AMITIAE - Tuesday 31 March 2015

Bangkok to Chaiyapum: From Technology to Tigers (Day 1)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Every year the Department of Electrical Engineering at Mahidol University's Faculty of Engineering, takes the senior year students on a trip to a dam. The main reason is to view the technology behind the theory in its original state, but the trip also are a way for the department and students to have less formal communication, as well as visit other interesting sites unrelated to technology. Some axes are buried, and there is some partying too.

The start times are never adhered to. The 0730 departure time saw about 5 students on campus, a couple of whom were catching up on sleep. By 0800, many more had arrived, but by the time stragglers appeared and the bags were loaded, it was 0829 when the driver selected a gear and the wheels turned.

Waiting for the Off

I chose Bus 1 of the 2 we had this trip. I knew the driver and had travelled with him several times before. I took my usual seat upstairs at the front. Students sleep or sing at the back. From my seat I can hear the driver as he talks to the driver of the second bus on a radio. They talk each other through road hazards and overtakes of vehicles and it is an interesting example of team work.

Buses 1 and 2

We were headed for the Chulaborn Dam in Chaiyapum: about 330 Kms from Bangkok and a trip of around 7 hours. On the way up, we were to make a stop at a solar energy farm in Lopburi. Alternative energy is to become even more necessary as the trip to the dam would illustrate.

Lunch at Tesco Lotus

Any trip with Thai students needs to be planned carefully for regular snack and food stops, but with the tight schedule that was needed, the first stop was only a quick run to the bathroom, with early lunch at 1120 when we pulled into Tesco/Lotus in Lopburi for around 30 minutes. An hour or so later we turned into a side road and shortly after the solar farm came into view.

The installation is spread over several hectares and produces power for around 12 hours a day when the sun is shining. It uses thin-film PV panels, but unlike other types of installation where these are movable, all the panels here are set at 10 degrees from the horizontal: optimum angle for the location in Lopburi. This means the initial construction of the site is more economical and such an installation can be assembled more quickly.

Solar farm Solar farm

Along with the technology that such an installation requires, the company has created a fairly extensive educational section and after an introduction in the theatre with a number of videos explaining the plant, the students were split into three groups.

Solar farm Solar farm Solar farm

I must admit to being quite impressed with some of the displays we were led through, many parts of which were interactive. We were taken partway up a tower that overlooks the panel installations, but not right to the top, nor out to the panels (it was rather hot after all).

Solar farm Solar farm

We then began the long journey up to the dam. As we were going to be late, the staff with us phoned ahead and ordered food. There were of course a couple more stops, but most of the students were able to sleep, until early evening when not only did they ask for music - loud, thumpy - but disco lights that had been installed. I closed my eyes and tried to shut it out. After about 30 minutes, the students called down to the driver and the bus fell silent again.

By this time, we were nearer the dam and turned off the main road (2055) in Nong Phon Ngam and headed into the darkness. The road was so long that I thought at one stage we were lost. The driver stopped in one village and checked with some people, but we continued along the same road for a while longer until I saw a sign for the dam itself. As we were staying at the administration center - quite a way from the dam - we had to continue for several kilometres more before we finally arrived at the gates.

While signals had been quite good most of the way up, here in the hills there were places where not only did my iPhone drop back to EDGE, but at times even indicated No Signal; and that was what I saw when we arrived at the accommodation. Not a good sign for someone who relies on technology.

The Map
Routes from Bangkok to Chulabhorn Dam

As we de-bussed, the keys to rooms were distributed and the boxes of food were also handed out. As it was already past 2200, I decided not to eat, but a colleague who is even more nocturnal than the students took the box instead.

At the rooms, another colleague was already settled in with his family: they had driven up earlier. There were four of us for the three remaining rooms and I prefer to sleep alone. Apart from the point that I snore, I am not a good sleeper.

The room had no carrier signal from DTAC, although others in the party with True SIM cards were reporting connections. I showered and headed for bed. Around midnight, I heard the sound of email arriving on the phone, so the signal may have been available but the heavy tree cover outside made it intermittent.

I slept quite well, but as we were starting early, woke at 0630 and went to find breakfast. When I went outside, I saw that the rooms we had were right by the lake and the sun was shining.

Solar Farm

Coming soon:

Bangkok to Chaiyapum: From Technology to Tigers (Day 2)

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page

All content copyright © G. K. Rogers 2015