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Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap

The
author, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Thai American and raised in Bangkok, was 26
when he wrote this great collection of short stories.

Short
stories are not my first choice of reads but when I do force myself and I find
a master short story writer then I can rave about it and wonder why I do not
read this genre more often. It really takes a craftsman to create believable
characters and tell a multi-layered story in just a few pages. Lapcharoensap is
among the best of these craftsmen. The knowledge of human feelings, all genders
and ages, that this young man has shown is just amazing. He delves into the
complexities of relationships with a wisdom one does not expect from such a
young person.

Just
a confession: I did not read the last story / novella. I can deal with human
suffering but not animal suffering so I skipped that and the decision was made
purely on account of the title.

Four Reigns by Kukrit Pramoj and translated by Tulachandra

During my 4 week visit to Thailand I had to urgently return to Taiwan for some administrative work regarding my work permit for 2019. I headed into the first travel agent I saw and there, on the wall behind the travel agent’s desk, were these two photos. They represent two of the four reigns in the book. The one on the left is where the book starts and the one on the right where it ends.

Easter in Ethiopia

How blessed, I still feel today, that I had that experience at a place and a time that would imprint a lasting memory.

At last, a traditional Thai massage.

Any visitor to Thailand would agree that there are about as many places offering massages as there are places to eat. And like places to eat you find the good, the bad, the wannabe’s, and the I-just-want-your-money-and-for-you-to-vacate-this-space-asap. My first visit to the Sunday market nearly had me running to the airport and as I had some hours to wait for my pick-up back to the hotel I decided to have a foot massage at a place on the sidewalk. The woman was staring out the window watching passersby and all her co-workers moving about the whole time she was working on my feet; she spent 4 minutes on one foot and 26 minutes rubbing my calves. I could do a better job and I don’t claim to be trained in the skill.

Today I stepped on an elephant’s foot!!

Tuesday 1 January 2019 will always be a memorable day. After a few days of unseasonal rain in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on a lovely sunny day, with a group of 21 other foreign visitors, I headed to an elephant sanctuary. It’s only a 40 minute drive from the city centre to this lush and green, even though its winter, Thai farm with hundreds of birds disturbing the silence. When I first saw the elephants my immediate thought was how small they were. I am used to seeing the African elephants which are much bigger than the Asian ones. They do seem a lot less frightening though. 

Cycling around a Thai village

Look at the wrist watch and the tablet. Tradition keeping up with the times. The local gym, open on 3 sides to save on a/c, open 24 hours a day everyday of the year. This is a very creative bench on the side of the road. A resting place to wait for the taxi or

A Week of Books and Butterflies

Confucius said: To see what is right and not to do it, is want of courage, or of principle.

The past week has been filled with beautiful things.

In Taiwan, this time of year, the days are magic. It is still hot but without the humidity. So I have a lot more energy and cannot say no when I’m invited on a trip to a rural area I have never been to before. After a 10km scooter ride we took the local bus from Koahsuing into the mountains and to the village of Maolin. All year round there are places to see the butterflies: spring and summer in the Meinong area to see the lemon-yellow butterflies. In winter Maolin area when the purple butterflies gather here. So many people travel to this area in the winter months to see the purple butterflies that the local government schedules extra busses on this route for a few weeks.

October, my personal art festival

Confucius said Imagination is better than knowledge.

If you think the people living in Taiwan and craving some cultural activities are stuck with drumming and dragon dancing, think again.

October was a month in which I fed my craving for all things beautiful and I had loads to choose from. In this month I saw some world class performances all within 36 km of my home. My personal art and music festival started with The Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra from New York. Conductor Milen Nachev led this orchestra in performing a variety of pieces which included Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Sarasate as well as music by Asian composers like Yu Deng, Jing Xian, Yunyi Tan. It was interesting and refreshing to hear the classics with new sounds brought by the Asian instrument, the erhu.

Chimei Museum

Mr Wen-Long Shi is the founder of the Chimei Museum. As a child he was a keen visitor to museums and as an adult and successful businessman he has established the largest private museum in Taiwan.