Archive | June, 2012

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Going deep into the waterways of life

Posted on 30 June 2012 by admin

Visitors to Bangkok 100 years ago described a city of tree-lined canals and floating markets, of languid ferry drivers taking people around town. In a modern age of choking traffic, concrete high-rises and hectic urban life, such images of the past are still layered with nostalgia.

While the capital is no longer the “Venice of the East” it once was _ as canals were drained to prevent disease outbreaks, or filled in to expand roads and developments, or became polluted into trickles of black, putrid sludge _ the former reliance on canals can still be seen throughout the city. For every sewage-contaminated creek, there is a vibrant lifeline for entire communities. Canal-side paths run for many kilometres and provide access to mosques, churches and temples, to old crooked mansions and new apartment buildings, to wooden shophouses, restaurants and bars, to large shopping centres and small, quirky museums. And the journey itself can be as enjoyable as the destination.

Brunch followed khlongs, lakes and the Chao Phraya around the capital to discover destinations for excursions and in order to get closer to the heart of the city’s ageless relationship with water.


An 18km river bus route connects Rattanakosin with Ratchaprasong, Asok, Thong Lor, Ramkhamhaeng and Bang Kapi. For most of the 40,000 to 60,000 daily passengers it’s a way to beat the traffic along an industrial stretch of the city. The boats rock as they pass each other, drops of black spray arc over the plastic protective barrier and stain light clothing. The smell can be noxious, but the sights and communities passed can provide a day trip unlike any other.

There are 30 piers along the 18km route, with 10- to 15-minute increments in service that runs daily from 5.30am to 8.30pm, with fares ranging from 10 to 20 baht depending on distance. The western line terminates at the Golden Mount and the eastern line at Wat Si Bunrueang, near the National Institute of Development Administration. The lines meet at Pratunam pier, next to Big C Ratchaprasong, with tickets valid on both lines. Office women in heels navigate the rocking sides of the boat, students jump on and off, businessmen block the spray with their briefcases. Rush hours are very hectic, and first-timers should wear shoes with traction and dark clothing. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating way to shop and sightsee. Here are some highlights, from west to east:

From Phan Fa Pier, climb the 300+ steps of Wat Sa Ket (Golden Mount) for views of Rattanakosin. Also nearby are the Mahakan Fort _ one of two remaining fortresses that defended the old city _ and Mahatthai U-thit Bridge with its Italian reliefs, as well as access to Khao San Road, the Chao Phraya River or the sights of Rattanakosin.

At Bo Bae Pier visit the wholesale clothing market, where stalls line the canal path and shophouses and alleyways meander off in various directions.

From Ban Krua Nua Pier visit the six teak houses and tropical gardens of the Jim Thompson House, former home to the mysterious silk trader. In the area are many old wooden houses that once housed silk weavers, or access to National Stadium or Mahboonkrong Shopping Centre.

The Siam shopping centres, BTS lines and Siam Square are accessible from Saphan Hua Chang Pier; Platinum Fashion Mall, Pratunam Market or CentralWorld from Pratunam Central Pier; and Central Chidlom or Lang Suan Road from Chidlom Pier.

From Nana Nua Pier experience the Middle Eastern and African enclaves of Sukhumvit Soi 3, or the sleaze of Soi 4′s Nana Entertainment Plaza. From Asok Pier, connect to the MRT line or visit the Siam Society or Terminal 21.

Thong Lor Pier provides access to the up-market soi, and isn’t far from the RCA clubbing zone. Saphan Khlong Tan Pier provides access to Ekamai and Ramkhamhaeng.

The Mall Ramkhamhaeng and The Mall Bang Kapi have their own piers as well, with access to the surrounding temples, mosques and communities along the canal-side paths.


The six kilometre long Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem is the moat marking the border of Koh Rattanakosin, the waterway that turns the old city into an island. It stretches in an arc from River City on Charoen Krung Road, past Bo Bae Market, to Thewet past Rama VIII bridge. It provides a nice stroll around Hua Lampong train station or Bang Lamphu, and despite the canal’s odour and rubbish has a pleasant atmosphere, with trees, bougainvillea and tuk-tuk drivers sleeping in the shade. Canal-side shophouses still teem with trade and people, even if there is little life on the water.


The former capital, and an independent province until it merged with Bangkok in 1972, Thon Buri on the western banks of the Chao Phraya has a man-made and natural network of khlongs with old wooden townhouses, dilapidated shacks and the waterway charm of a former age.

Some of the canals are only a few metres across and a few metres deep. To navigate very far through the network you need a flat-bottom or long-tail boat (hang yao), which can be hired from tourist piers such as River City, Taksin, Chang or Maha Rat. Prices vary widely, and can depend on your command of Thai, but 500 baht per hour seems fairly standard. More formal tours can also be booked through travel agents, which will pick you up at home or hotel and provide guides. Prices may be less if you ask at piers on the Thon Buri side.

Some highlights:

Khlong Bangkok Noi is the most accessible, and loud Chinese and Korean tour groups bellow up and down in large boats. Factories, temples and navy complexes line the canal, and the highlight is probably at the entrance of the khlong _ the Royal Barges National Museum (10 baht, plus 100 baht for camera use), where the most ornate of the 50 barges used in royal ceremonies and the Royal Barge Procession are stored and maintained. The boats need up to 50 oarsmen for the ceremonies, and are carved from large pieces of teak, endowed with mythical creatures gilded and decorated with shimmering pieces of glass.

Khlong Mon has weathered teak homes, modern houses and a few temples with robed monks and verdant patches of morning glory, lotus or water hyacinth. People can be seen doing the washing, sleeping or fishing _ what much of Bangkok must have looked like in another time.


The Chao Phraya River Express Boat route covers 21km from rural Nonthaburi past hectic Sathon, from 6am until 7 or 8pm. Five colour-coded lines run up and down the river, carrying over 40,000 passengers a day, though not all lines stop at every station or run throughout the day. The boats usually charge 10-15 baht, rising to 32 for long distances at rush hour. There is also a tourist boat operating every half hour, with English commentary, for a flat rate of 40 baht. For route maps, schedules and an explanation of the various lines, visit

Some highlights, from north to south:

Pak Kret (N33) gives you access to Koh Kret, an island in a bend of the river inhabited for centuries by Mon artisans. This is a popular day-trip destination where you can see ceramic and wood handicrafts being made, walk around the villages, museums and temples or eat a Mon lunch. This stop is on the green line, which only operates during rush hours.

Nonthaburi (N30) is the start of most of the express boat lines and has a feel of the provinces, with bicycle taxis, quaint buildings, markets and a clock tower.

Kiak Kai (N21) has an interesting temple and, if you prefer coffee culture over river life, is the closest point to Soi Ari.

Thewet (N15) provides access to a good wet market, the expansive National Library and the nearby Dusit district, with its zoo, Vimanmek Mansion and Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, among others. You can also watch the catfish feeding frenzy or make merit, and there are old restaurants overlooking the river.

Another stop with open-air restaurants is picturesque King Rama VIII Bridge (N14). Also in the vicinity is the Bank of Thailand Museum or the music bars and restaurants of Samsen Road.

Phra Athit (N13) provides access to boutique restaurants and cafes, the Bang Lamphu markets, Phra Sumen Fort park with its jugglers and fire eaters, the National Art Gallery and the 24-hour freak show of Khao San Road.

From Phra Pin Klao Bridge (N12) you can access the Royal Barges Museum, and it’s the closest point to Pin Klao and the Southern Bus Terminal.

Wang Lang (N10) has a good women’s clothing market, Siriraj Hospital’s fascinatingly morbid Forensic Medicine Museum, Wat Rakhang Khositaram and Patravadi Theatre, the renowned riverside playhouse.

Maha Rat Pier is a tourist-only pier, providing access to Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Mahathat, Sanam Luang, the National Museum and the National Theatre. These can also be accessed from Tha Chang (N9), along with a good food market at the pier, the amulet and oddities market of Maharaj Road and surrounding old-town shophouses.

BUS STOP: Youngsters wait for a boat on the banks of the Chao Phraya in Nonthaburi.

Tha Tien (N8) gives you access to the splendours of Wat Pho and, via a river ferry, to Wat Arun. Some good restaurants and bars on the river overlook Wat Arun.

Rachini (N7) has the famous 24-hour flower and fruit market of Talad Pak Khlong, cafes and bars overlooking the river, the Museum of Siam’s interactive history exhibits and, across the river, the Santa Cruz Church.

Saphan Phut (N6) has a vibrant night market, King Rama I Monument, narrow alleys and Pahurat Road, the Indian enclave with its inexpensive restaurants and fabric shops.

Ratchawong (N5) gives you access to historic Chinatown, with its lively restaurants, markets and temples such as Wat Mangkon Kamalawat.

Si Phaya (N3) is close to the River City shopping complex, Charoen Krung Road and the Bangkok Folk Museum.

Sathon (Central Pier) is the access point to Silom and Sathon roads, and a major transfer hub _ transfer here to the BTS or high-end hotel river shuttles or shuttles to the Asiatique and River City shopping complexes.

Wat Worachanyawas (S2) and Wat Rat Singkhon (S3) have two interesting temples and surrounding communities, while Rat Burana (S4) marks the end of the line. It is a pity that it doesn’t extend further since it might be convenient for lower Charoen Krung, Rama III, Klong Toey and Sukhumvit Road to also be accessible by express boat.

DON’T SLIP: A footpowered ferry for crossing Khlong Saen Saep and a Khlong Saen Saep express boat, right.


Beyond the major arteries are any number of smaller khlongs and ponds, picturesque and atmospheric in the evenings and fun to explore by day. Several good guidebooks and websites offer more advice and ideas for waterway excursions. These should get you started:

Bangkok’s Waterways: An Explorer’s Handbook, by Warren and Lloyd. A detailed history of canals and rivers, and tips on how to explore them. One of several tourist-oriented web pages that give useful tips on exploring the waterways.

Mysterious Bangkok, by Dr Robert Frei. One of many Bangkok guidebooks, this one suggests day trips of the canals and river, written in an inimitable style.

WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT: There are many options for travelling on the Chao Phraya, from ferries to express boats and luxury cruisers.

A LIFE APART: Koh Kret, an island in the Chao Phraya inhabited by Mon; a Mon artisan on Koh Kret, above.

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About the author

columnist Writer: Ezra Kyrill Erker
Position: Writer

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US-China collusion and the way forward for Japan

Posted on 30 June 2012 by admin

It is often said that the US and China are rivals – even potential combatants – in areas near Okinawa and the South China Sea. Some Japanese military strategists go as far as asserting thatt Japan must enlist US military power to pursue a containment policy toward an expanding China.

And yet Japan’s stock market reacts to small changes in the outlook for China’s economic growth every day. China is Japan’s largest export market and offers the best hope of growth for many of Japan’s leading companies. This leaves Japan in an awkward position, because it has to balance its deep mutual economic dependency with China with the need to deter possible military confrontation. How can Japan take stances and pursue policies whose outcomes are so clearly at cross-purposes?

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Olympics: Japan rhythmic gymnasts put game face on

Posted on 30 June 2012 by admin

“After I put on the makeup, it’s like a switch has been turned on for competing,” Airi Hatakeyama, 17, said at an event opened to media to showcase the team’s makeup art and new uniforms.

“It makes me feel like I’m in performance mode and puts me up to the challenge,” she told Reuters as a makeup artist applied bright red lipstick and eye liner to highlight her features.

Rhythmic gymnastics, a combination of traditional gymnastics and dance in which performers use ribbons, hoops and other apparatus, is well known for the gymnasts’ flamboyant costumes and dramatic makeup, similar to in ballet.

The Japanese team aims for its makeup to be visible as far as 15 meters away (about 50 feet), the distance at which the judges sit, and accentuates the corner of the eyes with a “fairy line” to give the impression of fluttering fairy wings.

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Young lead Japan’s race to rebuild

Posted on 30 June 2012 by admin

The statistics say Yoshiaki Suda should be browbeaten and downcast. Instead, the Onagawa Mayor is almost Mediterranean in his ebullience.

Onagawa was devastated when the tsunami swept in to this port town of just over 10,000 people last year. One in every 10 citizens was killed and more than 70 per cent of the town’s buildings were destroyed.

But thanks to the spirit of youth, the town is making strides in its recovery. Some of the town’s expatriate sons and daughters are returning to join the rebuilding, led by this 39-year-old mayor.

In a country ruled mostly by septuagenarians in suits, Suda, a heavy-metal fan who strums his base guitar at nights while mulling over his reconstruction plans, stands out as almost outrageously young.

The mayor pays due deference to his elders on the council and the community in our interview, but acknowledges there’s an amicable generational shift in power under way in Onagawa. “My generation will be the main players in 20 years time so I thought: ‘Why don’t we step up and take responsibility now?’,” he says.

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Leap second to be added to clocks Sun.

Posted on 30 June 2012 by admin

However, the standard radio wave transmission station that transmits standard time throughout the country is located on Mt. Otakadoya in Fukushima Prefecture, and the area bore the brunt of the Great East Japan Earthquake last year.

Until March this year, the area around the station was in the no-entry zone put in place at the outset of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The mountain, which is only಑ kilometers from the plant, straddles the city of Tamura and the village of Kawauchi, both in Fukushima Prefecture.

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‘Rocket launcher’ found in Kitakyushu storehouse

Posted on 30 June 2012 by admin

About 180 people were evacuated after police found a cache of weapons, including what appeared to be a rocket launcher, during a search of a storehouse in Kitakyushu on Thursday.

A bomb disposal squad removed the weapons at about 10:40 p.m., allowing the residents of 93 households in Tobata Ward to return home.

According to the Fukuoka prefectural police, the two-story wooden storehouse was being searched in connection with an insurance fraud case. At about 2 p.m., they found the apparent rocket launcher, five handguns and more than 50 rounds of live ammunition.

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Shinkansen to get 3 new sections

Posted on 30 June 2012 by admin

The government approved construction of three new sections of track on Friday as part of a plan to extend Shinkansen services.
Transport minister Yuichiro Hata approved the construction after he and his deputies concluded that all prerequisites for the projects have been fulfilled.

This is the first approval of new Shinkansen tracks in four years, and the first such approval since the Democratic Party of Japan took power in 2009.

Construction costs are expected to be about 3.04 trillion yen.

Hata said at a news conference that he is certain the public will approve of the decision even while legislation to raise the consumption tax is under discussion. This is because the projects will move ahead in “an efficient and effective manner,” he said.

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Thai police arrest 2 Pakistanis in alleged fake passport bust

Posted on 30 June 2012 by admin

Two Pakistani men have been arrested in Phang Nga on suspicion of forging passports and selling them, with the likely help of corrupt district officials.

One suspect was identified as Shahid Javed Dar, 40, but the other’s identity was not available. Dar used the alias Saheed Maleh, while the second suspect, who is 32, has been posing as Abdul Rahman Sekpathan. Both of these false identities were taken from deceased persons. The suspects have been charged initially with making and using false documents.

Department of Special Investigation agents said the suspects had used the identities of deceased Muslim men. They operated with two groups of Thai nationals who solicited and contacted customers, in addition to receiving assistance from corrupt officials.

A senior agent, Charnchai Likhitkhanthasorn, said the pair sold around 1,000 fake passports, at Ⱥ,000 baht (US$2,800) apiece. Bribes of between 80,0Ǡ baht and 300,000 baht were paid to officials in exchange for deathregistration details selected to match as closely as possible each client’s profile.

Apart from the names of deceased people, the suspects also used names of people with inactive registrations, and disabled people who are not required to have identity cards, Charnchai said.

“The latest technique is that they acquire the ID numbers of locals living in the deep South who have dual nationalities, or those without the need to have ID cards,” Charnchai said.

The two suspects previously operated in western border provinces, but later moved to provinces in the Central and Northeast regions, where their activities attracted less attention from police.

Meanwhile, Provincial Police Region 1 crime suppression operations resulted in the arrests of 1,652 suspects from June 2327, while Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) police arrested nine Indonesians using a room on Sukhumvit Road to take online football bets.

Provincial Police Region 1 acting chief Winai Thongsong yesterday praised the police’s success in making the arrests. Taken into custody were 245 gun suspects along with 224 guns – 124 of which were illegal – and 1,480 pieces of ammunition; 976 drug suspects along withಬ,868 yaba tablets, 252 grams of crystal meth, 29.5kg of marijuana and 16.8kg of kratom leaves; 40 suspects already wanted for other offences; and 391 gambling suspects.

Winai instructed police to emphasise gun and drug cases in Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Lop Buri.

TCSD police arrested the nine Indonesians in a room at the President Park Condominium in Bangkok’s Klong Toei district. They had been renting the room for a year and using it to take bets, according to police, who seized four computers, 11 cellphones, three Indonesian bankaccount books, 31 moneytransferring devices and a book containing lists of customers’ names. The gang allegedly confessed to running an online gambling site with 800 customers a day and daily cash flow of 1 million baht.

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Chinese president praises HK achievements

Posted on 30 June 2012 by admin

The Chinese government will continue to throw its full weight behind the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in united efforts to roll forward the practice of “One Country, Two Systems”, President Hu Jintao said on Friday.

The president arrived in Hong Kong at noon for a three-day visit to attend celebrations marking the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s 15th anniversary and witness the inaugural ceremony of the special administrative region’s fourth government.

“Hong Kong has made remarkable achievements since the reunification,” Hu said in a short speech at the airport. “‘One Country, Two Systems’ has been well-established.”

The president told the welcoming party that the visit will give him a chance to grasp Hong Kong’s achievements and gather community views.

Hu was accompanied by a top-level central government delegation, which includes State Councilor Liu Yandong and several ministers.

Among those who greeted the president at the airport were outgoing Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and his successor Leung Chun-ying, who will be sworn in on Sunday.

Later in the afternoon, Hu met with Tsang at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Wan Chai, where the president and his entourage stayed.

Hu said that he appreciates the “fruitful efforts” Tsang and his team have made during the past seven years in fending off the onslaught of international financial crises, developing the economy and improving people’s standard of living.

Tsang summed up his performance over his seven-year tenure as chief executive, saying he had delivered 169 of the 173 promises he made during his election campaign.

He said that he and his team have primarily accomplished the mission entrusted to them by Hu and the central government.

The road ahead for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be long and arduous due to complex external factors but the people of Hong Kong have confidence in their future thanks to the support of the central government, Tsang added.

Also in the afternoon, the president inspected a military parade of the People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison at the Shek Kong barracks.

The president concluded his first-day visit by joining Tsang for a family dinner at Government House. About 80 people were present at the dinner, including incumbent and incoming major officials of the Hong Kong government.

Hu’s itinerary on Saturday will include a tour of major infrastructure projects, such as the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. Also on the cards are meetings with executive and legislative council members and community leaders.

He will be the guest of honor at an official dinner to be hosted by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on Saturday evening ahead of a variety of performances at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The president’s visit will culminate on Sunday when he will preside over the inauguration of the fourth Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government following a flag-raising ceremony at Golden Bauhinia Square in the morning.

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Lenovo founder moves to steady China-Taiwan ties

Posted on 30 June 2012 by admin

The founder of Lenovo said yesterday that cross-strait cooperation is possible for his firm, but he declined to comment on his China-based computer company’s controversial employment of a former top executive from its major Taiwan-based rival Acer.

Liu Chuanzhi, chairman of Legend Holdings that controls Lenovo, said there will be opportunities for cooperation with Taiwan-based firms but his group may not run major operations on the island because of the size of the market.

It is most likely that both sides would joint forces for the markets in China and other parts of the world, Liu told a forum in Taipei.

Taiwan and China businesses can complement one another in many ways, but both sides must understand and trust each other, he said.

He added that Lenovo has had many cooperation and acquisition projects in China, and all of them have been conducted after the sides understood each other.

But Lenovo’s most famous acquisition did not take place in China. In 2004, the company, under Liu’s leadership, surprised the high-tech industry by acquiring IBM’s personal computer (PC) business.

Since then, Lenovo has gone on to become the world’s number two PC vendor. Recent restructuring has seen Liu take up the leadership of Legend Holdings.

One of its major rivals is the Taiwan-based Acer, whose former Chief Executive Officer Gianfranco Lanci last year joined Lenovo as an adviser.

After his speech at the forum, the press asked Liu for comment on Lanci’s employment.

But Liu said that he was not involved in the decision made by the Lenovo chairman and its board of directors. He declined to make further comments on Lanci.

The departure of Lanci, who was credited with Acer’s success in the European market, was a surprise. And soon after his defection to Lenovo, Acer filed a lawsuit against him, accusing him of violating his contract.

The strained relationships between Acer on the one side and Lenovo and Lanci on the other raised more eyebrows last month when the Taiwan firm disclosed that it paid its ex-CEO a record sum of about US$40 million in compensation for his departure.

Meanwhile, Acer, one of the best known brands of Taiwan, is inviting students all over the world to contribute ideas of environmental innovations for the high-tech industry in a contest offering total prize money of NT$10 million.

Any students can enter the “Incredible Green Contest” individually or in groups, suggesting ways for the industry’s development, said Acer founder Stan Shih.

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