Category Archives: Generic

Moving back to Bangkok

1382026166072_wmIn a weeks’ time, I will be back in Bangkok. This time for work. The last few months has been awesome. Been reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, and most importantly, spending time with family. I do hope to have the time and ethusiasm to update this blog from time to time. Is there anyone out there still reading this?

Thai ED visa in KL

Well, I’m back in Bangkok. Once again, landing in Suvarnabhumi does not feel strange nor foreign at all. It was in fact nice to hear people speaking Thai again, as a preamble to the Thai classes that I’ll be attending again tomorrow at Chula and AUA. The one thing that was marginally different this time was that I entered Thailand with a new ED (education) visa that was issued in KL, as the previous Glasgow issued one had expired.

Thai ED visa issued in KL for free!

Thai ED visa issued in KL for free to Malaysians

Living in Ampang, I’d passed by the Royal Thai Embassy on Jalan Ampang thousands of time but had only been there been there for the first time two weeks ago to apply for the visa. You could drive there and hope for getting  off-street parking in the small line next to it, but certainly the best thing to do would be to get the LRT to Ampang Park and walk the 5-10 minutes it takes to get there.

A very pleasant, albeit unexpected, surprise I found at the embassy was that Malaysia has a bilateral agreement with Thailand which allows Malaysians to be exempt from paying visa fees, hence the RM0 entry on my visa sticker as seen above. However, the KL embassy only ever issues single entry ED visas, whereas the Glasgow consulate issues multiple entry ones. Oh well, I shouldn’t complain. After all, this time around it was for FREE! 🙂 The other countries also being exempted currently are Singapore, the Philippines , South Korea and Tunisia.

 

A Malaysian doctor in Bangkok

Bangkok is everything I had expected it to be. It’s alive, buzzing, noisy, hot, frenetic – the Big Mango. Being and feeling at home here somehow comes naturally – I know enough of the language, people don’t treat me as a foreigner, I have many Thai and non-Thai friends. The language classes at AUA allows me to meet many interesting folks from all parts of the world. The food is cheap and delicious, and KL is just a short flight away.

A weekend ago I was in Singapore to attend a friend’s wedding. It was somewhat strange just flying over the peninsular without stopping by in KL.  On the same day, there was in fact another wedding to attend to – a Thai one in Bangkok. Alas, I wasn’t able to attend the latter. Congratulations L and  K, and Selamat Pengantin Baru, as we say it. I have also been invited to a Javanese wedding in Jawa Timur next year by a course mate here at Mahidol. Really looking forward to that. I had jested with the chap, querying whether it was safe for me to travel to Indonesia 😉 Tak habis2 bergaduh!

There are several doctors from Myanmar in my course – they are a great bunch. We’re currently learning about malaria, and a recurrent theme is the high burden of the disease along the Thai-Myanmar border. There was interesting talk this morning from a a Dept of Health doctor, on elimination of malaria in Thailand.One of the topics he touched upon that piqued my interest was the situation in the deep south of Thailand.

The southernmost three provinces have been a very problematical area with regards to malaria control as the incidence is amongst the highest in the country. The Thai health ministry personnel couldn’t safely carry on their work in treatment and prevention programs with the troubles that are occurring.

I honestly don’t know what to make of the troubles in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. Undoubtedly they are Malay, but living in a Thai state. Somehow it has to work. There are so many Thai Muslims living in absolute peace and harmony in Bangkok – I haven’t felt uncomfortable being a Muslim for a single moment here in Bangkok.

Oh yeah, also learnt was also reminded that the 5th strain of malaria parasite, Plasmodium knowlesi was found in Sarawak a few decades ago, and is now making its way into the medical textbooks.

 

One month in Bangkok

It has been a wonderful month. I am now officially a Bangkok resident.

Register with the Malaysian embassy. Tick.

Register at the local sports club. Tick.

Get a local driver’s license. Tick.

Open a bank account. Tick.

Register with a doctor. Tick.

Find the nearest mosque. Tick.

I have met may wonderful new friends – Thais and foreigners alike.  Everyday brings new experience. Bangkok is buzzing and heaving with activity. And hot. It gets really hot these days – 39C today.

The whole country celebrated Songkran recently. Sanuk maak for tourists but many residents remain firmly indoors. The local papers (The Nation and Bangkok Post are the two English broadsheets) write of the high death toll on the roads in the week surrounding Songkran. Reminds me of the road traffic accidents (hello Ops Sikap!) on Malaysia roads during the Hari Raya period, though I can confidently say that alcohol plays an insignificant role during the Malaysian Ramadan compared to the hot Thai Meesaayon month.

Everywhere I go I get mistaken for a local.  I’m yet to meet a Thai who starts speaking to me in anything other than Thai. I wish I could more confidently speak back and hold a conversation. I could, but only say the basic phrases. Should anyone ask my opinion about the recent problems in the deep south and I’ll be speechless. In Thai, anyway. Ordering food and asking for directions isn’t a problem. I also speak to the taxi drivers and motorbike taxi riders in Thai. They get what I say without me having to repeat what I’d said – that’s a good start!

 

Belajar Bahasa Thai

Rentetan di hening malam…

Prosa minda di malam hari…

“Kenapa nak belajar bahasa Thai?…  Asyik-asyik kun kap kun kap memanjang… Mesti nak cari orang Thai ni. …  Kat sana cakap omputeh aje cukuplah… Lagi baik belajar Mandarin kot…”

Demikian antara komen-komen teman yang mengetahui saya ingin mempelajari bahasa jiran kita di utara. Ramai yang pelik melihat seorang yang asal warga KL, tanpa pertalian di Thailand , mahu menunjukkan minat dalam bahasa tersebut.

Thailand – negara jiran kedua yang pernah saya lawati (sebenarnya Singapura merupakan negara pertama, tetapi bagi saya ia memang terlalu banyak persamaan dengan KL, lebih-lebih lagi pada tahun 80an – ia tidak langsung terasa asing, dengan ini saya ikhlas bermaksud baik).  Keluarga saya pernah  melawat seorang bapa saudara yang ketika itu bekerja  di Kedutaan Malaysia di Bangkok. Tahunnya awal 90an. Masih segar pengamatan saya ketika itu, ramai sungguh umat manusia Bangkok berbanding kita di Kuala Lumpur.  Walaupun bahasanya langsung tiada persamaan luaran ketara dengan bahasa Malaysia, keramahan dan kemesraan orang Thai masih jelas terpancar.

Selang sedekad kemudian. Saya mengenali rakan Thai di fakulti universiti di UK. Teringat kembali akan percutian bersama keluarga di Bangkok. Sedikit demi sedikit, terutama sewaktu bosan, saya dan rakan berkongsi bahasa ibunda.  Dan setiap kali pulang ke Malaysia, saya perhatikan semakin banyak rancangan Thailand di kacamata tv. Nampaknya orang kita memang suka akan ceritera yang seiras dengannya – Indonesia, Filipina dan kini Thailand juga!

Dalam pada itu kagum saya melihat rakan-rakan di UK fasih berbahasa Perancis dan Sepanyol, sedangkan bahasa inbunda mereka adalah Inggeris. European Union menjadi kenyataan (walaupun kita getir sedikit akibat kegawatan ekonomi sesetengah negara ahli). Jalan bagi kerjasama erat ASEAN masih jauh dan berliku. Bahasa Inggeris masih menjadi bahasa pengantara bagi jiran-jiran terdekat yang berkongsi geografi, sejarah daerah dan cara hidup yang sepadan; jejiran yang sama dalam ketidakserupaannya.  Memang harus dan pragmatik bahasa Inggeris digunakan tatkala ini, namun apakah nasib bahasa-bahasa serantau kita? Bukankah kata orang lama sesungguhnya bahasa itu jiwa bangsa?

Selang  lagi sedekad kemudian. Kini timbul peluang untuk menimba ilmu di Krung Thep Mahanakorn, Kota Bidadari, “City of Angels”. Peluang yang baik untuk terus mendalami bahasa warganya.  Sambil menyelam minum air.

Tuhan menciptakan manusia berkaum-kaum untuk berkenal-kenalan. Untuk mengenali seseorang itu, tiada cara yang lebih baik dari mendalami bahasanya. Akan kita ketahui budi bicara dan isi hatinya.   Naskah  ini adalah hasil tulus saya yang tidak seberapa untuk merapatkan jurang antara dua budaya bersebelahan di Asia Tenggara.

Khun Benjawan in San Francisco

I was recently in California visiting a cousin to whom I had promised a visit over the the last ten years. Given my imminent relocation to southeast Asia, and with the free time that’s available, it was a good time to visit if there ever was one. I just had to, I was quite close to getting disowned as family!

I took the opportunity to meet up with Khun Benjawan Becker, who is the author of Paiboon Publishing’s Thai language book series. Anyone who is serious about learning Thai would know of her books, which I think have been instrumental over the last decade in making Thai language learning more accessible to the masses. I would certainly recommend it to fellow Malaysians. Probably best to get it online – it’s stocked by Amazon or you could get it directly from Paiboon Publishing’s website. For a more hands-on browsing experience in KL, I’ve come across them in KLCC’s Kinokuniya and MidValley Megamall’s MPH. I don’t get any kickbacks for promoting her books, I promise! They are really good especially for self-directed learning in your own time, but you do need to put in the effort . Start with “Thai for Beginners”.

Khun Benjawan and her husband, Nicholas, were such kind and gracious hosts around San Francisco on the day we met up last week. Terima kasih banyak-banyak, khob khun maak na khrab!

Left: Bumbling novice-amateur ; Right: Cool expert-guru

Paiboon Publishing has released books on Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese languages. Maybe one on Malay will come someday? 😉

Dikir puteri – a popular song in Thailand

It was about 3 years ago whilst in Phuket that I came across this song  blasting out from one of the pubs/clubs near Patong. Made me stop dead in my tracks it did.

“What what?! Noraniza Idris’ song being played here? Biar betul!”

Well, to be precise it was an even more upbeat version of the song (!) I spoke the local chap there, and he mentioned that the song had gone mainstream, at least in some circles. How nice I thought. The popularity of the song was once again made clear when I heard it twice in Bangkok about a year later – once playing in Chatuchak and again near the Silom night market.

This YouTube video was posted by a Thai fan.

The song was popular enough in Malaysia when it was released in 1998, but I doubt that Kak (พี่) Noraniza would’ve known that it’ll be well-received up north too, a good decade later! Fun knows no national borders. You say sanuk, we say seronok 🙂