Monthly Archives: March 2005

Crazy things people google – 02

It is the end of the month again and time to take a closer look at the statistics and the crazy keywords people type into search engines. Some things haven’t changed. People are still looking for “pictures of hairy armpits” (WE DON’T HAVE ANY PICTURES – GO AWAY!). They also still want pictures of obese people, though this time someone is looking for an “obese person in a wedding dress”! The less said about that the better. Do you remember last time someone was looking for “a guy singing dutch on the morning show”? We couldn’t help that person. Now someone is looking for a “fat dutch guy singing”! Erm, still don’t know any. Sorry.

“Thai blogs” and “Thailand blogs” are no longer the number one search phrase. Not surprisingly this has been overtaken by “thai girls”. As this is a family-friendly blog, I am afraid you won’t find any of the other “s@x” related words you might have typed into a search engine to find our blogs. Yes, we know who you are and we know what you are looking for!

This is the Why? Why? Why? category. Why do people keep searching for the “no-hands restaurant” and where is it? More importantly, how do the waiters serve the food with no hands? Next, what was this searcher thinking when they typed in “turtle hairy armpits”! What is it with hairy armpits and MSN users and who has ever seen a turtle with hair let alone hairy armpits! Actually, maybe they do. I have never really looked. Also, why on earth was someone looking for pictures of “cockroach look-alikes”? Are they shooting a movie and they are looking for a stand-in for a dangerous stunt?

I mentioned already that people are searching for pictures of obese people, but they also want, for some reason: “pictures of rotten teeth”, “pictures of people smoking”, “pictures of different hair dos”, “thailands ghosts pictures”, “pictures of big foot”, “pictures of a big foot”, “girls washing long hair photo”, “photos of girls with hairy armpits”, “photo red bread monks”, “photo terrorist in cambodia”, “big pics on the eiffel tower” and “google photos everyday japanese life”. I don’t think they would have found any of those photos on our blogs. Not even a picture of my big feet!

Some people use search engines to look for people or even animals. Has anyone seen “ning nong the thai elephant” recently? Also, has anyone seen any “poshy pinkish dogs”? People also use the internet to learn how to do things, like how to “tie fisherman pants”. So many people were searching for “fisherman pants”. Is there a new world craze to become fishermen?

Some of us pride ourselves in doing investigative journalism in our blogs. However, I don’t think anyone has done a “survey of uk massage parlours etc”, “massage parlours birmingham uk”, “disgusting food in thailand” and even “legal mushroom shakes thailand”. Are they ever legal? And why did another person type in the search engine “show all the mushroom company of thailand”? Were they planning on making some mushroom shakes too? This next searcher seems to be doing their own investigation: “why in the past indian women had smelly hairy juicy sweaty armpits”. Sorry, cannot help you there. However, I think I can help this person: “can thai people come to england on holiday”. Yes, erm, I think so.

You might be wondering how people are finding our blogs with these phrases. Well, it doesn’t really matter if all these words are strung together or not. They can be odd words scattered between different blogs. Here are some examples:

“strange things during birth” – This was a combination of different blogs. The word “birth” was taken from a bit I wrote about thai horoscope. The word “strange” was taken from the blog about eating ice-cream in a bun.

“why do most guys cheat on girls” – I guess this person wasn’t particularly interested in Thai relationships but Steve’s blogs managed to get us a number 2 ranking on MSN for this.

“indian armpits foto” – You can blame Steve for bringing this searcher to our web site (and now me of course). Steve mentioned Indian food and asked people not to try on t-shirts in the local market. Not in the same blog of course. The same group of blogs probably also helped another searcher looking for “hairy indian armpits” arrive here. I wonder if he was disappointed?

Well, I am disappointed that I missed out on this event: “model taking shower during press conference in thailand”. Sounded like fun.

Again I wish to thank our bloggers and of course our loyal readers. We are now peaking at 1,100 unique visitors each day. The weekly competitions are also going well with hundreds of entries. We will be changing the prize soon!

Old Wive’s Tales about Eating

Every country has their own Old Wive’s Tales. A list of things you shouldn’t do. Thailand is no exception. Some of these seem crazy on the surface but most have hidden good reasons. You will still hear some of these being said today in some Thai families.

* Don’t eat a double banana because if you are a woman you will give birth to twins.
* Don’t eat before your elders because in your next life you will be born as a dog.
* Don’t eat food without rice because you will get rickets.
* Don’t eat salt under a tree because it will make the tree die.
* Don’t eat other people’s food without permission because it will make your throat swollen.
* Don’t eat the leftovers from your child because it will make the kid naughty.
* Don’t eat before a monk because you will become a bad ghost.
* Don’t eat corn when you have the flu because it will give you a higher fever.
* Don’t eat all of the rice during your evening meal because you should leave some for the elves.
* Don’t eat cold rice with hot rice because you will lose your way easily the next time you go out.
* Don’t eat egg when you have cut yourself because it will make it worse.
* Don’t eat chicken feet because it will give you bad handwriting.
* Don’t eat chili sauce in the mortar bowl because if you are a woman you will give birth to a child with big lips.
* Don’t eat turtles because it will make you walk slowly.
* Don’t eat dog because the dog’s spirit will possess you.

There will be more to come over the coming weeks.

Source: Translated from “Boran Oo-bai” by Sanom Krutmeuang

Thai Restaurant Menu – 01

I know a lot of the readers of these blogs love Thai food so I decided to treat you to some pictures of food I eat here in Thailand. I was at a restaurant last night called Paknam Seafood Restaurant. It is just around the corner from us on Sukhumwit Road. There were four of us, so we ordered five different dishes:

ผัดผักรวมมิตร – pat pak ruam mit
stir-fried vegetables

I always order a stir-fried vegetable dish. This goes with most dishes. It is quite easy to cook. I do a version of this at home a lot. In this dish, there is kale, baby sweetcorn, spring onion, carrots and mushrooms. It is probably advisable to pre-cook the kale in hot water first. Then heat up a wok and fry the garlic until golden brown. Add the vegetables. Season with oyster sauce, sugar, pepper and salt. Very simple but effective.

ไก่ผัดเม็ดมะม่วงหิมพานต์ – gai pat met ma-muang him-ma-paan
fried chicken with cashew nuts

I quite often order this dish. It is very delicious. You can see in the picture above that the chicken is deep fried and crispy. Other restaurants just lightly fry the chicken. To cook, fry some garlic in the wok until golden brown. Add the chicken. Like any Thai dish, make sure it is already cut bite sized because Thai people don’t use knives when eating. After the chicken is cooked, add onion, cashew nuts, fried dry chilis, and one green pepper (or red pepper if you like). Season with fish sauce, dark soy sauce and salt.

ปลาหมึกผัดไข่เค็ม – bla-meuk pat kai kem
stir-fried squid with salted egg

This is the first time I have eaten this dish so I don’t really have much to say. It was my guest’s choice. As you can see, there is squid, red chilil, green pepper and carrot. And of course salted egg!

ต้มยำกุ้ง – tom yam gung
lemon grass soup with prawns

This hot and sour prawn soup is always a favourite. However, I think it is safe to say that every restaurant I have been to use a very different recipe. Some of them are clear soup, others white, and as you can see, this one is red. I like it hot and spicey. The main ingredients are prawns, mushrooms, red chilies, coconut flesh, galangal (related to ginger family), lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, and is seasoned with fish sauce and lime juice.

แกงเขียวหวานไก่ – gaeng kiaw waan gai
green curry with chicken

This is green curry with chicken but you can have pork or beef. Just tell them what meat you want to add. Apart from the green curry paste and coconut milk, the main ingredients are eggplants, red chilies, kaffir lime leaves, sweet basil leaf and seasoned with fish sauce and palm sugar.

Thai Ghost Stories

As the popular Thai song says, “Pee’e my chu, my chu, my chueah” or as directly translated “I don’t believe in ghosts”.

Sit back and let me just reminisce about my experience on the heavy influence of ghosts in Thailand culture. Sure we all have are ghost stories, have sworn to have seen things as a kid, or claim to have dead relatives who visit us in dreams, but none of this, and I mean none, compares to the severity with which Thai people so often and unabashedly refer to ghosts in their culture. Let’s start with some examples.

Now, I can only speak from my experience, and although lengthy, is limited to “khon Esan” or Thais reigning from North Eastern Thailand which has a heavy influence from neighboring Laos. However, the fact that ghosts are an integral part of MAINSTREAM Thai culture is undisputable.

It all started some 7 years ago, when I first met my wife and we spent a month long holiday on Patong Beach near Phuket. My wife, a Northeastern Thai, refused to go in our hotel room by herself (in the Nordic Bungalows # 137 to be exact, some of you have been there) or to stay there alone. She claimed that every night a ghost sat right there in the corner and watched us. She even asked me several times if I saw him myself. I said no, eventually accepted her as being delusional and asked, “Well he obviously can’t hurt us so what are you worried about”. She claimed he was “a large angry-looking Muslim man who was quite upset with us for buying and eating pork” on his land. I eventually got over this, blamed it on all the shots and Heineken we were pounding at Summer Lover’s bar and enjoyed my stay. However, those of you who have stayed on that beach know of the constant night downpours that can come raging in (this was in particular December 1999 to January 2000). And I must admit, even being a stubborn westerner (even worse an American) I was often quite scared in that room at night while the wife was sleeping. Wind blasting, lightning striking and thoughts of an angry ghost watching my every move made me uncomfortable on more than one occasion. But that’s neither here nor there. Every morning around 6 AM or so, the Muslim chants would echo through the mountain from the local Mosque, the sun would rise and all was calm again. A real surreal experience and my first introduction to the Thai belief in the REALITY of ghosts.

Since then I have been emersed in Thai culture. Here are a few quick examples of ghosts folklore. Perhaps one of the biggest arguments I ever had with my wife was when our daughter was about 3 months old. I decided to walk around our village (about an hour east of Nong Bua Lamphu) and take the baby for a little stroll around 10pm. I NEVER lived that one down. I was promptly scolded by my wife for putting our baby at risk for losing her soul to the ghosts of the dead. I am not making this up. It was explained to me that ghosts recognize the beauty and naivete of a newborn child and see them as a perfect opportunity to seize an unsuspecting soul. And I’ll be damned if my baby didn’t cry all through the night until morning that night. I was blamed saying that the child, obviously had seen the ghosts that were after her and frightened to death. The elders sided with my wife. My argument was that I never would believe in a ghost and I could take my child where and when I damn well pleased. Needless to say I would have slept on the proverbial couch that evening (had one existed in my house in Thailand). After much brooding, I admitted I was at fault and at the very least should respect the wishes of my beautiful wife and gracious host. (i.e. when in Rome theory). From then on, as with all newborn babies, when leaving the home at night with small children we place a smudge of ash on the babies forehead, which makes it unattractive and unrecognizable as a pure soul to ghosts who are passing by. When my stepson was barely 3 years old he allegedly asked where his grandfather (who was then dead several years) and all the old people were going as he pointed. When asked to describe them, he did it to a T. Something far beyond the imagination of a three year old. This was on a Buddha holiday, reknowned for the occurance of ghostly sightings.

I once drove our motorbike out to my rice farm in the middle of the night to “du pee’e” (look for ghosts) with my stepsons. I then pretended I couldn’t start it (which actually happened once when a male water buffalo challenged me, but that’s another story). They were scared, but in good fun, and hopefully were not traumatized by the outing. However, now if I ask them if they want to go ghost hunting they promptly answer no, and ask twice before getting on a motorbike with me at night.

Most Thais where I live will not go outside at night (after 11pm or midnight), for fear of running into ghosts. Most have outdoor plumbing for restrooms, so this becomes a difficult task. Many keep bedpans close to their bed to alleviate this predicament. They also make sure all doors and windows are closed at night, even the ones on the second floor. Again when I inquired as to why we had the house all bottled up at night when it was so HOT, my wife informed me that Thais do not like to leave their windows open at night in fear of ghosts or spirits coming in and stealing a soul.

My mother-in-law has a ghost story that is also corroborated on by 2 of her best friends. Apparently the three of them were walking home from a friends house that recently died. They had just had their fill of food, friends and Buddhist prayers. They continually heard a loud noise as if something was being dragged behind them. After they walked about a mile, they turned around allegedly to see their dead friend following them dragging his coffin. They all swear to this and even if I don’t believe them, THEY are 100% convinced. Where I live in Thailand, and perhaps all over the Kingdom, it is said that when a Thai person dies they can come back and visit their house for about a week after their death before moving on to their next life. If you have ever been to a Thai cremation, this is why the people walk three times around the center of the temple property, to confuse the ghost so it will go to it’s next life and not come back to this one. That is also why they sometimes give money to a corpse and give it food and water offerings every year or on certain Buddhist holidays.

My wife tells me of the story when her own father came to visit her after his loss with liver cancer. She was alone with her toddler nephews in their poor wooden home. Which if you have seen them, you know how you can see through the wood on the walls and floorboards. She too heard someone coming in the middle of the night. As the dogs started howling closer down the roads and closer to her house, she began to realize that it was probably her father who died less than a week previous (Thais believe the incessant howling that dogs sometimes do in the middle of the night is to report an oncoming ghost. It is also believed by Thais in the country that when a chicken/duck or dove clucks or coos in a certain eerie manner it also signifies a ghost is present.) Regardless these sounds are ALL creepy. The story goes on about how her father came to the kitchen, which was just an outdoor attachment to the house and rummaged through the pots and pans as he often did while cooking. Upon seeing his ghosts through the cracks, she closed her eyes and willed him to leave for fear of her heart bursting at the seems, which he did.

Last time I was in Thailand the gong from the temple started chiming rhythmically at about 4AM. And for all of you that have heard these gongs, they are very loud and can be heard for miles. This is not uncommon to hear on a Buddha day, but this time I could hear everyone in my village waking up and a flurry of Thai being spoken. When I inquired about this, my wife explained of a local legend about a Thai woman who was gang raped and beaten to death. Legend has it that one night after her death the gong chimed incessantly. When all the town and the monks went to the temple to see, they found her ghost pounding the gong and sobbing terribly. Needless to say, when the gong tolls unscheduled at four in the morning in our town, people curb their curiosity and try to get back to sleep.

There are several other stories. I could go on and on. The one of the friend who said hi to his best buddy on the way into town, only to find that he had been killed in a motorbike accident days earlier. The ghosts that are said to roam the rice fields of northern Thailand are another example. Even, very recently. A Thai friend of mine who owns a dive shop in Phuket and was heavily influenced by Western culture growing up, (and coincidently not a big ghost believer) told me that a week after the tsunami’s hit her and her friends heard partying on the beach. Shocked they went to the beach to see who could be blaring loud music and irreverently carrying on so shortly after such a huge tragedy. (If you recall the Prime Minister even ceased Falang New Year celebrations due to the recent events. I say falang because it’s obviously not the Thai New Year.) When she and her friends got to the beach, what sounded like hundreds of people partying stopped and NO ONE was there. From that day on she believed in ghosts. My wife does not want to go back to Phuket for a long time, for fear of the thousands of ghosts she thinks now reside there.

So believe it or not, ghosts are everywhere in Thailand. From pop songs to cheesy nighttime soap operas. To this popular game with toddlers called “pee’e locke or ghost face”.

Around every corner you’ll find a pale faced, pupil-less bloodied ghost just waiting to steal your soul. Whether you believe in them or not is a personal decision, but be respectful and mindful of Thais, because most of them are firm believers, not to mention that it’s a part of the culture as well. And as I always say, Thailand has been around for 2500 years plus (and that’s just written history), so who am I to argue with thousands of years of wisdom. As an old Thai person could easily say to me, “Son, everything you learn today, I forgot 10 years ago.”

So Sawasdeekrup to my Thai friends, family and expats. And remember, next time your out on your farm or at the beach at night unloading all that beer Chang you just drank onto your favorite palm tree, don’t be surprised if you start thinking to yourself, “Am I being watched? I wonder if there really are ghosts out here!” Until then, I’ll try and stay one step ahead of them.

How to be a Thai Gentleman

Sunthorn Phu was born in 1786. He is largely regarded as Thailand’s greatest poet. Every Thai student knows his stories and poems very well. I will talk for sure about him in more detail later. In the meantime, I want to show you this poem called “Sawasdi Raksa”. It is a poem written in a kind of verse of eight syllables to a line with a rhyming pattern.

Sawasdi Raksa is meant as an instruction for two royal princes. In the introduction, Sunthorn Phu says “In observing them, one will meet enduring luck, long life, numerous descendants, increased happiness and might. Do not forget to uphold your welfare in accordance with the teachings of the ancients.” He later goes on to say, that the theme of this poem comes from an old book with high-sounding words which are difficult to understand. Although much of this is not so relevant today, the older generation still believe in its value.

“Early in the morning, after getting out of bed, you must refrain from anger and touchiness. Turning your face towards the East and South, you must pronounce three times an incantation according to the Buddhist formula over the water for washing your face. After washing your face with the water, the first word or sentence to be uttered ought to be nice and good. It will increase and enhance your noble dignity. For splendour which upholds a man’s chacrateristic properties resides in your face in the morning. During the day, the splendour resides in your body. You must take a bath and sprinkle your body with scented water. By observing this, you will be healthy and happy. During the evening, the splendour resides at both feet. You must wash your feet. No woman’s foot is allowed to be placed over yours.

“When eating food, if you are facing East you will have power and long life. If facing South, you will be beloved by everyone. If facing West you will be happy and healthy, your sufferings, if any, will be decreased, you will have honour and dignity. If facing North, you will meet with ill-luck; your life span will be shortened year by year.

“While sitting, you must not look downward nor spit. Such an act will spoil your dignity. Facing the North on such occasion is good and keeps you immune from evil spirits and the dark arts. Then wash your face. It will become bright and clear. Before going out, first take a bath and sprinkle your face and body with scented water. Victory will be with you.

“You must not allow your wife to sleep upon your arm (as a pillow for her head), and always wash yourself after sleeping. Fortune will smile, driving away mishaps. Washing your nails on Monday and Wednesday prevents all accursed things coming into contact.

“When going to war, the garments to be donned each day during the seven days of the week are to be of seven colours;

Sunday, Red is auspicious
Monday, Light yellow is to have a long life
Tuesday, Purple is lucky
Wednesday, Yellow-red or glittering multi-coloured
Thursday, Yellow-green
Friday, Blueish-gray
Saturday, Black is a terror to the enemy.

“The colour of war steeds ought to be also identical with that of the day.

“In taking a bath at a riverside or stream, you should face the direction of the running water. The voiding of nature is prohibited. Do not face against the running water for you may accidentally be the victim of the black arts. After a bath, always pay respect to Ganga, the Water Goddess.

“The knowledge of magical arts is good, and incantations ought always to be recited every evening. They will become potent and effective against enemies and increase your dignity and power. When a dog continues to bark and howl, do not say harsh words against it. For such a speech will spoil your word. Do not spit while there is a wind. If the saliva falls on any animal, then the mantra or mystic spell will become impotent.

“When meeting a monk and paying no customary respect due to him, your dignity will be weakened. Do not abuse the sun, wind or rain. Do not hasten the day to come to an end. Pay respect every daybreak and dusk to the sun and the moon. When getting into bed do not fail to make obeisance on the pillow (with one’s hands in salutation) to one’s parents and preceptors, extolling their graces and virtues.

“If, when wearing a phanung or loin-cloth after twisting its two ends together in front, one end is tucked finally on the right side, you will be free from harm of the teeth and claws of crocodiles and other ferocious animals. Do not pass under a bridge across a creek or canal, a trellis supporting climbing plants, a wooden prop of a house, or a fence of animal enclosure. Whoever passes under such things will lose his splendour and dignity and his mantra and magical incantations will become impotent, defeating their own ends.

“When seeing a corpse while going out, do not make a remark. It is very unlucky to do so. You must wash your face as a counter act. Do not sleep with your charms and amulets. They will be impaired of their magical properties. Do not step over weapons. Do not lie on the left side of a woman, for harm will come to you. On New Year’s Day, Sat Day (Mid-Year Feast), a day when there is an eclipse either of the sun or the moon, the lenten full moon day, and your own birthday, sexual intercourse is prohibited. For your age will be shortened. To sleep with a woman during her menstruation, if you do not die, you will lose your eyesight and have a boil full of pus. On your birthday, do not kill any animal. Your life will be shortened and you will lose your glory and dignity. You will also suffer from sickness and pain.

“While sleeping, if your inspiration and expiration flow easily in and out of both nostrils, do not put your left foot over the right one. If the air flows freely in the right nostril only, the right foot must be placed on the left one. It is very auspicious to observe the rule. While walking, sleeping or sitting, if a crashing or creaking sound is heard, it is prohibited to make a remark. The noise may be produced by magical art or evil spirits which can harm one if one makes a remark.”

Most of that translation has come from a book called “Essay on Thai Folklore” by Phya Anuman Rajadhon. I have just updated it a bit. We will post the Thai version on our forums tomorrow (links to the right). Sunthorn Phu also wrote another poem, this time for women, instructing them how to be good wives. I’ll share that one with you soon.