Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

Hard to Read – Thai Numerals

January 8, 2010

Along with having its own alphabet that’s used for the national language Thailand also has its own symbols for numeric digits. They are not used much in normal communication or commerce – the Western system is much more common.

Here are the digits from zero to nine:


Note the tiny difference between the “4” and the “5”.

I’ve found two major uses for the Thai numerals:

  1. Price lists where the business owner wants to conceal that Westerners pay a different (invariably higher) price from Thai people.
  2. The registration (licence) plates for military vehicles.

Here’s an example of (1):

Dual Pricing at Pangsida National Park

Dual Pricing at Pangsida National Park

This the sign at the entrance to Pang Sida National Park in Sa Kaeo Province. Thai adults pay 40 Baht to enter the park, children pay 20 Baht. Foreign adults pay 200 Baht and children 100 Baht.

And an example of (2):

Thai Military Police Toyota Camry

Thai Military Police Toyota Camry

The registration is “2335” :  ‘๒๓๓๕’ in Thai numerals.

In both cases the main reason seems to be obscurity rather than tradition.

See also

More Picapp Pictures of the King of Thailand

January 7, 2010

I posted a number of pictures of the King of Thailand and the Royal Family that I found on Picapp at

It’s been one of the most popular posts on this blog.

Here are some more, focusing on His Majesty the King. They are ordered approximately from oldest to newest. Unfortunately there is a big jump in the Picapp archives from the 1960s until 2006.

I copied the captions from the photos verbatim. They are not consistent about the spelling of the King’s name. Often they use the old name of Thailand: Siam.

You can look for more pictures yourself. Go to and enter a search string like “Thailand King”. You do not need to register.

Picapp / Getty are now asserting a 2010 copyright for the pictures. Surely that’s not correct? The copyright date is the date the picture was taken or first published isn’t it? It doesn’t update as the years go by!
[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=Thailand+King&iid=3772683″ src=”8/0/6/1/Thai_Royalty_670a.jpg?adImageId=8817915&imageId=3772683″ width=”433″ height=”594″ /]
King Bhumibol of Thailand with his fiancee, Sirikit, in Lausanne, where the King is a student, 13th September 1949. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Everytrail to Pattaya

January 6, 2010

I made an Everytrail version of my railway journey from Bangkok to Pattaya on New Year’s Day.

You can view the trip at I also embedded a slide show on my Google Pages site at It’s below the PicasaWeb slideshow.

I stopped using Everytrail because it does not import my pictures from Picasa Web Albums as it says it is doing. It links to them. That means as I delete old albums to make way for new ones my Everytrail trips lose their pictures.

EveryTrail Import Selected=

EveryTrail Import Selected Photos

I won’t delete this album from Picasa Web.

Everytrail has improved its user interface since I last used it. I think it is a great idea. I think it is hard for them to make money other than with Google ads. Maybe the business plan is for somebody to buy them.

EveryTrail Pattaya Trip

EveryTrail Pattaya Trip

Nexus One Not Available in Thailand

January 6, 2010

Google are promoting the Nexus One phone for direct sale on the web. I was not surprised to see that it is not available in Thailand. Unfortunately tech companies see Thailand as a low priority.

Nexus One Not in Thailand

Nexus One Not in Thailand

It is available without service in the US, UK, Singapore and Hong Kong.

I don’t doubt the phone will show up in a few days at the popular spots for grey-market imports: MBK Center and Panthip Plaza.

By Train to Pattaya

January 4, 2010

SRT LogoI woke up early on New Year’s Day morning. I had nothing to do and I remembered that there is one train a day from Bangkok to the beach resort of Pattaya (พัทยา). On the spur of the moment I decided to take a day trip to the seaside.

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) posts timetables for most, but not all, of their services on the web. Here is the timetable for the Eastern Line.

Eastern Line Timetable

Eastern Line Timetable

Ordinary train #283 leaves Hua Lamphong Station at 6:55am (Monday to Friday only). But I did not need to take the Subway all the way to Hua Lamphong. The Eastern Line passes quite close to my apartment as it travels along Phetchaburi Road. It’s the corridor used by the new elevated Airport Express trains.

The train gets to Asoke Station at 7:22am. It was easy to take the Subway two stops to Phetchaburi Station and walk a short distance to the station. Note that the trains stop on the eastern side of Asok-Montri Road after they have crossed it.

In contrast with the modern Airport Express Station above Asoke is a tiny halt. There’s a simple concrete platform next to the single track and a hut for the level crossing operator. Even though Asok-Montri Road is a major thoroughfare the level crossing gate is a simple wheeled affair that the staff push across the road – dodging the cars and motorcycles that try to get by them.

I checked with the level crossing operator and he confirmed that the train to Pattaya was running on New Year’s Day. “Ka-pom!” – so I was fine.

Asoke Station

Asoke Station. The Airport Express line is on the right.

Thai trains “always” run behind schedule and my train was five minutes late even this short distance from its starting point. I do not know why SRT do not update their timetables to be closer to reality. I hoped that the train would be quiet on a holiday and so it was.

Pattaya Train Entering Asoke Station

Pattaya Train Entering Asoke Station

I had my choice of seats in a 10-carriage train drawn by a 1980s vintage Alstholm diesel locomotive. Unfortunately there were some men in the first carriage I chose who were already drunk on Chang beer – that at 7 o’clock in the morning. Maybe they’d been up all night partying. I quietly left them to their party and went to a quiet carriage.

Progress is slow through the eastern suburbs of Bangkok. It passes the newly built Airport Express depot. I saw some of their new rolling stock parked outside. It will be some months before they are in daily use.

Airport Express City Line Train at the Depot

Airport Express City Line Train at the Depot

Like main ordinary trains this one was free for Thai people. Foreigners have to pay the normal fare. The fare to Pattaya was 33 Baht – about US$1. I paid the conductor and he gave me some small blue coupons as a ticket. By contrast the express bus costs 113 Baht (US$3.33).

I didn’t have any breakfast, but I didn’t have to worry. A group of vendors boarded the train at Khlong Tan Station. They had baskets of goodies for sale. I chose fried rice with a fried egg on top plus a bottle of water. That cost me 30 baht (less than  US$1).

My Breakfast on New Year's Day

The vendors walk up and down the train all the time shouting for customers. That can be annoying if you’re trying to sleep but it all adds to the local colour. I did wonder how they are organized and whom they have to pay to have the right to sell food on a particular train.

Many more passengers joined the train and by Hua Mark Station it was full. I shared my seats with a Thai family on their way to Chachoengsao.

Once we got outside the city the train speeded up and it got to Chachoengsao on time. For the rest of the journey I had a lot of space. I kept on switching seats in an attempt to photograph each station.

The carriages were second-hand Japan Railways stock. They used to be air-conditioned but the SRT disabled the units and installed fans. The doors and windows were open all the time.

Third Class Carriage Interior

Third Class Carriage Interior. Note the ceiling fans, the open windows and the unused air-conditioning

The SRT are upgrading the Eastern Line to double track. This is mainly to speed freight (goods) traffic to and from the port of Leam Chabang.

Double Tracking on the Eastern Line

Double Tracking on the Eastern Line

The train stopped at many small stations that are not listed on the English timetable. It was good to get out of Bangkok into the country again. Because everything was open my Nikon Coolpix P6000 kept its GPS connection for the whole journey. Thus all my pictures were geocoded by the camera. The train was slow enough that the positions were quite accurate.

Don Si Non Station

Don Si Non Station

The train fell behind schedule as it crossed from Chachoengsao Province into Chonburi Province but we arrived in Pattaya only 13 minutes late at 10:48am. That’s very good for the trip.

Most of the remaining passengers disembarked at Pattaya. The train continues to a place called Ban Plu Ta Luang. As I said, it is the only train of the day. It returns to Bangkok, passing through Pattaya at 14:21 (according to the timetable). That was too early for my day trip. I took the express bus back to Bangkok. In contrast to the 3:30 train ride the bus takes at most two hours and is often quicker than that.

Pattaya Station

Pattaya Station

That’s typical for developing countries where the train is slow but inexpensive. The Bangkok – Pattaya roads are so congested there is a great opportunity to upgrade the railways and provide a true alternative that gets many diesel buses and maybe some cars off the road.

I paused on the to take some photos. That was a mistake. Public transport in Pattaya relies on songtheaw. They are small pick-up trucks (mostly Isuzu DMax and Toyota Hilux Vigo) with two rows of seats under a metal canopy. (The Thai name means “two rows”). They take about 12 passengers at a squeeze. Only one songtheaw met the train and that quickly filled with passengers and departed.

The only songtheaw to town

The only songtheaw to town

I waited around but people shrugged when I asked if another songtheaw would come. I should have pushed my way aboard.

So I had to walk into town. The station is about one kilometre from the main road. Fortunately there was a local map on the wall of the station. I memorized the route and walked all the way to Sukhumvit Road. There I was able to get a songtheaw to Beach Road and the sea.

Fortunately it was not too hot and I found a “108 Shop” on the way to get some water. It was a lesson learned – I shouldn’t have hung around the station being a train-spotter and should have pushed my way onto the songtheaw.

I posted a selection of photos to Picasa Web Albums here with a slideshow at

Here’s a map of the Thai railway network:

Thai Railway Network

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2009

I hope you have a great Christmas Day.

Here’s a random set of Christmas related pictures from sunny Bangkok.

Christmas Day is not an official holiday in Thailand so most people are working. You can’t avoid the commercial messages though.

Asoke Market, Bangkok

December 15, 2009

When I wrote about the Terminal 21 construction project on Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok I mentioned that there’s still an old market that has not been demolished to make way for the development.

Asoke Market could disappear at any time. So I stopped by on Monday afternoon to take some pictures.

Asoke Market

Asoke Market Sign in Thai, English & Chinese

Asoke Market

Inside Asoke Market. Note the cat

Asoke Market

Fruit Shop

Asoke Market

Dry Goods

Asoke Market


I decided they looked best in black & white so I used Lightroom’s tools to render what I think is a pleasing, high contrast picture.The Nikon Coolpix P6000 did a good job with the lens set at its widest setting.

This is one of the few spots in “new” Bangkok where Buddhist monks come in the early morning to receive alms from devout people. Vendors set up to sell food for the gifts. All sorts of people including sleepy bar girls, taxi drivers and businesspeople on their way to work stop here. They receive a few words of blessing in return for their donation. I don’t think the monks will come when there’s a Starbucks on the corner. In the afternoon the market is quieter – the monks return to their temple before noon.

I have not taken pictures of the alms-giving. I am very cautious about taking pictures of monks and the donation is a spiritual moment. I don’t think my lens would be welcome, although Thai people would be too polite to say anything.

Canon EOS-7D Price in Thailand

December 14, 2009

I saw the Canon EOS-7D camera for sale in Bangkok at the Emporium Shopping Centre, near Phrom Phong Skytrain Station. It was in the window of Eastbourne Camera.

The price is 72,900 Baht with the Canon EF-S 18-135 mm lens. That’s about US$2,188.

I checked They offer it today for US$1,899: 13% more in Thailand.

Prices in Thailand include 7% Value Added Tax (VAT). If you are a tourist you can arrange to have the VAT refunded when you leave Thailand. Unfortunately I do not qualify because I am classed as a resident for tax purposes.

Hi-so shopping malls like Emporium aren’t the cheapest places to buy cameras. But you can be sure this is a legitimate import and will be covered by a Canon (Thailand) warranty. Prices will be lower at places like Panthip Plaza and Fortune Town Mall. But the cameras may be grey imports. If you have a problem Canon (Thailand) won’t help you.

Eastbourne Camera helpfully list their Canon camera prices on their web site here. When I looked the EOS-7D was not included.

Given the complexity of the camera I think it is wise to have the peace-of-mind (an overused phrase) of warranty support.

Not that I intend to buy one. Oh no, I am a Frugal Photographer.

Small Bangkok Restaurants

December 13, 2009

Right across the road from Bangkok’s main railway station: Hua Lamphong, is a parade (British English term) of shops fronting a small street market. Just about anywhere else such a prime location would have been redeveloped into fast food outlets and shops. But not in Bangkok.

Although there is a 7-11 store there – cheaper for supplies prior to a train journey than the shops in the station – it’s an old style market. Hidden inside is the entrance to the Station Hotel.

I Bet This Place has Some Stories to Tell

There are also several hole-in-the-wall restaurants that sell unexceptional Thai and Thai-Chinese food. I had lunch at one today. The staff are friendly and speak some English – they get many impecunious backpackers as customers. The decorations are basic – the wall may be held up by layers of posters.

Small Restaurant on Rong Mueang Road, Bangkok
Small Restaurant on Rong Mueang Road, Bangkok
I had pork soup and BBQ duck. Both were good portions and served with plenty of sauce and chilis. The vegetables served with the duck were fresh – not the frozen stuff served at places like Black Canyon.

Small Restaurant on Rong Mueang Road, Bangkok

BBQ Duck

Small Restaurant on Rong Mueang Road, Bangkok

Pork Stew

Total price: 150 Thai Baht (about US$4.50 according to Not the cheapest meal in Bangkok, but it was good and filling – and in an interesting location.

Thailand Motor Expo 2009

December 4, 2009

As planned, I went to see the Thailand Motor Expo 2009 show on Thursday afternoon. They have a free shuttle bus from Chatuchak Park Subway Station / Mo Chit Skytrain Station. The problem is the small Golden Dragon buses are very cramped and the driver waits until it is full with 19 passengers before departing. This took twenty minutes and the overall journey was the best part of one hour through heavy Northern Bangkok traffic.

IMPACT Link Shuttle Bus

IMPACT Link Shuttle Bus

Then I found that a member of the Thai Royal Family was visiting the show at the same time. Thus the exhibition was surrounded by hundreds of army and police officers. The Thai forces are extremely efficient when members of the Royal Family are involved.

They were not letting any guests into the building so I had to hand around outside. After about 45 minutes a convoy drew up to the main entrance. The police kept us well away from that area. But I was able to photograph the vehicles. After the Royal Person (I don’t know who it was) went into the hall the cars came near me to turn around for a speedy departure.

That group consisted of a cream Mercedes-Benz S-Class, four red BMW 5-Series and two escorting police cars: a slightly older BMW 5-Series and a Toyota Camry.

Royal Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Royal Mercedes-Benz S-Class

A military band played as the Royal Person entered the hall.

It was all very impressive.

When I finally got into the exhibition hall I was running a bit late. I had to pay 80 Baht entrance fee. If I had bought a ticket at the Subway Station I could have got one for 40 Baht but they were out when I asked. Still, 80 Baht is very cheap and it included the return bus to the Subway.

The exhibition was in three halls of the enormous IMPACT Muang Thong Thani Exhibition Centre. It’s the biggest in Thailand and maybe in the region. It’s also a well-known venue for concerts.

I only had time to visit one hall, but it was the one with the major manufacturers’ stands.

I was not disappointed: almost every stand had a team of pretty girls promoting the vehicles.

BMW Pretty

BMW Pretty

There were plenty of photographers around, many with some expensive kit. I took my Canon EOS-30D with the Canon 580EX flash and my widest angle lens. It is, I confess the old “kit lens” from the EOS-300D – the Canon EF-S 18-55mm.

Photographing the Pretties

Photographing the Pretties

I know serious photographers deride this lens, but for my purposes of taking “record” shots for display on the web it was fine and I appreciated the 18mm wide-angle. Of course it was the wrong lens to have when I was photographing the Royal vehicles outside. But I had enough high quality pixels shooting in RAW that I obtained adequate pictures after cropping in Lightroom.

I think the ideal lens for this job would have been my friend’s fast Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM with its high speed and thus shallower depth-of-field. Maybe he’ll allow me to borrow it some day.

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM - the ideal lens for the job?

I saw a small but high-quality exhibit of older vehicles including this Jaguar E-Type.

Jaguar E-Type

Jaguar E-Type

The Tata Nano was on the Tata stand. I don’t know if they plan to sell it in Thailand. I think it is too small for the market. Outside Bangkok people haevily favour light trucks like the Isuzu DMax and the Toyota Hilux Vigo – both made in Thailand.

Tata Nano

Tata Nano

The show runs through 13th December. If I have time I’ll go again and take more time to look around. There were some exhibits on the outside of the halls like a 4×4 obstacle course. It was not in use when I went to look. Perhaps it is an evening attraction.

Overall I was impressed with the Motor Expo. It was easily as professional and interesting as those I have been to in England and America.

Here are slide shows from the 2008 and 2009 shows.