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Buy Thai Books!

Sawat dee Krab!

Welcome to my latest bit of blog on one of my most favorite of all things Thai next to Thai food, my books! Sometimes I’d almost rather have my nose in a good book more than even a plate of Pad Grapao smelling all that spicy, basilly Thai goodness. I guess you can say that’s one way to diet!

Long before I became a Thaiphile I was a bibliophile I’ve always loved books and collecting books too. As a kid I was the reclusive and introspective sort so diving into books (at least ones that didn’t bore me) was a natural fit. Would it sound too geeky to say some of my best friends were books? Well they were at least in high school where it was easier to escape into a good book then deal with the pressures of my high schools social life (or lack there of!)

Most of the time things were cool but sometimes constantly buried in a book was an invitation to get the snot beat out of me by some of the Neanderthal jerks at my school. Back then I was into science fiction books like the Martian landscape of Edgar Rice Burrows or Ray Bradbury and Carl Sagans books on science and everything out there among the “billions and billions of star stuff.”. Even though I was a poor student reading those books marked me as being ‘brainy’ and an instant target for those of the knuckles-dragging-the-ground mindset. I can just imagine what my tormentor’s reaction would be to seeing me reading books about Thailand. “You readin’ books on wha’? TIE-land?” Oh I could hear the bad attempts at humor now *shudder*

I didn’t have a clue back then about my adopted country but all that has changed due to my passion for reading. That plus my determined drive to get my hands on anything I could find on the subject! So today I thought I’d write about my collection of books I have on Thailand. At my most recent count I have about one hundred books on darn near just about anything and everything to do with the Land of Smiles. In fact I joking tell folks I probably have the largest privately owned Thai library in DC not counting Wat Thai or the Thai Embassy here. Too bad that’s too big to fit on a business card 😉

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Wit’s Catering….

Sawasdee Krab!

Fall is coming on strong which means the holidays are just around the corner and that means office parties, social get togethers and lots of eating. For me that means firing up the kitchen at Wit’s End for more Thai cooking like today. Instead of meeting at a restaurant or coffee shop like usual my Thai Meetup group had a potluck meeting. Everyone had to fix a dish or bring something.

For this weeks blog I thought I’d share my culinary potluck adventure. This month things also means more cooking because in two more weeks it’s Halloween and I volunteered to make Pad Grapao Neua and Grapao Gai for our office Halloween potluck.

That’s the curse of being know as-

a. someone that can cook
b. can cook something exotic like Thai food and
c. is actually pretty dang good at it!

At least that’s what other people say about my cooking not me I swear! I haven’t had a customer dissatisfied yet, well, except for that time I had two friends over and one could not eat beef or anything spicy. So what did I serve, fiery Pad Grapoa Beef and Basil. I forgot I swear! But I still haven’t lived that down….

At work my department has meetings twice a month. These meetings aren’t the most exciting event in my day but they are pretty informative. Sometimes the boss has lunch catered but maybe that’s a bribe to make sure everyone shows up! So what do I do? As a glutton for punishment I offer to make Thai food for lunch at one of our meetings in December. Let’s see about 20 people, and knowing me I’ll fix at least five different dishes plus I have to get all this stuff from my house in Washington to my job in Maryland and I don’t own a car. Just like me to let my mouth write a check I have to figure out how I’m going to cash!

Today’s menu is way easier but I was running late getting started cooking this morning and be at the pot luck on time but you know I work best when I’m under pressure and some chaos going on. My secret is have everything I need to chop, pick, pluck or cut prepared ahead of time. This is how I managed to make two seperate dishes at the same time with a two hour late start and still be only an hour late. I also keep everything within an arms reach then I can stand in one spot and just pivot all day long.

Satay? Ok!

You can never go wrong with Satay Gai or curry flavored chicken skewers. You can also never make too many ‘cuz trust me they’ll go fast! I like these because they are fairly easy to make just take a day or so to make them my way.

The recipe is simple, actually I cheat a little, buy the Satay mix and Satay peanut butter sauce in the package as you see here. Any decent Thai or Asian market will sell this since it’s a popular brand. You can follow the instructions or make it the way I do which is a little different but worth it. I learned this from an ex-faen who could make Satay beef that would melt in your mouth like butter! Oh man!

The Satay mix has two parts. Part A is the mix for the chicken and Part B is for making Peanut Sauce. I only use the mix for the Satay and buy the Peanut sauce in the jar. That’s UN-official Thai cooking to get it out of the bottle but I remember when I tried making it the authentic way and I don’t want my fire insurance to go up again. But enough yapping, let’s cook!

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Loy Kratong, DC Style!

Sawasdee Krab True Thai Believers!

Ah, Fall.

A special time of year, the days get shorter and the leaves bloom into fiery bursts of red, orange and gold. The weather feels crisp and starts getting cooler or as our Thai friends would say หนาวมาก (cold very!)

In the country folks start shopping to buy big, ripe pumpkins. If your a city kid like myself you go shopping for a pumpkin spiced latte` at Starbucks. Back home in Alabama as a kid we took pumpkins to carve into Jack O’Lanterns for Halloween. Today in my DC neighborhood you need a pretty scary Jack O’Lantern to keep it from being mugged!

Right about this time of year folks start thinking about the coming holidays as thoughts turn to turkey, the dreaded Christmas shopping, Kratongs …Say what?

Well maybe not everybody except for Thai people here in DC and card-carrying Thai fanatics like me. For our fellow farang readers that don’t know what it’s all about let me enlighten you. Although not an official holiday in Thailand Loy Kratong, next to Songkran is one of the
most popular, and romantic, festival gatherings Thai people celebrate
each year. The festival is held on the night of the 12th full moon, which usually lands some time in November although this year in DC it’s in October.

Loy Kratong is a festival held to pay homage to the goddess of rivers and waterways, Mae Nam or mother water. Kratong supplies to make them can be purchased in the any market in Thailand. Usually they are supplied by the temple but you can make and bring your own if you like. At the festival there is dancing and music, best Kratong contests for adults and the kids, a beauty pageant and always lots of Thai food.

‘Loy’ literally translates to mean ‘float’, while Kratong is the Thai word for a sort of tray made out of banana leaves. Loy Kratong is celebrated by floating elaborate Kratongs decorated with flowers, candles and incense on just about any waterway in the kingdom. After dark when the full moon has risen then you lit the candle and incense sticks in your Kratong, make a wish and then set it in the water to float away carrying your wish to Mae Nam. The romance behind all this originated in the 13th century Sukhothai period Thailand and became an addition to the festivities especially as an event for couples to enjoy.

It all began with a fairy tale legend.

According to the story, Nang Nopamas, a royal consort in the court of King Ramkhamhaeng (the founder of Sukhothai), made the first Kratong as an offering to Mae Nam. She set it afloat on one of the canals of the
palace so that it would drift past her lover the King. The King was so
delighted with the creation, thus the origin of a saying that if two lovers set a Kratong adrift and it stays afloat until out
of sight, their love will last forever.

Definitely sounds romantic right?

Saturday night we celebrated our own Loy Kratong at Wat Thai here in DC. In the past it was celebrated on the National Mall with floating the Kratongs in the Malls huge reflecting pool. To me that was a cool touch to highlight a Thai festival here in America but maybe these days Homeland Security is too worried about terrorists in the mix. I hate to think of Secret Service agents’ body searching monks or taking away some little kids float as a threat to national security!

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The Gift

I am such a geek. Let me tell you.

Today, for you all over there in the Land of Smiles, but tomorrow for me here in the Land of McLife and Starbucks begins a small milestone. A tiny ripple in Life’s big pond yes but those ripples can become Tsunamis if you let ’em make you a basket case but that hasn’t happened to me. Yet.

So true believers what could be such a calamity in the making you ask? None other than the fact Wit here turns 42 years old in say about the next 10 minutes at midnight. 42. YEARS. Where did all this time go? And what did I do with it? On the good side at least I dealt with losing my hair long before I was even thirty so that’s one issue scratched off the list.

Should I start planning for payments on a Ferrari to pay for my mid-life crisis? Pish-tosh! Forget a hot set of wheels, buy me the first ticket I can to Thailand, less expensive than an Italian sports car for sure but a way more fun ride I’m willing to bet!

As much as I’d love a plane ticket to paradise for my birthday I don’t run with friends that have that kind of cash to celebrate my rapidly approaching middle age. Besides I’m not the type to ask for what I want people to give me for a present. I prefer to leave it up to them to give me something if they wish and it’s also a test to see how well they know me and what I like.

To me that means more to put some thought into a gift that shows you know the person your giving it to. Growing up with my family in Alabama I had too many experiences of horrible gift giving each birthday and Christmas. My folks just don’t get it, or rather they didn’t get me. You want an example? For Christmas 2002 my Mom sent me a big surprise present. When I opened it you know what it was? A plaster statuette of the firemen raising the flag at Ground Zero after 9/11. For Christmas. I’m not kidding you. As we speak it’s still in it’s original box gathering dust in the attic. My family tries I know but some things we just don’t ‘get’ about each other or maybe I’m just difficult!

Lately I’ve started seeing someone (Thai of course) and as with any new relationship there is the learning curve of getting to know each other. Whenever my impending birthday popped up I would get the same question.

“What do you want for your birthday?” To wit I would always give the same reply “Baby, it doesn’t matter you don’t have to give me anything I already have the best gift in you”

Usually that was enough to settle the question and earn me bonus Juup จูบ points to boot!

But lately the question got more persistent and my reply would lead more to a look of consternation on someone’s face than a sweet blush. Someone was determined to get me something nice for my birthday but didn’t have a clue what I’d really like. I finally leaked my wish list and hinted at one item in particular. I just hate to see anyone suffer with agonizing decisions.

So why am I such a geek? Because I wanted a book for my birthday? Not even a book really but, wait for it, a dictionary but not just any dictionary!

So what did I tell you before? Geek. I’m sure some of you are thinking only Wit would want a Thai dictionary for his birthday. But do I even need to tell you how cool this one is? Expensive too, was the cheapest price by far and that was $42! I’m going to be owing someone some Juup myself for awhile to be sure!!

Usually I also buy some stuff for myself for my birthday as an excuse to indulge a little. Going with the same theme here I bought two other books from Barnes and Noble, ‘Thai Syntax an Outline’ by Udom Warotamasikkhadit and ‘Aspects of Meaning in Thai Nominals: A Study in Structural Semantics’ by Thomas W. Gething. Can we say Super Thai Geek?

Quite a mouthful those two titles, eh? Brassy in the pocket too considering most days I still can’t pronounce half of what I say in Thai with the right tone!

Breaking with my mantra of all things Thai for a moment I did get one other goodie for myself and that was the DVD of Francis Coppolas ‘The Outsiders-The Complete Novel.’ Like many Junior and High School kids in America I read the book The Outsiders as required reading. I liked the story which was really cool and also touched a deep sense of belonging in me. Of course this was circa 1970’s B.T. (Before Thailand)

It was over 20 years ago when the movie was first released with a lot of the book cut out of it. Francis Coppola being the genius director that he is re-released the DVD this month with all the footage put back in that was in the book but cut out of the movie.

Here’s the weird thing and why I am telling ya’ll this. When I first saw this movie I was 20 years old but it was like falling into a time warp going back to a place I always wanted to belong in my youth but never did. Now 20 plus years later I’m falling into a time warp again watching the DVD and revisiting who I was and where I was in my life back then at 20. A Double Warp making me do a Double Take! If turning 40 does that to you I wonder what turning 60 does?

I never would have dreamed at 20 where I would be now almost a whole two and a half decades later. Does anyone? And I sure couldn’t tell you where I will be in another two and half decades if me and the World manage to make it that far together. Will I be living in Thailand? If so I wonder will I look back through all the years and adventures, loves and losses of my Thai life to peek inside a window to today?

Will I look back to here in wonder or regret at my life here that I am living now? If I could know the future for my birthday would I really want to open Pandora’s Box? Tempting but I don’t think so, if I knew how my life would be in the future I think I would forever spend my life trying to change it. Maybe ignorance is bliss. Take the surprises as they come and don’t worry about what’s waiting for you in the dark.

If you spend enough time on the internet you get these funny or quaint or sometimes just plain lame sayings e-mailed to you. Sometimes you get a good one to remember like this one.

Why is life a gift? Because the past is history, the future a mystery, that’s why today is called the present.

Could all this we know really be that simple? Life is the Gift? Mai bpen rai, Wit, make a wish and blow out the candles. Happy Birthday to me.


Muay Thai: A Living Legacy

Sawasdee Krab Thai True Believers!

Welcome back to part two of my little missive on the butt kickin’-est martial art there is this side of Boise, yep none other than Thailand’s number one export for sports, Muay Thai! Was the book cover a give away?

This happens to be one of my favorite in my personal collection of books on Thailand. It’s like the Bible of Muay Thai with just about everything you’d want to know about Thai kickboxing. The book is beautifully loaded with enough excellent pictures to make any Thai coffee table book green with envy. It’s also crammed with enough info inside and out to be any serious kickboxing aficionados’ number one reference on everything ‘muay.’ All this and there is even a fold out poster in the back! An excellent choice for the little kick boxer on your Christmas list this year.

Last blog I breezed over some of the history of how Muay Thai came to be, this time I thought I’d delve into some of the nitty, gritty details about what makes this such a fascinating event to watch if you ever happen to see a real Muay Thai match. Last time I also tried to let my writing chops and literary excess paint a scene of what going to a Muay Thai exhibition would be like. However I think all my ‘purdy words’ fell flat without the street cred of having actually seen a Muay Thai bout myself. *sigh*

My Muay Thai (stuff)

Forget Home Theatre Box office I’ve got Home Theatre Boxing! I’ve seen enough fights with my Muay Thai VCD collection that I have some idea what they are like. How nuts am I for Thai kickboxing? Well in addition to three very excellent books on Muay Thai I have about a dozen VCD’s of Muay Thai championship bouts, most of them by Thailand’s Number One Kickboxing Promoter Songchai Ratanasuban who is like the Don King of Muay Thai but without the wild hair.

I found a series of kickboxing VCDs on eBay once so I bought the whole set. They highlighted fighters as young as 8 years old up into the late teens competing. Some of the tykes showed some talent for kickboxing while a few of the really young ones looked like they were having it rough just to hold up their oversized boxing shorts!

I also have three VCD documentaries on kick boxing that are a hoot to watch since they are all bilingual. On my TV I set the ‘Audio adjust’ to the far left and everything is in Thai, move the setting to the far right and an Australian guy (the accent is unmistakable) is now doing the narration in English but he’s still speaking in Thai grammar! Too weird!

My other really cool ‘how to’ VCD is on the history and style of Muay Thai’s cousin Krabi-Krabong which I mentioned at the end of my last blog. This is a combat style that really deserves a blog of it’s own if I can’t hit some of the high lights here that is if ya’ll are still with me later *wink*

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