Daily Archives: November 28, 2005

Koh Kret Tour

This is my pleasure to have the opportunity to be as a guest writer in this blog. Herewith something about me, I married with my German husband since August 2005. We agree to land our new family in the land of thousand smiles because my husband loves Thailand.

On last Saturday, we went to the river island namely “Koh Kret” where locates in Nontaburi province. Koh Kret is very famous in handmade pottery and you can see how they make it in real. We arrived at the pier about 6.00 pm and we had to hire the long-tailed boat for sightseeing and it costs 400 bath per trip. Actually, I noticed on the blackboard, which places in the front of the pier, it lists the price of sightseeing boat and the cost is only 350 baht per trip. Maybe the cost is higher when it comes dark because the driver has to be more careful in controlling the long-tailed boat because there is no electric light on the river. The boat is very rapid and makes us feel very exciting when the boat hits the wave. We cannot see the scenery of shores because of the darkness. I told my husband that along the shores represent the way of living of traditional Thai people that living along the river sides and traveling via boat. I like this kind of living, it is simplicity and there is not much pollution unlike in the big city. If we traveled in the morning, we would have seen those beautiful sceneries and people along the river sides. Four hundred baht is reasonable price for travelers like us, it would be cheaper if you accompany with more friends in order to share the cost of the tourist boat.

Around Koh Kret, you can find many coffee shops provide coffee and tea that fill in the clay pot, just pay 25 baht and you will have the coffee clay jar back home with you. Our first visit is the only one coffee shop that was opened at that time. Many shops were closed even it was only 6.00 pm but the darkness covered the village. We ordered ice coffee and we had to select the clay jar. There are many figures and shapes of the clay jars and it is hard to choose because they are all look beautiful in our eyes. Finally, we can select one and got our ice coffee. Our chubby guide leaded us to the earthenware factory where provides various types of pottery and demonstration how to make the pottery to travelers. The opening time is 8.00 am – 5.00 pm. it means we had no opportunity to see the demonstration but we can buy the pottery. Actually, the earthenware factory here is only a wooden house with larger area, in other words we call it as family factory. We explored around the factory and bought 2 dark bowls with chopsticks. The bowl provides 2 holes for inserting and placing the chopsticks, it costs 40 baht per set – one bowl with one set of wooden chopsticks. We intend to use this bowl when we eat instant noodles. We also bought 1 little carving earthen jar in order to place the fragrant cone incense and the fragrant fume will pass through the sculpture’s hole. Only 35 baht and you can have the magnificent carving earthen jar at home.

Moreover, we bought 1 set of earthenware for grilling pork on the clay pan and 1 set of earthenware for making Thai dessert called “Khanom Krok”. It seems not difficult to make “Khanom Krok”, the combination of coconut milk and rice flour cooking on the hot clay pan. But it is not that easy as you think, I tried to make it at home on last Sunday and I failed. It is not only putting the set of clay pan on the water for one night in order to preventing the pan from cracking but you also have to stir the smashed coconut for getting the coconut oil on it. Making “Khanom Krok” is the famous playing for Thai girls (in the past) including me who ever played like that when I was a little girl. The point is I have never prepared ingredients and the clay pan by myself but my aunt did it for me, I had only use a stainless spoon for take the “Khanom Krok” out of the pan. Do you know the source of making “Khanom Krok” at home with your family? I have just realized that it supports the family in terms of sharing, helping each others and make us closer. I think it seems like making cookie with parents in western culture.

I recommend that we should buy “Khanom Krok” because it is not easy to make it as I mentioned above, so just buy it only 10 baht per one vessel. Normally, you can find “Khanom Krok” in the morning near fresh market. In the past time, “Khanom Krok” placed on a vessel made of banana leaves stitched into square or pentagon shape by bamboo sticks. It smells very good when the hot “Khanom Krok” places on the banana leaves. Accordingly, traditional Thai people used to eat food on the leaves such as banana and lotus, which are very easy to find those leaves and wrap the food.

Let’s get back to our trip, we went to Thai Dessert House and bought some souvenirs – Thai Dessert. During the day, they will demonstrate how to make Thai dessert and you could enjoy it. Perhaps you can ask for a chance to do it by your own. Thai dessert is neat and beautiful particularly the name of dessert is somewhat good name.

The end of our trip was feeding fish in front of the temple, which we do not know the name of the temple. Buy one bucket of dried sliced bread (I assume that the bread is expired) and start to feed the fish. Throwing one piece of sliced bread and waiting for a minute and then large school of fish appears. We enjoy this trip so much and we will come back here again but in the morning time so that we can see the magnificent scenery along the riverside.

Off The Beaten Track…..Suphanburi

Just go to any old forum or website about travelling and you’ll come across a plentitude of questions, stories and reports concerning ‘getting off the beaten track’. But, at the end of the day however, most tourists/travellers do nothing of the sort. They are instead, found eating a banana pancake and watching a guesthouse DVD/Movie or walking around some backpacker ghetto studying their Lonely Planet like a missionary. While nearly every single backpacker ‘claims’ to be ‘getting off the beaten track’ the closest they get to such a thing are the same old haunts of Khao Sarn Road, Koh Samui and Krabi. A few of the so-called adventurous even make it up to the country’s north-east (Isarn), the least visited region of Thailand, but contrary to rumour you will still come across whole platoons of foreigners – mostly living there.

Our webmaster here, Mr Richard, has written loadsa blogs on his adopted province of Samut Prakarn, but as for me however, my almost one year of Thai blogs has seen me fail to write a single story about the place I live at, Suphanburi. Even Richard’s province of Samut Prakarn, though it is kinda off the beaten track it still attracts a lotta foreign tourists to the likes of The Ancient City and Crocodile Farm etc… As for Suphanburi, 99% of the tourists here are Thai and I can count on my fingers the number of backpackers I have spotted during my couple of years here. So, if you are really thinking about ‘getting off the beaten track’, then coming to a place like Suphanburi is doing just that. So, let me take the opportunity this week to give you a bitta insight into….. the province of…. Suphanburi.

The first thing you will notice when arriving in the province is the state of the roads. Unlike the rest of the country with badly paved 2 lane pot-holed cut-ups, Suphanburi prouds itself with state of the art 8 lane highways lined with meticulously planted shrubs and flowers with hardly a sign of garbage or garland vendor in sight. Then on top of that, these highways are home to a whole flurry of brand-new government buildings and schools built with a flavoursome Thai-style theme. The PM Thaksin just last year called Suphanburi ‘a model province’ and claimed it’s the country’s ‘most developed’ outside of Bangkok.

All the thanks can go to one man and a native of Suphanburi Town himself, a certain… Mr Banharn Silpa-archa, former PM of Thailand and still, til this day, one of the country’s most influential politicians. Thankfully, during his reign as PM he concentrated mostly on developing his home province and nearly every ‘new’ infrastructure in the province has a Banharn theme. There are something like seven brand new schools adequately named ‘Banharn-Jaemsai 1’, Banharn-Jaemsai 2’ (Jaemsai is his wife’s name). Then smack bang in the middle of town you can go up the 123 metre Banharn Tower, visit the Banharn Clocktower and if you are in town with your old granny and needing her to get safely across the road, there are hundreds of over-head walkways named ….. Banharn-Jaemsai bridge.

Poor old Mr. Banharn used to get a right old slamming by the foreign media during his time as PM who they claimed was spending 90% of the national budget on Suphanburi province alone. But one good note about Banharn and unknown to them – Banharn was and still is the only politician who came up with this ‘Farangs in Thailand ought to have rights’ ie.. he was the first to pass the idea that Farangs had the right to Thai citizenship, purchase small plots of land and spoke out against any two-tiering price system! Unlike the rest of the country, where the government dictates that foreigners have to pay ten times the price what a Thai pays, Banharn dictates that foreigners pay the Thai price! Kind old man, just visit any of the Banharn run tourist attractions in the province and you will see big signs reading ‘Thai people 30 Baht’, ‘Farang 30 Baht’. Once, when asked by the Thai media to why Farangs shouldn’t pay more, he replied ‘When I go to Farangland I don’t see the locals there charging us Thais ten times the price as the locals, so, I think it’s only fair!’

Just mention the name Suphanburi the next time you are in the country and besides just its politicians cropping to mind, the word ‘Singer’ is synonymous with Suphanburi. The province’s most famous singer of all time, just has to be Phumpuang Duangchan (Pheung). For you foreigners who haven’t the faintest knowledge about her, well.. she is nicknamed ‘The Queen of Luk Thung’ (Thai country music) and the next time you get fed up with seeing a myriad of sexy scad-looking dancers and singers bopping across your TV screen 24 hours a day, you have only one person to blame and that is.. Ms Phumphuang herself – she started the whole thing off. Funnily enough, Phumphuang wasn’t a Suphan native at all, but instead she was born in Isarn before moving here as a child. Unfortunately, Pheung wasn’t around for long and passed away at the tender age of 31. The temple which houses her remains is til this day a mecca for folks to go, make merit, and pray that they win the governemnt lottery! And i’m not joking! Besides just Phumphuang, the province has been the breeding ground for a whole host of Thai Country Music singers, no other province can beat Suphan in that aspect. Second to Phumpuang in terms of musical success has to be Suphan’s very own ‘Ad Carabao’ leading singer of Carabao, who are a kind of legend themselves these days in the League of ‘Songs for Life (Thai Folk Music)

So, what is there to do in Suphanburi? Well, since the provincial town is run by Mr.Banharn, if it is groovy naughty night-life you’re after then just do not come here! Banharn has made Suphanburi, the only provincial town in Thailand free of ‘lady-of-the-night’ activity and after he originally became PM he closed down all the ‘rub-a-dub’ massage parlours etc…. Of course, I witness with my own eyes a bit of activity around but it’s very ‘hush-hush’ as the forces in power here, unlike the rest of the country, are in the habit of enforcing the law! Rather ironic though, in that it was Banharn that brought the popular, yet infamous businessman/politician Mr Chuwit (The former…Massage Parlour Tycoon) into his very own.. Chart Thai Party!

Believe it or not, Suphanburi is older than both Sukhothai and Ayutthaya and was the major meeting point for battles between the Thais and Burmese as the province kinda lies half way between Ayutthaya and Burma. The province’s major attraction is Don Chedi and each year there is a funky ten-day festival held every January to celebrate King Naresuan’s victory over the Burmese King which led to the Burmese being booted out of the country. Definetly, in my opinion, one Thailand’s most impressive festivals. Then, we have Beung Chawak, straight out of Banharn’s book. It’s a huge articial dam/lake thingy, that’s just been turned into a wildlife sanctuary, with a great aquarium, crocodile shows and home to flocks of rare birds. Pretty good value for money at something like 30 baht all in!

Then in the middle of town we have the wonderfully named Banharn Tower surrounded by one of the country’s cleanest and tidiest public parks which plays host to a swimming pool/funpark etc…. again great value for money at – 10baht! Then, 20km out of town, is Suphan’s one and only ‘Buffalo Village’ that prides itself on the ‘preservation of the buffalo’ and even puts on ‘Buffalo shows’. Sadly though, as this place is privately owned, foreigners are charged the Farang price.

So, if you are interested in coming to Suphan, the province is just a hundred odd km from Bangkok and it takes about an hour and a half to get here by bus or passenger van (75 mins). There is even the groovy Suphanburi – Bangkok Noi train that goes once a day, travels at a maximum speed of 31km/hr and takes something like 3 and a half hours to reach it’s destination. But well worth the ride, if you are wishing to…’Get off the beaten track!’

The province’s website is at www.suphanburi.go.th

Welcome to Suphan

Stories from the Thai Press – 01

Scoop of the Day – ‘The Deep South’s New Brain-Washing Drug!’
(Translated from the Thai language Newspaper Daily News 28 –11 –05)

‘It had been rumoured for ages that drug-abuse was a major factor concerning the unrest in the deep-south’ and for the first time the Daily News can report that the rumour is…yes indeed, a fact!

According to a brand new report issued by the Army Chief for the south, Lt. Gen Kwanchart, the southern menaces have been producing and knocking off a newly-invented highly dangerous and toxic drug.

This drug which is known as ‘See Khun Roy’ is being sold cheaply to potential troublemakers in the hope that they will be brainwashed and so, enticed into acts of terrorism. The Army Chief has called the new brain-washing drug ‘a powerful new weapon in the hands of the Southern terrorists!’

‘See Khun Roy’ is a drinkable tasty narcotic which consists of ‘Bai Krathom’ (A banned Thai plant with effects similar to marajuana), ‘Mosquito Coil Repellent!’, Pepsi Cola, ‘Codeine-Based Cough Mixture’ and the Date-Rape Drug – ‘Aprazolam Xanax’.

Lt Gen Kwanchart said that huge quantites of this brain-washing drug are being sold freely and openly to potential troublemakers/terrorists on the streets of Yala province.

If yer mad enough to fancy trying a bottle of this stuff, Lt Gen Kwanchart also mentioned that a 1.25 litres bottle sells at just 100-150 baht!


You can find the original Thai story at thailandQA.com
Also, read the archives for Stories from the Thai Press

Left v.s. Right

I left a comment on Richard’s entry about Thai Manners that:

A natural born lefty, my instinct tells me to use my left hand first. So when it comes to the lessons in manners in school, I kept getting into trouble for using my left hand in giving and receiving items.

As it turns out, this left v.s. right conversation has sparked some interests, and brought up another cultural nugget I should point out.

Thailand is a right-handed society. From what I could find on this Sunday morning, this belief of ours are influenced by both India and China. In India, it’s the left hand that does the dirty work, namely, well, wipe yourself after you’ve gone to the bathroom. In China, it’s the linguistic point of view where “left” means improper.

Again according to linguistics, it’s easy to see in English that left is bad. In many European languages, “right” stands for authority and justice. Being right-handed has also historically been thought of as being skillful: the Latin word for right-handed is “dexter,” as in dexterity also means right. Ambidextrous actually means to be right-handed with both hands.

On the other hand—no pun intended—the English word “sinister” comes from Latin and it originally meant “left” but took on meanings of evil and/or unlucky by the Classical Latin era. The modern-Italian “sinistra” has both meanings of sinister and left.

RIGHT hand is the correct hand. LEFT hand, well, that’s all that’s left. In Thai, on the other hand, there is no distinction in the language. Right is Kwah and left is Sai. They don’t mean anything other than just that. But yet, the implications that left is evil doesn’t have to do with words.

That is why you use your right hand to hand people things, and to feed yourself with your own hand or with a spoon or chopsticks. The only time you’re allowed to use your left to feed yourself is when you use a fork and a knife. *Additional info thanks to Richard S’ query* I was brought up on the European/Continental dining etiquettes, surely passed down from the Princess Grandmother. The knife is in the right hand, and fork in the left. Unlike American style which the fork is switched to the right, the fork stays on the left hand tines down.

When I was growing up, being a lefty is a bad thing. It makes you different. A freak of some sort.

I remembered grabbing pencils with my left hand back in pre-school. One of the pieces of early childhood memory I have. The teacher would put the pencil in my right hand to write with. “Everyone is using their right hand, sweetie,” was the reason I was given then. I didn’t dispute it. But then again, when it comes to Thai calligraphy sort of thing, I never really score well. Actually, neither did my English cursive later on in life.

Then there was this girl in kindergarten at Mater Dei. She is half-Thai half-white. I believed she was born in the US. She was allowed to write with her left hand. I remembered her having a lot more problem once we get to 4th grade, learning cursive, and starting to use fountain pen for our work. It was more difficult for her to write without smudging all over the place.

Similar thing happened when I was about 9 years old and starting tennis lesson at Polo Club. The evening before, I, the gorgeous Chris Everts, was in an intense match against that evil Martina Navratilovas, smacking the pillows to her left and right all over the LivingRoom-bledon. My brother walked in:

“You’re holding the racket in the wrong hand.”
“No, I’m not!”
“Yes, you are!”
“But this hand works for me.”
“Yeah, but how’d you like to be in a tennis class all by yourself?”
“What do you mean?”
“Lefties have to be taught separately. They hit all the opposite ways normal people do. Do you want to play by yourself?”

The next morning at tennis, I held the racket on the correct hand. My forehand stroke, still, flails about yet my double-handed backhand stroke has both accuracy and power. Go figure.

And then, there was a left-handed girl in class. Sure enough after general drills, she went off with another instructor to a private session. I’ve known a few lefties in my school as well.

One thing these lefties I’ve known all had in common are one of these: having a Western parent or really “progressive” ones, or they grew up in another country. They’ve already been allowed to use their left hands for a while before joining the “right” herd so they were allowed to continue being a lefty.

Lucky for them. And poor me. I’m all confused.

I write with my right. I play racket sports with my right. I play softball lefty both throwing and hitting. I dribble and shoot hoops with my left hand. I carry heavy stuff with my left hand. I’ve learned to use the scissors the “right” way, played guitar the Lennon way (Again, I picked up the guitar lefty, and my brother again “corrected” me. Nobody can play the left-handed guitar unless you’re Paul McCartney, he said), and managed to figure out the can opener eventually.

And of course, there’s the trouble with manners class as my left hand shoots out to offer and receive things.

I don’t think I’m truly ambidextrous, but I’m sure I am a born lefty who was forced to do all things on the right side, and happen to adjust very well to the right-handed world.

I haven’t noticed the reverse in the trends until Khun Don’s comments:

During my visits to the Kingdom, various Thais have told me that to be left handed in Thailand is considered to be very intelligent -is this true? – or just flattery? Anyone know?

I haven’t heard about that one before, but I am willing to believe that the belief that left is bad perhaps is being overthrown. (Folks, feel free to fill me in on this.) Perhaps it is another effect of the Western influence on Thai culture.

Maybe the words are out that lefties are “smarter” and/or “more creative”. Scientifically, when you compare statistics of lefties v.s. righties in the intellectual arena, there is no conclusive evidence. Although, it is true that left-handers’ brains are structured differently in a way that widens their range of abilities and the genes that determine left-handedness also govern development of the language centers of the brain. That’s enough research any Thai parents need to hear to allow their kids to carry on with their left hands.

But then again, lefties are also linked to higher rates of dyslexia, stuttering and child autism among others. Oh, just some minor details compare to potentially better grades and successful future.

As much as I’m happy for the next generations that they can now use their left hands, but we are still going to hit that social ceiling set by hundreds of years of culture when it comes to using the correct right hand. It’s just one of the things we can’t fight to change–and not sure if we want to. Just another right-handed way we have to adapt to the best we can.

Then again, that’s no problem. After all, we are the smart ones. 😉