ToiletLand

South of Chumphon in Thailand is a rather special park called Toilet Land, or “Suan Nai Dum”. Dr. Borvon Aroonkong has collected and built numerous toilets which are on display and available for use.

The Golden Toilet
The Golden Toilet
Toiletland Cafe
Toiletland Cafe

The Cafe has fully fleshed out the concept with the decor. The ‘Menu Kee’ (“menu of crap” in Thai) includes ‘Cookie’ (a pun on the word ‘kee’ for crap) and Kopi Luwak (the famous expensive coffee made from beans that have passed through the digestive system of civit cats and been defecated).

Handmade!
Handmade!

There are other cafes on site that don’t follow the fecal theme in case some visitors find it too offputting to enjoy their own digestive processes. I spent the weekend scouting trips for work, so I hope the boss gives me time off in loo.

"Pig's ass toilet"
“Pig’s ass toilet”

There are some nice outsoor “Health Areas” where the seating is shaped as logs (literal and figurative). This seems appropriate for a b(log) post.

(B)Log post
(B)Log post

The bins and water fountains are shaped as lavatories and the signs at each exhibit are made of toilet seats.

Group seating area
Group seating area

There is a Sky Toilet inspired by Avatar and an Underworld Toilet inside a volcano.

Underworld Toilet
Underworld Toilet

The park really embraces the inclusive philosophy of ‘Toilet for all’.

'Toilet for all'
‘Toilet for all’
'Toilet for all'
‘Toilet for all’

The park also includes a pineapple-sorting factory and a large OTOP shop. Here are the Tarzan and Jane toilets:

Tarzan and Jane
Tarzan and Jane
Do Not Climb Down
Do Not Climb Down

Anyone traveling in the Chumphon area should ‘head’ for a visit to Suan Nai Dum, Toilet Land.

Suan Nai Dum
Suan Nai Dum

Klashorst-Moore Event: Artist-Author interview

At the Check Inn 99, in the new Soi 11 venue, the artist Peter Klashorst and author Christopher Moore were present to take questions about their video interaction “The Impatient Artist”.

A catalogue of the artist's work is shown
A catalogue of the artist’s work is shown

In the film, Christopher puts questions to Peter while the artist works on a portrait of the author.

Klashorst signs a copy of the catalogue
Klashorst signs a copy of the catalogue

“How do you get into the flow of painting?”

“You have to become like an animal, a painting animal.”

Peter Klashorst and Chris Gatto-Smith
Peter Klashorst and Chris Catto-Smith

“I’m waiting to die. I’m on a path to death. But death is too abstract an idea for me to deal with. Maybe it’s because I’m not a conceptual artist that the idea of death doesn’t exist for me!”

Peter Klashorst and Lawrence Osborne
Peter Klashorst and Lawrence Osborne

“I don’t care if fifty-thousand people are looking at my pictures online or if one person is looking – I would still be painting.”

Peter Klashorst and John Fengler
John Fengler and Peter Klashorst

“Your whole life is one big sausage, and each painting you make is one slice of that sausage.”

Klashorst signing catalogues
Klashorst signing catalogues

At the end of the presentation Christopher and Peter discussed how well the evening had gone.

The end of the evening
The end of the evening

 

The “Drug Elimination Museum” in Yangon

One of the interesting sites that should be visited during a trip to Yangon is the Drug Elimination Museum.The Drug Elimination Museum

The solution: Mass Mobilization
The solution: Mass Mobilization

There are three floors of exhibits with an additional floor on top for officials that is closed to the public.

Touring upwards through each level is rather like following the process of drug therapy itself. The ground floor shows the transport routes and the war against drugs. The middle floor illustrates the consequences of drug addiction. The top floor shows vocational therapy through a variety of occupations and positive lifestyles.

Display of effects of drug abuse
Display of effects of drug abuse
Display of effects of drug abuse
Display of effects of drug abuse
Drug Treatment Activities display
Drug Treatment Activities display

A model of the rehabilitation centre (in northern Myanmar) is surrounded by pictures and paintings of vocational work activities.

Vocational Alternatives
Vocational Alternatives

A bee-keeping display shows a positive choice of career as an alternative to taking drugs.

Vocational Alternatives
Vocational Alternatives

A display case of animal vaccines shows how working as an animal health specialist could be a positive alternative to taking drugs.

Methamphetamine display
Methamphetamine display
Model of Traditional Values
Model of Traditional Values

Unfortunately some parts of the museum are poorly maintained and have fallen into disrepair. Some of the displays have been affected by water damage.

Poorly maintained facilities
Poorly maintained facilities
Model of substance destruction
Model of substance destruction

In this display the visitor is invited to press a button to activate the model that simulates the crushing of drugs by a bulldozer. When I pressed the button, nothing happened.

Participate in simulation of destroying drugs
Participate in simulation of destroying drugs
Warning about ingredients of drugs
Warning about ingredients of drugs
Light aircraft
Light aircraft
Lifesize model of a drug lab
Lifesize model of a drug lab
Remembering the battles
Remembering the battles

The Drug Elimination Museum is definitely worth a visit.

The Drug Elimination Museum
The Drug Elimination Museum

 

 

 

 

 

Urbex in Yangon

One of the main issues when considering urban exploration in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon is that virtually all the buildings in the city look abandoned due to the poor upkeep and their advanced state of decay. Anywhere else, the crumbling colonial buildings would house only ghosts. But here even the genuinely abandoned buildings are not empty as they are occupied by communities of squatters. Despite the country’s capital officially moving to Naypydaw, some of the main government buildings remain here and are as decrepit on the outside as any haunted house.

Colonial Buildings in Yangon
Colonial Buildings in Yangon

It’s rainy season and most pedestrians choose to walk on the roads with the cars. This is because the sidewalks are dangerously slick with algae that flourish on the wet surfaces. The footpaths are as slippery as ice and with all the obstacles and holes it isn’t worth the effort to try skittering across the green slime. It’s just better to take a chance and walk with the traffic.

Algae floats on the surface of the waters at Pool Land
Algae floats on the surface of the waters at Pool Land

At the southern end of the Zoological Gardens is an Amusement Park that was never opened and since completion has been left to rot amongst the encroaching vines. To get to it there’s no need to pay to enter the Zoo, but if you do then the walk will give you a good sense of the perimeter of the site and give a view of many of the rides without having to go inside. The fences between the Zoo and the Amusement Park have rusting barbed wire or are in such public view that entering here would be impractical and ill-advised. Instead, find the small car park beside the Zoo exit near the cages for the birds of prey and hop over the gate.

The rusty Rocket
The rusty Rocket

Barking by some of the resident dogs announces your entry to their territory when first crossing the fenceline. Otherwise they present no threat. Vine-shrouded tracks of the rollercoaster loop around amongst the trees. Pick your way between the pools of rainwater to see the carousels, the Dodgems pitch, the Rocket, the Astro Swinger, the Twister, the Balloon Cycle and the Arcade Hall packed with activities and rides. The rain begins to fall heavily and the packs of dogs take shelter in the Baby Garden. The sky darkens and the calls of animals in the Zoo next door come shrieking through the trees.

The Astro Swinger
The Astro Swinger

As with other ostensibly abandoned places in the city, the site is occupied to some extent. The restaurants along the road have back doors that open directly into the Amusement Park. The families running them store old carpets on the carousel and dry their laundry on the back porch that overlooks the rides. The park is effectively their backyard.

A small community living at the edge of the park
A small community living at the edge of the park
A carousel being used to keep carpets dry from the rain
A carousel being used to keep carpets dry from the rain

As for other opportunities in the city, there are some accounts online about tours given by the caretaker at the old Pegu Club. It had its heyday in the 1920’s and its main legacy is the Pegu cocktail still available in hotel bars. On the day I tried to visit, the security guard said it wasn’t possible to enter. Hinting at the chance of a tip didn’t budge his resolve. Being in the diplomatic zone, it’s likely that security concerns have resulted in a clamping down on random travelers accessing a building that looks across onto embassy grounds.

Dodgems Pitch
Dodgems Pitch

Urbex in Yangon means respecting the tenants of the territory you are entering whether you encounter them or not. Just because a place is abandoned does not mean that no-one has made it their home.

The Baby Garden
The Baby Garden

Book launch for Bangkok Beat by Kevin Cummings

Kevin Cummings’ launch of Bangkok Beat took place at the Check Inn 99 on the 26th July 2015. Great fun and entertainment with many of Bangkok’s creatives dropping in to participate.

Here’s a video of the event for those not in attendance:
– Kevin hands out awards to some characters featured in the book.
– Music of the Heart band perform, and Kevin Wood joins them for a second song.
– Readings from the Bangkok Beat by James Newman, John Marengo and John Gartland.

Forget Henry and Gop for a bit. What I think of Bangkok Beat – A Book Review by Kevin Cummings

Bangkok Beat book review – a thorough run-down of what’s inside:

Thailand Footprint: Impressions left by the books, people, places and music of Thailand and South East Asia

gop-bbframe (1)Final

For the first time ever I read Bangkok Beat as the paperback book it now is. I read it from cover to cover in two sittings. That surprised me. I thought it would be the type of book you can skip around in – it is, but I didn’t and it reads well, cover to cover. I could be biased.

BANGKOK BEAT ebook cover 8june2015 border2500 (1)

Here is a list of what I liked about Bangkok Beat:

1. The cover. I cannot say it too many times. It’s brilliant. The idea was mine but the talent is all Cotterill. A shout out to whoever did the cover art for Bangkok Days by Lawrence Osborne. I sent it along to Colin with the instruction: “I want it to be like this, only different, with the Checkinn99 sign in the center. Chris Catto-Smith and his wife Mook can be seen in the tunnel entrance. I like that too.

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The Ice-baggers of Songkran!

For a number of years, icy cold water in some water-play locations has made Songkran a shockingly chilly experience. Large buckets of water are cooled down by steeping large ice-bags in them. This year the risk of ice-bagging has spread quickly through the water-soaked sois. This is how it starts:P1010030Water soaks into the bag around the ice-blocks inside. When an unsuspecting victim approaches, the bag is quickly hoisted up onto their shoulders and they are held in place while the ice chills them to the bone. They have been ice-bagged!P1010026 By the time you realise an ice-bagger is nearby, it may already be too late.

P1010124 P1010125Next time you’re out celebrating the Songkran Festival, keep your wits about you – the ice-baggers could be sneaking up behind you at any moment…..

Ice-bagging

The Concrete Henge makes way for the Red Line

The abandoned concrete pillars known as BERTS (Bangkok Elevated Rail Transport System) are due to be demolished to make way for the Red Line electric train. The bases of these concrete henges have become the canvases for graffitti artists and taggers. It seemed important to document some of these and so I walked from the Miracle Grand along the construction route to get some pictures.

IMG_2292IMG_2127 IMG_2131   IMG_2282 IMG_2216IMG_2414IMG_2200  IMG_2270IMG_2300 IMG_2151  IMG_2250 IMG_2374IMG_2183     IMG_2448IMG_2440IMG_2392IMG_2399 IMG_2472IMG_2171 IMG_2323IMG_2244

Sunda Kelapa, Old Port of Jakarta

The cities of Indonesia are archipelagos as much as is the entire country. The points of interest are like islands spread far apart and separated by tracts of urban sprawl. Each of the numerous times I visited Jakarta I ended up exploring different places that were not linked in any meaningful way to what I had seen during previous visits. I’ve always appreciated the city, but my experiences there are like multiple personalities that aren’t quite aware of each other.

Plank walkway
Plank walkway
Adjusting the walkway
Adjusting the walkway
Loading cargo
Loading cargo

The people are tough and hard-working, but friendly and with real things to say.

Taking a break from work
Taking a break from work
Caulking the hull
Caulking the hull
The docks
The docks
Crew at work
Crew at work
Stowaways are everywhere
Stowaways are everywhere

Music Of The Heart Perform at the Bangkok Expat Entrepreneur Awards Ceremony!

The bright lights of the Bangkok business community were drawn to the MOTH (Music Of The Heart) performance. Check Inn 99, which is owned by Chris Catto-Smith, won the Entertainment category in the 2014 Expat Entrepreneur Awards in Thailand.

Chris Catto-Smith, owner of Check Inn 99, accepts the award for winner of the Entertainment category.
Chris Catto-Smith, owner of Check Inn 99, accepts the award for winner of the Entertainment category.

Well done to Chris, Mook, Music of the Heart and the whole staff team at Check Inn 99!

Music of the Heart band perform at Check Inn 99 nightly, well worth a visit. Check out the website too for the schedule of musical and theatrical events.
http://www.Checkinn99bkk.com

Event and Travel Photography

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