute respect from both the military and the public. It is very likely that a coup would lead to a military dictatorship which we can see from certain African states or Latin American countries. This is not the result that we want. When democracy is practiced in the country, every action and decision should be carried out under the constitution. Can we take the same action as Thailand did? I guess the answer is 'No'. We do not have a king, and we do not have a person who gains such power like the king of Thailand, either. Moreover, we have gone so far to establish a democratic system, so we should use the power the constitution gave to the congress to solve this political crisis. I don't support coup, and I don't think a coup would ever happen in Taiwan. I can only hope that the disqualified head of state can think of the best for the country and resign. In the meantime, the congress should take good actions to stop his mismanagement of the country, and the supreme court should carry on all required investigations on his frauds. Coup should not be encouraged in Taiwan. I believe we can overthrow this corrupted government through democratic measures.

16 Sep 2006

Siege

Congradulations to the people of Taiwan! We have made our first goal to voice what we truly believe in, that is
For Buddha's sake! Chen Shui-bian should and must step down!

The anti Chen Shui-bian rally, named "Siege", attracted more than 320,000 people yesterday. This number is in itself a new record for the mass and social movement in Taiwan. Moreover, according to the local news, all the participants joined this rally with their free-will. This is a success, a success for the people of Taiwan. I am hoping sincerely that this peaceful rally can carry on and the final goal can be reached soon. Thanks to everyone who joined the rally yesterday.

Click the title to read the news of this rally published on Taipei Times.

13 Sep 2006

Hey, it's time to step down!

Starting from Saturday 9/10, people in Taiwan start writing a new page in the history of Taiwan's democratic progression. What we are aiming at is to bring down the corrupted government led by Chen shui-bian. This is not a violent protest but a silent rally that means to voice our opinion: Chen Shui-bian, it is time to step down.

This rally has been in process for almost a week, and it has become the hottest topic for the public in Taiwan. All the media reports this rally in detail everyday. Every one talks about this rally everyday. It is so obvious that you cannot simply miss or ignore it. We speak out what we want in an honest but solid sense: Chen Shui-bian, you should and must step down.

Chen Shui-bian always says he is the president who is elected by the public of Taiwan, so his leadership is what the public of Taiwan wants. I am not going to question the legitimacy of that second presidential election. When the public chooses him, it means they want him to lead them to better lives. In other words, he should always listen to them with care and good grace. However, it seems that he never really listens to the public. He only cares about his own power and his family's wealth. The suffering of the public is not an issue for him, let alone the development of the country. Taiwan, under his leadership, has become a patient who suffers great pain from cancer. He still doesn't care; he still insists that he is the right one for Taiwan.

Has he heard what the public wants? Doesn't the public of Taiwan show what they really want now right in front of his presidential house? He simply cannot accept that he is no longer the right one for Taiwan, and he simply cannot release his power easily. Power corrupts human minds as Lord John Acton pronounced
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Due to the nature of power, Chen Shui-bian would never agree to step down. Moreover, his family and him are rumored to have been involved in frauds and are under investigations. If he agrees to step down, and if what has been investigated is truly illegal, he would be prosecuted immediately. Therefore, it is unlikely that he would step down of his own free will.

I agree that forcing him to step down is a tough task to accomplish, but let us not forget the power of people. As one Chinese saying goes "Water can float a boat and sink it as well", the power of people is like water, and when the surge comes, it can in fact overthrow the unstable and unsupported government. This requires the participation of each individual who shares the same idea in the society. This gathered group of people would form a positive energy that aims to discharge the power of the inappropriate leader, and this energy is an organic form that it grows when the group expands. This is a grassroots ideology whose achievement calls for persistence.

Indeed, we have made the first move to gather people up, and we are seeing the persistence in this rally. Though I am not there in person to support this action, I am here supporting them by writing up my ideas, chatting over coffee with friends, educating new generations. I am truly hoping this rally will go on, and finally we will reach what we hope for. We should not allow Chen Shui-bian to damage the image of Taiwan and ignore the suffering of the public in Taiwan anymore. We all have the right to speak out what we truly want, and let us all take our chance to say: Hey you, it's time to step down.

12 Sep 2006

Viva Bollywood

I just love Bollywood movies. Be careful, they are highly addictive. I found this short clip named Yehi Hai Pyar on YouTube, and it reminds me those bollywood movies I saw before. Glamorous setting, music, dancing and the most important, beautiful people! Aishwarya Rai is amazingly beautiful. She is truly a goddess. How sad it is not that easy to find bollywood movies in Taiwan.

Here is the link to the clip:
Yehi Hai Pyar

6 Sep 2006

Twitching Eyelid - 左眼跳財,右眼跳災!

My right upper eyelid has been twitching a lot for almost a month. Should I have a medical check of my right eye? I think I must have overused my eyes. I gave myself this logical answer so as to be cool with this situation. But I also found that this twitching condition comes in a very regular pattern, and it is always the right upper eyelid. Let's put it in a superstitious way of speaking, it must mean something. I am not proposing that we should be superstitious. It is fun to have another approach towards an issue. You are free to believe it or not.

I recall the old Chinese saying about the twitching eyelids that goes as follows: 'the twitching of the left eyelid indicates the coming of good fortune; while the right one is a warning about the coming bad luck.' According to this saying, my right twitching eyelid is a sign of bad luck. Because of this warning, I have been very careful of everything recently. However, this saying is too general, so I searched the Internet for more information about twitching eyelids. I found that there is another way to explain twitching eyelids, and it is a more detailed one, which can be found in the book of Chinese lunar calendar. It explains the hidden meaning of each twitching eyelid in each time section. We used to have only 12 time sections for a day in the old Chinese society. For this way of reading, it provides a hidden meaning for each eye in a time section. As a result, there are in total 24 different meanings for twitching eyelids, some are good omens and others are bad ones.

In my case, after matching the twitching eyelid to the specific time section, I found the hidden meaning is in fact a good one. Frankly speaking, I am quite happy with this result, and I prefer this reading to the general old saying. For me, this positive meaning makes me happy and brings me hope to live for better. Happiness is crucial to all of us because it gives us strength to fact the struggle of life. Being happy also allows us to be able to develop a positive thinking. All human beings are born to hope. It is impossible to say 'I hope for nothing', which is still under the condition of 'hoping'. In other words, when a positive thinking is formulated, we naturally hope for positive achievements that follow with positive actions. But why are there so many negative ideas, images and actions in our society? Most of us have forgotten the importance of being positively happy and how to perceive happiness. Our education nowadays doesn't teach you what happiness is and how to obtain it. The worst is that it even stops teaching the young generations the importance of being a virtuous human being. Ethical principles are disappearing since no one ever cares to practice them. When ethical principles are gone and men lose their ability to perceive positive happiness, it is the time for negative ideas and images to rule.

Coming back to my first reaction towards the twitching eyelid, I would also say being cautious and careful is essential. I cannot just fully believe in the good omen and forget that I should be careful. I should always be careful of my own life, whether the omen says so or not. This is something ambiguous about happiness. When a person expands his happiness to a certain limit without being cautious of his surroundings, he is stepping into danger. He no longer acts as a positive being but an aggressive one who cares only about his needs and desires. Due to this person's egocentric action, his happiness is in fact established upon the struggle of other people. This is not the happiness I am talking about here. As I have mentioned, for achieving positive happiness, a person must develop a positive thinking. Feeling happy is essential to this psychological process, but it is not enough. We must always bear in mind the notion of ethical principles. Only when a person is truly aware of this that he could truly reach the positive happiness. Without this positive element, the result will be disastrous. It would lead a person to a devastating end. Being cautious, under this consideration, means to be very careful of whatever actions taken to achieve positive happiness. When a good omen is presented, the right action is to look at it and go for it with an ethical eye. If what is received is a bad omen, what has to be done is to avoid any negative ideas and look for what is positive.

We all deserve the right to be happy, and being happy is so crucial to a person's entire life. It allows us to see what is possible and leads us to achieve what we want. However, without having ethical principles as backup, happiness becomes the tools of the evil. It fosters our ego so well that we can never see ourselves falling into self-destruction. For some may say that a person's self-destruction could do nothing to all of us, but I would argue that we are all members of a society where a person's behaviour would affects the rest of us. In order to stop negative ideas and images spreading out, we must reintroduce the ethical principles to our society through education.

This is what I have perceived from my twitching eyelid, which is still twitching annoyingly now. I truly have no idea when it will stop. Whatever the result of this issue will be, at present I stick to the positive one with a cautious attitude towards my daily life. If the final outcome is as what the good omen says, I will bear in mind the ethical parts of the issue and receive freely the positive happiness. If not, life still goes on. Again, the deeper of meaning of this issue is nothing about superstition. It is mainly about facing our life with a healthy and positive attitude. I guess this is what our ancestors try to teach us. Why look at the dark side of life and feel sorrow for yourself? After all, we all deserve happiness!

1 Sep 2006

Chen's ridiculous Trip Again

Chen Shui-bian, the president of Taiwan, is going to have holidays again! This time he is going to visit Palau and Nauru, two small countries in the Pacific, and he will detour to Guam on his way back. I can't help but think this trip is more like an island holiday than an official visit, and he is indeed an island hopper! Let's put it this way, since he is having a difficult time in Taiwan, why not go out to breath the fresh air and enjoy the warm sun at the beach. I guess he will come back tanned and relaxed!

I wonder how much money he is about to waste this time. What scares me more is that almost every time he goes out, it causes great damage to Taiwan's diplomatic relationships with other countries. The latest example is his visit to Central America in May this year. Because of his insistence on stopping over either in New York or Los Angles, he annoyed the U.S. first and then spent more time and money to complete the journey. Without offering any information or press release to the public of Taiwan, we absolutely had no ideas where our president was. We only knew that he took the most ridiculous westbound itinerary to fly from Taiwan to Central America. Even the journalists on that plan had no ideas where they were. I have no idea how those government officials deal with Taiwan's diplomatic policy. This ridiculous journey doesn't contribute to the positive image of Taiwan but brings about negative effects.

True, a month later, Republic of Chad decided to cease the diplomatic relationship with Taiwan. There is no direct link between these two events. However, Chen's ridiculous and childish behaviour and decision irritated Beijing government. Giving pressure to Taiwan is never a difficult task for China, and all they need to do is to offer better deals to Chad. Logically, Chad immediately welcomes Beijing government as her new dear friend. Moreover, according the local news, our friends in Central America are not as loyal to us as before. China, who has already increased her great political and economic capital to date, can offer better deals to these countries. As a result, Chen's trip, as he always called as 'official visit to establish concrete and fruitful friendship with our friends', did not achieve what he had planned but failed in an ugly sense. Worse than that, as a president, he never admits his failure to the mission but always blames China for suppressing Taiwan's pathetic diplomatic situation. Does Chen really think that everyone in Taiwan is as naive as he? We all have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to feel. As a Taiwanese myself, of course I blame China for trying to suppress Taiwan in the international affairs. But I do know that it is never this simple. If we can use our brain to think before we act, we may get a better result in a less harmful way.

How sad! The latest news reported the same old story again. Chen is trying to use his old tricks to go to the U.S. He is really naive to propose that he will be flying to Guam, the territory of the U.S., in our Airforce One. Of course, you don't need to guess what the U.S. government says. So he said he would use this Airforce one to Palau, and then China Airlines would provide two other aircrafts to fly him to the rest of the destinations. Why make the whole issue so complicated? Who is going to pay the fuel for empty flights? Us! My tax will be used to pay for his ridiculous decision. Another local news says that recently Taiwan just helped the national airliner of Nauru purchase their only plane, and our president is going there for this special reason. Is this necessary? In other words, we are trying to keep the friendship by providing money to them. Here is my question: can we really establish a friendship by the use of money? I believe a grade 2 student can give you an answer. How could our government officials be so innocent? Is this how we deal with diplomatic policy in Taiwan? This is truly pathetic. It seems they are taking diplomatic policy as a game, and this is irresponsible.

I can imagine this now. After this trip, if another issue appears, such as losing diplomatic relationships with other countries, our dear president would say 'it is China's fault'. It is never his fault. He will say that with his lovely tanned skin and relaxed attitude. After all, he is a great leader who suffers from vicious attacks of the opposite parties. He deserves a nice holiday at the beach with a glass of pina colada. The most important is he will be the first president of Taiwan to fly to our friends in our national Airforce one. That is truly a milestone. Because of his great efforts, we will all remember that, and this trip really has its 'diplomatic and historic meaning'. Let's cheer for him!