Author Archives: Tatpachuen Thaiprasithiporn

What if you were a handicap in Thailand……

(I’ve posted this on my personal site earlier and think it may be beneficial to throw my thought here as well.)

My answer is, you’d be screwed—oh so screwed.

I have to admit. I’d never really put a thought onto this subject until my recent trip to Thailand. As many trips as I took, I did not see one disabled person in the public, not even *one*.

Is it possible Thailand does not have people with disabilities? Aren’t we have those using a wheelchair for ambulation? Aren’t we have those who are mentally challenges? Well, 100% we do. It’s pretty universal, right?

But, where the heck are they?

Don’t they shop at Siam Square? Aren’t they do weekly grocery shopping just like everyone of us do? Don’t they dine in a restaurant in Central Ladprao?

I believe they want to. But where are they?

I’m aware Thailand is trying. The country as a whole has been slowly attempting to assist those with disabilities. There are some handicap restroom as I can see. Unfortunately, when I look around, they are not even enough. Obviously, we cannot only provide only handicap-friendly restrooms if you know what I mean. We need to build more of the public-friendly environments.

We need more pedestrian safety programs promoting a safe environment (start with a side walk, maybe) for those who use adaptive devices. We needs more public assisting tools (say, automatic doors) and we need to make certain spaces bigger for whoever that may need them.

As far as I’m concern, when ones are disabled, that doesn’t translate into strictly staying at their own cribs. I’m just talking about those who are physically handicap only for now, not yet ranting about those with mental challenges.

Thais are “Kreng Jai” people

In the past few months, I’ve been friends with this guy who is half Thai, half Caucasian-American. Apparently, Jay has very minimal knowledge of Thai language even though he was raised by a Thai mother along with several of half siblings, who are pure Thais, from his mother’s previous marriage. Apparently when Jay was little, it was that time when his mother wanted to learn English. So she never really spoke to him in her native tongue. Jay has mentioned to me he would like to learn Thai to get in touch with his Thai side. He has been frustrated since people around him tend to leave him out when they are chatting away in the language he knows only 10%. As bad as I am at teaching, I volunteer to teach anyway. Better than nothing, right?

The problem with Jay is that even people around him (who are Thais and yes, can speak Thai) refuse to talk to him in Thai simply because they know he can barely understand it. So they never bother. When they never bother, he never learns. Since he has already had some basic knowledge about the language, I told him that I will, from now on, speak to him in Thai, except when explanation needed for certain words.

Jay came up to me last week, asking what does “Kreng Jai” mean?

Me: “Um…what a good question Jay!”
Jay: “So………?”
Me: “What do you think?”
Jay: “My brother says I am too harsh of a person. I need to learn how to be ‘kreng
jai” to people. But heck, he speaks in English until saying kreng jai. When I ask,
he says he doesn’t know how to explain it.”
Me: “Er……..?”

The thing is that until today, I still struggle daily to explain what “Kreng Jai” really is even in Thai. What exactly do these two simple words really mean?

I told Jay that apparently, a lot of Thai are Kreng-Jai individuals. Personally, Thais feel Kreng-Jai too much. As much as Kreng Jai is a charming quality, at times, it can be very annoying. But hold on, that isn’t the point. What is Kreng-Jai by any means?

While we are chatting away about the words in a restaurant, waiting for other two Thai friends, we order a combo appetizer. The dish is too big that we cannot even finish half of it, so I figure I will leave some for those who are coming. One shows up, so I mention to her that she can have this stuff we get. Conversation goes:

Me: “Plenty of food here, why don’t you just eat this?”
Other: “That’s okay. I will order mine.”
Me: “If you don’t eat this, we are gonna throw them away anyway.”
Other: “Thanks! That’s okay.”

A few minutes later, the girl orders the same combo—I mean the same exact one. Jay asks why she didn’t have ours in the first place. She smiles, saying ‘that’s okay.’

By the time another friend shows up, we all have been talking about Jay’s mother who is in the process of filing a divorce with Jay’s dad. When the guy walks near the table, we suspect him overheard the conversation, and then he walks right to sit by the bar. Jay walks right up to him saying he can join us now. There is no secret or anything. The guy says, “oh! that’s okay. I don’t want to interrupt.”

After dinner while we are walking back to the parking lot, Jay mentions, “what’s up with all the Thai people being too polite…almost way too paranoid?” I look over Jay, pondering: “Now you know what Kreng Jai really means, eh?”

Thai Thai

In the past few weeks, I have been told by so many Thais and non-Thais that I don’t act very Thai. I don’t look, act, eat and think like Thais. They feel that I have been Americanized after only 7 years in the US.

As Thai as I can be, I start looking back at myself, wondering what I have done, making myself a not-so-very-Thai gal. How do you define someone as a Thai and someone not? I then start looking back at my heritage. My maternal and paternal sides are 100% Chinese descent, but we at least have been living in Thailand for over a century. Even though we celebrate Chinese’s New Year and all, but we also celebrate the Thai’s national ceremony. Our family speaks Thais, shares the same Thai values and pays Thai tax. However I have no control over how I look. After all, I really don’t consider myself a Thai-Chinese, but only Thai with smaller set of eyes.

A lot of people have this impression about Thais loving tongue-burning-hot-and-spicy food, but forgetting that there are always minorities of Thais who hate ‘heat.’ I am one of them. I dislike those please-kill-me-before-I-am-burned-by-chilies kind of foods. Whenever I gather with a group of Thai friends, I’ve always been teased for not being able to handle heat like a Thai. So growing up, I was often called ‘look-jek’ a.k.a Chinese kid. After all, I still consider myself a Thai who doesn’t eat spicy foods.

Many times I am told that I don’t act like a typical Thai girl (who is soft spoken, well behaved and reserved, I supposed.) Growing up, I have always been an outspoken and upfront kind of gal. I defend what I believe in, initiate a conversation with my crush(es), ask guys on a date, pay for my own meals, and rarely use a phrase ‘mai-pen-rai’ as ‘that’s okay.’ Still, I consider myself a Thai who believe in what I believe in, and love to share it with others.

I get mad when people are late. When we are supposed to meet at 10 am, arriving 30 minutes later is unacceptable. One of famous Thai excuses is ‘oh! the traffic is really bad.’ Forget it. I am mad, especially when you live in Thailand (Bangkok, especially) your whole life. Don’t give me this crap. I wasn’t born yesterday. One time I told my friend, ‘once you set your feet in MBK, why don’t you give me a call. I will meet you there.’ Still, I consider myself a Thai who prefers arriving at least 10 minutes before my meeting.

Leaving that last piece of Tod-Mun-Pra on the plate as an honored piece? Nevermind. I know everyone has eyed that last piece, but too shy to fork it back to their plate. That’s okay. I will take it. Well, I still consider myself a Thai who is still hungry.

Again, I hate the phrase ‘mai-pen-rai’ when everybody knows it’s ‘pen-rai.’ A lady cuts the line in front of me in a supermarket, this is pen-rai. I will let her know. When someone offers me a glass of water while visiting their home and/ or office, and yes, I am thirsty, I will take it. Nevermind mai-pen-rai. When someone says something bad to me, I will let them know I don’t appreciate it. Mai-pen-rai isn’t totally applied. I guess I still consider myself a Thai without using mai-pen-rai excessively.

I guess I’ve made my point. Thais are still Thais, regardless of where they are or whom they have become. Of course, this may only been applied to some cases.

Are Photographers Important for Thai Media

A few days ago I started writting in my personal blog ( on how local photographers in Thailand (mainly media) are treated pretty much like the second class citizen in the newsroom. It sparks me an idea.

During my years in a journalism school in the US, I strongly felt that it would have been a great idea if I could photograph for my own story to avoid miscommunication between a reporter and a photographer. So I did my extensive works on photojournalism as well. One thing leaded to another. I ended up putting all my reporting classes aside to concentrated more on photojournalism as a whole. To make a long story short, I’ve learned the importance, pride and demand in photojournalism industry, and how much printed media depends on photographs to attract audiences.
Realizing my English was still pretty much the second language to me (and to everybody,) I finally landed a position as a photo editor at a newspaper in Kentucky. While working variously with different newsroomers, I knew how important photographs were—they gave public ideas of what has happened. They gave an opportunity for those who were not there to touch the scene. Photographs allow us to visit past, present and ideas of the future. Among photojournalists themselves, they are proud of what they are doing. So many times when I went to shoot football games, I would see these 50 something-year-olds carrying loads of equipments without any complain. I have never once heard a photojournalist says they do what they do for a paycheck. Once a photographer finishes up with their assignment, they then head back to the newsroom. Photographers select their preferred photographs, discuss what they have gotten with photo editor, and work with page designer and the reporter. The process goes on. Photographers play a very important part of the layout.

I returned to Thailand a little bit after my first job in Kentucky. Things were different, but I didn’t sweat—each person and newsroom worked differently. I was a reporter, but cared so much about photographs that would be published in my story. I believe we, reporters and photographers, must work together to produce a satisfying outcome. But here in Thailand (when I worked there,) teamwork was pretty much whatever attitude. Photographers dumped their stuff on the file-sharing computer then you never saw him or her again. So-called photo editor glazed at those photos, cropped them a little or more (without photographer’s consent,) put that so-called ‘edited’ photos in the file ready for a page designer who basically sat two offices away. These two never talked. They just did what they got to do. By the time I knew it, I checked on my finished story. The picture was so handicapped (abused by photo editor) that I didn’t even know who to blame. Talking to the photographer, he or she didn’t really care. They basically felt that it wasn’t their job because they were ‘only’ a photographer, not a photo editor. Talking to the photo editor, he or she would say it wasn’t his or her job, he or she wasn’t the ‘page designer.’ By the time you ran to the page designer, you already knew what you were going to hear. “It wasn’t my job, those photographers and editors were supposed to do this.”

Weren’t we all supposed to sit together and discuss? Teamwork, anyone?

Once this problem was brought up by me to the photo editor (who basically were supposed to be in charge of all the photo finishing, I hoped,) she or he would look at me and sarcastically said, “This is not America. Photographers here were the second or may be third class citizen in the newsroom. Live with it or may be you should work for the Americans.”

See, the attitude. Was that photo editor just plain stupid or really had no clue? I think a little of both. Talking to several fellow photographers from various publications in Thailand, they were really depressing. Some felt that they had nowhere to grow and go. Some felt that they wanted to learn more about techniques and all, but nobody cared when they wanted some critiques. Some simply said they had given up long time ago, and this job was for a paycheck. I have met so many great Thai photojournalists while working there, but sadly, their room to breathe was really minimal. When a photographer can’t walk proudly of their career and passion, what kind of outcome do you expect? The worst case? Maybe nobody expects anything at all.

Best Non-traditional Thai Food

Like I’ve mentioned earlier in part one (Best Non-traditional Thai Food on 09/25/06,) good foods along with good atmosphere equal great dining experience. Below is what I’ve compiled. Please note that these places are recommended according to my own dining preferences (and some trusted friends.) These restaurants and dining places are all in Chiang Mai.

The Riverside Bar & Restaurant ( Located by Mae Ping River. This restaurant is one of the greatest. The restaurant is divided into three sections—the first two are live music where you can enjoy yourself and companies with live music and great food. The outdoor section is where you can sit under candle lights and enjoy quite conversation. Riverside offers 75-minute dinner cruise along Mae Ping River where you can order your food before the boat takes off. They only charge 70B per head, which is extremely reasonable comparing with what you will get out of it. Besides, the food here is delicious. I recommend Spiced Tofu, Wrapped Chicken in Banana Leaf, and Green Curry Fish Balls.

Pop/Am Restaurant: Located near Pratu Chang Puak. I usually go to this place when feeling like having a home-like ambience—much like pa and ma restaurant. Pop/Am offers both Thai and European foods. And even though the price is a little high when compare to food portions, but you are sure that your money will be well spent. I recommend Chicken Curry with potato and shrimp cakes.

Fried Meat Balls near CMU Health Park: This is not a restaurant, but more like a food tent. Last time when I went there, the tent has been transformed into a nicer version of tent with actual picnic table. There is no name for this place, but if you go down to Chiang Mai University and cannot find health park, just simply ask anybody. The shop is located right there in the middle of everything. I recommended Mixed Meat Balls and orange juice (these are basically all they are selling anyway.)

Faay-Hin Market: Located within CMU campus. This night food market is basically a big food court with wide variety of Thai foods to choose from such as famous salad, fruit shakes, made-to-order places and you name it. Prices are very low since it is a major dinner place for college kids, and foods are pretty good. I recommend exploring everything they sell there from food, drinks and dessert. It is a decent dining spot if you are looking for a low-key place to hang.

Egg-Wrapped Shrimp Pad Thai: This vender is located in front of Pra Too Mueag Wall. The owner/ cook starts setting up her shop on the side walk around 4-5 pm. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Pad Thai, but p’Nui, the owner, gets me converted.
This place sells one of the best Pad Thais in the world.


My suggestions to traveler:
See, I don’t know much about other cities, but here in Chiang Mai, you can basically find good foods anywhere. Most great dining locations are not recorded in Chiang Mai guide book. The best bet is, ask the locals. They live there. They know better. They can point you towards the right direction. Enjoy.