Daily Archives: May 23, 2005

A Day in Bangkok

Sunday was an important Buddhist holiday in Thailand. For the previous seven days there has been a big event at Sanam Luang in Bangkok. If you don’t know, this is the big field alongside the Grand Palace. As I wanted to go into Bangkok anyway to buy a new digital camera I thought I would spend the night in the city. Monday was a public holiday anyway. I will talk about the digital camera another time but I thought I would share with you today my experiences with transport and shopping. I didn’t take my car with me so I was relegated to true “tourist” mode.

The sky train doesn’t go as far as Samut Prakan. They have been talking about it for years but no sign of it starting. It is a shame because I don’t often get a chance to go into Bangkok. The traffic is so bad I don’t usually bother. However, if there was a sky train all the way then I probably would go more often.

So, on Sunday morning, I had to take a taxi to the nearest Sky Train station at On Nut. (By the way, this isn’t pronounced the English way of “nut” but more like a short sounding “noot”.) There is no point in telling your taxi driver to go to the sky train station as they more often than not don’t know that word. However, they do know the name of the company that runs it: BTS! So, use that word instead.

I find all taxi drivers to be very chatty. They are very complimentary too. You only have to speak a few words in Thai and they immediately say “geng maak” meaning you are very clever. If you look at the registration in the window, you will see that most of them come from northeastern Thailand. This one was also listening to folk music on the radio.

At the first traffic lights, he stopped to buy a jasmine garland for his Buddhist shrine. This cost him 20 baht. He made a wai first and then uttered some words before placing it over the rearview mirror. Immediately his attitude changed. Before he was a careful driver. Now, all of a sudden, it was like riding a rollercoaster. He tailgated everyone and changed lanes often. About half a dozen times he had near misses. But he kept going. Originally I was going to ask him to go all the way into Bangkok, but I am glad I had told him to take me to the sky train station. When I got out my legs were wobbly and I felt seasick. I never understand how they can put so much faith into the little shrines in their cars.

The sky train was a relief. It is clean, cool and fast. I have a card that I just re-charge with more money when it runs out. So, I don’t normally have to line up to buy a ticket. Actually, at the BTS stations, you have to line up twice. At the ticket window, all they do is give you the right change. Then you go to the automated ticket machines to get your ticket. If you think you will use the BTS a lot, you can buy 1-3 day passes which will save you money. I was staying at the Asia Hotel and it only took me 20 minutes to get there. It is one stop after Siam Square. The best thing about this hotel is that you can walk straight in from the station platform without going down to street level.

After checking in and taking my bags up to the room, I decided I would first go to Pantip Plaza in order to buy my camera. It probably would have taken 20-30 minutes to walk. I have done this before but I decided to go by taxi. Out of interest, I decided to ask the tuk tuk first. He said 80 baht and I said you must be crazy. He just shrugged his shoulders. So, I just got into an air-conditioned taxi instead. These start at 35 baht on the meter. Unfortunately he had to go the long way because you couldn’t turn right at the intersection. I didn’t ask why he was going the opposite way but he told me anyway. Lots of tourists complain about this but really there isn’t much they can do. Sometimes you really have to go the opposite way. Anyway, the trip only cost 47 baht.

I won’t talk much about the digital camera at this stage. However, I will say that it is worth shopping around first because shops even next to each other will have different prices. The first shop and the last shop had a 4000 baht price difference! For those people who don’t know, Pantip Plaza is heaven for the computer geek. There are about four floors of nothing but computer shops and related electronics. You can get just about anything to do with the computer including software and DVD movies. However, I did find it a bit annoying that these strange men lurking in dark corners kept coming out to ask if I wanted “sexy movie”. I kept thinking of Steve’s blog when he worked for the undercover cops. You are busted!

From Pantip Plaza I took a taxi back to the hotel. Getting lazy I suppose. The taxi driver was going on about how hot it was today and that it would rain in the evening for sure. I disagreed as it was a lovely blue sky despite the fact the rainy season had already started. Then he went on about how bad the traffic was even though it was a Sunday. He asked me if I had gone to the Buddhist festival at Sanam Luang. I told him not yet. He said that there were a lot of people there. I said I would go later in the afternoon after it had cooled down a bit.

I went back to the hotel as I wanted to charge the batteries for my new camera. I was keen to test it out as soon as I could. The booklet said I should charge it for 90 minutes so I decided I would leave it to charge while I went to eat at the local MBK Shopping Mall. This time I went by sky train. I went one stop to Siam Square and then changed lines to go one stop to the National Stadium station. From here I could easily walk straight into MBK without going down to street level.

While I was at the station at Siam Square I was surprised to see how quickly the new gigantic shopping mall had grown since the last time I was here. It is called the Siam Paragon and will be the largest shopping experience in Thailand. Siam Square is already a haven for shoppers and this will complement it nicely. I will write again about this place once it has opened.

I think MBK is one of my favourite shopping malls. It has a lot all under one roof. I think just about anything can be bought here. For example, handicrafts, cameras, mobile phones, DVDs, computer software, electronics, computer games, fashion accessories and a lot more. You could easily spend all day there as there are many restaurants and also a multiplex cinema. In fact, there is a hotel there too so you can spend the night if you wanted to!

After MBK, I took the sky train back to the hotel to pick up my camera and then took a taxi to Sanam Luang. For the record, a taxi from Siam Square to Grand Palace would cost about 60 baht which is about $1.50. I asked him to drop me off at the northern end and then I walked around taking pictures and testing out my new camera. There were certainly a lot of people there. Quite a few events had been organized on the subject of Buddhism. I was going to stay for the candlelit procession in the evening but as I had been walking around for several hours I decided to go back. I was really tired. Anyway, the Bangkok Governor was going to be there and I wouldn’t have seen much. Too much security.

Thailands Small Eateries.

All around Bangkok one finds small eateries serving Thai cuisine till late in the evening. It is not possible to locate these while traveling in a taxi or a car. Even on a lonely by-lane there would be many of these small restaurants.

All these establishments are managed very innovatively by women. The moment you walk in you can place your orders, and hot food would be served to you in less than five minutes. Apart from the standard fare, you can also suggest your own menu, following which; a new dish could be prepared.

In Moong Thong Thani, one such eatery was run by a lady who used to teach her kid in one of the tables when the pressure of customers was less. No sociological study perhaps has been made on these enterprises: how is the capital formed, who takes care of the daily purchases, how is the pricing done and what possibly is the profit. I have not seen any profile of these places, but it is for sure that many a customer would find here a tasty bite and have a unique experience.

Thai Culture Quiz

Culture and everyday life are clearly separated in most Western countries. You’ll hardly see Shakespearean values practiced in contemporary England, for instance. However, Thailand has successfully retained much of its ancient wisdom, seamlessly integrating it with the inevitable modern progress.

For this reason, I think that it’s important to be familiar with Thailand’s cultural heritage in order to get a better understanding about the Thai way of life.

Just for fun, let’s see how much you know about… Siamese literature! I was playing around with Fireworks today, and made two pictures of a famous villain from a well-known Thai story.


Villain Ayutthaya

Both images, modern and ancient, depict the same character. The first picture is a statue by a contemporary artist; the second one is part of an Ayutthaya-era mural painting. Pretty, aren’t they? 🙂 Now how about taking a shot at the following questions:

1. Who is he?
2. What story is he in?
3. How many heads does he have?
4. What city is he the ruler of?
5. What was his name in his former life?
6. What made him evil?

Try to answer as many as you can without reference at first (since I also made up the questions from memory). The questions are in order of increasing difficulty, so don’t get frustrated if you get only the first few. I’m pretty sure that our Thai friends could answer all of these without even thinking. 🙂

There will be more pictures and questions coming, along with the correct answers to these. Have fun!

A Day in the Life of Thaiphile in 3000 words or less!


Hi there it me again and it’s the weekend so time for another monster blog

My apologies in advance for enduring my narcissistic indulgence 😉

The Agenda

Today is Saturday and my day off wahoo! It’s also the monthly meeting of the North Virginia Thai Language Meetup Group of which I am a member. My friend khun Todd who I go to class with at Wat Thai here in DC found
this website  group online and sent me the link a couple of months ago. This is a group of Thai students and working professionals here in the DC-Virginia area and farang members who share a common experience or interest in Thai language and culture.

The group meets once a month usually at Cosi’s restaurant in Ballston, Virginia which is easily accessible to me on the Orange line of our city’s Metro. It looked like an interesting group from the website so I joined and went to my first meeting last month. I had a good time meeting and talking with a variety of Thai speakers and farang enthusiasts from different backgrounds. Since then I became a fairly active member working to structure Thai lesson plans and activities and also some fun trivia contests online. If you click here you can check out our new group website on Yahoo that might help us find more members since Meetup.com is a bit off the beaten cyber path.

John, our group founder, is Thai but grew up in Texas and recently moved to DC. He started the group to meet other people since he is new to the area. This month many of our core members were out of town or unable to attend so John and I debated rescheduling but the night before he called me to say he had two new members that wanted to come so we planned to go ahead and meet even though it would be a pretty small group to get together.

We planned on each member bringing our favorite Thai learning materials to share and discuss. I would bring my laptop and some of my favorite music VCD’s since I love modern Thai pop and rock music! For me it’s a good way to listen and learn how to speak Thai by hearing words over and over and reading them in Thai script on the karaoke VCD so I brought music by แคลช, กะลา, and my favorite ลาบานูน! Or, in English rather, karaoke CD’s by the bands Clash, Kala and Labanoon.

10:00 AM

The weather today is awesome unlike the mini-monsoon we had here the day before but it’s a bad sign when I go downstairs to make my morning coffee and there is no coffe mate! Ugh, oh well I’ll hit Starbucks while I am out for a caffeine fix. Things get worse however when I go to get a shower and I discover a bigger problem, my house had no water! A water main down the street burst so the whole neighborhood is without water. Oh Man!

10:30 AM

I throw a change of clothes, a towel and my toiletry kit in a bag along with my materials for the meetup and go to my friends’ house just so I can shower and shave. This means I have to take the Metro all the way into Maryland, the next state over, and then walk several blocks to my friends place. It’s not until I get halfway to Maryland that I realize in my haste I forgot to grab a belt for my pants and also my Buddha necklace that I wear. Double ‘Oh, Man!’

12:00 PM

I make it to my friends house and get a nice refreshing shower since the day is already getting very warm outside. I shave, get dressed and bang out the door as soon as possible. I am starting to panic since originally I planned to go back home after showering to drop off my clothes and pick up my laptop but now I wouldn’t have time! I don’t think I can make it back by my house to drop my clothes so I leave them with my friend to pick up later. I called John on my cell phone and explained my situation and asked if he would bring his laptop since I could not go home to get mine, I was betting that he had one which he did so at least that problem was solved.

12:30 PM

I’m running really late! The trip to get a shower took way longer than it should. Every stop on the Metro is delayed by several minutes and I have to change trains three times going from Maryland to Virginia where the resturant is that we meet at. The trip is slowed down the entire way because the trains going in both directions have to share the same track in between stations. They must be working on them since the entire Red line is slowed down. Just great! I kept having to remind myself to think the Thai way and repeat over and over to myself ไม่เป็นไร, or mai bpen rai, it was ok, it didn’t matter and everything would be fine even though the meet up was at 1:00!

1:30 PM

I finally made it! I walk through the resturant and don’t see anyone, wheres the group? They didn’t all leave already? Finally I spot John so I am relieved that nothing more can go wrong today. In fact it turns out ok since the two new members didn’t show John was the only one there having lunch by himself. I was starving by this time since I missed breakfast so it was cool to just hang out and have a nice lunch together.

Let me tell you alittle about John. He’s 100% Thai as far as I know but he has a very all-American boy look to him that girls would probably fall head over heals for. He also works out and has some pretty well developed arm muscles. Any girls interested in a hot catch who is strong but soft spoken I can forward your e-mail to him 😉 I like John because he is a pretty laid back guy. He and I have some great conversations like discussing the merits of Buddhist meditation for example so he has a really thoughtful, intelligent side. Since we both grew up in America we can also relate other things together like a randy sense of humor 😉

Later on Penpimol a Thai friend of Johns joined us after she left work and we chatted for quite a bit, or I should say, they chatted and I listened since Penny, as she likes to be called doesn’t speak much English and prefers speaking only Thai. Penny had a great sense of humor as well and it was funny to see the two of them laugh and joke easily together. Penny was trying to explain and pantomine a funny incident with shampoo and facial cream that took me a few minutes to understand! She’s shy but has a nice personality. To be honest I love to hear Thai women speak there is just something about it, very lyrical and melodic about how Thai women speak their language.

I learned two new words, ขึ้นคาน keun caan and ขวบกันปี kwup gan bpii. The first word is actually two Thai words together and the second word is actually three words together but both are expressions of the same subject roughly. Can you tell what they mean? Here’s a hint both have to do with age and thankfully, as the oldest one there, it didn’t have to do with me!

4:30 PM

We spent a good part of the afternoon together but after about 4 o’clock we needed to get going our separate ways. Penny and I left John and we rode the Metro train together since we both lived in the same direction. We chatted but it was rough in places since I am great at reading and writing Thai but speaking it, listening and comprehending when someone speaks to me in Thai is my still my weakest skill sometimes. Penny works as a travel agent and she specializes in clients who travel to Thailand and other places in South East Asia. Before we split up to go our separate ways she gave me her business card and I gave her my e-mail address.

Later on when I got home she sent a link for great discount air fare traveling around in Thailand.  Plus I also have a friend here in DC that just started working at a major airline and he told me he can get me round trip tickets first class to Bangkok for only $400! It’s all about the connections baby!

5:00 PM

Finally going home I got off the train in Woodley Park the neighborhood closest to my house. It’s a nice neighborhood there with several shops and resturants including a Thai resturant called Jandara. The building is painted purple so thats kinda cool and it had a great sidewalk seating area for eating outside. I had never eaten there before so I was curious plus I also wanted to see someone I knew that works there.

Another member of our langauge group is Bo, he’s 24 and a student also from Texas like John that is spending the summer here in DC. I had never met Bo before but he posted a note on our message board looking for a place to stay while in DC so I asked the monks at Wat Thai if they knew of somewhere he could stay. Phra Duchai e-mailed me some phone numbers to call and I passed the info onto Bo. He found a place and has been here a few weeks now.

Bo and I chatted by e-mail and on the phone a couple of times but still had not met. Making general conversation the first time we spoke I asked him what he liked to do for fun and he said “party!” Apparently the other college kids he goes to school with in Texas have enlightened him on “How to Party 101: The American College Experience.” Bo had complained he was a bit bored since his host family lives in an area with nothing much to do so he got a job at Jandara to make some money plus get out of the house. I was pleasantly surprised because Jandara is right there on my Metro stop and I walk by the resturant everyday going back and forth to work.

I wasn’t really hungry again but I knew Bo worked there every Saturday so I wanted to meet him. I walked inside and this young handsome Thai guy that looked like Bo’s picture was the first person I saw. I asked about sitting outside and he showed me to a table and handed me a menu then his mouth dropped open in shock when I thanked him in Thai and used his name! He had not recognized me and was so surprised when I told him who I was. We chatted but one of the first things he asked me was ‘what you do today, go party?!’ Typical college student!

Unfortunately Bo being a 24 year old over awed college student and me a 41, rapidly looking at 42, year old former museum manager starting a new job and new career working in a bank, well let’s just say we each have our own idea of partying. I don’t know about his but mine is usually having an extra coke and some late night TV before bedtime. I decided to get something to eat after all and ordered a light dinner.

I’m glad I did since the ไก่สะเต๊ะ gai satay, or Thai chicken skewers I had was the best I had ever eaten at any other resturant. Bo was also nice enough to have the cook make ต้มข่าไก่ Dtom kha gai for me with shrimp กุ้ง goong instead of chicken the way I like.

The late afternoon was beautiful as I sat and ate watching all the people walking by. The sun bright and shiny but a constant breeze kept everything very cool. The noise of cars and trucks on the street was there but further away in the background next to the sound of birds chirping and singing to each other in the huge shady trees lining the sidewalk. In fact Bo had to shoo away one small bird that landed on my water glass to steal a drink when I wasn’t looking! Off and on Bo would stop to talk when he not waiting on other tables although actually I was the only one eating outside. I told Bo I would meet up with him after my work on his day off Wednesday to take him around some places here in DC. I don’t know if he’ll just be looking for some place to go party but we’ll see maybe I can show him some of the museums that he might like. He’s a handsome guy with that charming Thai smile so I hope he won’t mind being seen with this middle aged farang.

Mac’Zilla: World Traveler, Baby Adventurer

Baby Adventurer: Our son Mac'Zilla

Meet my son Mac’Zilla. Well, his given name is McKinley Nile (named after the tallest North American mountain & the Nile river in North Africa) but we like to affectionately call him Mac’Zilla the Hun. My little guy came into this world of ours in 2003 when he was born at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. I think he is a born backpacker and for a 21 month old toddler he’s already got a strong travel resume.

Backpacker Baby

He took his first airplane flight across the Pacific Ocean by the time he was 2 months old. Since that first flight our baby Mac’zilla has flown on 21 airplanes thoughout his travels to 8 countries.

Mac'zilla in Laos

He’s a tough traveler & I’m sure he’s tougher than a lot of grown people I know. With little fuss he’s endured long flights, longer drives, elephant treks through the jungles of Chiang Mai, Bangkok traffic jams, put up with Burmese border guards, taken rides on thundering loud fast boats across the Mekong, camping trips to Death Valley, California, weekend jaunts to Mexico, long lay overs in Taiwan, Temple hopping in Kyoto, snow blizzards in Utah, and played on the beaches from south Thailand to Southern California. Oh, did I forget to mention that he was “made in Cambodia”? But I assure you he is all Thai-American!

Mac'zilla in Kyoto, Japan

I should also mention that his nickname came about after a trip we took to Kyoto, Japan. What could be more appropriate a name for an active, enthusiastic toddler boy who is romping around Japan? Mac’zilla (as in Godzilla). We call him Mac for short.

Mac at home in Bangkok

Pictured above is our son Mac with his two cousins in our Bangkok home. The photo was taken in August of 2004.