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Past and future of visa to Thailand: Thailand's losing edge

Gilles Alter Ego
 Story posted by Gilles Alter Ego on December 12, 2015 at 02:47:38 :: Practical

With its restrictive and poor-designed visa policies, Thailand is losing edge to other countries in the region.
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Nimmanism, or why Nimmanhaemin is not the best place to live in Chiang Mai

Gilles Alter Ego
 Story posted by Gilles Alter Ego on August 13, 2015 at 07:16:13 :: Practical

Nimmanhaemin street area is one of Chiang Mai's most popular hang out places. However, is it really such a good place to live or hang out? Much of Nimman's magic spell is really about fashion, trendy shops, atmosphere and a hype. Nimmanism is the new belief in town.
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Why Thai vegans don’t eat garlic and onions - how vegetarian are you?

 Story posted by KAMVADEE CHALIAEW on June 06, 2015 at 12:39:56 :: Practical

I’ve been going to the same vegetarian for years now (it’s actually a vegan with the sign เจ ‘jeh’ on the outside) and one day I realized that they don’t serve onions and garlic.
When I asked the owner, she said they indeed don’t serve onions and garlic, nor do they use parshley, certain peppers and certain other vegetables with a strong smell such as chives, shallots and leek.
When asked why, she didn’t really know, but she said they are smelly vegetables, therefore not to be liked.
Should a vegetarian eat these vegetables?
Should a true vegetarian eat garlic and onions?
Now I’m not a vegetarian, nor a veganist, I’m just a modestly ‘conscious eater’ if I may use that word. So I’m a bit puzzled to what’s wrong with garlic, onions and all those other vegetables that I totally love for their smell and that are very healthy, to my knowledge.
In other words, what's not vegetarian enough about fragrant vegetables??
Amongst the explanations I could find (mostly from Thai sources) are:
1. these vegetables all have a strong fragrance, that can even reach the pores on your skin from the inside, therefore they are harmful to the body;
2. harvesting these vegetables will kill the plant, which conflicts with Indian Jainist (or Chinese Buddhist) beliefs about karma and non-violence, even to plants;
3. eating these vegetables may stimulate the body and mind to feel aroused, to be bad-tempered more easily or may enhance your craving for meat.
The practice of vegetarian / vegan food in Thailand appears to have originated mainly from China, both from Mahayana Buddist monks, from other Chinese traditions and perhaps from Indian Jainist vegetarism. Whatever its roots are, current day practice in most places is simply a mix of everything, similar to Thai beliefs, language and other practices.

The 9-day vegetarian festival that is held every year during the month of October all over Thailand is about worshipping 9 Chinese Gods and is particularly interesting to experience in Phuket, where there are all kinds of ceremonies and festivities.
Some (Buddist) people believe that all Buddists should be vegetarian, but this is not widely acknowledged in Thailand, where it is said that even the Buddha himself discarded the desirability of being a vegetarian. The reason for this was, that monks were supposed to go around in the community to collect food that people offer to them, and it was considered inappropriate for the monks to refuse a gift of food containing meat. Also, monks sometimes had to travel from one city to another and survive on whatever food they could get.
Sign of Thai vegan restaurant
Sign of vegan food in Thai, commonly used as the term 'vegetarian' though
Vegetarian food in Thailand is literally translates to ‘mangsawirat’ มังสวิรัติ, which means ‘skipping meat’, but the term you hear more often when referring to vegetarian food is simply ‘kin jeh’ กินเจ which is actually vegan Thai style, a stricter form of Thai vegetarism.
 The sign that most vegetarian places use to advertise their place is jeh เจ, probably also because the signs are sponsored by a main manufacturer of vegetarian ingredients, but not all of them are strictly 'jeh'.
The first explanation for Thai vegans not to eat the fragrant vegetables mentioned above I find rather unplausible. Strong smell bad for your body? Just a belief because most Thai vegans don’t know the reasons for their behaviour anymore.

The second explanation of non-violence or non-killing of plants makes some sense and this has probably of some influence in the development of Thai veganism, although nowadays many vegan places I know don’t stricly follow it, offering potato and peanuts in their food.
Obviously, if you’re unwilling to kill the plant to get the produce, then you should refrain from a whole range of vegetables such as morning glory, potato, peanuts, soy etc. etc. because it will be very hard to spare the plant or keep it alive after taking the stems or roots.
The third explanation that fragrant vegetables have some arousing effect on the body-mind is probably true too. Somehow during the evolution of Chinese or Thai veganism it was felt that eating very fragrant vegetables could have undesirable effects on the body-mind, feeling more aroused or agitated or craving, disturbing an ideal of equanimity, and therefore it was abandoned.
Current day practice of vegetarism and veganism in Thailand is probably the result of a mix of beliefs and traditions, and nowadays most vegetarian or vegan places don’t know the reasons anymore for omitting this or that out of the food. The practice of Thai veganism is most likely the result of explanation 2 and 3: avoiding to kill or harm plants and avoiding arousing effect on the body-mind.
Western definitions of veganism often understand it as a stricter form of vegetarism, abstaining from animal products such as milk and eggs. There is still a debate about whether or not vegans should eat honey, because it’s a product from bees for which they have to work very hard. (Bees have to fly about 177 km in order to produce 1 gram of honey, so next time you take spoon of 6 gram of honey in your tea, remember that it costed the bee about 1000 km of flying!)
Thai style veganism can be even stricter than that, adding some more forbidden items to the 'black list': the very fragrant veggies.


If anyone has more information on the topic, share it here as a comment to this page.


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Accepting Imperfect Money

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 Story posted by Admin Locator on December 20, 2013 at 11:53:50 :: Practical

Thailand isn't the worst country in the world for accepting money that isn't perfect (or the source of which can't be justified ;) ) . Pecunia non olet (money doesn't stink) so good chance you'll get away with it.

What to do if you receive or have money that is physically damaged? No need to worry, as long as the damage isn't too big. Just go to any bank and hand in the bank note(s).
If more than 3/5 of the note is still there, most likely you get full value back rightaway.
If less than 3/5 of the note is there, you may have to fill out some forms. In most cases, you'll get back a decent value.

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Visa Woes and the Never-Ending Queue's at Immigration

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 Story posted by Admin Locator on September 27, 2013 at 07:36:11 :: Practical

Most foreigners, whether short-stay or long-stay, sooner or later come across the same problem: your visa needs to be extended, renewed, you have to report presence or something alike, and the only way to go - if you don’t want to leave the country - is the dreadful way to the Immigration Office.

A few years ago, the Chiang Mai Immigration Office was just a “normal” government office like any other and you could just walk in, get your papers done and be out in an hour.

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The Best Fitness Centers in Chiang Mai

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 Story posted by Admin Locator on July 18, 2013 at 06:31:12 :: Practical

While most hotels and new condominium buildings have some fitness room of a kind, for a proper fitness center with a good selection of equipment, group classes in yoga or other courses, and a good work out atmosphere, check out our favourites:


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Bargaining, .. and the Right Amount of Tip

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 Story posted by Admin Locator on July 10, 2013 at 13:19:13 :: Practical

Recently, I saw some Chinese buying stuff at the pharmacy. The total bill was 1,090 baht and they wanted to wipe off 90 baht and round it to a thousand baht note. Obviously, not done. Where should you bargain and what is the right amount of tip at different places?

Of course, bargain at the Night Bazar because all items there are overpriced by a factor 2 or 3 anyway and the quality is doubtful. Better buy at the Saturday market or Sunday market and negotiate a little.

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The Different Forms of Politeness

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 Story posted by Admin Locator on July 10, 2013 at 11:17:03 :: Practical

Some say Thai are very polite, but is that true? And .. are the ones who say that polite? Politeness is a relative concept.

Here are some different forms, in which it comes (or lacks), seen from a Thai or foreigner's perspective.

- The “Thai smile” is world-famous, but there’s not just one kind of smile. Some count 25 different kinds (!). And all of them have different meanings.

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'Yes, I will ... (wed thee)'

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 Story posted by Admin Locator on July 05, 2013 at 07:49:29 :: Practical

Thai-farang weddings are not unusual at all in Thailand, so chances are you’ll be in one yourself, either as a guest or as one of the main players. How does a traditional Thai wedding go?

Normally, monks are involved to perform a ceremony to bless the happy couple. The date and time of the ceremony are determined by the monks to make it auspicious. Typically, the ceremony is at the future house of the couple or at the parents’ house back in the original village. 

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The Meaning of Numbers

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 Story posted by Admin Locator on June 24, 2013 at 07:48:46 :: Practical

If you have travelled in Asia before, you’ll know that numbers have a special meaning in certain countries. Especially in China and Chinese-influenced countries, special attention is given to the right number. Mobile phone numbers in China, if in the right combination, can go for a fortune. In Thailand, most of the meaning of numbers has derived from the Chinese, though people in Thailand are generally much less serious about it than the Chinese are.

What are special numbers?


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Chiang Mai's just ... electrifying!

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 Story posted by Admin Locator on June 13, 2013 at 07:54:53 :: Practical

Thailand has some great craftsmen, especially in carpentry and cooking, but dealing with water and electricity somehow doesn’t belong to the Thai skillset. In most buildings, there are some problems with water and electricity: plugs are sparking, water is leaking, there is smell from the drains etc. Internet may get slower during rain and often entire districts are cut off from electricity during rainy storms.

The Thai way to deal with them is to ‘repair’ something for the short term and don’t worry about the long term. 

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Stories of the Road: CSI Chiang Mai

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 Story posted by Admin Locator on June 09, 2013 at 09:22:30 :: Practical

Drive around Chiang Mai and you’ll come across marks on the road made by the police after an accident to mark the series of events leading to the accident. CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) Chiang Mai style, or let's say ASI (Accident Scene Investigation). Gruesome they may be, Thailand has some of the highest road traffic accidents rates in the world. Be careful to drive, you don't want to be in an accident due to someone else driving recklessly.

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Gabriel Grapevine
 Story posted by Gabriel Grapevine on March 15, 2012 at 08:16:01 :: Practical

Teaching English is currently a popular method of either travelling or living and working in South East Asia, however it is not as easy a ticket into these amazing countries as it may seem. At a glance, particularly for native speakers, such a career may look like easy money, after all, if you speak English, and have been speaking it all your life, shouldn't you be an expert in the subject? I myself fell into this same category of thinkers; however my time in a TEFL course quickly forced me to reassess this assumption.

The TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification course is generally a month long intensive instruction in the teaching of the English language, and covers not only the grammar and idiosyncrasies of the language itself, but also past and current language teaching theory and methods and classroom management skills. This, in addition to the fact that it's a near prerequisite for employment as an English teacher in Thailand—many employers will weigh a TEFL certificate higher than a Bachelor's degree—makes the TEFL course a necessity for most who aim to teach ESL as a career. In a city like Chiang Mai, where a thriving influx of foreign travelers and aspiring expats determines its niche markets, the result of this has been a variety of institutions offering TEFL certification to choose from. Having attended and recently completed the course at the Language Institute of Chiang Mai University (CMU: Northern Thailand's largest university), I find myself best equipped to describe my experience of the course as provided by them, however it is worth mentioning that equal degrees of professionalism are evidenced by the instructors of Chiang Mai's other TEFL courses, most notable among which are the SEE TEFL and UniTEFL programs.

Entering the month long program under the assumption that it would entail a recap of English grammar and a general rundown on teaching etiquette and classroom management, I very soon found the full weight of the word ‘intensive’ come bearing down on me. The initial workload was so much more condensed than I would ever have guessed, and even the forewarning I had received had not prepared me for what would be expected. Aside from the voluminous assimilation of theory, part of the initial struggle was to not only commit what was learned to memory, but to utilize and enact it in actual English lessons, which began in the first week at sessions of 40 minutes, and which by the third week had increased to full hour long classes. Having underestimated the density of the course, I was surprised to find myself often awake and planning out my upcoming lessons into the early hours of the morning. However the diligence pays off, and there is no greater reward at this stage than leading a successful and energetic class. The trainers at the CMU TEFL program provided excellent instruction and breakdown of theory, as well as sharp but valuable critiques of and suggested for improvements for our trial lessons. This mixed approach of theory and practice is a very appropriate one, as in the real world the two necessarily come hand-in-hand and cannot be arbitrarily divorced from each other in the abstracted environment of the classroom. Thus being able to put what was learned into effect aided not only to retain it but also to gauge our own personal improvements and progression through the course.

By midway through the second week of the course, the learning curve begins to flatten out. No longer frantically scribbling notes on our peers’ performance, successes and failures during their practice lessons—as well as what successful elements to steal—or battling palpitations in the fifteen minute lead in to our lessons, we instead found ourselves working on our own upcoming lessons and much more comfortable and confident in front of our Thai students. This transformation was evidence of our empowerment via the instruction of the course, and that the theory learned armed us to succeed in our planning and teaching.

The second half of the course focused mostly on the use of listening, reading, or writing tasks in the classroom, and how to adopt these equally important features of language—the final being speaking—into the currently predominant model of communicative language studies—which emphasizes talking time in the studied language among students, and aims to limit the teacher's own speaking role to a facilitator of learning, rather than a lecturer—and ended with preparation for seeking employment, including CV writing, tips on etiquette and presentation for employees in Thailand, and lists of schools in the city. Although there was no additional employment assistance—as is offered at some of the rival TEFL courses—the information given was nonetheless thorough and detailed, and left me feeling sufficiently prepared to seek out work in Chiang Mai.

On the whole, the CMU TEFL program is one which deserves hearty recommendation, for the clarity and diligence of its instructors, the reliability and quality of its resources and facilities—free access to multiple computers, printers, photocopiers, drinking fountains and a coffee shop as well as an air conditioned staff dining room/kitchen—and of course for its location on the beautiful CMU campus, around which there are myriad food stalls for low budget meals. Chiang Mai University is an institution which holds its merits in high esteem, and which takes great pride in its status as one of the North's top schools. The staff at the Language Institute and the CMU TEFL course demonstrate the same degree of professionalism and personal commitment to education, and do the university proud.

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