Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Visakha Puja Day


Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has just collaborated with organizations of Nakhon Pathom to set the activities on The World’s Miracle Visakha Puja Day to support the Meditation Tourism related to the concepts of the Miracle Year of Amazing Thailand Project in 2012 and Buddhajayanti: The celebration of 2600 years of Buddha’s Enlightenment.
        At this chance, it will show you the Birth of Religion in Thailand and Buddha’s dharmic principles, which can be applied to daily life. Moreover, all of you will join in the great parade of worshipping Phra Pathom Chedi.

Period: On 1st – 4th June, 2012, at 11.00 am. – 8.00 pm.
Place: At Wat Phra Pathom Chedi, Nakhon Pathom
Activities: the daily main activities as follow
-         The Multimedia Exhibition “The Miracle of Buddha”
-         Buddhist Meditation, in the area for Buddhists, by Wat Phra Pathom Chedi
-         Name inscription on Bodhi leafs and robes, worshipping Buddha’s relics
-         The way of virtues: 5 Miracles, 5 auspicious things, 5 virtues (the dharmic books and for sale, dhamma talk)
-         Candelabrum Contest
-         The Light-and-Sound Show entitled “The legend of Phra Pathom Chedi” (Not Shown on 4th June, 2012)

On 1st June, 2012, at 5.30 pm. The Parade of Worshipping Phra Pathom Chedi
On 3rd June, 2012, at 5.00 pm. Covering Phra Pathom Chedi by robes
On 4th June, 2012, at 4.00 pm. Casting the Buddha image, the attitude of meditation, in the activity area, and light waving rite at night


For more information: Event Promotion Division, Event Department,
Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tel. 02-250-5500 – 3491-94, Call Center 1672

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fancy doing some candle sculptures?


The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) would
like to take this opportunity to inform you about The
7th International Wax Sculpture and Thai Candle Wax
Carving,Ubon Ratchatani,Thailand; as well as promoting the
Candle Procession
an annual famous festival at Ubon
Ratchathani province.
This year, The 7th UBON Wax Sculpture
2012,Thailand will be held during 18 July – 5 Aug, 2012. The
Thai Candle Festival is organized with the aim to conserve
unique Thai arts and culture as well as to publicize this
wonderful event to be well-known. This can also encourage
future generations to realize in the value of arts.
On this occasion, the Organizing Committee would
like to invite you to participate in The 7th UBON Wax
Sculpture 2012,Thailand.
 
Term and Conditions:
1. The Organizing Committee will support the artist
expense of airfare (economy class from the country of origin
to Thailand which will be compensated in Thai baht in arrival
date rate).The artist has to present a receipt and boarding
pass to redeem the airfare after arrival in Thailand.
2. The domestic airfare ticket will be also provided for
the artist.
Routing Bangkok – Ubon Ratchatani -
 
Bangkok.
3. The Organizing Committee will provide
accommodation, meals, sightseeing in Bangkok, Ubon
Ratchathani and neighboring areas while staying in Thailand.
4. The qualified artists have privilege to take
maximum 3 follows who will be provided only
accommodation, meals and tour.
5. The Organizing Committee will give the artist who
has completed his work a total of 20,000 Thai baht after the
symposium is completed, along with the certificate of
participation.
6. The Organizing Committee will provide 3 cube of
candle wax sized 1.00 x 1.00 x 1.00 metre each. Free style
of creation is accepted or the use of a candle wax not
exceeding 3 cubic metres will be available. All details and
information of the sculpture are needed to prepare the
configuration; its material is normally iron.
7. The limited amount of wax is 3 square metres and
the artist should create the piece within the mentioned
amount. Prior details are needed for preparing the
configuration (iron is normally provided).
8. The qualified artists have to present the model of
their piece in any material, not exceeding 1/3 metre while
working and hand over it to the committee after work finished
in order to keep in the gallery.
9. Any technical production and style are open in
which wax is the main material, The theme of the symposium
is free that the artists can enjoy various forms and
presentations of wonderful wax sculpture.
10. The sculptures will be placed in The Ubon
Ratchathani national museum, Ubon Ratchathani province.
11. Curriculum vitae, folio, sketch and concept of
work are to be submitted by 31 May, 2012, send to e-
 
12. The list of selected artist will be announce on 5
June, 2012 by E-Mail.
 
Program
18 July
 
- Arrival of the artists.
- Check in and staying in Bangkok
- Art Academy visiting.
- Depart to Ubon Ratchathani / Welcome
 
19 July
20 July
Party/ Briefing
 
/ Start Workshop
20 -31 July - Workshop
1 Aug
- Sightseeing Ubon Ratchatani
2 Aug
- Attend a ceremony of Asalha Puja Day
3 Aug
- Enjoy Wax procession / Thank you
Party
4 Aug
- Sightseeing Bangkok.
5 Aug
- Departure of all artists.
For further information, please contact: Ms.Napaporn
Lukkanothai
Events Planning Division, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
Tel.+662-2505500 ext.3477
Fax. +662-652-8210
www.thailandwax.com or you can see previous event
information in this web link http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=ck2CanCo70g
v=lACtIABS75o&feature=related

Friday, November 12, 2010

More arrivals from Indonesia to Thailand expected

Thailand is expecting a surge in arrivals from Indonesia following the launch of the first direct flights between Surabaya and Bangkok on November 7 and the upcoming launch of the first direct flights from Medan to Bangkok on November 16.

As of November 7, the low-cost airline Indonesia AirAsia, a sister company of Thai AirAsia, began flying Surabaya-Bangkok-Surabaya four times weekly, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The flight departs Surabaya at 15.25 hrs. and arrives in Bangkok at 19.10 hrs. It leaves Bangkok 19.45 hrs. and lands in Surabaya at 23.35 hrs. As posted on the airasia.com website, the regular fare is Bt7,701 for a roundtrip (as of November 9, 2010).

On November 8, 2010, TAT organized a welcome reception for 30 Indonesian travel agents and members of the media at the Siam Niramit in Bangkok. The reception was hosted by Mr Pongsathorn Kessasamli, Director of the ASEAN, South Pacific and Pacific Region, Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Surabaya is the main seaport and commercial centre in eastern Indonesia. It has a population of around 3 million with another 7 million in the catchment areas. One of Indonesia’s busiest ports, it is a hub for the export of sugar, tobacco, and coffee. In recent years, the city has seen a boom in real estate with new high-rise apartments, condominiums, and hotels.

On November 16, 2010, Indonesia AirAsia will launch three weekly services between Medan and Bangkok on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

These flights will significantly broaden the market base and boost aviation capacity between the two countries. Previously, there were 21 flights operating weekly between Bangkok - Jakarta and 14 flights between Bangkok - Denpasar (Bali) by Thai Airways International (THAI), Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia Air Asia, and Thai Air Asia.

According to Mr Pongsathorn, these new flights will certainly help bring more Indonesian visitors to Thailand and, equally important, boost intra-regional travel between the ASEAN countries, thereby enhancing connectivity.

Arrivals from Indonesia have enjoyed double-digit growth between 1998-2003. During January – September 2010, Indonesian visitor arrivals totalled 205,890, up 37.85% over the same period of 2009. TAT is targeting 270,000 visitors from Indonesia by 2010.

Indonesians find Bangkok an exciting city. TAT officials feel that new products; such as, the, opening of the Madame Tussauds Museum in Bangkok as well as its many health spas will prove to be popular stops for Indonesians.

While Bangkok and Pattaya are the traditional starting points for potential visitors from new markets like Surabaya, repeat visitors from Indonesia from cities; such as, Jakarta are being encouraged to visit Phuket and Chiang Mai.

TAT is now preparing for the opening of a full-fledged office in Jakarta by April 2011. At the moment, the Indonesian market is being covered out of the TAT’s Singapore Office.

To boost awareness and generate the marketing momentum, TAT launched a series of promotional activities at a recent travel fair in Surabaya in conjunction with AirAsia.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Entering the dragon’s belly

Can you, in your wildest dreams picture me strutting around like the late Bruce Lee, kicking up more than just a few storms with a trail of dead bodies behind me? For a while I thought I could. Growing up in the 70s, you cannot help but have Bruce Lee as your icon. Those days kung fu was actually the in thing. And the in thing was to walk with the swagger and gait of Bruce Lee. There was even a song which said everybody loves kung fu fighting. Think of kung fu or specifically think of Bruce Lee and the dragon comes to mind. After all he gave us The Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon.

But there must be something about the dragon that fascinates not just people of old but also modern men. While we can only make a wild guess about whether it ever existed, the closest one can ever come to dragons are dinosaurs. What is certain, however, is that if dragons had ever existed at all, it must have gone the way of T-Rex and company. And sadly not a single fossil were left for us to marvel at its size nor a shred of DNA so we may try and piece together at least one such being, if for nothing else then at least for posterity sake. Our own Jurassic Park or Dragon’s Lair, if you like. After all there would be many who would think nothing of posing for a photograph beside a dragon spewing fire from its mouth and nostrils provided it is on a leash with a handler beside it to keep a watchful eye.

Being born in the year of the Rooster, I am, say Chinese geomancy experts, would be most compatible with those born in the year of the Dragon. Yeah, right. I suppose I would love nothing better than to go home to a dragon lady every might. Suffice to say that me being the chicken and she being the dragon with fire flaring from her nostrils under most circumstances, there is every likelihood that I would be roasted or grilled daily. Of course, the other two compatible animals with me are the Snake and the Ox. But again I think this is not the column and place to discuss feng shui. So we would leave that to the experts of the earth, wind and fire and move to more familiar grounds, i.e. travel.

Just over a 100km to the north of Hat Yai is the province of Trang, where you find a cave called
Tham Le Khao Kop, situated in Huai Yot County, about 7 km off the office building of the county administration. The cave has a stream running through it and the only way to get inside is by taking a boat so you can visit the cavern consisting of some fifteen caves. The caves differ from one another in shape and sizes and the highlight is Tham Lot or Thong Mangkon (the dragon's stomach). To explore this cave, you have to lie down on your back in the boat along the 100-metre waterway. Minimum of movement is required. You move your head up and your nose would get bruised by the many jutting rocks making up the dragon’s belly. It is not a journey for those who are claustrophobic because your mind tend to tell you that there is not enough oxygen. It is certainly one sure way to get your adrenaline flowing and you will automatically hold your breath when the boat passes sharp-pointed stalactites that are only a few inches away from your belly. A round trip takes about an hour. Being occasionally cheeky, I find that this is about the only time I can lie in a girl’s lap for 15 minutes without getting accused of sexual harassment. You have to try and visit when the tide is out because during the rainy season the cave expedition is not possible due to the high tide. It is about the only time when those with lots of fat seemed to be welcomed because the extra weight helps make the boat sink lower in the water, thereby giving more room in the dragon’s long belly. Opening hours is from 8am to 6pm.

The river that makes up Tham Le Khao Kop flows from the Banthat Mountain Range and is divided into three waterways upon reaching Khao Kop. Two go around the mountain while one flows through the cave under the mountain. In addition the cave itself looks like a high and steep cliff with layers of rocks and stalactites and stalagmites magnificently decorating the cave for a distance of approximately 4km. One of the caverns is called a bridal chamber. Presumably in the days of old it must be where virgins are sacrificed to the dragon lord. Currently, the Khao Kop Tambon Administration Organization provides rowboats to facilitate visitors explorations of the cave. In addition, eco-tourism and light-adventure activities are provided by the locals. The boat ride costs 200 bahts for 7 persons, or 30 baht per person.

Incidentally the reason Bruce Lee is associated with dragons is that he was born in the Year of the Dragon in San Francisco in 1940. His father was Chinese while his mother was half Chinese and half German. Considered the most consummate martial artist, he was responsible for popularising kung fu not just in the west but in most parts of Asia. Most people who knew him personally, me not included, said that had he taken up boxing competitively, he would have been a world champion a few times over. To illustrate a point, most of those who trained under him such as Chuck Norris and James Kelly went on to become world champions in martial arts.

To illustrate the point further, it is said that Lee's striking speed from three feet with his hands down by his side reached five hundredths of a second and he could spring a 235lb opponent 15 feet away with a one inch punch. His combat movements were at times too fast to be captured on film at 24 frames per second, so many scenes were shot in 32 frames per second to put Lee in slow motion. Normally martial arts films are sped up. In a speed demonstration, Lee could snatch a dime off a person's open palm before they could close it, and leave a penny behind. He could also perform push ups using only his thumbs and would hold an elevated v-sit position for 30 minutes or longer. Another demonstration of his speed was he could throw grains of rice up into the air and then catch them in mid-flight using chopsticks.

If those were not enough proof, Bruce Lee could perform one-hand push-ups using only the thumb and index finger as well as 50 one-arm chin-ups. From a standing position, he could hold a 125lb barbell straight out and break wooden boards six inches thick (not at the same time of course). He once performed a side kick while training with James Coburn and broke a 150-pound punching bag, and could cause a 300-lb bag to fly towards and thump the ceiling with a sidekick. In a move that has been dubbed "Dragon Flag", Lee could perform leg lifts with only his shoulder blades resting on the edge of a bench and suspend his legs and torso perfectly horizontal mid-air. He could thrust his fingers through unopened steel cans of soft drinks, back in the days when soft drink cans were made of harder aluminium metal. And Lee would use one finger to leave dramatic indentations on pine wood.

In the words of the master, "Be formless... shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle; it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot; it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, and it can crash. Be like water….”

I will try and remember that the next time I face a 300lb bully. And I hoped being like the water means more than just wetting my pants.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Cuti-cuti Malaysia

Being away from home for about two weeks every month means I have always looked forward to weekends when I could just laze in front of the TV set all day long. And when I laze in front of the TV set, most often than not it’s the TV that ends up watching me instead of the other way around.

Or if I am up to it, then I would probably take up the irresistible offer to go play golf and most often than not get thrashed soundly by one group of friends or other. It does not matter which group, I seem to always end up losing. I have this sneaky feeling that when they run out of grocery money they will call me to save the trouble of going to an ATM machine.

This September, however was a little different. I was away in Pattaya for two rounds of golf, all part of official duty, of course. And back home, it was more golf but mostly on TV, i.e. the FedEx Cup and the President’s Cup. Trying desperately to pick up pointers from the likes of Tiger Woods and his “merry men”. And with it being fasting month, all my Muslim friends were extra charitable and decided to give me a break.

So on a weekend towards the end of the month I decided to have a cuti-cuti in
Malaysia instead, but one with a slight difference. It was a close friend’s birthday. Rather than organise it at home, in a club or a posh restaurant, she and her husband decided that it would be nice to go spend her birthday with some recovering and fully-recovered HIV patients instead. So we got into our cars and drove a few kilometres out of Kuala Lumpur to a place in Batu Arang.

The inmates of the home seemed glad to see us as they helped to carry the food for the birthday party into the kitchen of the house. A wooden house surrounded by vegetable plots and some fruit tree, it is home to some 28 inmates who are waiting to go home. Some have homes to go back to and for those who do not, this was now home. Some have gone to work as mechanics at a workshop nearby. They seemed glad to interact with those from the outside world and most are jovial and friendly to visitors. Everybody sang a birthday song and the food was served.

Most of those living in the home were unable to secure family support or have lost contact with their families. For them the home had devised a Positive Living Community Programme whereby small groups of sufficiently recovered patients are provided with a rented house equipped with basic facilities and an overseer to enable them to continue leading a healthy lifestyle.

They are given opportunities to engage in some productive work opportunities to acquire vocational and living skills through various forms of therapeutic activities. Currently there are two such homes with a total of 20 residents in Batu Arang.

In addition, residents with the necessary aptitudes and abilities were also selected to participate in peer educators training organised by the Malaysian AIDS Council and coaching camps by volunteer professionals. Once sufficiently trained, their services would be made available to other NGOs, schools, community groups and faith based groups to conduct awareness programmes in a creative and interactive way.

The objective in running the above programmes is to come up with models that can be duplicated by other NGOs or faith based groups and so on. The home welcomes any organisation to send people to be trained as caregivers or to live in and learn about its other programmes.

A few kilometres from the half-way house stands a bigger facility. Run by Project Co-ordinator, Mr Alex Arokiam, it survives on charity and donations from non-governmental organisations and individuals. It had been around since October 1997 as a community-based facility to cater for 15 patients but has since grown due to demands. It now houses up to 34 patients of all race and religion regardless of their ability to pay for their stay.

Most were referred by hospitals and drop-in centres managed by NGOs from various parts of the country. More than a hundred have been provided with palliative care and subsequently died. The home has been gazetted as a private drug rehabilitation centre with a sick bay for residents who have developed AIDS. While the home started merely as response to the cry for shelter for people living on the streets who had contracted AIDS, over the years it had continuously improved its knowledge and skills in providing appropriate holistic approach to caring that deals with the mind, body and soul of the person.

A total of 14 staff members comprising a project co-ordinator, office administrator, full-time nurse, caregivers, hospital liaison officer, driver, helpers and cook provide individualised care for up to 34 patients. Up to 12 of the patients suffer from various forms of permanent or temporary disabilities and are in need of nursing care.

The Welcome Community Home functions as an after care home for up to 30 residents at a time where they will be assisted to recover physically and psychologically. It has earned affiliation with the Malaysian AIDS Council and is confident of obtaining sufficient funds for the continued operation and improvement of its services as of January 2008.

At the same time the home fully realises the futility of its services in the current situation whereby the continued ignorance and attitude of families and society as a whole and the indifference of relevant government agencies will continue to produce more and more persons with HIV/AIDS who are homeless.

As a first time visitor to both homes, and much as I try to hide my earlier discomforts I could not help but be impressed by their new found courage. Some of them took the wrong route and ended up with a drug addiction. Unhygienic use of drug paraphernalia had resulted in them contracting HIV. But it sure took hell of a lot of courage for them to pull themselves out of the mess. For that I wish them all the luck.

They have also tried to make the shelter their call home as normal as possible. There is even a band and a drama company consisting of eight residents who had been trained by a theatre director from the UK. The company had even staged a play at the Actors Studio in Bangsar.

I have to admit that like most people I also suffer from a phobia, thinking that by being close or breathing the same air with the HIV sufferers I would be susceptible too. But after not only sharing the same air, but the same food and shaking hands with them, I have not succumbed to the disease. HIV and AIDS do not spread by touch. You are more likely to contract the disease through certain unprotected nocturnal activities. When I shook their hands before heading home I did so a little shamefacedly remembering my earlier prejudice.

But at least now I know where I would be spending my next birthday. The address is Welfare Community Homes, D-1224, Lorong SU 4, Off Jalan DPP, 48100 Batu Arang, Selangor. The date is May 25 which happens to be a Sunday. All are welcome. No RSVP necessary.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden

Long before I took up the game, I read somewhere that if you play in all the golf courses in Thailand, you would have walked the same distance from Mae Sai at the northernmost tip of Thailand to Sungai Golok, the southernmost tip. Now presumably the distance would be even farther because more golf courses have been opened since then. That is quite a long walk by any standards even if you bear in mind that most golfers do not mind walking uphill and downhill on a golf course but moan and groan if they have to walk from their house to the sundry shop a hundred metres away. The bet is that more than 90 per cent would rather get in their cars and drive there although most could do with the exercise.

Long before I took up the game, I also read somewhere that the word golf actually came from the phrase Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden. Like most things in the old days, men seemed to make it a point of excluding the female of their species from the fun. They prefer instead to relegate the women folks to less strenuous pursuits like needlework, knitting, gardening and tending to the children. Such behaviour in Scotland of old, the original home of golf, and most other parts of the world, I am happy to say, has ended. So has discrimination against women in all kinds of other sports. And not a moment too soon, I might add. Otherwise we would be deprived of admiring the attributes and other talents of such marvellous female sports personalities like Michele Wie, Maria Sharapova and Anna Kournikova.

Where golf is concerned, I for one, am not going to belittle the ability of ladies. I was paired with one lady, all five foot of her, who among the Thai circle in Kuala Lumpur is known as The Pro. Well, at least I am one of those who call her that. One fine day she decided to play from the men’s tee instead of the ladies tee against me. Not only did she out-drive me, she was also sinking putts from more than 10 feet. Needless to say I was soundly trounced. If that was not insult enough, her two female companions (though both were playing from the ladies tee) also managed to beat me by more than 10 strokes. That is the last time I ever want to be paired up with them again. That was also the last time they invited me for a game. I think they must be playing rather well and no longer need to beat me to a pulp just to bolster their egos.

Although so far I have only limited my exploits to golf courses in Malaysia and Thailand since taking up the game more than five years ago, I must say I have played at some of the most beautiful and challenging courses in both countries. Actually most courses are challenging to me and the fact that no human, bird, other small animals or insects were killed during the course of any game would count as a good day for me. This fact had always touched a bit of raw nerve with me.

You could say the first time I played was a baptism of fire of sorts. It was with His Excellency the Thai Ambassador to Malaysia. We were nearing the end of the game when my ball landed in the bunker near the green. Golf instructors will tell you to take sand wedge or any other club of your preference provided you know how to use it well, and hit the sand just behind the ball. This would allow the ball to ride out of the bunker on the sand. Having hardly learned the rudiments of the game at that time as opposed to being a pro now, I took my sand wedge and gave it a solid whack. More than one way to skin a cat, they say. In fact it worked too well. The ball flew out of the bunker like a bullet and was heading straight for Mr Ambassador himself. Luckily both he and the lady caddie from Indonesia ducked in time. Otherwise either one of them could have landed in hospital if not worse.

My knees actually went soft because I thought Mr Ambassador was going to take his driver and whack me on the head with it or at least give me a ticking off. But to his credit he did no such thing. To this day I still shudder to think that I almost had to go before the Thai Foreign Ministry and explain how the Thai Government ended up being one ambassador short. Or explaining to the Indonesian Government that it was all an accident and that I did not mistake the caddie for a maid and had not abused one of her citizens. For a few months after that a number of friends had a great time poking fun at me every time I had a golf game. They would ask whether anybody got killed when they know I have just returned from a round of golf. Another friend would ask, “How many under today?” From the first time I played, it had always been about six or seven under. I am of course not talking about pars but I seemed to have this ability of hitting my ball into the water, under the trees, into the bushes, etc. Thus I would lose an average of six or seven balls a game.

Of course, there were some great moments as well, such as playing at the Blue Canyon Golf & Country Club in Phuket. In fact I have played there twice. This course was made famous by a certain Mr Woods, who still holds the amateur course record there when he won the Johnnie Walker Classic several years ago. Both times that I played there I actually came close to breaking his course record. I was just off by about 40 or 50 strokes, which was not too bad at all by my standards, considering he is Mr Woods and I always end up getting the wooden spoon at most tournaments.

At another time I was invited for a tournament in Johore. I had the distinction of coming in last again and winning a hair dryer for my effort. The organisers were very kind in recognising that somebody need to be in the last position. But I was quick to point out to my friends that in marketing this is what is called positioning. Either you come in first or come in last. That is the only way to be remembered. You are not worth a mention at all if you come in at 22 from a group of 72. Nobody remembers you. But come in at 72 out of a field of 72 and you get star-billing and is as famous as the champion.

While not belittling the golf courses in Malaysia, most people I think find golfing in Thailand more enjoyable for a number of reasons. I was told it is because of the more relaxed attitude of Thai golfers and the golf clubs in their approach to the game. In addition, you always get to stop for a drink after every three holes. Best of all you get your own caddie where as in Malaysia you tend to have to share your caddie. In Thailand you can even have three caddies, one to carry your golf clubs, one to carry your umbrella and one to hold your whiskey glass, should you so desire. Best of all most can actually read the greens very well. What more can one ask for? After all most of us are not trying to win the British Open. Beats going shopping with the wife during the weekends. Not that I ever had to do this either. But you know what I mean.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Holidays can be fun or disastrous

It may seem like childish advice and stating the obvious. Said advice being not losing your essential documents and most especially when you are travelling abroad.

Anyway it must be one of the most distressing things you can ever feel when arriving at a foreign airport for an international flight and realising that you have lost your tickets. Well, make that the second most distressing thing since the most distressing would be to have lost your passports. To have lost both while travelling abroad would be absolutely disastrous.

Losing your travel documents can be downright troublesome even when one is not travelling abroad. Getting a replacement can be quite a hellish experience because whether or not you do get a new passport depended very much on the Immigration Department.

“Atas budi bicara Ketua Pengarah Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia.” Well, the poor Director-General always gets to shoulder the blame whether or not he is personally involved in the decision to give you a replacement passport or not. My guess is that somebody else decides beforehand whether you deserve a new travel document and if you do whether it has some form of restriction or other attached to it before the documents reached the DG’s desk for his signature.

Which is why it would help a whole lot if you look honest. I mean, try and paint a picture to the immigration officer handling your case that you do not have the kind of face which belongs to a person who is likely to sell his or her passport on the black market and then go apply for a new one, thereby doing a roaring business. This is in fact one of the reasons getting a replacement passport after you have lost one is hell. In case you did not know, Malaysian and Singaporean passports are said to be the most valuable and expensive travel documents in the world on the black market. I say this not through personal experience. What I am quoting is just hearsay as I have never actually lost my passport. Touch wood. But I was told the reason our passports are so expensive has something to do with our diverse ethnicity. As to why this is so, please go figure. Suffice to say that the Malaysian authorities do not take very kindly to your losing travel documents, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

But back to our lost ticket story. Thank goodness that these days most airlines have gone electronic. For those still not in the know, you can actually travel paperless these days. Just do your bookings and jot down your booking reference code. Even if you have forgotten your reference code, just handing in your passport at the check-in counter will suffice as the staff attending to you would be able to confirm your flight and issue you your boarding pass. Just try to remember your flying date, time and flight number. Easy as that.

This, however, works only if you are travelling on one sector. Should it involve different sectors, say flying to Bangkok then on to Tokyo then you still could not go paperless just yet. Which is when problems like losing your tickets sometimes arise. Imagine the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach on arriving at the airport and discovering that you have no tickets to travel with.

Some months ago I arrived at Suwarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok’s spanking new terminal, and managed to catch the tail end of a verbal exchange between a couple. Well, it was actually one-sided. A couple had alighted from a taxi just a minute or so before I did when they realised that their air tickets were still in the taxi. And the taxi had already left the airport area.

The man, about a hundred kilos of him and who must be in his late 40s or early 50s, sounded very Italian. The wife, a petite young thing who could not be more than 25, and carrying a baby who must be a few months old to boot, just stood pale-faced and defenceless against the verbal onslaughts of her husband. Although I have not met that many Italians in my life, I have met a few, which I must say is more than enough for me to form an opinion that Italian men by nature are very passionate and excitable people. A normal conversation can often sound like an argument. So you can imagine what can come out of his mouth when he is in such a state.

In that instance, his English may be peppered with Italian, but he certainly was making his feelings understood not just by his wife but everybody who was in the vicinity of the drop-off area at the airport. Indeed, the adjectives he used, and there were quite a few mind you, to describe his wife’s state of mind at that moment and thereby her overall intellect, were some of the most colourful I have heard. If anybody had had their doubts before that, after his tirade it was clear he never married her for her brains. Nuclear physicist, she was certainly not. In the bedroom and in the heat of passion you may be excused for using some of the words but certainly it was in very poor taste when uttered for complete strangers to hear in a very public place.

Much as I would like to step in and help, I have lived a long and relatively peaceful life. And one of the things I have learned if you want to continue living a long and relatively peaceful life is not step in between an irate Italian and his Thai wife. In fact one should never step in between any man and his wife when they are in the middle of a heated exchange, even if they are your closest friends. Worst still if they are not. You may just end up with a black eye for your effort instead of words of gratitude from either party. While the Italian and his wife were still at it, I decided to let them figure out for themselves what they were supposed to do and went to check in for my flight back to Kuala Lumpur.

In fact if he had not been in such a state, he would have realised that should you ever lose your tickets all you need to do is go pay for new tickets and upon returning home file a claim for lost tickets with your insurance agent. Which is why it is essential that when you travel you first buy travel insurance. If you did not then there is nothing that can be done except bear the losses and be more careful with your travel documents and flight tickets the next time you go for a trip.

It is the difference between a completely beautiful holiday and a disastrous one.