Daily Archives: August 1, 2005

Eating Lunch in a Thai School

Later this week I am planning on showing you the “Top 10 Thai School Lunches”. In any other blog, this probably wouldn’t be of interest. But, this is Thailand and Thai food is really delicious. What is going to be fascinating to see is what food the students enjoy eating the most at school. Will it be one of the Thai dishes or one that is Western influenced like Macaroni? You will have to wait and find out.

Today I want to talk a little about the steps students go through to eat at school. As you can see in the top picture, the students are all lined up to receive a bowl of rice soup from one of the serving ladies. What makes this a little different to Western countries is that the students will “wai’ and say thank you before they take the bowl of food. This is ingrained into the students. They must always “wai” first before receiving anything.

Other schools, particularly the secondary schools, are a little different to us. They might have lots of little stalls in the canteen and the students can choose what they want to eat every day. At my school, the menu is set and there is a four week rotation. In total we have 20 meals which I will tell you more about later. So, the students all eat the same. No-one brings food in from home. By far the majority are Buddhists and maybe only a handful are Muslims.

On most days, there will be a tray of condiments which the students will use to make their meal more tastier. In some ways you have to be a bit of a scientist to get the proportions right of sweet, sour and spicy. But the students know what they are doing and some like adding chili until the soup runs red. Actually, this is one of the good things about eating noodle soups in Thailand. What the vendor will give you is bland and not spicy at all. It is then up to you to add the different sauces to your own satisfaction. I will go into more detail another day.

Back in the classroom, the students wait for their friends to sit down. We now have too many students and it is easier for everyone to eat their lunch in the classroom. Once everyone is sitting down, the students will then say a kind of grace. This is not really religious but more ethical. It is reminding them that they should eat properly and that they should be grateful to the people who provided them with the food. The following translation of the grace was done by Gor when he was my Primary 6 student a number of years ago.

“During the time that we eat lunch, don’t speak or say things that aren’t good. Don’t make a noise. Take enough food for only one mouthful. Chew the food into little pieces so that you can digest the food properly. Before you get up from your seat, clean up your desk. Put the plate or a bowl orderly into the enameled basin. You mustn’t waste any food. You must eat it all. There are many starving children in the world. Pity all of the children that don’t have anything to eat. All of the food has a worth. When you eat food you must have good manners. Don’t chew the food loudly. Don’t talk when you are eating and don’t say something that is bad. Don’t laugh when you are eating. Thank you to our teachers that take care of us and all of the cooks that make us the food we eat. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.”

After that they then start eating. Everything is done very orderly and the students eat quietly. When they have finished, they put any waste food in a plastic bucket and their plates in an enamel bowl. Students who are on duty for that day will clean the classroom and then take the dirty plates and waste food down to the kitchen. Waste food is later fed to the stray dogs. The plates are washed by the kitchen staff. However, the spoons and forks (they don’t use knives or chopsticks) are washed by the students on duty. After they have finished eating, many of the students then go to brush their teeth.

The Mango Tree

The Mango Tree

Ramindra Road in Bangkok is wide, beautiful and long. On both sides it is dotted with lovely bungalows and apartments. There is also a major branch of Central Plaza. While walking around, I took this snap of a mango tree from atop an overbridge. The tree is standing heavy with fruit and there is a lovely house near by. This is a rare sight in the busy part of a metropolis.

Placid surroundings

This is a very beautiful scene from the city of Bangkok. The placid pond mirrors a tall building at the distance. To he right there is a water tank. All around there is lovely greenery.

There is a desire not to go any further. One might like to recline and pray, or just loose one self. If some one is going to disturb you, you might as well say, “Stop here, or gently pass”, in the manner of William Wordsworth.

The People in Power

Having devoted me last few blogs to the learning of the Thai language and the seedy goings-on in Kanchanaburi I thought I would do a u-turn and and go back to one of me fave subjects and that is, the gory details surrounding the ins and outs of the country’s leaders.

Thailand has many a great rivalry. We have Pizza Hut vs Pizza Company, Man U vs Liverpool, Nana Plaza vs Patpong, Channel 3 soap operas vs Channel 7’s but at the end of the day, nothing quite matches The Thai Army vs The Thai Police. For many a strange reason the two great forces behind ‘protecting’ the country have had it in for each other over the years and the story of a certain Maj-Gen Sae Dum vs Pol-Gen Sun says it all.

Well, our army friend in writing here, Mr Dum, had a fascinating infatuation for a collection of guns with which the police weren’t too pleased about and so they tried on occasions to have Mr Dum quit the habit of driving around Bangkok with a hundred machine guns in his car. Eventhough just a little Major General, Mr Dum had won admiration for all sorts of dangerous missions and was not in the habit of being spoken to by the pompy police. The police on getting pretty cheesed-off with the lawless behaviour of Mr Dum decided to arrest him outside his office a few years back only for the arresting officer to be on the receiving end of a dozen kickes to the head live on TV with Mr Dum swearing at the cameras to the likes of ‘Darned police have no respect for an Army Officer!’

Well, that was the start of a barrage of verbal assault thrown from both sides and especially Mr Dum’s. It grasped the attention of the country’s police chief Mr Sun and he arranged to dice up a bitta revenge and had a whole string of commandos, fifteen helicopters and three tanks pursue Mr Dum at some hotel on Ratchadapisek Road while Mr Dum was stashing up a whole car full of ammunition while a team of TV reporters are ‘in on the action’. All the viewers were soon witnessing Mr Dum madly throwing a few punches and smacking a couple of the police round the back of the head with one of his guns. Absolutey infuriated at the disrespect shown by Police Chief Sun, Maj-Gen Dum who was/is an incredibly influential military man and a personal friend of the PM’s was seen after, on a few chat shows swearing about the corrupt behaviour of Mr Sun and calling for his resignation. Well, by this time no-one was listening to his complaints as Mr Sun had become famous for cleaning up the image of the police and known for his well-known ‘anti police corruption stance’.

That was, until Mr Dum had somehow managed to receive copies of a whole stack of bank-books ‘made in the USA’ and millions of dollars in the name of Mr Sun’s minor wife in California. Not long after, Mr Sun, on getting a bash in the face by his formal wife and a right telling off by the PM Thaksin decided to hand in his resignation only for him to swear avengance against Mr Dum. As I said, Maj-Gen Dum has made quite a name for himself for his ‘dangerous missions’ and his last one, just last year, saw him sunbathing for two months, growing a two foot beard, learning the southern dialect and infiltrating the Mujahadeen in a top-secret mission in the restless deep south provinces. That was until the former police chief Mr Sun somehow got to contact the terrorist organization and give them the lowdown on Maj-Gen Dum and his antics dressed-up as a Muslim Roti Vendor pushing a cart outside the Mujahadeen’s main office. Finally, Mr Dum fled for his life and is now back in Bangkok (I think) and back to a cozy office job and still enjoying his collection of ‘big guns’. As for the former police chief, he has fled the scene.

Besides just Maj-Gen Dum, a whole flurry of other folks have had a full-on confrontation with the country’s police and the most famous of such folk over the past couple of years or so has had to be…a certain Mr Chuwit. Our massage parlour tycoon friend here Mr Chuwit was the owner of a whole fleet of naughty massage parlours on Ratchadphisek Road and made a name for himself along the lines of ‘mafia-like’. Mr Chuwit first made headlines when he decided to bulldoze down a hundred or so bar-beers along Sukhumvit as they hadn’t paid the rent owned to him for the use of his land. Next, the police got into the action and before we know it they are arresting Mr Chuwit for naughty goings-on behind the curtains of his massage parlour rooms. Fuming at this, Mr Chuwit was seen ranting away live on TV for the next couple of months claiming the reason behind his arrest was that he hadn’t paid enough money under the table to the local police. A total of more than fifty high ranking police officers got transferred out of the area because of the so-called ‘kick-backs’ they had been receiving from Mr Chuwit over the years.

Mr Chuwit spent just a night or so behind bars and even got a prison warden sacked from his job after the warden had charged him a few thousand baht for his wife to bring in a plate of fried rice for him. Fearing for his life of course, Mr Chuwit decided to become a politician and after a decent showing in the Bangkok Governor Elections in which he came in third, is now a party-list MP for the Chart Thai Party. Quite amazing really, for a guy with a Masters Degree from the US and a ‘lover-of-the ladies’ to be liked so much by the Thai people. Then, just last year he was down the police station again after his wife had reported him for ‘punching her in the face’ a few times. On being questioned by ITV News he stated ‘This is personal business, but all I want to say is that she deserved it. I also told her to watch her big mouth from now on or I’ll give her another big slapping!’

In fact, along with the thai-blog’s blogger – BKK Inkslinger, I’ve actually seen Mr Chuwit just the once, and that was ironically at a Catholic Church along Soi Ruam Rudee one Christmas Eve Night while listening to Mass by Father Joe!

Then we have the very well-known story of a certain former police captain cum lawyer cum politician from the Bang Mot District of Thonburi named something like Mr Chalert, famed also for his ‘mafia-like’ stance and the three obnoxious sons of his. Following in their father’s footsteps, the three sons were soon terrorizing the bars, pubs and discos of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket and being arrested on a handful of occasions for physically assaulting anyone for staring them in the eye or not showing them enough respect. After a certain ‘happening’ at a disco (on Ratchadaphisek Road again!) in which a police sargaent was shot in the head, one of the sons fled the scene for 6 months and gone missing while ‘dad’ collected enough evidence to prove his son had nothing to do in the killing. As it is against the law in Thailand to critcize a judge’s decision I can only say that ‘It must have been a fair trial’. I don’t think many people in the senate were too pleased with the behavior of this one time popular politician and we rarely see his face on TV these days. As for his three sons, they have been banned by the police from entering any disco/pub for the next five years!

One other very familiar face to be seen virtually every night in the country’s pompous cocktail lounges and expensive discos has to be Mr Patong-ko, the beloved son of the Prime Minister. Well, not so long ago ‘dad the PM’ must have gotten tired of his sons behaviour which included flunking the exams of a dozen universities, drinking with a whole stack of lovely ladies every night and getting out of bed at three in the afternoon that ‘dad’ set up an advertising business for him. Even though Mr Patong-ko hadn’t a clue about such a business, his company were soon, miraculously, winning a fair share of ludicrious contracts including a massive one for the Bangkok Underground. When asked whether his father had been influential in winning some of the deals, quoted to the press, ‘Don’t talk nonsense, I won all those contracts all by myself!’

After a grand total of fifty years in the planning our new airport ought to be opened just a year late, next year. Unless you’ve been living on the Planet Mars you must have heard about the supposed corruption going on about that one. So much so, that i can’t be bothered writing about it, as it would take up the whole of the main page of thai-blogs. You may of read about some of the ‘wacko’government ideas in a couple of me old blogs but one of me favourites had to be the propostion to extend the skytrain route to the new Suwannaphum Airport miles outside of Bangkok. What a ridiculous plan that was after the government had decided that all the foreigners on arriving at the airport would be next seen climbing the stairs of the Skytrain with all their luggage in order to get to their hotel, downtown.

I have to admit, since being a teacher, I’ve known quite a few people during the time that I’ve spent in Thailand but can’t go giving away some of their so-called secrets on a public website. But for sure there are a lot of decent influential figures in Thailand and my favourite politician has to be ‘Ong Art’ the Head of The Democratic Party of Bangkok, based in Bangkok Noi, he has spent all his time fighting the poverty in this certainly ‘seedy’ area of Bangkok and not even a famous TV Presenter cum actor for the ‘Thai Love Thai’ Party could knock him out in the last elections.

This is the thrid part of the series and me two other ones on Thailand’s Leaders are in me archives. Titled ‘Are you being Serious?’

Related category: Stories from the Past

Also see: Are You Being Serious? and Are You Being Serious…Again?

You can contact me by sending an e-mail to


Gory = horrible
To be cheesed-off = to be angry
Dice up = to make up
Infuriated = really angry
Stash up = fill up
Bash = punch
Cozy job = easy job
A flurry = a decent variety
Rant = shout
Pompous = หรูหรา
Wacko = crazy

Learning Thai language at a language school – GOOD

Yesterday I finished my 40 hours of learning Basic Thai language with Thai Solutions (www.thaisolutions1502.com). It was a bit sad to finish the course as it has been very enjoyable, educational and I will miss the interaction with the excellent staff at Thai Solutions who have been very nice to me.

I have been meaning to write about my experience learning Thai language for a while as I would like to encourage others to learn Thai. It is a very beneficial thing to do. But I must admit that now I have finished the course and experienced the wonderful teachers at Thai Solutions, I also want to blatantly advertise for them as well.

Learning Thai is much easier than it seems, although I am not yet fluent and certainly it does take work, it is possible. If you are lazy, like me, there are plenty of companies available (in Bangkok and Chiang Mai at least) that can teach foreigners Thai language. I have only experienced one, but I would assume and hope that most others are probably pretty good also.

My course cost about 5000 Baht (I think) and it was done 3 days a week, 2 hours per day. My teacher was an excellent teacher who taught us not only Thai language but passed on plenty of information about Thai culture as well. She spoke very good English and understood the learning difficulties that foreigners have with Thai language.

In the class were 3 other people, an English man, an Indian woman and a Filipino woman, who were all very nice and fun to learn with. The classes were relaxed and enjoyable (as you’d expect in Thailand) and there was plenty of opportunity to ask questions and go at whatever pace suited. Most of us could speak a tiny amount of Thai before we started and the group structure was very good for us, although our teacher suggested that perhaps some-one with absolutely no knowledge of Thai would be better off studying 1 on 1 with a teacher to start with.

By the end of the course, I am still not a fluent Thai speaker, but I am much closer than I was before. For example, I still cannot understand most of what is being said on Thai TV; however my conversations with taxi drivers can go for about 15 minutes with a reasonable amount of information being exchanged. Prior to the course, I could say hello, how are you, where I wanted to go, how much and thank you. Not exactly in depth discussions. My ability to communicate with my girlfriend’s kids has increased as has my ability to communicate to the people I interact with everyday, making my life and theirs, better.

About a third of the way through the course, I took some Australian volunteers to Chiang Rai and we traveled through some hill tribe villages and taught some Basic English. I was very happy to be able to communicate and understand much more from the local people than I previously could and pass that on to the volunteers. Having a bit more Thai language I was even able to help my monk friend and his Abbott teach meditation to the Australian volunteers.

One of the interesting things I learnt from being able to talk to the hill tribe people was this: One lady asked me how much I would sell the photos I was taking of her and the other hill tribe people for. I said that I would not sell them, they were to keep and show my friends and family. She said no, some of the hill tribe people had been to the city and seen the post cards for sale with hill tribe people on them. They had made the logical deduction that the westerners who travel so far with such expensive camera equipment and constantly take photos must be doing it to make money. She eventually believed me that only a few people sell their photos and for most they are just to keep and show family. It made me even more amazed at how polite, considerate and kind these people are, that they had thought that we were making money from them, but still they were always the most hospitable and kind people to us.

Clearly anyone who is living or staying in Thailand for a reasonable time could benefit from learning Thai. Your experiences and understanding will greatly improve and you will get much more from your stay. Added to that, I found studying Thai was fun and I am motivated to continue with my studies so as I can one day be fluent.