Sunday, December 24, 2006

Thai Province Declared Disaster Area

Thai students in tuxedos at formal cocktail party
to welcome the official start of winter.

To my friends in the USA, China, and Japan,

Please remember us during this traumatic, disastrous event to hit Thailand, only two years after the tsunami.

See the below excerpt from a news article in the Bangkok Post. Be sure to see the temperature conversion at the bottom to get the full impact of this terrifying and relentless onslaught of Old Man Winter in Thailand.


Chiang Rai declared a disaster area as temperatures plummet
Plunging temperatures have prompted local authorities in Chiang Rai
to declare the province a disaster area.

"Temperatures in Chiang Rai have dropped and will continue to do so
until Jan 20, he said.

"Yesterday morning, the temperature was measured at 12.7 degrees Celsius in the town of Chiang Rai and nine degrees at Doi Tung mountain, said Mr Kittirat."

Link to Bangkok Post article:


Here's the scoop for Farenheit temperatures:

12.7 degrees Celcius = 55 degrees Farenheit
9 degrees Celcius = 48 degrees Farenheit

Essentially, this disaster means the Thais will have to start wearing socks, a long-sleeved shirt, and (God forbid) an undershirt!

Last night, my town got down to 11 Celcius (52 Farenheit), so I guess we qualify for Federal Aid too. Of course, all of the above are midnight-to-4 a.m. temperatures. Nobody mentions that the days still warm up to 84 degrees Farenheit.

From My Hardship Post in Thailand,

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Cost of Home Maintenance

The lady who owns a cow across the street from me comes by once a month to negotiate about cutting all the grass on my long plot beside the house (1.5m X 20m), to feed to her cow. Each time, I hem and haw, but then reluctantly agree not to charge her for the grass.

She pulls out her little sickle, slaves away for about an hour, and walks away with a cart-load of grass and a Cheshire Cat grin, thinking she's pulled one over the farang (foreigner), for another month in a row.

Ya gotta love this country.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ham 'n' Eggs

Well, not a very profound post after a long hiatus (sorry, readers--it's been a long, hard semester), but at least another honest insight into the life of an expat. After three years of being satisfied with sticky-rice, noodles or yogurt milk for breakfast, I woke up this monsoon rainy morning thinking: "Ham and Eggs" (and, if possible, country-style skillet-fried potatoes, with toast, butter, jam, and a hot mocha espresso). Where, oh where, in NE Central Thailand among the rice fields and water bufallo?


I then remembered a little hole-in-the-wall cafe about 100 meters from the school entrance road. It is reported that the cook once worked at the British Expat Club in Bangkok. "He actually uses white wine in his white spaghetti sauce!" is the tantalizing rumor on the street. That was enough for me. I dressed in my quick-dry clothes (T-shirt, cut-offs & flip-flop shoes) and made a beeline through the heavy, warm rain on my little trusty Honda motorbike.

Arriving, I noticed a couple of other foreign teachers (good sign, I thought), and some English-language National Geographics on a bookshelf (another good sign). Since no waiter/waitress appeared, I made my way back to the kitchen to place my order. There stood a 6-foot (two-meter) heavy-set bearded Thai cook, cigarette dangling out of his mouth, frying something in a skillet--which looked vaguely western. OK, ignore the cigarette ashes flying around the stove, ignore the dirty T-shirt spanning his beer-belly, I'M going to have my Western Breakfast!! I made a few "oink-oink" and hen-cackling noises, and I think he got the idea.

In 10 minutes, there appeared at my little wood table a plate which floated right out of Sawan (Thai for "heaven"). Eggs sunny side up, pan-fried spuds with onions, a slice of ham, and two pieces of toast with a side of butter and marmalade. To top it off, a demi-tasse arrived with steaming-hot mocha to complete the picture I had only dreamed of up until now. I pretended the cigarette ashes were flecks of ground black pepper spicing up my entree. No, I taste really IS black pepper! After falling down to the wet tile floor, and gratefully kissing the big dirty toes of my Thai cook, I jumped into my plate like a starved mad-man who just escaped a Thai prison. Heaven, indeed.

After the last lick of my plate and a couple of satisfied burps, the bottom line: The cost for this taste of Sawan? About $1.25. Arghh! Too expensive! Back to my sticky-rice or noodles tomorrow morning (45-cents). But surely, it will be worth saving up for another taste of heaven, a few months down the road.

Some things are worth the sacrifice.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why (I Think) I Understand Thai-Isaan Students...

From day one, I felt I had an unusually good rapport with my upcountry students--most of them from poor rural villages. The light just dawned on me today. We actually had very similar childhoods, albeit 35 years apart. Maybe the bamboo shed in the picture is not a good parallel to my childhood Seattle-area home, but the some of the cultural similarities sure ring a bell. I just received this little article in my email today, and reading through it, I was struck by the similarities between my upbringing and current life and culture in Isan. I, too, ask with the author of the following article: Was it "really all that bad?"


Were you a kid in the "Fifties" or so? Everybody makes fun of our childhood. Comedians joke. Grandkids snicker. Twenty-Somethings shudder and say "Eeeew!" But was our childhood really all that bad? Judge for yourself:

In 1953 the US population was less than 150 million. Yet you knew more people then, and knew them better ...

And that was good.
[Isan: Everyone knows their neighbor and their neighbor's business]

The average annual salary was under $3,000. Yet, our parents could put some of it away for a rainy day and still live a decent life.

And that was good.
[Isan: I'm always amazed at how far a baht can go in Isan.]

A loaf of bread cost about 15 cents...but it was safe for a five-year-old to skate to the store and buy one...

And that was good.
[Isan: Kids securely play and travel long distances without worries.]

Prime-time TV meant I Love Lucy, Ozzie and Harriet, Gunsmoke and Lassie. Nobody ever heard of ratings or filters...

And that was good.
[Thai soap operas: You can hug, but can't kiss on the public airwaves.]

We didn't have air-conditioning...So the windows stayed up and half a dozen mothers ran outside when you fell off your bike.

And that was good.
[Isan: My first motorbike spill was attended by half the town.]

Your teacher was either Miss Matthews, Mrs. Logan or Mr. Adkins. But not Ms. Becky or Mr. Dan.

And that was good.
[Isan: Always the word "Ajarn" precedes your name, which is a term of high honor.]

The only hazardous material you knew about was a patch of grassburrs around the light pole at the corner.

And that was good.
[Isan: In Isan's dusty air, I've inhaled and ingested more dirt than I can estimate. I think it's fat-free. Is that good?]

You loved to climb into a fresh bed ... because sheets were dried outside on the clothesline.

And that was good.
[Isan: I know of no one with a mechanical clothes dryer. Why have one, when a bedsheet will dry in 15 minutes in the tropical sun?]

People generally lived in the same hometown with their relatives. So "child care" meant grandparents or aunts and uncles.

And that was good.
[Isan: The person you meet in the street is only one or two relational steps away from your boss, your co-worker or your landlady. Ergo: You better to be nice to everyone. ]

Parents were respected and their rules were law. Children did not talk back.

And that was good.
[Isan: That's still the unwritten law of the land, here.]

TV was in black-and-white. But all outdoors was in glorious color ...

And that was certainly good.
[Isan: TV is popular, but only at night. Kids actually play outside all day here.]

Your dad knew how to adjust everybody's carburetor...and the dad next door knew how to adjust all the TV knobs...

And that was very good.
[Isan: I use very few "professionals" for fixit jobs. Someone I know, or someone who knows someone always comes to the rescue.]

Your grandma grew snap beans in the back yard...and chickens behind the garage .

And that was definitely good.
[Isan: Your author now grows chili bushes outside his bedroom window, and a cow resides across the lane. Is that close enough?]

nd just when you were about to do something really bad, chances were you'd run into your dad's high school coach ... or the nosy old lady from up the street...or your little sister's piano teacher ... or somebody from church--ALL of whom knew your parents' phone number and YOUR first name .

And even THAT was good!

[Isan: Being a farang, you stand out anyway. Better mind your P's and Q's. Word travels fast in Isan. Yes, that does have it's good side, such as when you need to find things like a new apartment, a motorbike part, or a new friend! ]

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Monk-ing Around

Monks on vacation at ancient temple ruins.
Pra Vihan temple at Thai-Cambodian border.

Being around Buddhist monks is part of everyday life here in Thailand. If you get up early enough, you can see them, barefooted, walking the highways and byways to beg for their daily food from the local population. We have some monks on staff at nearly every college and university, and one has even been my student.

Every birth, death, marriage, and new-home dedication involves many long hours of chanting by monks from the local temple.

There's another interesting side of monks.... In fact, I thought of a future blog with the title "Monks are people too." For example, I remember raising my eyebrows the first time I saw a group of monks sitting on a bench at a bus stop in Bangkok, all of them smoking. It didn't seem to fit the decorum of a "religious leader", in my western mind. (I had the same problem watching Christian Reformed ministers from Holland lighting up their pipes and cigars at a ministerial meeting in Europe, too.)

A couple years ago, I went with a friend to visit his brother who had recently become a monk. We entered his little bamboo hut on stilts within the confines of the temple compound. He was a big man in his 50's, muscled, rough lines in his face, and a couple of fiery-looking dragons tattooed onto his forearms. All this, cloaked in the saffron robes of a monk, seemed incongruent.

After a short visit which involved my friend bringing food and cigarettes to his brother, I asked him in the pick-up truck on the way home, "What did your brother do before he became a monk?"

"Nothing much. He bounced from job to job, while mostly gambling, drinking, and womanizing." End of conversation. I could only surmise that entering the monkhood was his way of personal reformation.

Or was it?

Here in Thailand, a British expat teacher's former student was recently admitted to the monkhood of a local Buddhist temple. Three months into the student's monkdom, the teacher visited his former student, and here's the eye-popping account of the kid's daily life.

Please don't mistake my tone here, as merely blasting Buddhism. We all know there are charlatans and counterfeits in every religion. (Yup, Christianity has its Jimmy Swagarts, Jim Bakkers, and medieval dueling popes). However, it does stand in contradiction to my impression of a monk's life up to now. It just might shake up your impression too.

And the Adventure Goes On...

Monday, July 03, 2006

Through Thai Eyes - VI

Dear Teacher,

I'm absolutely alive and doing fine here. Thank you so much. I still enjoy working and making the money for school. Since I have to be leaving soon, so I try hard to make money as much as I can.

The wage in America is such interesting. It's totally different from Thailand. I get paid $9 dollars per hour. It's pretty great! Do you notice the workers building the dormitories in our university town in Isan? They get paid just about 180 Baht per a whole long day ($5) !!! The quality of life is so much more different!!!

Does every job in America provide the hourly payment? In Thailand, we get paid monthly; except jobs in fastfood stores like KFC, Pizza Hunt, Chester Grill, Mc Donald etc., that pay the money hourly.

So, are your satisfied with the way you get paid in Thailand? If you were still in America, you'd get paid hourly and can use the money every two weeks, right? But in my country, you have to wait untill the last business day of the last week of each month for getting the money!!!

And well, with the diferent pay rate between Thailand and America, why you left a huge amount of money behind and earn the small one in my country? Because I know that you used to work in the bank, and that you could earn much more money than working in school here. Are you happy with that?

However, I like the way you chose. I like the way you think. I love the way you teach, my professinal teacher. I know that you want to give back the value to the society. You forgot to think of your own benefit but emphasize on the good deed you can do for the society. That's what almost people hardly do so. You're my great teacher.

Some more matters to be discussed, talk to you later my professional teacher.

Your Thai Student in USA


My Dear Student,

Yes wages are nice and high in the USA, but as you've noticed, expenses are high too! I could only afford to eat out two or three times a week in the USA, and my monthly house payment was more than I earn in one month in Thailand!

Most factory and service jobs in the USA are paid hourly (service jobs like cashiers, fast food stores, hotels, hair salons, etc.) However, most professional (or "white collar") jobs are paid monthly (banking, marketing, teaching, managers in most companies, etc.)

I've been in "white collar" jobs since I graduated from college (teaching, banking, international business, etc.), so I've been paid monthly for all these years. So, it's natural for me to get paid the same way in Thailand. I'm used to "stretching" my budget over 30-31 days!

Because expenses are so low in Thailand (especially Isaan), I can save a higher percentage of my pay in Thailand than I could in the USA. In my home country, despite a high wage, by the end of the month I had no money left. Now, I make less than 15% of that, but I have money left at the end of the month! (Amazing Thailand!) Also, I feel my standard of living is much more comfortable here in Thailand. For me, it's stress-free, worry-free, no car to worry about payments and maintenance, can eat out for all meals, etc.) I almost feel like I'm partly retired!

Meanwhile, my fellow workers and many of my friends back in the USA are slaving away at jobs they don't like, under the pressure of bills (making payments for a house, a car, expensive vacations, etc), and not really enjoying life to the fullest (in my opinion). Some of them are getting physically ill because of the stress they live with. That's not how I want to live the last 1/3 of my life!

Most of my friends and family back in the USA think of me as

#1: very lucky (Thailand has a good reputation among Americans as a friendly country, and with an exotic culture) and...

#2: I'm one of the few people they know who can live out their dreams. I agree with them. :-)

Finally in closing, such kind words from you, my gracious student. You are so perceptive to be thinking about these deeper things which I call "matters of the heart." You are looking beyond the surface of people's actions to try to understand what motivates them. That's a good, life-long exercise in understanding people and life in general, I think!

I've found out that the quality of life is not in "what you have", but it's in "what you don't need." In Thailand I have wonderful warm friends, a very satisfying career, and a chance to broaden my mind and experience by living in a different culture (a dream of mine for more than 20 years before actually doing it!).

Yes, I will look forward to discsussing more with you when you come back. We should have a lunch or two together (along with your friends, if you'd like) when you get home, and talk about your experiences and new perceptions.

It has been so fun to see my own culture through your eyes. It's been an eye-opener! I am very appreciative of your efforts to share your insights. I've been sharing your thoughts with my own friends (in Thailand and USA), and they have enjoyed them fully as well. You have provided a unique understanding to quite a few people, not just your Ajarn!

See you back at the University very soon!
Your Teacher

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Through Thai Eyes - V

Dear Teacher,

Spending vacation on beach, jungle hiking, and swimming on Koh Lanta-- one of the most famous, beautiful, pure-natural islands in the South -- is such an excellent vacation which I've kept dreaming of. I'm not sure if I, who is NATIVE THAI, would have a chance in a life
to do like you -- to complete my dream.

Hope you do enjoy your trip and keep it as one of the impressive things you've discovered in Thailand.

Anyway, let me take you to my 'Chapter' ;

# I love America -- the well-treated environmental country. In here, Virginia, the trees are here and there. I often think that I'm living amoung the forest. Everywhere I go, it seems like the forest. And sure, I like it.

# I've noticed that American people prefer wooden houses to concrete ones. I don't know if the reason was whether woonden house could hold the warmth or prevent the cold, but I absolutely like those wooden house. The houses are usually painted in various styles and eye-grabbing colors. They look lively and noticeable in the distance. They perfectly provide colorful spots to the village or even to the forest. I like them.

# Seems like American people love the green grass. The green grass fields appear everywhere here. No bare lands (or soil) appear. No worry of the dust or mud that would always cause the trouble in rainy season like they do in my coutry. Can you figure out how dirty many buildings in our beloved university becomes during a whole rainy season? It's the muddy foot-steps here and there, all over the buildings! Anyway, with the plenty of that green grass, it looks like every American people has his own football fields on each side of his house. Do you have such that field in your house? Great! And well, I think that's why the American people can walk on every space of the house (even in the bed rooms) with the shoes underneath their feet despite of they were walking outside of their places for a whole day! If they were in Thailand, I cannot imagine how much certainly dirty the houses would become if they did like that! Yak!

# The American people love driving. Everyone drives. Once I asked my colleague who is a high-school student how she goes to school, she said she drives to school every day. Wow! If in Thailand, the high-school students (or even the collegians) driving to school are often considered the rich persons or even hi-so ones! It doesn't seem strange here, right? Well, I think you also got used to driving since you began attendind high-school as well. But, according for your stay
in Thailand, how did you get used to riding the (Thai) motorcycle? Did it take you a long time to succeed your riding? Did you get used to riding through strong sunny-day, hot weather, vehicles' smoke and the flying dust around you in Thailand? Amazing!?!

# The people always greet the other on the streets (or everywhere else) whether they would know each other or not. I think it's good. It keeps me warm and makes me not feel like I'm a stranger for here. If in Thailand, Greeting the strangers is what would make those people feel in the negative way to us.

The time flies pretty fast. There's only one and a half month left for me to work and gain the unforgettable experience in USA.

I love America.

From Your Student

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Through Thai Eyes - IV

Dear Teacher,

Yesterday, we were invited to have a dinner with our bosses in Culpaper, a city next to Washington VA. And what we considered excellent was, it's a Thai resteraunt!!! So great! We hope that this dinner would make us get better from being bored of the food in our canteen so much. You know?, we have like sometimes fried fish, or chinken, sometimes roasted pork or beef, or something like that for our meals. I don't know why don't they sometime cook the food in soup for us. Yes, I really miss all kinds of Kaeng -- Thai hot and spicy soup/curry. So, that's what we expected.... to have for our dinner at that resteraunt.

As soon as we were seated, we immediately ordered what we thought they would full-fill our passion by ourselve, and ordered some food that we figured they're the delicious dishes of Thailand for the bossess. What we got were like Ka Prao Kai, Kaeng Khiaw Wann, Stired Fried Mixed Vegetable, Pad Thai and the outstanding dish ... Tom Yam Kung!

Ka Prao Kai, Kaeng Khiaw Wann, Stired Fried Mixed Vegetable and Pad Thai were pretty good despite the recipes were pretty different from real Thai's ones. However, it's pretty OK. And I was so delighted as well that I could have Prik Nam Pla -- sliced fresh Thai chilli in fish sauce -- as the seasoning for my meal, because at my canteen there's just something like big sweet chilli available there. I/We don't like this chilli at all.

I'm just afriad if the farang tried this Tom Yam Kung and would say "I don\'t think it\'s the most delicious food of Thailand as the entire world talks about." Anyway, I hope other resteraunts in other cities in the USA would be sure of their Tom Yam Kung\'s quality and taste before putting it on the list of their menu. I just want the renown of this dish keeps go on. And I do hope your family had tried the right Tom Yam Kung and are fond of this attractive food looks like nothing interesting in this email. Sounds like I'm complaining rather than discussing the interesting matter with you like always, doesn't it? However, there are many things left to talk with you, my professional teacher. See you next " Chapter "

But, what we found unpleasant was... Tom Yam Khung !!! It didn't represent what we had boasted about its renown to our bosses at all. It appeared like .... six sinked prawns in that clear and sour soup with just a few sliced tomatoes and farang mushrooms floating on above. Its taste was not delicious and, sure, extremely different from the original one! I know that it's hard to get complete recipes (from Thailand) to achieve the dish, but as they can't make the original-like taste, the shouldn't put this kind of Thai food in their menu,right? I'm just afriad if the farang tried this Tom Yam Kung and would say "I don't think it's the most delicious food of Thailand as the entire world talks about."

Anyway, I hope other restarants in other cities in the USA would be sure of their Tom Yam Kung's quality and taste before putting it on the list of their menu. I just want the renown of this dish keeps go on. And I do hope your family had tried the right Tom Yam Kung and are fond of this actractive food!

Looks like nothing interesting in this email. Sounds like I'm complaining rather than discussing the interesting matter with you like always, doesn't it? However, there are many things left to talk with you, my teacher. See you next "chapter."

Your Student


Dear Student,

Your hard-working teacher is now taking a short break from volleyball at the beach, jungle hiking, snorkeling, and swimming on Koh Lanta during my vacation to check my email. How nice to see your new mail!

I laugh at your experience, because food is so close to our longing for things familiar. I have to relate to you some similar funny situations. For example, when I travel and stay in hotels in Asia, I see advertised "American Breakfast included in room charge!" As I lick my lips, I think, "Oh boy, something familiar!" All night long in my hotel room, my hungry tummy wakes me up and reminds me about that wonderful American Breakfast which will greet me in the morning. The appointed hour comes and I arrive at the breakfast buffet table: cabbage with dressing, short grilled hot dogs, cucumbers, grilled tomatoes, salty orange juice, toast (toasted on only one side) with no butter, and corn salad. I have NEVER seen any of these things in an American breakfast in America! So, I gave up on hotel American Breakfasts long ago.

Then, I go to Seven-Eleven to get a good old American hamburger: I ask for a "hamburger" and get a piece of dried chicken on a bun with tomato-paste & mayonnaise sauce on top. Ugh! Never seen a hamburger like that! "Chicken-burger" is more like it.

So, I then stop at the ice cream shop for a scoop of that wonderful creamy vanilla. They open a hot dog bun, put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle of it, then sprinkle the whole thing with corn and hand it to me with a smile, like I'm supposed to eat it. Unbelievable!

Lastly, I go over to House of Pizza for a good old Hawaiian pizza. Ever had a pizza without cheese? Well, order any pizza on the menu there, and that's what you get. Unthinkable to a westerner! However, the large number of Thai customers who are always there tells me that it pleases someone!

So based on your and my experiences, all I can say is: so sorry, my student, you'll just have to come back to Thailand for your authentic Tom Yum Goong! I tell you what, I just had the best Tom Yum Goong in Thailand last night here in Ko Lanta--ah, big fat juicy shrimp and fresh Thai herb-spices swimming in creamy coconut juice. Oh, so-o-o-o-o good! Making you homesick? I just want to make sure I see you in class in a couple months! Just in case my teaching doesn't bring you back, at least the Tom Yum Goong will lure you back to our beloved university.

Hurry back. Classes start in 45 days. A steaming bowl of Tom Yum Goong is waiting for you!

Your Teacher

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Through Thai Eyes - III

Dear Teacher,

I've finally found a library providing free internet for the people already. Thank you for your advice on this matter. By the way, it' takes about five minutes by bike to get there. It's a very good one, named Rappahannock County Library. Do you think "Rappahannock" sounds strange? I feel like it's not English word. Do you?

It now keeps raining every day here. Actaully I love rain, but the rain here always gets the weather even colder. Somestimes, this atmosphere makes me don't even want to leave my bed for work earlier like always. Oh!, god, I'd be fired soon !!!

However, I'd like to tell you what I've seen THROUGH MY OWN EYES (as you said) to you during I'm staying here. These are some what I experienced:

>> Do you think that the greeting sentence like "How are you" is dying
out? Because the people here greet like
  • "How are you doing?"
  • "How's going on?"
  • "What's going on?"
  • "What's news?"
  • "What's up!"
  • "Zup man!"
...or something like that. Then I think you'd feel boring since we just greet you like "How are you" !!!

>> I saw many American put their names on the car plates. And they said it's legal to do so. Therefore I think you must have put "D___" on each car plate of your family's, don't you? Sounds COOL!

>> I noticed that the light of each American's house is orange, you know what I mean? It's different from our home's (in Thailand). I don't know why don't they use the white light like we do for our home, because I consider our light is clearer and brighter than theirs. Or,maybe, this light looks light the color of fire that make them feel warm, I suppose.

But anyway, I prefer

the white one.

>> I saw the wild animals--rabbits and squirrels are often seen--appearing indepently in the backyard, on the road side or in the forest next to the house, without being harmed by the people even in daytime! If they were in Thailand (and even in my hometown), they should have been killed and become the food for our meals! I absolutely love the way the foriegners treat those wild animals.

These are some new experience I gain. And sure, with the culture, tradition, geography, thoughts, lifestyle etc. that differ from mine, I think I'll have a lot of things to discuss with you more on, my teacher.

Thank you so much for welcoming my mails and not getting annoyed (or not?!?) by them.

Your student.

p.s. Do you really understand what I said? Coz I've noticed that if I read English mails of my friends, I 100% understand. But when I read yours, my perception is just 85-90 %. And to make it worst, I don't understand what they say in many magazines by American at all!


My Dear Student,

Hey, I LOVE getting your emails! I am sharing them with my friends and family, and they love them too. In fact, your wonderful insights "Through Thai Eyes" are being read by my friends in over 20 foreign countries (including the USA). I'll explain when you get back. Keep it up.

You're right, the name of that county is not English. Probably not even Isan-Lao! I would say American Indian. So, if you can learn to pronounce some of those county and river names in Virginia, we'll call you "quadrilingual," ok?

Greetings: I think most Americans like to be a little bit unique in their greetings, and they hope it reflects their personalities. So a banker probably would not say "Zup man!" and a skateboarder probably would not say, "Good morning, isnt' the weather today indeed delightful?"

Names on license plates: Yes, it's very much enjoyed by Americans who have an extra $35 to $50 to spend for the higher fee! When I was home, I didn't have my name on my plate so that in case I accidentally did something rude in my driving, they could not identify me!

House lights: Hmmm. If it's the outside porch light you are looking at, it is probably a light that does not attract insects. You know how flying insects like to swarm around the bright fluorescent (some call "neon" or "tube") lights at restaurants and vendor carts in Isan? Last night, I had three flying termites land in my Tom Yum Goong at the local restaurant. They were going for the bright lights, but missed. I think you'll notice they don't go after the orange lights.

However, you bring up something else that I also notice--the big cultural difference about lights in homes. We Americans generally think of bright fluorescent lights as too bright and harsh on our eyes in certain living spaces in a home. Therefore, we will only use fluorescent lights in places like the kitchen or utility rooms which need a bright light for work-related activities (washing, cooking, cleaning, ironing clothes, etc.). Generally, we don't like to use them in our bedrooms, living rooms or other more relaxed rooms in the house.

It was so hard for me to get used to fluorescent lights inside homes and apartments when I came to Thailand. When I first moved into my new apartment, I bought all table lamps with soft-colored incandescent light bulbs. When my Thai friends came to visit, they immediately turned on the glaring overhead lights with the comment, "Ugh! Why is it SO DARK in here?!!" As I turned them back off, I would reply, "It's NOT dark--it's soft and warm!" The battle went on--off on off on off--accompanied by much joking.

Wild animals. I always laughed at my Thai-Isan friends. Whenever we were in the jungle or a park and they saw a wild animal, their first comment was always about whether it tasted good or not. "See that lizard over there? Ah, 'arroy mak!' " (very delicious). See those big insects? Very tasty when roasted over a fire!" "See that big frog? Worthless! You can't eat that kind." Now I find myself always asking my friends: "What is that animal over there? Do you eat it too? Is it delicious?" I'm afraid that if I came back to America and started asking those questions, they would immediately take me to a big buffet-style restaurant, thinking I was starving to death!

I look forward to your next "chapter," seeing my home country through your eyes. When you come back to Isan, I will share with you a place where you can read about your home country through MY eyes. You have a real surprise waiting for you.

Your Teacher

P.S. By the way, I am glad you are at an 85-90% understanding of my emails--that means I am challenging you!. And yes, I understand yours, 98-100%. Excellent writing. (You must have had a wonderful, talented instructor for "Basic Composition and Writing!" Didn't you get a B+ in that course?).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Through Thai Eyes - II

Another gem from our student working in the USA (see earlier blog, "Through Thai Eyes")...

Dear Teacher,

The spring has come now; thus I won't meet the snow at all. What a pity! Moreover, the weather seems to be a little more like Thailand's. It's very hot in the after noon, but still cold in the evening. However, it's nice for not remaining hot all day.

Yesterday, I lost 9 dollars (360 baht) !!! Because there's nobody telling us prior to set the time 1 hour earlier then always. Because of it is the SPRING !!!

We didn't know about this matter before. So when I clocked-in to work, I was very frightened if there's any things wrong with the clock-in system. Then when we went up to our office, we discovered that there were plenty of Housekeeping Crews there already!!! We so much wondered why the farang crews clocked-in earlier, despite it shoud be us who always clock-in five minutes prior !!!

But after HSKP Manager informed us about this USA's proceture, we immediately knew that we lost nine dollars this day. What a pity.

By the way, April Fool's Day has gone. At first, I thought it would be the very fun day, but nothing much they did with the lie. How about you? How many VICTIMS you got that Day?

Anyway, hope you'll enjoy this comming festival, Song Kran. Break a leg, my teacher !

Your student

Dear C,

Hey, great to get your email again. Ah, weather just like home--but the clock keeps changing on you. Oops, forgot to tell you about that little Creature of Time we call "Daylight Savings Time". Crazy Americans think they can do more things in 24 hours if they move the clock backwards and forwards during the year.

April Fool's Day in Thailand? YES, it happened! I was tricked. I logged onto two of my favorite Thai websites: and They both had fake news stories. One story was about a train in Phuket having an accident. I'm going to Phuket next week for Songkran, and I was a little concerned (although I will be flying). Phuket Island doesn't even have a railroad! So April Fool's Day even reaches out to us unsuspecting farangs in Thailand, too. Caught like a rat in a trap.

I bet you will have the driest Songkran of your life, this year. Happy Thai New Year, anyway!

Your Teacher,
Aj. J


LINK: Time chaos as Daylight Savings Time (DST) arrived in Thailand Tuesday (Dated: April 1, 2003)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Through Thai Eyes - I

One of the very enjoyable experiences of teaching here in Thailand is seeing your home country through their eyes. This year we sent about 50 of our English-major students to the USA for summer work. Remember, summer in Thailand is March-April-May, so right now these students are scattered all over the USA from Hawaii to Florida. I always wait in eager anticipation to get those first emails, and I share one with you (warts and all!) I just received this morning, along with my reply.

Pardon the student's vocabulary choice for "cigarette butts." We have more work to do with him when he gets home!


Dear Teacher,

First of all, I'd like to apologize for not able to keep in touch with you as often as I've told you before, because there's no computer or even the telephone in our dormitory. The telephone box doesn't present in our site as well. Each time I need to use the computer, I have to go to our boss' office where many people are seriusly dealing with their works there. Therefore, I don't want to do like that so often. Although our boss will move us to the another better dorm where provides internet access, we don't want to move because we have to pay more money for the housing. Anyway, I will do try to keep in touch with you, my professional teacher.

Thank you for the GREAT GRADE you've given to me. It pulls up my GPAX a lot.

Here, in Virginia, is a good match for us. It's peaceful, nice environment, friendly and funny people and not crowded.

Before we came here, we had stayed in your HOME, at New Yorker Hotel, New York. We experienced many fascinating things there. The buildings are much more bigger than those ones we see in Bangkok or in our other big cities. We went to the Central Park where I have no idea that how they can put that natural park among this HUGE CITY without leaving it destroyed like the park in our home (Country). The squirrels are running all over the yard in the park without being scared of people. Moreover, we can breathe freshly in the park (or even in the city) despite we are surrounded by a large number of crowded people and cars !!! Fascinating !!!

And evenmore, I saw a young boy and girl kissing in the park ignoring the people (including me) who kept walking pass them! And the most attractive is that ... the light of the city which is very colorfull at night, especially prominantly at Time Square. We love it.

But what I consider it makes New York unpleasent is the CIGARETTE! I saw almost people (or even all) ,from the young to the old, smoking a lot. There are many cigarette asses (or cigarette filters?) in everywhere -- on the streets, in the trash cans, and almost in the DRIANS !!! It seems like the people consider smoking is as normal as drinking the pop !!!

I think European and American are on the top list of those who smoke the most. So, I wonder how do you survive from this matter, because I've never seen you smoking and appreciated it's the good of you, my kind teacher.

All in all, I LOVE AMERICA. It doesn't make me disappointed. THE POWERFUL AND MIGHTY COUNTRY.

I almost get used to with the food, the foreign accent and the weather now. And I enjoy working so much.

>>> Once in a life I experience America, it is worth my whole life... <<<>

Yours sincerely,

P.S. Sorry for the lenghtly mail, it's affected by the reasons
according to the very first beginning of this mail.

Dear C,

Wow, what a great email--how interesting to see the USA through your eyes!

New York City is made up of a huge population of recent immigrants (mostly from Europe and the Mediterranean countries), so you'll see many similarities to Europe there--including the smoking (yuck). This city is soooo different from the West Coast where I live--but my impressions of New York City are about the same as yours! I do love the liveliness of the city, also.

Despite the difficulty of finding a computer, thanks for the effort to send an email. By the way, public libraries often have free email service on their computers, although you have to get a library card (free) to use one.

As to your grade, please don't thank me. YOU did all the hard work, and you earned it. There were 2 C'2, 7 C+'s, 1 B, 10 B+'s, and only 5 A's given in the class. So, consider yourself part of the privileged, elite, top 20% of the class!

Hope to hear more from you later!
Your Teacher in Thailand

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It's Getting Chili in Thailand

...and we're not talking about the weather
(100+ Fahrenheit right now).

I am referring, my-about-to-be-dazzled readers, to a recent extraordinary accomplishment from a brown-thumbed gardner who has trouble growing even weeds. When I first moved to Thailand, I bought a big bag of dried chili peppers to use in my quest to learn how to cook Thai dishes. When I later learned that Thai cooking in Isan is basically any stir-fry with 50% chili peppers, I abandoned the no-challenge project. However, three years later, I pulled out this bag of chilis from the fridge vegetable bin, and inquired of my friends what to do with them. "Throw 'em in your weed-patch, and watch what happens," was their sage advice. OK, I do grow a few weeds. My weed-patch looks more like a partially balding old man with tufts of hair sprouting haphazzardly here and there.

So, I threw the dried-up, deader-'n-a-door-nail chilis out into the balding weed patch and forgot about them. In a couple months, lo and behold, I had a half-dozen chili bush babies! Amazing how becoming a father changes your perspective and you start accepting responsibility. I got serious and started watering them every day.

A month or so later, I had teenagers in the family. Hungry teenagers. This momentous event now called for fertilizer to feed my hungry charges. I asked my Thai teacher the name of a good fertilizer I could pick up at the town garden shop, and how I should ask for it. With an impatient wave of the hand, he dismissed my idea immediately. He wasn't quite sure what the best word was, but he spelled out the only one he knew in very large letters on a scrap of paper and held it up an inch from my nose: "S-H-#-T."

"Uh, you mean the kind that comes from cows?" I naively inquired, screwing up my nose.

"Yes Ajarn (Teacher) J., Do you know something better?" His tone of voice was that of a pre-school teacher lecturing her toddler. Oh, cow manure to feed my chili bushes. I remember something vaguely about that in a history book. Didn't the American Indians give the early colonists cow dung for their corn? No, that was dead fish. I was catching on to this farming-in-the-country thing quite quickly.

"Of course!" I laughed a little too loudly, "I just remember hearing something about bat manure being the best possible fertilizer, right?" Incomprehensible stare from teacher. Yes, I'm learning how to save face in Asia.

Fortunately, cows and manure are everywhere in Isan (the latter usually on the bottom of your shoes). Mission easily accomplished.

A month following, so help me, a handful (batch? gaggle?) of adult chili bushes waved in the breeze in my little makeshift haphazzard garden. I couldn't believe it--from three year old dried chilis scattered about the garden--I had a sustainable crop which commands about $1 a pound on the local market. (I'm rich! I'm rich).

The real thrill came when the peppers started appearing just a couple weeks ago...first green, then yellow, orange, and finally bright red.

Today, was the crowning glory of my agricultural career. I picked two of the most beautiful, glossy, red chili peppers I've ever seen from the top of one of my tenderly cared-for chili bushes.

[Actual photgraph of actual first two chilis from actual garden grown by actual farang appears at the top of this blog. Stamp that photo: "EVIDENCE".]

Relishing the moment, and remembering that when chilis are red, they're fairly mild, I popped a whole chili into my mouth and chomped down. Arghhh! Cough! Choke! Gag! Oh yeah, it's the COOKED red chilis that are fairly mild, I remembered too late. Seven glasses of water later, I felt I had at least gotten my money's worth (and the equivalent of a burn-tattoo on the roof of my mouth).

Perhaps your local newspaper might feature in the near future about a teacher-turned-chili-business magnate who has taken over the market of Thailand's national vegetable, the venerated chili. Remember you heard it here, first.

By the way, my first bio-engineering job after above accomplishment? Tone down that fire. Gasp.


P.S. Pardon my over-simplification of Thai-Isan cooking. There really are some wonderful unique dishes that take some artful cooking and and involve a list of delicious ingredients. Something I have no patience for on the chef's end of things.

Monday, March 06, 2006

And You Think YOU'VE Got it Bad?

When you're sitting in stalled traffic on I-5 or I-405, just cheer yourself up by knowing it could be worse. Last December 4, 2005, Bangkok had the worst "normal"* traffic jam on record. Traffic was blocked on an "expressway" between the city and the airport. The time motorists sat in their cars without moving? Eight hours.

People ran out of gas while stalled. Other's abandoned their cars and started walking. Of course that only served to worsen the situation. Many tickets and tow trucks later, things got cleared around midnight.

A couple years ago, it took me three hours to go the eight miles from the city to the airport by bus, barely catching my flight five minutes before they shut the airplane door. Yes, I could have walked (maybe jogged) it faster.

It is common when visiting Bangkok to have your taxi driver turn off his motor in a traffic jam--often the traffic won't move for 20-30 minutes at a traffic light. That's at EVERY intersection! Of course, the taxi's meter keeps running! So, it's not unusual for me to pay my fare up to that point, get out and walk. Usually you can flag down a motorcyclist and offer him 20 baht to take you between the stalled rows of cars (praying no one decides to open their car door...). So, count your blessings!

Also, another reason I enjoy living in the "Appalachia" of Thailand--Isan--far, far from the madness!

*"normal" excludes traffic jams due to natural disasters such as hurricanes (Houston 2005), fleeing attacking Martians (New Jersey, Halloween of 1938), etc.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Your Know You're a Thai Redneck When....

(below) From America: redneck jacuzzi
Most Americans are familiar with Jeff Foxworthy's redneck jokes. They poke good-natured fun at country people in the USA. Example: "You know you're a redneck if that billboard that says "Say 'no' to crack" reminds you to pull up your jeans." Rural people seem to enjoy them the most, because they can laugh at themselves.

Well, redneck jokes have now hit the Thailand expat community. Some guys blend in so well with the upcountry rural culture (especially guys who marry Thai wives from rural areas) that other expats are making fun of them. To quote one of my internet friends, "This is all for fun and should not be taken seriously. I love Thailand and the Thai people. This is just another way to express my love for their culture. " So here goes....

You know you're a Thai redneck if...

...If your idea of vehicle air bag safety is having your lady sit on the front of your motorbike.

....if your food tastes better when you eat on the floor sitting on newspapers

...if you consider owning a buffalo as a good investment

...if you don't use toilet paper [JD's note: that's only for fancy Bangkok people]

...if the one and ONLY bottle of medicine you have at home cures every single illness known to man.

...if your whole family sits on the floor eating your meal--when visiting a KFC or MacDonald's in Bangkok.

...if you use two 1-baht coins as tweezers.

...if you can't sleep because that chicken in the next room just won't shut up.

...if you carefully avoid the dog sleeping in the middle of the street but prefer hit-and-run for humans.

...if your idea of lawn ornaments are the empty plastic bags blown off the highway.

...if you haven't done the dishes in hot water for the last five years.

...if you can eat any dish consisting of 50% hot chili peppers without heart failure.

...if your idea of a traffic jam is two motorbikes waiting for the buffalo to finish his business in the middle of the dirt road.

...if your only morning alarm clock is the regular 4:30am mosquito attack.

...if you prefer the "Burning Garbage" aroma as your choice of spray can air freshener.

...if the back end and the front end of your pickup truck are held together by scrap wood.

...if your idea of "dining out" is moving from the inside floor to a grass mat outside the front door.

...if you use para* as cologne.

*(para: very popular condiment made from fermented fish and condensed into a paste. Quite a stimulant to the olfactory senses!)

At the least these should give you a tongue-in-cheek flavor for upcountry life!

[Acknowledgement: adapted from forum]

And in closing, from America again...

(To my Thai friends: Some people who live out in the country in the USA live in small metal homes on wheels. When they are this small, we call it a "travel trailer." Its purpose is for travel, but some people live in them as a permanent home.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How to Wai Your "Hi" in Thai

One of the first things you learn in this culture is the physical act of greeting called the wai. Actually, in addition to greeting, the wai has many, many other uses: expressing appreciation, leave-taking, showing honor, serious apologies, etc. Looks simple, huh? Easy as waving "hi," huh?

Think again!

The hands. It's more than just flat hands held against each other. The wai is supposed to represent a lotus bud, which also figures prominently in Thai culture. Therefore, the hands are ever so slightly cupped to give that "bud" appearance. The kids in the picture above are still in training, so don't mimic them. You need a more rounded look to your hands position. The guy below has it right.

The vertical position of hands. Depending on the status of the person to whom you are wai-ing, you demonstrate the appropriate honor by the height of your wai. This is a bit tricky. You also have to take into account your own status. So many factors come into play here: age, position, relationship, economic status, social status, etc. You have to roll it all into one and then demonstrate your wai to match the situation.

The lowest wai is with the tips of the fingers at about mid-chest level. The highest wai, given to the King, are hands and arms way above the head with head and neck bent backward at a very awkward angle. Then, there's a half-dozen positions in between these extremes: tips of fingers at chin, at mouth, at bottom of nose, at top of nose, mid-forehead, etc.

The position of the head. While doing the wai there are variations from keeping your head unbent, to a deep Japanese-style bow. Which do you use? The more head-movement downward, the greater honor being given. It's all part of that status thing. As if that wasn't enough, then there's....

The timing. It's important who does the wai first. I've been admonished more than once on this point. My first month in Thailand, I had heard how important the wai was, so I was going to be sure NOT to forget it! My secret was to show it to everyone, all the time--and to show my enthusiasm for their culture by jumping the gun and doing it first. I went around, doing the wai to up-line status, down-line status, trees, dogs and cats. I thought everyone's giggle was from their delight. No, it was because I looked ridiculous. I was totally unaware of the "timing" angle. Now, I know to let down-line status individuals wai to me first. However, I need to be quick-thinking to initiate the wai to up-line status persons, lest I offend them.

Get it right, and you earn the approval and pleasure of the person you seek to honor. Get it wrong, and you risk embarrassing, or at worst, insulting the other person. Fortunately, we foreigners are granted, what I call "farang's license" to mess up. Just the effort is appreciated. However, if you've been in Thailand for some years, it's expected that you'll stop being a dunce and start getting it right!

OK, start practicing, class! The quiz is on Friday. Flunk the quiz? Lose your visa. Pass the quiz? Earn a Thai's undying appreciation for taking the time to learn his or her culture!

Ronald MacDonald
gets into the wai.
Anything to sell those Big Macs.

And not to be left out,
The Michelin Tire Man
show's his cultural
sensitivity as well.

The world's most polite
crocodiles reside in Thailand.
(At the gates of my local village's

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


For a blog or diary writer, the danger of living in a new culture too long is that things become commonplace. Every so often, I have to startle myself into remembering what it was like the first time I saw or experienced something new in Thailand, in order to capture the uniqueness of it all.

The campus police force is one of those now-commonplace, but once-startling experiences. They're a sharp looking bunch: most of them former military guys in their early 30's, physically fit, short haircuts, ram-rod straight posture, and the over all bearing of a soldier. Their dark-blue uniforms, modest insignias, and shin-high military boots complete a pretty convincing picture. I would guess most of them are getting more experience for the next step in their career, the national police force, which is quite a coveted and powerful position in Thai society.

Imagine the first time I was rushing to class along a breezeway and came face to face with one of these military types. He stopped dead in his tracks, drew up to his full height, loudly clicked the heels of his spit-shined boots together, and gave a smart salute, edge of open hand to forehead, and elbow held high. I also stopped dead in my tracks--not to acknowledge him, but to look behind me to see if the Prime Minister of Thailand was in tow. No one there. I turned back to him, and judging by the eye-to-eye contact, it dawned--slowly dawned--upon me that this gesture was intended for yours truly.

Now, mind you, no one has ever saluted me in my life--except for an insulting salute by a smart-alec junior high kid in an American school who was mocking my authority. The difference: while the middle-school brat had a sneer on his face, Mr. Campus Policeman had one of those "Yes Sir!" expressions I've only seen in World War II movies. I wasn't sure whether to lead the charge or search in my book bag for another medal to pin to his uniform. Not sure how to lead a charge, nor having any medals, I opted for a Thai wai (folded hands in front of my chin and slight bow), and continued on my way--just a bit flustered.

Big mistake.

Someone who saw the brief interchange upbraided me at a later time. "Ajarn (Professor) JD, did I see you giving a wai to the campus policeman this morning?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Didn't you notice his embarrassment?"

"No, I just wai'd and quickly walked on. Why was he embarrassed? Was I supposed to salute back?"

"Not really. As a university teacher in our culture, you really shouldn't acknowledge or show deference to a campus police officer. You should just continue on, as if he wasn't there."

Oh really? The first time in my life I felt like The Commander in Chief of Something, and I'm just supposed to pretend it didn't happen? Bummer. Such is the vertical society of Thailand. In the horizontal society of the USA we take delight in "all are created equal." In Thailand, we're supposed to take delight in "We all know our place in the hierarchy of society."

Years later, I suddenly realize I get that formal military-style, heel-clicking salute several times a week. However, now it's almost a non-event. It's as normal as tying my shoes every morning. I really don't feel "more important." It hasn't gone to my head.* It's just another normal manifestation of a society that values a carefully defined social ladder.

I said almost a non-event. OK, I cheat just a little. I'm still a farang (foreigner) and I still can't help returning just a little twinkle in my eye and a slight smile.

At best, I think he knows it's still a bit novel for the foreign teacher to get such treatment.
At worse, the other possibility is that he still wants a reaction out of me like that on the first day--not the wai, but that searching look over my shoulder for Mr. Prime Minister.
At worst, I might be the private joke among the Campus Police.

*The next time I return home to the USA for a visit, I would prefer all of you at the airport to line up in a reasonably straight line, stand at attention, and execute a respectful salute as I exit customs with my bags. No sneers. Thank you. [Update, 2011: Apparently my instructions were ignored last visit.]

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Teaching in Thailand: Newbie Tips

First Year Experiences...

Three years ago, I stepped into a Thai-Isaan classroom full of unmotivated 15-year-old students who could hardly say "My name is..." in English. I could speak absolutely no Thai beyond "sawadee krap" (hello) which I murdered so badly I had best remained silent. At the outset, they were petrified from fear, and so was I.

By accident, I happened upon a technique which serves me well to this day. After several fruitless false starts, it hit upon me one day to ask the students to become my teachers--to teach me their language. In my neck of the woods, it's the Isaan folk language (a derivative of Lao). Because their folk language is somewhat frowned upon in "proper Thai society," they were dumbstruck that not only a farang was asking them to be his teacher, but that he didn't ask to be taught "proper Thai."

Almost as if by magic, these cowering students displayed an unbelievable confidence which bordered on delight as they reallized they could teach the intimidating foreign teacher something he didn't know. In the process, I slipped in the equivalent English terms, basically teaching English by stealth.

It became a game of competitive learning between me and the students. We both did a lot of acting, drawing pictures on the board, playing games, etc. Weekly, we took walks around the school campus, them "teaching me" about the flora, fauna, Buddhist statues, parts of the motorcycle, features of a building, etc. I would "just happen" to mention the English equivalents at every stop, and they started trying to imitate it.

For one thing, they learned how much slower language comes for a 50-ish student than a middle-school student. My defeats became their delights as they "bested" me nearly every day by remembering the English faster than I could remember the Isaan terms. In the end, I know they learned a lot more English than I learned Isaan.

Yes, I did get some disapproving stares from Thai English teachers who were futilely drilling their kids on English grammar, but I know we were defintely having more fun. And, any teacher worth their salt knows that, in a relaxed atmosphere, the doors to comprehension and retention get thrown wide open. At the end of the year, their kids knew more English grammar rules, but my kids could speak it. Which would you take?

Of course, the cleverest students caught on to what I was doing, but still enjoyed the charade. For the rest of them, probably for years, I'll be remembered at that school as the English-speaking farang who came to learn their folk language. Lingering reputation notwithstanding, I'm a pragmatist. Whatever works, do it.

These days, teaching upper-level English majors, and master’s degree students at a large Thai university, I still fall back on the “old trick.” When I see that deer-in-the-headlights look of bewilderment or failed confidence, I just ask, “Now what’s that equivalent Thai/Isaan word?” Some clever student always comes to my rescue with the native term, and--“bingo”--class equilibrium is magically restored as well as a term gets unequivocally defined in the minds of the students.

My college professors always said you should be a lifelong student, but never knew how handy it would come in at the professor's podium!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Music of Patriotism

I've heard it twice a day for the last three years. Let's see, that's 365 days x 3 years x 2 times a day = 2,190 times. My first year working at the college, I stood respectfully at attention each morning while the voices of 5,000 students sang in unison to both the national and king's anthem, while a huge Thai flag was raised. By now, I've heard it so often that, by the amazing learning method called "osmosis", I now can even sing it in Thai. But yesterday it struck me that even though these songs are part of the routine of my daily life, I still had no idea what the lyrics meant. A five-minute internet search ended my curiousity. A translation follows:

The Thai National Anthem

Thailand embraces in its bosom
All people of Thai blood.
Every inch of Thailand
belongs to the Thais.
It has long maintained its sovereignty
because the Thais have always been united.
The Thai people are peace-loving
But they are no cowards at war.
They shall allow no-one
To rob them of their independence.
Nor shall they suffer tyranny.
All Thais are ready to give up
Every drop of blood for the nation's
Safety, freedom and progress.
Chai Yo (CHEERS)

To hear it , click here.

Usually, along with the National Anthem, the "King's Anthem" is also sung. In every theater across the country, the audience stands at attention to this song before a movie is shown, and many sports events begin with the singing of these lyrics as well.

The King's Anthem

I, servant of Buddha
Prostrate my heart and head
To pay homage and give great blessings
To the protector of the land,
One of the Great Chakri Dynasty
Head of the Thai people
Supreme in rank
I know comfort from your protection.
Because of your gracious care
All the people are happy and peaceful.
We pray that whatever you wish for
Fate will grant you
According to your heart's desire
To bring you prosperity.
We salute you.

To hear it , click here.

When either song is played on loudspeakers throughout Thailand, I've seen busy town centers and bus stations come to a virtual halt while people stood at attention for the duration of the music. At 6:00pm every night, I'm usually running on a treadmill at the university fitness center when the anthems are played publicly. However, my treadmill also comes to a stop in respect to the Thai around me who cease their exercises and stand at attention while "facing the music."

When it comes to their country and king, the Thai are definitely a proud people!

Acknowledgement: Thanks to our friends over at for the audio link.