Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Ultimate “Eating Thai Food Guide”

If you enjoy eating Thai food like myself then you probably have dozens of Thai cook books at home. Another kind of book that I have is for Bangkok restaurant reviews. However, what I am most interested in these days is Thai Street Food. Luckily, there are a few good books out there on this subject. Most notably the beautiful book by David Thompson: Thai Street Food. I have already bought that massive book from as well as another wonderful book called Bangkok’s Top 50 Street Food Stalls by Chawadee Nualkhair.

Although I love these two books, they are not exactly the kind of book that I have been hunting for. The former devotes a lot of space to recipes and the latter to restaurant reviews. What I have always wanted is the ultimate guide to Thai street food. I am sure other people feel the same. Most people only eat a rotation of about four or five different dishes. This is mainly because they are nervous about ordering something new or unknown. What has been desperately needed is a guide to buying street food.

Well, the wait is now over. Mark Wiens from has just launched an extensive ebook called “The Eating Thai Food Guide” which you can download now from his website. I had already started writing and photographing my own Thai Street Food book. But, I think that Mark has done such a comprehensive and thorough book on how to order Thai street food that there is probably no longer a need for me to continue. I have been reading through his book the last few days and it has just about everything, if not more, of what I would have put in such a book.

Any good food guide must have pictures. And plenty of them. I am not talking about the studio shot pictures that we usually see in the cook books. I mean food pictures shot on location. The Eating Thai Food Guide is filled with colourful pictures on every page. Mark gives you a number of suggestions of meal combinations that you can order as well as information on individual dishes. He has also done pictorial lists of the most popular Thai street food as well as his own personal favourites. If you are an expat living in Thailand, a tourist visiting the Kingdom, or a foodie that has already fallen in love with Thai food, then I highly recommend that you download the Eating Thai Food Guide today. You won’t regret it.

American Arrested in Thailand for Linking to a Website from his Blog

Bloggers in Thailand, be careful what you write and link to from your website.

For some years now I have been very careful about what I write and discuss on the subject of Thailand. The name of the country is supposed to translate as the “land of the free”. However, it is only free up to an extent. Thailand these days now has one of the worst track records for freedom of the press. I own a number of blogs and forums. Everything has to be carefully moderated and anything posted that might be seen as detrimental to the institution has to be quickly deleted. This includes comments made by other people. If we delay deleting something, even as late as only 24 hours, we could be arrested and sent to prison. It doesn’t matter if we wrote it or not. As moderators and administrators we have to take responsibility.

The highest institution is of course the royal family. I think even newcomers to blogging in Thailand know that they should avoid that subject. Personally I don’t discuss anything to do with the royal family on my blogs unless I close the comment section. It is just too risky. And not only in the comments as some Thai people might misunderstand the intention of my own words. When it comes to the lese majeste law, anyone can file a complaint with the police and it must be followed up. The Nation recently reported that between 2006-2009 the number of cases have increased by 1,500% compared to the previous period [see story].

What I want to do here today is warn any foreign bloggers or forum moderators out there based in Thailand that they too can be targetted. It wasn’t that long ago that an Australian wrote a novel that had a page about a fictitious crown prince. It was self-published and only sold a handful of copies. But, that didn’t make any difference. He was arrested and charged with lese majeste [see story]. I cannot even tell you about the case otherwise I could be charged with lese majeste for talking about it. That is what happened to some foreign journalists who gave a talk at the FCCT in Bangkok [see story]. So, up to now, it is pretty clear you have to be careful what you write and discuss on your blogs and forums based in Thailand.

Now comes the news that an American citizen has just been arrested for linking to a pdf download of a banned book about the Thai King. We don’t know many details yet as the Thai media are not allowed to discuss lese majeste cases in detail. However, from Prachatai I have managed to get the followed information:

Apparently the DSI brought Joe (not his real name) to the Ratchada Criminal Court on 26th May 2011 with the charges of lese majeste and the Computer Crime act. Joe is a 54 year old resident of Nakhon Ratchasima Province. He is Thai by birth but has lived in Colarado, America for 30 years. He recently returned to Thailand for medical treatment. The blog in question dates back to 2007 where he allegedly put a link to a download of a banned book, “The King Never Smiles”. Joe denies doing this and has requested help form the American Embassy. He was denied bail and now resides in jail at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

So, I cannot emphasise enough, if you are a blogger or forum administrator based in Thailand or go to Thailand for your holidays, be careful what you write, or allow to be written on your blogs and forums. You could end up in a Thai prison if you don’t practice self-censorship. Don’t say that you weren’t warned.

Link to original story in Thai:

UPDATE: This story has now been picked up by the AP and AFP and is being widely reported around the world [see story]. New details emerging from the police are this: “He translated articles which are deemed insulting to the monarchy and posted them on his blog. Also he provided a link to a book”. I will update more later if anything new emerges. However, we are not allowed to report on exactly what he translated.

Thailand Map of Movie Locations for Hangover 2

The Hangover Part 2 has just been released in America. The first one was shot in Vegas, but now Bangkok has them. There has been some mixed reviews on the Internet. I just got back fromw atching it and had a really enjoyable time. There were plenty of belly laughs to make it worthwhile. After reading the comment by the American film critic Roger Ebert that Hangover 2 “plays like an anti-travelogue paid for by a rival tourist destination — Singapore, maybe” I thought that the TAT might need to do some damage control this weekend. But, I don’t think it was bad at all. There were certainly plenty of clichés in the movie. But the scenery around Krabi in Southern Thailand makes me want to go there for my next holiday.

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This is a map of Thailand showing the various locations used by the film crew for the shooting of The Hangover Part II in Thailand. The film opens in Krabi with the beautiful white beaches and limestone cliffs. This is in Southern Thailand. The film then jumps to Bangkok. Many of the outdoor scenes were shot in Chinatown. The bars were shot at Soi Cowboy and Sukhumwit Soi 7/1. There were also some scenes on a long-tailed boat on the Thonburi canals and a speedboat on the Chao Phraya River.

Some of the backdrops to the monastery were shot at Ancient City in Samut Prakan. However, it looked to me like most of the scenes with the monks were probably shot in the USA. Mainly because they used Tibetan monks. They wear different coloured robes compared to Thai monks. They also had eyebrows. Thai monks shave theirs off. A lot of the other scenes that were inside, like in the hotel, GoGo bar and tattoo parlour, were most likely shot in a studio in the USA as well.

If you can help adding more locations to the map then please let me know.

Wan Phra is the Buddhist Holiday

If you are a Christian, then you would know that your sabbath day is every Sunday. It is the day that you should go to church with your family.  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. The two most important days are the full moon and new moon. The other “wan phra” days are on the quarter phases of the moon. In all,  there are 4 days a month when the monks don’t go out on their alms round and the local people go to the temple instead.

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 took these pictures this morning of students from my school. We arrived at the temple just before 7 a.m.  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 for you to give to the monks.  Once you have the food, you should crouch on the ground and raise the tray above your head in quiet contemplation.

On “wan phra” and some of Buddhist festival days, the monks are not lined up to receive alms. 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 put this in another bowl. It shouldn’t be mixed in with the rice.  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 will ring the temple bell by beating it with a stick. This is the call to prayer. After the lay people have finished making merit, they make their way towards the community hall where all of the monks are already sitting on a low platform. We didn’t stay for this today as we had to go back to school. For about an hour, the monks take part in chanting. During this session, a senior monk also gives a sermon, and asks the lay people 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.

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.

Wat Takien Floating Market in Nonthaburi

A good excursion to do at the weekend is to visit one of the many floating markets that are within easy reach of Bangkok. The one that I visited last weekend is called Wat Takien Floating Market which is in Nonthaburi Province, to the Northwest of Central Bangkok. From Samut Prakan it only took us about 40 minutes to drive there along the Kanchanapisek Outer Ring Road. But, if you are coming from Bangkok, you can get there via the Rama V Bridge.

The floating market at Wat Takien is relatively new. There used to be a much older one nearby called Bang Ku Wiang Floating Market. However, that has long since closed due to the modernization of transportation during the last century. Once the roads and highways were built, people went from getting around by boat to travelling by car which is obviously quicker and more convenient. However, there is a growing trend these days to revive some of the old markets. That is why the local community opened this market at Wat Takien.

Many of these markets open early in the morning. However, even though we arrived there after 9 a.m., many of the stalls were still being set up. So we explored the temple first. In front of the chapel there is a giant tiger’s head which has a doorway which takes you underneath the building. Inside there are a number of different shrines. Buddhists here were walking around these shrines in a clockwise direction while chanting. They were doing this to bring themselves good luck. The exit was through the head of a giant dragon.

The market is open every day from about 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. However, it is a lot more active at the weekend. Probably best to aim to be there by about 10 a.m. But don’t have breakfast before you leave home. Like most markets, the highlight for our trip was the food. You could just snack all day long. You can buy food from one of the boat vendors or from one of the stalls set up in the grounds of the temple. I had a very tasty crispy and red pork on rice. For dessert I had deep fried bananas and a coconut pudding. All prices were very good.

For me, a trip to a floating market is not satisfactory unless there is also a chance to go on a boat trip along the canals. Only by exploring this way do you get to see the daily life of local  Thai people, which probably hasn’t changed much in a hundred years. Even today, most of the houses that we passed are cut off from the road and people have to use boats to get around. Even the postman and garbage collector has to use boats.Some of the houses we passed were more modern but many, like this one, looked like they have been around for years.

I don’t think that many people go on these boat trips. We saw the boats there but we had a hard time trying to find someone who would take us out. I don’t think Thai people like going out in the heat of the day. We eventually found this guy who took us out for an hour long trip for a low 200 baht. If this was Bangkok we would have probably been charged 800 baht at least. For the whole time that we were at this market, we didn’t see any other foreigners at all. So, the vendors and local people were really friendly and happy to see us there. It is not a major floating market, but it is a good escape from the other tourist traps.

Map for Wat Takien Floating Market:

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