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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Long live the King. May his days be without number.

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-serving monarch, celebrated his 84th birthday  last year. An important public holiday is held on 5 December to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest reigning monarch. Known in Thai as 'Wan Chalerm', the occasion is marked by an outpouring of love and reverence by Thai people throughout the kingdom and around the world. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, or King Rama IX, ascended the throne on 9 June 1946. The King has won a special place in the hearts of the Thai people through his combination of devotion to the welfare and development of his people, and a keen understanding and awareness of political and social issues. As an institution, His Majesty has provided a firm foundation for the country to weather the trials and turmoil that have beset the region since the end of World War II. Today, His Majesty continues to play a central role in a wide spectrum of national and social development schemes. 

On 5 December, buildings and homes all over the country are elaborately adorned with flags, portraits of His Majesty and bunting, predominantly in the color yellow.
Thailand celebrated King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 84th birthday on Wednesday with festivities, prayers and a nationwide effort to wear yellow - the color that symbolizes devotion to the world's longest reigning monarch. Tens of thousands of people in yellow shirts, waving yellow flags packed the streets everywhere.

Far from the center of celebrations, people everywhere donned yellow -- from supermarket cashiers and morning joggers to business people. Bhumibol's birthday is a national holiday in Thailand and has increasingly become a day of nationwide tribute to the man who is the most influential figure in modern Thai history. Many Thais have never known another sovereign. Though he is a constitutional king with no formal political role, he is regarded as a key to Thailand's stability. In his six decades on the throne, he took an active role in rural development and is respected for his dedication to helping the country's poor.

This is a once in a lifetime experience to take part in those celebrations !!!

All over Thailand on December 5, fireworks lit up the sky in honor of His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 84th  birthday. Thais demonstrated their love for the world's longest reining monarch by participating in a nation-wide candle light vigil, many wearing pink shirts. (Two years ago the country's royal astrologers said that the color pink was auspicious for the king's well-being.)

On the throne longer than Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, has lead Thailand since 1946. To understand just why the people of Thailand love their king so dearly is indeed the story of Thailand over the past half century – a story of altruism, and unceasing effort to transform the prosperity of all Thais caught up in the country’s heady growth of recent decades.The King has seen the country transformed from agricultural backwater to one of Asia’s most rapidly growing nations during his reign so far. Ascending to the throne as an outside heir while still a teenager, the King could never have imagined as a little boy that he would become such an important role model to the seventy million Thais who universally praise him. So, just why do the people of Thailand, native and foreign alike, praise their King with such adulation? His image is plastered all over the country, from small amulets, coins and stamps to larger than life billboards. Thais you meet might even be at loss to try and explain, but put simply; he’s known as the world’s hardest working monarch. And a quick browse through picture archives or magazine features invariably confirm this with endless documentation of the humble King traipsing through rice paddies, listening to aggrieved farmers, out in the field studying his maps to understand water management challenges, or simple getting to see for himself how the poor of his Kingdom take on life.The King is much more than a ribbon cutter and ceremonial ‘waver’, and he has spent much of his life earning his respect from his subjects. In addition to speaking four languages (which includes English, French and German) he is a respected musician who has jammed with some of the late greats such as Benny Goodman and even hung out with Elvis. The anthem which is played at movie houses prior to every screening was composed by His Majesty, and other timeless pieces by him, playing saxophone (et al!) are often heard on the radio. He’s also a scientist with a keen agricultural understanding that was recently re-enforced with the granting of rain making patents which he personally invented and had developed. And he is a photography and art enthusiast, always seen with his trusty camera around his neck, having produced some very commendable works which are now on display at the national museum.But the impression that perhaps endears the Thai most are the frequent shots and footage of His Majesty out in the fields, usually with the Queen keeping notes and his equally serving daughter Princess Sirindorn in tow, as they visit every conceivable corner of the kingdom, usually inspecting the lives of the poor and suggesting ways to improve their lives. Often the financing comes from the King’s own estate, and it’s always aimed at teaching, developing and improving. Much of his efforts have been directed at water management, rain making and agricultural techniques to help improve the livelihood of Thailand’s 20 million farmers.In the late nineteen seventies the King initiated a very successful program to help wean the hilltribes of the North off poppy cultivate to eradicate opium. He realised that an alternative income was needed so a series of King’s Projects helped them establish vegetable industries. He provided materials for communal green houses and markets were developed for the produce. After thirty years opium has been almost entirely eradicated from Thailand and the project has gained international recognition. This year, a few weeks before the celebration, the head of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, came to Bangkok to personally present the King with an award in recognition of his work.Thailand is a country rich in cultural heritage that goes back to its zenith during the Ayuthaya era and beyond, when Siam ruled over a vast area and boasted a rich legacy of wealth in arts, ceremony, architecture and organisation. Visitors to the Kingdom are surrounded by proof of this, from the Grand Palace to the inspiring artefacts at the National museum, and the royal family have invariably been at the centre of much of this development. From King Taksin, Rama I, through to the current ruler in this dynasty, Thailand has placed enormous respect and importance on its monarchy. But the ninth ruler of the Chakri dynasty couldn’t take any of this for granted, and was thrust into an important role through an unlikely succession of events that left the whole concept of a Thai monarchy on shaky grounds. His Uncle, Rama VI, had inherited a challenging mantle when King Chulalongkorn the Great, Rama V, passed away in 1910 after a long and very respected rule. Within 10 years the throne had passed on in unstable times to his brother King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) who was forced to accede control in a coup d’ etat in 1932. By 1935 he had abdicated and left to live abroad, leaving the country’s monarchy rudderless and without a named heir. With the present King’s own father, Prince Mahidol, dead, the title went to his brother, Ananda (who became Rama VIII) - both of them nephews of Rama VII. But the two boys were still seeing out their schooling in Switzerland and couldn’t return until after the end of the Second World War when the puppet government and Japanese occupiers had been driven out. Within a year King Ananda would be murdered under suspicious circumstances so that the young Bhumibol suddenly found himself as King Rama IX.And so, at the age of 18, and married to Queen Sirikit just one week earlier, King Rama IX set out on this sixty year journey as father of the nation. Over the years he spent time as a monk, re-invigorated the ceremony of the monarchy, upheld the highest example of morals and judgement, correctly stepped into his role as a Buddhist leader and scholar and above all went to work every day like everyone else in the Kingdom, tirelessly striving to understand the problems and challenges of this land. Over the years in his addresses he has laid out important examples which have been assiduously followed for sustainable and environmentally friendly programs to help preserve Thailand’s resources while accommodating and uplifting the poor.

Anyone who has traveled in Thailand knows: the Thai people love their king. Authorized photos of the monarch adorn buildings, intersections, shops, and even family living rooms. Insulting the King or an image of the King, including currency is not only a big no-no in Thailand etiquette, it can result in prison time.

Garuda in Wat Phra Kaeo (Grand Palace) 
It's well worth to know that the symbol of Thai monarchs is GARUDA (Phra Khrut) I’m sure you’ve seen the Phra Khrut on your journeys through Thailand. Even if you’ve not noticed it consciously, it’s almost impossible that you’ve not seen it on a visit to the Land of Smiles. (Just as an example: it’s on every Thai-banknote). In Thai mythology, Garuda is known as the king of birds. With characteristics very much like and eagle, Garuda in the act of tearing Naga in two, symbolizes the Thai monarchy. It is an ancient and enduring symbol. Besides serving as the royal insignia, the Garuda is also the official seal of the civil government. The influence of ancient Brahmanism is still felt in royal ceremonies which pay homage to Garuda. The various ancient kingdoms in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, have been touched by Indian culture as far back as the 12th and 13th centuries of the Buddhist Era. The supreme deities in the Hindu pantheon are Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. There are a host of lesser spiritual divinities, of which Garuda is one. His likeness is depicted in the sculpture, architecture and painting adorning Hindu and Brahman temples. Garuda is also found in royal Buddhist temples, in accordance with the Hindu belief that the king is an incarnation of Narai, who comes to alleviate human suffering. Garuda is the vehicle of Narai, and has been a symbol of the monarchy for hundreds of years.Garuda appears regularly in the history of Thai art. Bronze Garuda adorn royal sedan-chair and embellish the thron. Sometimes the figure decorates the gables and rooftops of royal residences. The frequent appearance of the symbol certainly reflects the belief in the Devaraja of divine king. The sovereign is revered as a divine epiphany, and incarnation of Vishnu who comes into the world, bringing peace and end to suffering.

Listen to an example of beautiful Thai music:

The King's birthday is also Father's Day, so most businesses close and families are given some time together away from the daily grind. If attending the King's Birthday celebration in Bangkok, be sure to wear yellow or gold -- the colors of the monarchy. Some people choose to wear pink, the color of the Queen.The name Bhumibol Adulyadej means "Strength of the Land." Considering that the king of Thailand has seen, encouraged, or put down over 15 coups during his 65-year-long reign, he lives up to the name well!

National flag of Thailand -  the five horizontal stripes of three colours (red, white and blue) have meaning.

The red represents the blood spilled to maintain Thailand's independence.The white stands for purity and is the color of Buddhism. And the Blue represents the Thai monarchy.The pattern repeats so that the flag can be flown without ever appearing upside down. The pattern repeats so that the flag can be flown without ever appearing upside down.

Long Live The King Of Thailand ! 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

All kids are our kids.

Childhood should be a happy time spent playing with friends, enjoying a favorite toy — even planning for the first day of school. But children in the developing world spend most of their childhood struggling to survive, without much hope for a secure, productive life. Treatable illnesses, such as pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition, become life-threatening when combined with poverty, war, poor sanitation, inadequate health care and insufficient preventive measures.

REMEMBER: You Can Help! Search the net for websites dealing with helping the children. There are many of them !!!

As children living in poor countries are becoming victims of the international financial crisis, industrialized countries should consciously undertake the obligation to help them. The current financial crisis may enlarge the gap between the rich and the poor and threaten the growth and even lives of children in some countries, especially in some export-dependent Asian countries. Such countries are witnessing rapid growth of unemployed and poverty-stricken populations while the number of malnourished children and child mortality rates are increasing. Industrialized countries shall make active efforts to reduce poverty and stimulate economic development.

Children throughout the world suffer greatly because they don't have access to safe water and sanitation. Their health, education and family relationships are affected.In many countries children, particularly girls, are responsible for the collection of water. Girls as young as 10 years old may take the main responsibility for drawing and carrying the family's water.The size of the water container may vary with the size of the child, but each litre of water carried weighs 1kg and may need to be carried up to three or four miles.
Carrying such heavy weights is damaging in the long term for adult women, and for girls there are even more serious implications given their physical immaturity.In particular, there can be damage to the head, neck and spine. In extreme cases deformity of the spine can lead to problems in pregnancy and childbirth.

Children are most vulnerable to the diseases that result from a lack of water, dirty water and poor sanitation. In developing countries each child has an average of ten attacks of diarrhoea before the age of five. Malnourished children are more vulnerable to disease, and prone to diarrhoea, pneumonia, measles and malaria.These four diseases, plus malnutrition, account for seven out of ten childhood deaths in developing countries. For example in Zambia, one in five children dies before their fifth birthday. In contrast in the UK less than 1% of children die before they reach the age of five. Diarrhoea is the second most serious killer of children under five worldwide (after pneumonia) but in most cases it can be prevented or treated.Children's ill health places an increased burden of care on the women and girls who look after them, adding to their already heavy workload.This and the time spent collecting water can prevent women from earning money which can in turn mean they are unable to afford to send their children to school.

A lack of water also means that children cannot wash often enough and suffer from diseases as a result.These include skin diseases like scabies and eye infections such as trachoma, the largest cause of preventable blindness in the developing world.

Let's help the kids, I know we can ...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Introducing KL

More than any other spot in the country, Kuala Lumpur, or "KL" as it is commonly known, is the focal point of new Malaysia. While the city's past  is still present in the evocative British colonial buildings of the Dataran Merdeka and the midnight lamps of the Petaling Street nightmarket, that past is everywhere met with insistent reminders of KL's present and future. The city's bustling streets, its shining, modern office towers, and its cosmopolitan air project an unbounded spirit of progress and symbolize Malaysia's unhesitating leap into the future. To some, this spirit seems to have been gained at the loss of ancient cultural traditions, but in many ways KL marks the continuation rather than the loss of Malaysia's rich past. Like Malacca five hundred years before, KL's commercial centre is a grand meeting place for merchants and travelers from all over the world.In the same way, the city brings together Malaysia's past and present, its many constituent cultures, and even its remarkable natural treasures, allowing first-time visitors an invaluable opportunity to see Malaysia as a whole before setting off to explore its parts.

Petronas Towers - soaring to a height of 451.9 metres, the 88-storey twin structure is Kuala Lumpur's crown jewel. Majestic by day and dazzling at night, the PETRONAS Twin Towers is inspired by Tun Mahathir Mohamad's vision for Malaysia to be a global player. Together with master architect Cesar Pelli, the international icon powerfully captures the nation's ambitions and aspirations.

Everybody is looking at Petronas Towers.

Twin Towers.

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 MalaysiaBersekutu Bertambah Mutu (Unity is Strength)


The great taste of a cultural melting pot

Singapore is in fact one of the most enjoyable cities in Southeast Asia. As you zoom in from one of the world's best airports along the lushly tree-shaded expressway or on the zippy MRT train line, you'll quickly realise this is no traffic-snarled Bangkok. And as you stroll through the fashion emporiums of Orchard Road, poke around antique shops in Chinatown or take a walk around one of the dozens of beautiful city parks, you'll know the city bears no comparison to crime- and poverty-riddenManila or Jakarta. It's popular to dismiss Singapore as a kind of Asia Lite - blandly efficient and safe, a boringly tasteless, disciplinarian and unadventurous place where citizens are robbed of their cherished freedom to spit on the street and chew gum. Few cities in Southeast Asia can boast Singapore's fascinating ethnic brew. Where else in the world can you dip into the cultures of ChinaIndia and Muslim Malaysia all in one day, against a backdrop of ultra-modern Western commerce? Not only has Singapore's history of migration left a rich cultural and architectural legacy that makes wandering the streets an absorbing delight, it has created one of the world's great eating capitals.

 SingaporeMajulah Singapura ( Onward Singapore)

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