Monthly Archives: February 2007

What not to Wear in Thailand

The latest scandal rocking the Thai establishment involves 22 year old actress Chotiros Suriyawong. She hit the headlines when she recently attended the Thai version of the Oscars in a very revealing dress. She later said that her intention was to get some media attention but she got far more than she bargained for. Her pictures have been plastered all over the Thai media. Consequences of her actions include a sentence of community service passed down by her university. A film producer also announced that he would delete all of her scenes in an upcoming movie.

Now this story has spread around the world with the international press now weighing in on the issue. The photos we posted on our sister site received a record 7,000 hits in just one day. But it is the hypocrisy of the situation, which is puzzling foreign editors. After all, Thailand is world renown for its sex industry and the coyote style dancers who perform in public during festivals. But, I have been here long enough now to have an understanding of what the controversy is all about.

If you have ever visited any of the royal temples in Thailand then you would know that there is a strict dress code. Shorts, singlets and flip flops are not allowed. At the beach, the dress code is almost Victorian. Most Thais are shocked by the men walking around at the top of the beach or in shops wearing only a speedo. There is also the same reaction for the European ladies who go swimming or sunbathe topless. For Thai people, they prefer to go swimming in all their clothes. This is partly due to their aversion to getting a tan, but it is more to do with their level of self-decency.

The rules about dress code also goes for all government institutions such as district offices and courthouses. Even at schools they are very strict about visitors. At our school we have had dozens of tourists visit us over the years. However, if they are wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts then I am not allowed to show them around. But, these rules are not just aimed at foreign tourists. It is also aimed at educating the Thai population on how to dress properly.

I remember the first time I came to Thailand and being shocked to see children in the local 7-Eleven wearing their pajamas! Then a bit later being bowled over by the site of a woman wearing her pajamas in a local supermarket. Of course, these days I am not so shocked by this seemingly level of hypocrisy. These are local people going about their ordinary daily lives. It doesn’t really matter what they wear as long as they are wearing enough clothing for the situation.

Although Chotiros Suriyawong wasn’t at a university event, she should have realized that her position as a celebrity (though a minor one at the time) made her an ambassador for her university. A kind of role model for her younger fellow students. The same goes for teachers at schools. It is important for us to dress and act properly both inside and outside of school. I don’t wear shorts around the local community and local shops. The administration also tells me to inform our new foreign teachers on how to dress while outside of the school. Of course, to them, they see it as an invasion of their privacy. But, like Chotiros Suriyawong, we too are minor celebrities and we should feel obliged to try and uphold Thai ethics and the Thai sense of decency. If we have to set a good example then surely she can make the effort too. After all, who is more Thai here?

Historical Connection

This is a re-post from my personal blog with minor tweak.

Here’s a photo of my grandfather I found online while doing a little bit of research. He’s the one saluting. And next to that, the border marker that in 1940-1942 defined the line between Thailand and Combodia.

salutingPhibunsongkram DCP_1947

The correlation? My grandfather, General Mangkorn Phromyothi, saluted the prime minister at the time, P. Phibunsongkram during the French-Thai war of 1940. Wikipedia has a version of the full story, but essentially my grandfather kicked some French butt and got a piece of Cambodia back to our side. Hence, the removal of the markers which one is at my home and the other in a military museum.

Anyway. I found my grandfather’s picture online because of Another Blogger’s recent post about her great grandfather, a controversial military and historical figure Thanorm Kittikachorn.

On that note, I had a hunch that our great/grandpas must’ve known each other so I did a little research.


At one point, our great/grandfathers were serving the same cabinet! And actually, a few governments after my grandfather was the Minister of Defense, AB’s great grandfather also took the same spot.

Remember how I said if you throw a shoe into the crowd in Bangkok, you’d find someone with royal DNA? I guess it’s almost the same way with being related to historical political figures, huh? 🙂

AB and I had found that we have a LOT in common with our blogging style and point of view. And now we found out that over 60 years ago, our great/grandfathers might have been friends.

You just never know who you’ll run into on the Internet! 🙂

Heck. At this rate, if we trace our family trees and found it intertwined at some point, I wouldn’t be surprise any more.

*ADDITION* Folks are pointing out the “war criminal” records that popped up with my grandfather. WWII was a tricky time for Thai politics and military. Like many other military figures at the time, this ruling was a result of Thai government cooperating with the Japanese and letting them march through our country without the actual occupation. So we were forced to be taken over like China, or we can save our own lives by cooperating as “an ally”. We chose the latter. Hence, the military figures at the time fell under “war criminal” category for being Japan’s ally. Hope that clear things up!

Old Patong: “3”

We met “3” on our second visit to Old Patong. 1980. She had a small shack on the beachside just past Peunes fine restaurant, across the street from Bayshore bungalows.

She lived under the bar with her Kangaroo boyfriend Larry. They called their little piece of paradise “The Half Way Cafe”, “3” wasn’t really a chef, but she was the best cook on Patong Beach! Her Thai Curried Crab was superb!!

“3” had recently suffered a bad stroke, but she was not giving up on life and as she walked with a heavy limp, slowly but surely still got where she wanted too and did exactly what she pleased. In Old Patong, “3” was THE mamasan, even Lada knew not to mess with “3”, but “3” usually had a smile on her face and her infectious laugh could be heard down the beach a kilometer!

Any thing that happened in Old Patong or Phuket for that matter was run thru the “coconut” telegraph and “3” knew all!

Patong Patty and I just adored “3” and we became the best of friends, learning that she had worked on stage with Guitar Noi at one of the base camps around KonKin during the war! She was a good singer too!

Patong Patty could often be seen working out the last morsels of crab, one crab took her about an hour, on more than one occassion, she’d have two or even three crabs.

I’d usually have the mo sate, it was always excellent, course if the plamook cart was nearby, I’d opt for that squid jerky everytime.

We’d hang with “3” & Larry most of the day, having a Green Spot intermixed with a little bodysurfing during the monsoon months anyway. The rest of the year, Ao Patong was flat and glassy as a lake, during those times, you’d swim out and try to find a cooler spot than the normally 90F ocean water was!

Ocassionally Guitar Noi would drop by in the evenings after his gig at the big Patong Beach Hotel where he played elevator music on their big organ, but Guitar Noi was/is a man of many musical tastes, from jazz to hard rock, Guitar Noi knew all the songs, plus he’s a great guy with a funny nature and sense of humor.

Many were the evenings that turned into nights and saw the morning sun arise over the mountains and we’d still be setting around a beach fire, singing every song we knew and Guitar Noi would teach us a few Thai songs along the way too.

Locals, expats, a few tourists added to the fun, there was rarely much trouble in Old Patong, atleast on our end of the beach.

One day a new tourist rolled in, California Jim, Jim was a natural with the locals[the women anyway]and could play his folk guitar like a pro, often joining in at the Half Way Cafe at night with Guitar Noi and the gang.

Within a week, California Jim was known everywhere on the beach, one of the new tourist that week was Jenny, she’d hooked up with Ali, a local badboy, but seem to have roving eyes when Jim was in the area.

Ali naturally made a big fuss, a quick Thai style kick and the much bigger Jim was down in the sand, with Ali all over him, I couldn’t figure out why Jim didn’t fight back, but the crowd quickly pulled them apart, Ali went into a rage and ripped off his tee shirt and poured fuel from the ONLY lantern on it and set it fire. It was rather dramatic, then Ali screamed something about “mafia” and ran off, returning with a few of his badboy pals about 30minutes later.

Jim had plenty of local friends however, and the scene was soon defused and all were pals or at least drinking together again, that is after one of the crowd pulled a gun[he was a retired local policeman]on the badboys who quickly put away their knives,etc and all was quickly smoothed over.

Ali left with Jenny and the thugs and we continued singing til dawn.

Just another day in Old Patong, where the drama was often as funny as the human nature that propelled it.

Preparing for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Thai-Chinese dragon dancers perform Friday, Feb. 16, 2007, in Thailand’s Chinatown in Bangkok. Chinese all over the world will celebrate their Lunar New Year on Feb. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Chinese New Year

Get Rich On Chinese New Year!

(The following blog is a brief translation of a column printed today at the Thai langauge ‘Daily News’ newspaper)

Enjoy Chinese New Year with the Goddess of Mercy. And get rich too!

Tomorrow is the day that all of us have been eagerly waiting for – the great Govt. Lottery. But this month it is even more special, in that it coincides with Chinese New Year! With such an auspicious date set for the lucky draw, both the Thai and Chinese temples are filling-up with millionaire wanna-bes hoping to strike first prize with a stroke of heavenly advice.

Now, the Thai-Chinese pay homage to many Deities, Gods and Goddesses – but for sure, the most revered of all is The Goddess of Mercy (Jao Mae Kuan Im). It is believed that anyone who takes Her to heart, will be blessed with prosperity, good fortune and complete success in every way. This respect is embedded in the blood of every Chinese, be they in Bangkok, Beijing, Birmingham or The Bahamas.

There are innumerable temples all over Thailand dedicated to The Goddess of Mercy, and this year they are certain to be packed-out with followers who believe, that not only are they paying their respects but that they could also strike it lucky on the lottery!

At the last lucky draw on the 1st Feb one of the Jackpot winners dedicated her winnings to The Goddess of Mercy. She was amongst a group of disciples from Bangkok, whom on after praying to the statue clearly saw the numbers 25 miraculously appear floating on a tree. Rejoicing on such heavenly fortunes, she was soon the recipient of a 1 million baht win!

The lucky numbers for the draw tomorrow, by some disciples of The Goddess of Mercy have forecasted 4-7-1. Let’s just see.

A Happy New Year!