Created by Nancy Chandler Graphics, and turning the genre on its head, Nancy Chandler Maps are no throw away irrelevancies, but items visitors to Thailand cherish and actively seek out to purchase. Advert free and uninfluenced by 'tea money', they act as a surrogate guidebook, which they often rival for pertinent information. Nancy Chandler Maps are not only useful, but they are the sort of thing people take home as souvenirs. This month saw the organization cross into KhaoSanRoad.com territory with a detailed map of "Khao San Road & Old Bangkok". Before the Bloods and Crips kicked off a turf war, we sat down for a powwow with Nima Chandler, who researched the map.
Here's the result:
KSR: Nima - thanks for meeting us like this. First of all, why don't you give us an overview of Nancy Chandler Graphics and its history?
Nima Chandler: My mother Nancy Chandler founded the company in 1974 when she produced the first detailed map of Bangkok, initially meant to be for expatriates. Handrawn and handletttered, it included special little craft outlets, the only western supermarket, English langauge bookshops and the like about town, while also trying to make some sense of the chaos that were the Sunday Market (then at Sanam Luang near Khao San) and Chinatown. All much the same as was what we do today, although Bangkok has grown immensely since then.
KSR: So, you've lived in Thailand all your life?
Nima Chandler: It has been home since I was one, the chaos of the city something I thrive on. Visiting the US, I am always amazed at the lack of street food vendors, loud music, mega malls around every corner... It's much too quiet and sane for me there.
KSR: And you have maps for Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Suan Lum Night Bazaar… how do you research your maps?
Nima Chandler: We clip and file anything we read or see of interest year round. Come update time, we collate all notes before setting out to research specific areas, then either walking or driving up and down streets, keeping one eye open for things on the list, another eye open for things not on the list. One thing you'd never want to do is walk behind me in the Night Bazaar or Chatuchak Weekend Market as every stall gets a once-over before I head home with my notes to pick and choose what might be of interest to the visitor or expatriate.
KSR: It must be an ongoing task updating them?
Nima Chandler: In a city like Bangkok, it's exciting. There's always new places to visit, old places to toast for surviving, and closed places to keep an eye on to see what comes next. Each city map does take about 6 months to properly update, which is why we only do so every year and a half normally. Luckily I have help now, with my assistant Manapiti Ramasoot, who calls around to confirm hours and the like, while also taking on some of the on foot and road research as well.
KSR: …and now Khao San Road... what drew you to Khao San?
Nima Chandler: We added an inset map of Khao San to our Map of Bangkok back in 2003. I personally loved the color of the area, its vibrancy and energy, not to mention all the great bars, shopping and attractions of the area. (As my mother jokes, there weren't many bars on her map at all until I joined her in the business. When I did, Khao San was not an area to be overlooked for all it had to offer nightlife lovers.) Since then, we've held several fun scavenger hunts in the area and I've co-hosted several wild hen's nights and Khao San pub crawls for expatriates that rarely tour this part of town. Pictures would be provided, but my friends would not speak to me if I shared, sorry.
KSR: We have to say it's a totally detailed little map - everything you need is there and it's going to be really useful for people visiting the area. How long did it take to research?
Nima Chandler: Approximately 6 weeks. We had just updated our Map of Bangkok so our notes were pretty up to date before we focused on the area in more detail. We then spent 2 weeks of researching on foot in the area - I actually moved to a hotel on Phra Athit for the week - hunting down places we'd heard about but had yet to pinpoint for the map, after which it took another 2-3 weeks to map, index and double-check. Nancy meanwhile was working on all sorts of sketches to go with the map - of backpackers looking for hotels, shopping, drinking, etc - which sadly never made it onto the map for lack of space! Hopefully, we'll be able to use them in another format in the future.
KSR: Most people who come to KSR leave and come back again after a couple of weeks and say "I hardly recognized the place"! Isn't keeping your map of Khao San and the area relevant going to be a particular challenge given how quickly things change here?
Nima Chandler: Our website offers free updates online, something we started years ago with our other titles. Updated at least once a month, we highlight great new additions, mention places that have closed and things to keep an eye out for, as well as list upcoming events people might be interested in. In short, if we've heard about or seen any changes, they'll be noted online at www.nancychandler.net.
KSR: Give yourself a plug - where can people buy your maps on KSR? What's the current price?
Nima Chandler: Nancy Chandler's Map of Khao San & Old Bangkok is available online at www.nancychandler.net and at bookshops in the Khao San Rd area (including Shaman, Sara Ban, Bookazine, Aporia, Moonlight and others). Our suggested retail price is B 125* in Thailand. For those overseas, our website offers the map at US$ 7.95* including delivery by airmail (we don't believe in quoting one price then adding on huge delivery charges without notice when people go to check out).
KSR: Most of the maps you find around Thailand are merely excuses for advertising. But of course, you don't accept advertising. So this means you recommend everywhere you mention?
Nima Chandler: No, we don't recommend everything on the map - there's too much on the map to do that. On our Bangkok and Chiang Mai maps, recommended places are highlighted in the directories that accompany the maps if not on the maps themselves. On the map of Khao San & Old Bangkok, our favorites are generally given a special mention on the map itself and within the directory. For our nightlife listings, however, we provide short descriptions, leaving the user to decide what kind of scene they are into. For example, we're not particularly keen on hip hop ourselves, but if you are, you'll find a place you'll like on the map. You can read between the lines too, as in the case of one pub where we note "mind the drunken yobos" and another we describe as with "loud live band 9pm on, chill earlier".
KSR: And you don't take 'tea money'?
Nima Chandler: No 'tea money', no free rooms, no free meals, no discounted drinks. We usually don't mention who we are or what we're doing either, unless contacting people by email.
KSR: So what are the 'must do' places on KSR right now?
Nima Chandler: Hmmm. What's 'in' changes regularly and really depends on what kind of crowd you're into - I love the streetside cocktail bars which are located in front of what will be a big new mall and hotel, in other words, a remnant of the past likely to disappear soon. Thais meanwhile are currently flocking to the streetside cafes and clubs on Rambuttri just north of Khao San which has a flavor all its own after dark. If I had to list five places that would 'surprise' the visitor to Khao San, they would include a visit to the restored mansion that houses Starbucks for a coffee, a browse for the most unusual title you can find at Shaman Books (there are some truly bizarre ones), a pre-party drink anytime from 6-8 pm at the rooftop Gazebo, dinner anywhere on the street, and then a few more drinks at the Roof Pub on Khao San (great oldies music and a buzzing crowd), the Old Phra Athit Pier on Phra Athit (a much quieter, almost refined ambience for the area) and/or the Ad Here blues bar on Samsen (for the non-claustrophobic).
KSR: And if you were writing a back of an envelope itinerary for someone staying on KSR, where are the key places they should visit in the area? I am sure Wat Phra Kaew must be on the list?
Nima Chandler: The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Po and Wat Arun are on everyone's itineraries. Special suggestions we would make would include: Sunset drinks and/or dinner at The Deck of the Arun Residence, a wander down the back alleyways to the simple shack-like riverside cafes near Tha Phra Chan, maybe a wander through the crowds at the market in front of Siriraj Hospital on the other side of the river, for sure dinner in the Phraeng Phuton area at Chotechitr. If you're vegetarian, we'd recommend May Kaidee's and Rub Ar Roon. If you're a student, we'd recommend a visit to Thammasat University's bookshop and uni market. I could go on and on. In short, we recommend personalizing your visit, something we believe our detailed map enables people to do.
KSR: What about little novelties - markets, oddities… places people might not necessarily read about in a guide book but should visit while they are on KSR… got any suggestions?
Nima Chandler: Besides the many mentioned above, wander by the Sor Vorapin boxing gym when classes are in session - who knows, you might find yourself signing up for a few hours of training. The Lofty Bamboo crafts shop is our favorite relatively new outlet, with great little hill tribe textile baby shoes that jump off the shelves among other items. Sticking your head in Nittaya Curry's shops for Thai kanom (sweets) and snacks can also be a unique experience...
KSR: So, what projects are coming up… what new maps can we look forward to?
Nima Chandler: Let's see. I am supposed to be on holiday, resting up after updating the Bangkok map and releasing the Khao San & Old Bangkok map, but someone who shall not be named has us now toiling away on a map for this very website... As for other projects on the table, we'll let you know when we're ready to announce!
KSR: OK - well… good luck with all of that and let us know how things work out.
Nima Chandler: Will do.
*Prices June 2008
See the map of Khao San Road provided by Nancy Chandler Maps.
KSR.com: OK... Perhaps you can start by telling us your full name.
OMC: Chris Rodgers... with a 'D'.
KSR.com: So... How long have you been in Thailand?
OMC: I've been here 12 years...
KSR.com: And what have you been doing for most of those 12 years?
OMC: I came here for 2 weeks 12 years ago... I was on my way to Indonesia and Australia from India, but I never managed to get down there. For the first 6 months I did the backpacker stuff; backpacking around Thailand. And then I got involved in the Thailand Times... I am a photographer and I was helping them out for a while. It was never enough to live on though, and then one day the company I used to work for in the UK called me because had a new contract at the airport here. They were working with a Thai company and asked if I could show them the ropes for 3 months. That lasted 10 years and I finished with them in November last year. We were dealing with all the major airlines. I finished that to start up this place.
KSR.com: Time to go out on your own?
OMC: Well, yeah.
KSR.com: You weren't going to open your own airline, so you opened a chippy (fish and chip shop) instead?
OMC: That's right - instead of "we're flying tonight", "we're" frying tonight".
KSR.com: That can be the interview headline..."From frying to flying!"
OMC: I wasn't actually flying though; I was on the ground.
KSR.com: Still a great headline...
KSR.com: So... erm... The big question is, "is it a northern chippy, or a southern chippy?"
OMC: Middle... we are bridging the gap between north and south.
KSR.com: You can't. It's either north or south.
(A few more seconds of tense silence)
OMC: We're south of Leeds and north of London.
KSR.com: So it's a southern chippy?
(A few more seconds of tense silence)
KSR.Com: Where are you from in the UK?
KSR.com: That's London.
(More tense silence)
KSR.com: Do you sell 'Savaloies'?
OMC: No, we don't. But we do sell 'Mushy Peas'...
KSR.com: OK... Northern chippy.
OMC: ... and Deep Fried Mars Bars...
OMC: Deep Fried Mars Bars.
KSR.com: Deep Fried Mars Bars?
OMC: It's a Scottish delicacy.
KSR.com: I've never even seen one of them, let alone had one.
OMC: Every chippy in Scotland sells them so I thought "why don't I put them on as a bit of a talking point". I made some up for a group who came in here the other night. One of them said he liked it... he was from Denmark. The others said they were glad they'd had one, but they wouldn't have one again.
(More tense silence)
KSR.com: OK... So you were working at the airport... what was the inspiration behind this place? What made you want to start a fish and chip shop on Khao San Road? Have you got chippies in your family or something like that?
OMC: No, not at all. I had to take a course in the UK to become a certified fryer...the British Federation of Fryers... There might be one more place on Phuket but I am definitely the only certified fryer in Bangkok. The inspiration? It was a drunken night on Khao San Road with some mates. We couldn't be bothered to go down Sukhumvit to the chippy there; it's a long way for a bag of chips. Two years later I was trying to find a suitable place for a chippy here, and eventually found this place... and it was going to be just a fish and chip shop originally, but it went more from that to a cafe where you can get a breakfast, pies, baked potatoes... that sort of thing. I used to live in this area and I did a bit more research - I knew it wasn't a place to get a great British breakfast... You can get them on Sukhumvit and I thought "why not do them down here". Sausages, fried bread, Black Pudding if you want it... The works.
KSR.com: So how long have you been open now?
OMC: We opened in 2006. We opened around Songkran so that was a hectic week...
KSR.com: Really? So you got straight in there selling straight off?
OMC: Yeah, it was the best way to do it, we managed to solve a lot of our problems straight away - if we hadn't have got straight in there it might have taken longer.
KSR.com: Why do you think it was all so immediate?
OMC: A lot of our regulars are from this area, we've got a lot of people from Manager Magazine around the back... they come in at lunchtime... UNICEF as well - we have a few of those people...
KSR.com: So let's get this straight - UNICEF spend my donation money of chips and mushy peas?
OMC: That's right... I wanted to make a different sort of place for this area. You've got the nice surroundings... It's...
KSR.com: (Interrupts) I guess its one of those things that, in this area, could be a hit or a miss, and obviously it's been a hit. A lot of the people I talk to already know about you.
OMC: We did a lot of marketing in places like Ajarn.com, BK magazine, Untamed Travel...
KSR.com: ...and the words got out pretty quickly about this great new place on Khao San Road.
OMC: I was amazed - I did a search on the internet and there were lots of posts about me... the Lonely Planet website... ThaiVisa... Stickman... the word's getting around. What I am finding is that people staying here for 3 or 4 days aren't just coming in once, we are seeing them a few times. We had one girl who came in here breakfast lunch and diner for three days in a row!
KSR.com: You have certainly got everybody's interest... There's a fascination with the idea of an English chippy on KSR. There's a lot of American influence on the strip with bars, etc. but there are a lot of English people down here, and they stay here longer, so this place redresses the balance a bit.
OMC: That's right...
KSR.com: So what is absolutely special about this place... apart from Fried Mars Bars?
OMC: We do a 'Hangover Special' which is quite popular. It works if you are still drunk as well, one girl told me last week. It's a fried breakfast with a Bloody Mary... a decent sized Bloody Mary... You know.., the stuff that works when you are not feeling well.
KSR.com: That sounds illegal - lots of carbohydrates and a Bloody Mary?
OMC: Well, we're off the main drag a bit so nobody can see... but really - it works. I am told anyway. I haven't had time to get drunk to find out for myself.
KSR.com: That sound's encouraging...
OMC: But we also do meals that you probably won't find in other places, things like "Boiled Eggs with Soldiers", which are selling like hot cakes. We are doing about 10 or 15 plates every day.
KSR.com: Who too?
OMC: The Indian tailors... They love them.
KSR.com: "Boiled Eggs with Soldiers?"
KSR.com: I thought that was strictly for the under 5s?
OMC: Yeah, it is, but everyone likes to go back.
OMC: Cheese on Toast... You see people who have been traveling for 6 months and they come here and have Cheese on Toast... you'd think they were in some sort of fancy French restaurant or something.
KSR.com: Well, it's very exotic food in these parts; thousands of miles away from the United Kingdom... don't look down your nose at Cheese on Toast.
OMC: We use proper cheese... imported... not those processed cheese slices.
KSR.com: Aren't you a bit daunted at the prospect of moving into something like this with the rents so high around Khao San?
OMC: I think having been here so long I had a good idea of what I was getting into, and I didn't start the place to become a millionaire... that's not want I wanted... As long I can pay my rent I am happy.
KSR.com: And we certainly think you are going to do that. You've done really well at conveying an 'English Experience' - it does make you feel like you are back in the UK. Have you had any fights in here yet?
OMC: (Laughs) We had 5 soldiers who were on leave from Kosovo. They had come out here for some R&R. They asked me what was on the drinks menu and I only have beer - no shorts at present - but I do sell Bloody Mary. They asked me what was in a Bloody Mary and they just had 5 straight Vodkas. In the end they had 2 bottles of Vodka. 10 bottles of Singha, 4 Changs... one of them kicked a table over. But it was all done in the best possible taste. They were alright...
KSR.com: Sounds like any small English town on a Saturday night... excellent. And you need that sort of thing for the authentic English experience.
OMC: Exactly. (Laughs) No... to be honest we keep that element out. But we do show 'Eastenders' every Sunday, so if you really are missing the authentic English experience you should come down.
KSR.com: The omnibus edition?
KSR.Com: OK Chris... That sort of raps things up for us. Thanks for your time and best of luck with everything you are doing.
OMC: Thanks - it's been a pleasure.
Enter Steve Burgess. Steve landed in Thailand 3 years ago and immediately set up on Khao San Road working out a small, one-room shop. His passion for healing is only surpassed by his passion for standards. He is dedicated to the cause of proving scientifically that energy healing is beneficial, and he has worked with doctors and professors who are now beginning to champion his cause. Beyond this, Steve is committed to developing training courses in a range of healing arts that meet international standards and can stand the test of third-party scrutiny. Syllabus, curriculum, learning outcomes - these are not terms usually regarded part of 'alternative' vocabulary. From 'esoteric' to 'pragmatic' - meet Steve Burgess and it will go a long way towards demystifying the mysterious.
We talk to Steve about his time in Thailand, on Khao San Road, and what is in store for the future.
KSR.COM: Steve - great of you to meet us like this. Perhaps you can just introduce yourself for our visitors' benefit and give them an overview of what it is exactly you do.
SB: Firstly, I have been here now 6 years. I came to Thailand to study Pranic healing, and as with most training, once you learn something you need to go and practice. I wanted to start doing treatments as I had studied many different healing arts. I started with a little shop on Khao San. As soon as I made the decision to open there, I was contacted by people in hospital who wanted treatments, and then people in other countries contacted me. I was also invited to teach and do treatments in Japan, which surprised me as that is where Reiki originated. Reiki is the main healing art I use and teach.
KSR.COM: You are from Australia. Many of the people I have met involved in these areas you are have been from safe middle-class backgrounds. Not really the case for you though, is it?
SB: Yes, I am an Ozzy ‚– a country boy. I have had quite a few changes in my life. The last big change was before I came to Thailand. I spent 5 years on 4,500 acres of cattle county. It was a bare block of ground, no house, no running water, no electric. I built sheds to live in and caught water to drink and for showers. I built an old style hot water system and then upgraded to an electric generator - using fire all the time was quite time consuming. Then we hit a massive drought - I had to move the cattle for them to survive. I never wanted to be in that situation again, to fight against the seasons is impossible. Earlier I had worked full time teaching Kung Fu and also worked in the Security Industry, mostly at night clubs and pubs. Oh, also spent 2 years in Brisbane at the National Actors Conservatory studying fight choreography and script writing. So, it is only my experience now that allows me to earn an income, and wow, sometimes that has been a challenge!
KSR.COM: So, from that type of background, what brought you to the healing arts?
SB: At the age of 16 I studied Kung Fu and at 21 I was teaching Kung-Fu full time. I was taught that if I was going to hurt someone, I should be able to fix them. I was taught about Acupressure, manipulation, herbs, moxibustion and massage. So, the Kung Fu training got me into the healing arts, in the beginning I never knew it was a part of it. As the years went by I had studied other areas of interest such as the Bowen Technique. With more interest in the Chinese meridian system, I went to Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong and went to Shaolin in China to study Chi-Gong.
KSR.COM: Let's talk about Reiki for a moment - you are a Reiki Master and a Reiki channel. What exactly does that mean?
SB: Well, it really requires deep understanding and experience with the science of energy and how energy is related to our bodies. The word Reiki means ‚“Spirit Energy‚”, not ‚“Universal Energy‚”. This I discovered when the translator working with me in Taiwan said Reiki was ‚“Lyn Chi‚”. I understood ‚“Chi‚”, but asked her about ‚“Lyn‚”. She replied ‚“Lyn‚” means spirit. From that, I understood Reiki a little differently from my experiences of doing Reiki treatments and the development of the students I had taught.
A Reiki therapist has healing energy around them; Level 1 would normally have 2 to 4 of these Spirit, or healing energies with them all the time. When the therapist is doing a treatment the Spirits send energy through the therapists body, in through the Aura and Major Chakras, and the energy comes out of the therapist‚’s hands, or Minor Chakras, and into the client‚’s body. This spirit energy is what facilitates the treatment - and the outcomes are quite amazing.
Being a therapist the training consists of understanding the different energy bodies of our clients, such as the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. What makes Reiki different to other energy healing arts is how energy is drawn into the therapist‚’s body. Other methods require meditation practices, and then the therapist becomes depleted of energy, this is not the case with Reiki.
KSR.COM: How exactly does Reiki help people get over their ailments and diseases?
SB: OK - I will bring some facts into the picture here. Russians have used bio-reasoning equipment for the last 40 years, initially to monitor the health of their astronauts. In the USA (Rife) equipment has been developed that works on frequencies for healing. Every part of the body - organs, cells, etc. - can be measured by frequency. The 3DMRA in Taiwan, Rife in the USA, and other bio-reasoning programs are now being recognized by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
When performing a Reiki treatment, Spirit energy goes through the therapist's body to change the polarity of congested molecules and, where necessary, remove the negative Ions from the physical body - this also cleans the energy around the body (Elixir) or Aura, Etheric Aura and Major chakras. With scientific equipment, the outcome of treatments can be verified. In simple terms, Reiki energy balances the Chakras and the client's body detoxifies.
Energy sciences are found in many cultures - the foundations of Chinese medicine, Acupuncture, Chi Gong, and also Ayurvedic healing from India which dates back even further. Shamanic practices have been in most cultures around the world.
KSR.COM: I went to the opening of a restaurant on Khao San Road recently and there was a gentleman their promoting his resort in southern Thailand. His philosophy was that there is no such thing as medicine and that all medicines are in fact just poisons of different intensity. He was a firm advocate of anything but the western medical approach. Do you subscribe to this point of view? Does western medicine have any value as far as you are concerned?
SB: Everybody has choice in life; I only supply a service like others in the medical industry. Conventional medicine certainly has its place. Where do you go if your arm has been ripped off? You will not come to me. Although Reiki will help quicken the healing process when the arm is put back on, that type of injury requires surgery and western medicine.
I believe in what has been established by WHO (World Health Organization) and in most countries - Complimentary Alternative Medicine is beneficial. My view is to get the greatest benefit for my clients - that is what I am looking for. Everything has its place. We have to establish what caused a problem. If the cause of a problem is identified, healing is very quick.
KSR.COM: So - and forgive me for being so blunt - I have in the past heard Reiki described as 'snake oil'. In a world of facts and figures and checks and balances, what evidence is there to prove that it's not?
SB: When I was in Taiwan I was introduced to a director of a hospital dedicated to the use of natural healing on patients with stage 3 or 4 cancer. I suggested incorporating Reiki treatments into their program, and I was introduced to a professor at the Taiwan Community Development Association. I was asked to do a presentation on Reiki while the 3DMRA equipment was presented to doctors. The 3DMRA showed clearly Reiki treatments are powerful and detoxify the body to equivalent extents as acupuncture, and sometimes even greater extents. This evidence has been documented and is now undeniable. The 3DMRA is now being used in five hospitals and diagnoses illnesses up to 2-3 months before blood tests or X-rays are able to.
KSR.COM: And what are your personal experiences of the benefits of energy healing? What results have you seen?
SB: Starting with tension and hypertension, Reiki is very effective with both of these. Many students have emailed me to say thank you as they are now sleeping well. A stranger experience would be when a client arrived with an X-ray of a disease with a long, complicated name, which is considered incurable by conventional medicine. I did 2 Reiki treatments and taught the patient Reiki level 1. Later, I got an email from the patient saying he no longer had any pain. About 6 months later I received another email stating another X-ray had been done and the disease had gone. Another client lived in Bali and asked me to go there to do a treatment on the King of a village who had been sick for 3 weeks. No doctor or Shaman could deliver results. I was in Bali for 4 days, on the 4th day the village King was fine. I have now done over 4,000 Reiki treatments in 6 Countries - I don‚’t know why, it is just my life.
KSR.COM: So, when you first came to Thailand, you set up Bangkok Natural Healing on Khao San Road‚… Was it a good experience?
SB: Khao San was the best experience as the clients were from all parts of the world - some very interesting people with various healing methods they had trained in. Some had a very good understanding of Reiki. I met many people who believed Yoga was Reiki or meditation was Reiki - it was an experience to observe these differences of opinion. Some would stay on KSR for only 2-3 days and some would stay 2-3 weeks learning the courses I was teaching. It was a great place to be.
KSR.COM: I can imagine alternative treatments being popular on Khao San Road, but, of course, you have moved now, so the question comes to mind - are these treatments popular amongst Thais, or are you still dealing mainly with visitors?
SB: Thais know more about Palung Chukawan (Universal Energy) and Yo-Ray - both techniques draw in energy by using meditation, neither are Reiki. I am dealing mostly with expats and people who fly into Thailand just to learn, or to have a treatment. I guess word gets around. I have now submitted a 3 month training curriculum and a 1 year curriculum to the Ministry of Education to enable people to come to the school on a student study visa. This will also enable Thais to get a student loan to study.
KSR.COM: Alternative medicine, energy healing - in the past they have often been marginalized. And as you have said, you are now working with doctors and professors who are more in tune with western medical approaches. Why have these areas suddenly become more mainstream, do you think?
SB: I feel there is certainly a world trend and statistics show that 80% of people are inclined to seek Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) treatments rather than conventional medicine. I feel many people are becoming aware of the side effects of the chemicals used in modern medicines. Australia is taking the approach that people working in the CAM industry are likely to identify illnesses and therapists likely to make health reports and recommendations to their clients. More people's lives may be saved as illnesses are found earlier in their development. Therapists are to be given training meeting national qualification standards set by the government. There are 45 to 50 insurance companies that allow members to go to spas for treatments and claim it on their health insurance. As more research is being completed, we are becoming aware many CAM methods work more quickly on some serious illnesses than conventional medicine or treatments.
KSR.COM: You are heavily involved in preparing a range of training courses. Typically, who are your trainees and what do they do with what you have taught them?
SB: Trainees are generally locals and the courses boost their qualifications. They meet international standards in areas such as anatomy and physiology, client consultation and other subjects. With the courses under their belts, people can get jobs working in Spas in other counties. Other students seem to want to establish Spas in their home countries. I try to support them with a Spa concept and give as much guidance as I can.
KSR.COM: And you are running these courses at a resort south of Hua Hin. Tell us more about this. What are the objectives of the resort?
SB: Lumra Resort is quiet and it's got a great beach. There are a limited number of rooms down there so it's an excellent place to deliver programs such as Stress Management, Full Moon activities and Elite Energy Training programs. These programs have been tailored for specific outcomes and there are activities every month. Our objective is to make this resort a special place in the world, where people can have individual growth and soul touching experiences. All these programs leave a lasting impression on your life.
KSR.COM: You are also starting a Reiki Research Center and attempting to set up clinical trials. Why choose Thailand for this? Surely, it must be easier in the west?
SB: The Reiki Research Association was submitted a year ago and the registered certificate will be completed soon. I am lucky to have some good support from like minded people, some being doctors. The objective is to scientifically prove the outcomes of Reiki treatments. The research protocols will be to western standards such as CBC, and Viral Overload tests will be taken as part of the clinical observations - though not limited to only this. Bio-reasoning and the 3DMRA are planned to be implemented to monitor changes before blood tests.
In the west pharmaceutical companies get funding through governments and they have their patents on production lines. With alternative treatments and medicine, the funding is limited. The pharmaceutical companies want to own the rights - big business in a big industry. When the registration is completed we will be looking for financial support and assistance to run clinical trials starting with HIV; there's a planned 3-month "live in" program on a mountain planned. What we are planning would be very difficult to do in another country. Interestingly associations and doctors in other countries are very interested in what we are trying to establish. I feel the results will help all health practitioners, from doctors to therapists. We will though need donations - some of the outgoings to run a 30 people live in program for 3 months will be close to one million baht.
KSR.COM: So you have your individual treatments, and your training, and your resort work and the Reiki Research Center - what's the big picture here? Where do you want all this to be in, say, 5 years?
SB: Well, I am only here for one life and the best I feel I can do is establish a school where people can come and learn competent healing practices through training that meets Australian educational standards. I want to share my experience in Reiki with others, so others may grow. I want to develop a Spa concept for students wanting to do the same in their own countries. And I want to do research to prove what I and so many others are doing around the world with Reiki is genuinely beneficial, and I want to share the outcomes and information with the rest of the world.
KSR.COM: That's great - thanks. Good luck with everything you are doing in the future.
SB: Thanks, John
Click here to contact Steve Burgess.
My Date with Mr Thailand
I've seen him around for years, driving his saamlor up and down Khaosan Road. With the music blasting from the saamlor's speakers and flashing fairy lights, it's pretty hard to miss him.
Then there's the outfit. Like a colonial soldier crossed with Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Mr Thailand is one of the most interesting and unique characters in Khaosan Road.
My heart is beating slightly too fast as Mr Thailand takes my hand in his and helps me into the back of his saamlor.
It had never really occurred to me that beneath the crazy outfit and huge glasses Mr Thailand might be handsome, but as he flashes me a seductive smile I feel myself melt a little.
Mr Thailand reaches around and turns on the music. Everyone turns to look as we make our way down the road blasting out loud rock and pop music. This may not be the most romantic 'date' I've ever been on, but it's certainly one of the most interesting.
We pull out into the busy Bangkok traffic, Mr Thailand turning around in his seat every few minutes to change the music and ask if I'm having fun. 'Number 1 in Thailand, there is no number 2', he tells me modestly.
I don't want to be a backseat driver, so I let Mr Thailand call the shots and take me where he will. People wave and cheer as we glide slowly past. I try hard to hide my embarrassment, painfully aware that we are the main attraction.
Mr Thailand steers the saamlor slowly into Soi Rambhutri and I wait for the ground to open and swallow me up. Everyone is staring at us, not even bothering to hide their amusement. As backpackers salute me in my carriage, I try to console myself with the fact that in a few days they will have moved on and I'll be able to show my face once more.
Unlike me, Mr Thailand is loving the attention. He stops and poses while backpackers take photos, making a point of greeting all the pretty women as he passes. Being with Mr Thailand is like stepping into the spotlight. Everyone knows him, from tuk-tuk drivers to pad thai sellers, and all greet him warmly.
As we go along, Mr Thailand points out his favourite places to eat street food and drink beer. He tells me that he loves drinking with Westerners, announcing that they are a lot of fun. The best part of his job, he says, is all the Westerners he meets. Make that all the Western women. When we stop, Mr Thailand shows me a selection of pictures of him posing with his arm draped around beautiful women.
Although he may look strange, I am quickly coming to the conclusion that Mr Thailand is one of the cleverest people around. The man - who mysteriously refuses to tell me his name or age - comes from Si Saket in Isaan, north-east Thailand.
Mr Thailand was working as a farm labourer, earning less than 100 Baht a day when he first visited Bangkok. He quickly realized that there was good money to be made, downed tools and relocated to the city.
Mr Thailand has now been living and driving his saamlor around Khaosan Road for five years. With no family ties either here or in his home town, he is free to peddle people around the city as he wants. The most popular destinations are Patpong and Sukhumvit, but Mr Thailand will happily take people anywhere they want to go. The fare depends on the generosity of the passenger but he generally receives 500 Baht for 1 hour of peddle power.
Our 'date' draws to a close as we stop in the middle of Khaosan Road. I somehow manage to ignore the backpackers' stares as I climb down from my carriage. But Mr Thailand has one more humiliation in store. With a grin he introduces me to the stuffed parrot that sits atop his saamlor, motioning me to wai to it (putting my hands together and bowing a little in Thailand's customary show of respect).
Then, with a toot of his plastic flower horn, Mr Thailand is gone. For anyone looking for a memorable experience and a moment in the spotlight, Mr Thailand will give you a ride you'll never forget.
Getting to him:
If you want to find Mr. Thailand just wait around KSR and wait for all the head's to turn - it'll be him… His English is good enough and he is very willing to please. He's a massive asset and brings a lot of joy to people's lives, so be generous if you use his services!
About the author:
Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!