Friday, August 14, 2009


This weekend Aug 16th is the anniversary of King of Rock 'N' Roll Elvis Presley's death (16th Aug, 1977). I've seen the photo (the top one) framed and hung up at a restaurant somewhere in Thailand. With Aug 16th approaching, I did some research. The photos were taken when the King & Queen of Thailand were visiting USA in June 1960. They met Elvis at Paramount's Hollywood Studios while Elvis was in the midst of filming 'G.I. Blues'. The other lady seated is believed to be his female co-star, Juliet Prowse. So this was when the King of Thailand met the King of Rock 'N' Roll.
It's interesting to note that the King of Rock 'N' Roll "posthumously" was the father-in-law of the King of Pop. Elvis' daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, was married briefly to the late Michael Jackson in the 90s.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Guide to Who's Who in the Thai Royal Family

The Thai Royal family is highly loved and revered by Thais. As visitors to Thailand, we are often amazed at the deep and genuine devotion given to the Royal family, where their photos appear in nearly all (if not every) homes, in every towns & villages on banners and signboards, and when photos are not found, the yellow coloured flag of the King would be flying along roads even in the most isolated places. There's even a TV channel that broadcasts daily updates on the Royal family's activities. As visitors to Thailand, many of us can’t make out who's who. Hopefully the information below is of help….

(Above) The King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). (born 5th Dec, 1927)
He became King on 9 June 1946 after the death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) and is now the longest reigning monarch in the world. His coronation ceremony was on 5th May, 1950. He initiated countless development projects for Thailand. He used part of his palace, Chitralada Palace to set up a rice field, mill, fish ponds and dairy farm for agricultural research. 'Chitralada' is also the brand name of many products derived from the king's initiatives. His care and concern for the people of Thailand has earned him great love and respect from the Thai people. King Bhumibol is a painter, musician (especially as jazz musician and composer), photographer, sailor, author and translator. The King's birthday is a national holiday and also Fathers' Day in Thailand. The King was born on a Monday so his royal flag is yellow in colour.

(Above) The King's father, Prince Mahidol Adulyadej (Prince of Songkhla)
(born 1st Jan, 1892, passed away 24th Sept 1929)
Prince Mahidol was the 69th child of King Chulalongkorn and the 7th of Queen Savang Vadhana. For his contributions to improving medical service and public health, he is regarded as father of modern medicine and public health of Thailand.

(Above) The King's mother, Princess Srinagarindra (Princess Mother of Thailand). (born 21st Oct 1900, passed away 18th July 1995) She was a special patron to the hill tribe people of North Thailand and they call her "Mae Fah Luang" meaning Royal Mother from the Sky as she often descended by helicopter to visit them. Mae Fah Luang Foundation runs many Royal projects to assist the hill tribe communities. When you visit Doi Tung mountain in Chiang Rai, you will see the villa that was her former residence.

(Above) The King's only sister Princess Galyani Vadhana (Princess of Narathiwat) (born 6th May 1923, passed away 2nd Jan 2008) An active royal, the princess' royal patronage projects included traditional Thai arts, education, sports, social welfare, etc. After her mother's passing, she took over most of the charities and organizations that was her mother's as well, with full knowledge as she used to accompany her on her trips to the rural areas. She passed away due to cancer.

(Above) The King's only brother, King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII).
(born 20th Sept, 1925, passed away 9th June, 1946)
He ascended to the throne on 2nd March 1935 at the age of 9 after his uncle, King Rama VII abdicated. He reigned until 9th June, 1946, when he was found shot dead in his room. It remains a mystery to this day whether he died from mishandling his gun or whether he was assassinated.

(Above) The King's wife and queen consort, Queen Sirikit (born 12th Aug, 1932)
She is the granddaughter of Prince Kitiyakara Voralaksana, a Thai Royal family member (House of Kitiyakara). She married King Bhumibol on April 28, 1950. Her work in promoting tolerance and understanding for the Muslim minorities in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat have made her especially popular amongst the local Muslim populace. Queen Sirikit is well-known for her charitable work. She is the honorary President of the Thai Red Cross since 1956. Queen Sirikit's birthday is a national holiday and also Mothers' Day in Thailand. The Queen was born on a Friday so her royal flag is blue in colour.

(Above) Photo of the King & Queen as a young couple

(Above) The King's eldest child, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya (born 5th April, 1951)
During 1967 SEA Games in Bangkok, the princess and her father, the King competed in the sport of sailing and won gold medals. In 1972, the princess married an American, Peter Ladd Jensen and settled in the United States. After their divorce in 1998, she returned to Thailand in 2001 and has been taking part in royal ceremonies. She founded the anti-drug "To Be Number One" project.

(Above) Princess Ubolratana's eldest daughter, Khun Ploypailin Jensen (born 12th Feb, 1981). Besides being a skilled pianist, she has acted in some TV dramas and occasionally modeled for fashion magazines.

(Above) Princess Ubolratana's son, Khun Bhumi Jensen (born 16th Aug, 1983, passed away 26th Dec, 2004). He was named after his grandfather, King Bhumibol. He drowned in the Tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004 at Khao Lak, Phang Nga province, Thailand. After his death, his mother Princess Ubolratana, established the Khun Poom Foundation in his memory, to aid children with autism and other learning disabilities (Khun Bhumi Jensen had autism).

(Above) Princess Ubolratana's youngest child, Khun Sirikitiya Jensen (born 18th Mar, 1985)

(Above) The King's son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn (born 28th July, 1952), seen here accompanied by his royal consort, Princess Srirasmi. King Bhumibol formally named him as heir apparent on 28th Dec, 1972. The prince had undergone training at a military college in Australia and is a qualified military pilot. He holds the ranks of General in the Royal Thai Army, Admiral in the Royal Thai Navy and Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Thai Air Force. He is also patron of many projects to help the needy including Crown Prince Hospital Foundation that operates more than 20 hospitals in regional areas of Thailand with underdeveloped medical infrastructure.

(Above) In 1977, the Crown Prince married Princess Soamsavali Kitiyakara, a first cousin on his mother's side. They have one daughter, Princess Bajrakitiyabha. They divorced in 1993. Princess Soamsavali and Princess Bajrakitiyabha continue to play significant roles in royal ceremonies and social welfare programs.

(Above) The Crown Prince's daughter, Princess Bajrakitiyabha (born 7th Dec, 1978)

(Above) Princess Bajrakitiyabha

(Above) In the late 70s, the Crown Prince had a companion, Yuvadhida Polpraserth and they have 5 children. They were married in February 1994 but separated in 1996. The 4 princes are with their mother in USA while the daughter, Princess Siriwannawari Nariratana is with her father. The 5 children are:
Prince Chudhavajra Mahidol (born 29th Aug, 1979)
Prince Vajaresra Mahidol (27th May, 1981)
Prince Chakrivajra Mahidol (26th Feb, 1983)
Prince Vajravira Mahidol (14th June, 1985)
Princess Siriwannawari Nariratana (8th Jan, 1987)

(Above) The Crown Prince's daughter, Princess Siriwannawari is into fashion design, having presented her own fashion show at Paris Fashion Week: Spring/Summer 2008.

(Above) Princess Siriwannawari represented Thailand in badminton at the 2005 SEA Games in the Philippines.

(Above) On 10th Feb, 2001, the Crown Prince married Srirasmi Akharaphongpreecha, now Princess Srirasmi. She gave birth to a son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, on April 29, 2005.

(Above) Crown Prince's son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti (born April 29, 2005)

The King's second daughter, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (born 2nd April, 1955). The Princess enjoys the widespread admiration of the Thai people as she spends much of her time helping her father with his various projects. The Thai people affectionately call her "Phra Thep" meaning Princess Angel. She was awarded the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador title for the "Empowerment of Minority Children through Education and through the Preservation of Their Intangible Cultural Heritage" on 24 March 2005. She has never married.

The King's youngest daughter, Princess Chulabhorn Walailak (born 4th July, 1957) With a Doctorate in Science, she is heavily involved in the promotion of scientific research, and regularly gives awards and prizes. She married Air Force Flight Lieutenant Virayudh Didyasarin in 1982 and they have two daughters. The couple later divorced.

(Above) Princess's Chulabhorn's eldest daughter, Princess Siribhachudhabhorn (born 8 Oct, 1982)

(Above) Princess Chulabhorn's younger daughter, Princess Adityadhornkitikhun (born 5 May, 1984)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sri Lanka revisited

My last and only visit to Sri Lanka was in June 2006. Although I only made one trip, I spent about 2 weeks there and therefore had the opportunity to see many places. Now with Air Asia flying from KL to Colombo, it's high time for a return visit. More importantly, with the civil war over, we may be able to travel to places that were off-limits previously.

View from Ella Grand Motel, of Ella Gap, a view all the way to the sea.

Sigiriya Rock Fortress (UNESCO World Heritage)

Inside Dambulla Cave Temple (UNESCO World Heritage)

Sleeping Buddha at Polonnaruwa (UNESCO World Heritage)

Tea picking at hill country nearby Nuwara Eliya

Mt. Lavinia beach nearby Colombo

UNESCO World Heritage sites

Sri Lanka has 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites, which I list below with text description from UNESCO's website and a wikipedia link for you to read further:

1) Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. It comprises, besides the Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the monumental ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century.

2) Ancient City of Sigiriya
The ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kassapa I (477–95) lie on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak standing some 370 m high (the 'Lion's Rock', which dominates the jungle from all sides). A series of galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a gigantic lion constructed of bricks and plaster provide access to the site.

3) Sacred City of Anuradhapura
This sacred city was established around a cutting from the 'tree of enlightenment', the Buddha's fig tree, brought there in the 3rd century B.C. by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns. Anuradhapura, a Ceylonese political and religious capital that flourished for 1,300 years, was abandoned after an invasion in 993. Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site, with its palaces, monasteries and monuments, is now accessible once again.

4) Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications
Founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese, Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, before the arrival of the British. It is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions.

5) Sacred City of Kandy This sacred Buddhist site, popularly known as the city of Senkadagalapura, was the last capital of the Sinhala kings whose patronage enabled the Dinahala culture to flourish for more than 2,500 years until the occupation of Sri Lanka by the British in 1815. It is also the site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), which is a famous pilgrimage site.

6) Sinharaja Forest Reserve Located in south-west Sri Lanka, Sinharaja is the country's last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. There is much endemic wildlife, especially birds, but the reserve is also home to over 50% of Sri Lanka's endemic species of mammals and butterflies, as well as many kinds of insects, reptiles and rare amphibians.

7) Golden Temple of Dambulla
A sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries, this cave monastery, with its five sanctuaries, is the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist mural paintings (covering an area of 2,100 m2) are of particular importance, as are the 157 statues.

Other attractions in Sri Lanka include:

1) Adam's Peak (Sri Pada) - popular mountain pilgrimage for Buddhists, Hindus and also Christians & Muslims. The footprint found on top is believed to be that of Buddha, Shiva, St. Thomas or Adam (of Adam & Eve) depending on your religious viewpoint.

2) Kataragama is another popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims.

3) Horton Plains, a scenic high plateau national park that include's World's End, where the plateau suddenly drops almost straight down for 880m.

4) Nuwara Eliya, the cool climate resort town surrounded by tea plantations.

5) Colombo, the financial and business center of Sri Lanka - many attractions to visit and shopping to be done here

6) Beaches - plenty of choices on this island nation

I hope the above arouse you to plan for your Sri Lankan vacation.

For PHOTOS taken during my 2006 visit and by our clients who took our tours, visit:

Here are photos of some quality hotels & resorts you can stay while in Sri Lanka:

Here's a list of package tours to Sri Lanka. Contact me at 016-210 6951 or for arrangements.