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Thailand’s Ministry of Culture: No Fun Allowed at Songkran?

Thailand's Ministry of Culture

No Songkran fun … for the wicked…

Chiang mai CityNews’ latest post shoots off with: ‘Mini Cult’ Uses Children to Shame Behaviour at Songkran.

The first child responds with “It’s water fight time!” but as the answers progress the answers include “sexy dancing with no clothes”, “touching boobies”, and “get into a brawl”.

After alternating between the innocent children’s faces and raucous black and white images of Songkran the video concludes with the statement “ Seriously, is this how you want to experience Songkran?”

I’m torn about Mini-Cult’s latest bid to control. On one hand, I still remember back when they took away the Bare Breasted Ladies of Songkran. That miffed me to no end.

But on the other hand, I can sort of see their point. I wouldn’t want my kids to experience anything terribly awful (not that I’ve seen much of anything myself – does it even exist).

Now here’s yet another ‘but’. Parents can and do arrange safe venues for their kids. And there’s plenty of safe fun to be found. First off, kids celebrate Songkran at school. And secondly, many neighbourhoods are filled with lighthearted water fights up and down the sois. Oh, and don’t forget the Wats! That’s three.

But if you think about it, keeping kids away from the areas where drunks (local and tourists) are in high concentration just isn’t that difficult. Most everyone knows where they go. Trick or Treating (America’s favourite holiday) had to be tweaked for kids too. So really, it can be done.

Then there’s this bit that keeps nagging at me… It’s well-known that Thai kids walk to school through all sorts of raunchy areas where sex and drugs are sold openly on the street. So if Mini-Cult is so bothered about what Thai kids are being exposed to, why aren’t they putting a stop to that sort of fun as well?

I dunno. Seriously. You tell me.

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Chiang mai Burning: Could You Survive Thailand’s Polluted North?

Chiang mai Burning

Would you even WANT to survive Thailand’s polluted North? …

Until yesterday I was having serious doubts about my ability to stick it out in Chiang mai during the burning season. Last year wasn’t too bad, but this year, along with thousands of others, I’m suffering.

The Nation: All-out efforts to fight smog (cough cough)…the haze crisis in the North, which threatens to be the worst in recent history, with air pollution in some parts of Chiang Ri province already three times beyond safety limits.

Every year the government publishes press releases on their meetings where they talk talk talk about cleaning up the air in North Thailand. Good grief all – it’s not rocket science, just quit burning already! Because of the very real health consequences, other countries outlawed open burning yaks ages ago. That’s right. There is a solution to this seasonal mess.

Yeah. I’m miffed. And Thais should be too. I went from gushing about Chiang mai and wanting to retire here, to wondering how quickly I could leave.

Asian Correspondent: Northern Thailand smothers under blanket of haze: Flights were turned away from Chiang Mai International Airport this week as Northern Thailand’s haze crisis deepened. ‘The Nation’ reported Tuesday that at least four pilots decided not to land their planes Monday as visibility was reduced to 800 meters due to the persistent smog.

For the past three weeks, due to a lack of being able to breath, I’ve been mostly housebound. You see, I’m asthmatic, but not seriously so (and I pity Northern Thais who are). My grandmother on my father’s side is though. She died of emphysema young, in her late 60’s. My father and older brother are also serious asthmatics (when I was growing up it was nothing to have an ambulance come and take my older sibling away). But get me around cigarette smoke (even on a walk by) and I’m puking, then coughing up gunk the long night long. Lovely.

What I’ve done to survive the burning North…

Because last year wasn’t too bad I started out ignoring the burning this year. Big mistake. Before I knew it my lungs were compressed, I was suffering from headaches, intermittent coughing kept me awake throughout the night, and the lack of oxygen replaced my energy with sore muscles.

As I wasn’t in a position to hightail it out of here for months at a time I needed to find a doable solution. And fast.

Thai Language ConnectorsChris and Angela, in How to Deal with Chiang Mai’s Smoky Season suggested a N95 grade mask (shown in the banner above) from HomePro. It works fine for running around, and along with hepa-filters in the car, on a good day I can get to the grocery store and back.

I already had three air cleaners (one from Bangkok and two bought last year) ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 baht. This year they were not enough. Worried, the man of the house found one that actually works, the Toshiba Air Purifier CAF-G50(P). And while 15,000 baht might sound expensive, it doesn’t need expensive filters (as does the 40 thou baht version) and does an amazing job of clearing the air. Live and learn.

Infact, the Toshiba is the real reason why I’m writing this post – I wanted to share my positive experiences with others who are also suffering due to the burning this year. Here’s what happened…

Several days ago the electric went out and I forgot to reset the Toshiba. A few (three?) hours later I was in serious trouble with my breathing. I became lethargic, my lungs were again restricted with the building pressure in my chest, and coughing was full-on. All it took to recover was to put the Toshiba on its Turbo setting. Six hours later the light went from red (dirty) to green (clean) and I could breath freely again. Relief!

Then just yesterday the Toshiba got switched to low (there be gremlins in my house). Once again I was in distress, only this time to the point of having a serious discussion about being hospitalised. Luckily I noticed the errant settings and flipped them to high again. Three hours later the light was back to green and I could breath. Problem solved.

I’m now confident about staying longer in Thailand’s polluted North. Only next year, I’ll get an additional Toshiba so’s I can live upstairs as well. Sleeping on the sofa hasn’t been too bad all these weeks but I miss my comfy bed.

Anyway, as I need to come up with a closing paragraph I’ll state what now seems to me to be the obvious. If you can’t leave the north of Thailand during burning season then there are few (logical) tips to follow: Stay inside as much as you can, wear a N95 grade mask when outside, cover your ACs (house and car) with Hepa filters, and buy an air cleaner with a known track record. And good luck!

Note: for useful vocabulary, phrases, and audio about the burning North, go to Hugh Leong’s post: Thai Language Thai Culture: Breathing in Chiang Mai. I took the video and photos used in the post just last week on a rare trip out of the house (it was the least I could do).

Thai Language Connectors

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It’s Cherry Blossom Time in Khun Chang Khian, Chiang mai

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry trees are blooming in Thailand – hurry if you can…

Depending upon traffic, an hour from Chiang mai is the Khun Chang Kian Highland Agriculture Research Center. Around this time of year (Jan/Feb) visitors squeeze up a hairy one lane road to see the Center’s cherry trees in bloom.

Siam and Beyond: The variety of sakura growing in Thailand is the Wild Himalayan cherry (Prunus cerasoides). Its name in Thai is นางพญาเสือโคร่ง /naang phá-yaa sǔea-khrông/, which means “Tiger Queen.”

Thailand isn’t exactly known for its cherry trees, but as the story is told, over 50 years ago China’s defeated Lost Army planted the trees in Santikhiri (สันติคีรี) to remind them of their homeland. Looking to attract more tourists to the region, in 1974 Thailand extended the planting to other suitable areas in the north of the country.

Cherry Blossoms On Sunday (the day after Children’s Day) I attempted the drive up the mountain to Khun Chang Kian but turned back due to the massive amount of cars trying to do the same.

The grade is fairly steep and traffic goes both ways so you are constantly forced off into a dirt shoulder. That’s if there is one. If not, one of you will need to reverse. And if there’s a long line going up and another coming back down, it can be a nightmare.

My car has an automatic transmission with a button for a break (weird, huh). The combination of a steep hill and constantly having to stop and start did me in! The cars behind crowded too close, leaving no room to go from brake to accelerate. Turning around at the overlook, I promised myself a Monday return.

The trip up the mountain can be made in a regular car if your timing is right. Sunday was a wash but going back on a weekday worked out great.

Tips: If you don’t have access to either a truck or motorbike, at the scenic overlook partway up the mountain transportation is available. But do know that parking there is limited. And if you do go in a regular car and a truck (four-wheel drive) comes the opposite way, stay on the road but give them enough room to go off the shoulder on either side. Sometimes it works and sometimes not but it’s worth a try.

How to get there…

As per the map below, drive out of Chiang mai, heading towards Doi Suthep. A few km past the Phuping Palace and Gardens (zoom in to see it on the map) is a three way junction. At the junction is a hard to miss sign to Khun Chang Khian telling you to turn right. Keep on that small road all the way to the Khun Chang Kian Highland Agriculture Research Center.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

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Wishing You a Very Merry SET Christmas

SET Foundation

Here’s wishing you all a very Merry SET Christmas…

It’s now been six years since I discovered The SET Foundation, and five years since I turned over WLT’s ad revenue to SET as well.

What’s the SET Foundation?

The SET Foundation has a very specific aim: to make a difference. That difference is between a youngster being able to study at a vocational college or university, or instead having to labor in the rice paddies, on a Bangkok building site, or in some other mundane, dead-end job.

By giving scholarships and other practical support, SET is making the difference for an increasing number of disadvantaged Thai students. We do it voluntarily, enthusiastically and very cost-effectively.

Have you noticed that each year there’s a shocking charity scandal? After discovering SET I’ve been confident that WLT’s donations go direct to the Thai students in need. So there’s been no more worries about supporting fancy skyrise offices, big fat black cars, or expensive vacations to tropical places.

And nothing makes me happier than when I receive an email about a WLT reader donating to the SET Foundation. And as this is the season of giving, I wanted to give my thanks to those donating in WLT’s name (or just plain donating).

Who’s donating to the SET Foundation?…

Since 2010, instead of sending money for sidebar ads, Benjawan (Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary) and Achim (L-lingo) have been donating direct to SET. Can you just imagine how many Thai students have benefitted from their generosity? Megga thanks to both of you!

Learn Thai Podcast is an intermittent sponsor of both SET and WLT (LTP recently helped get WLT back in shape). Recent affiliate donors are Glossika and Jcademy. And a onetime donation came from HelloTalk. Thank you Jay and Jo, Mike, Stu, and Zachary!

Many individuals have donated to SET in WLT’s name but have requested to remain anonymous. Many thanks to all of you as well!

As each donation arrives, Peter Robinson (Director of SET) sends me an email of thanks. I guess you could say that it’s like Xmas for everyone, but all year around.

Peter Robinson: SET receives terrific financial support from many members and sponsors of WLT. That increasing and generous support enables the foundation to help many more impoverished Thai youngsters every year.

In 2015, SET will be awarding long-term scholarships to 1,500 students at school, college or university and an additional 1,000+ one-off welfare grants to those with unexpected financial difficulties. That’s quite an achievement which is made possible only because of the generosity of our friends around the world, including followers of WLT.

We at SET – and our students – offer you our sincere thanks and best wishes for a happy 2015.

Donating to the SET Foundation via Paypal is dead easy. On their sidebar select a number from the paypal dropdown, or type a different number in the box below.

Other posts about the SET Foundation…

The SET Foundation: A Season for Giving Back
Inciting Acts of Kindness: The SET Foundation
Feel Like Donating? Give to the SET Foundation Instead

In WLT’s Sidebar: Feel Like Donating?

Ho ho ho everyone. Merry Xmas and Happy New Year. I thank you all for your support.

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Loi Krathong (Yee Peng): An Unexpected Pleasure in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Celebrating Loi Krathong and Yee Peng in Chiang Mai…

Wikipedia: Loi Krathong (Thai: ลอยกระทง) coincides with the Lanna (northern Thai) festival known as Yi Peng (Thai: ยี่เป็ง). Yi means “two” and peng means a “full moon day”. Yi Peng refers to the full moon day in the second month according to the Lanna lunar calendar (the twelfth month according to the Thai lunar calendar).

I had no plans to join the Loi Krathong / Yee Peng festivities but last night I was persuaded. Twenty minutes before my ride showed up I was googling instructions on night photography.

We first went down by the river, slipping and sliding through the mud churned up by the thousands of people who were setting off fireworks, letting Krathongs go in the river, and releasing lanterns into the sky. Most of the westerners were crowded around the moat in the middle of town (they missed a real Thai time – seriously).

I found night photography to be unnerving as well as exhilarating, and now I’m hooked. Below are just a few of the shots that came out.

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

The last photo is of a guy chest deep in the river where the Krathongs were set off. Several theories have been put forward but I’m not sure what he’s doing. Does anyone know?

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An Ideal Weekend Getaway in Bangkok or Expat Disasters Guaranteed?

Expat Disasters

An ideal weekend getaway in Bangkok or expat disasters guaranteed?…

Just what would your ideal weekend getaway in Bangkok be? I’ve lived in the city nine years so you’d think that there wouldn’t be much left of the city for me to experience fresh. After ticking off touristy things that everyone ends up doing, and local things usually not found in guidebooks, for sure, I’m left with things that are either too boring to bother with, or exciting and possibly dangerous even.

But back in 2012, snafus ranging from being merely uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing, to potentially life threatening, forced me to step away from the “exciting and possibly dangerous” options. And not just in Bangkok.

Here are highlights (only) of my expat disasters in 2012:

Expat Disasters

  • On the night before a return flight from Italy the man decided to partake of beef Carpaccio (thinly sliced raw meat). He was violently ill from Dohar all the way to Bangkok. It was awful for him (bless his heart). And with nowhere to hide, embarrassing for me.
  • Continuing on with food poisoning … When scouting my neighbourhood in Ari for a post about eating street food, both of us (the man and me) ended up with the worst case of food poisoning I’ve ever had (I’ll skip the visuals). The man suffered for three days – I lasted six.
  • On trips to Singapore (where they had to cut the lock off my luggage), Penang, and Chiang mai, due to smog from regional burning I was mostly confined to hotel rooms and rented condos. Being an asthmatic, not being able to breath was no holiday.
  • There were booking snafus to both Siem Reap and the Thai Ghost Festival (minor irritations, but when setbacks like this keep happening they can change the tone of a trip).
  • Then, in Cambodia, after friends and I went for a long-awaited fish spa experience, I broke out in oozing blisters from my knees to my toes (sexy – not).
  • And on a visit to Laos (by myself – my dear friend bailed due to an injury acquired from an overly ambitious Thai massage), I was bedridden with formaldehyde poisoning from a bogus bottle of white wine. My first episode of formaldehyde poisoning was in Cairo, so luckily, my tongue (but not my head – that came later) recognised the taste and I didn’t finish more than a small glass. Still, I couldn’t move from my hotel room let alone crawl far from my bed.

Expat DisastersEven after all that, it was only after I got fogged in for three extra (expensive) days in San Francisco that I emailed Talen to protest “ENOUGH ALREADY!” and that I was backing out of our planned skydiving adventure. Oh. And any other adventures that involved even the slightest potential of landing in the hospital or being out of commision for any length of time.

I’m terrified of heights, and being terrified is exciting. But with that long run of mishaps, I figured being miles off the ground was tempting fate. Not being superstitious either, Talen agreed.

Yet here we are, two years later, and the run of bad luck has mostly ceased shifted focus. My crazy desire to jump out of planes never fully went away, so of course I’ll include it in my ideal weekend getaway in Bangkok. Talen, are you ready for this?

Skydive Bangkok: On your life changing Tandem Skydive, you will be briefed by your Tandem Instructor about the jump, and then you’ll be on the aircraft enjoying the scenic ride up to altitude … enjoy the freefall and the adrenaline rush as you fall at speeds up to 200-220 kilometers per hour!!

For an additional fee you can get videos of your long decent to the ground. I’ll pass. The real possibility of screaming and/or upchucking at 200 kilometres per hour isn’t something I’d want anyone else to see. Landing in one piece after a 16,000 foot drop would be enough of a memory for me!

My next thrill of the weekend would be sampling a few drinks at the tallest bars in Bangkok. “What kind of thrill is that” you say? But you have to remember, this is Thailand. And Thais don’t worry so much about safety. How exciting is that?

Rooftop bars are all over the city so I’ve compiled a shortlist from bangkok.com’s top 20 rooftop bars in Bangkok. Throwing out the wimpy under 40’s, eight are left:

63rd Floor: Sky Bar (lebua at State Tower Riverside)
63rd Floor: Distil Rooftop Bar (Riverside)
61st Floor: Vertigo and Moon Bar (Banyan Tree Hotel Sathorn)
55th Floor: Red Sky (Centara Grand at CentralWorld Siam)
47th Floor: Cloud 47 Silom (United Center office tower)
46th Floor: Zeppelin Bar (Sukhumvit)
45th Floor: Octave Rooftop Bar (Marriot Hotel Sukhumvit)
40th Floor: Zoom Skybar (Anantara Sathorn Sathorn).

I’ve only experienced one, the Sky Bar. That’s where I discovered why some rooftop bars advertise having “no interrupted views”. It’s because they don’t bother with what us westerners call “safety measures”. Like, adequately situated handrails at waist height, to stop you from plummeting off the side of tall buildings.

Not having something secure to grab onto is truly terrifying. You must try it.

Expat DisastersThe only other time I’ve been seriously scared of heights as an adult was also in Bangkok. It was during the Red Shirt protests. There I was, on the rooftop of my condo, taking photos of Bangkok burning. As I started clicking away I remembered the sniper in my area taking his own deadly shots. I froze, then sunk to the ground as slowly as I could (I didn’t want him noticing) and crawled on hands and knees to the stairwell and back to safety.

Exciting stuff, but not something you can sign up for during your average tour of Bangkok. Sorry about that.

There are many other death defying adventures you can experience in Bangkok, so don’t despair. I asked on twitter, “what’s the scariest thing you can think of doing in Bangkok?“ The replies came back with:

@Saksith: Recreating The Hangover II in a weekend!
@KristoferA and @gjmarshall: Taking a motorcycle taxi (on Sukhumvit).
@mkukreja1988: Going out with a ladyboy.
@Ajarncom: Riding a bicycle.

Other adventures to consider (tame and not so tame):

Expat DisastersTo finish off, here are a few relaxing choices to calm down even the craziest of weekends:

What are your suggestions for an “ideal weekend getaway in Bangkok”? What about the “scariest thing you can think of doing in Bangkok“? Or would you rather wimp out and relax?

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In Search of a Thai Clock

Thai Clocks

Thai Clocks are difficult to find!…

This week I got it into my head that I just had to have a Thai clock. I didn’t want anything fancy, but I did want a clock I could use for years, preferably in wood, but I’d take a metal of some sort.

I started looking in an area of Chiang mai with a small clock community. There were only about six stores but they were chock-full of clocks and watches of all sorts.

Only two stores in that community had wall clocks. Both plastic. One store had wristwatches with Thai numerals (and only one of those were made for women).

Tesco Lotus. Nadda. Asia Books. Nadda. And just one store in Central Mall (airport) had a beautiful King’s 60th anniversary watch. For men.

I’d march into watch shops and we’d all have a good laugh. No Thai clocks in Thailand? Are you kidding me? What happened to loving all things Thai and all of that?

Googling, I was able to find wooden clocks on amazon.com (not .co.uk) and on ebay. Doing a search for the name of the company (Laan-Gao) I was able to track down a few decent clocks. But is that all there is?

Thailand is loaded with creative people – surely there’s more available – yes? Does anyone know where the quality Thai clocks can be sourced? I’d love to have one. And I’m not alone.

Thai Clocks

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Amazing Thailand: ThailandOnly SongkranThailand?

Amazing Thailand: ThailandOnly SongkranThailand

ThailandOnly SongkranThailand?…

I don’t know what to think about the Songkran marketing push from TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand): Amazing Thailand: #ThailandOnly #SongkranThailand.

Google+ CommunityThailandOnly SongkranThailand
Official Community from Tourism Authority of Thailand ร่วมแชร์ภาพสงกรานต์ทั่วไทย ด้วย #SongkranThailand #ThailandOnly Official Community from Tourism Authority of Thailand Share Songkran Festival of Thailand to the world with #SongkranThailand #ThailandOnly

After Thailand’s embarrassing pissyfit over Singapore’s Songkran celebration (see Is Thailand Suing Singapore for Stealing Songkran?), turns out Singapore’s Songkran won’t even have water (a crucial ingredient).

So why underline Thailand’s paranoia with the in-your-face marketing slogan, #ThailandOnly #SongkranThailand?

Just like when my elder brother fell for a snipe hunting gag at an important dinner (twice in one night), I’m painfully embarrassed for Thailand.

Amazing Thailand indeed.

UPDATE: The #ThailandOnly hashtag is taking on a life of its own (and not all is good).

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Mixed Messages: Is Thailand Suing Singapore for Stealing Songkran?

Thailand Threatens to Sue Singapore for Stealing Songkran

Thailand Suing Singapore for Stealing Songkran?…

I don’t know about you but I’m bored bored bored with the political protests in Thailand. Go home already! Just recently Kaewmala started reminiscing about the good ‘ole days when we would poke fun at the hilarious antics of Thailand’s Ministry of Culture instead.

Do you remember when MiniCult decided that bare boobs at Songkran were no longer Thai? And then MiniCult had to do a mad scramble to replace the lovely Songkran boobs gracing their own website? And wasn’t that fun?

Well, this week Singapore announced that their annual Songkran festival for 2014 will better than ever with the Largest Water Festival Celebration Party in Singapore! Then yesterday TAT (Thai Tourism Authority) said that it welcomed Songkran in Singapore. But today we woke up to a Bangkok Post article (no longer online) Thai official threatening to sue Singapore over Songkran.

I don’t know what to think about these mixed messages except for GAME ON!

Thailand threatens to sue Singapore for ‘stealing’ Songkran: A senior Culture Ministry official has threatened to sue organisers of a Songkran festival in Singapore next month, saying it will undermine the value of the rival Thai New Year celebration.

Culture Surveillance Bureau director Yupa Taweewattanakijbaworn said Songkran is not just about splashing water for fun, but is aimed at strengthening relationships between family members and communities.

Singapore is using the festival to promote tourism, without acknowledging the value of the traditions behind Songkran, she said. ”This is wrong because the value of the traditional celebration is being distorted,” she said.

Seems she didn’t do her homework, or her Google finger is broken, or both.

Wikipedia: Songkran is a term derived from the Sanskrit saṅkrānti (or, more specifically, meṣa saṅkrānti). It may refer to the traditional New Year celebrated in Thailand and several Southeast Asian countries when the sun transits the constellation of Aries, the first astrological sign in the Zodiac, as reckoned by sidereal astrology.

Songkran can also refer to the traditional New Year celebrated by the Dai people of Yunnan, China, and by the Tai Dam people of Northern Vietnam.

Wikipedia: The Water Festival is the New Year’s celebrations that take place in Southeast Asian countries such as Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand as well as Yunnan, China. It is called the ‘Water Festival’ by Westerners because people splash / pour water at one another as part of the cleansing ritual to welcome the new year.

Traditionally people gently sprinkled water on one another as a sign of respect, but as the new year falls during the hottest month in South East Asia, many people end up dousing strangers and passersby in vehicles in boisterous celebration.

The act of pouring water is also a show of blessings and good wishes. It is believed that on this Water Festival, everything old must be thrown away, or it will bring the owner bad luck.

From the Indian Holi to the Thai Songkran: Songkran is believed to have originated in India, and the word Sankranti become Songkran. Holi is also celebrated in Burma (Myanmar), where it is still celebrated as a festival of colors. Gradually it moved to Siam, where the water and color mix gave way to a water festival. In Thailand, besides water, talcum is used to celebrate Songkran. In recent years, colors are being imported from India, and a section of revelers use colors along with water.

Now, let’s put aside the fact that Songkran isn’t a Thai only holiday for a minute. The argument is, ”This is wrong because the value of the traditional celebration is being distorted”. But what about all the holidays Thailand has grabbed from other countries? Chinese New Year, New Years, Xmas, Valentine’s day … and more.

After the MiniCult’s ill-informed rant I’m seriously thinking about flying down for the Largest Water Festival Celebration Party in Singapore. Are you with me?

Pssssst. Unlike in Thailand, Singapore will at least have beer.


Official: No Plan To Sue Singapore Over Songkran: Ms. Yupa told Khaosod late yesterday that her agency, which operates under the Ministry of Culture, has no intention to file any lawsuit against Singapore.

“I never said anything like that,” Ms. Yupa insisted, “Such reports have caused damage to me, and to the Ministry of Culture”.

The director of Thai cultural watchdog claimed that she merely said in previous interviews that she postively views the Singaporean Songkran as good PR for Thai Songkran, and expressed her wish that the Singaporeans would “play Songkran correctly” in accordance to the Thai tradtion.

“It’s a sensitive subject. I don’t want to cause any disturbance to international relations,” Ms. Yupa complained, adding that she’s distraught to see her “misquotes” being amplified and “distorted” on the social network.

And now I really don’t know what to believe because both the Bangkok Post and the Nation posted her original quotes.

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Thai Vocabulary for Keeping Cool (Tempers) in Thailand

Keeping Cool (Tempers) in Thailand

Flash tempers in Thailand…

I inherited a flash temper that I’ve mostly grown out of, and I attribute a chunk of the change to living in Thailand. Even so, I’ll stay cool cool cool, but if I butt up against tough conditions too often, I explode. And once my pissy fit is over, the worry that I’ve upset Thai friends begins. Sigh.

If you’ve been watching the news, you’ll notice that Thai politics especially brings out nasty tempers in both Westerners and Thais. It’s a given that with the protests raging all around us, we won’t always act as ใจเย็น /jai yen/ (cool headed) as we’d like.

With a recent AGGGGHHHH episode on my mind (don’t ask) I emailed around for a few Thai words and phrases to use, plus advice on how to keep cool in Thailand. Here are the responses:

Mia Rongsaiw (Thai Skype teacher)
Site: Learn2SpeakThai | YouTube: learn2speakthai | twitter: @learn2speakthai

Thais have tempers too. We have been brought up to not show our feelings, either love or hate. And no matter how Thai people feel, we will coat it with a ”smile”.

The Thai do not necessarily smile “about” something, but their smiles are not meaningless” Robert Cooper, Cultural Shock Thailand.

In the well-known saying “นับหนึ่งถึงสิบ” /náp nèung tĕung sìp/, we are told to count from 1-10. This trick works really well for me. By the time I count to 10, I only focus on the numbers and forget about whatever was bothering me.

One of my Thai proverbs is น้ำขุ่นอยู่ใน น้ำใสอยู่นอก /nám kùn yòo nai · nám săi yòo nôk/. You can see it on my website here: Bite Your Tongue

Every time this proverb comes to mind, I hear the voice of my mother saying it to me. It works for her as well.
The phrase ใจเย็นๆ /jai yen jai yen/ (cool heart) we also use often.

Jai yen doesn’t work well for some westerners because of cultural differences. For Thais, ใจร้อน /jai ron/ (hot heart) is not so good, but ใจเย็น /jai yen/ (cool heart) is a lot better. Europeans and Americans like a warm heart and the worst thing you can say about someone is that they are “cold hearted”.  So ใจเย็น /jai yen yen/ can sound a little strange at first.

My husband says: “As an expat, I have learned to manage my feelings from the outside in. When in public, I always speak softly, smile all the time, and try to notice any signals. I have asked my Thai family to let me know when I am speaking too loudly, and someone will say: บางเบา  /baang bao/ (softly) or just เบา /bao/ (soft). I smile and nod my head and speak softly. If I smile and think gentle thoughts and look at others to see what they are feeling, and lower my head,  — even if I am angry inside, I will soon be calm again.

When you say things out of anger, พูดเล่น /pood làyn/ can cool down the situation. It’s like what you said was a joke.

ขอโทษ /kŏr tôht/ is the classic way to say “I’m sorry for losing my temper”. Just don’t wai when you apologise to friends or a younger person.

Generally, if someone is acting out (being temperamental), it doesn’t matter what culture it is, you will be revealed as spoiled and low class. The same is true in the Thai culture.

Ironically, when a leading actress in a Thai soap shows her anger, temper and negative emotion, most of the time she’s spoiled and comes from a HI-SO family. This gives a bad example. It’s as if it’s somewhat acceptable for those who are rich or better off to show off that type of emotion.

Yuki Tachaya (Thai Skype teacher)
Site: Pick up Thai | twitter: @PickupThai | YouTube: pickupthai

My thought on the topic is that Thai people’s lifestyle of สบายๆ (sabaai sabaai) or as we would say in colloquial Thai “ชิลล์ๆ” (chill chill) is what makes the Thai culture charming as it allows everyone to take time and enjoy lives. Also, I believe that it shapes Thai people’s personalities of generous, understanding and forgiving.

The expression “ไม่เป็นไร” (maipenrai) you use to say “It’s OK” or “That’s alright!” is certainly a reflection of this culture. However, the downside of it is that people tend to take appointment times less seriously and often get late as they expect that the people who are waiting for them would be flexible, lenient and forgiving as well. And sometimes, it is just important to be strict. Whereas Western people’s hectic lifestyles tend to give them less time to breathe and relax, they tend to be seen as more responsible and organized than the Thai people.

I think the most important thing is to embrace both cultures and know when you should let go or when you should be more strict with yourself. That way, things in your life can go well while you can be happy with it at the same time :)

Christopher G Moore (prolific author)
Site: Christopher G Moore | Vincent Calvino | twitter: @cgmooreauthor | Heart Talk

The Thai expression น้อมใจ /nOOm jai/ is a verb to describe the action of reaching out to resolve an impasse. Humility, compromise and reconciliation are required. Have we passed the stage where the sentiment in this jai phrase can be rescued from the fires of hate? I hope we haven’t crossed that line.

Below is the Thai vocabulary from this post. I’m on holiday so the audio files will be added after my return. But, if you don’t want to wait, follow these instructions: Does Your Computer Speak Thai?

count: นับ /náp/
one: หนึ่ง /nèung/
to: ถึง /tĕung/
ten: สิบ /sìp/
muddy water: น้ำขุ่น /nám kùn/
in: ใน /nai/
clear water: น้ำใส /nám-săi/
be at, location: อยู่ /yòo/
outside: นอก /nôk/
cool heart: ใจเย็นๆ /jai yen/
hot heart: ใจร้อน /jai ron/
joking, kidding: พูดเล่น /pood làyn/
apologies: ขอโทษ /kŏr tôht/
be well, happy: สบาย /sabaai/
be well, happy (loanword): ชิลล์ /chill/
no problem: ไม่เป็นไร /mai-pen-rai/
reaching out to resolve an impasse: น้อมใจ /nóm jai/

A thanks from me goes to Mia, Yuki and Christopher for their Thai words, phrases, and suggestions on keeping cool in Thailand.

One can never have enough jai words. For more read Heart Talk by Christopher G Moore (the post includes audio), and/or buy his book Heart Talk.

Ho ho ho everyone! And apologies for the crappy photo. Photographing interesting pics of ice in Thailand isn’t easy (but from the weather reports, that’s due to change soon).

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