My Thai Air Scare

Exactly 1 year ago today, I flew Thai Air from Bangkok to Ubon and had the scariest moment I’ve ever had on a plane. It was an average sunny day coming into Ubon and I was peering out the window as always trying to identify places on the ground like my home. We had just crossed over Chayangkun Rd. and were about to touch down when the planes engines suddenly fired up and we began making a sharp climb; so much so I felt like I was going to puke. The pilot announced on the intercom that he had made a “decision to abort landing as a safety precaution” because of “another aircraft on the runway.” Nok Air and Air Asia were parked as you can see in the pic below so it had to of been the Air Force. I’ve heard the Air Force hopes one day the airport will be moved North of town. Maybe they’re getting anxious and trying to scare planes away!

Looking down on Ubon's Airport.

Looking down on Ubon’s Airport.

That's the Moon River emptying into the Mekong. We flew all the way to Laos to make our turn back to Ubon.

That’s the Moon River emptying into the Mekong. We flew all the way to Laos to make our turn back to Ubon.

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Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge #6 Scheduled to Begin Construction in Ubon

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Friendship Bridge #6 spanning the Mekong is scheduled to start construction this year in Ubon. It will cross the Mekong SE of Khemmarat in Amphoe Natan (นาตาล), Tambon Phalan (พะลาน). It should be somewhere around here. This is a project that was officially approved 2 years ago and construction should begin this year. If you look at a map of the region, you can see that this will significantly reduce the distance between Ubon and Danang, Vietnam which is the main reason for building the bridge according to news reports. It’s one of many ASEAN development projects to increase trade, etc, etc, etc… You can read more about it here and here.

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Border Dispute News

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This week Cambodia started excavating near the border of Ubon which prompted the Thai military to bring in extra troops to the area. This is East of Preah Vihear Temple on the far edge of Khao Phra Wihan National Park. According to the Bangkok Post, Cambodia was planning to build a casino there and has since brought in more military to the area. According to the Phnom Penh Post, the Cambodia military has not moved into the area and has no plans to build a casino. They blame “the neighboring country” for escalating things and said there were unconfirmed reports that some shooting has already begun. After a quiet border for an extended period, it looks like the chances of Preah Vihear opening on the Thai side remain indefinite.

The Bangkok Post graphic above shows where soldiers are stationed. I’m not sure if new soldiers were actually sent there or not. If you go to the Yod Dom nature reserve office, they have a 3D topographical map and they can show you exactly where soldiers are stationed all the time. There is a waterfall back in there called Pak Khap Sam Tuan Waterfall นำ้ตกปากคาบสามทวน (นำ้ตกประคาบสาม) that is supposed to be amazing but the chances of ever getting there in the near future are highly unlikely as long as these border disputes continue.

In other unrelated news, it sounds like the Thai military has been giving the Cambodian soldiers some expensive clay pigeon fun with drones.

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Central Ubon’s Shark Problems

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In May 2013 Central opened a new mall in Ubon and one of the main attractions is the aquarium; a very shallow pool of water with 6 sharks and a bunch of fish that kids and selfie-happy shoppers flock to. I always thought it seemed unsafe to have an open aquarium so low; for kids and the sharks. A 3 year old can reach the water and it’s not uncommon to see people put their hands in the water or try to feed the fish their Auntie Anne pretzel while grandma giggles nearby. Not kidding. Nevertheless my son and I often sit and enjoy the aquarium while mom is shopping.

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In August, one of the sharks bit the finger off a 2-year old [Warning: Graphic]. Large red signs were put up and the sharks were removed until either yesterday or the day before. Perhaps Central figured the negative buzz surrounding the incident had died down enough to quietly put sharks back in. Whatever the case, one of them promptly jumped out and almost landed on a kid in a stroller stirring up some more bad publicity. You can’t make this stuff up. According to Coconuts Bangkok, Central blamed a kid for tapping on the glass with a toy and released a statement on a local Facebook group page that said the sharks simply weren’t used to the new environment. Really? Blame the kids? There are constantly kids tapping on the glass and you can’t walk by the thing without seeing people taking pictures, often with the flash on. Personally I think Central should get an aquarium like Central Airport Plaza’s in Chiang Mai below but who knows if they’ll do anything. One thing I do know for sure; I will not be hanging around the water’s edge with a pretzel or a stroller anytime soon.

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Thailand’s Blood Timber

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Al Jazeera recently aired a documentary on illegal rosewood logging on the Cambodia border that I highly recommend. I highlighted this topic back in 2012 because I like hiking the border area. If you hike to Phu Hin Dang they actually require that you have an armed escort. Usually you hear about logging mostly in Ubon and Sisaket but as the map below shows there are other places it can be found. I couldn’t figure out where Al Jazeera was filming but they found tiger tracks so most likely it was in southern Buriram near Thap Lan National Park where there are known to be tigers. Park staff in Ubon & Sisaket say there may be a couple tigers in that area but they haven’t been seen for years. For further reading visit here.

Rosewood-map

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