Daily Archives: April 17, 2005

Chanting and a Sermon

I told you yesterday about the first steps Nattawud took to become a monk by shaving his hair and eyebrows. After that he went for a ride around the neighbourhood to announce to the spirits that he was about to become a monk. Back at the temple, he went straight to the sala which is a kind of a large meeting hall. As you can see, this place has Buddha images. People will come here to listen to the monks chanting and also to listen to a sermon. You can just see the pulpit on the left of this picture. However, ordinations cannot be held in this hall. This will take place in the bot which usually houses the main Buddha image. The difference is that the boundary of the bot is marked by sacred stones called semas. You will probably see them in the photos tomorrow of the parade around the ordination hall. Don’t ask me about the dog in the picture. I have no idea whether it had official duties during the chanting. However, at one stage it did get up on the raised platform. No-one seemed to mind.

If you have ever witnessed monks chanting you might have spotted that there always seems to be nine of them. Nine monks went to Nattawud’s wedding. Nine monks went to bless his aunt’s new house. The number nine is seen as an auspicious number so that is why we have nine monks. After the chanting had finished, everyone presented the monks with a traditional offering of incense, a candle and a flower. You can just see that in the left picture that the woman is placing her offering on a piece of cloth. That is because women are not allowed to have direct contact with a monk. Also notice that the man behind her is holding onto her blouse. He is doing this because he wishes to receive some of the merit that the woman is making.

The final chanting is shorter and is basically offering blessings to everyone. This is when people take part in a ceremony called kruat nam. What is happening here is that a portion of the good merit they have just made is being passed on to someone else not present. This could be a living person, though quite often they are doing it for dead ancestors. They do this by slowly pouring water over the index finger of either their right or left hand. At the same time they have to think clearly of the person or persons they are passing the merit on to. They might also murmur something in Pali or Thai.

Once the chanting was finally over, most of the monks then left the hall. Then Nattawud lit a candle and incense sticks in front of another shrine. This one was at the base of the pulpit where the monks deliver their sermons. You cannot really see in the small pictures, but at the base of the pulpit are all the items which will be used in the parade the following day.

The monk then chanted a sermon for about half an hour. He read this not from a book but from words written on palm leafs. I asked Nattawud before it started what the monk would preach about. He just said that he will talk about the importance of family and parents and that the monk will be doing his best to make him cry. Judging by some of the pictures, there were certainly some tears in his eyes.

That concluded day one of the preparations for the ordination ceremony. Some people do everything in one day. However, for Nattawud, this was split over two days. For the actual ordination, many more people will turn up.

Don’t forget to visit the Photo Album for many more photos taken during the chanting and sermon.

Win Thai Music

This is the sixth of our weekly competitions to win a Thai Music CD full of the best songs from the year 2004! All you have to do is answer the following question:

Question 06: Which animal did Nang Songkran sit on during this year’s parade?

Send your name, nationality and answer to: competition@thai-blogs.com

The deadline is the evening of Saturday 23rd April 2005. The winner will be announced the next day. You can only enter the competition once. However, if you don’t win, you can enter the new competition next Sunday.


QUESTION 05: Question 04: Where can you see miniatures of famous places from around Thailand and from around the world?

ANSWER 04: Mini Siam

The WINNER was Amanda Yap from Malaysia.


The competition is sponsored by our sister site at www.top10thaimusic.com.

Thai students in England

I’ve been really impressed, most recently in particular, with the differences between Thai and other asian nationals in England who are here for the purposes of study. When I say study, I do of course mean “a little bit of reading and a large amount of everything else not related to books”.

As some of you may be aware, we have a real problem with attitudes to foreigners at the moment in my country. Immigration and asylum are ranking very high on the election manifestos (General Election UK is 5th May). Politicians are using the topic of the non-British in Britain as a way to garner votes.

Unfortunately, as with all problems of attitude, much like stereotypes, they are based on some, however small, fact. Many foreigners in Britain do not bother to learn about the country and its customs in the same way that many farangs in Thailand do not bother to do the same.

I have Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai and a mixture of other nationalities as friends who study here at my Uni. Out of them all, it is the Thais who make the most effort to integrate. They are still very shy (of course!) but they do not concentrate as much on the forming of cliques so that they need not face the outside world. By this I refer to a group of Chinese people who eat at local chinese run restauarants, buy everything at local chinese run shops and speak only to Chinese people. I very much doubt they have any farang friends. They even gamble in Chinese run bookies and visit Chinese run clubs!

However my Thai friends seem to honestly understand, if not appreciate, English culture alot better. As to why this is; I have no firm idea. We could look to the education system in Thailand or the general exposure to the West they get from a young age, at least in Bangkok. The same cannot be said for communist China, I suppose.

It’s deeper than that, though. At the core of the individuals I know there is a ‘feeling’ that the Thais are simply more open to my culture, but no less Patriotic to their own than the Chinese I know. As with many things in Thailand, the key is in the subtlety of expression. My Thai friends are aware that ones country means alot to oneself. I feel the Thais here could teach the other Nationalities a thing or too about living abroad. There are many things they don’t get right but that’s to be expected. If all visitors to England were like the Thais in Oxford I feel the politicians might have less to say about immigration.

Given that your average Brit cannot tell the difference between a Thai, Chinese or Japanese, you cannot blame the differences on localised persecution. The British who are racist don’t bother to differentiate between asian countries!

I should add that one of my best friends is Chinese and by no means are all as one. Generalisations are unpleasant but a necessary evil. My comments are only based on the small group of people I know.

p.s. I don’t go in for pictures, sorry. Just imagine a Thai person beaming out and then a few lines down, a Chinese man looking grumpy. Instant imagery!

Acting It Out….On Thai Soap Operas

Even though ive enjoyed me life of teaching here in Thailand there have been times when ive kinda felt like doing something else. To cut a long story short, ive had my fair share of opportunity over the years here of having to put my acting skills to the test and be broadcast to yous all, sat there in front of your TV sets.

To this day when folks in the kingdom ask me “And what you been doing all this time in Thailand?” I always answer “mostly teaching and a fair dose of translation work to go with it” just cause I cant be bothered to explain the ins and outs of the other employment that ive been subjected to do. It may come a surprise to you but believe it or not your buddy and regular contributing blogger here stevesuphan has played as a main character on a few of the country’s soap operas. Asking how I got myself into such work is a question for another day.

Quite a few years back (just for the fun of it) and after having an array of small parts here and there on soap operas and a few movies thrown in, got a break one day when I bumped into a certain casting agent Mr P’San. Not long after getting to know P’San he was soon paging me up for a part on a channel 7 soap opera. Thinking it was just another miserly part worthy of a days shooting I went along thinking nothing of it til I was soon getting a rather nasty look-down from the asst director who was soon on the phone to P’San asking to the darned likes of “Couldn’t ya find anyone taller? his girlfriend on the screen is as tall as him and on top of that he’s a bit on the skinny side!”. Having had me ego right dented with that one I wanted to reply “Ya want me or not sweetie? and by the way yer not exactly the finest looking thing around town yerself!” before she said to me in the face “You might as well do, there’s no one else”.

Never having had any of the main crew taking any peculiar notice of me looks before I soon realised that the reason behind the fiasco was that I had to play the part of a mean rough Farang boyfriend of one of the star girls a certain Miss ‘O’ Patjeera, I soon found out exactly what the asst director meant about height as Miss ‘O’ at 170cm was just a fraction shorter than myself.

Pretty tasty girl I was thinking there and soon had the crew having a right laugh at her expense when the first scene out of the bag was for me to give her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Not a bad job I thought this when arriving back at my gaff that evening and waited eagerly for the call to go again for the next few scenes.

After a few more weekends it was all over after I had been ditched by ‘O’ for playing around with other girls and giving her just one too many black-eyes. Man, did I have to play some mean farang or what! Actually I wasn’t too chuffed about having to play such a stereotypical role but there was no butting out. In one of the scenes I did such a fine job of slapping her in the face and throwing her to the ground that Channel 7 soon made that scene as their ‘preview’ scene for the weekend’s next showing, so there I was, every 15 minutes in the evenings for the next five days, this big mullet of a mean face of mine blown full up for the screen with me so-called girlfriend (I wish) curled up on the floor in tears.

Well, I must admit it was pretty strange to be ‘a little bit famous’ and me Sunday afternoons of having a quiet burger in Mc’ Donalds weren’t quite the same again for a while, what with groups of poshy school girls sat on the table beside me giggling together and peering over their shoulder to have a right clear view of the Farang Girlfriend Basher, me. After a month or so of being on air every weekend I soon got the boot and was back to teaching and all the viewers had simply ‘ just forgotten me face’.

Before just getting used to the every day life of teaching again I got a call at about 11 at night shortly after from this other long long friend cum casting agent of mine P’Paeng that says “Steve, I finally got that big speaking part ya always asked for, they are coming to pick you up tomorrow morning”. Well, thanks a bunch for telling me in advance as what the heck was I to do with me teaching job but call in sick.

Not knowing the slightest, I was soon down there on Phuttamonthon road at the director’s house at 6 in the morning and he’s explaining my part of a pretty dumb but cute student farang who has come to live with the main actor for a while to study about Thai architecture or to the likes of something like that. Anyway I thought, the money’s not bad and certainly beats having to give any of the girls a good punch in the face. Thinking this was some cooshy on and off job like the last was soon mistaken that this was a full-on job for the next 2-3 weeks as they had to get the filming finished right quick cause they were behind schedule.

This time round I was literally fired in the end, from my very decent in-company teaching job there at a well-known market research firm on Silom! Well, I wasn’t exactly booted out the door but at the end of the course the personnel manager did call me over to her desk and say “Steve, you are a fun teacher, the students really like you BUT I need a teacher who is going to be constantly here, keep on doing yer acting thing though you might end up becoming a superstar” (Oh yeah..sure). Fair enough I did bunk the next three weeks off work and told her the truth that I had been handed a main character part on a popular TV soap opera and after having started the job, there was of course, no way of pulling out.

By chance the soap opera was filmed just up the road from where I live now in Suphanburi and can always remember having to try and put on the regional accent. I doubt most of the readers (except the Thai ones) know that even though Suphanburi is just a 100km from Bangkok the locals do have their own distinct dialect which is called ‘neur’. Darned, I only been here a year but im already picking it up and on going into Bangkok, ive heard more than a few times now “Hey Farang speak neur!”

This time round there was a right bunch of characters playing and it was a lot more fun than the last soap opera where nearly every scene was just me and ‘O’. This time round there were a lot of well-known faces around. Farang always have a right giggle about the standard of acting on Thai TV but I’d like to say one thing, and that is, ‘a lot of the time it just isnt their fault!’ I mean there’s the director at lunch actually typing up the script for the afternoons filming and on handing the actors their script says “ok just one rehearsal and on with the show, no need to waste anymore time!”

The director though this time was a pretty serious guy and a darned well-known one too but more for his movies than soapies. As I said before the filming was behind schedule and after finishing our stuff on the Sunday, it was like on air the coming Wednesday, pretty micky-mouse production if you ask me.

Well after this soap opera I decided to hang up my acting shoes for a while and go back to full-time teaching to save some proper cash as I had realised too right that I was certainly not going to get stinking rich out of acting in Thailand. A year or so later however I got the bug again and popped into see P’San at his place on Lard Prao and informed him “If anything comes up again then do call me” which he did a month or so later. It was the same crew from RS Production that had once made mockery of my height and my skinny-chopstick look, on the phone to P’San asking to the whereabouts of that mean Farang Girlfriend Basher, I must have put on a pretty decent showing of it though as they were wanting me back again.

It was to be the last main part I ever took on again as this time round it put a right dent in me wanting to hold a proper teaching job. As the filming was done over the course of six months I was called in every now and then for just a few days every month. On top of that I had to make my way to the production company’s HQ, up there, also on Lard Prao for the 4 in the morning mini van to the likes of Khao Yai and Uthaithani a whopping three hours plus away! Sure, I must admit the scenery was great the folks and fellow actors/actresses etc.. were all real friendly but I was pretty bored of it all at the end of the day as I couldn’t apply for a full-time teaching job cause I couldnt exactly say to the boss “I’ll take the job but I’ll have to take a couple of days day off every other week to go acting upcountry”.

So, here I am back down to earth and no-one around these parts knows the foggiest to any of the acting that ive done. I don’t really care though as being a foreigner here in a small town like this one any Farang is already a star. As for me I am already well-known enough around town and that is already as much attention as I would care for.

As for behind the scenes’ gossip I got a stack-a-that, could even write up a whole blog on some of the scandalous stories and frivolous goings-on I witnessed. I do miss it at times, sure, especially the friends you make, those in front of and behind the camera but at the end of the day though I prefer to have a ‘proper’ job.


Soap opera = TV Series
Array = variety
To bump into = to accidentally meet
Skinny = very thin
Sweetie = darling
A fraction = a little bit
To ditch = to split up with, to abandon
Chuffed = happy (about something)
To bash = to give a good thumping
To giggle = to have a little laugh
Cooshy = easy
To get the boot = to get dismissed (From a job)
Thanks a bunch = thanks a lot
To bunk off = to jump work
To know the foggiest = to know nothing about