Monthly Archives: January 2008

Wan Phra at a Thai Temple

If you are a Christian, then you would know that your sabbath day is every Sunday. It is the day that you should rest and go to church with your family. Many shops and businesses are either closed or have limited opening. Buddhism also has a sabbath day called “wan phra” in Thai. You could translate this as “monk day” or maybe “holy day”. However, as Buddhism is based on the lunar calendar, you will find that “wan phra” is on different days of the week each time. This is because it is based on the phases of the moon. The two most important days are full moon and new moon. These are the days that monks shave off their hair though at some temples they will only do so on the full moon. The other “wan phra” days are on the quarter phases of the moon. So, it is about every 8 days or so. These are the 4 days a month when the monks don’t go out on their alms round and the local people instead come to the temple. To make it easier to know which day is “wan phra” you will find that many calendars have a little figure of a Buddha image on these dates.

Obviously it is more convenient when “wan phra” falls on a weekend. But, a lot of people still go to their temple early in the morning before they go to work. I know a few of my students who go to the temple with their parents on “wan phra” before school. The pictures on this page were taken at the weekend. I had arrived at the temple just before 7 a.m. and it was already crowded. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t only elderly people making merit. They were also quite a few children with their parents as well as some youths that had come alone. To make proper merit you need to prepare the food specifically for the monks. You cannot use leftovers. These days people are so busy that you will find that at most temples there are stalls set up selling food specifically for the monks. You buy the food in bowls which belong to the temple. However, you might need to bring your own bowl for the rice and also a tray to make the offering. Once you have the food, you should crouch on the ground and raise the tray above your head in quiet contemplation. If there is a group of you, the way you can all gain merit from this act is to touch the person in front of you who has direct contact with the food tray.

On “wan phra” and some of Buddhist festival days, the monks are not lined up to receive alms as the lay people come at different times. Instead, their alms bowls are placed on a long row of tables. People go along this line and place rice into each of the bowls. If they have Thai desserts or curries in plastic bags, they then might place these in the lid of the alms bowl. Other curries in bowls can also be placed on the table. It shouldn’t be mixed in with the rice. You will notice that if there are several people from one family, junior members will follow behind holding the elbow of the person serving the food. Thai Buddhists believe that this kind of merit making passes through the body to other people. At the other end of the table, junior monks were taking the bowls of curry and tipping them into bigger pots. Similar to the pots at the food stalls in the first picture above. This food is then taken to the kitchen to be shared among the monks later in the morning. After the lay people have presented their offerings of food, they next paid homage to the Buddha image.

At about 7.30 a.m., earlier in other temples, a monk started to ring the temple bell by beating it with a stick. This was the call to prayer. After the lay people had finished making merit, they made their way towards the community hall where all of the monks were already sitting on a low platform. For about an hour, the monks took part in chanting for which the lay people also joined in at times. During this session, a senior monk also gives a sermon, and asks the lay people present to recite the eight precepts. For normal Buddhists, there are only five precepts. However, on “wan phra” days, many Buddhists like to keep the eight precepts. For many this also means not eating meat on these days. The eight precepts that they have to recite out loud are as follows:

“I undertake the training precepts…

1) to abstain from taking life.
2) to abstain from taking what is not given.
3) to abstain from unchastity.
4) to abstain from false speech.
5) to abstain from intoxicants causing heedlessness.
6) to abstain from untimely eating.
7) to abstain from dancing, singing, music and unseemly shows, from wearing garlands, smartening with scents, and beautifying with perfumes.
8) to abstain from the use of high and large luxurious couches.”

Novice monks and nuns have ten precepts. Monks have 227 precepts. They have to recite all 227 on the full and new moons every month. I will be writing more blogs about life in a Thai temple as well as ordinations of both novice monks and full monks. In addition I will taking you on morning alms rounds. I have quite a few photos and videos to share with you here at You can find more of my stories about Thai Buddhism at our website at

Bangkok Day Trips

A lot of people seem to be very interested in the blogs I have been writing for the day trips that you can do from Bangkok. To make it easier for them to find excursions from Bangkok we have decided to launch a new website called Bangkok Day Trips. You will find all the blogs that I have done on tourist attractions around the outskirts of Bangkok. You will notice that many of these places are not yet featured in guidebooks. I have also added photo albums of all the places I have visited which I think will help you better to see if it is worth going to that place. Comments are welcome to help make it a more useful website. >>>

Lunchtime Thai Menu 04

Crispy Catfish Salad(yum pla duk foo)

This is the continuation of our weekly Friday Lunchtime Thai Menu. Every week I will be bringing you pictures of what we eat at lunchtime in the Paknam Web office. The budget for all of us is about 100 baht ($3) though I think we blew that budget this week. Everything you see here is Thai street food which surprises many people. Quite often, restaurants sell the same food, though at inflated prices. A lot of street food in Thailand is single dishes. For example, noodles, fried rice and Chinese chicken. However, most of the food that we have been buying is the kind that you share between your friends. This makes it more economical. We will try and give you some single dishes in the future.

The first one today is a favourite of mine in the local restaurants. It is a green mango salad with crispy fried cat fish. It also has peanuts, chopped red shallots and chillies on a lettuce base. The secret ingredient is the sauce and not everyone makes it the same way. A common one would be lemon juice, fish sauce and palm sugar. This dish is called “yum” in Thai which means salad. However, if they used garlic instead of shallots then it would be a “som tam” dish. This dish cost 25 baht from the night market in Paknam. It was good but I have had better.

Fried Coconut Palm shoot with Shrimp

The next one is a simple dish that uses the young coconut flesh and fries it with shrimp. The dish only cost 25 baht. So, at that price they didn’t give many shrimps. So we bought some fresh shrimp ourselves and fried these up for this dish and the other one further down this page. In Thai this dish is called “pad yod mapao on kung”.

Pork Belly with Five Spices and Boiled Eggs (kai pa loh)

This is a dish that you often see in food markets though in my mind it doesn’t look appetizing. However, I sometimes buy it for two reasons. Firstly it is not hot and spicy and so goes well when mixing with meals that contains curry’s. It also lasts several days so you don’t need to eat it all in one day. There seems to be two versions. Sometimes you see them in big enamel pots with mainly pork and tofu with a few hard boiled eggs. This one is the opposite and the main ingredient is the eggs hence the alternative name “kai pa loh”. The other version would be “moo pa loh”. The taste of the soup is very distinctive and probably the reason that I like eating it. It is also quite nice cold. To make it, the pork is fried in golden garlic together with cilantro root and five-spice powder. Once cooked, chicken stock is then poured in and to this is added soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar. The hardboiled eggs are added last. One bag of this was only 20 baht.

Seafood Tom Yum (tom yum talay)

This is the famous hot and sour soup called “tom yum” in Thai which I have written about before. I normally eat with shrimp or chicken. But this is a seafood version which, to be honest, I am not so keen on. This dish cost less than $1 but we cheated a little and added a few of our own shrimps. You will find that although street food is often cheap, there isn’t always a lot of meat. Sometimes, when we only have curry or soup left over, I will cook up some more meat the following day to add to whatever is left over.

Thai Dessert

We splashed out on dessert today though it was really worth it. This variety of sticky rice desserts was 40 baht from the market. It was topped with some coconut cream. I am sure I have talked about these deserts before in previous Thai food blogs. So, I won’t go into any details now. But, I will do a special blog on Thai desserts in the near future as it is a popular subject. I just hope that I don’t gain too much weight during the research! The things I have to do for! Before I forget, this meal cost a whopping 140 baht which is about $4. We will try and keep within budget next time.

Please post as comments any suggestions that you have for street food we could buy for next week’s meal. If you have any questions, then please post them in our popular Thai Food Forums over at We will be running a competition there soon to win a Thai cook book. This will be only for members so make sure you go and sign up today if you don’t want to miss out on this competition.

thai american boy going home

Well, its been a while, but its good to be back…writing on thai-blogs. My little brother has been going back to Thailand every summer since he was 7, and that was over 20 years ago. Family members and close friends of the family always remarked on how “Thai” he was. He controlled his emotions, and never got mad. It is said that it is un-civilized if you do not have the cognitive powers to control your emotions. No one ever understood that he just had a good heart, except me and my parents.

The kid has loved Thailand more than anyone else I know. Seems like he has always loved going and hanging with my cousins, playing sports and games. At first it was simple things, like playing cards with my cousins, our aunt and her friends. Then tennis during the day, or golf. Which all led to a life in pursuit of enjoying your life. Cliche’, I know. However, looking at my family, its the truth over there.

When my parents were here in the great midwest. There were not many family members in the US of A. However, those that were here, all worked hard and many hours. I know that the same things exists in Thailand as well. However, it was very different from our views here and there. My parents worked at times from 8AM till 2Am, 6 days a week. Sometimes 7 days. Never really getting any vacations. Possibly a golf game on Sundays. Thai function at the local temple. Not really enjoying life, though providing for their growing family. Getting their pleasures when there was time. By the way, they are now back in Thailand.

Now growing up and glimpsing at a diffent life each summer can effect you. Watching your cousins enjoy life…seeing your aunts and uncles come home at reasonable hours…hell, watching family get together more often. Not just one or two cousins either, I mean a family. Several generations…Americans call them second and third cousins…the Thai call family or cousin..if not older brother or sister. Well, its a wonderful life and Jimmy Stewart never saw it.

I guess thats what has attracted many of us to Thailand. A different life, one where you have time to really enjoy it, where it seems that no one takes things tooooo seriosly. Its a good life. Last time I was there, my wife and I were ready to take the plunge after being hooked to our desks, blackberry between meetings, and looking at our respective computers in our virtual office while at home. All the time having our cell phones ring about that next always upcoming meeting.

Now don’t get me wrong. My cousin leaves at 6:00AM or earlier to avoid the traffic that Bangkok has, and doesn’t get home till 7PM cause the same thing. She is usually working at home to boot. However, she has also scuba dived on vacation, has a “summer home” and does fun things that are more exciting than spending a day grabbing coffee at the local Starbucks and looking for a good book at the Barnes and Noble down the street. Its a much more luxurious life.

So my brother has bought a nice home, and is moving to Thailand. God bless him.

Steam Trains in Thailand

Last weekend I was in Bangkok doing some research for one of our websites. I had parked my car at Wat Suwannaram alongside Bangkok Noi Canal, and had decided to explore as much as I could go along the canal. I had been up and down there a few times in a long-tailed boat, but this time I wanted to see how much I could explore on foot. I also wanted to see if I could find anything of interest that wasn’t in the guidebooks. I will come back to talk about this walk a bit later. But first I wanted to share with you a small discovery that is not really that unknown. It is just a little out of the way. While walking along the canal I came across the Thonburi Locomotive House. This is tucked behind the Thonburi Train Station near the banks of the Chao Phraya River. If you are a steam enthusiast then you will love this place. In the sheds were five steam trains that looked in good working order. I wandered around taking some pictures. No-one seemed to mind.

The following information is based on noticeboards seen at the location.

The State Railway of Thailand ordered 46 steam locomotives, Numbers 701-746 from Hitachi, Japan. Today there are only two of these steam locomotives left in operation. These are used at the annual light and sound presentation during the River Kwai Bridge week in Kanchanaburi. According to the plate on the engine of No. 713, the steam locomotive was in service between 1935 and 1982. The maximum speed was 65 km/ph.

The State Railway of Thailand ordered 30 steam locomotives, Numbers 821-850, from Japan. Only two of these steam locomotives are in operation. Originally these engines ran on coal but they were modified to run on crude oil. They were in service from 1949 to 1951. According to, No. 850, pictured above, was featured in the Jackie Chan version of the movie “Around the World in 80 Days”.

The State Railway of Thailand ordered 70 steam locomotives, Numbers 901-970, from Japan. Only one is left in working operation, No. 953. The loco pictured above, No. 950, is looking a bit neglected these days as for some reason it has been banished from the locomotive sheds. These engines were originally built to run on coal but were modified to run on crude oil. They were in operation between 1949 and 1951.

If you are in Bangkok and have a bit of time on your hands, then I would suggest that you put away the guidebook and go off and do a bit of exploring by yourself. You might be pleasantly surprised what you find.

You can find this location marked on the map at