Back Home in Bangkok, Part III

After Part II

May 19-24, 2005

Thursday, May 19, 2005 (Pre-journal)

Thanks to Tilman:

It's cool being Norwegian at a parade


Trevor Olson was among the hundreds who lined Ballard's streets last night. He wore a white T-shirt on which he'd drawn the Norwegian flag with red, white and blue marker.

Later, in Poulsbo ...

"I thought it would be cool," he said.

When asked to elaborate, the 16-year-old said, "It's cool being Norwegian."

Many others apparently felt the same.

They lined the eight-block route of the Norwegian Constitution Day or Syttende Mai (May 17) parade, marking the signing of the Norwegian Constitution before Norway's independence from Sweden.

They wore the traditional red wool bunad dresses and waved Norwegian flags on a particularly significant Syttende Mai that marked the 100th anniversary of Norway's independence.

Olson stood at the corner of Northwest 56th Street and 24th Avenue Northwest with his sister, Brittany, his mother, Joanne, and their friend Karin Olsoe, dressed in a black bunad.

Olsoe said she'd been coming to the parade for 25 years, since she moved to Seattle from Norway to go to Seattle Pacific University. "Back then it went by in about 10 minutes."

Now it takes two hours.

But as much as the neighborhood has changed, and even though many have dispersed, the Norwegian community remains tightly knit.

As the parade passed, Olson began to call out to an acquaintance but blanked on her name.

"What's her name?" she asked Olsoe.

"You mean Knudson?"

"No, no, the one who looks like Martha Stewart."

Thursday, May 19, 2005 (2nd Wedding Anniversary)

This local news trumped yesterday's local news.

Miss Universe hopefuls offend Thais
by posing almost naked near temple

Canadian Press
May 19, 2005

Miss Singapore Universe Cheryl Tay, left, and Miss USA Universe Chelsea Cooley pose in their swimsuits on the Grand Pearl on the Chao Praya River in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Miss Universe, Patrick Prather, HO)

BANGKOK, Thailand (CP) - Photos of bikini-clad Miss Universe contestants posing in front of a revered Buddhist temple have been removed from the pagaent's website after the Thai government complained that the pictures were offensive.

The controversial images will also be edited out of a film to be shown during the globally televised final of the competition on May 31 in Bangkok, one of the pagaent organizers said on condition of anonymity.

Women from 81 countries are vying for the Miss Universe title. Canada is being represented by Miss Universe Canada Natalie Glebova. The Torontonian won the Miss Universe Canada 2005 title at the final event held at Casino de Montreal on Jan. 25.

The photos that caused offence featured some of the pagaent hopefuls wearing swimsuits on a boat in Bangkok's Chao Phraya river with Wat Arun - the famous Temple of the Dawn - in the background.

"This is against the way of life and beliefs of Buddhists and we strongly disagree with it," said Preecha Gunteeya, secretary general of the Culture Ministry's religious affairs department.

Preecha said that if the pageant organizers wanted to promote Thailand, "they should ask the contestants to wear Thai traditional costumes" when posing by the temple.

Thailand hopes that hosting the pageant will boost the country's tourism sector, which was badly hurt by last December's tsunami. It estimates that the event and related activities will generate more than 2.1 billion baht (US$54.6 million) of revenue.

PS: If you compare the front pages of The Bangkok Post and The Nation (Thailand's two big English language dailies) for May 18 and May 19 you'll see why the story about 150 or so people being made homeless at the strike of a match had no journalistic 'legs' when it had to run against 81 girls on a boat (*).

And, there was far more 'official' shock (**) over some revered Buddhist temples being in the background of the Miss Universe contestant bikini shots than over the fact that 50 homes (and one old lady) burned to the ground before the fire could be extinguished.

(*) Had both incidents occurred on the same press runs the flaming timber story would have barely made the inside pages, with probably just a B&W photo ... if it was lucky. Of course, if I was the editor I would do the same thing. Hey, would you rather look at pictures of beautiful girls in micro bikinis or read grief tales from burning slums?

(**) However, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra did tell the 'officially' offended to "Lighten up!" He went on to say, "We sometimes take things too seriously. They were cruising along the Chao Phya River and filming whatever they thought was beautiful."

PPS: Sigh....

Beauty queens at temple spark row

Thursday, May 19, 2005 Posted: 8:30 AM EDT (1230 GMT)

Miss Universe contestants walk past a Buddha during a photo shoot at the Chai Wat Tanaram temple in Ayuthaya, Thailand.

BANGKOK, Thailand (Reuters) -- Miss Universe organizers have scrambled to calm a furore over photos of bikini-clad contestants posing near an ancient Buddhist temple in pageant host Thailand after the images infuriated religious leaders.

The photos, which showed beauty queens on a Bangkok river cruise with the famed Wat Arun, or "Temple of Dawn", in the background, were swiftly removed from the pageant Web site.

But religious leaders and culture watchdogs are still upset, saying the episode violated traditional values and morality just days before a key Buddhist holiday.

"This is the time of Visakha Bucha when we are reminded of Lord Buddha's teachings. But we have allowed this thing which will mark the country with sin for a long time," Phra Thep Dilok, head of the National Center for Buddhism Promotion, told Reuters on Thursday.

The chair of the Senate tourism committee, Suradech Yasawat, said the photos, which were splashed on the front pages of most Thai newspapers, had hurt the country's image.

"It is completely inappropriate. When a contest is being held in Thailand, Thai traditions and culture should be respected," he told the Thai News Agency.

About 90 percent of Thailand's 63 million people are Buddhist and any slight against the religion can trigger a public outcry.

Last year, the director of the U.S. movie "Hollywood Buddha" apologized for offending Thais by sitting on the head of a Buddha image for an advertising poster. Thai Buddhists consider the head the most sacred part of the body and it is not to be touched.

And despite Bangkok's hundreds of go-go bars and its racy reputation as the "anything goes" sex capital of Southeast Asia, many Thais are uncomfortable with public nudity.

Footage vetted

Pageant president Paula Shugart said the temple incident was unfortunate and would not happen again.

"We knew that if we had any visits to the temple, we knew how the women had to dress. This happened to be out on the river and unfortunately it appeared in the background," she told Reuters.

"We would never, ever do anything to intentionally offend anyone here".

The Miss Universe franchise is a partnership between real-estate mogul Donald Trump and U.S. television network NBC.

Shugart said video footage of the 81 Miss Universe hopefuls -- who have rode elephants, toured temples and frolicked on beaches since arriving last week -- would be vetted by the pageant's Thai partners before the May 31 grand finale is broadcast worldwide. It screens in the United States on May 30.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who hopes the pageant will give Thailand's tsunami-hit tourist industry a badly-needed boost, has urged Thais not to overreact.

Thailand has spent 265 million baht ($6.7 million) on hosting the event and expects to earn 3.2 billion baht ($80.4 million) in revenue from the pageant and other activities.

"I think they did not intend to insult Thai culture. They just wanted to shoot pictures of beautiful places but did not realize that the temple is sacred for Thais," he said.

Some Thais are also wondering what the fuss is all about.

"We wanted to promote our tourism industry, right? If we want tourists to come to Thailand, then let them see it," said a university student on an Internet chat site.

Friday, May 20, 2005 (pre-journal)

We celebrated the Big 2 by having dinner on the edge of the river; at SALATHIP, the Thai restaurant on the grounds of the Shangri La Hotel. We had a nice view of The Peninsula. And, slightly to our right (starting from the furthest building and working back to the camera) we could see the Royal Orchid Sheraton hotel, the CAT building, The Oriental Hotel, our own River Garden and the Shangri La.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Lest you think that THOCBDC always dines in places like last night's Salathip at the Shangri-La ... or, that we invariably take up table space in many of the other excellent Bangkok restaurants in our neighborhood ... here is a little mosaic of what graced our kitchen table just three nights ago.

Care to guess why?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

My corkscrew collecting friends have already received an e-mail version of my "Best Six" (*) for 2005. And anyone who visits THOCBDC's front door can see it hanging there quite conspicuously ... almost next to the door knob. If you are more curious about these little engines, a simple click will take you right away to one of THOCBDC's storerooms. There you can find all of my Best Sixes dating back to 1977.

Each year I also send out a snail mail edition of my Best Six. As this is a much more time consuming effort I usually try to get others to do the grunt work. This afternoon, Watcharee, Pom and Golf sat around our dining room table and did all the fold, stuff, lick and address chores for me. I thank them so much.

(*) Each member of the I.C.C.A. (International Correspondence of Corkscrew Addicts) is required to 'mail' to every other member a photograph of his or her1 best six corkscrews for the current year. Over the decades I have collected about 1,400 Best Sixes from other 'addicts'.

1 In the 28 years that I have been a member of the I.C.C.A. I think that we have only had one 'real' (as opposed to honorary or associate) member who was a woman. She had a hyphenated surname: Bloy-Jones. Most of our members have wives who have a marital interest in corkscrews ... but how deep that interest runs has never been measured. Why women on their own do not take up collecting corkscrews ... I don't know. Perhaps for the same reason that men normally don't ferret around antique markets for rare tea cozies.

Sunday, May 22, 2005 (pre-journal)

The Patpong Corkscrew Club will hold its 2005 pre-AGM at King's III (a bar) on Patpong 1 in Bangkok, THAILAND on June 15, 2005.

This pre-AGM has been scheduled for the sole purpose of distributing travel and visa information to its members in order to facilitate their travel to and participation in the 'corkscrew cruise' aboard the CORAL PRINCESS. This cruise from Vancouver, Canada to Anchorage, Alaska (USA) from August 6 to 13, 2005 will bring together for the first time under one roof all of the world's major corkscrew organizations.

All members are encouraged to attend this pre-AGM.

Sunday, May 22, 2005 (A Beautiful Day in BKK)

Some upper floors in Bangkok ... as seen from our place. Can you place them?

Click here for the wide views.

Monday, May 23, 2005 (pre-journal)

Spring cleaning; the drapes go first.

PS: Two of Don Bull's powerful teams are racing to beat THOCBDC's tiny threesome to the ultimate post victory ... to be the first 2005 Best Sixes to make it into the real wood mail boxes. Who will win?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Spring cleaning continues: here is my exciting 'nooner' at the car wash (*).

(*) For 100 baht (@ $2.50) these kids do a fabulous job. They work on each car for about 45 minutes...inside and out.

Next: Part IV

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