[p2p-research] phoebe moore describes her trip to thailand ...
michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Tue Aug 11 06:21:02 CEST 2009
too bad, after reading her description of my house in chiangmai, nobody will
want to support me anymore <g>
here it comes, the thai part starts after 'bangkok'
Trip to Thailand to visit Michel Bauwens and family
6th -- 10th August 2009
I wouldn't normally put any emphasis on the airbourne voyage itself, but in
this case, my journey from Seoul to Bangkok via Beijing held so many little
mysterious surprises that I have to recount it here.
The 'limousine' bus is a service from outside the uber-swanky Hyatt hotel
near David's apartment where he has generously been hosting me. The service
is basically a glorified coach operated by Korean Air, that stops a few
times along the way but gets you to the airport for £6.50 or so. Not a bad
deal considering it's a 90 minute ride in good traffic.
I conked out completely during the ride; I think I was tired from the days
and days of running around Seoul, chasing data like it was money though
there is a lot more of the first item in that list, in my 'jet setting'
The flight to Beijing was uneventful for the most part, I was preparing to
do some more writing for my book during the long wait in Beijing that was to
come, by reading some policy papers on 'The Korean Labour Situation'
published by the Ministry of Labour and a paper on the Credit Bank System, a
system designed to promote lifelong learning through granting credits to
alternative educative activities such as Intangible Cultural Benefits (a
developed country sometimes lapses into Confucian propaganda, can't really
Getting into the Beijing airport to wait for five hours seemed to take
nearly five hours itself. I was shuffled through two slow queues for
quarantine purposes; swine flu seems to have really made a name for itself.
Clerks wearing ominous looking face masks directed us with elaborate hand
gestures past a row of ready looking medics. Apparently the technology can
actually sense whether you have a fever or not: this impressed me
inordinately though apparently it's standard for the Chinese entrance.
I made it through.
In the third round of security checks, at the desk entitled International
Transfers, the hold up was unclear with a Korean family at the desk. I began
chatting with a couple standing in front me of me; a Canadian man and his
Korean wife who were also attempting to travel to Bangkok. They were also
highly bemused at the endless bureaucracy, and when we finally were attended
to at this carefully labelled desk, we were given simply one piece of
information: the gate number for said Thailand flight.
And on to the next (fourth) set of patrols. The Korean woman I'd been
chatting to was questioned for a few moments, not about anything
particularly interesting apparently, just a staccato of what are you doing
here (waiting for my next flight, being the answer), how long have you been
away from Korea (exactly the length of time it took her to fly here), etc. A
chap on a segway zoomed up at one point just to make sure all was well.
Meanwhile, everyone in the queue is chatting away about how ridiculous the
ongoing paralysis is, and I am thinking this is actually a breeding ground
for plotting if it were something of interest to any traveller: an ironic
Finally to the next police check, the fifth to be exact, and our bags are
scanned once again. An offending bottle of mineral water is discovered in
the Canadian chap's pocket and rapidly confiscated. What a parody, and all
this, in order to be permitted to wait in a huge lifeless seeming
anti-capitalist airport for the remaining hours before our flight to
I wonder if the same procedures will apply on my trip back to Seoul? Will I
ever make it back to Seoul? Heaven forbid I come down with a mild cold: I'll
be quarantined to a hotel room chosen by the Party, presumably, and watched
for at least a week!
So after the drawn out surveillance routine and a flight lasting about five
hours, I arrive at Bangkok International and manage to get myself to
Michel's residence by way of taxi. In the same building where Michel resides
during the week wihlst he teaches at Dhurakij Pundit University, Michel
shows me to my own lovely little dormintory stye room complete with CNN and
air conditioning, a much appreciated relief, as the air has a tropical
feeling and is very hot.
After a much needed sleep, I happily meet Michel who takes me on his little
moped through the lively streets to the University. We eat breakfast in a
cafe on campus, eggs and ham and rice with plenty of coffee and juice. Then
after Michel clocks in to work, we head to the classroom where he teaches
Economy, Politics, and the Society, which is a required module that he has
rejuvenated since he renamed the final part of the module's title 'Network
The students have been asked to prepare a presentation, and the brave ones
spring to life. It is a multimedia event and very free form, the students
obviously feel comfortable and like each other and their teacher. The
presentations do not stop at powerpoint, as there are student-made videos,
photos, networking sites, and microphones used for the speakers. One student
used the word 'post-industrial' at one point and the meaning of this word
was then discussed. Later I thought, we could have just said, today's
seminar is a perfect example of a post-industrial event, perhaps, we are
learners in the knowledge based economy, our innovation is our survival, and
competition is outdated.
After the seminar, Michel gives me a guided tour of the campus. The
buildings are well organised and beautifully decorated with fountains and
statues and pagodas dotting the way. The cafeteria is an array of colourful
treats and a small army of turtles greets us at the pond, hoping we've
brought them some of these lunchroom's treats. We are invited to a tour of
the Cultural Centre but have no time as are planning to take moped taxis to
meet and have lunch with Michel's colleagues, three gentleman from the
languages and marketing subject areas. The other lecturers are talkative and
interesting guys from the UK (Ipswich, and Newcastle) and Austria/Australia,
quite literally, and I feel instantly welcomed.
We head to Mos Burger for a few meaty treats, and then to Dunkin Donuts for
real coffee, and we chat about cultural specificities contributing to the
ideas behind revolution in the South American context and the East Asian
context, comparing notes on the Mexican zapatistas versus Korean labour
struggle, and agreeing that revolution does not *require* mindless bloody
violence, though historically it usually has been. We talked about feudalism
and the way Michel sees evidence of this with the relationship between
nationalities in Thailand and also the issues to do with the stateless
numbers, and the master/slave relationship that begs disbelief but
continues for a number of reasons. Meanwhilewe are savouring sweet doughy
pastries in the form of arguably culturally colonial doughnuts.
After lunch with work mates, we have to organise my flights to and from
Chiang Mai, and after a wild goose chase to locate the purple fronted bank
we get ourselves sorted and are shortly afterwards flying north to visit
Michel's family. Kritchaya, and the children Kate and Chris, meet their
Daddy with glee at the airport. It is a happy reunion and they welcome me
too. We go first to a lovely fish restaurant and snack on several curries
and rices and soups and I slurp on a delicious pineapple shake, a
delicacy which proves to be one of my favourite treats during the time I am
in Thailand. My time in Thailand is in fact not long enough, as I'm only
staying until Monday early a.m., 12.55 am I fly out, to be exact.
Michel's house is a large affair with incredible hard dark brown wooden
floors that shine like the moon, and a breeze wafts through the huge windows
and spirals up into the high ceilings. This could be a guest house as there
is more than one kitchen and lounge areas, and the structures at the
entrance to the family’s home may be a school someday. Krichaya's mother
lives in the house, and her sisters live on equally sized plots of adjacent
land. I am given a large bed in one of the three spare rooms, and I sleep
like a child that first night.
I am to spend two cosy days with Michel's family, and the first day they
take me to a temple and an orphanage—all in one place, a charismatic monk
has almost single-handedly set up a community for orphans who are cared for
by monks and supported purely by private donations. We enter a room with
more gods than I thought possible, a large room decorated with every type of
icon imaginable: Theravada Buddhism allows many gods and does not favour in
the same way Western religions do, leading to a carefully colourful and open
haven for the spiritual. I am not particularly spiritual, but I kneel with
Michel and his family anyway, before the monk who is postured nicely in the
lotus position beneath a gold Buddha statue that looks very much like
himself. The gentleman cools himself with a gilded fan and sometimes seems
to be hiding his face: it is a kind face, a face that you immediately trust.
People in the queue before us offer various gifts to the monk, and they are
collected by orphans quickly as they are the ones who will immediately
benefit from the food and toys that are given. When it's our turn, Krichaya,
or Mrs Michel Bauwens, kneels before the monk and says a few things in Thai.
At some point he addresses me and apparently has said: you are a calm
person, an adaptable person, and you will be very lucky, as you can do
anything you want. I took that as a compliment. Then the monk asked whether
I have any students who might like to stay at the orphanage for a summer at
a time, teaching and playing with the children, influencing them positively
and so on. I did not give a final answer but he gave me his phone number. I
don't know whether I will ever telephone his orphanage, I hope I do because
the work he is doing is incredible, and it was a good way to spend an
We fit in time for some internet-ting, and in the same area of the city, I
go for a Thai massage. This is the first time I have had this pleasure, and
a pleasure it is. Thai 'yoga massage' is a method wherein the practitioner
practically walks all over you. She started with my left leg and located the
line of nerves along the bone, so you can say it was nerve racking but also
very relaxing. Particularly as I have had problems with my right leg
recently this was a wonderful treat. It cost 180 baht which is the
equivalent of about £3. I begin to understand how so many travellers come
here, and stay here. It is a very relaxed, happy, and affordable place.
Then we head to meet Krichaya's family at a restaurant complete with karaoke
machine, by the Ping River. We met a Dutch banker there who wanted to sing
'I did it my way', as well as to talk about his general aspirations in his
work and life in Thailand. The merriment of singing and drinking would have
apparently lasted until the early hours, except that Michel spoke sense as
he wanted time with his kids before we flew back the following day. We sang
several karaoke songs (yes, Michel sang too) and had wonderful food. Finally
we headed back to the family's home.
*Chiang Mai Day 2*
Time was escaping too quickly, and the next day, we had to choose ways to
spend time carefully. First we went for a very nice Western breakfast at
Bake and Best, which is a bamboo shaded patio restaurant, and we feasted on
pancakes, eggs, muesli, yoghurt, coffee, toast: more American food than I
have ever seen in one place in the UK! After this locationally confused but
sumptuous meal, I set off to spend the day with Michel and his family, and
we visited another temple. This time we visited the temple of the white
elephant which happens to be on top of a very high mountain: one
motorcyclist had stopped alongside the road with obvious motion sickness as
the road is very windy and steep. Apparently the Buddha had been riding a
white elephant up the mountain, and at some point the elephant grew too
tired to walk, and chose a particular place to rest. The spot was thus
blessed, and the temple was built in the spot where the elephant had rested.
We wandered around the beautiful temple and looked at the countless statues
of Buddhas and other gods. Worshippers carry sticks with lotus flowers on
the end of them, lit incense, rang bells, and generally the feeling of
spirituality and harmony prevail. The children buy wind up butterflies and
munch on papaya, it's a great day.
Later, after Michel has been ferried to the barbers and I have apparently
impressed Krichaya's mother by becoming the Cat Whisperer, i.e. through
becoming friends with the most stand-offish cat of the litter (there are
three cats and three dogs, last count). This short haired white kitty with
sparkling blue eyes nuzzels up to me for hours and of course sits down
directly on the Herald Tribune I have been reading. A cat is a cat, in
Chiang Mai, Manchester, Seoul, you name it, and the cat will choose to sit
on exactly what you are reading. End of story.
After the return of newly shaven Michel and his wonderful wife, we head to
the restaurant where apparently they traditionally eat on the way to the
airport upon Daddy's exit. Daddy (Michel) travels a lot for work, and so
they value the time they can spend together. At this particular restaurant
we gorged on yet more amazing fish, chunks of which are lightly battered and
tempura fried, with an array of mountain herbs and vegetables, Asian basil,
flavoured with tamarind and other exotic accents. I have a fresh lemon drink
and delight in the amazing papaya salad, as well as a spicy chicken soup
with more coconut and lemongrass and all the marvellous flavours that addict
I don't want to leave, but the time has come, and after many good-byes to
Michel's wife and kids, we board the flight. Michel has promised to take me
to the river of Bangkok so I can see some of the city, though it is a
gigantic city and we aren't sure how to exploit and maximise our limited
remaining time. We opt for a 'peki peki' ride (this is what we called this
type of boat in Peru, not sure what it's called in Thailand) down the river,
and see many of the buildings that make Bangkok the fine specimen of a
southeast Asian city that it is.
Thailand reminds me of Peru in so many ways. I can't really describe how but
it just feels similar—a lot of poverty is evident but people just seem to
get on with their lives and deal with it, or am i just a foreigner who will
never know the inside story? Thai language sounds like singing to me, and
the dialect of Chiang Mai is more guttural and seems to be even higher in
tones than the southern. I kept getting confused with the money as I haven’t
used baht before, I felt quite young in some ways, like a regression to
another age wherein I had to rely on others, and rely on others I did.
Michel and his family were wonderful to me, adopting me like I was one of
them. This was a weekend of fresh new experiences as well as warmth and
compassion that I was shown, I would go back in a heartbeat!
Work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhurakij_Pundit_University - Research:
http://www.dpu.ac.th/dpuic/info/Research.html - Think thank:
P2P Foundation: http://p2pfoundation.net - http://blog.p2pfoundation.net
Connect: http://p2pfoundation.ning.com; Discuss:
Updates: http://del.icio.us/mbauwens; http://friendfeed.com/mbauwens;
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