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What is Indochina?

Defined by what it is not

One interesting aspect of the term Indochina is that the name is derrived from the French Indochine meaning the land between India and China. That is, the name refers to what it is not. Indochina is not India and it is not China, it is the space between these two (of course Nepal and Bhutan also have this distinction).

The Countries of Indochina

French Indochina

Indochina is more closely associated with French Indochina which was a territory governed by France which included Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, as well as Kwangchowan. However, at different times and in different contexts, the country of Thailand (formerly Siam) as well as Myanmar (formerly Burma) have been included in what we will refer to as Greater Indochina. The exclusion of Malaysia from Indochina is a twofold occurance. For one, Malaysia as it currently is composed includes a Mainland Southeast Asian component as well as Insular Southeast Asian component (primarily a large section of the Island of Borneo). As well, the culture of Malaysia is quite different and has an entirely different historical trajectory, from the early sultanates in the 12 century.

British Indochina

Portuguese influence and and British colonization of Malaysia is part of a shared history with Myanmar. In that sense, we can talk of a British Indochina.

Siamese Indochina

Specifically in the ways in which Britain (along with France) pressured Thailand to give up its acquired territory, which consisted of much of Laos and Cambodia, and parts of Vietnam and Myanmar (the Shan States). World War II was the undoing of greater Thailand, which was forced to concede previous territorial ambitions.

Mainland Southeast Asia

It is as well possible to look at Indochina purely from a geographical perspective (geological as well as political geography), specifically as Southeast Asian mainland. This is then a part of the Far East, the southeastern part of the Asian continent. However, Bangladesh could be included. The main reason for Bangladesh's disinclusion is its historical, cultural and ethnic identity as a part of South Asia.

Greater Mekong Subegion

Another political/geographical division is the Greater Mekong Subregion which includes the five countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, as well as Yunnan province (and sometimes Guangxi province) of China. The main idea is talking about what countries are touched by the Kong river, but also (from the Chinese perspective) the economic integration of the southern provinces with the closest neighbors.

Religion in Mainland Southeast Asia

ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations, a 10 country political and economic entity, is well known for its diversity. Mainland and island. Dozens of ethnicities and languages, as well as religions. The three major religions are all found here: Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. The same is true in Mainland Southeast Asia. While Vietnam is nominally atheistic, a variety of religions (including Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism) play an important role in the society. Religion in Vietnam is influenced heavily by the Chinese, especially compared with Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Indeed, Buddhism is the second largest religion in Malaysia as well. At the same time, the status of Islam in all but Malaysia is very much the same. That is, the muslim faith has a very tiny role to play.

Drawing the Boundaries of Indochina

  • And so, drawing the boundaries of Indochina, we see historically, politically and geographically, that the exclusion of Malaysia is a cultural/historical/religious one.
  • And so, Indochina is neither India, nor China, nor muslim, nor insular.
  • From the perspective of political geography, Indochina is the five countries of Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • Religiously, it is diverse but primarily Buddhist.
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Living in Chiang Mai

Living in Chiang Mai has many aspects, and what it's like will be as much about the person doing the living as the place being lived in. My guess is the question is more like "what is it like as a foreigner to live in Chiang Mai". Here are a few aspects that come to mind. Language: if you don't speak Thai, it can be frustrating, but a little Thai can go a long way. The local people in Chiang Mai are generally friendly and easygoing and so basic stuff is quite low-friction, even with minimal Thai. That said, this is a Thai culture and the Thai language is vital to understanding what is going on. English is not widely spoken by most Thai people. Learn a little Thai can help, learn how to read Thai and life is much, much easier and better (such as communicating with the local Thai people). Costs and Availability of Goods: Chiang Mai has great prices on a number of things, including rent, food (local markets and local restaurants), even things like DSL Internet and cell phone service are less expensive than in the US. Some things are more expensive, such as computers and cell phones, though only by about 20%. Camera equipment is more expensive than off Ebay and Amazon, but many Ebay sellers offer International shipping for free, and usually ship out of Hong Kong. Some things are difficult to get, and/or need to be imported, such as books, kindle readers, even an Aeron chair was cheaper to buy on ebay, ship to Thailand, and pay VAT, than to get one from Bangkok. There are three Apple stores and an Apple Care location (in Kad Suan Kaew), prices are slightly more than in the US. Regarding foreign food, there are enough foreign restaurants and grocery stores to cover most items desired. Overall, cost of living can be 2-3 times less expensive (depending on lifestyle). Transportation: Chiang Mai metropolitan area is not that large and so getting around is fairly easy. There are a variety of transportation options: tuk-tuks, songthaews (trucks), taxis, bicycling, motorcycling, and cars. There is not really a bus system here, but most transportation is fairly low cost. The traffic can be a bit hectic and some foreigners shouldn't try and drive in it (I know many Thai people who won't ride a motorbike in Chiang Mai because of the pace of traffic). However, this is nothing like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh or Bangkok. Climate and weather: It gets hot in Chiang Mai. Most foreigners not from a tropical location will suffer from the heat. The ways of dealing with it is to follow the Thai people. Avoid being out in the heat and direct sun. Wear clothing that covers the skin, including hats, jackets (even mittens) and use umbrellas/parasols. Also, just stay out of the heat during the day. Stay inside with the air conditioning like all sensible Thai people! Have to go shopping mid-day? That is what Malls are made for! Don't exercise mid-day (only before dawn and near dusk during the hot season). Pace of Life and Events: Chiang Mai and Thailand in general people work hard but they aren't so serious, and most enjoy family and spending time (especially eating meals) with friends and co-workers. Food is an important aspect of Thai culture. Another is Thai Buddhism, and most Thai males are expected to spend some time as a monk at some point in their life. The daily feeding of monks who make their rounds, the lunar weekly "Buddha Days" and the Buddhist calendar of various festivals and events, combined with the worship at various (Buddhist and non-Buddhist) shrines throughout the area are a part of the pace of life. For the large celebrations there are days-long festivals which are very important and combine the importance of visiting and revering parents and family as well as having fun with friends and neighbors. The main thing is to smile, have patience, and try and get along. People from bigger towns and more aggressive cultures might get annoyed, but coming from Honolulu where I lived for 7 years previous to moving to Chiang Mai, I found it to be a similar size and pace of life. Expat Community: There are various kinds of expats in Chiang Mai. Many should be avoided, especially the retired bar-dwellers and the so-called digital nomads. However, there are many interesting long-term residents who can be interesting to know, as well as some of the return visitors who come every year. Work: There are a more limited number of jobs available, as work permits are complicated and are created by organizations who specifically need foreign workers, mostly around teaching English. Entrepreneurial foreigners can figure out how to create and grow a business in Thailand. Health: There are some health risks in Thailand, such as the increasing air pollution (very bad in Feb/Mar with burning of the fields), dengue fever (I've had it once in Chiang Mai, Thailand, once in Honolulu, Hawaii). Crazy traffic. That said, there is very good, inexpensive healthcare. Good hospitals (also some mediocre ones) are very affordable and one can find reasonable health insurance. Something the west simply no longer has. Education: In Chiang Mai there are several universities and private schools. It is something of the education hub of Northern Thailand. For people with children there will be an additional expense of private schools, though unless one goes for the full-on International schools, they are much less expensive than private schools in other places. Some complain about the level of education in these schools but there are few places in the US with excellent education and some places are much more dangerous. Crime: There is a degree of crime though most of it is constrained to certain areas. There is some amount of Yaba/Speed/Crank, prostitution and other issues. Mostly my experience is that it is safer to wander around Bangkok or Chiang Mai early in the morning than places like San Francisco, Honolulu, or Seattle. That isn't to say that foreigners are completely safe as in certain areas (Phuket, Pattaya) they are seen as targets by a criminal element. There is simply much less of this element in Chiang Mai, though certainly one can provoke a bad situation if you go into an area where Thai men are drinking heavily. Especially if there is a lack of respect shown.

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Gravity Powered Lighting

With a significant number of people in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar without electricity (as well as a number in Thailand and Vietnam who are not accounted for in the official numbers on electricity access), power generation is of strong interest. Instead of expensive, larger scale projects (which are of course also important) something like *Gravity-Powered Lighting) would be strongly in demand if available. Enter Gravity Light an organization with a singular product focus. The idea that local manufacturing and also as a product for sale seems to be the big winner here as well. If the product is desirable enough, and at an affordable price (perhaps with some government subsidies for the poorest populations), then indeed such a venture will create jobs as well as significantly improve the lives of those who use the product. We learned about this project from the Gravity Light 2 Indiegogo campaign.

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Social Media Style Guide

A social media style guide is only necessary in a narrow technical sense, as much of what the other style guides include applies to external / public communication, of which social media is a mere element. However, it is always useful to have particular protocols and concrete guidelines so there is no confusion.

Social Media Style Guide

Social Media What, Where, How

First, the value of social media is the conversation thread. Anything that can encourage these to generate and for customers, stakeholders, and the public to participate is usually good. Of course all other style guidelines should prevail.

The what of social media is more of a which, and that is usually best determined by goals. The most relevant goals, from an SEO perspective, should be relevance and access. This means those social media for whom others can easily discover and engage, and of course, that show up in search engine results pages.

This usually varies across organizations, but there is a range of 1-6 networks and/or platforms that make sense. As well resources are needed. The media can be categorized by various functions, such as: chat, image/video sharing, audio/video calls/conferencing, blogging, status/link updates/general social, etc. Obviously there is overlap and many platforms trying to add the functionality of their rivals in other categories. The most common platforms (and therefore the most relevant in terms of raw numbers, though market demographics may indicate better foci), include:

Image/Video Sharing

  • Instagram
  • Snapchat


  • Facebook Messenger
  • Kik
  • Line
  • Skype
  • WeChat
  • Whatsapp


  • Facebook
  • Google Plus
  • LinkedIn
  • Medium
  • Twitter

Relevance, Relevance, Relevance

Relevance for the potential customer means acting appropriate for a brand, which means occasional, relevant messaging and also availability for interaction. The content needs to be brief and in context. Talking for the sake of talking won't work out well. Not being authentic in communication threads also turns off people and may develop brand backlash. Here are some findings/guidelines:

  • For Image/Video sharing there needs to be very good creativity, very brief messages, in context and relevant. This may be the most difficult social media category to perform well in, but it can pay off in widespread messages.
  • For Chat/Calls, brands are accepted if they keep their messaging one of pull, not push. Being available for Skype or Line messaging can be convenient for potential or actual customers, as long as the focus is on transactions rather than social.
  • For Blog/Status this is usually acceptable since people seek out affiliation. Careful with advertising on these platforms as they will not be cost-effective unless focused. But keeping a well-stocked facebook page or Twitter account can be effective at displaying professional behavior.

Answer the Phone

If accounts are created, and more importantly, listed as ways to communicate, ensure that the chat message or phone call is answered in a reasonable amount of time. One can accept only text and does not have to support voice or video calls for these platforms, and therefore effectively use chat as another asynchronous textual communications channel (second to email).

Check your Email

Turn on email alerts for specific kinds of communication, such as messages addressed to the organization's social media account(s). Don't rely on apps providing alerts, but have some secondary messaging system in place, which could be email, chat (.e.g, a Telegram Bot), or something else.

Text, Text, Text

The text is the key part here, even with voice being popular. For example, maybe it isn't a habit to have Skype on all the time (and it certainly drains batteries), but configuring skype to forward inbound text messages as SMS to a phone, and be able to reply via SMS, is a great way of being available through a channel potential customers may want to use.

SEO Longform and Links

Of special interest is the kind of link-building and link-following from content (either URL or complete) that is posted to social media.

  • Links to Articles (posted on organization website)
    • Facebook status update (and sponsored post), Twitter status update, Google Plus post
  • Article reposts (copied/pasted with some edit on 3rd party websites)
    • LinkedIn, Medium,

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content -- to Google at least -- is not the same content on different websites but the same content on different pages of the same site. Therefore the key is to ensure Google is aware which copy of a given piece of content is the canonical one. They simple way is that all non-canonical copies link back to the original, with text such as: