news, analysis, lifestyle & travel from thailand and southeast asia header image 1

Burma earthquake: Eyewitness account

April 2nd, 2011 · No Comments

Part of The Guardian’s recent feature: Natural disasters? Floods, earthquakes, landslides: 2011 is a year of disasters. Bill McKibben asks: are we to blame?

March: Magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck about 30 miles north of Tachileik on the Thai-Burma border
Human cost: At least 75 dead; more than 110 injured
Economic cost:
Not yet known
Survivor’s story: Sai Noom Khan (not his real name), 23, Tachileik

I was with my wife watching television when a loud knocking started suddenly. The room started to shake and all our photos fell off the wall. It was terrifying. I had never experienced an earthquake before.

I was worried the house would collapse, so I grabbed my wife by the hand and we ran. We ran outside, but the ground was shaking so much it was hard to stand up. It lasted only about 40 to 50 seconds.

We live on the top of the mountain, so there wasn’t too much damage. Since the earthquake, everyone’s been sleeping outside. It’s cold, but we’re too scared to sleep indoors.

Yesterday I visited the villages of Tarlay and Mong Lin, about 30 miles away. They were devastated. I was told more than 100 people died there.

Greg Lowe

Read the full story here.

→ No CommentsTags: Asia-Pacific · Burma · natural disasters · The Guardian

Why cycling in Bangkok is suited only for the suicidal

February 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

Though the city has potential, there are some huge road bumps that ensure it will never be enjoyable or safe for cyclists. Unless you’re a lemming

by Greg Lowe

I was having a conversation with someone in the pub the other night who explained that Thai for cyclist, “khon ki jakayaan,” also loosely translates into “lemming” — a breed of death-lusting gerbils with a reputation for diving off cliffs onto pointy, jagged rocks.

This was an astonishing revelation. I was totally hooked by the discussion, until the said bar fly-cum-linguist pointed out other alleged synonyms for our velo-centric friends such as “Guardian reader” and “toss pots.”

At this stage I realized my leg was being yanked, but why let a bad joke in a fictitious conversation that took place in a pub that doesn’t exist get in the way of things?

The point is there is something eminently suicidal about cycling in Bangkok and that grim reality is a tragedy.

Read more

→ No CommentsTags: Bangkok · · cycling · opinion · Thailand · traffic

Valentine’s Day in Bangkok: Ideas for the non-traditionalist

February 11th, 2011 · No Comments

Shun the saccharine stereotypes and try aphrodisiac-themed fine dining, a side of spankings or take a journey to love’s musical dark side
by Greg Lowe

Let’s face it. Valentine’s Day can be a miserable affair. Watching love-struck couples flit about is grating, especially if you’re single and missing out on the action.

Too often, you get ripped off at restaurants and pay over the odds for a mediocre meal notable only for a wilting rose on the table and a cheap heart-shaped box of chocolates.

In Bangkok, however, it is possible to both shun V-Day’s saccharine stereotypes and have a ball with your respective belle or beau at the same time.

Read more.

→ No CommentsTags: Bangkok · · entertainment · Lifestyle

Gaggan’s progressive approach to Indian cuisine

December 27th, 2010 · No Comments

Last week I had the pleasure of checking out Gaggan’s, a recently opened restaurant that takes a progressive approach to Indian cuisine. The chef, Gaggan Anand, has trained with Ferran Adria and his team in Spain, bringing back a host of mindbending techniques that he is applying to his national fare.

Read my review on CNNGO here.

→ No CommentsTags: reviews

Bizarre Thailand and Buddhist Temples of Thailand websites go live

November 24th, 2010 · No Comments

Well, okay, this posting is a little bit late, but better late than never.

The websites for two publishing projects I worked on are now live, check out for excerpts from veteran feature writer Jim Algie’s book Bizarre Thailand: Tales of Sex, Crime and Black Magic, which takes a look at the some of the darker and just plain odd aspects of Thailand.

It’s a great read and was recently reviewed by Christopher G Moore.

He said: “My first impression was this would be a book that you would dip into. That wasn’t the case for me. I read this collection of articles from cover to cover with admiration for the way Algie was able to keep my concentration and focus on subjects that I thought that I knew inside out.”

TTO magazine also ran an extract in this month’s issue.

Log on to the site to see photos from the book, outtakes and other exclusive content, as well as the latest reviews.

Buddhist Temples of Thailand: A Visual Journey Through Thailand’s 40 Most Historic Wats is the first coffeetable book to explore temples from across Thailand and make use of commissioned photography.

It was put together by Joe Cummings and Dan White, who drove 12,000 km on his motorbike to shoot all the temples for the book.

Manote Tripathi, arts editor at The Nation recently reviewed it, he said: “Without real affection for the monasteries and the monks and understanding of their complex symbolic worlds, he [author Joe Cummings] couldn’t possibly have written with such accuracy and passion.

This is the kind of book that will set you off on a temple trail, a journey that will most likely be rewarded with not just solace, but a fuller awareness of Buddhism as a cornerstone of official Thai thinking.”

Keep up to date with my publishing projects here. Three new titles are upcoming and I’ll let you know more about them in the next couple of months.

→ No CommentsTags: Buddhism · culture · Publishing projects · temples · Thailand · travel

Thai oil palm industry sets standard

July 19th, 2010 · No Comments

Thailand’s oil palm industry is leading the way for regional biopower projects and is more sustainable than operations in Indonesia and Malaysia which have faced global pressure for devastating old-growth forest and taking a wrecking ball to farming communities, experts say.

But while the local sector is breaking ground with its renewable energy projects, inefficiency, drought and poor farming methods are dragging on output. Read more…

→ No CommentsTags: Bangkok Post · business · industry · news · Thailand

Shangri-La Dialogue Highlights Challenges for Asian Regional Security

June 9th, 2010 · No Comments

By Greg Lowe

Asia-Pacific nations must renew their efforts to form a coherent and collaborative response to the region’s complex security risks and its inherent potential for instability, senior delegates at a high-level regional forum say.

Food and energy security, ethnic conflicts, insurgencies and rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula were key issues discussed at the 9th International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore last weekend. Some 320 delegates from 28 nations — including defense ministers, military and intelligence chiefs, and prominent figures from the private sector — attended the summit. Read more…

→ No CommentsTags: Asia-Pacific · military · security · World Politics Review

Thai businesses count the cost – Impact on local tourism seen to be severe if political instability continues

May 21st, 2010 · No Comments


BUSINESSES that have been hit hard by months of protests and deadly clashes on the capital’s streets say that it is too early to assess the full impact of the recent violence on their operations.

Protesters rampaged across Bangkok on Wednesday, torching more than 30 buildings, after leaders of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship surrendered to police, ending more than two months of anti-government rallies in the city. [Read more →]

→ No CommentsTags: business · economy · news · red shirts · Thailand · The Business Times (Singapore) · UDD

Reporting safely in Bangkok

May 14th, 2010 · No Comments

Armed clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters in Bangkok left 16 people dead and more than 100 injured, including three journalists.

This timely safety advice for reporters working in this increasingly dangerous city is based on consultation with a local security expert.

1. Consider if you really need to put yourself in the fire-zone for your story. Really do this, there are a lot of people running around covering the issue but without any commissions to actually get paid for it. So ask yourself again and again if you are being wise risking death or serious injury without actually being paid to cover the event for a news organisation. Remember a lot of the soldiers are young, inexperienced, hot, tired and scared. After 12 hours on the streets they may not be able to make very sound judgments in a confilict situation.

2. Wear light clothes, e.g. white top, light brown trousers. Avoid wearing black which is intimidating, especially when the UDD guards wear black and there have been incidents of men-in-black with AK47s shooting at soldiers. Don’t make yourself anymore of a target.

3. Carry first-aid kit, spare mobile batteries. Wear Kevlar if you have it. Under a top is better as you look less official. Bicycle helmets are good for head protection as they are thick and shrapnel will have further to travel through it.

4. If you hear a blast TURN AWAY FROM IT crouch with your back to it cover your head and stay that way for several seconds. Shrapnel can travel for hundreds of metres. If you can take cover do so, but be aware that secondary bombs are often placed at the most obvious cover.

5. Keep to the footpaths. Avoid open places and shops with plate glass windows.

6. If there is gunfire take cover and observe where the line of fire is travelling. E.g., is it random, sniper fire, travelling towards you (in which case you could be the target), or near to a person who is.

7. You have more safety in crowds. They absorb blasts and shrapnel.

8. If you see something happening, people shooting, etc., and want to take a look, be sure to look behind first otherwise you may inadvertently put yourself in the line of fire of someone who is behind you.

9. Do as much as you can to make yourself look neutral. Wear a flower. Make a point of smiling at the soldiers, protesters, etc.

10. If a hand grenade lands near you (which is possible) they normally have a 3-5 second fuse. Throw yourself on the ground face-down with the soles of your feet pointing towards the blast. Wear shoes with thick soles as these will prevent the shrapnel from traveling too far up your legs. Tuck in your chin, stick your fingers in your ears and open your mouth – this will help prevent your eardrums from bursting. Wear a small rucksack. Stick a few A4 pads in it. This will help stop shrapnel.

11. Avoid wearing jewellery. If you’re near a blast, it gets turned into shrapnel and gets embedded in you.

Again. These comments are to help give you some safety guidance if you HAVE to go and report on the situation. They are not guranateed to help you. Do not for an instance believe that by simply reading and acting on this list you will be safe. The situation is highly volatile and it has been proven to be deadly for too many people already. Question everything you are doing, especially the most important point – why am I putting myself at risk right now?

→ No CommentsTags: Greg's Blog · Thailand

BLOG: Political unrest and that Thai economy

May 14th, 2010 · No Comments

Much is made of Thailand’s economic fundamentals but the fact remains that the current political turmoil will only dampen economic activity, chase away tourists and investors and weaken the country’s overall performance.

Here are a few comments on the likely impact on the economy, these have all been made very recently, but not in response to last night’s clashes and the shooting of Seh Daeng. [Read more →]

→ No CommentsTags: books · Greg's Blog · markets · politics · red shirts · Thailand · UDD · Uncategorized