Monthly Archives: October 2008

How to cook… Tofu with Minced Pork

After surviving the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand this year, I found myself starting to use tofu more in my cooking. This dish uses fried tofu with minced pork. In the ingredients below, you can see Chinese celery, spring onion, tofu in a package, fried tofu, garlic cloves and minced pork in the middle.

This is a simple dish to cook. Start with the tofu. Fry it first in oil until it turns golden brown. Then set it aside and let it drain. Next fry your crushed garlic in the pan until it turns fragrant. Add the minced pork. Next comes the Chinese celery and spring onion. You can also add mushroom if you like. Season with oyster sauce and pepper. Give it a good stir. Put the fried tofu on your serving dish and pour the minced pork mixture on top. Next week at I will share with you another Thai dish. Feel free to suggest food that you would like us to cook in the comments.

You, You Farang!

You only have to stay in Thailand a short while before you start picking up an often heard word which is “farang”. In any other country it would be seen as a racial slur as it refers to white faced foreigners. People from India or Japan have other names. But, Thai people use it to group together a certain group of foreigners. They even refer to the language we speak as “passar farang” which of course is nonsense. We not only have very different cultures, but also many different languages too. They almost have a childlike innocence about this. They don’t see themselves as being racial nor do they see it as being derogatory. However, if I say to them that grouping us altogether is like us saying to them that they are Lao or Cambodian – which of course upsets them a lot.

It doesn’t really bother me much these days as there isn’t really much you can do about it. At my school, the students have been told that it is not respectful to refer to the foreign teachers as farang. They shouldn’t also use this word with visitors to our school. We teach them that there is a proper Thai word for foreigner which should be used instead. I do sometimes hear them using the proper word on t.v. but quite often the commentators resort to using farang instead. I just look at them as being uneducated which is quite often true. The people who use the word farang with me a lot are the Thais that haven’t traveled much, don’t understand about racial harmony and really do believe that out there, there is a place called “farangland”.

A few months back, the three year old son of my next door neighbour used to call out “farang, farang” whenever I passed or when he wanted to attract my attention. His parents know my real name but didn’t do anything to correct him. As I am a teacher it is not really respectful for a child to do like this. At the very least, he should say Khun Farang or Khru Farang. Then, when the child of the neighbours on the other side started going to kindergarten at my school things started to change. This four year old girl would greet me with a “wai” and always said “Khru Richard”. Her parents always insisted on that. Now the three year old boy is copying her example.

When I am walking around Paknam or taking pictures at local events I don’t hear anyone say farang. In fact, most people pretend not to take any notice of me. We are close enough to Bangkok that they want to be seen to be familiar with worldly events and with people from around the workd. But, as soon as I go to a province away from the tourist trail then things change. I don’t want to call them “hicks” but I do hear some really strange comments. The thing is, they talk about me right in front of my face. They obviously don’t realize that there is a growing number of foreigners who can speak, read and write Thai. Here are some of the comments I have heard:

“Don’t look now but there is a farang following behind us.”
“Look, look! A farang.”
“Why is that farang taking a picture?”
“Look at that farang’s shoes. His feet are so big.”
“What is that farang doing here? He must be lost.”
“What is he eating? Look, look, the farang is eating som tam.”

I never get angry when I hear some of their rather silly and stupid comments. I just turn around and give them a big smile. Some just say, “Look that farang is smiling at us.” Others realize I understood what they said and they then smile themselves in an embarrassed way. They then quickly whisper to their friends that the farang can speak Thai. Last week I was buying some ice cream from a roadside vendor at a local event. A young woman with her boyfriend looked at me and told him in a loud voice that the farang is buying an ice cream. So, I just turned to her and said, “What’s wrong, have you never seen a farang buy an ice cream before?” She of course was embarrassed. I just kept smiling at her.

On the radio station I was listening to this morning, they had a show called “Sawatdee Farang”. It is in English and is aimed at foreign expats. I usually just change the channel when I hear it come on. But, what is stranger is hearing foreigners refer to each other as farang. There was also a foreign owned magazine called “Farang” which thankfully folded. I know a lot of people who don’t mind the word farang. Like me, they have long realized that there isn’t much you can do about it. But, there are quite a few people who get upset. They argue that in many other countries you can get arrested for grouping people together in racial groups. But, then, this is Thailand and even if you were born here and speak fluent Thai, you will still be a farang if you have a white face.

Many Thais tell me that they don’t mean anything bad when they call foreigners farang. But, I am not sure how true that is. Not long ago, I had a letter from a Thai person who had gone to school in America. His letter was rather insulting and wanted to criticize me for some work that I had done. He used a lot of swear words in English but he also said “you whitey” very often. That was basically his translation of farang. And believe me, he wanted to insult me. He was trying to make it clear that I wasn’t Thai and that I would never understand Thai culture or the Thai way of life because I am just a farang.

There was another incident that has happened to me a couple of times. Other people have reported the same thing. A couple of months ago I was on the back of a songtaew which is a local public bus. Sitting across from me was a mother and her one year old child on her lap who was crying. I didn’t really pay any attention and just sat there and minded my own business. But the the mother said to the child, “If you don’t stop crying, you can go over and sit with the farang.” It was like saying to your child, if you don’t behave, the bogeyman will come and get you! As this has happened several times, I cannot see much hope for future generations if parents are still teaching their children to be frightened of foreigners.

I guess things will gradually change as more and more foreigners come to live and work in Thailand. In particular, once more Thai people see them speaking Thai then that will only be beneficial for the rest of us. If you are out and about in Thailand then please try and not act like a “farang”. Act properly and have good manners. And, if you hear someone call out “You, you farang!” then just smile back and keep walking. They often don’t mean anything bad about it and are just trying to be friendly.

Getting Ready for Loy Krathong

One of the grandest festivals that takes place in Thailand every year is Loy Krathong. It is sometimes called the “Festival of Lights” due to the twinkling lights on the krathongs that are floated on rivers and streams. The date of the festival varies every year but it is always held on the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar. This is usually in November. This year, Loy Krathong is on 12th November 2008. Next year, it will be on 2nd November 2009. Loy Krathong takes place all over the country at just about any source of water. People will go down to their local rivers or even ponds to float a small container which is traditionally made from banana leaves. In Thai, the word “loi” means to float. They will put a candle, incense sticks and often a few coins for good luck into their krathongs. They will then float this on the water asking for forgiveness from Mother Nature for polluting waterways. As they crouch there and watch their krathong float away under the gaze of the full moon, the Thai people believe that the krathong is also floating away their bad luck. I haven’t decided where I will celebrate Loy Krathong this year. However, here is some information about the main locations that I gathered from a recent press conference for the launch of the festival. All of these pictures were also taken at the media gathering.

Bangkok Loi Krathong Festival
November 8 – 12, 2008
Along the banks of the Chao Phraya River, From Krungthep Bridge to the Rama VIII Bridge

The “Loi Prateep” royal ritual was performed in the royal court on the night of the full moon of the twelfth lunar month. The ritual begins with the king making offerings of rice, followed by Buddhist sermons being held in the Grand Palace. The king then placed floral offerings at the “ubosoth” (chapel) of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Si Rattanasatsadaram, and the “Ho Phra” scripture hall of the Grand Palace, before setting off to Ratchaworadit Pier to float the giant krathongs. The other notable aspect of Loi Prateep is its water-borne procession consisting of an impressive fleet of no less than five hundred illuminated vessels, each with two lit candles and an incense stick, being carried down-stream.

Two royal ceremonial barges serve as the State barges, the third carries a sacred Buddha image and the fourth carries other sacred and floral offerings. Other vessels consisted of escort boats, floating Thai orchestra, police boats, firework boats, and others. Traditional giant krathongs of various shapes were crafted from cylindrical drums or rafts of 4 to 4.5 metres wide and 5 to 5.5 metres high and embellished with ornaments made from a variety of materials found in the immediate vicinity of the residential area.

On the night of the full moon in Bangkok, which is 12th November 2008, two other venues also have major events. These are Santichaiprakan Park and Rama VIII Bridge on the Thonburi side.

Sukhothai Loi Krathong and Candle Festival
November 10-12, 2008
At the Sukhothai Historical Park

Event Highlights

  • The Sukhothai Loi Krathong and Candle Festival begins with the Phra Mae Ya invocation ritual and a ritual to pay homage to King Ramkamhaeng The Great.
  • Cultural performances and Thai musical performances
  • A procession of giant krathong floats
  • Miss Noppamas beauty contest
  • Khome Loi (hoisted lanterns) Procession
  • Krathong floats and lantern contests
  • Traditional Thai fireworks display
  • Khantoke — a traditional Thai-style set dinner
  • ‘The Kingdom of Sukhothai light-and-sound presentation
  • Traditional floating market, food fair, and folk games

Ayutthaya Loi Krathong Festival
November 12, 2008
At the Bang Sai Arts and Crafts Village, Bang Sai Arts and Crafts Center, Ayutthaya Province

Event Highlights

  • Traditional Krathong Yai (giant krathong) Contest
  • Miss Noppamas beauty pageant
  • Traditional Miss Noppamas procession reflecting ancient customs
  • Thai food contest
  • Sales of handcrafted items produced by The Bang Sai Folk Arts and Crafts Training Centre and other village products
  • A traditional floating market
  • Fireworks display

Loi Krathong Sai Festival and a Thousand Floating Candles, Tak Province
November 8-12, 2008
Venue: The Rattanakosin Bridge (Sapan Sompoch Krung Rattanakosin)

Event Highlights

  • Procession of the Royal Krathong
  • A procession of the auspicious royally bestowed flame for lighting the Loi Krathong Sai floats is followed by a procession of the Loi Krathong Sai floats
  • Procession Route: The procession assembles at the King Taksin the Great Memorial then proceeds along Jarot-withithong Road to the intersection at the foot of the Taksin Maharaj Bridge. As the procession makes its way towards the Rattanakosin Bridge (aka Sapan Sompot Krung Rattanakosin 200-Year Bridge) — the event venue, it turns left into Kittikachorn Road and proceeds past the Kittikachorn Building before arriving at the designated site.
  • Rituals are performed to seek forgiveness from Mae Khongkha — Mother of Waters
  • The Legend of the Loi Krathong Sai light-and-sound performance
  • The krathong sai is set adrift.

The Northern Lantern Festival & Yipeng Loi Krathong
November 10-13, 2008
At the Chiang Mai Municipal Office and citywide

Event Highlights

  • Yipeng lantern procession
  • Lanna Thai cultural presentations and performances
  • Bamboo raft races and boat races on the Mae Ping River
  • The release of Lanna-style floating lanterns
  • Krathong contests
  • Loi Krathong on the Mae Ping River


If you need more details of the schedules, you can post a request over at our forums. We are also posting all our latest Thai Travel News over at Thanks to the TAT and Riverside Cruise for laying on a wonderful evening. The buffet food was great as usual as was the views from the upper deck of Bangkok at night as we cruised down the river.

Siam Park City

There are a number of amusement parks around Bangkok that are ideal for families of all ages. These include Safari World and Dream World which I have recently visited. Another large amusement park that I went to this week is Siam Park City (Suan Siam in Thai), a short distance north-east of Bangkok. It is very similar to Dream World with its rollercoasters and other rides. However, a large part of the 120 acre park is taken up with a water park. I went there with young Nong Grace to do a site inspection. I haven’t been here for about ten years and I must say that I was impressed with the large variety of things to do to keep everyone amused for the whole day.

We arrived at the park shortly before 10 a.m. when it was just opening its doors for the day. If you go at the weekend then it will open earlier at 9 a.m. The entrance to the park is through a large recreation of a Disney-like castle. At the ticket office they give you a bilingual map of the park where you have to make a decision of where to go first. Even if you stay all day until the park closes at 6 p.m. you will probably find it difficult to experience everything. However, as many of the rides weren’t open when we arrived, we decided to catch a ride on a golf cart for 10 baht each to the large water park on the other side of the park.

There is no doubt that for many families, that the water park is the highlight of any day at Siam Park City. In fact, you can easily laze around here all day. You don’t even need to feel pressurized to get your money’s worth by playing the other rides. This is because you can buy an admission ticket that includes only the water park. This is 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children. When we arrived we weren’t planning on doing any swimming. However, when Nong Grace saw how much fun people were having splashing in the water we had to go to the shop to buy her some swimming gear. Apparently you can also rent. There are a number of different areas to the water park. Some were ideal for younger children who cannot swim as the water wasn’t that deep. However, it is advisable to keep an eye on young children as there are some rock pools and they could slip and hurt themselves if they get too excited.

The water park has three main features. First is the action river which flows around the park like a real river. Nearby is a giant waterslide with several levels depending on how brave you are feeling. The largest area is taken up by the artificial sea which even has waves. One area has shallow water with water fountains and waterfalls for the youngsters to play. The artificial sea section starts shallow but gets deep quite quickly by several meters. This area isn’t safe for young children to play alone. There were quite a few lifeguards on duty and one kept calling out in Thai to young kids who tried to play there alone. If your children are competent swimmers then you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. But, I fretted a little with Nong Grace as she is only five years old. She kept running off. There is actually a fourth feature which is the 3-storey high spiral slide. However, this was still closed after an accident earlier this year when 28 children were hurt, four of them badly, when a section of the slide broke and they fell two metres to the ground.

We spent nearly three hours at the water park. There were plenty of places to eat and buy food. You can even rent a deckchair for the day for only 10 baht. I think it is nice to come here for the day just for the swimming. However, there is also the theme park and amusement rides. If you bought an entrance ticket for the water park then you can pay as you go with each ride. The prices for these ranges from 30 baht for a boat ride for kids up to a whopping 300 baht for the Vortex rollercoaster where you are hanging beneath the tracks. The boomerang rollercoaster is 150 baht and Giant Drop is 120 baht. These are all new rides from 2007 and weren’t here during my last visit. If you are planning on doing a lot of rides you can buy a Silver or Gold combo ticket for 350 baht and 500 baht respectively. These give you discounts on many of the rides. However, the best value ticket is the Day Pass for 600 baht which gives you access to the Water Park and unlimited rides at all attractions. If you want to play everything then you should go for this one. However, if you are planning on coming more often then you should consider a Year Pass which is only 1,000 baht which gives you unlimited access for the whole year.

A new section that has just been opened this month is Africa Adventure. Nong Grace was really excited to go and see this one as she liked the drawings on the map. However, once on the boat ride, she kept saying, “They are not real”. But, she still enjoyed the boat ride through the jungles of Africa. The highlight was the waterfalls with the hippos and elephants. The most puzzling section was the African village where a white man was being burned alive over a fire. I am not sure what the story there was. At the end of the boat ride, we then switched to the train which took us around the jungle again. However, this time we had an unobstructed view of everything which made it easier to take pictures. The problem of the boat is that it has a low canopy and it was difficult to see anything high up. From my side of the boat I only saw the feet of elephants.

Near Africa Adventure there is a large building called Dinotopia. This is a kind of a dinosaur museum but it was a bit poorly maintained and really not worth a visit. We also felt let down by the Jurassic Adventure. Here we took a jeep ride through a park much like the movie of the same name. However, the dinosaurs were a bit pathetic. There was a commentary but only in Thai. The nearby Big Double Shock is a bit like a Ghost House. But, as Nong Grace was scared stiff of the one at Dream World we didn’t go in this one. However, she enjoyed the rides for kiddies in Small World. The park has two rollercoasters, a Viking Ship, a swinging Flying Carpet and 75 meter Giant Drop. We didn’t go on any of those but we did go up the 109 meter high Siam Tower which gave us some grand views of the park and surrounding countryside. We could also see a new area of the park which apparently will open in 2009. Grace also enjoyed the two-storey high Merry-go-round and feeding the fish on the lake.

We finally left the park six hours after first arriving. I think she wanted to stay longer but I was exhausted. We did have a great day and I am sure we will return again next year. Nong Grace certainly wants to play in the water park again. You can go to the park by public transport such as Buses no. 60, 71, 96, 115, Air-conditioned buses no. 168, 519, and Micro Buses no. 8, 17. We drove there easily via the outer-ring road and turned off for Serithai Road and headed towards Minburi. The signs were easy to follow for the park. From the new airport, I reckon it is only 30 minutes or less. So, if you have a day to waste then you might consider going to Siam Park City for a swim while you are waiting for your flight. Just take a taxi to the park. It is easy to find one to take you back.

We wish to thank the management of Siam Park City for sponsoring our visit for the day at the park. If anyone reading this runs a tourist attraction or a tour in Thailand and would like to invite us on a site inspection, then please contact us through

Contact Visit at a Thai Prison – Part 2

Click here to read part one >>>

Contact visits in Thai prisons are usually held over a period of about one week. You can book in advance to say which day you would like to go inside the prison. Gor’s parents booked us for the first day. We turned up over one hour early on the morning of our visit as there were literally hundreds of people and we knew it would take time to process everyone. Normally, only relatives are allowed in for these contact visits, but Gor’s mother told the prison officials that I was married to one of his relatives. All I then had to show was my passport. We were then also given the opportunity to buy coupons which we were told we could use to buy food once we were inside. They were very strict about what you could or couldn’t take inside the prison. Apart from money, we weren’t allowed to take things like mobile phones, cameras, food, books, or anything that could be used as a weapon. In fact, we weren’t allowed to take any bags and we had to make sure that our pockets were empty.

Once we had been processed, we were then taken in groups to the main prison gate. Here we had to show our application and identification. We then passed through metal detectors and were thoroughly searched. I guess they were a bit suspicious of my extra large shoes, so they told me to take them off so that they could do a proper search of them. Much to the amusement of the Thais. Most of them were wearing flop flops or sandals and passed through with little fuss. If you ever go to a contact visit, you also need to make sure that you are dressed in respectful clothing. This means no shorts and you must wear shirts that have sleeves. One person was turned away because her top was too revealing. She quickly went off to borrow a top from someone else.

The control area has double gates at both ends. The normal procedure is that the gates on either end cannot be opened at the same time. There were also two sections. One for pedestrian traffic and the other for vehicles. This is where the prison bus will park and load up several hundred prisoners onto the bus. The outer door is kept locked during the loading and all the prisoners are wearing prison uniforms and have heavy chains temporarily fixed to their ankles. In the old days, they used to have to take prisoners to the court in several buses as there were so many. However, they now have things such as “e-courts” where the prisoner stays at the prison. For some small hearings, the prisoner only has to state his name and to say he understands the charges. The prison, the courthouse and the police station are all linked up with video conferencing via the Internet. This means not everyone has to go to court. While we were being processed, a delivery vehicle had entered this area and was undergoing a search from top to bottom.

From the reception area at the front gates, we were then led down an avenue with brightly painted murals on the facing walls. They depicted scenes from the Buddha’s life and taught good ethics and morality. As the prisoners are escorted to the prison bus, I guess they look at these paintings detailing the horrors of drugs and alcohol and they regret their sins. Whether it makes them a better person in the future is open to debate. From here, we were taken taken to a large field. Although we were now inside the prison, there were still further walls and gates that separated us from each area, called “dan” in Thai. On one side of the field, tables and chairs had been set up. Near the entrance there were also tables where you could use coupons to buy food, drinks and snacks. At the far end, a large stage had been set up for the morning’s entertainment.

As we walked in, Gor spotted us and immediately came over to welcome our party. He respectfully greeted everyone with a traditional Thai wai and then hugged his mother and his young daughter. This was the first time in two years that anyone had been allowed to get up close to Gor. He then led us to a table that had been reserved for us. His father then went off to buy the food with the coupons. We bought more than what was needed for this meal together as Gor was allowed to take any leftovers back with him. I didn’t really have much to talk with him about as I visit the prison quite often. So, I let him catch up with his daughter while I studied the surroundings.

To the far right of where we were sitting, I could see two large white buildings. This was Dan 2, the area where Gor slept and spent most of his day. However, he said that he was often called to different areas to help with translating. The block on the right was where he spent 14 hours a day locked up in the cells with his fellow inmates. He said from his cell window he could see out onto the road and watch buses pass on the road below. On the ground floor is the area where they ate their meals. The second block, houses the workshops where the prisoners work during the day. There are three such areas in the prison and each is an exact mirror of each other. Dan 2 also has a small football pitch which they can play on when not muddy.

The place near where we were sitting, I could see through the wire fence prisoners lining up to visit the medical officer. These visits have to be booked a day in advance and you have to make sure that you are not ill at the weekend as they are closed to everything apart from serious illnesses. For most illnesses, the doctor will only prescribe paracetamol. For anything more serious, you can apply to be taken to the prison hospital in the grounds of Klong Prem Prison in Bangkok. But, it is not easy to get that transfer.

One thing I noted was how much the guards relied on the trustees. These are well behaved prisoners who have been recruited by the guards to help maintain order. After all, the guards are heavily outnumbered and they can only maintain order through good discipline and the trustee system. Gor is also a trustee as he works in the office. Trustees wear a dark blue uniform but they are not allowed any weapons. Even guards are not allowed guns inside the prison and can only use wooden truncheons. It is easy to spot who is a guard inside a prison as they are the only people allowed to wear long trousers. All prisoners, including the trustees have to wear shorts. For the normal prisoners, they don’t have to wear a uniform inside the prison. They just wear their normal clothes. If they are wearing jeans when they first come in, this is then cut short by the guards. I saw a lot of prisoners wearing green uniforms. I asked Gor about this and he said they they were people sentenced to 48 days after they failed a random drugs test. No wonder the prisons are so crowded if they send drug addicts to prison instead of drug rehab.

There were some trustees stationed at a gate near where we were sitting. There were four of them and one prison guard who was slouching on a chair with his feet up. As people came and went, the trustees would give them a thorough search before they were allowed to pass through the gate. Of course the guards themselves weren’t searched by the trustees. But, I saw them being searched by other guards when they entered or left the prison at the main gate. They also have lockers on the outside as they are not allowed to bring money or mobile phones inside. In fact, they have to make sure that their pockets are empty. There seemed to be a good relationship between guards and trustees. They were sometimes laughing together though they still had to be subservient and stand to attention if a guard walked past.

The contact visit lasted about two hours. We ate and chatted and watched the entertainment on stage. There was a prison band and some singers who were pretty good. There were also a couple of girls from Taiwan who sang us a song in Chinese. As is normal in Thai society, we were entertained by some female impersonators, or ladyboys as they are often called. They came around with home made flower garlands made from paper that we would could buy with coupons and then give to our favourite singers.

All too soon our time was up. All of the prisoners were called to one side of the field where they were counted several timers. They were then escorted off the field under the watchful eye of the trustees and guards. Gor told me later that they were then given a thorough search before going back to his block. Next came the turn of the trustees who were also counted. Finally, once all of the prisoners had been accounted for and had left, we were then allowed to leave in small groups. It had been an interesting visit for myself. An opportunity to see the inside of a prison. However, I think Gor got more out of this contact visit as he was able to eat a meal and chat with his family in an almost normal manner.

Gor still has one more year left of his three year prison term. He is very grateful to his many Internet friends around the world who have been giving him morale support by sending him letters and also visiting him at the prison. He is also grateful to the people who have deposited money into his prison account. In Thai prisons, if you don’t have support from outside then it is difficult to survive. Please visit for more information about his life in prison and also for the address where you can write to him.