Monthly Archives: February 2008

Lunchtime Thai Menu 09

Spicy Stir-fried Chicken with Long Beans

Judging by the letters we are receiving, people are eager to visit on Fridays to see what we are eating for lunch. It is sometimes a challenge for us when producing the Friday Lunchtime Thai Menu. We are restricted to not only street food, but also to a budget of about US$3 for all of us. Plus, we cannot repeat any of our favourites. Every Friday we are eating something new. So, for me it is sometimes hit and miss. But, this first one is one of my favourites. It is called “pat prik khing gai“. It is basically pork fried in chili paste with long beans. A simple dish but tasty. The curry paste includes spur chillies, shallots, garlic, lemon grass, coriander root, kaffir lime, dried shrimp and shrimp paste. Strangely, no sign of ginger despite the name being in the title. To cook, marinate the sliced chicken (or pork) with a tea spoon of fish sauce. Blanch the yard long beans in boiling water until nearly cooked. Cut them into one inch lengths. In a hot pan, fry the chili paste until fragrant. Add the chicken and cook until done. Season with sugar and fish sauce and then stir in the beans. The version we had today is not as red looking as it should be. Maybe they watered it down a little. But, what can you expect for only 20 baht.

Hard Boiled Egg in Sweet and Sour Sauce

This is an interesting side-dish that I haven’t had before. It is also strangely named in Thai as “kai luk kery“. A literal translation is “son-in-law eggs”. Basically, some eggs are hard-boiled and then shelled. These are then fried in hot oil until they turn yellow. For the sauce, grind together cilantro root, garlic and pepper. Stir fry them for a short while. Then add palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind sauce. Add some water and then simmer until it becomes a thick sauce.

Clear Soup with Mixed Vegetables

This is a clear soup called “gaeng liang” in Thai. It is not really spicy so don’t be misled into thinking that “gaeng” always means hot and spicy. The soup stock is mixed with shrimp paste, pepper, red shallots and dried shrimp which has been grounded until well combined. It is really up to you about the vegetables. This one has shrimp, pumpkin, wax gourd, baby sweetcorn, and sweet basil leaves. This is alright as a side dish and cost us only 20 baht. I wasn’t thrilled about it.

Sticky Rice Grilled in Banana Leaves

The final one today is our dessert. It is called “khao niew ping“. It is basically sticky rice with a mystery contents grilled in banana leaves over a charcoal fire. You need to ask what it contains unless you like to be surprised. To ask, just say “sai a-rai”. The choices are: banana, taro, shredded coconut or mung beans. Not too bad if you are not expecting much. These cost 6 baht each.

Come back next Friday to see what we ate for lunch!

Old Patong: The Two Headed Fish

Early one morning, Patong Patty and I were enjoying another fine breakfast of papaya, pineapple and banana, with a big hot mug of Milo, when Mr Singh, the owner of Valentine Bungalow came over to the little restaurant his sister had recently set up just south of the bungalows[it would right next to the Holiday Inn now], on the beach road, facing the blue Andaman Sea.

He grinned as a pickup truck went by, raising the dust, a giant fish was tied from the roof and hanging off the tailgate on it’s way to market.

Mr Singh began yelling “Look! In Thailand we have fish with two heads!”

Talking a little later with Crazy Dave, Dave said “did you see that big Manta Ray hanging off the end of that pickup?” I smiled and told him the story of the fish with two heads.

But, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Fish and seafood in general has been around in southern Thailand forever, the best, freshest seafood could always be found at Number 4, a small open air cafe about 1/2 between Valentine Bungalow and Patong Beach Hotel, later Number 4 moved to Soi Bangla[Bar Road]and was the most popular seafood place in Old Patong.

Customers would write on the wall various greetings or names with a big black marker, Number 4 the best in seafood!

In Old Patong, a big stuffed Phuket lobster was about 100baht, complete with salad and Singha.

Old Patong, where every meal was a banquet!

Gestures of the Buddha 01

Whenever I visit temples in Thailand, I often take pictures of the principal Buddha image. But, quite often, Buddha images housed in the cloisters can be just as interesting. Traditionally, the Buddha images recount episodes from the Buddha’s life. Though, quite often, the same images are used again and again. However, if you look closely then you might notice some subtle differences. Take a look at these two classic images of the Buddha meditating. He is sitting cross-legged on a lotus leaf. His palms are facing upwards with the right hand on top of the left hand. Identical images? No, look more closely at how the legs are crossed. The one on the left is called the “heroic posture” and the right leg is on top of the left with both soles facing up. The right image is called the “adamantine posture” and each foot rests on top of the other thigh with the soles facing up. There is in fact a third way of sitting which I will show you later at

Eating Rice Pudding and Accepting Rice Pudding from the Milkmaid

Resolving to Become a Monk and Considering Food in an Alms Bowl

Eating from a Bowl and Preaching his first Sermon

Always look carefully to see the position of hands and feet. Are the palms facing up or down or towards the viewer? The next time you visit a temple in Thailand, take a closer look at the Buddha images as many of them have a story to tell. I will continue this series of different Buddha images at soon.

I took all of these pictures at Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom. Another good place to study different postures of the Buddha is at the Marble Temple in Bangkok. Background information can be found in an excellent book called “Gestures of the Buddha”, by K.I. Matics, published by Chulalongkorn University Press.

The Dream Railway

(The following blog/article was published in The Nation newspaper on February 16. Here below, however, is the originally un-edited submission)

The Dream Railway: one of the govt’s brand-new ‘Enormously Mega Projects (Let’s just hope though the trains look better than the one above!)

Since their very first day in power, this new government has been overwhelming us with their fantastic new ideas to truly turn this country into a spectacularly developed, economic and world force. Some of these unique ideas are so big that the Thai Press has been calling each one of these an ‘Aphi Maha Project’. Let me explain that ‘Aphi Maha’ does not simply translate as ‘mega’ but in fact, ‘enormously mega’. Awesome ideas indeed, there is something for everyone’s taste, be it trains, tunnels or even Eucalyptus trees.

Some of those critics may complain about the ideas and costs involved, but what do they honestly know in comparison to the new ministers? Sod any variety of knowledge, these ministers have collectively accumulated more degrees in political science and especially law than you have old newspapers. And it is expertise in the latter field, which is essential in this particular economical and political day in age.

Not even bothering to mention the English language press, the Thai newspapers of late, having been trying to catch up with so many of these projective festivities that they have been having problems squeezing in all their reports. With all this personal intrigue of mine too, I remembered suddenly, just yesterday, an extremely vivid dream I had a few years back. This heavenly dream was set in another world – Planet Thakland.

Once upon a time on Planet Thakland, the leading party in power decided one to day to build a huge railway track, so long in fact that it went to the planet’s north-pole. Not any old boring lackluster staff where allowed to work on board, there was a former TV presenter who worked as the tour guide, a financial leader who side-lined as the passengers’ on-board nurse and even the planet’s charismatic leader worked as executive chef.

(The only folk it seems who benefited from this previous govt project of a million ‘paper love birds’, were the owners of the pulp factories)

Alongside the first part of the line, were planted a couple of million previously unknown odd species of trees. They were not grown to simply enhance visual delights but also to be cut down and eventually made into some kind of incredibly innovative fuel. In the event of any unrest being triggered on Planet Thakland, trees by the thousands could be sawed down and made into millions of sheets of coloured paper before being folded by school children to look like little birds and tossed from airplanes over thousands of rebels. Needing to avert a small-time environmental disaster in the event of it happening however, the local ‘extremist’ villagers planned for months on how to cope with such a catastrophe. In the meantime, they were also fervently puzzled to how such a festivity was in any way related to ‘their’ religious beliefs. It was rumoured that only two people would have benefited from this kind of extravaganza, one of the leader’s brothers who owned the local pulp factory and another leader who would sign the contract and get a 10% commission.

For any locals in the forest’s vicinity who were worried about being submerged in the event of an enormous fire, their minds were laid to rest. There were a whole fleet of completely un-used fire engines which had once, donkey’s decades ago, been imported from a distant planet.

After the forest, the railway line passed over a once beautiful river which had turned from being a sanctuary for indigenous fish and surrounding wildlife into a dumping spot for riverbank factories to chuck their toxic and chemical waste. Most of which were run by local political leaders and their other big-shot buddies. One day, it was horrifyingly disclosed to the planet’s public that one of the polluting pig farm owners located nearby the railway line, was the brother-in-law of one the planet’s important leaders. Distraught at having been found out by a local reporter about his ‘smelly animal excretion river dump’, he was saved by his in-law who quickly implemented a new environmental policy, all pig waste would be recycled and used to fertilize all them funny-looking trees. The in-law tired with such policy-making was of course compensated for his time and energy in the form of a 10% sales commission.

Further on up the dream railway line was situated a glorious new temple with a humungous meditation arena which seated more people than Wembley Stadium on Planet Earth. The mastermind behind this fabulous project was none other than the Cultural Minister whose degree by the way, was in Engineering. As for the free labour used to build the thing, that was all made up of delinquent technical college boys who had been charged for road-racing and politically radical university students who didn’t agree with the planet’s leaders. On day, the college whipper-snappers, not happy in having to stretch their muscles for free, complained that a previous leading party’s policy of building them racing circuits had never materialized. Anyway, they were told shut up and get on with it, first by their boss, the Education Minister with his degree in technology, and secondly by a son of the Interior Minister who had vast experience in clamping down on ho-bos. Most importantly of all though, brain-washed politically active students could now be controlled after an awful incident had happened years back in the year 7619. After a clash between them and nation-loving vigilantes, one had died!

(Now, if you thought this Dhamma stadium above in Pathumthani was enormously huge….well, you ‘ain’t see nothing yet!’)

Not only was the arena cum stadium used by the resident monks to practice Vipassana meditation, but also for other activities such as the planet’s beloved leaders who organized mega meetings to inform the local masses about their latest ideas. There was no problem with parking space as a huge underground car-park had been built underneath the complex. Then, once a year, the planet’s actual leader could use the place for his back-to-the-roots reality show where he himself could really prove how much of a country-boy at heart he really was. The stadium with a built-in race track could be used by the leader himself to zoom around, on a motorbike, wearing no helmet. It was envisaged that one day the place may even be the host to a Planet Earth style Olympic Games or even witness the likes of alien football clubs.

Getting to the stadium was a complete piece of cake, besides the dream railway, 8 lane-roads had been built. Unfortunately, for the poor local villagers however, the roads didn’t serve much use; they were built directly past an influential leader’s hundreds of square acres of land, which previous to the roads arrival had been quite worthless. The son of another leader who owned a big construction firm was obviously delighted at winning the contract and didn’t mind having to pay any 10% broker commission.

Tourism was promoted on Planet Thakland and the leaders once established a unique program to especially entice the crème-de-la-crème to the planet to spend all that universal cash. Aimed at VIRAs (Very Important Rich Aliens) these elitists for the small fee of a million or so alien banknotes, could enjoy their stay at VIRA golf courses, traveling by both the dream railway and fancy roads. Unknown to these aliens however, the planets leaders had to cut down prestine forest and kick off local folk who had been living there for generations previous. The greatest benefit of all though for these VIRAs was the opportunity to sail past smiling immigration officials who handed back their passports and didn’t simply chuck it across the desk landing at the alien’s feet. The planet’s leaders had once sent all these immigration officials on a Courtesy & Etiquette course for three months, but alas.

It was doubted that anyone would ever find out the truth about the planet’s real leader though, nick-named Big-Brother it was rumoured that is was He who was the one in charge of the great party and really pulling all the political strings. No-one ever saw him though, but according to reliable sources he resided in a neighbouring world called Planet Chong Wong.

Interview with a Thai Cop (Part 2)

This is the continuation of the exclusive interview at with a Thai policeman. Please click here if you haven’t read part one.

How many days off a week/month do you get?

None. If we want a day off then we have to swap shifts with a colleague. A shift is 8 hours, any time of the day, so if we swap shifts that means we have to work 16 hours straight. We are though, allowed ‘leave’ but for this we have to ask our boss and give him a good excuse.

How difficult is it, as a cop, to keep a ‘cool heart’?

Very. We get called into deal with drunkards a lot and that is difficult. Often, they get angry or even start to throw punches or throw things at us.

What rights do you have for carrying a gun?

At all times. In theory, a police officer is never ‘off duty’, if he sees a crime at anytime he must deal with it. In our spare time, dressed in casual clothes, we should still carry our guns but they ought to be concealed under our shirts etc…. That is the regulation.

When does a police officer have the right to shoot?

Only if the suspect is carrying a weapon and shoots at us first. We are only allowed to fire once. If an average suspect turns around and tries to run away, I can only chase him.

Do Thai police have taser guns?

Very few and only in Bangkok, but as they are very dangerous, they are only used in the case of say a hostage crisis.

Have you ever shot or/and killed anyone?

Fortunately, no.

When you become a policeman, do you have to take any kind of oath?

Yes, with witnesses around, we have to plead allegiance in front of a portrait of the King and swear the Holy Trinity of ‘Nation’, ‘Religion’ & ‘Monarchy’.

In your opinion, how do the general public view Thai police?

Mostly positive. The people who don’t like the cops are usually the ones who often break the law themselves, like carrying drugs, gambling or committing driving offenses etc…

Driving offenses – don’t they have to do with the traffic police?

A police officer is a police officer. It is our duty to crack down on any kind of criminal even if that suspect is involved in another branch of crime which is not directly related to ours.

How old must an individual be before you can lock him up in a police cell?

14. Older than that but under 18, they are then sent to a Youth Detention Centre.

A friend would like ask; is it possible to hire a police officer to be a bodyguard, escort a private car or even collect debts?

Yes. If you wanted me to be your bodyguard then I can certainly be so, but only in my own spare time. Otherwise, same goes for escorting cars, you would have to contact the police station superintendent with good reasons. A fee needs to be paid too.
As for collecting debts, that is none of my business. In such a situation, I could only go and explain the law to the one who owes the money. That is a matter for the judge to decide not the police.

What about female police officers, what is their role?

Mostly administration, they just sit in the office like at Immigration signing this and that and keying in data on their computer. There are a lot of female cops though in the police hospitals, many work as nurses and doctors. You will also find that a lot of the older ones also hold a high rank, such as Major or even Colonel.

Do you like your uniform? Don’t you find it a bit tight! I read that they are going to bring in a new ‘cool’ looking one. Are you glad about that?

I like my current uniform. As for the idea about bringing in a new uniform, I have seen the pictures of it and I don’t like it, it looks silly. The uniform is a bit tight but not as tight as what you might think. You see (he shows me) the buttons aren’t real, they are fake – there is only a shirt zip – the fake buttons are only there to make the thing look tight. It’s like an optical illusion.

What type of criminals do you detest the most?

I really hate the influential ones with their big connections. They are often high ranking individuals who deal in drugs or something like that. I can do nothing to arrest them as I have ‘no evidence’. If I see an old one in a restaurant surrounded by lots of pretty girls, I know he is scum, but I can only look on. If I say anything, then me myself will get into trouble – the guy has big money and big friends, often politicians.

Have you ever though, arrested any ‘big shots’ or Hi-So teenagers etc..?

Sure, but they aren’t as big as the ones I just mentioned. A couple of months ago, I pulled over some teenagers for a driving offense – six on a motorbike and drunk. The driver was the son of a high ranking person. When I stopped him he said
“Do you know who my dad is?” I replied “No”.
Next, he was on the phone to his dad and asked me to talk to him. I completely refused and just arrested him. I told him to tell his dad to come to the police station.
Recently, I also arrested a nephew of the former provincial police chief for a similar offense.

What type of suspect, if any, do you take pity upon?

I feel really sorry for many girls who get arrested alongside their boyfriends who are carrying drugs. Often, the girl doesn’t know that her boyfriend is shifting drugs, she is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, when we call him over to do a search. Most of the time, the girls are finally let off ‘Scot-free’ but at first, I have to arrest them too.
I also take pity on teenage boys who get charged for under-age sex, I mean I used to be a teenager myself. I had to arrest one young boy lately who was 18, but his girlfriend was just 14. The father of the girl was a teacher and it was him who called the station and filed the charge. When we arrested the boy (in the girl’s bedroom) and took him down the station, his girlfriend was throwing a frenzy; screaming and kicking, she was even kicking and punching her dad. On that day, I didn’t blame the boy, I really blamed the father – he was obnoxious. The boy was finally sentenced and sent to prison.

Interesting. Can you tell us anymore interesting times as a police officer?

Of course. I’ll start with this one. Last year I was ‘off duty’ in plain clothing and went to have a noodle soup at a shop which also sold beer. When I was there some guy called me over and offered me a beer, since he was paying like, I agreed to join him. He asked me what I did for a living and I explained that I was a cop. Anyway, after half an hour or so, this guy was obviously getting seriously drunk and suddenly started getting really mouthy. He was shouting things to me like “You are not a f**king cop, you f**king wa*ker”. I got up and went to the toilet. When I came out and was walking to my bike outside, he smacked me on the back of my head with a beer bottle. He went back to his table and just carried on drinking!

So, I called in the police and he was arrested. In the morning, behind bars, he was full of bruise marks. Supposedly, the night before in the cell, he had been swearing and making trouble with the other inmates and got into some fights!
When the lieutenant called me over to face him, the guy claimed that he couldn’t remember me, in fact he reckoned he couldn’t remember the slightest about the night before!

I can clearly remember the time too a few years ago when I was just signing in. In came to the station this old scruffy looking guy who just planted himself down in front of my desk. Right in front of me he lit up a big Ganja joint and placed a big bag of it on my desk. Then he said “Please arrest me”. It had came to light, that the guy had just been released from prison after having been there for 15 or so years. He had nowhere to go – no money, no food. He simply wanted to go back to prison. I didn’t arrest him but called in a member of a local charity organization for the poor. I also gave him 100 baht.
A colleague of mine also told me of another similar case where a ‘tom-boy’ committed a crime directly in front of him as she wanted to go back to prison; she missed her lover.

A short while back, my colleague and I were called in by some villagers about a monk from their local temple. So, when we arrived, thinking that perhaps the monk was taking drugs or something, we were lead up to the top of a house. Instead, there in the woods, was a monk with his robes off having it off with a nun. We had to explain to the villagers of course that we as cops could nothing about this except contact the temple abbot.

In fact, us police are constantly called in to deal with matters that have nothing whatsoever to do with the police. Like problems about minor wives, child maintenance, divorce and debts etc…. These kinds of issues can only be settled in court.

Thank you very much for your time.