Monday, July 17, 2006


Coming back to Thailand from the US is always a long journey however you take it. I looked at the flight details and other than a direct connection to Bangkok from New York it is 20 minutes longer to travel East from Newark airport than it is to go West! As I had an existing booking back home through London I managed at the last minute to call-up my old friends there and find myself a place to stay for the Friday night. After a night flight on Virgin and a trip from Heathrow through the tube I arrived pretty tired into Hampstead but was soon welcomed by my friend Eddie by having a lunch out in the summer sun and watching the World Cup. It really takes a lot to beat fine weather in the UK and wandering around Hampstead Heath it not only felt like being on holiday but I also felt pleased to be back in England again so soon and enjoying the pleasure of having a lazy day! That evening we did what the British do best and sat outside a pub eating and drinking, the main point of note was the £2.50 aviators that James brought along and everyone ended up wearing!

The next day I had another night flight to jump on back to Bangkok, to be honest any flight less than 14 hours does not seem to affect me now but I found that on this trip back my bodyclock travelled over the Pacific while I came back from the US over the Atlantic and the Indian oceans, I think we meet again about 3 days later in Thailand!

The following days back in Bangkok were basically taken up with catching up on admin, outstanding bills and preparing for a short visit to Jakarta. In between of course the distraction of the Word Cup caused much glee in the German restaurant I watched their game with Argentina and the following evening much trauma as England went out yet again to Portugal.. L

Sunday morning I flew to Jakarta for my first stay in Indonesia. The 3 hour flight is short but I can’t think of a closer place to Thailand were you can find such cultural difference. Indonesia, the 3rd largest democracy in the world and the largest Muslim country is a place on which you could write several books and still never really dig under the skin. Jakarta itself is a huge metropolis that in 2010 will have much more than 20million people and its long history as a trading port has made it one of SE Asia’s most important cities. My first impressions stuck in a traffic jam heading into the city centre were that of an African city in terms of the infrastructure, the commerce and the street layout. Once I arrived at the plush hotel the distinction between real life outside and the foyer inside were huge, this is something you are always somehow not as aware of in Bangkok. Later in the afternoon I walked down to the national monument and people came up to me to ask where I as from, could they have their pictures taken with me and generally treated me with a good deal of amusement! That evening at a breezy sundown I went out by the hotel pool and looked over a vast rundown housing area, with the call to prayer echoing around and the minarets poking out from the red tiled rooftops I was taken back to many nights watching the same scenes in Marrakesh. I have a plan to go back to Morocco on holiday in the Autumn and when I do I am sure that I will be reminded of Jakarta in the same way, the similarity is not just on the surface or due to religion but in the friendly albeit serious nature of the people. Indonesia has of course recently had disaster after disaster, the long term threats of separatism and radicalism and a chronic lack of investment per capita, but despite that I can see that the people are undertaking large steps in pushing themselves and their business forward. As one person I met told me in relation to the national football team however, the Indonesians want to score a goal for themselves every time and the lack of team work ultimately lets them down. Not sure is this one really applies to Africa, and in the current World Cup there are many more African teams than before so perhaps football can be a lesson for life and a lesson for the Asian countries to learn to act as a team?