Monthly Archives: May 2005

Thai Stamps – 768

Insect Postage Stamps

Date of Issue: 31st May 2005
Designs: Illustrates insects found in Thailand

5 baht: Fabricius
5 baht: Saunders
5 baht: Drury
5 baht: Akiyama

Are You Being Serious…Again?

Well, in the second part of this series, here are just a few more sordid stories from the back-bench…and yes I’m being serious. Would I ever exaggerate?

There is a ‘saying’ in Thai that goes something like ‘Just sprinkle some parsley over it’ which means to make something, which is obviously quite bad, nice-looking on the outside, and our friends in parliament have successfully done that on plenty of occasions for the sakes of VIPs from foreign countries arriving in Bangkok.

Over the past few years, no event has been made more fuss over than the APEC summit a couple of years back and the arrival of a certain American president himself. Arriving in Bangkok, the VIPs must have stunned by the sight of the roads with hardly a car insight! “What a crock-of-rubbish, those rumours are, about the Bangkok traffic congestion!” a few of the VIPs were supposedly have said! Obviously having been disappointed not to witness one those world famous ‘jams’, they probably weren’t informed that our beloved leaders had told the capital to ‘relax, fellow citizens, take a few days off work and stay at home!’ Thus, making it look as if such daily traffic scenarios certainly did not exist in The Big Mango. Then, to follow this up, all the vendors selling garlands were banned from making any money for the week and cleared from the streets.

Of course, Bangkok has more than its far share of flea-ridden stray dogs and our leaders before APEC ordered that all the mongrels be rounded-up. “Where are we to dump all the draggled dogs?” was the next question and then broadcast on TV we see all the hounds being rounded-up off the streets in ‘mutt vans’ and waltzed off to Sra Kaew province to the obvious distaste of the local villagers there!

Then finally, for the APEC summit, it was decided that all the world leaders admire a traditional boat show from opposite the The Grand Palace. The politicians soon realized that if the VIPs looked just a little down the river they’d get a sight of some supposed riverbank slums! Not needing the VIPs to think that such a thing existed in Bangkok, a massively long 150 metre banner was erected with ‘A Warm Welcome to all the APEC Delegates’ written on it, stuck right in front of the slums barring them from view.

Now, we all know that the country’s leaders may lack a few qualities and one of them certainly has to be ‘religious sensitivity’. Well, right after Sept 11, one of the country’s ‘big’ politicians stood up and gave this advice to be passed on to the American government “Since the people and government of Afghanistan have no shame, I advise that they should be on the receiving end of some of their own medicine and that all their big cities be bombarded with…..pork fat”

Having to listen to such slanderous remarks you could well have imagined that a few tempers have been lost in Parliament over the years. Just a few months ago one of the ruling party’s members stood up and complained that ‘the’ MP sat opposite was involved in crooked drug deals up there in one of the border provinces only to told back that it was ‘he’ himself that was running dodgy deals. A verbal fight soon erupted before the former policeman turned MP run from his seat over to the other MP and give him a few punches to the face live on TV. After, when asked whether he was going to apologise to the Mae Hong Son MP retorted by saying “Get out of it, the animal deserved it!”

Our friends in parliament have been famed over the years for their supposed ‘influence’ in trying to sway voters to vote for them. Just there in last year’s general election one of the candidates took this a little too far and was photographed carrying a gun into a local voting booth, and instead of using a finger to point his name out to the voters was using his gun instead! When being grilled later by the police to such an act, he replied “It was only a plastic water gun!”

Everyone knows that our leaders have a name for ‘supposedly not’ exactly being the most honest of folk and one of the classics is this one and it actually concerned a former PM a few years back. – It had come to the opposition’s knowledge that the PM’s qualification from a well-known university was rather suspicious. The thesis he had supposedly written for the degree was astonishingly good as it had been written completely in French and read almost identical to ‘this one’ – and there in front of the viewers was a thesis written up 50 years ago. “Complete co-incidence!” was the PM’s reply, and when asked by one of the opposition MPs to the likes of ‘How old are you? (in French lingo)? Replied “I’m fine thank you and you!” to the laughter of the opposition. Of course the PM, on having being able to write a master’s thesis in French couldn’t speak a single word of the language.

Next, if that wasn’t enough for the former PM’s disgust the opposition had managed to get their hands on his supposed ‘real’ birth certificate which read ‘Born in China!’ meaning he didn’t have any rights whatsoever to be a politician let alone the PM. This is Thailand however, and such sordid accusations were soon forgotten.

Talking about honesty, or lack of it, it was brought to the nation’s attention a few years back that the quality of the ‘milk’ given to all the country’s school kids was supposedly ‘poor’. Having no sympathy for the kids whatsoever, it was found out later that this MP was supposedly getting a roaring commission fee to pass this obviously low-nutrition milk on to the nation’s kids to the complete shock of every mother.

I may be wrong, but I doubt that the west has so many TV commercials made up by the government that go something like this – ‘Be a good family man, love your wife, love your children and don’t smoke, drink alcohol or thump your wife in front of the children’. Then just last new year (what a time to start!) it was made forbidden to sell any alcohol between the hours of 2-5pm and midnight to midday! What a quack-wack law! Then even sillier than this, it was propositioned a few years back that ‘since Thais drink too much, the amount of their alcohol consumption be limited!’ and one MP went on to say “I suggest that it be made forbidden for any person, on entering a pub, to order anymore than two bottles of beer for himself”. And, for the bartender to know whether a patron had reached his limit or not, the drinker’s hand was to be stamped every time he ordered a drink! Of course, this wacko idea was never implemented as it would have been the end of the nation’s tourist industry!

And finally, to top all things off. Just last week the big news headlines of the previous seven days, were – ‘Bosses of the Anti Corruption Panel found guilty of affording themselves an over the top salary pay rise, all given a suspended jail term!’

Superstitions about Animals

Here are some more Thai superstitions and Old Wives Tales:

(1) Do not kill big animals such as elephant, horse, cow, buffalo, etc. because it is a big sin
(2) Do not touch a buffalo horn because it won’t grow any more
(3) Do not turn over a puppy because it will go and eat your chicken
(4) Do not touch a horse’s tail because it will get sick
(5) Do not hit a dog with a bamboo pole meant for carrying things because it will become rabid
(6) Do not hit a cat because it is as much sinful as hitting a novice monk
(7) Do not hit a cat on the head because when you grow old your head will shake like the cat did when you hit it
(8) Do not rest a cow or a buffalo in the temple grounds because it is a sin
(9) Do not let a black cat jump across a corpse because the dead spirit will then become an angry ghost
(10) Do not raise five cats and six dogs because it will be bad luck for you
(11) Do not chain a monkey because your children will have small wrists like it has been chained
(12) Do not pat a cat’s back because you will make it thin
(13) Do not catch a firefly because your plates and bowls will break often
(14) Do not allow a husband and wife to go and see a snake together because the wife will have a miscarriage

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

Alms Round

My last trip I had the luck to stay at Wat Tepagron in Thonburi for several days with the teacher of my friend and Thai teacher Phramaha Anurak.

Photo Op

My host, Ajahn Pilom, would rise quitely every morning and go on his alms rounds leaving me to arise my lazy farang carcass as I saw fit. A couple of hours later he would return loaded down with all sorts of wonderful food and usually with someone in tow who could speak a little English. While the monks would eat I would engage the days inteperter in conversation. Well maybe conversation is a strech, most often they were wonderful exchanges of broken English and Thai with each side assuring the other that we spoke Thai or English very well! 🙂

After a few days Ajahn Pilom invited me to go out and go on alms round with him so I could see a Buddhist and Thai tradition first hand. I eagerly agreed as I was now getting over my jet lag and more accoustmed to his time schedule. The next morning I arose with Ajahn and went down to the first floor to shower. He smiled at me and tapped his forehead, as he did every time I went to the bathroom, to remind me not to bang my head on the low door transom. Alas the warning was to no avail as the large hollow thud of my forgetfulness rang throughout the Wat Once again.

Photo Op

It was beautiful morning as we left the Wat and began our walk. The sun was still down and I was very aware of the river in the air, embracing me with a comfortable coolness and tickling my nostrils with her perfume. The morning birds were singing and the dogs, which seemed to bark all night long, must now all be napping.

As we started out we were part of a small unorganized procession of monks all seeming to be on their own program heading out from the Wat towards the main streets of the area. People on their way to work or way home from work would pass us, and the site of the monk being followed by the large blonde farang carrying his bag would always warrant a second look. In a few minutes we got to the area where people were beginning to set up their days shops or were already set up and serving their morning clientele. But we weren’t stopping for alms!? Ok, we did stop once, but I was starting to wonder where all the food I seen before came from.

Photo Op

We walked out onto and down the main street and then took a turn down a narrow hard to see alley way and began an absolutely fascinating journey. For the next 2 hours we walked all over Bkk it seemed. We passed by the homes of people well to do, with expensive cars and opulent gardens, glimpsed through walled enclosures. Past the homes that people had built with an amazing variety of discarded materials. Shortcuts through fields, over klongs and through hallways in apartment buildings. Always stopping to receive alms, give a blessing and have the presence of the farang explained.

At, I guess, several prearranged spots, we would be met by Ajahn’s regular lay attendant and he would bicycle off with the alms I would transfer to him.This was an outstanding morning for me. In one sense I felt a little on display, after all how often does a monk come around with a farang temple boy in tow, particularly one almost as old as the monk! On the other hand, every one I met from all walks of life, seemed as happy as they could be that a farang would be following a monk around.

Photo Op

As I have reflected on this experience as the months have passed, what strikes me is the feeling of bonding I had with these people I met on the alms round. Even though I was from half way around the world and raised in a different culture we have, at a very deep level, a very common bond. I have never felt that same feeling here. Funny where you find things.

Do’s and Dont’s in Laos

Hi folks,

Back from Laos, and brought with me a souvenir to share. Officials at the TAL (Lao version of the TAT) must have read Steve’s famous “do’s and don’ts” blog series, as they issued a small booklet of their own with a similar title.


It isn’t anything particulary new, and it’s not as funny as Steve’s works, but the pictures are worth a look. If you look at them carefully, you can find aspects of Lao everyday life that are also found in Thai life. Also, note the similarity between Thai and Lao social conduct and culture.


Finally, there is something of interest for our linguist readers as well: compare Thai and Lao script, and see if your knowledge of Thai helps reading Lao. Many of my Thai friends can read most of it, even non-Isaan folks.

Public kissing

You can see all the pictures full-sized, in our ThaiBlogs Photoalbum. Enjoy! 🙂

If you are interested in a high-resolution version of any of the pictures, please contact me by email through