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Friday, December 12, 2008

"I like seal meat better"

It's curious to see American corporate imperialism show up in the guise of "hamburger taste tests" in remote areas of the world, and even more curious to see it come to Chiang Mai. Somehow they managed to find a Hmong village within 15 minutes of a Burger King and a MacDonald's here. That the Hmong villagers who participated had never had a hamburger is not surprising at all, even tho Chiang Mai has had both franchises for at least ten years and in multiple locations. Nothing about a hamburger except maybe the tomato and lettuce would be familiar to them: bread is not part of their diet; ground meat patties (if you can even call it 'meat') are unknown; and the requisite sauces are boring compared to locally available condiments. The cost alone would not allow them to indulge in such dietary adventurism. And it's just as well. They eat far more healthily and sustainably than most Americans, as do probably most of the other remote groups sought out by the taste testers. Lets hope that this publicity exercise remains just that and does not influence these people to alter their diets. Maybe it will even make those conducting the tests reconsider their eating habits after trying the home cooking of their subjects...maybe.

(I would normally include a link to the site showing the video for these so-called taste tests, but it's getting enough press lately and I just don't feel like contributing to it- check out Huffington Post among other sites. Other regions visited include Romania and Greenland- where seal is the meat of choice.)

Friday, December 05, 2008

That Was The Week That Was

With the airports getting back to functionality after more than a week of chaos and economic ruination, everyone was avidly awaiting the King's annual birthday speech, only to have their hopes dashed-- the Crown Prince and Princess Sirindhorn announced that he was ill with a sore throat and would not be able to speak. This is most unfortunate, as his wisdom and guidance are very much needed at this time. We wish the King a speedy recovery and many more birthdays to come. Long Live the King!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Face Saved All Around

At last! The outrageous occupation of the airports in Bangkok appears to have ended and in true Thai style, an army of cleaners will swoop in and business will quickly get back to normal. Except that this high season there will be fewer visitors, with many having canceled their trips, or at least the part that included Thailand. And that will trickle down to many businesses and people living close to the edge. The high fuel costs during the summer already had dealt a blow to tourism, and the global economic downturn was also having its effects. The tourists coming this high season had booked before all that, but next year will definitely feel the economic effects of this year. And now next year's tourist season will also reflect the recent insanity with even fewer potential visitors willing to risk having their vacation ruined by political unrest. Face-saving is as superficial as face makeup. There still should be some accountability for the holding hostage of a country and hundreds of thousands of guests in, or planning to visit, that country. Normally I do not advocate the litigious route, but in this case with so many billions of baht having been lost by this calculated act of terrorism, it seems only just. Sadly, it will not compensate those on the lower reaches of the 'trickle down', but it might make the perpetraitors think twice before trying this again.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

May We Live In Interesting Times

The cliche continues. The airport is still occupied by the PAD, who have run off the police, and have admitted to planning to use women and children as human shields if need be. I'm finding the best information is coming from various blogs, rather than the mainstream press: Bangkok Pundit is compiling articles from various sources and adding intelligent commentary.

One of his sources is a very interesting blog by a British expat who decided to see what the PAD occupation of Government House was all about back in September. It gives some insight into who the protesters are and why they are participating in this exercise. He likens it to "visiting a temple fair through the back door... the only thing...missing were the fairground rides". And his photos show Thais happily posing in all manner of yellow garb and a site that looks like an urban campsite. Evidently, for many Thais it is seen as "historic" and safely rebellious (the 'safe' part may have required reconsideration after the occasional lobbing of bombs at the site). But, as he was leaving the site, a comparison with the "Wild Wild West" was more appropriate as he witnessed PAD guards beating someone with iron rods.

This situation is clearly a study in contradictions, beginning with the name of the group. Their true agenda appears to be hidden in a barrage of patriotic cheerleading and emotional rhetoric. The silence from the leader to whom they pay lip service will hopefully end this week, and maybe the insanity will also end. Stay tuned.