Sun, Sand, Sea, Surgery: Phuket’s Sex-Change Doctor

“I think that imagination is very important,” says Dr Sanguan Kunaporn, when reflecting on his life’s work. For some, the imagination is unleashed with a pen or a paintbrush. For Dr Sanguan, however, his creativity flows through the scalpel.

His meticulous surgical methods, finely honed after years of practice, have elevated Dr Sanguan from a general practitioner in rural Thailand to a world-renowned plastic surgeon in less than 20 years.

The Bangkok-born doctor arrived in Phuket 13 years ago to work at the government-run Vachira Hospital, where he performed countless reconstructive and cosmetic procedures. He now runs the clinic and performs operations at Phuket International Hospital (PIH).

Dr Sanguan forms a key part of the island’s drive to be a “health tourism hub”, where people come to Phuket for quality medical procedures at reasonable costs, then spend their days or weeks of recovery relaxing in paradise. Indeed, such is the demand for Dr Sanguan’…

Catching Ghosts: Phuket Por Tor Festival

Crowds. Noise. Don’t like them. Perhaps because of my early years spent on the wide-open Canadian prairies, or maybe it’s my introverted nature, but the thought of immersing myself into a crowd has always been a dreaded one. Especially when you throw firecrackers into the mix.

So it was with some trepidation that I set out to see the Por Tor festival in Phuket Town, also known as the Hungry Ghost festival. An annual event in the Hokkien Chinese community, Por Tor is a time to honour and feed ancestors who have passed on, especially those who were banished to a hellish realm or otherwise not given a proper passage into the beyond at the time of their death.

I didn’t see any ghosts.

Blogging the 2004 tsunami in Phuket

A sad anniversary is approaching. December 26 marks 10 years since the massive tsunami hit 14 countries across Asia and Africa, killing 230,000 people, displacing millions and leaving many coastal communities devastated.

When the tsunami hit Phuket about 10am on a Sunday morning, I was sitting at home with my husband, well inland and completely oblivious to the disaster happening just a few kilometres away along the shoreline. Later that morning, my husband heard a report on the radio about big waves hitting Patong, which we were perplexed about – the sun was shining and the air was still. Maybe it was something to do with the full moon, we surmised.

We carried on with our relaxing day at home, my main concern at that time trying to keep cool in my full-term pregnant state. Our first child was due within a week or so.

Soon after, my mom called from Canada. “What’s this about a tsunami on Phuket?” she asked. She’d heard about it on the radio as she was driving home from her family Chri…

Backyard travels in Phuket

Much of my work involves exploring Phuket island and the Andaman coast region, but often I need look no further than my own backyard to see some weird and wild stuff.

We've had slithery visits from all kinds of snakes including a monocled cobra that made our yard its home for a time. The cobra certainly made for a fascinating spectacle out my office window -- especially on the day it caught a rat! -- but we arranged to have it taken away. Thought it might be nice for the kids to play outside without fear!

Phuketwan reporters facing criminal charges for citing Reuters Pulitzer-winning reports

PHUKET: Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian of the news website have been tireless in their investigations of the treatment of Rohingya migrants, who -- it is well documented -- escape violence and hardship in Burma only to end up in virtual prison camps at the mercy of human traffickers in Southern Thailand. In a strange twist of fate, tomorrow (April 17), the Phuketwan reporting duo might end up as prisoners themselves.
 On the eve of Phuketwan’s court date in Phuket Town, where they’re set to defend themselves against criminal defamation and Computer Crimes charges, there’s been a flurry of news and commentary from around the world. If convicted, Alan and Chutima face jail time of up to 7 years and a fine of 100,000 baht (about $3,300 US).

Sweet cheeks: the Thai sniff kiss

Below is an article I wrote for my old blog a few years ago. Since my kids are older now I don't see as many 'sniff kisses' planted on them, but I have some fond memories of the joy that was shared with this incomparable Thai gesture of love and affection.

Hawm noi, na kha!

Since having children I hear this phrase a lot from people who meet our kids.

The rough translation is, "Let me give you a little sniff kiss, please!"

Do You Love Your Family? A Message From a Mother in Mourning

by Kim Bonow

A message to all the kids of Phuket Island. DO YOU LOVE YOUR FAMILY? Do you love your friends? Is this Island a fun party place to be? Everyone knows the party and “celebrations” here are hard and fast. So are our roads.

I would like to take a moment to share with you what happens to those left behind when you get on your bike after too many drinks, and ride that road you have driven 1,000 times before ... and don't make it home.

I shall never be able to describe that incredible slash of pain that rips your soul out of you, the razor that slices the joy of life from you forever, from your inner core, when you hear the words, “Your child is dead.”