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A friend has just sent me the link to an excellent website from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for anyone either travelling or living abroad:-http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/staying-safe/Locate/ The countdown has properly begun for my son now. Visas mostly ready - although today he has gone to pick up his passport from the Thai Embassy and I'm a little worried because he has managed to lose the very important pink receipt he needs to collect it. Failing at the first hurdle does not bode well for the rest of his trip does it. What if they won't give it to him? Can't find it without the relevant number? Several other parents of the mates he's travelling with are now on a roll - they've had meetings, done spreadsheets (SPREADSHEETS??), shared insurance information and yellow fever stuff and I'm beginning to get gap year parent envy - or inadequacy - or something....I'm still hoping to sit down and watch "Midnight Express" with him - if only for that fantastic soundtrack, but other than that and vague mumblings about making sure all the boys check Adam's Apple's VERY CAREFULLY in Thailand and avoid getting drugged on coaches by refusing offers of food or drink, it's been a little patchy. He's talking a lot about the 12p bottles of beer in Vietnam which my friend pointed out must be made from old socks for that price - I suspect it's made from substances even worse than old socks. Still slightly of the opinion that he's a big boy now and should get on with it all himself but can't quite help wondering why I haven't done a spreadsheet yet and what would be on it. I have just gaily clicked on to "Travelling in Thailand" on the above mentioned website and got this and am now even more freaked out because he is going to be on that border they're talking about:- TRAVEL SUMMARY We advise against all travel to the Preah Vihear (Khaoi Pra Viharn in Thai) temple area and the Ta Krabey/Ta Moan temple area located on the Thai-Cambodian border due to the presence of troops in the area and the risk of outbreaks of fighting. Remain alert to the local situation when travelling in other border regions and at land crossings between Thailand and Cambodia. See Safety and Security - Local Travel - Cambodian border. We advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla on the Thai-Malaysia border. See Safety and Security - Political Situation. There is a high threat of terrorism. Bomb and grenade attacks have been indiscriminate, including in places visited by expatriates and foreign travellers. Sporadic attacks continue in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. On 13 January as a precaution the Thai authorities increased security measures in Bangkok, following warnings of a possible terrorist threat. On 16 January the Thai authorities found a large supply of bomb-making materials in Samut Sakhon, 38km south west of Bangkok. You should exercise caution, especially in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani and Udon Thani. See: Safety and Security - Terrorism. Large areas of central, northern and eastern Thailand were affected by flooding between September and December 2011. The National Travel Health Network and Centre has issued advice and information about the possible increased risk from illness and disease in areas that have been affected by flooding. Contact your GP for further advice and information before travelling. It is not uncommon for political demonstrations to take place in Thailand, including in central Bangkok. You should avoid demonstrations and any other protests. By law, you must carry your passport with you at all times in Thailand. Tourists have been arrested because they were unable to produce their passport. See: Local Laws and Customs. Penalties for possession, distribution or manufacture of drugs are severe and can include the death penalty. See: Local Laws and Customs. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See General Insurance. Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling or where you live so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency. At times of heightened tension, we suggest you also follow the British Embassy on Twitter and Facebook. 847,198 British nationals visited Thailand in 2010 (Source: Thai Immigration). Most visits are trouble-free. See General - Consular Assistance - Statistics.
When talking to Ruby on Saturday at our very glamourous Hennessy Gold cup event - look I've even found a photo that isn't blurred of me, Ruby and Ingrid who is editor of Majesty Magazine:- We talked for ages about Ruby's new online project set up to help people with mental illness. They've got the basic website set up now - in "beta" form - ie the functionality isn't all there yet, but they'd still like your views on what you think:- http://www.blackdogtribebeta.com/ The idea is that a social platform is provided to get more people talking and sharing their experiences of mental illness - you can find your own "tribe" depending on what you are looking for and then you can create and join forums, write blogs and get involved. There are videos of A list experts talking about mental illness. Their official launch will be in January 2012, but in the meantime the organisers are hoping that you can contribute to the Black Dog Tribe experience by giving them your feedback and suggestions on how to improve our site via their "issuetracker." What a great idea.