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Thai Floods: Returning to Flooded Ayutthaya

Returning to Flooded Ayutthaya

Returning to Flooded Ayutthaya…

On October 6 I visited Ayutthaya to see the extent of the flood. If you haven’t read the post, go to Ayutthaya Underwater. Areas located by waterways were difficult to get to by car but with perseverance we finally made it to our planned destination, Wat Chiawatthanaram.

Photos of four separate areas were taken that day: A small (still unnamed) community alongside the highway, Klong Sabua floating market, Wat Mahathat (famous for the Buddha head wrapped in the tree), and Wat Chiawatthanaram (which also had a floating market community).

After I left Ayutthaya, the floods increased. Newspapers reported transportation going from wheels to waves. For weeks after, the only Ayutthaya updates were made by rescue crews or a few hardy photographers and news teams. With boats needed to get supplies into the region, unnecessary visits were ill-advised.

Over a month later, on November 17th, I returned to Ayutthaya to see what progress, if any, had been made. Below are photos comparing both visits.

A small community in Ayutthaya…

Bridges especially were difficult to access so it took many stabs before we finally made it to Wat Chiawatthanaram. This was the first community we stopped at. It was impossible to go on so we turned around, to try again from a different angle.

OCT 6: This video shows how far down the highway the flooding went.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: Compare this before photo with the following after photo.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: During 40+ days the water rose to further swamp the area, and then subsided, allowing the community to clear mud, muck, and garbage from the intersection.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: This before photo shows the right of the intersection.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Fairly dry, check out the watermarks on the Family Mart. And unless the mud wall was raised, I doubt the community outside these walls stayed dry.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: On my various trips I came across flooded sois similar to this one. Many residents chose to stay in their homes, guarding against robbery. To access their homes, a few built walkways, others waded in or went via some sort of floating contraption. Due to a shortage + crazy prices, boats became optional methods of transportation.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: As you can see, the road isn’t totally dry but it’s only been a few weeks since the water started subsiding.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: This sign was posted across from the Family Mart. During the floods many people lost their livelihoods. No work = no pay. After no income for weeks (months?) those with cleaning skills have it made. For now.

รับจ้าง ล้างบ้าน /ráp jâang láang bâan/
โทร 08-025619940 /toh/

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: In front of shops and houses are piles of refuse waiting to be taken away. The piles, some quite high, consist of ruined clothes, furniture, floors and interior walls. Similar sights are found on the edges of Bangkok.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: When you compare the flooded photos to this one, you can see just how hard the communities in Ayutthaya are working to clean up their city.

But Ayutthayians are not alone in this mess. November 10 was the first official cleanup day for the ancient monuments. December 5 is the next. For more about the clean up days, read We Care Ayutthaya Project to Clean the City.

Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya…

By my visit on October 6 the flood still hadn’t arrived at Wat Mahathat. There was a bit of standing water but that’s it.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: The before and after photos from this angle are almost identical…

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: …That is, until you notice the bleached out bricks and the vegetation now missing from the lower walls and fences.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Due to the flood damage you can barely read the sign for Wat Mahathat. What’s apparent is that the entire sign was under water for awhile.

Now, check out the house across the street. From this photo the house looks to be lower than the Wat but when wandering through the grounds at Wat Mahathat I came across watermarks many feet higher than my head. And I stand around 5′ 3″.

A closeup of the watermark on the house can be seen below.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Hindsight – There’s nothing in this photo to show scale. Pity. But you can better bet that everything on the ground floor of that huge house was ruined.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: A ticket seller at Wat Mahathat points out how high the flood got. Twenty feet to the left of this photo, where the ground dips into a small lake, it was higher still.

Note: During my trip there was no entrance fee’s at the Wats. So no 10 baht for Thais and 50 baht farang fees to get into the monuments.

I’m not sure how I feel about the decision to forgo entrance fees. The Wat’s gardeners mentioned that they’d been off work for weeks without pay. And while I didn’t see many tourists, the monies collected do add up. And well… you know.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Only last weekend Richard Barrow had to wade to get to the famous Buddha head. By the time I got there, it was standing water only. Did you notice the watermark?

To get an idea of the height of the head, scroll down on this page to the last photo: Buddha Head in Tree Roots, Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Note the watermarks on the bricks at Wat Mahathat.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: All three Wats I visited had watermarks. This photo shows watermarks at Wat Phra Si Sanphet (ancient royal palace).

Klong Sabua floating market…

This floating market was discovered during yet another abortive attempt to locate Wat Chiawatthanaram. The Wat was close, merely further up the road and across the river to the right. But without a boat, we had to backtrack. Again.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: The flooding in this area was recent – take note of the pristine white sandbags.

Market Water Ayutthaya Klong Sabua
ดลาด น้ำ อยธยา คลอง สระบัว
dà-lâat nám a-yà-tá-yaa klong sà-bua

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Between the two visits the sandbags either slid down the mud banks or were carted away. A bit of both? Note the different water levels under the bridge.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: I took two different angles of this house but you can easily see the contrasts in the water levels.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: If I were to build a house in Thailand, it’d be on stilts!

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: This and the following photo was taken with different camera settings, skewing the perspectives. Here I’m standing on dry ground but in the below photo I’m well into the previously inundated road.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: This community lives close to the river so the floods will be around for awhile.

Wat Chiawatthanaram, Ayutthaya…

And we finally make it to Wat Chiawatthanaram! A mere two days before my first trip the Wat flooded.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: Tough going, it took us a half hour to wade from just within the entrance of the soi to this point.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Note the lower water level and the now dead shrubs. In Aytthaya’s cleaned up areas the dead hedges and brown shrubbery are a dead giveaway that they were once under water.

OCT 6: This isn’t exactly a great video but you can see the water level, the mud dykes, and the still green trees. Also shown in the video is a sight I saw often – a dog rescue in progress.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: In a bid to limit the damage, the pumps are slowly draining the Wat. Because if the Wat dries out too fast, the ancient bricks and mortar could crumble. A real fear.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: The comparison photos were taken at different times of the day, with this one being around 3pm and the following trip around noon.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: The biggest difference (that I can see) between the two photos is the appearance of the shrubbery in the foreground and the sign partially submerged. If you look carefully, you can barely see the change in water level on the door.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: These girls were having fun goofing off.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: And here’s the same spot, only further away. The motorcycles mark the spot where the gals played.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: A practical Thai house on stilts.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Same house but it’s now weeks later and not much damage, if any, is visible.

On the way back from Bangkok…

The way back to Bangkok on the second Ayutthaya trip got really hairy. Khun Pissout often asks locals about flooding conditions and this time he was given incorrect advice. Someone mentioned that the way we’d come in the morning was no longer an easy return so we went a different way. Smack into the heavily flooded Wang Noi.

At several points the water was too high so we were forced to backtrack along major highways into oncoming traffic. Scary. There were trucks, vans, and tractors. We were the only taxi.

More than once the car sputtered in the deep water, coming close to a complete stall.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Ayutthaya Underwater

Ayutthaya Underwater

Ayutthaya Underwater

Even with the mostly cleared off Don Muang Tollway, it took us more than three hours to get to Aytthaya. The way back? Almost five.

Thai Floods: 2011…

The Thai flood posts keep marching on:

Ayutthaya Underwater: Bangkok Now Bracing for Floods
Bangkok is STILL Bracing for the Thai Floods. Barely.
Thai Language Thai Culture: Primer on Thai Disaster Words
Thai Language Thai Culture: Basic Thai Flood Phrases
Bangkok Flood Info: Preparing for Floods in Bangkok
Thailand’s 50 Million Blue Whales Flood Bangkok
Karn.TV Cartoons: Flooding in Thailand
Thai Floods: FROC’s Highway to…
Thai Floods: 1000 Boats? Nope. Just 6 Boats Pushing Flood Water

What’s next? Well, as I mentioned in a previous post, there’s still the Big Bag Barrier… we’ll see.

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Thai Language Thai Culture: Primer on Thai Disaster Words

Thai Language

Primer on Thai disaster words…

The Thai great floods of 2554 have affected almost everyone in the country. The rains in Chiang Mai, where I live, have subsided and the floods only lasted a short while. But the water had to go somewhere, and it did. Ayudhaya and Bangkok are now getting the water that fell here. If you’d like to help with a donation for flood relief a good way is to make a donation at the Krung Thai Bank, a government run bank. Looks like it will be much needed.

For those living in Thailand, it would help to learn Thai vocabulary being used (sadly, quite often used) in daily conversation, on TV, and in the newspaper. Here’s wishing that these words will be used less and less in days to come.

Flood: น้ำท่วม /náam-tûam/
– water: น้ำ /náam/
– inundated: ท่วม /tûam/

This is the general word used for flooding. It is a compound word.

Flood: อุทกภัย /ù-tók-gà-pai/
– equivalent to the English prefix “hydro”: อุทก /ù-tók/
– danger: ภัย /pai/

This is the word for “flood” that you might hear on a news report. It is not commonly used in everyday speech but these days you hear it quite often on TV. It is another compound word.

Danger: อันตราย /an-dtà-raai/

The everyday word for “danger” or “dangerous” in Thai is อันตราย /an-dtà-raai/. But when talking about danger on the “disaster” level the Thais use some words with a little more impact.

The Thai word ภัย /pai/ also means “danger” but is most often used as a prefix/sufix with other words of dangerous situations.

Besides อุทกภัย /ù-tók-gà-pai/ (flood), here are a few more compound words using ภัย /pai/:

Jeopardy: ภัยอันตราย /pai-an-dtà-raai/
– danger: อันตราย /an-dtà-raai/

Catastrophe; tragedy: ภัยพิบัติ /pai-pí-bàt/
– catastrophe, calamity: พิบัติ /pí-bàt/

Disaster; calamity; catastrophe: ภัยพินาศ /pai pí-nâat/
– destruction: พินาศ /paí-nâat/

Natural disaster: ภัยทางธรรมชาติ /pai taang tam-má-châat/
– by, via: ทาง /taang/
– nature: ธรรมชาติ /tam-má-châat/

Drought: ภัยแล้ง /pai láeng/
– dry: แล้ง /láeng/

To be safe (from danger): ปลอดภัย /bplòt-pai/
– free from, safe from, without: ปลอด /bplòt/
– danger, jeopardy: ภัย /pai/

And of course we can’t forget FROC (ศปภ.) short for Flood-Relief Operations Command (ศูนย์ปฏิบัติการช่วยเหลือผู้ประสบอุทกภัย). The title of the organization is made up of the following:

Center: ศูนย์ /bpà-dtì-bàt gaan/
Action: ปฏิบัติการ
To help: ช่วยเหลือ /chûay lĕua/
Flood victims: ผู้ประสบอุทกภัย /pôo bprà-sòp u-tók pai/
Person: ผู้ /pôo/
To encounter: ประสบ /bprà-sòp/
Water: อุทก /u-tók/
Danger: ภัย /pai/

Crisis: วิกฤต /wí-grìt/

This word is used for all kinds of situations from flooding to political unrest. “Political crisis” (วิกฤตการเมือง /wí-grìt gaan-meuang/) was heard often when the Red Shirts clashed with the Yellows.

Time of crisis: ช่วงวิกฤต /chûang-wí-grìt/
– time period: ช่วง /chûang/

Crisis, emergency: วิกฤตการณ์ /wí-grìt-dtà-gaan/ (alternate spelling วิกฤตกาล)
– event: การณ์ /gaan/

Some other words you might encounter when the subject is disasters:

Landslide: ดินถล่ม /din-tà-lòm/
– land, soil: ดิน /din-/
– cave in, collapse: ถล่ม /tà-lòm/

Critical (emergency); urgent: ฉุกเฉิน /chùk-chěrn/

Emergency: เหตุการณ์ฉุกเฉิน /hàyt-gaan-chùk-chěrn/
– event, situation: เหตุการณ์ /hàyt-gaan/

Emergency room, ER: ห้องฉุกเฉิน /hông-chùk-chěrn/
– room: ห้อง /hông/

Tsunami: คลื่นยักษ์ /klêun-yák/ (also used is a loan word from Japanese สึนามิ /sèu-naa-mí/)
– wave: คลื่น/klêun/
– giant: ยักษ์ /yák/

Drought: ความแห้งแล้ง /kwaam-hâeng-láeng/
– dry: แห้ง /hâeng/
– dry, arid: แล้ง /láeng/

Sandbag: กระสอบทราย /grà-sòp-saai/
– bag, gunny sack: กระสอบ /grà-sòp/
– sand: ทราย /saai/

Submerge: ดำน้ำ /dam-náam/ (same word is used for snorkeling)
– submerse: ดำ /dam/
– water: น้ำ /náam/

Here are a few disaster words I picked up scanning recent newspapers:

Collapse (structure): ถล่ม /tà-lòm/
Dike: คันกั้นน้ำ /kan gân-náam/
Evacuate: อพยพ /òp-pá-yóp/ (also means migrate)
Panic: แตกตื่น /dtàek dtèun/
Storm: พายุ /paa-yú/ (also sometimes used is the word loan for monsoon มรสุม /mor-rá-sǔm/ (Sanskrit?)
Typhoon: ไต้ฝุ่น /dtâai-fùn/ (also ลมไต้ฝุ่น /lom-dtâi-fùn/ and พายุไต้ฝุ่น /paa-yú-dtâi-fùn/)

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

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Bangkok is STILL Bracing for the Thai Floods. Barely.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

Bangkok bracing for the predicted floods…

For weeks we’ve been reading conflicting news on whether Bangkok will flood or not. First the Governor states that “Bangkok is ready, come hell or high water” (Bangkok Post article no longer online). Then that very same day, Yingluck, the Thai prime minister, warns of floods threatening Bangkok.

Soon after we had an “expert assuring us that the capital was not at risk of being swamped” (Bangkok Post article no longer online). But following that statement was yet another switch, that we are losing the battle against the river (finally, a BKK Post article that has not been taken offline).

And yet another killer announcement is where “Yingluck says the city is ill prepared for floods” (Bangkok Post article no longer online).


Not to be outdone, this very morning I woke up to an alert that “evacuation plan readied, city close to losing last line of defence” (Bangkok Post article no longer online).

Double ouch.

Today is the 13th of October, my mother’s birthday. I’d say “Happy Birthday, Mom!” but she doesn’t read my blog. Good thing because Richard Barrow’s 13 October update: Maps of flood risk areas in Bangkok would frighten her to no end.

In his updated post Richard quotes ML Sukhumbhand “Evacuation plan readied” (Bangkok Post article no longer online)”:

If the water keeps rising, I am not sure if it can prevent flooding. If not, we cannot save Don Muang. All zones in Bangkok stand an equal chance of being flooded because we can’t predict the water flow. Right now, everything is under control. If we can’t control it, we will let people know straight away.

That leaves me wondering just how much time Bangkokians have (to run?) after a warning comes. Under an hour for central Bangkok? Ok. But I’m to the north. So for those of us up this far, there’s sure to be less time between the dry and the rushing wet wet wet.

Smiles amongst the flooding crises…

Even with the seriousness of the situation, the flooding criss hasn’t been without its mild hilarity.

A leaked memo was all a twitter: “City Hall to ask Water Goddess for mercy” (Bangkok Post article no longer online). The ceremony was toned down when they took the tweets as criticism (ok, some tweets were not exactly complementary… but…)

Personally, I saw most of the twitter comments as comic relief. I mean, come on, human nature being what it is, the flood crisis is stressful for everyone so a bit of laughter is needed.

And face it, Thailand has been at the “if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry” stage for quite awhile.

Also receiving twitter laugher was the Thai government’s plan to use 1,000 boats to push flood waters. Seriously, who [wise edit]…

While I was writing, editing, and doing even more editing, @RichardBarrow sent out several tweets:

Here at Taiban there is a fleet of 30 fishing boats “pushing” water out to sea. 20 more at Paknam.

They say it’s “scientifically proven” the boats are making a difference. But surely only surface water?

You can actually see the [surface] water moving twice as fast compared to where no boats.

The latest bit of comedy came when we were told that the 100 escaped crocodiles are “not fierce”. The idea of tame crocodiles totally boggles the mind. So, no no no no comment.

Not even remotely funny is the Bangkok Post’s sobering advice on “how to protect against poisonous creatures during flooding”. Walking through flooded Ayutthaya recently, I was absolutely terrified of being bitten by snakes.

And it’s a real fear. Not a girlie fear. Every bump underwater, every submerged plastic bag brushing against my legs made me flinch.

Preparing for the possible flooding of Bangkok…

For days after my last post, Ayutthaya Underwater: Bangkok Now Bracing for Floods, I was living in my PJ’s, celebrating dry land.

Like the rest of Bangkok, I’d already stocked up on supplies and then some. I was ready. And with a drop in caffeine levels, I was willing to sit out the remainder of the flood at home. Ok, I can’t lie… I was mostly willing.

But then came the phone call.

You need a charcoal stove.

A what?

You know, one of those quaint stoves you see all over Thailand.


Because you won’t have a means to cook if you don’t have electricity. And if Bangkok floods, your electricity will be cut.

Nah. My neighbourhood is not going to flood. Not seriously anyway. Not enough to lose electricity for more than a day (if that even).

And if it does? What then? How will you make coffee?

Oh! COFFEE! Why didn’t you say?

Sigh. This is where some expats are nowhere near prepared as the Thais. My Thai friends already have access to cookers that don’t depend upon electricity. And in a previous house (set up by my Thai landlord) I did too. But I set up my present abode. Not good.

Charcoal stove hunting in Bangkok…

A quick call to Khun Pissout and we were soon on the trail of a cooker. When I asked KP how work was these days, he was a bit down. During the run up to a crisis people stay home and taxi drivers, street hawkers and all suffer financially. It’s something to think about, so yes, I might just get out one… more… time… before the deluge… or after… We’ll see.

Anyway, I haven’t [yet] seen any crocodiles, or snakes for that matter. But on my search for a charcoal stove I was able to find proof of Bangkok residents begin hoarding food, water on flood threat.

Pssst… I’m a water hoarder, as are my friends and neighbours, so count us amongst the list of hoarders too.

And another thing… apologies in advance. I don’t have one of those spiffy new iPhones so my photos inside the stores are cacca. And if you don’t know, grocery stores in Thailand have a NO PHOTO policy so my crappy iPhone camera was my camera.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

My first stop was Tesco Lotus. The noodle aisle was empty of all but a few select brands.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

Tesco’s water supplies, another dire necessity in a flood, were also cleaned out. Again, except for a few brands.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

When it came to the supplies of rice, Thai shoppers were even pickier. From what I saw, they bought everything except for Tesco’s brand. And to add insult to injury, it was even on sale.

While I was in the rice section, flats to replenish the empty shelves began arriving. I asked the person in charge about the supply and she said no problem, Tesco replenishes daily. Giving her a thumbs up and a smile, I walked away relieved.

BTW: Chuvit is reporting dire problems with our food supply and while I don’t know who to believe, it was nice to hear a positive note from Tesco, regardless.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

The noodle section in Villa market was half cleaned out. I don’t know if it was a price thing, or if Villa should take note of their more popular brands!

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

Again, the froo froo water was left but the inner lane (unseen here and usually stacked with water) and the shelves were emptied. I’m not lacking water (remember, I’m a hoarder) but I will go back to see if new supplies have appeared.

Please note that all through Villa and Tesco’s the other sections were stocked high. Fruit, vegetables, fish and meat were all in abundance.

Flooding in Bangkok… the little I saw…

I didn’t get to the main flooded areas in Bangkok yesterday. It’s a taxi driver’s job to keep their passengers out of traffic jams and that’s exactly what he did. It went something like that – and as that’s my story, I’m sticking with it.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

I know I keep saying this, but I seriously do believe that where I live is relatively safe from floods. From Richard’s post (on the latest predictions of floods map), I’m not far from two iffy areas: Klong Sam Sen – Klong Bang Sue (2) and Chatuchat (8). There’s also the small waterway by the army base that floods (shown above) but they’ve been busy filling it in with muck for months. And for now, I do feel safe and dry.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

Some of the smaller waterways are closed off. I was told that it’s due to the worry that a deluge would be ok in the larger klongs but would swamp the smaller ones. Makes sense.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

Since I’m not familiar with this area I don’t know how much higher the water on the Chao Phraya river has become. But what you can’t ignore is the rubbish floating around. Some waterways are totally carpeted with plastic bags, discarded toys, whatever garbage that can float. Some are so thickly covered in trash they give the false impression that you really can walk on water.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

That’s not all solid ground. These guys are watching a growing mess of rubbish floating in.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

What you are seeing is the Chao Phraya river rushing by sandbags. Fast. Pity I didn’t take video to show you just how fast. Some of the river (or is it the rain) made it inside the sandbaged area but not enough to worry about. Yet.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

As I was running around I noticed that some shops took extra precautions against the floods and shops right next door did nothing. This one thrilled KP so much that he backed up his taxi to take a real look.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

Now here’s the second bit of good news for the day (the first coming from the Tesco lady).

People on twitter have been reporting sandbags going for an astounding rip-off price of 60-100 baht. Do you know the pre-flood prices for sandbags? I don’t. But these guys have sandbags for sell at 30 baht, not 60 or 100.

And as I left they too got a thumbs up.

Hunting down a traditional Thai coal cooker…

Ok. finally! The promised coal cooker! Practical coal cookers are everywhere in Thailand. But unless this crisis has given me the wrong impression, you won’t usually find them in stores such as Tescos or Villa (I looked). But some of the smaller mom and pop shops keep a supply.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

Not thinking about the realities, I bought a large version of the coal burner plus two plastic bags of coal. KP then got a chuckle when I asked, “ok, now what do I do with it all?”

He went on to explain that first you dump the coal in the top, then you get sticks of wood and paper to ignite the wood. So it’s just like making a camp fire (which I do have experience with).

But then he paused and said that my neighbours would object to the smoke coming from my balcony.

When I asked how he got around upsetting his neighbours with coal smoke he replied that he doesn’t use coal. His fire is gas driven.

And then he thought a bit more and corrected himself by admitting that if no one in my condo had electricity, then they wouldn’t complain. And how could they? Because to Thais (and to me too for that matter), being able to eat is… a must.

Ok, so now I have the smoke problem solved but there was another. Pans. Actually, I have two problems to solve.

1) How do the pans stay out of the fire, and…
2) Where do I get the appropriate pans?

Because yeah, my froo froo expat pans are not made for high heat.

So off we went to a cooker supplier who fixed us up with a grill. After that we stopped at Tesco Lotus where we struck out but [drum roll] Villa Market had pretty much everything I needed.

Bangkok is Still Bracing for the Flood

As you can see in the photo there’s a coal cooker, two plastic bags of local coal, two bags of farang coal (no lighter fluid needed), a metal kettle to make coffee (yeah), a metal pan for cooking, matches galore, and for emergencies, lighter fluid.

And this should be pretty much all is needed for the cooking aspects of flood emergency supplies. All excepting for the food. And the water. And the whiskey and wine.

And if I’m wrong, you’ll let me know. Right?

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Ayutthaya Underwater: Bangkok Now Bracing for Floods

Ayutthaya Underwater: Bangkok Now Bracing for Floods

Ayutthaya underwater…

Late last week I drove to Ayutthaya to see how the area was bearing up under the onslaught of flooding. I especially wanted to visit Wat Kasattrathiraj, the Wat reported as being underwater.

I went on Thursday, when the roads were still passable but waterways were starting to encroach onto highways, closing down bridges. By Friday, people were finding it impossible to get into the area. Today is Monday: Ayutthaya left in chaos (no longer online – it’s a Bangkok Post article).

Ayutthaya Underwater

It took us several tries to get across the river to the old city of Ayutthaya. We drove over many roads that were clear but the closer to the river we got, the wetter it became.

Warning signs were everywhere. In some officially closed off areas you could still get in by telling the police that you only wanted to see what was happening.

Ayutthaya Underwater

After what seemed like hours of driving, we finally come across flooding at a small community alongside the highway (I didn’t catch the name). They’d created a dirt embankment around the lowest areas, leaving houses and shops inside and out.

Ayutthaya Underwater

I read that the Thai government was handing out sandbags but there were none in evidence here.

Ayutthaya Underwater

A steady stream of locals were getting on with their lives, coming and going across the makeshift walkway.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Typical of practical Thailand, anything that would float was put to good use.

Ayutthaya Underwater

This little guy was having a great time on his Styrofoam island (but he didn’t appreciate my camera butting in).

Ayutthaya Underwater

Many brand spanking new boats were around. All blue. The trade in small boats must have been brisk.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Some bypassed available transportation, preferring to take their chances with snakes and… other critters lurking under the water. When this photo was taken the 25 crocodiles hadn’t escaped yet. A good thing.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Finally, the old city of Ayutthaya! The first ancient monument we drove by (after the elephant rides) was only partially flooded (and I’m not 100% sure if the standing water is normal in regular times too). You can just make out the tourists in that photo.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Continuing on, we came across a second flooded community.

Ayutthaya Underwater

The areas close to the encroaching water were dirtbagged (not sandbagged). Again, with houses and shops on both sides.

Ayutthaya Underwater

This is indeed an aptly named community.

Ayutthaya Underwater

While there I watched locals carrying out fans, dogs, anything of value. I asked Khun Pissout why, when a storm was announced the night before, they didn’t move their belongings when they had the chance? When the area was dryer? He explained that it’s not the Thai way. That Thais will wait until something happens and only then yell, “HELP! HELP!”

Ayutthaya Underwater

Almost ready to give up, we finally made it to a Wat underwater. Along the road to the Wat was a clay bank holding some of the flooding back. But, as most everyone was either boating or wading through the water covered road, into the wet we went.

Ayutthaya Underwater

I was sporting jeans and sandals and Khun Pissout was nicely kitted out in dress pants and black dress shoes. The closer to the Wat we got, the deeper it became. And before our adventure was over we were both drenched to our butts and beyond.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Many things I saw surprised me that day. For instance, dogs were being carried or ferried around by their owners. The Thais were soaking wet, but their pets were dry!

Ayutthaya Underwater

What didn’t surprise me were the many instances of Thais helping Thais.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Wading towards the Wat we passed boatload after boatload of families with their possessions.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Ok, this is clearly not a boat but it worked for him.

Ayutthaya Underwater

And again, Styrofoam to the rescue!

Ayutthaya Underwater

Some of the boats just had people. No stuff. But loads of smiles.

Ayutthaya Underwater

After 20 minutes of wading sloooooooooowly through the water, we made it.

Ayutthaya Underwater

And here you have it. The Wat under water. I tried to convince Khun Pissout to hire a boat to tour the grounds but he resisted. First he said that it was dangerous. And that we weren’t allowed to go in. That farangs could go in, but not Thais.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Then, when one boatload of Thai people paddled by, followed by more, I asked again. No reply. Ten minutes later, after I agreed that only I would be in the boat, not him, we looked for one to hire but they were all the flimsy kind. No thanks. While I am a proficient swimmer, if the boat went over I’d be fine but my 7D would drown.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Here’s yet another curiosity. They are removing the clay from the wall holding the majority of the river back. After they filled containers with the clay they took it across the street to shore up the walls around their home.

Ayutthaya Underwater

In parts it was deep, others not so much.

Ayutthaya Underwater

This traditional Thai house on stilts is high and dry, just as it should be!

Ayutthaya Underwater

Yet another dry dog, only this one is being taken for a walk around the wet Wat. When asked why he didn’t leave his dog at home, he replied that the dog wouldn’t be happy there on its own.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Ah. It’s Wat Chiawatthanaram (วัดไชยว้ฒนาราม)… no matter.

Ayutthaya Underwater

There were loads of smiles in my direction. I only found out later that Khun Pissout, often in front of me, was announcing to one and all that I was with the press. Gotta love him. And what an opportunist!

An official team of photographers were seen in the area (they had a proper boat), scouting around. I know because I briefly talked to the western photographer. He was staying dry by walking on the clay wall, while I was in the water, wet wet wet. Trying to convince him to have a real experience, I teased him. Just a little. And I’m still wondering if he did…

Ayutthaya Underwater

In the early afternoon the headman of the village brought in food for those sticking around.

Ayutthaya Underwater

I was hungry too, so it was time to go!

Ayutthaya Underwater

Again on dry land, I was faced with the final curiosity. The electric company arrived in the late afternoon to cut the power. As I mentioned, the storm was predicted for the night before. Plus, the community was under water for more than half a day by the time the electric company showed up. People going in and out getting their belongings all day? And for several weeks the newspapers had been reporting deaths from electrocution due to the flooding? Anyway…

Bangkok now bracing for floods…

So, what happens now? Well, the powers that be are predicting that Bangkok will flood (more) when the newly released flood waters from the north reach the city. So if you want to keep up with what’s happening, here’s a site that’s Mapping the Thailand Flood Disaster.

To prepare, the Thai government has already been mighty busy protecting Bangkok.

First, there was City Hall asking the Water Goddess for mercy (no longer online – it’s a Bangkok Post article).

And in case the Water Goddess doesn’t help, the government decided on a Chao Phraya armada to rush river water out to sea.

On twitter I found photos of Bangkokians raiding grocery stores for supplies, leaving many empty shelves. Not wanting to starve I took off for Villa Market but found business as usual. No lines, full shelves, no problem.

Come hell or high water, after overstocking at Villa I’m ready for whatever comes. I now have plenty of Whiskey, water, and wine. Also, in case of a power outage I have candles. And in case of another flood photo opportunity, Khun Pissout is standing by.

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Chuvit’s Angry Man Campaign Posters Translated

Chuvit: Angry Man Campaign Posters

Chuvit: The Angry Man of Thai politics…

The Thai press is calling Chuvit the colour of the election: สีสัน การ เลือกตั้ง /sĕe-săn gaan lêuak-dtâng/. And comparing Chuvit to the other candidates, who can argue? Chuvit is colourful, dramatic, and evocative. In your face even.

So it’s no surprise that Chuvit’s powerful posters are the talk of the town. Kudos to his design team, his direction, or whatever the combo. The posters are conveying a message as loud and lively as Chuvit himself.

In order to grab the attention of a speeding motorist, trained designers know that the use of a clean, bold design works. And that the information needs to be kept short, catchy, and memorable. To do just that, for the copy Chuvit took the message he wanted to convey and then pared it down into lean but powerful headlines.

Some of the posters play with words and sentences, that when looked up separately, have a different meaning. Some use noun phrases (word or group of words) to convey a broader meaning. And some could be using colour to add cheek to the message.

And while this method works wonders for a Thai audience, it makes it difficult for struggling students of the Thai language. So for me to understand some of Chuvit’s posters, it was important to find the message he started with before the fiddling, and then work out the possible meanings from there. And that’s what you’ll find in this post.

Note: My attempt won’t be 100% successful so if Chuvit is reading this – please feel free to correct me.

Oh, and I did not do this on my own. I asked a zillion questions. You know who you are. Thank you.

Chuvit for the opposition + footer…

This post is plenty long so I’ve mostly taken out repeats where I could. Chuvit’s request to be in the opposition and the footer information especially.

Chuvit knows he won’t win the election. His aim is to get enough votes to be in the opposition; to become the watchdog of Thai politics. And that’s why you’ll see this phrase repeated throughout his posters:

ผม ขอ เป็น ฝ่ายค้าน
pŏm kŏr bpen fàai-káan
I ask to be in the opposition.

For the duration of this post let’s assume that in every poster he’s first explaining the message and second that if he gets voted in as the opposition he’ll be the anti-corruption watchdog for Thai politics. The short version: Choose me so I can fight corruption.

You can read about Chuvit’s previous political attempts here (in Thai): Wiki: ชูวิทย์_กมลวิศิษฎ์

Also to save room I won’t put the footer, the final message running across the bottom of each poster. If you can’t read Thai, it’s the white copy knocked out of a blue background. Not all of the copy is exactly the same but it goes pretty much like this:

เลือก ชูวิทย์ พร้อมกัน ทุกเขต ทั่วประเทศ
lêuak choo-wít próm-gan túk-kàyt tûa-bprà-tâyt
Vote Chuvit simultaneously every area nationwide.

พรรค รัก ประเทศไทย
pák rák bprà-tâyt-tai
Love Thailand Party

The “everybody vote for Chuvit at the same time” phrase refers to the voting times for Thailand. You’ll read it on other political posters too. The polls are open from 8am–3pm, July 3, 2011. Everyone who’s going to vote needs to be there during those times. If they are late, they cannot vote so everyone votes at the same time.

From what I understand, there are three ways for Thais to vote in the election. 1) At the designated polls (Thais receive a letter in the mail telling them where). 2) Or they can vote ahead of time by registering on June 26th (a week before). 3) Or they can vote from overseas.

Chuvit’s angry man political posters…

There were many outings to get photos of the campaign posters. On the main run I took photos of the posters only, no background. Then I realised how many readers live outside of Thailand so I went back to get local flavour.

So here we go… the posters with their translations and my stab at what it all means. And if you have any suggestions, corrections, whatever, please share them in the comments.

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

เลือก ชูวิทย์ เป็น ฝ่าย ค้าน ต้าน คอรัปชั่น
lêuak choo-wít bpen fàai káan dtâan kor-ráp-chân
Pick Chuvit for the opposition. To oppose corruption.

ได้ ทุก เขต ทั่วประเทศ ไทย
dâi túk kàyt tûa-bprà-tâyt tai
Can. Every district nationwide in Thailand.

This simple poster lays out the basic theme running through the rest of the series. It’s main message includes some of the copy I’m leaving out.

Infers: You can choose Chuvit to be the opposition, to oppose corruption, no matter what district, nationwide in Thailand.

Flickr: Rak Thailand

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

คุณ จะ ไป ทาง ไหน ?
kun jà bpai taang năi ?
Which direction are you going?

Noun phrase:
การเมือง + ผลประโยชน์
gaan-meuang + pŏn-bprà-yòht
Political affairs, politics + benefits

Which direction are you going? Politics benefit politicians.

Infers: Which direction are you going when political policies benefit the self interests of the politicians and not ordinary Thais? As a visual, it’s saying that Thais keep choosing to head into known traffic jams instead of going where the lights are green and the streets are clear.

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

คุณ จะ ไป ทาง ไหน ?
kun jà bpai taang năi ?
Which direction are you going?

Noun phrase:
รัฐบาล + ผลประโยชน์
rát-tà-baan + pŏn-bprà-yòht
Government + vested interests

Which direction are you going? Government benefits politicians.

Infers: Same as above. Which direction are you going when government benefits the interests of the politicians?

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

จะ หลงทาง กัน อีก กี่ ครั้ง ?
jà lŏn-taang gan èek gèe kráng ?
How many more times will you lose the way?

Noun phrase:
นโยบาย + ผลประโยชน์ พรรคการเมือง
ná-yoh-baai + pŏn-bprà-yòht pák-gaan-meuang
policies + vested interests [of] political parties

How many more times will you lose your way? The policies of political parties make profits for themselves.

Infers: Chuvit is asking how many more times will Thais lose their way by choosing policies that benefit the political party and not ordinary Thais. It means putting money in politician’s pockets by changing Thai laws to benefit the politician’s family businesses. In the west it’s known as conflict of interest.

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

เมื่อ … นักการเมือง พูด คำว่า
mêua … nák-gaan-meuang pôot kam-wâa
When… politicians say the word

Noun phrase:
ซื่อ + สัตย์
sêu + sàt

ประชาชน จะ เป็นสุข อย่างไร
bprà-chaa-chon jà bpen-sùk yàang-rai
how can people be happy?

When… politicians say the word ‘honest’ how can people be happy?

Could infer: How can people be happy when politicians say the words ‘honest’ but their promise of innocence cannot be trusted?

ซื่อสัตย์ /sêu-sàt/ means to be honest, faithful, and loyal but in this poster Chuvit pushed the two words apart, changing the meaning.

ซื่อ /sêu/ innocent (red)
สัตย์ /sàt/ the promise (black)

สัตย์ /sàt/ is in black so it could be that the promise cannot be trusted. But what could the red colour mean?

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

เลือก ชูวิทย์
lêuak choo-wít
Elect Chuvit

การเมือง เหมือน ผ้าอ้อม
gaan-meuang mĕuan pâa-ôm
Politics are like pampers.

ยิ่ง เปลี่ยน … ยิ่ง ดี
yîng bplìan … yîng dee
The more you change them, the better they are.

Elect Chuvit. Politics are like pampers. The more you change them, the better they are.

Infers: Politicians stink. Chuvit doesn’t.

Flickr: Rak Thailand

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

เมื่อ คุณ ต้องการ ความ ซื่อสัตย์ VOTE 5 ชูวิทย์
mêua kun dtông-gaan kwaam sêu-sàt VOTE hâa choo-wít
When you want honesty VOTE 5 Chuvit

In this poster ซื่อสัตย์ /sêu-sàt/ is in red. The previous poster has ซื่อสัตย์ as two words, changing the meaning. This poster could be playing off the other poster. It is saying honest for real, not untrustworthy, like in the previous poster.

Infers: Chuvit is using his dog, Motomoto, to suggest that dogs are honest but politicians are not. Chuvit’s use of ซื่อสัตย์ /sêu-sàt/ as a complete word could be stating that he’s honest but other politicians are not.

Flickr: Rak Thailand

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

เบื่อ การเมือง
bèua gaan-meuang
bored with politics


ต้อง ไป เลือก ตั้ง
dtông bpai lêuak dtâng
must go vote

Infers: I know you are bored of politics but you have to vote (chose me so that I can fight corruption).

Flickr: Rak Thailand

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

เลือก ชูวิทย์ กา ที่ เบอร์ 5 ที่ บัญชีรายชื่อ เท่านั้น
lêuak choo-wít gaa têe ber hâa têe ban-chee-raai-chêu tâo-nán
Choose Chuvit by picking number 5 on the party list only.

ปรองดอง… ตอน ได้ ประโยชน์
bprong-dong… dton dâi bprà-yòht
Reconcile… when there’s something to gain

ปองร้าย เมื่อ ขัดแย้ง
bpong-ráai mêua kàt yáeng
Bear ill will… when in conflict

The first message conveys the basic instructions for voters: Only choose number 5 on the party list.

Infers: The second message states that politicians only agree with other politician’s policies when it benefits their personal income. And when their own policies are opposed, they play dirty.

Note the play on words between ปรองดอง /bprong-dong/ (reconciliation) and ปองร้าย /bpong-ráai/ (ill will).

Flickr: Rak Thailand

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

ถ้า คุณ รัก ประเทศไทย
tâa kun rák bprà-tâyt-sà-tai
If you love Thailand

ผิด ต้อง เป็น ผิด
pìt dtông bpen pìt
wrong must be wrong

ถูกต้อง เป็น ถูก
tòok-dtông bpen tòok
right must be right

อุดมการณ์ ชัดเจน ตรงไปตรงมา
ù-dom-gaan chát-jayn dtrong-bpai-dtrong-maa
ideology clear straightforward

If you love Thailand, then wrong must be wrong and right must be right. The ideology is clear and transparent.

Infers: There should be no bias in Thai society, no zig-zag (ซิกแซก).

When a father, in a position of power, refuses to help his errant son, he can say: wrong must be wrong, right must be right. This means the son must pay the consequences because the father will not pull strings to keep him out of jail, whatever. So no ลูก เทวดา /lôok tay-wá-daa/ here!

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

Why is Chuvit going for the English audience? Could he be courting the English press? Trying to get the attention of the English speaking younger generation of Thais? Or is he reaching out to his western-Thai children?

Chuvit’s on top!…

Here in Bangkok Chuvit’s posters are stacked on top of other campaigners. Not the other way around. But stay tuned for next week!

Chuvit Angry Man Campaign Posters

In Thailand the head is a most cherished part of the body so this campaign style of Chuvit’s has me wondering just what the message is. But note: Chuvit’s posters are not just sitting on the other candidates, he’s also doubling up his own posters.

More of Chuvit…

2Bangkok.com has series of Chuvit posters that show just how consistent the designs are: Chuwit Kamolvisit News. Does anyone know the name of the Alsatian?

Apologies, I didn’t provide a vocabulary list but the important Thai words can be found at Tweet Yourself Thai: Promises, Promises: Part 3 – Rak Prathet Thai.

And if you missed my first Chuvit post, head over to Thai Politician Chuwit Kamolvisit: A Man. His Dog. Their Park.

Next up in this mini-series will be the yellow PAD animal posters. And I’d better hurry before population of Bangkok tears the posters to shreds!

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Thai Language Thai Culture: Does Written Thai Need Spaces?

Thai Language

Does written Thai need spaces? Not!

I recently read a post titled Reforming Thai Language Structure which advocated changing the Thai written language by adding spaces between words to make written Thai easier to read. The writer mentions that written Thai is a “scriptura continua” language, one that does not use spaces between words.

He goes on to say:

It is common knowledge that Thais are not great readers. Might this not be due in part to the difficult way the language is organised?(sic) Abandoning scriptura continua would, in my view, be a win win situation for Thais and foreigners alike. Thais would be better prepared to tackle individual words encountered in English and other languages, whilst foreigners would be assisted in understanding Thai language and culture.

So if we add spaces between words in written Thai then 1) Thais would become better readers because the language is currently not well organized. And 2) Adding spaces would help Thais read English and other languages better. And 3) Foreigners would understand the Thai language and culture better.

This all sounds logical until ones digs deeper.

1) Are Thais really not ‘great readers’? There are literally dozens of daily and weekly newspapers in Thailand and many more magazines. Books are not as popular, probably because they are quite expensive (a novel costs around 300 baht or 2 days minimum wages, the equivalent of $120 in earnings in the U.S.). But the Thais deal with this problem with ‘Books for Rent’ shops all over the country. Somebody must be reading them.

Most Thai children by the age of 3 or 4 know the alphabet and have already begun reading. The Thai’s literacy rate is pretty universal and according to UNICEF statistics it is 98% for those between 15 and 24.

2) Would putting spaces between Thai words help Thais read English? Can you make an apple pie with oranges?

3) By putting spaces between words will foreigners learn more Thai and understand Thai culture better? Possibly. But I believe that learning a foreign language and its culture has more to do with an individual’s motivation and hard work than how a specific language is organized. I mean, someone must have been reading Sumerian cuneiform at one time – no spaces there.

Should we be telling Thais how they should change their language?…

I write about the Thai language but I don’t feel that I am an expert enough linguist nor do I have enough audacity to tell a whole people how to change their language. I have a hard enough time just describing it! So why not deal with the Thai language as it is and not tell a whole culture that we know better on structuring their language?

Written Thai already uses spaces…

If you have heard that written Thai doesn’t use spaces then, like Rick was about the waters of Casablanca, you are mistaken.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of when a space is required in written Thai. For lots more examples check out Suphawut (Bryan) Wathabunditkul’s article called Spacing in the Thai Language.

Sorry we are going to get a little long and technical here. Quiz on Friday.

  • Add one space when you finish a phrase, clause or sentence, and wish to start a new idea.
  • One space after “ว่า” that is used in combination with such verbs of speech as กล่าว (including กล่าวไว้ and ได้กล่าว), พูด, เห็น, รายงาน, แถลง, ยืนยัน, etc.
  • One space between a series or set of words or phrases.
  • One space after a comma.
  • One space before and after a parenthesis or a pair of parentheses.
  • One space after a colon.
  • One space after a question mark.
  • One space before and after a pair of single and double quotation marks.
  • One space before and after the repetition mark (ๆ).
  • One space after the minor omission mark (ไปยาลน้อย or ฯ).
  • One space before and after a major omission mark (ไปยาลใหญ่ or ฯลฯ which reads “และอื่น ๆ อีกมากมาย”).
  • One space before and after ฯพณฯ (which reads พะ-นะ-ท่าน).
  • One space before and after the preposition ณ and the 3rd person pronoun ธ.
  • One space between a person’s military or social rank and his/her name.
  • However, leave no space between นาย, นาง, นางสาว, น.ส., คุณ, ครู, อาจารย์ and his/her name.
  • One space before and after a person’s rank and his/her name.
  • However, if the person is a professor, associate professor or assistant professor without any military rank or doctorate degree, leave no space between his/her academic rank and name. If those academic ranks are abbreviated, leave no space, except between the first and last names.
  • One space before and after the names of mass media, titles of books, magazines, newspapers.
  • One space before and after the official name of a building.
  • One space before and after the words บริษัท, company name, จำกัด and (มหาชน).
  • One space before and after the basic mathematic signs.
  • One space before and after a digit, time and unit of currency.
  • One space before and after date, month and year (era).
  • One space before and after เช่น, อาทิเช่น, เป็นอาทิ, ได้แก่, เป็นต้น, เป็นต้นว่า and ตัวอย่างเช่น.
  • One space before and after any foreign words, phrases or sentences inserted into the Thai and vice versa.
  • One space after the pre-determiners นี้, เหล่านี้, นั้น, เหล่านั้น, etc.
  • One space before a long relative clause that is preceded by ที่, ซึ่ง or อัน.
  • One space before a clause or phrase preceded by ด้วย, โดย, ตาม, เพราะ and มี.
  • One space before the conjunctions และ, หรือ and แต่.
  • One space after adverbial phrases ทันใดนั้น, อย่างไรก็ตาม, อย่างไรก็ดี, กระนั้น, ทว่า, โดยส่วนตัวแล้ว, จะว่าไป, ในการนี้, ทั้งนี้, อนึ่ง, etc.
  • When writing a long sentence, you should consider spacing after the subject clause, verb clause, modifying clause and object clause to break down the sentence.
  • One space after the verbs of definition, for example หมายถึง, หมายความถึง, แปลว่า, คือ and กล่าวคือ.
  • One space before and after a clause modifying a person’s name
  • One space before and after an interjection or onomatopoeia.

Knowing where one word ends and another begins…

So how’s a poor Thai language student supposed to know where a word begins and where one ends without the use of spaces? Get ready, there’s a quiz after this one too. At this point we should start talking about Thai syllables instead of words, since individual syllables are the ones that are more easily recognizable.

Here are a couple of syllable rules:

  • The following vowels (เ แ โ ใ ไ) start a syllable.
  • The vowel ะ usually ends a syllable.
  • The vowel ำ ends a syllable.
  • Acceptable Thai consonant clusters begin a syllable.
  • Unacceptable consonant clusters usually indicate that one syllable has ended and another begun.

So here is a simple example of using the above to figure out where one syllable ends and another begins:

pǒm mâi chôp bplaa
I don’t like fish.

  • The ไ always begins a syllable so ผม and ไม่ are two separate syllables.
  • ม่ and ช do not make an acceptable Thai consonant cluster so they are the boundaries of two syllables ไม่ and ชอบ.
  • บ and ป is also not an acceptable Thai consonant cluster so that means that they end and begin two different syllables ชอบ and ปลา.
  • ป and ล do make up an acceptable Thai consonant cluster so the last word begins with ปล – ปลา /bplaa/ (fish).

Put it all together and you get (pardon my arbitrary word separator) ผม˚ไม่˚ชอบ˚ปลา.

After a little practice this all becomes natural – just like it does for Thai 3 and 4 year olds. Would adding word and/or syllable separators make Thai easier for me to read? Sure. But Thai, like English and all languages, will evolve on its own. If written Thai changes, it should be the Thais who change it, for their own reasons, not because it makes it easier for Farangs to learn.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

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Nang Songkran by Thai Artist Sompop Budtarad

Nang Songkran by Thai Artist Sompop Budtarad

Nang Songkran by Thai Artist Sompop Budtarad…

About this time last week saw the beginning of the Songkran bare breasted ladies debacle. For those who missed it: Three extremely young lasses danced topless during the Songkran celebrations in Silom, Bangkok. A YouTube video of the three minutes (?) went viral. The Thai Ministry of Culture posted threats and warnings. Twitter went crazy after discovering a Songkran banner depicting topless Thai ladies on the Thai Ministry of Culture’s website (shown above). In a knee-jerk response the Thai Ministry of Culture took the Songkran ladies down.

Songkran’s bare breasted ladies week focused on other issues as well (links shared below) but my interest is with the painting. Another crazy week, I didn’t make the time to search for the artist but Richard Barrow shared a post about on Sompop Budtarad on twitter this morning. Thanks Richard!

thaiartxhibition.com: “Nang Songkran” by Sompop Budtarad presents paintings depicting the legend of Nang Songkran (Thai Goddesses of Songkran), the urban story that relates to the Buddhist belief and the local way of life closely connected to the agricultural culture and society.

The artist applies the symbol of fine art as the means to transmit his notions, beliefs, and the beauty of a goddess named Kirinee Dhevi, the Songkran goddess of the year 2011. Kirinee Dhevi dresses elegantly and has a magnolia behind her ear. She mounts on an elephant, her food is nuts and sesame and her gem is emerald. While on her hands there is a hook on the right and an arm gun on the left.

Sompop Budtarad’s complete bio is here but for those of you who prefer to read a shorter version, here you go: Born in rural northeastern Thailand, Sompop was influenced by temple art. At age 15 he moved to Bangkok to study at the Poh Chang Art School and then majored in sculpture and graphic art at Silpakorn University, where he graduated in 1980. Five years later he was commissioned to paint murals at the Wat Buddhapadipa temple in Wimbledon, UK. Three years after that he returned to Thailand. Along with exhibitions in Thailand, Sompop Budtarad’s work has been seen at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London as well as in the US and Japan.

Nang Songkran by Thai Artist Sompop Budtarad

Nang Songkran by Thai Artist Sompop Budtarad

Sompop Budtarad: In developing, we must choose the best from around the world. When change comes too quickly, it confuses people. We have to know ourselves, where we have come from, where we are now, where we are going in the future. We must understand the roots, keep our heritage and embrace progress, but in a way that preserves and respects the environment and Thai culture.

I do not consider art solely the most honorable thing in my life, but as a necessity for both my mind and spirit. Art has become part of my being. Through art, I probe and externalize my thoughts, emotions, experiences, and assuage my curiosity. I bring them all before the world in many forms. My instinct merges with time and the circumstances that surround me.

Just my personal opinion… but… a week has gone by and now, more than before, I believe that Sompop Budtarad’s romantic, tasteful paintings depicting Thai culture and history do deserve to represent Thailand. What do you think?

Nang Songkran by Thai Artist Sompop Budtarad

Nang Songkran by Thai Artist Sompop Budtarad

A week of bare breasted Songkran ladies…

Not only did Thailand’s online newspapers and blogs take up the story, but all around the world the top news agencies did as well. But first up, everything to do with the bare breasted Songkran ladies in Thailand.

nationmultimedia.com: Topless dancers dressed down for ‘distorting Songkran values’
thaifinancialpost.com: Culture Ministry to issue Songkran handbooks
prachatai.com: All bra none
2bangkok.com: Suthep and the Songkran Dancers
asiancorrespondent.com: “Only taboo when it’s inconvenient!” – Interview with Thai author Kaewmala on the outrage at topless Songkran dancers

bangkokpost.com: Where the Songkran topless teens learned to dance

Edit: There were six BKK articles in all but the Bangkok Post removed everything except for the Learning From The News section. What a waste.

thaiconnoisseur.com: Bare breasted brouhaha in Bangkok
womenlearnthai.com: Thailand, Please Bring Back the Bare Breasted Ladies of Songkran
globalpost.com: Updated: Boobgate rocks Bangkok
thaipoliticalprisoners.com: Topless teenagers leave elite outraged, killing red shirts ignored
thaiwomantalks.com: Toplessness in Thai Culture—The Mammary Truth
whatismatt.com: Thai-style morals

And here’s a small selection of the international sites:

nytimes.com: Thais Are Shocked, Shocked by Topless Dancers
time.com: Thailand’s ‘Topless Teen’ Scandal and the Sexual Politics of Southeast Asia
asiancorrespondent.com: Uproar in Thailand over Songkran topless dancing
huffingtonpost.com: Thailand Denounces Three Topless Teenage Songkran Dancers (no longer online)
cnngo.com: Songkran scandal: Topless teen revelers spark outrage in Bangkok
asiaone.com: Topless pair sorry for Songkran frolic
thejakartaglobe.com: Thai Outrage Over Topless Holiday Dance
globalvoicesonline.org: Thailand: Outrage over topless teen dancing
boingboing.net: Topless teen terpsichore in Thailand turns into truly terrible “Taliban!” Twitter taunts

There are hundreds more sites discussing the Songkran topless ladies of Bangkok (an Arab site even covered it). But I’ll stop there because my intentions were merely to show just how far reaching this was. Yes. The world is watching.

Well, everyone in the world except for the UK. I checked the BBC, Times, Guardian, Daily Mail, and even the Sun (which you’d expect to cover a subject such as this). Nadda. No bare breasted ladies of Songkran. What gives?

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Luke with Farang Pok Pok: Episode Two

Luke Cassady-Dorion

Farang Pok Pok with Luke: Episode two…

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to watch the first episode of Farang Pok Pok and to leave comments. One comment, from Emil, stands out in that he asked if it was possible to turn off the subtitles. The subtitles are added by me to the video files about a week or two after the air on channel 73, and since they are hard-coded you can’t turn them off. It got me thinking that going very low-tech and using a post-it to cover up the subtitles would be a good way to test how well you understood things. With this episode, you might want to cover up the subtitles and watch a clip. Then take a moment and tell yourself what you think it was about, then watch it a second time with the subtitles uncovered.

I should warn you though, that I do have a bit of an accent when speaking Thai … Thai people, hearing my voice at the other end of the phone, always know that I’m foreign (although, they never seem to know where from). So if you hear a word and worry if it’s pronounced wrong, it very well may be.

ฝรั่ง ป๊อก ป๊อก | Farang Pok Pok: Episode 2: Part 1…

This first clip starts out with me waking up on the grataeng, which gives the episode a bit of verisimilitude. I’m not sure if the producers want me to tell you this or not, but I didn’t sleep on the grataeng. Our original plan was to pretend-sleep on the grataeng and then return to a small bungalow on the shore as it had the proper electricity that we needed to charge our camera batteries. But, once we saw how pretty it was out there, we changed our minds and decided to figure out a way to sleep in the middle of the ocean. Problem was that at dusk, trillions of mosquitoes invaded so we went back to our original plan.

Key Thai phrases:

ป้า ไป ไหน ครับ
bpâa bpai năi kráp
Auntie, where are you going?

ไป นัด
bpai nát
To the market.

NOTE: I chose this short dialog because of the slang that the Auntie used. The full phrase ตลาดนัด /dtà-làat nát/ means a market setup for a fixed period of time (like JJ in the city), however she cut the first part of the word off and just called it a นัด /nát/. The slang was new to me, but easy enough to understand given the context.

ไปดู กัน ว่า มี อะไรบ้าง
bpai doo gan wâa mee à-rai bâang
All right … let’s check out what they have.

๓๕ บาท ราคา ไม้ ๓๕ บาท
săam sìp hâa bàat raa-kaa máai săam sìp hâa bàat
Each skewer is 35 baht.

ฝรั่ง ป๊อก ป๊อก | Farang Pok Pok: Episode 2: Part 2…

Diving into the mud and picking up a handful of clams is much harder than it seems. I really did fail just about every time I tried to pick them up … this time the verisimilitude wasn’t faked.

Key Thai phrases:

อันนี้ คือ ฟาร์ม หอยนางรม
an née keu faam hŏi naang rom
This is how we raise oysters.

พี่ ครับ ทำ อะไร อยู่ พี่
pêe kráp tam à-rai yòo pêe
What’s going on here?

น้อง ยก ได้ ทำไม พี่ ยก ไม่ เป็น
nóng yók dâi tam-mai pêe yók mâi bpen
You can lift that? Why can’t I?

ฝรั่ง ป๊อก ป๊อก | Farang Pok Pok: Episode 2: Part 3…

Ok, so keeping with the theme of breaking through the verisimilitude of this show … I’ll tell you that the bit in the beginning where I pretend to talk on a cell phone and then pretend to send a pic was staged in hopes of enticing a cell phone company to sponsor the show.

Key Thai phrases:

เหมือน … เหมือน เย็บ เสื้อผ้า นะ
mĕuan … mĕuan yép sêua pâa ná
It’s like stitching up clothing.

เป็น ผู้ชาย ที่ เย็บ จูน และ ผู้หญิง ที่ เย็ย ผ้า
bpen pôo chaai têe yép joon láe pôo yĭng têe yai pâa
So men stitch nets and women stitch clothing?

เขา บอก ว่า โคลน ที่ นี้ รักษา ผิว ได้
kăo bòk wâa koh lon têe née rák-săa pĭw dâai
They tell me the mud here is good for your skin.

Thank you for watching the second episode in my Farang Pok Pok series! Stay tuned…

Luke Cassady-Dorion,
Goldenland Polygot

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Luke with Farang Pok Pok: Episode One

Luke Cassady-Dorion

Luke’s Farang Pok Pok: Episode One…

The first episode of the Thai TV show that I co-host, ฝรั่ง ป๊อก ป๊อก (Farang Pok Pok), aired in January 2011. In this episode I traveled to Samut Sonkram to live with clam farmers.

Filming the first show was much harder than I expected. Speaking Thai with friends is easy enough, but having to perform in front of a camera is another story!

In each episode I will extract the key vocabulary.

ฝรั่ง ป๊อก ป๊อก | Farang Pok Pok: Episode 1: Part 1…

Part of the theme of this TV show is backpacker-style travel. Which means that we generally have to travel in the most non-luxurious way. So in the past few months, hopes of a TV life being glamorous were shattered.

This first episode shows me traveling to Samut Songkhram. First, via BTS, then by train, then walking, train again, and then via tuktuk. It took almost an entire day to travel the same distance that we could drive in an hour.

The funny thing is that once we had wrapped up the shooting, we all took a รถตู้ /rót-dtôo/ (one of those 15 passenger van things) back into the city. Travel time? Under one hour.

Key Thai phrases:

โอ้วว เจอแล้ว คิดว่าหาย
ôhhh jer láew kít wâa hăai
Ohh … here it is … I thought I had lost it.

ดู ซี สิบบาท ถูกมาก
doo see sìp-bàat tòok-mâak
Check this out … 10 Baht … cheap!

kon maa sên nee yúh mái kráp
Is this a popular route?

Farang Pok Pok: Episode 1: Part 2…

Listening to myself in Farang Pok Pok has been incredibly helpful in terms of hammering out problems with my accent. Many words that I thought I pronounced properly show obvious errors when I listen to them in the videos. I highly recommend that students learning languages record both native speakers and their own voice, and then spend some serious time listening to how they speak. It will make a world of difference.

Key Thai phrases:

tĕung láew kráp
We made it!

an née mâe náam àe rai kráp pêe
So, what river is this?

láew pêe bpen chaao bprà-mong
You’re a fisherman?

man-dèef meuang tai
It’s the Maldives of Thailand!

koie dohn gàt mái
Have you ever been bitten?

mee jam-nuan gèe dtua
How big is the troop?

โอ้่ว มีเป็นพันตัว
ohhh mee-bpen-pan-dtua
Ohh, there are over a thousand.

tam gà-bpì dtaa dam kŏng kun
It’s used to make our authentic shrimp paste.

Farang Pok Pok: Episode 1: Part 3…

As we don’t have the budget to send out an advance team to research the locations, there is always a chance that things will not go as we’d planned. The team does do a fair amount of research via the Internet and phone, but sometimes we get to a location and realize that we don’t have enough activities to fill an episode and have to improvise.

In this case, we totally lucked out with Gaan (กาน) who was a total ham, spicing up the show considerably. She even helped me with my pronunciation.

Key Thai phrases:

หนึ่ง … สอง … สาม
nèung … sŏng … săam
One … two … three.

krai bpen pêuan sà-nìt
Which one is your best friend?

doo wâa mee à-rai hâi gin
Let’s see what they have cooking.

wan née jà tam à-rai kráp pêe
OK, so what are we making?

pàt pàk
Stir fried vegetables.

Until the next Pok Pok episode…

Thank you for watching the first episode in my Farang Pok Pok series! Stay tuned…

Luke Cassady-Dorion,
Goldenland Polygot

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Please Lend Your Support: Living with the Tiger

Living with the Tiger

Living with the Tiger…

Yesterday I received an email from my buddy Talen from Thailand Land of Smiles (no longer online):

Baan Gerda and “Living with the Tiger” need your help. Living with the Tiger is a full length documentary about Thai children who have HIV/AIDS and were orphaned and or abandoned by their families to die in hospice. These children were taken to a small village in Lopburi called Baan Gerda where many of them were nursed back to life from deaths door by the Childrens’ Rights Foundation.

Living with the Tiger is about these children and the struggles they have faced and continue to face as they reintegrate back into the same communities that shunned them and left them to die.

Talen explains further:

The filmmakers hope Living with the Tiger provides a better future for these children living with HIV as well as raising awareness of the disease, the stigma surrounding it and the deep rooted fears that many still hold regarding HIV.

March 14th: Foreign Correspondents Club Bangkok. 8pm-10pm
March 17th: Pratravadi Theatre, Bangkok. 8pm-10pm

Both of these screenings are open to the public and FREE. Reservations must be made at www.livingwiththetiger.com

Living With The Tiger Trailer. Uploaded by livingwiththetiger.

To participate: The children’s stories raise some important issues about our attitudes towards HIV infected people. Help to improve their lives and the many others in their situation.

We don’t have a PR company or big budget so help us get the word out. Take action today…

Facebook: Living with the Tiger

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