Monthly Archives: January 2007

New exhibition by Pilaiporn Pethrith


A new exhibition by Pilaiporn Pethrith is running at the On Art Gallery close to Rama 6 for the next 2 weeks. Pilaiporn works across a variety of media and genres and has had more international exposure than many Thai artists.


The new exhibition is entitled SOS#3 (Series of Situations) . The medium is INKJET PRINT ON CANVAS with painted details. The main inspiration behind this work is the mythological character “ELF” combined with Pilaiporn’s past experience of living in Nepal. The gods there only have one eye, therefore her “ELF” character has been projected as an one-eyed cat which has been placed against a background of political turmoil and war; thus producing a distinct contrast in the minds of the viewers.

For some pictures from the exhibition please click on SOS#3.

For further information about Pilaiporn and a fuller selection of her work, go to her homepage on our website.


Pilaiporn has been using Elf imagery for some years now. On the left you can see a cashmere carpet made in Nepal in 2004.

The elf is a mythical/magical being with the power to change events.

Pilaiporn’s elf, as represented in SOS#3 is first an observer of controversial moments in history but also, second, a being with the non-human power to transform.

The elf represents human desire to end war and to eliminate political, sexual and social discrimination, thereby creating genuine harmony amongst mankind.

One could argue, therefore, that although the Elf is an observer of despair, it is also a symbol of hope.

We have talked in previous posts about contemporary art and “message”. See for example In Your Face.

Pilaiporn’s message is beautifully presented and subtle in its expression. This is art with thought and we highly recommend a viewing.

The Weather in Thailand

Thai weather

Probably the most common question we receive in our mailbox and over at the forums is advice on the weather in Thailand. Everyone wants to know “When to go?”. Well, the optimum time to go is between November and February when most areas don’t have any rain and the temperature is at its coolest. Our “little winter” happens towards the end of December and doesn’t really last more than one week. However, this year we seemed to have had at least three “little winters”. This morning the temperature in Central Thailand went down to a very chilly 20 Celsius. The windchill factor made it seem even colder. I know people don’t believe me when I talk like that, but it was very chilly. Just take a look at the picture of the students in assembly this morning. That should be a sea of white. But, the majority of students were wearing jackets today. I was wearing a jacket too.

By February it usually starts to warm up. The hottest month is April which is our summer holidays. The Songkran Festival also takes place in April and splashing water on people is a good way to cool down. For most of Thailand the Rainy Season is June to October. However, the rains can start as early as Songkran. In the Central Region (Bangkok) it usually only rains at the start or end of the day. It will only rain during the day if there is a weather front passing through. We usually get the floods in October when the rivers are at their highest level. In the north (Chiang Mai) their rainy season is similar to Bangkok though they have their floods earlier. Down south they have different monsoons depending on which side you are on. On the West Coast (Phuket and Phi Phi) they have heavy monsoons from May to October. On the East Coast (Koh Samui) they sometimes get some of this rain but their monsoon really doesn’t arrive until October and lasts as late as January. Their periods of rain will last much longer.

The Big Brother Project!

One of the capital’s most infamous ‘Gem Scam Shops’
(Photo Courtesy of

(The following blog was published 27 Jan at ‘The Nation’. Here below, however, is the originally submitted un-edited version)

Well, it truly appears that the respected ‘Golden-Oldies’ in power are working as quickly as their age allows. The lawful procedures against the country’s most-wanted, a few former politicians, have been moving at such a snail’s pace that if they continue like this then the suspects will soon be too old and frail to even stand, let alone walk into a courtroom.

With due respect though, the speedy awesome arrests of the supposed Bangkok Bombers last week caught everyone by complete surprise. We have read though, a myriad of theories concerning the actual masterminds behind the bombings. It has been laughed, that perhaps the bombers were in fact working for some dodgy close-circuit camera firm which will soon be in the bidding for the mega Big-Bangkok-Brother project. Another theory goes that they were even employed by a company producing transparent rubbish bins. Or howabout this one – that ridding the city center of all the bins is just a ploy by some inscrupulous law enforcers to make stacks of cash from the average unsuspecting tourist. When the newly arrived is unable to find a rubbish bin to toss his cigarette butt, he’ll be forced to just flick the thing onto the sidewalk. A serious violation of the land’s litter law. And since the offender is a rich tourist, it will be only right that his fine is ten-times that of the locals’.

So, the government with their groovy Big-Brother project will soon be able to save the capital from any more bombs and catch the culprits on camera. In fact, when the camera are up and running the officials will actually be able to witness the antics of a whole variety of nasty elements operating on the streets. We have been informed that overhead-walkways will be near the top of the ‘urgency list’. Now, what splendid places those are for criminal gangs. Instead of catching any bozo bombers in action, I think the authorities will instead, be witnessing another kind of bozo business, and that is the ‘beggar gangs’.

Shouldyou wish to witness such amazing innovation, it is advised to turn up at a place like Victory Monument just before dawn to see a bunch of supposed legless lepers leaping out the back of a pick-up. Following behind are a few so-called mothers carrying imported Khmer babies. The poor toddler next has to suffer a day of hunger as the fake mother, needing to have him look more pitiable by wailing all day, refrains from sticking any milk in his mouth. Later in the day, the illegally imported beggars are on their way back to their boss’ garage and courtesy of him, they are all a hundred baht better off.

Perhaps too, with the cameras posted on pedestrian overhead-walkways in the Sukhumvit area they will also be able to catch red-handed, drunk Farang tourists, whom in desperate need of a leak, feel the instant urge – to urinate over the side.

Now, another gang out there in the same areas faking their daily living, coaxing well-earned cash out of unsuspecting pedestrians are those carrying brochures and dodgy IDs, claiming to be charity workers for some make-believe foundation for the underpriviliged. After mingling amongst other – verified volunteers, they can be later seen at a nearby open-air restaurant, scoffing on a big fancy steamed fish, chugging down the whiskey while chatting to their minor wives on the phone.

Besides crossings to get the cameras first, the city parks are also right up there in terms of priority. Now, I don’t know about you, but I doubt many bozo bombers are gonna be caught in the Sanam Luang area. But who knows, if the elderly government wants to witness peculiar goings-on at night they will certainly enjoy another sort of toothless bombshell. Those are of course the women, very often around the same age as the government, trying to sell their personal services to quite obviously desperate customers.

While on the subject of ‘ladies of the night’, there are packs of indesirable criminals plaqueing the areas of Sukhumvit’s early sois and Pattaya’s beach road in the wee hours – and those are the infamous pick-pocketing big buxom transgenders. Quite easy to spot, the camera officials will be seeing with their very own eyes, transgenders – standing 6 foot four in high-heels, usually stood in pairs, confronting single male tourists. Approaching with the likes of “Oh, you so handsome man”., the tourist believes that the so-called girls are only being friendly. Next however, after thinking that the naughty girls were only pinching his behind, he is horrified to find that his dollar-packed wallet, is missing. In the meantime however, the thiefs have disappeared down some dark alley, never to be seen again.

Now, another platoon of cheats that could soon be framed on candid-camera, are the tuk-tuk drivers who can be found lingering outside of the capital’s tourists attractions. There are two kinds, those who charge a small fortune for a twenty minute ride and others who charge un unbelievably cheap – 10 baht! Cheap-charlie backpackers thinking that they are getting one heck of a bargain, are soon fuming at the ears, when they learn that they are being escorted to some jewelry store knocking off immitation gem stones. Should they refuse to go in, the tuk-tuk guy soons

pleads poverty with tales of his milkless children and admits that he was only doing it for the commission. Getting their sympathy with such a sob story, he next asks them to help him out and explains that if they pop into an Indian tailor’s shop for 10 minutes he gets free petrol coupons. What another quack-wack story and tourists just lap it up. Of course, the drivers don’t get petrol vouchers at all, but actually – 200 baht in cash.

And how about those other crooks who prey on gullible tourists in the Sanam Luang area with the likes of “Today, the Emerald Buddha temple closed, is the holiday”. Soon, the tourists are meeting up with the above tuk-tuk driver and his banana-shake backpackers.

Hopefully, the government will soon have the evidence to clampdown too on those taxi-drivers who semi-illegally park outside of nightspots all night hoping to score a few generous tourists. Dare argue with one of the guys along the lines of “Hey this is this against the law, you must turn on the meter” and he’ll be whistling over a pack of cronie buddies who are going to threaten you with a serious beating. Without a doubt, the worst violent species in this respects, just have to be Pattaya’s very own songthaew drivers. Once I had my very own unpleasant experience. Hopping out of the back, I quickly slipped the driver the correct ‘local fare’. Furious with a cheeky Farang trying to get away with paying the Thai price, storms out of his vehicle while throwing his arms in the air like some wild monkey. After trying to explain that I worked and lived in the country, snatches out a big plank of wood from under his seat and threatens to plonk me over the head with it.

And finally, the camera-officials expecting to perform a serious job trying to catch wanna-be bombers fleeing the scene, may instead be in fits of laughter when they see daily scenarios of the ‘stash and dash’. At a typical sidewalk in front of some popular market, the capital’s unofficial vendors love nothing more than planting their goods on the ground in complete violation of the municipality police regulations. The boys arriving in droves to seize all their stock, are instantly spotted by the vendors – who next, frantically stash up all their stuff in a couple of big flimsy plastic bags.

Next, there you have it, the classic everyday Bangkok scene of vendors with stock-in-arms and their sarongs flapping the air, running for dear life while big-bellied overweight cops give chase in hot pursuit.

Traditional Thai Style Houses

Central Thailand

Thai Style House from Central Thailand

The characteristics of Thai houses in the Central Plain are as follows: High floor level allowing an average height man to walk with clearance above his head and another floor of about forty centimetres below the main floor as to allow free ventilation and sitters on the main floor to hang their legs in comfort. High floor level is also for the following reasons:

1. Safety from wild beasts and possible intruders during night time.
2. As a measure against any inconvenience from flooding.
3. Space under the house for storage of farming equipment such as “kwian” (buffalo drawn wagon), planks, boats, ploughing set, large frying pan, etc.
4. Floor space under the house is used for producing handicraft, and a common sitting or squatting area.

There us a high gabled roof and ample slanting eaves, and the roof cover is made from earthenware tiles. A large platform area, which may represent as much as forty percent of the total floor area, allowing exposure to sunshine and good clean air. Thai house in the central plain has its roof line oriented along east west direction. This is to cut down the amount of sun light into the main body of the house and at the same time obtain the maximum benefit of the cool winds.

Northern Thailand

Thai Style House from Northern Thailand

The typical house in the north is rather well walled in with less space for windows, and ample space for platform known in the northern dialect as “toen”. A shelf for a row of earthenware water jars is to be found on one side of the house. The walls tend to be slanted toward the eaves. The main body of the house is usually surrounded by large open space. Lanna house as a rule faces east with the roof ridge oriented along north south direction. The house is thus exposed to ample sunlight and at the same time protected from northern winds in the cool season.

Northeastern Thailand

Thai Style House from Northeastern Thailand

Thai House of the northeast are built with due considerations for dryness, hot temperatures in the hot season and cool temperatures in the cool season. The geoeconomic conditions and beliefs also play their parts in the evolution of the house styles of the northeast. The layout of the houses in each village gives no hint of symmetry or systematic planning. The orientation of the roof of each house is invariably along the east west direction. The space between one house and the next is not fixed, but on the average about four meters. Most if not all houses are without fences. Each house is accompanied by a granary built close to the house either to the north or south of the house. The average house is designed for a single family. The house plan is simple consisting of a bedroom, corridor, a kitchen, and a shelf for storing water. Some houses may have “ruan kong” added to the main house. Ruan Kong is a hall built opposite to the bedroom. Most houses have no partitions and assigned areas are not clearly marked off from one another.

Southern Thailand

Thai Style House from Southern Thailand

Thai houses in the south are quite similar to those found in other regions of the country. Their characteristics are supporting posts resting on stone slabs to prevent termites attack, and dampness from the ground seeping through. The space under the house is rather generous while the roof is set rather low. This design makes the house better to withstand strong winds and rains. The slant of the extended roof allows rain water to run off the roof quickly and help the roof to get dry quickly also. The alignment of the supporting posts and the walls are slanted inwards.  The walls are made of wooden boards arranged in such a way that the upper board overlaps the lower one to prevent rainwater running through the wall on the inside of the house.

Thai house of the southern region has its longer side oriented in the east to west direction known in the dialect as “pluk baan loi wan” meaning setting the along the south to north direction. Doing so would expose the house to full sun light almost half a day and also to strong winds which are liable to blow from east to west directions. The alignment of the granary is the opposite of that of the house. By setting the longer side of the granary along the north south direction, the paddy in the granary will get all the sunlight it needs to get dry.  Thai house in the south is built as a single unit for one family’s living. When the family grows large, another house is built along the main house together with a platform linking the two houses into a single unit.

Pictures taken at Bang Sai Royal Arts and Crafts Center
Information from: “Rice and Thai Ways of Life” published by Office of the National Culture Commission

The Oyster Shell Temple

Oyster Shell Chedi

During my travels around Thailand I certainly get to see some strange things in the temples. Everything from a six-toed Buddha to a pregnant Buddha. I even saw a Reclining Buddha where you could go inside to see the heart! The other day I was in Pathum Thani Province which is just north of Bangkok. There is a temple there called Wat Chedi Hoi which can be found in Amphoe Lat Lum Kaeo. A strange feature of this temple is the chedi which has been made with the thousands of giant oyster shells!

Oyster Shell Chedi

Apparently, a great quantity of these prehistoric shells were dug up and the local abbot decided to put them to good use by building a chedi. Actually, he built three but the one pictured here is the biggest. In the picture with the cat you can see how big these oyster shells are. Each one weighs at least one kilo! Another interesting artifact they dug up was a giant iron anchor which probably dates back to the Ayutthaya Period. What is strange is that the Chao Phraya River is over 16 kms away! This just shows you how much the course of the river has changed over the years. They say that two hundred years ago, the tidal waters from the Gulf of Thailand could be witnessed all the way up river in Ayutthaya.

Oyster Shell Chedi