Highway rest stops in Thailand

Coming from Japan to Thailand 15 years ago, the state of the roads here was lamentable, and many of the streets/rural highways in the Issan region and around our city weren’t even paved – or had big enough holes to break wheels and axles, a common sight back then.

I used to go on university trips every term and we would often take the uni bus or minivans on long road trips, ostensibly for work, but more just to get out and travel. This was always a nice perk for government university work, because we could often take the whole family, as well. It also made me very aware of the lack of highway rest stops in Thailand.

Actually, the default highway rest stop in Thailand is fulfilled by large gas station facilities, most notably those run by the PTT group. PTT stations come in all sizes, from a few pumps and a convenience store to larger mini mall-type complexes. However, on the toll roads around Bangkok and central Thailand, there are a few privately run rest stops, most notably the huge one between Bangkok and Chonburi located here: ศูนย์บริการทางหลวง กรุงเทพ-ชลบุรี มอเตอร์เวย์ ขาออก. That ones been around as long as I can remember, and it’s huge (long, actually) and chaotic. It’s also got the most foreign food shops of any highway rest stop in Thailand, with a lot of western fast food joints like BK, McD’s, KFC (maybe even 2 branches IIRC), Indian food, pho, dim sum, sushi, etc. As a side note, it’s also very easy to miss the turnoff if you are speeding along the toll road there.

On our recent trip to Hua Hin, we happened along another private rest stop in Samut Sakhon called Porto Go. It was not as big as the rest stop mentioned above, but it was newer and cleaner (there’s also one in Ayutthaya, apparently). These new rest stops with clean facilities make road trips a lot more convenient than they used to be!

Tong Peng

At the beginning of our trip to Hua Hin last week, we boarded a plane for the first time since the pandemic started, and flew into Don Mueang. Nam’s older sister picked us up and we went to see a van we would pick up on the back end of our trip and have lunch. She took us to Tong Peng, a family-oriented Chinese restaurant in the Chok Chai area of Bangkok, south of Lad Prao.

As a sidenote, it feels good to blog about travels again – it’s been too long.

I’m always a sucker for roast ducks and meats on display.

So, no screwing around – the roast duck on rice was good but not great. The sauce/gravy was too sweet and… fruity.

Shu mai, yes! Delicious!

Pork + quail eggs + shiitake = Yes, I ate both.

Included to document the Saran-wrapped chopsticks that were legit a pain to unwrap.

The crispy pork was a visual disaster with the same fruity sauce. It tasted, again, disappointingly good, and not great.

“Tong Peng”

Included for future ordering purposes – we will be here again, but for something else, maybe a family dinner.

Google Maps link: Tong Peng ภัตตาคารตงเพ้ง

Loi Angkarn – Scattering of Ashes at Sea

We just got back from a weeklong trip to the Hua Hin area. We thoroughly enjoyed being at the beach for the first time in a few years, and always love HH, but were there mainly to spread Nam’s grandmother’s ashes and a great uncle’s ashes on the water. This is known in Thai as loi angkarn (ลอยอังคาร ณ ปราณบุรี).

In a weird twist of fate, it was arranged to do this at the very harbor in Pranburi/Pak Nam Pran where we set off on a honeymoon cruise with family and friends who came from overseas to our wedding in Thailand 15 years ago.

I wish to cover this more thoroughly and post pics in upcoming posts, but for now I’ll leave the video that just finished processing (our Osmo Pocket finally got some use since the start of the pandemic).

Linkdump AF 2022

Across the Multiverse: A four chapter story with an epic revelation at the end.

I did not get that far, but I got a lot of chill.


Technicolor Tokyo: Screenshots from CyberPunk or real photos?


Phra Rahu: This week I learned of Rahu worship in Thailand, which is extremely interesting and apparently widespread, and although I’ve seen images and statues of Rahu before, I never really knew his story – it’s interesting!

The Story of Phra Rahu
There are many variations of the story of Rahu, which stem mainly from Hindu, Buddhist, Tamil legend. The most common legend is the Hindu one which describes Rahu as an Asura (demon deity) who was transformed into Rahu after drinking an elixir which would assure his immortality. The legend goes on to say that Rahu stole the elixir from the Hindu Deities, but he was seen by Chandra (the moon god) and Surya (the sun god). Chandra and Surya informed Mohini (the female avatar of Vishnu) who promptly chopped off the Asura’s head.
A small amount of elixir had already been sipped by the Asura before Mohini could chop off his head, so his head and upper body had already attained a state of immortality and became Rahu.
Rahu takes his revenge upon Chandra and Surya by swallowing the moon and the sun every time he sees them, thus causing an eclipse.

https://www.pattayaunlimited.com/thailand-deities-phra-rahu/

Toyota 2000GT in Thailand

Tucked somewhere in between a bunch of other cars in an underground parking lot in Bangkok, a true legend is waiting for Sumitomo/Dunlop brake seals that are probably impossible to find… Reading this forum post from 15 years ago reminded me why I had to change out my entire brake system for the Crown. There simply were no replacement parts to be had. My calipers were also marked Sumitomo, and I sent all of the parts to someone who needed them online.

It would be a real dream to see the king of Toyotas cruising down the tollway in BKK. Just like this:

(Photo borrowed from 70-80’s Thai Retro FB Page)

Yam Pla Muk and Larb Moo

Just feel like posting some old food photos that have been sitting patiently in a folde called “blog” on my desktop for a couple years.

This is Yam Pla Muk, or Thai Squid Salad. I don’t remember exactly where we ordered this one. “Yam” is a type of Thai salad that’s spicy, sour, and kick-ass: Thai salads… These are among my favorite foods here, and we eat them all regularly.

This one is larb, which is also one of the Thai Salads mentioned in the link above. Specifically, it’s larb moo, or pork larb. Larb is also known as a meat salad (which is obviously the best type of salad). This plate of larb is from a restaurant specializing in it and other meat dishes in Sangkha, Surin. We visited there last year when Mina’s great grandmother passed. It was the first time we’d been to this restaurant, even though we’d been going to Sangkha quite often to be with relatives for new years. I’m not sure if we’ll visit there again any time soon, although some of Nam’s aunt’s are moving into her grandmother’s house.

Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University

You should see their t-shirt!

Otherwise known as MCU, this is the oldest higher education institute for Buddhist monks in Thailand and the main campus is located on the temple grounds of Wat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit, one of the ten “royal temples of the highest class” in the country.

The length of the name is interesting and is compounded by the choice to leave no spaces between individual words of which the name is comprised. I had to break it down in the following way to make any sort of sense of it, otherwise it just looks like a keyboard accident:

Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya = Maha / Chulalongkorn / Raja / Vidyalaya

Maha = great

Chulalongkorn = the name of the 5th king of Siam (reign: 1868-1910)

Raja = royal

Vidyalaya = an older-style anglicization for “college”

So a rough translation might be “Chulalongkorn Royal College.” I think that sounds really cool, although “MCU” is easier to remember!

MCU has the coolest official seal:

Some bonus links:

Atlas Obscura article on MCU: Buddhist university that allows English-language speakers the opportunity to study with monks in Thailand

Dhammathai page on Wat Mahathat (temple)

Thailand’s Happy Pizza

There is currently an explosion of CBD cafes and edible hemp products/companies all over Thailand. This is kind of the second wave of not-really-pot popularization. The first wave was semi-legal CBD oils and tinctures (although the most sought after ones were straight up black market products that claimed to cure cancer). Now we are to the point where the most popular pizza chain in Thailand, The Pizza Company (revenue over 7 billion baht in 2020 – half of the Thai pizza market), are using it in their ads… Mainstream popularization is a good thing.

My Dream Meal

A friend sent this to me. I don’t know who made it, took the photo, or ate it, but I want it.

I don’t know if I’d be more excited selling this or eating it – it’s damn near the perfect triple order of Thai Basil Stir Fry with Crispy Pork topped with Star Eggs. I spent a whole month perfecting this dish during lockdown, making the crispy pork from scratch with a different recipe each time. It was epic, and this is truly one of my top 10 favorite Thai dishes (of which basil stir fries occupy two or three spaces).

Online learning

Saw this in my feed and it made me smile because my daughter had to sit next to me and take a swimming class online last term. The current term ends this month, and the kids in Thailand may be going back to school from next term, but who knows? A lot of it depends on if they actually get vaccinated or not (there’s still not enough of any kind to go around and the only one proven safe for kids is still Pfizer – which is in very short supply), but it’s been a while now.

Online Teaching at Thai University

The biggest COVID wave so far spread through Maha Sarakham from a couple months ago, so my university postponed the new term until this week. I’m teaching four Public Speaking classes per week online. This is what a typical class looks like, with about 2/3 the students:

I removed all info except for one student who worked too hard on their name for it to go unappreciated. Please note the green article of clothing is not a vest, which I will have to ask about in a future session..

I tell them they only have to turn on the camera when they speak because some of them are on weak connections or are connecting through mobile data plans, and it might save them money as well as improving performance. Thailand has good connectivity, though, and a lot of businesses share free wifi, so I use the first week to pinpoint who has internet problems and suggest they find a better hotspot or solution.

There are a lot of problems teaching online at a Thai university. The biggest problem is net connectivity and speed. The second biggest problem is that the university staff and teachers are horrible at teaching and doing their jobs. Doing it online just compounds the issues.

One of my current side hustles is teaching teachers how to teach online and helping them get set up at home. Some of these teachers are still doing grades by hand (even when teaching online with every grading management tool available), so you can imagine that the transition is rough. The IT staff are so bad at their jobs, they can’t keep our website up for everyone to register for classes or make class changes, haven’t figured out how to install a security certificate in the ~20 years they’ve had the domain, and can’t even issue student ID numbers or email for freshmen before the term starts (which are necessary to register for classes and to attend online classes). There are also problems on the student side, but now, well into the second year of online classes and lockdowns, most have figured out how to at least attend their teachers’ pathetic online lectures, and that online classes are actually a good way to try and get their parents to pay for an iPad (definitely not required).

Nam and I love teaching online, though. Before we started, I had already set up a Twitch streaming system for Mina with condenser mic and various cameras, so we adapted that and added to it over time. This is what my setup looks like now.

The flight controller is useful for navigating never-ending online meetings.

On the vaccine front, I went in to get a Astra Zeneca jab at the vaccination center set up at my university a few weeks ago, and was told at the last stage (there were 3 stages to navigate), “no foreigners!” So, fuck them and their jelly vaccine shots, I guess (a bad batch of vaccines in Thailand was recently found to have turned into gel). Nam and I have paid a private hospital the full price for 2 Moderna jabs each – 3,400 baht/person. No telling when the government will get off its ass and actually get these vaccines delivered, but we are told, “as early as October.” Looks like all of my classes this term will be online!