Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

The Thai government has implemented a visa extension for tourists coming from some countries for medical treatment. The countries are Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar (CLMV) plus China. Medical tourists from those countries will be able to stay for 90 days without applying for an extension rather than 30 days as was the previous case.

Bangkok Post has a story that mentions the Thai government’s efforts to capitalize on the global wellness trend. Part of that effort is something they are calling Amazing Thailand Health and Wellness Showcase 2017. They put together a website to promote it with the ridiculous url http://www.amazingthailandhealthandwellnessshowcase.com/. The event was held on 11 August 2017. I missed it since I was out of the country at the time. Here is the list of categories being represented by various healthcare givers at the event:

  • General Hospital
  • Plastic Surgery Hospital
  • Regenerative & Functional Medicine Hospital
  • Anti-Aging Clinic
  • Cosmetic & Aesthetic Clinic
  • Dental Clinic
  • Cell Therapy Clinic
  • Lab Check Up
  • Medical Spa
  • Senior Nursing Care Center

I think it would have been interesting to see what some of the more unusual treatments being offered are all about.

I recognized one of the so-called anti-aging clinics, Panacee, because they have a branch at the My Ozone resort in the Khao Yai area not far from where I live. It’s a big nice resort in the rolling hills near Khao Yai National Park. I took a look at the web page (ridiculous url here http://www.amazingthailandhealthandwellnessshowcase.com/providers/panacee-medical-center/) and noticed a couple of things. They mention the resort is located in a “…magnificent 475 acre valley of natural ozone source.” In the next paragraph they mention another branch that is located in Germany. They say “Panacee medical center, Grand Rommerbad is situated in the ozone rich area of the Black Forest.” Apparently this medical group does not know that “Ozone in the air we breathe can harm our health”. That’s the first sentence on the US government EPA website on the page about health effects of ozone. Ozone is a pollutant, and “Even relatively low levels of ozone can cause health effects.” Does that give anyone else pause about trusting these people with your health?

Commend Science Square in Bangkok

Posted: December 1, 2016 in Thailand

The facilities and programs at Science Square in Bangkok are excellent. I recommend parents with kids in Bangkok take advantage of them.

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Science Square at Chamchuri Square in Bangkok

Background

Science Square is a branch of Thailand’s National Science Museum. The main science museum as well as a natural history museum and an information technology museum are located in Pathumthani. Visit their website at http://www.nsm.or.th/english/index.php. Be aware that the English version of their website is incomplete as some of their programs are described in Thai only. Also be aware that the programs at Science Square described below are all in Thai. So it is for Thai speaking kids. For an overview of the displays with some photos check out the review at http://www.iamwannee.com/a-review-of-science-square-chamchuri-square/. I’m going to talk the actitivies they offer.

Science Lab

There is a great program called Science Lab that is held every day of the week. There are three one-hour long lab projects on different subjects held each afternoon starting at 1:15. My six year old son and I have done three of the labs so far. They are real content-filled activities, not simply empty play.

We did a lab about copper. We dissolved copper sulfate in hot water, then used a mild acid (ascorbic acid) to precipitate out pure copper. We collected the pure copper and added gum arabic to make a sort of paint. A button battery holder and LED were attached to a card that was printed with the circuit diagram. Then we connected the battery to the LED by painting a circuit with the copper paint we had made.

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Circuit Wired Up Using Copper Paint Made in the Lab

Another lab was about ice cream. The concept was to demonstrate how adding salt to ice lowers it’s melting point which is needed to make the ingredients cold enough to form ice cream. After the salt was added to a bucket of ice the ice cream ingredients were added to a metal cup inset into the ice and whisked (for a long time) to make ice cream.

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Making Ice Cream the Hard Way

The third lab we did was about bacteria. We made our own hand gel using water, cabopol (thickening agent), alcohol, triethanolamine (surfactant), and triclosan which is the actual anti-bacterial agent. Kids got to choose a food color and fragrance to add to their gel. The lab leader talked about helpful and harmful types of bacteria.

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Learning About Helpful and Harmful Bacteria

Then the kids took at a look at several types of bacteria using microscopes set up in the Science Lab.

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Viewing Bacteria Under the Microscope

Maker Space

They also have a nice looking Maker Space at Science Square. There have not been any Maker activities on the days we have been there but we want to join them when we can.

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Maker Space at Science Square

It looks like they do some fun projects for kids, like these doodle bots.

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Doodle Bots Made at Maker Space at Science Square

Location

Science Square is located in Bangkok on the top floor of Chamchuri Square. That makes it easy to reach by public transportation for people in Bangkok – the Sam Yan subway station is located right at Chamchuri Square.

A year ago came the announcement of a huge barter deal wherein Thailand would pay China for equipment for a high-speed rail project. The plan was for two links, one that passed through Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand to Bangkok, and another that passed through Sakon Nakhon in the northeast of Thailand and then on to Bangkok.

According to Forbes, the new military government of Thailand announced that the deal is off. It’s not really clear why. Maybe the details turned out to be unattractive for either side. Maybe all that stockpiled rice that was planned for the barter isn’t really in the silos or is already rotten – there’s been plenty of searching and posturing in previous months about it.

Forbes says this would have the been the biggest barter deal of its type in history. The most interesting aspect of the high speed rail project is that if it ever does get completed it will provide a very valuable route from mainland China all the way to Singapore. Goods, people, and troops (as needed) will be able to be rapidly and relatively inexpensively shipped a long way.

Starbucks sues Thai street vendor

Posted: October 21, 2013 in Thailand

In what might seem a case of a large multinational bullying a small local business, Starbucks is suing a Thai street vendor for infringing on its logo. The street vendor’s business is named Starbung and the owner claims his logo is his own original work that is based on how he makes his coffee and the color green for his religion. Here are the two logos side by side:
Starbung
Uh, yeah. That right there is what you call infringement. It’s so obviously a direct takeoff. That vendor probably thought Starbucks would never bother a little guy like him. He doesn’t realize that they have to, because if they don’t fight such obvious infringements, even small time ones, they eventually lose their copyright. Starbung should have just dropped it when the cease and desist letter arrived. Trading on the Starbucks logo may have been good while it lasted but he has been found out.

On the other hand, enforcement in Thailand is pretty lax so even if Starbucks pursues and wins the lawsuit it is unlikely that anyone will be interested in enforcing the judgement. Although, if local police were to learn of the judgement it would offer them a fresh extortion opportunity – a small regular payment to keep them from shutting down Starbung. That’s probably how it will go.

I have been living in Thailand for more than ten years now. It was an adjustment at first (major understatement). But after figuring out how to find the things I need and get things done I have settled into a very comfortable lifestyle. For me, it is far superior to living in the U.S. Your mileage may vary – many westerners never adjust and bail out after the honeymoon period.

There are a few things I miss about the U.S. Being from Southern California where we are spoiled for choice of Mexican food I do miss that. There are just a handful of Mexican restaurants in all of Thailand and they are all located in Bangkok. I don’t live there so the best I can do is buy some packaged seasonings and make my own. Recently the local Makro mega store started carrying tortillas so that is a plus, although they are not fresh for sure, and seem kind of weird as if they are specially processed for long shelf life, nothing like the fresh ones back in SoCal. Ok, so lack of Mexican food is a pretty trivial issue given how many other great food choices we have here. So what are the real disadvantages of being an expat in Thailand?

After all this time I finally encountered something that I consider a real issue for an expat in Thailand like me. It came up during the first week of a Coursera course I am taking called Human Computer Interaction. I am taking that course as part of a program to flesh out my web app development skills. Recently I completed 10gen’s MongDB for Nodejs Developers. MongoDB is a NoSQL database that is rapidly gaining usage. Prior to that I completed the Stanford Startup Engineering course where we put together a complete development flow and built a web app using Git, AWS, Nodejs and Bootstrap. When I built mine I added MongoDB, hence the 10gen course to boost my skills there.

So now I am developing skills to put a top quality user interface on my web app via the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) course. One of the first steps in creating an effective interface is what is called “needfinding”. It involves directly observing users performing the tasks that you are attempting to address with your system, noting how they do things and the issues they encounter. The tools and methods for doing this that we are learning in HCI are very effective. With great interest I am diving in.

And I have encountered an issue. Because of where I live and the nature of the surrounding population I am pretty well inhibited from doing any real needfinding. My interface is in English. That means the vast majority of the Thai population cannot be engaged for needfinding. In my local area there are no Thais I know of who can read English. So that leaves me with a few choices.

  1. I could translate the interface to Thai and do needfinding with locals. This is quite cumbersome because translation also involves localization to reflect local usage norms. That could be as big a project as the interface itself. That would make sense if my target was Thai people, but for my initial interface my target is a particular segment of the English literate population.
  2. I could try to do it all online via Skype or screencasts. This has potential but one of the main thrusts of the needfinding step is to observe users in the actual environment they would use the interface. Another strong theme is to avoid investing a lot of time in a high fidelity mockup in the early stages, certainly not before you have done neefinding. Creating a screencast is just wrong at this stage. Trying to observe via Skype is just such an incomplete observation.
  3. I could try to connect with westerners and “internationalized” Thais in Bangkok. There are a number of meetup groups and co-working locations where I could potentially find users for my needfinding efforts. This would require a lot of scheduling to coincide with meetup dates and travel (3 hours drive each way from my location to a meetup in the Sathorn area of Bangkok).

Given my constraints it looks like I will have to settle for the Apprentice track of the HCI course rather than the Studio track that I wanted to follow. I do plan to complete as much of each assignment as possible but will not have the types of observations and interviews that are required to be graded. However, the interface I am developing is for the itinerary rating app I previously created and the motivation for it came from observing the issues on travel forums. So I am going to do try to do the observation steps, albeit indirectly, by analyzing forums postings.

The motivation for this post came from reading a story by someone who wrote about bootstrapping a startup in Thailand that I saw mentioned on Linkedin. The writer talked about how great it was for 6 months in Thailand and kept mentioning how cheap the food was. Those are typical impressions of a short term resident, newbie impressions if you will. Food is cheap until you get tired of eating cheap food. If you want a decent steak you will pay at least triple what it would cost in the U.S. Electronics are more expensive. Cars are way more expensive. The list goes on. But the newbie comments weren’t what motivated me. It was the discussion of isolation. In some ways that is good. But when it comes to doing UI/UX development isolation is not good.

In my earlier post about UK rocker Pete Doherty going to a rehab center in Thailand I wondered if he had chosen the extreme rehab of Wat Tham Krabok. But I was only kidding. Celebs always go to plush rehabs where they pamper you instead of actually burning your demons out of you. Now we find out that Doherty went to the plush center called The Cabin in Chiang Mai. That’s a pic of it below.

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Looks pretty nice. They claim a 96% success rate. I’m sure that means 96% paid for a full course rather than being kicked out early like Doherty was. If you want to see some real results then get thee to Wat Tham Krabok Mr. Pete.

The center says they have successfully treated 300 patients in the past. A former successful patient had previously spoken about how wonderful the center is and boasted that as a result he had been drug free for six months…all that, eh? Seems a bit underwhelming. The rooms sure look interesting at The Cabin.

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I hardly know who this rocker is, but I guess he is pretty big in the UK. I saw a news story that he flew off to do drug rehab in Thailand and it reminded me of my earlier post about extreme medical tourism. That was about the extreme drug rehab program they have a Wat Thamkrabok in Lopburi province. I sort of doubt he went there. He’s probably at one of those cushy resorts where they pamper you and you don’t really end up kicking the habit. I think if you go through the Wat Thamkrabok program and know that you have to repeat it if you relapse then you might really be cured.