Tag Archives: Thailand

An international experience without breaking the bank!

Currently everyone is feeling the stress of the economy.  The need for a gratifying distraction is paramount during these times, and although something exotic like an international getaway isn’t always feasible, a simulated experience is at your fingertips with the assistance of your local library.  Here are some options that give all the joys of learning about a culture without the hassles of waiting in long queues at the airport or locating lost luggage.

To truly experience a culture we need to look at several aspects:  language, entertainment, religion and food. Let’s use Thailand as our example:

  •   Language:   To  quench your curiosity, head to the Film and Audio Department and take a gander at the language learning CDs.  For Thailand I would use the  Berlitz Thai Travel Pack.  The CD contains the basic travel phrases while the book presents the unique  beauty of Thai script.
  •  Entertainment:  Make use of the ever-growing  foreign films and CD selections.  Born to Fight is an interesting Thai movie dealing with mystery and murder in a local village, and Radio Thailand: Transmissions from the Tropical Kingdom, gives an excellent feel for traditional Thai music.  
  • Religion and daily life: Take a look at Pure and Simple:  Teachings of a Thai Laywoman (then consider, perhaps, visiting the local Buddhist Center).  See also the beautiful photo book A Day in the Life of Thailand which has scenic pictures that help simulate the feeling of actually being there.
  • Food:   Nothing speaks more about a culture than what they use for daily nourishment.  For the brave I suggest that you lend your hand at cooking traditional foods yourself.  My favorite Thai cookbook is Quick and Easy Thai.  The majority of the ingredients are easily found in the Strip District and the instructions are easy to  follow. Feel like  going out?  I would steer you towards Thai Gourment in Bloomfield:  the atmosphere is traditional and the food is phenomenal!

 We live in an incredibly diverse city that provides a window to other cultures so take advantage of it!  Simply pick a country, look at what CLP  has to offer, add in what is available here in the city and take a holiday!  Go ahead, you’ve earned it!






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Crazy Thai Action Flicks!

Western audiences are pretty familiar with heroes of Asian martial arts movies such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, and Jet Li.  Or they know directors and locales such as John Woo’s Hong Kong action movies, Akira Kurosawa’s samurai stories, or Zhang Yimou’s historical epics.

Now, I feel like the torch is passing to two action heroes from an unexpected country: Tony Jaa and Dan Chupong from Thailand.  First of all, these men are experts in Muay Thai boxing which involves a lot more flying knee and elbow smashes than traditional kung fu.  Plus, they do all their own stunts.  And as a point of pride, the Thai action moviemakers, for the most part, don’t use CGI or wires.  That means the ridiculous stunts truly are death-defying (much like early Jackie Chan films like Police Story).  They also use lots of slow motion and instant replay so even the casual viewer will be convinced as to how awesome the fighting sequences and stunts truly are.  Finally, the four movies I recommend below all have one thing in common, Panna Rittikrai.  Rittikrai was in action movies himself, trained both Jaa and Chupong, and has served as director or stunt coordinator for the following films.  Credit should largely be given to him for one of the most exciting new developments in martial arts movies.

Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003) — Be patient with the approximately 30 minutes of plot development because the last hour is possibly the best martial arts violence I’ve ever seen.  Jaa’s character is motivated by the stealing of the head from a Buddha statue in his remote rural village.  So he has to go to the big city to run atop people’s shoulders, demonstrate how well he can do splits, smash a bunch of taxi cabs, and leap through flames to kick someone. 

The Protector [Tom Yum Goong] (2005) — Instead of a statue head, this time around Jaa’s character is motivated by the theft of an elephant.  So once again, he leaves the countryside for the city and ensuing fight scenes involve speedboats, motorcycles, ATVs, and helicopters.  One of the most impressive parts is when Jaa battles his way up a spiral staircase in a continuously shot scene that feels almost like a video game.

Born to Fight [Kerd Ma Lui] (2004) — If you’re familiar with the silly 1985 American film Gymkata, you must see this.  Whereas Gymkata featured one real-life American gymnast battling thugs from the fictional country of Parmistan, Born to Fight features an entire team of real-life Thai athletes (led by Dan Chupong playing a cop) fighting back against terrorists.  As with all these movies, don’t miss the DVD special features that show how the stunts were filmed.

Dynamite Warrior [Khon Fai Bin] (2006) — This is a bit of a departure from the other films in that it uses a lot of special effects such as Chupong’s vigilante character entering fights by standing on a flying rocket.    The results are mixed.  But the first fight scene shows off Chupong’s Muay Thai skills well as he uses his knees almost exclusively to kick some ass.  The plot concerns a conniving aristocrat who tries to force tractors upon the rural population.  Also, Rittikrai plays an evil wizard. 

Finally, I’m drooling in anticipation for the next Tony Jaa/Panna Rittikrai collaboration: Ong Bak 2.  Here is the best movie trailer I have ever seen.

— Tim

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