Bangkok in 12 pictures

I took 2,500 photos in Bangkok this spring break, so sorting them out and deciding which ones to use, has been, to say the least, time-consuming. 7 days in Bangkok were not enough, to even begin to capture it all. Next time I visit Thailand, I’m going to Chiang Mai and surrounding areas.

But the experience was amazing. Despite the simmering heat, which stripped me of my energy, I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. My only complaint was the terrible heat. California is hot, but thankfully dry as well, so the heat doesn’t feel so instense. I am now thoroughly tan from my time there.

I arrived in Bangkok at 2 in the morning, because of flight delays, but I was surprised at how blatant prostitution was in the wee hours. By the freeway, in alleyways and on major streets, there were huge throngs of prostitutes soliciting men for services. I’ve never seen so many women, obviously and openly doing this for a living. The taxi driver, as he took my family to the hotel, sighed as he muttered “night ladies.” Dishonorable, perhaps, but as long as there’s demand, people will continue supplying and fueling the industry. Las Vegas is nothing in comparison to Bangkok in this respect.

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Making a difference in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis

I remember writing a letter to the editor to the Daily Bruin, my school newspaper once last year, right after Cyclone Nargis hit. Fueled by raw emotion, my belief in the social obligation to help others in need, I started jotting down a draft of all of my thoughts, that culminated into a submission that was, to my surprise, published. It was edited by quite a few hands, with Burma becoming Myanmar, among other things:

Myanmar needs the world’s attention
As a Burmese American and a member of the global society we all live in, it is imperative that all of us take any measures possible to make the world a better place by doing what we can.

The silence of the Daily Bruin, aside from recycled wire reports, on the recent cyclone in Myanmar that may have killed as many as 100,000 people and made more than 1 million people homeless, has dismayed me. To put it in perspective, the cyclone appears to have killed 100 times as many people as Hurricane Katrina did in 2005.

The epic scale of this tragedy in this country formerly known as Burma, coupled with the military junta’s reluctance and paranoia to allow foreign aid of any kind – despite the unimaginable outpouring of assistance by the United States, the United Nations and other countries – is unimaginable.

While the survivors languish from disease outbreaks because of poor sanitation, floating corpses, destroyed homes and lack of water and nourishment, the junta has decided to focus its energy and resources on less urgent matters, namely a constitutional referendum that will legitimize its place in the highest echelons of Myanmar government.

What makes me shudder most is that despite the stories that come out of Myanmar every hour and the nearly universal Internet access to among college students, many fellow UCLA students are unaware and oblivious to what is happening to the millions on the brink of starvation, malaria, cholera, diarrhea and ultimately, death.

What Myanmar needs most is aid in the form of money, and medical, food and water supplies. Only 10 percent of the cyclone survivors have received aid in any form, and the military junta, which cannot sustain its own people in the best of times, surely cannot tackle this catastrophe on its own.

For more than four decades, America and the rest of the world have watched in complete silence as the military decimated the nation through genocide, slavery, repression and violence. But now is not the time to tackle the political issues Myanmar faces. It is our responsibility to act and do all we can to help in the humanitarian crisis that the survivors – people like you and me – face.

I guess I did help out in helping to make a difference for cyclone victims. But, I have been hesitating for quite some time on whether I should publish the following photos on this blog. I try to avoid intertwining my blogging with my personal life, although sometimes it is nearly impossible. In November of last year, the Burmese Student Association at UCLA, of which I am a part, held a charity concert and show benefiting Cyclone Nargis victims. We helped raise over $20,000 for Sitagu Sayadaw’s relief aid fund and for World Vision, one of the first NGOs to start working in the aftermath, a grand accomplishment for a club that was founded in May of that same year. The performances included a 2-hour concert featuring Ma Di and Natalise, as well as multicultural dances from Burma and the surrounding region (India, China and Thailand). A rare medley of colorful, beautiful and meaningful performances.

One of my friends took mainly backstage (and later, front stage) photos of the event. These photos are courtesy of Josie Lin.

My laptop screen projected on a huge screen in the Ballroom

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Pictures from the past

Recently, my dad began scanning family photos to preserve them digitally. I have opted not to show my family’s faces, but the color photos are especially striking, having been taken about 30 years ago in the 1970s (unfortunately most of the photos are undated). There’s a timeless quality about photos taken with manual cameras, in contrast to today’s digital cameras. I can’t explain it, but there’s a certain depth in them. I cropped out my family, which explains the differing quality in the photos. Here’s a small snippet:

Bogyoke Aung San Park

Bogyoke Aung San Park in central Rangoon.

Inya Lake Hotel

Inya Lake Hotel was among one of the few nice hotels (others included the Strand and Thamada) in Rangoon during the 70s and 80s.

Famous Inya Lake Hotel columns

The famous Inya Lake Hotel columns, which was a prime picture-taking spot back in the day.

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A taste of Thai culture

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Today, my family went to to the Wat Thai of Los Angeles, one of the largest Thai temples in the L.A. area (the other one is in the suburb of the City of Industry). Every weekend, Thai families sell different types of Thai food at a market in the parking lot. But today, I believe there was a festival, where some people circled the main wat, led by two ‘dancers’ and a Brahmin priest holding lotus flowers. I think it has something to do with the Buddhist lent, which in the Burmese calender, starts at the month of Waso and ends at Thadingyut. Since, Waso is between the months of June and July (this year, the full moon of Waso is on July 29, starting the Buddhist lent), I’m assuming that the parade march is associated to the Buddhist lent. My mother guessed it was monk robe (Waso thingan) offerings, but I’m not completely sure.

Pictures of the temple below:

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The 9th Annual Neibban Zay

Today was the annual Neibban Zay (Nirvana Market) at the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, with profits from the different stalls going to the Brahma Vihara Monastery, which has been the source of controversy among Burmese Buddhists in Southern California. My aunt, who had planned to sell hkauk hswe thoke (salad noodles) decide not to, after hearing rumors about the resident monks using money for luxuries like business-class airline tickets and extravagant spending on cars and such.

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Colonial-era Burma

Colonial-era Burma

I’ve wanted to write an entry for a while, especially on the recent re-establishment of diplomatic ties between North Korea and Burma, but I’ve felt too self-conscious to do so.

But, today, I stumbled across a website “Southeast Asian Visions”, part of Cornell University Library’s Asian collection. While browsing its vast contents, I discovered a wealth of colonial-era Burmese journals and writings. Among my favorites is The Silken East, by V.C. Scott O’Connor, a late-1800s British writer.

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