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Live Wire: Getting wired into Phuket

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Live Wire: Getting wired into Phuket | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: High season is approaching. Every year about this time I start getting inquiries about connecting to the Internet in Phuket.

As people flock to Phuket for vacations and new jobs, many decide to stay for a week or a month or a decade, and one of the very first questions they have is how in the world to get hooked into the grid, Phuket style.

It ain’t easy.

Other people write to me and ask how they can switch their abysmal (the term is usually considerably more colorful) internet service. The short answer is that there’s no way to know for sure – in Phuket, more than any other place I’ve ever been, there are huge variances in line quality and loading; one person’s fabulous line may be another’s nefarious Skype-dropping mess.

When I first arrived in Phuket twelve years ago, my very first task – after finding a temporary place to live – was to get an internet connection going. There wasn’t much reliable information back then, and there isn’t too much more now.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Thailand are fighting a lot of different battles, and consumer relations is only part of the picture.

Over the years, I’ve stressed measuring international download speeds. We’ve had a lot of problems with getting accurate reports – TOT and True, in particular, have jimmied their lines to give unrealistically good performance measures with the tests we use. I still haven’t found a good solution to that problem. I’ll be meeting with an expert on the topic over the next few months to see if we can find a better way.

For now, the best I can do is give you a relatively educated guess as to the capabilities of the internet packages available on the island, and steer you in the direction that I would go. Your mileage may well vary.

International download speeds aren’t as crucial as they once were. Many companies – Google (including YouTube), Microsoft (including Hotmail), Akamai (which drives thousands of key sites) and others – have set up servers either in Thailand, or one short and very fast hop away, typically in Singapore.

In addition, the ISP’s caches – pools of data sucked into the country once, over a single
international data pipe, then doled out to thousands of customers inside Thailand – are bigger and faster than ever.

If you think you’re looking at a YouTube video or a Formula race “live” from another corner of the world, you’re probably wrong. Chances are good that what you’re seeing has been cached in Bangrak, the waystation outside Bangkok, or possibly in Singapore or Tokyo.

Yes, even your Gmail and Hotmail (er, Outlook.com) email messages are being mirrored in Singapore, and it all happens in the blink of an eye.

I wish that signing up for an internet line was as easy as visiting your friendly local ISP and paying for the fastest package you can afford. It doesn’t work that way. Perhaps more accurately, it may work that way, but you definitely won’t get what you think you’re going to get.

It happens to me, too. I’m in the process of moving from Patong to a more central location on the island. My house search at one point narrowed down to two well-established housing developments in Kathu.

These aren’t new places – they’ve both been around for many years. The people who live in the houses have computers and TV sets and all sorts of electronics – and some presumably have disposable income.

You would think the internet companies would be crawling all over each other to get fast internet connections out to both of these developments and take advantage of the high demand.

And you’d be wrong.

I made the trek to TOT, True and 3BB, hat in hand, and asked about availability of various internet packages in both locations. TOT said they didn’t have fiber in one location, and they weren’t sure about the other. True said they didn’t have the “Ultra” service in one location, and they probably didn’t have Ultra in the other, either. (True’s “Ultra” is a DOCSIS based cable technology that’s similar to cable TV.)

All three said they could get ADSL to both locations, but if I want the faster technology, I’m probably up a creek.

So that’s the first lesson: even if an ISP has a good package, it may not be available wherever you are. Yes, even if you’re in the middle of a popular housing development, surrounded by people willing to pay a premium for good internet service.

The second lesson: some housing developments won’t let you install your own internet line – even if the service they offer is absurdly overpriced and utterly unreliable.

Frankly, I have very little tolerance for places like that.

Fortunately, there’s one technology available – TOT’s AirMax “WiNet” service – that gives you ADSL speeds without having to string a wire to your house. You may or may not be able to sneak that by your developer’s association.

The third lesson: this is all changing. Fast. Right now, the wireless ‘3G’ services from AIS, TrueMove-H, DTAC, and CAT, and coming soon from TOT, offer speeds that typically run about half as fast as what you’d expect from a decent ADSL line. That’s quite remarkable, considering that you can take the 3G connection around with you, all over the country, and hook up network cables and WiFi to little pocket-size boxes – all widely available in Phuket.

But the big change is just about a year away. LTE ‘4G’, if we get it in Phuket (don’t get me started about the 3G auctions), has the potential to run considerably faster than almost all of the landline connections currently available. Of course, that assumes the ISPs pay to build the infrastructure necessary to support those fast speeds. But the potential’s there for a huge game changing shift, not unlike the shift from telephone wires to mobile phones two decades ago.

Next week I’ll talk about the wired connections available in most parts of the island. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the more expensive “faster” lines aren’t necessarily faster at all.

We’re running informal computer clinic roundtables every Sunday morning at Sandwich Shoppe Chalong, located 1 km north of Chalong Circle on Chao Fah East road. If you have a Windows problem that needs to be solved, or a question about internet service in Phuket, drop by and ask one of the assembled gurus. Sponsored by the Phuket Gazette and Khun Woody’s Sandwich Shoppes.

Live Wire is Woody Leonhard’s weekly snapshot of all things Internet in Phuket.

Follow him on Twitter, @PhuketLiveWire, and “like” the pages at facebook.com/SandwichShoppe, facebook.com/phuketgazette.net and now Google+, or send him mail at Woody@KhunWoody.com.

— Woody Leonhard

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Phuket

Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

WARNING: The content below contains photos and videos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

Somehow Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival is to go ahead next month, but officials say they will ask participants to strictly observe social distancing. Good luck with that! For those who don’t know, the festival isn’t exactly known for the food. It’s known for blood, body mutilation and more blood.

During street processions for the weeklong event, also known as the Nine Gods Festival, so called “mah songs” are known to practice self-mutilation and are said to enter a trance-like state, channeling spirits through their body. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and many suggest the mah song acts like a horse for the spirit to ride.

Many mah songs pierce their checks, ears and lips, some with large swords and thick needles. Some slice their tongues continuously for hours, blood dripping down on the street. Others appear to be in a trace walk barefoot as firecrackers explode on the ground.

Mah songs march down Phuket’s streets for hours with a team of devotees to help tend to their wounds, adjust the piercings, wipe away drool and blood, and keep them hydrated. It’s understood that devotees wear white as a symbol of purity. It’s also reported that they abstain from eating meat, drinking alcohol and having sex during the weeklong festival.

It seems gruesome, but it’s actually very spiritual. Business owners and locals line the street, some setting up altars. Mah songs stop at each one and do a quick ritual. Some mah songs carry a black flag, waving it over onlookers who bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position. Some spend time blessing the elderly and handing out bracelets to children. During a procession last year, a woman held up a bracelet as said “the ‘Spirit’ gave this to my mother.”

This year, the festival will have to be a little different to abide by coronavirus prevention measures. The Bangkok Post says it’s the first festival since the outbreak. The head festival organiser Prasert Fukthongphol says “we will seriously enforce social distancing measures and require all participants to wear face masks.”

The grotesque piercings, noisy parades and visits to the shrine, are good news for Phuket’s tourism and bad news if you’re a vegetable. Many adherents to the Chinese-heritage local festival will go without sex, alcohol and meat for the week of so of the festival. The week of events and ceremonies hopes to scare away the bad gods again but, especially this year, attract some extra visitors to the festival.

Another Vegetarian Festival in Chon Buri has also been given the green light. The event is planned for October 16 to the 26. This year’s main event for the festival will be in Naklua at Sawangboriboon Thammasathan Foundation at the Sein Sua Chinese Temple, but many other events will be around the city throughout the week.

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Pattaya News

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Phuket

Officials says no illegal land encroachment at Phuket’s Sri Panwa resort

Maya Taylor

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Officials says no illegal land encroachment at Phuket’s Sri Panwa resort | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sri Panwa Phuket Resort - Sri Panwa Phuket

After coming in for some negative online attention recently, the land title deeds of the Sri Panwa Phuket resort have been investigated and found “to be in order”. The 5-star hotel first attracted the attention of netizens when its owner, Vorasit Issara, publicly criticised anti-government activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, calling for her arrest. He also claimed she wasn’t Thai, a factually wrong and inflammatory statement.

His Instagram tirade prompted outrage from those who support the current protest movement, with netizens calling for a boycott of his property and leaving several negative comments on various review sites. Trip Advisor suspended the hotel’s account due to the online attack.

Shortly after, the Civil Society for State Welfare called on the Social Security Office to clarify its investment in the resort’s trust fund. This was echoed by at least one opposition MP and anti-corruption activists.

Responding to the land rights issue, the Phuket Land Office has issued a statement to say the hotel does not occupy state land. The resort stands on 56 rai of prime real estate, overlooking Phuket’s south-eastern coast. The land office has confirmed its paperwork is all in order.

Meanwhile, it’s understood Charn Issara Development, owners of the property, have threatened to sue the resort’s critics for defamation.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Economy

70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good

Caitlin Ashworth

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70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

Most tourism businesses in Phuket have closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and they probably won’t be up and running again until foreign tourists are let back in Thailand. Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew says around 70% of tourism businesses have closed, most of them just temporarily, but some have shut down permanently. But the statistics are not quite that simple, with the east side of the island, largely inhabited by locals with the central business district of Phuket Town and some of the more popular expat towns, doing far better than the tourist magnets of the west coast. The Thaiger estimates that on the west coast the number would exceed 90%.

Before the pandemic, tourism to Phuket brought in 450 billion baht a year with 400 billion baht from foreign visitors while the other 50 billion baht was from domestic tourists. Thailand has been trying to increase domestic tourism to help revive the industry after the pandemic. Phuket’s governor says it helps, but not enough.

“Their visits can help solve some of our economic problems, but they cannot replace the need of foreign tourists.”

66.8% of tourism businesses in Phuket have closed temporarily while 2.8% have closed permanently, according to data by the Digital Economy Promotion Agency. (Again the percentage along the west coast is MUCH higher – just take a drive through Paton, Kat, Karon). Phuket’s governor is trying figure out how to recover the economy. And fast.

“By the end of September, the number of businesses to be closed will increase up to 70% for sure.”

While many businesses are closed, the governor says Phuket is “almost 100% ready to welcome foreign tourists.” The governor says he can’t give an answer to when foreign tourists will arrive in Phuket, but he claims they’ve “prepared every step,” from checking in at the airport to hotel quarantine. They’re just going to install some new temperature check machines at the Phuket International Airport and review the procedures for welcoming the tourists.

“We have to work and prepare carefully to welcome foreign tourists… We have to gradually open our door to welcome small groups of people first, in order to test our system, and then open for bigger groups.”

At the moment, only 3 venues in Phuket have been approved to operate as alternative state quarantine facilities. Anantara Phuket Suites & Villas has 100 rooms available, Anantara Mai Khao Phuket has 36 villas and Trisara resort has 15 villas. All are 5 star venues with a commensurate 5 star cost.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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