Monthly Archives: November 2009

How to cook… Nam Phrik Mamuang

This is a dip called “nam phrik mamuang”. In the ingredients pictured below, you can see palm sugar, red chilli, red shallots, dried shrimp, green mango and shrimp paste in the middle.

Put the shrimp paste into a mortar and pound in the shallots and dried shrimps. Also add the hot chilli, sugar, fish sauce and finally the shredded green mango.

Anniversary of King Rama VI’s Death

Today marks the anniversary of the death of King Rama VI on November 25, 1925. As this King is regarded as the “Father of Thai Scouting”, schools all over the country took part in a special ceremony to celebrate his life and to remember the day he died. Mr. Surachai Kanasa, the Governor of Samut Prakan, presided over the ceremony at the City Hall Plaza. He is seen here laying a wreath at the foot of a statue of King Rama VI.

Thousands Sing National Anthem

In September, the Thai government started a new project called “United Thais – Strong Thailand” with the intention to promote unity and patriotism. Thai people normally sing or at least stand for the national anthem twice a day at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. It is broadcast on all television and radio stations and also outside government offices and places like railway stations and police stations. I have also sometimes seen policemen stop cars at an intersection at 6 p.m. However, not everyone does it. If they think they can get away with it then they might carry on walking.

The government had this idea that instead of the same recording every night on television, they would ask each province to host the singing of the national anthem. That is why I found myself the other night surrounded by 50,000 people from Samut Prakan waving the national flag and singing both the national anthem and the King’s anthem. The project started back on 20th September with the citizens of Krabi singing the national anthem live on television. It then continued every day, in alphabetical order using Thai letters, until they reached the turn of Samut Prakan two months later.

A few weeks beforehand, letters were sent out to all school, factories and other organizations in the province. Sriwittayapaknam school was asked to send at least 300 students. The same went for other schools. I know it sounds a bit like forcing people to go and show unity in front of the tv cameras. Maybe a bit like what happens at the big parades in North Korea or China. However, there was a genuine excitement about this event with lots of people talking about it. Many of my neighbours went. Also quite a few people in my community. Everyone said afterwards that they were very proud to have been a part of this historic event.

The event was broadcast live on all channels at 6 p.m. but NBT covered the event for a full ten minutes starting at 5.50 p.m. If you thought that we were asked to turn up half an hour before this then you would be wrong. Such a massive crowd needed a lot of organization. People had to register when they arrived and then they were told their designated spot. The majority of people came with their co-workers but there were also a lot of the normal public. You can also imagine the traffic situation outside. Coach after coach after coach dropped people off outside the City Hall Plaza. Unbelievably, the first people started to turn up as early as 3 p.m. I arrived at 4.30 p.m. and the place was already packed.

Everyone was in their correct place when the Governor turned up at 5 p.m. This is when the first of three rehearsals started. As the event was going to be live with multiple cameras, it all had to be done perfectly. Everyone waved their flags, lowered them in unison as the pips went to mark the start of the anthem, sang all together, and then cheered again at the end. We also had performances and the Governor paid respect to a portrait of H.M. The King. We had wonderful weather for this glorious event unlike Samut Sakhon that had a storm while they were bravely singing the anthem. I don’t envy them but they did a good job with no umbrellas.

It was certainly an amazing event of historic proportions. It is not often you see so many people coming together to show their love for a common cause. It was very moving and something I will remember for a long time. I took most of my pictures from down below during the rehearsals, but then went up to the top floor of the District Office to watch the real event. It was just a sea of colour which all of a sudden turned pinkish as the sun set over the Chao Phraya River. A flotilla of ships manned by sailors and also local people also showed their support. The project will finish on the 5th December, which is H.M. The King’s Birthday, with the singing of the anthem in Bangkok.

Click here to view many of the pictures that we took and click here to watch the live video.

5 Million Baht Toilet at Thai Temple

Toilets in Thailand don’t exactly have the best of reputations. They are often dirty, smelly and not well-looked after. They are also nearly always squat toilets. Now comes the news that the temple toilets at Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai in Samut Prakan have recently built a toilet block which rivals any in a five star hotel. The toilets are reported to have cost as much as 5 million baht.

As you enter the toilets, you will find a shoe rack outside for changing your shoes. You then enter through an automatic glass door. Inside it is all air-conditioned. The room is divided into six toilets for women and six for men. In addition there is a separate section with urinals for men. In the middle of the room there is a garden with plants and fountains.

The room is beautifully decorated with mirrors and exquisite lighting. Everywhere there are sensors. You can flush the toilets with the wave of your hand. The hand basins also have optical sensors and the water will start running as you put your hands under the tap. The same goes for the hand dryers. The toilets have full-time attendants who keep the place spotless.

The temple and nearby market receive a lot of tourists and now these visitors have a place to relieve themselves in comfort. Knowing Thai people, I reckon these toilets will also become a tourist attraction. They were featured on a popular Channel 9 programme on Monday night. Almost straight away, we noticed a spike on our website. People were coming in searching for the name of the temple in Thai. I reckon this weekend, these toilets at the temple will be very crowded with tourists. Will you be there?

Loy Krathong Sai

This year I have been to several Loy Krathong Festivals. The first was Loy Krathong Jay which was held back in October during the Vegetarian Festival. Then the normal Loy Krathong during the full moon of November. Then, this weekend I went to Loy Krathong Sai at Bang Krasop in Phra Pradaeng District of Samut Prakan. This is a different kind of krathong that is usually small boats that are strung together with a long piece of string.

This was the first time that they had held this festival at Bang Krasop. The most famous Krathong Sai is done every year in Tak and also in Maeklong. I guess they liked the pictures from this festival and so they wanted to start their own tradition in Samut Prakan. However, I am not sure why they decided to have it nearly two weeks after the full moon. Maybe they decided that they had too much competition for something new and that it would be best to be held later.

The promotion of the event was partly done by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). Which I thought was very kind of them. They had a press release on their website in Thai though they didn’t bother to have anything in English. They also brought along about twenty or so national media to cover the event. However, I think that was a bit of an overkill. The event was held in a small forest along the bank of a canal. There wasn’t much room for the local people to enjoy the event. You can imagine what it was like with so much media.

The Bang Krasop community had events on all day which included exhibitions, traditional Thai music and OTOP stores selling locally produced items. The local people were really kind and were very welcoming when I turned up. It took place literally in the middle of no-where down the bottom of a narrow lane. When I arrived they gave me a free t-shirt and sat me down to eat a large meal. The scene alongside the canal was really tranquil. And as the sun went down on the horizon, we then spotted the fireflies in the nearby trees.

The Governor of Samut Prakan arrived at 6.30 p.m. to officially open the event. After the speeches, he floated his own traditional krathong. Then, about 1,000 little boat-like krathongs were set adrift upstream from us. Each of these boats, made from coconut husks, had a lighted candle. They had timed the day well as the tide was changing and the water had started to run they other way out into the Chao Phraya River. It was a really magical sight. So beautiful though very difficult to show in pictures. There was no electrical lighting in the forest at all.

I took some pictures here for a while and then headed back to my car. Here someone came up to me on his motorcycle and asked if I wanted to go further down the road to where there was a bridge. He said I could watch the krathongs float towards me at that point. I am really glad I followed his advice. It was quite a sight and even though there was no string attached between each boat, they managed to keep a straight line as they approached us then went under the bridge. This last picture is of them about to float out into the Chao Phraya River. I will definitely go again next year though next time I will take a tripod!