World SuperBikes in Buriram

Coming very very soon, the World Super Bike Circus will be hitting our home town, Buriram. Following a visit from “The Doctor”, Valentino Rossi, last month, to check on the facilities, the town is gearing up to host its biggest ever event. Join us and welcome the 2015 World Superbikes to Buriram.

Excitement is mounting as the town of Buriram continues its rise to be the sporting capital of Isaan (the north-eastern region of Thailand). Over the weekend of 20/21/22 March 2015 there will be practice sessions, qualifying, warm-ups and, finally, two adrenaline filled, high speed, exhilarating races of the Sunday, all in front of a capacity crowd of nearly 50,000 people. One lap of the Grade 1 track is just over 4.5kms in length with 12 corners, a mixture of sweeping curves and tight turns.

We expect people to come from all over the world and stay around the town of Buriram (and the nearby towns of Nakon Ratchesima, Surin and even Bangkok and hope that they experience and hospitality that Isaan, and Buriram in particular, are famous for. For those needing some help with their travel, please contact us. Buriram can be reached by road, plane, bus and train so make a choice and enjoy the journey.

The track itself is about 6kms from the town centre, located adjacent to Thunder Castle, aka the New I-Mobile Stadium, home of the mighty Buriram United (current Thai Premier League Champions). Currently, there is a game scheduled on the Sunday evening, after the final race. Stick around and support us as we take on SriSaket, one of our local rivals.

If you are one of those fans who plan to come and see us, stay around for a few days. Visit the nearby sights of Khao Khadong in the town and the fabulous, ancient Khmer Temples of Phanom Rung and Muang Tham, a short 30 minute drive from the town. Enjoy the local cuisine, chat to the locals and sample our nightlife. Popular places to chill out include the Motown Bar, the Bus Bar and many others. For those who like some live music there’s Tawan Daeng and if you want to have a little dance you could join the younger crowd at Speed Disco.

Thai Premier League 2015

 

 

Our Crest

Our Crest

It’s a few short months since Buriram United clinched their 3rd Thai Premier League title with a win on the final day of the season. On February 14th the next installment begins with a smaller league and three new teams. Buriram United start their campaign at home to Thai Port in a game they should be expected to win. Joining us in the top flight this year we have Nakon Ratchasima, Saraburi and Navy, meaning that up in the North East we now have 5 teams, including Osotspa and Srisaket too, which should make for some interesting rivalries.

We can expect the same major teams to dominate, Buriram, Chonburi, Muang Thong and BEC and maybe a surprise or two from Army or a promoted team.

At Buriram United, things are never smooth. This year, they have kept faith in the same manager but lost quite a few players, some to other TPL teams and some have gone to pastures new. Naturally, they have all been replaced by better players (or at least we hope so) but they’ll need a little time to gel. On the opening Sunday we have the intriguing fixture of our main rival, Muang Thong, travelling to our newest local rivals, Swat Cat Nakon Ratchasima which will provide a good test for both. Naturally, we feel obliged to cheer for Korat!

Buriram are not always quick starters but with the first Asian Champions League game just a few short weeks away, the team will need to be ready, quickly.

In the Asian Champions League, Buriram will face Gamba Osaka from Japan, Korean team Seongnam and one of the play-off winners with the first game being a home tie against the Koreans on the 24th Feb at I-Mobile Stadium.

Let’s hope this year can be another good one with some progress deep into the Champions League.

We are Buriram United. We never die. Good Luck for 2015.

Our New Kit

Our New Kit

Reverse Bucket List No. 8: Manly to Sydney Ferry

 

A amazing sight on arrival

A amazing sight on arrival

Having spent a weekend with some friends in the Sydney Suburbs, I needed to find a way into the city to be a tourist and do some touristy things. One option was taking a taxi directly, crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and jumping off at a suitable place. A far better option was to arrive on the water.

Arriving at the Manly Ferry Terminal early, it’s a hive of activity as the Sydneyites (or whatever they call themselves) head to work on this fabulously bright and sunny Monday Morning. I’m feeling a little glum as the Australian rugby team has just defeated the brave and honest British and Irish Lions but my mood improves as I board the ferry, take a seat with a view and prepare and another little adventure.

As we slowly leave the dock, the commuters grab their newspapers and pretend to read the news. (Remember, there was a time before smart phones and iPods!) Some take a quick 40 winks but not this enthused traveller. Oh no, it’s time to look and observe as we pull away into the open-ish water with Sydney Harbour National Park on either side. The water is fairly calm today as the harbour front properties of Manly fade into the horizon. Within a few minutes we’re passing Cannae Point and drawing level with the main harbour entrance that leads to the slightly more turbulent seas of the Tasman, with New Zealand a long way off to the east.

The Manly Ferry passes the Hornby Lighthouse

The Manly Ferry passes the Hornby Lighthouse

The entire journey is 7 nautical miles but at a reasonable pace there is time to take in the amazing views. We continue with Hornby Lighthouse to our east, followed by RMAS Watson, the naval station, whilst the gun placements of Middle Head can be seen to our right. All the time your head is moving from side to side to try and glimpse something special. As you see Bradley’s Head on the Starboard Side, you realise you’re closing in on the city and then suddenly, in the distance, you see the great coat hanger, also known as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, rising in front of you. Right now, you realise you’re the only tourist as you’re snapping away with your camera while nobody else takes even the slightest bit of notice! Steadily, the ferry meanders towards the bridge and we’re treated to the iconic Sydney Opera House making a performance on our port side, glistening in the early morning sun and appearing to almost kowtow before us, leaning, as it does, towards the waterfront.

Have they finished painting it yet?

Have they finished painting it yet?

Just as I assume we’re going to dock and finish this fabulous journey, the ferry veers off to the right and heads to a point almost directly under the bridge where some local folk alight before we set off again to cross the harbour, giving me another terrific view and a different perspective on the bridge.

After what seems like a mini-cruise, we finally dock at The Rocks and I can begin the walking part of my tour. What a wonderful way to see the city and its sites. Probably on a par with the famous Star Ferry across Hong King Harbour from Kowloon to the Island, just longer!

 

Nightlife in Buriram

On a recent excursion into the city of Buriram I had the chance to acquaint myself with some of its nightlife.

Firstly, the hotel. I stayed at the Klim Hotel, a new place just across the tracks from the railway station. By this I mean you had to walk across the tracks to reach it (if coming by train or on foot) but this is fairly safe considering how few trains come through the station every day. It’s cheap (B1000/night), clean and has a small pool. The Wi-Fi was good and the buffet breakfast was more than enough. I also found a great little massage place about 200m from the hotel (turn left as you leave and keep walking).

Once the sun set, it was time to explore. First stop was Bamboo Bar, a long established favourite with the expat crowd that serves good, well prepared food at reasonable prices. (I had a quite delicious chicken kiev with a generous amount of garlic stuffed inside.).

My target for the evening was to see a game of football on TV (Thailand v. Malaysia) so I headed to the 315 BBQ and Beer Park at the i-Mobile stadium (home of Buriram United). They have a big-ish screen and a few people also came out despite the rather cold weather. I was lucky as on Wednesday night they have a promotion. B180 for all the draft beer you can drink from 6.00-9.00pm. I think I got good value from this. This place is a little out of town but the Bamboo Bar had arranged a taxi for me who also kindly picked me up and took me back into town. Once in town my first stop was the Motown Bar and Bistro. It wasn’t very busy and had a live singer who was very good and sang mainly western songs. They have a very good choice of beer and the staff were all very friendly but lacking in English!

The next stop was Rarn Tat Pom, a small pub in the plaza near the town’s main disco (Speed). Again, there was live music from a band with a singer whose sole intent was to smile at the ladies in the crowd. Again, a good choice of drinks at good prices.

Finally, I visited Tawan Daeng. It’s a chain of live music venues which are large inside and have big tables. Personally, I like the one in Surin and the one in Bangkok but the Buriram site lacks a little atmosphere. The acoustics weren’t very good either but maybe it was because I was alone as these types of place are a lot more fun with friends.

Altogether, it seems that one can have a very enjoyable evening out in Buriram Town. I’m sure I shall return again soon.

Walking Street, Nang Rong Style

There seems to be a fashion around Thailand this year for towns to open their own version of ‘Walking Street’. I noticed, the last time I was in Sathorn (Bangkok), that at the southern end, the road was closed in the evenings to allow people to meander around and visit the stalls that were set up.

As many of you will know, probably the best known Walking Street is in the seaside resort town of Pattaya. It’s a street that closes after dark to traffic and allows you to stroll amongst the bars, street entertainers, restaurants and a variety of other ‘entertainment’ establishments.

The trend for closing roads has now reached Issan. Buriram has a Walking Street at the weekend and now, so does Nang Rong. Every Friday and Saturday, from late in the afternoon, Narong Damri (that’s the street behind the Nang Rong Hotel) closes to all but pedestrians and becomes a place to wander and sample the local fare.

A stroll along Walking Street

A stroll along Walking Street

As you move from one end to the other, you pass stalls with all kinds of snacks and sweets. There are noodle stalls and meat on a stick kiosks. There are places to buy iced coffee and shakes. At the central intersection, the day we visited there was a young man balancing (with various degrees of success) glass bottles on top of each other.

 

The Art of Bottle Balancing

The Art of Bottle Balancing

One can also find live music along the way. You can sit and listen to some students strutting their stuff with guitar in hand or watch and admire the folk from Nang Rong School, being led by Khru Or playing local music on their traditional instruments.

Khru Or and her student band

Khru Or and her student band

 

The street is about 200 metres from one end to the other but the amazing choice of items and fabulous smells from the stalls make it great way to spend some time in the early evening. Get down there and enjoy it. It’s worth a visit.

Surin Elephant Round Up

Surin Elephant Round Up

 

Ready for action

Ready for action

Every year on the 3rd weekend of November, one of Thailand’s most wonderful events takes place. Sadly, it’s visited by very few tourists as it’s in the north-eastern province of Surin, about 450 kilometres from Bangkok, or 5 hours by car but it should be in every tourist guide and on everyone’s list of things to experience.

Surin is a typical rural Thai province, where people earn their living from the land and mostly lead simple but comfortable lives. It borders Buriram to the west and Srisaket to the east, with a border to Cambodia to the south. The Surin folk speak a mix of Issan (Lao) and Khmer and continue the cultures and traditions that have been passed to them over time.

Surin, as a province, has become synonymous with elephants and every year in November, homage is paid to these wonderful animals in the form of a festival. It’s called the Surin Elephant Round Up but it’s not a collecting of pachyderms, it’s a collection of them.

On the morning on the first day, there is a parade through the town and for me this is the most enjoyable part of the whole festival. It’s a little like waiting for the circus to come to town back home. Hundreds of elephants, of all sizes, walk through the town, ending up at the Elephant Buffet Breakfast, a fair feast of bananas, leaves and any other fruit that is

Just a wafer thin snack...

Just a wafer thin snack…

available. It’s a marvelous time to get up close and personal and rides are also allowed for a small fee.

Over the weekend, outside the city, the Si Narong show ground holds events including battle re-enactments, shows and sports events, all used to show the strength and mobility of these wonderful beasts. There are also displays on the domestication of the elephants, every life living with them and their relationship with Surin Province.

If you are available at this time (November 14-16, 2014) please make your way up here and enjoy the fun.

Who's the Ref?

Who’s the Ref?

 

 

 

 

Rice Harvesting Season / เกี่ยวข้าว

Rice Harvesting Season

In the North-East of Thailand, the area known as Isarn (Issan/Isan) is one of the main rice producing regions. Travel around at the end of the dry season (the end of April/ start of May) and the ground is brown and dry. Once the rains come towards the end of May everything changes.

Rice Planting in Thailand

Rice Planting in Thailand

Every year, in Bangkok, on the 8th or 9th of May, the Royal Ploughing ceremony is held. It’s an occasion where a special white oxen ploughs some magical seeds into the land as a symbol of the harvest to come, all overseen by the Crown Prince.

Meanwhile, the rice planting communities of the Central Lowlands, the North and the North-East are waiting for the first rains to come so that they can start the long, backbreaking process of planting the rice for the annual harvest. (In some areas they are able to cultivate two harvests a year but one is still more usual.) This slow and labour intensive process takes time but once it’s finished, it’s time to sit back and watch the countryside turn a lovely deep green as the rice seeds grow and rise up out of the paddies. Apparently, this is the best time for enjoying a small measure of Lao Khao, or rice wine, which alleviates some of the aches and pains from the working day.

A few months down the road and we’ve come to November when the rains starts to abate and the time arrives to cut the rice. This can be done in a couple of ways. Simply put, if you have a large enough farm you can harvest mechanically. If you’re holding is smaller or if you’d rather save the family’s money then it’s good, old fashioned, bending over with a sickle and slicing away. I understand that if you do this on a regular basis your back becomes accustomed to this but, having spoken to a close friend, about 10 minutes is just fine to experience the torture of ‘kieow khao” or rice harvesting.

A Lady in Kalasin Province harvesting her rice.

A Lady in Kalasin Province harvesting her rice.

Many people from all over the country head back to their rural homes sometime in November to help on the family farm. Once the cutting is finished, the rice is laid out to dry along the roadside and once dry, it’s threshed until the rice and husk are separated. Then the rice can be bagged, weighed and shipped off to the local buyer and the family receives its money for the next year’s seeds.

 

Reverse Bucket List Number 11: A Day on the Ganges and Some other Exciting Events in Varanasi

Riding a Canoe Upstream on the Ganges from Varanasi (and some other fun too!).

Varanasi is famous for a few things. One is the Burning Ghats, where people come to cremate their loved ones in the hope that by sprinkling their ashes they might receive salvation. Another is the Ganges River, one of India’s sacred rivers, where people bath and perform Pujas (prayer rituals). Finally, it’s also famous for a special drink, Bhang Lassi, a yoghurt based drink flavoured with something extra special to help you relax and enjoy your stay.

During my stay, I experienced all three. Many people are cremated here, it’s true, but the number is disproportionately large compared to the population as many people come here to die as it’s also considered a blessing to take your last breath in Varanasi.

The Burning Ghats of Varanasi

The Burning Ghats of Varanasi

Personally, I felt a little uncomfortable peering out over the walls into some of the 80 plus Ghats knowing that I was intruding on families’ last minutes on earth with the physical bodies of their friends and family. At one or two points, you can actually observe quite closely for the payment of a few rupees. Otherwise, you do whatever your conscience allows you. Two things hit you here. One is the smell of burning flesh, which is none too pleasant, and the second is the sweeter smell of sandalwood, the fuel of choice for the cremations.

As for the second reason for being in Varanasi, bathing in the Ganges was one of those Bucket List ideas that I had, way before the term “Bucket List” had been thought of (I think). I watched many people, from Indian families to Religious people to local folk all bathing and eventually I took the plunge. Not literally, of course, as to jump in would be absolutely crazy. You have no idea what’s in the river so it might be dangerous but I suppose if you’re going to injure yourself, it might not be a bad place to do it. No, I watched how people slowly walked in, up to their waist and then duked under the water and when nobody was looking, I did the same. One thing I understood was the importance of not opening your mouth when doing this. You really, really, don’t want to drink this water.

A Family Trip to the Local Bath House.

A Family Trip to the Local Bath House.

Not only is it sacred but also it’s used for ablutions, scattering ashes, disposing of waste and plenty of other things. My plan, mouth shut, under the water, surface, shake hair and get out. That was it, ticked off the yet to be invented “Bucket List”.

 

 

Finally, ‘twas an evening spent on the roof of our guest house, the Yogi Lodge. Some of the guys sharing my dormitory had gone out to a sitar recital, which really wasn’t my scene. I met a couple of guys from New Zealand who were chilling with a lovely lassi drink. They seemed quite jovial so I joined them. It was then I discovered the secret ingredient; a little dose of bhang. (If you don’t know what this is then Google it!) I believe, according to a diary I wrote, that I had three glasses. It must have been pretty good as the discussion was lively. I’m sure you know the sort of chat we had, especially sitting overlooking the sacred Ganges River. Never being one for in depth philosophical nattering I left to have a shower and sleep. Nothing to do with the lassi but I slept for 13 hours!

Now don’t get me wrong, the Burning Ghats, the ritual bathing and the lassi were all good fun but the thing I enjoyed the most was the following day when I was offered a chance to paddle a canoe up river to a small town on the opposite bank of the Ganges where there’s an old Maharaja’s Palace. Going upstream, the short journey took over an hour with both my guide and I working hard to move at all. I was a little disappointed in the Palace although it did have a very good museum. On the way home I paid the guide to do the work but he smiled, sat back and watched us speed home using just the river’s strong current for power! The trip was made more memorable by landing on the home side and jumping out next to a dead cow’s head covered in rather mean looking vultures. As always, it was a pleasure just to have crossed the Ganges, to have bathed in it, to have seen the cremations and to have tasted the famous Bhang Lassi. Another tick on the Bucket List.

 

 

 

 

 

Reverse Bucket List Number 13: Sailing around the Leeward Islands

Sailing into Falmouth Harbour Antigua.

To many, the thought of sailing on a tall ship around the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean is but a dream. It needn’t be though because there are many companies around that offer 7 night (or more) cruises, one such being Star Clippers.

The Star Flyer

The Star Flyer

The thrill of being on deck in the evening, wind gently blowing, as you slowly and serenely move from one island to the next is something utterly fantastic. To awake as you approach yet another glorious Caribbean island paradise exactly as the early European sailors did so many centuries ago.

For us, we had left Guadeloupe the previous evening under sail, music softly playing on the deck as after dinner drinks were being consumed and the party was coming to life. As we neared the shores of Antigua the following morning, a delicious breakfast was served and we made our way out into the sunshine and headed to the fore deck. Jutting out from here is the bowsprit. (I confess to not knowing it was called this and I had a far less technical name for it.) Underneath this there is some rigging which to me resembled a large hammock. What better way to enter into Falmouth Harbour than to be lying in my new favourite place as we arrived. A couple of delicate steps and I was down, almost dangling my feet in the warm sea (or at least it felt like that!).

For about 10 minutes I remained there and just as I was about to climb up onto the main deck I was joined by a small school of dolphins who chirped away (what is that sound they make?) as if to welcome us to our next port.

We made the turn into the harbour, the dolphins bade a fond farewell with a smile and a wave of their tails and I was summoned for the daily briefing for when we reached dry land.

Of course, this experience can never be guaranteed but the sailing alone is well worth it so save your pennies and head for the Caribbean this winter.

Buriram Town: The Provincial Capital

Buriram Town is the main town in the province of Buriram. Located around 400 kilometres from Bangkok, it is the fastest developing town in the North-East of Thailand. Long considered a place to find farmers and country folk, it is forging ahead with plans to become Thailand’s centre for sport and to become THE place to visit in Issan.

The town itself is still fairly small, with a population of less than 50,000 people, but the speed of development is quite outstanding. For a long time there has been a market, some small shops and some very interesting history but in the last couple of years the town has become an exciting and lively place to be.

When Khun Newin Chidchob moved the old PEA football club to Buriram and renamed it Buriram PEA, nobody could have imagined what would happen. The team (now known as Buriram United) has twice one the Thai Premier League and regularly competes in the Asian Champions’ League. In the first week of October, 2014, the Chang Buriram International Circuit will hold its first race bringing international motorsport to the town. With this comes tourism and now many new hotels have started to open, including the Buriram United Amari, the Best Western, the Thepnakorn and the Oriental House.

In the town, an evening “Walking Street” has recently opened with shops, stalls and food sellers creating a central place to meet and mingle. There is also an assortment of pubs and restaurants opening. The Bamboo bar, which for some time has been the meeting points for expats, has competition from Jimmy’s Sports Cafe and the Motown Bar and Bistro.

There’s talk of another golf course being built soon and NokAir are looking to increase flights to a daily service.

It seems that Buriram is starting to compete with the other provincial towns in Issan and with the friendly nature of the local population and the vision and enterprise of such people as Khun Newin, the future looks very bright.