Revival, Renewal and Reinvention: The Complex Life of Thailand’s Monarch

Paul M. Handley, The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006. 498pp.   Related Links:  Royal Maneuvers The King Never Smiles: Book Excerpt   Paul Handley, a former Far Eastern Economic Review journalist, approaches his task in much the same way that biographies are written…

Royal Maneuvers

  Related Links:  The King Never Smiles: Book Excerpt  Revival, Renewal and Reinvention: The Complex Life of Thailand’s Monarch When I started out on my biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, I understood that whatever I wrote would not be received well by a palace used to unqualified adulation and the absolute power to shape its…

Indonesia’s growing drug problem

Two years ago, Indonesian authorities tied a 32-year-old Thai woman named Namsong Sirilak and a 62-year-old Indian named Saelow Prasert to palm trees at dawn in northern Sumatra and shot them for trafficking in heroin -- only weeks after the execution of their Indian accomplice, Ayodhya Prasad Chaubey. That might have been a spectacular answer…

Taxis – China’s Deep Throats

It is a miserable winter evening in Beijing, wet and freezing, and the taxi matches the mood – a rickety Charade, the floor covered in dust and the seatcover reeking of a hundred bottoms. We are driving along Wangfujing, Beijing’s main shopping street, past the Crowne Plaza Hotel. “The mistress of the Beijing party chief…

Hong Kong Heart Break

My five geriatric heart-attack ward buddies in Hong Kong's ageing, somewhat dingy United Christian Hospital are stoic. Though we can only communicate through smiles, grimaces and occasional farts and belches, I assume that, like me, questionable lifestyle and dietary choices - a steady parade of cigarettes, booze, oily foods, stress and perhaps genetics - have thrown us…

A Stately Pleasure Dome

  The royal family parks the royal Hummer at the Empire Hotel The Empire Hotel and Country Club, sprawled over 180 hectares on a shoulder of the South China Sea in Brunei, boasts a 12-storey marble and gold-lined lobby so cavernous that astounded tourists can be found at almost any time of the day trying…

Bali: Trouble in Paradise

Kuta, Bali – The Bali bombs of 2002 and 2005 confirmed local conventional wisdom: bad things on the island come from Java. The 2005 bombings not only revived the slump in tourism, which accounts for at least 40 percent of Bali’s economy, but exacerbated ancient animosities as well. But while other parts of Indonesia have…

The Gong Show

The average reviewer pours scorn on remakes of old movies or television shows, crying creative bankruptcy. Not me. It’s hard to deny that recycling of characters and plot is wanting in inspiration. But that’s not a large crime in the entertainment world. I admit to a déclassé taste for recycled entertainments. I like the ones…

His Brother’s Keeper

My brother, Gene Berthelsen, was born at 5:13 pm on October 4, 1937. I was born 20 minutes later at 5:33, although it could have been the other way round. We can’t be sure. That is because when our mother brought us home from what was then Siskiyou County Hospital in Yreka, California, and bathed…

Mimi’s Dream Race

When Filipina-American Melody “Mimi Miyagi” Damayo used the fame she gained as a porn star to launch a bid for the Republican nomination for governor of the US state of Nevada, she could hardly have expected to win. And, of course, she didn’t. She garnered just 1,651 votes in the 15 November primary race, finishing…