Author Archives: oakmonster

Wait. Was that English? Part 2

It’s been 4 years since I wrote the first edition of a post about the seemingly Thai words that weren’t Thai.

The ah-ha moments continue this time with the brands we THINK we know and love.

A lot of those seemingly Thai words and brand names I grew up are actually English. We pronounced them with our own flavor and absorbed them into our culture so well that no one could hear the original words in them any more.

Much like English-speaking folks would reach for Kleenex, not facial tissue, or Band-Aid, not adhesive bandages, Thai people ask for Breed or Fabb instead of Pong Sak Fok, literally translated to “washing powder”, proper term for laundry detergent.

It recently dawned on me when I actually saw the English packaging of the detergent in the grocery store that Breed is actually Breeze and Fabb is actually Fab…as in Fabulous.


But wait, there’s more!

We have always reached for Sun Lai to wash our dishes and Sun Siw/Seel for our hair. At least we got the “sun” part right but it’s actually Sunlight and Sunsilk.

My grandmother and later on my mom used to reach for this thing called Wig Wapoh-rub for us kids when we had the sniffles. The “Wig” part I was sure it was a brand, but I had always asked myself what the hell is a “Wapoh-rub”.

So when I finally see Vick’s VapoRub in English, everything made sense again.

Finally, the big bombshell.

When I was growing up, we all knew the toothpaste as Dah KEE with a guy smiling on the tube. Growing up with Japanese manga printed in black and white, we didn’t quite get it that the face on the toothpaste tube actually was a smiling black face in top hat was to go with Darky/Darkie toothpaste.

Obviously, in the mid 80s, the name was changed to Darlie and the face is now of a shaded white dude in top hat. (Wikipedia has the history here.)

Now I didn’t quite get the whole Darky/Darlie thing back then until I saw an old, faded bill posted on one of the roadside general store after a few years in U.S. college.

My thought: Ah-ha! Oh, wait. Oh my god. That was HORRIBLE!

I’m sure there will be more of those brands to jump out at me when I look at more stuff next time I come home.

Any of you can think of anything else?

Who wants a “Beautiful Asian Bride”?

Paul’s latest story on Thai-Blogs popped up on my RSS feed. Naturally, I took a minute off work at hand and dropped in to read.

At the end of the article, I found a surprise.

I know Paknam Web has to make money with online ad and all, but I didn’t think I’d see THAT.


Ah, yes, the stereotypical gorgeous Asian bride. Almond eyes, long flowing hair, lovely fair skin and slim figure. She’s all here for you…

…you overweight, hairy, dorky looking white man.

I haven’t laughed this hard in a while. Aint’ reversed stereotyping fun?

Stuck in Bangkok – Best and Worst

We finally are leaving Thailand tomorrow. Out of Suvarnabhumi, to my father’s relief. Getting up at 4 a.m. to go to Bitec check-in point for U-tapao would be torturous for the poor man.

My planned 2-week vacation was extended to 19 days of bliss laced with frustration, thanks to the airport closures. However, it’s always good to be home. Things are always changing around here in the Land of Smiles. For better or worse.

So here’s my best/worst list of my recent trip home.

Best: Extended vacation.

Worst: Brandon’s extra week of time off he actually didn’t really have…and therefore eating into the time I was to spend alone with my family and not having to worry about him. It was fun, nonetheless.

Best: Tony Jaa’s action and fight choreography in Ong-Bak 2.

Worst: Ong-Bak 2 as a movie. Seriously. It sucked as a movie but awesome action sequence clips. The story of the last heir, lost in the jungle, seeking revenge, had potential but it was not well developed nor well told. Oh, and digital blood? That was fun to spot too.

Best: Fusion massage at Angsana Spa at Sheraton Grand Laguna Phuket. The best massage I’ve ever gotten in my whole life. (Ask for the therapist named “Cherry”. She’s awesome!) I mean, I was a little jetlag still that afternoon, but I fell asleep so hard she tried to wake me up a few times to flip over.

Worst: The price. Let’s just say that for the amount I paid, I could’ve gotten 10 traditional Thai massage on the beach or 5-7 “oil massage” elsewhere. It was still worth it to me.

Best: Food. Oh my god the food. Not just Thai food but everything else too. I can’t possibly tell you of all the places we’ve eaten so, I’ll break it down gently here.

First, the two standards. We had Thai at my friend’s Kinnaree Gourmet Thai in Sukhumvit Soi 8–always an excellent place with creative and spectacular cocktails. We had to go back twice to Greyhound Cafe for the bacon and egg fried rice, prawns and soba salad, and their Pink Cooler blended juice blend, once at the Emporium and another at Central Chidlom.

We had Vietnamese at Thang Long at the end of Soi Langsuan–mediocre food with exception of a few items.

We had Italian at Torlente, also at the end of Langsuan–old staff and chef of now defunct Pan Pan, delicious but nothing to write home about.

We had a barrage of Japanese grilled goodness at Kuu at Central World–place was packed but the bitty skewers were really good with impressive sake list.

We had hand-cut, freshly made ramen at Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao at the Erawan’s Urban Kitchen on the corner of Rajdamri and Ploenchit–yummy noodles, bleh service.

We had the best of Thai and Western food at Thai Airways Catering out by Don Muang Airport, close to Jay Leng outlet–this is what they serve first class passengers and all VIP at their lounges, wonderful food and desserts. Ladies, make your way here. The waiters are sooo gorgeous! (Word is their general manager picked the good looking ones…)

We had French fusion at Angelina at Central Chidlom–a bit pricey, hit-or-miss with the food, but oh so right and oh so French-tastic with dessert and pommes frites and garlic aioli.

We had German brats and sausages, pork legs, and saurkraut and potatoes at the Goethe Institute off of Sathorn Road. I must say the German style pork leg tossed in Thai “yum” spices was better than the original.

We had popcorn at the Central World movie theater. I was perplexed when the attendant asked “What flavor of popcorn would you like?” Apparently, you can get it in salty (plain + salt), sour cream, caramel, and barbecue. American popcorn is better despite the variety of flavors, I have to say.

Off the boats at the Damneun Saduak Floating Market, we had egg rolls, young coconut water, coconut pancakes, pork noodle soup, and Kanom Bueang aka Thai dessert tacos.

We also had food on the side of the road to Khao Yai National Park. Not sure exactly where we were, but the place is famous for their ham and ham steaks. They fry up their ribs + steak to crispy goodness and..a;lskjd;o; Sorry. I had to wipe the drool of the keyboard there for a second…

Worst: Our stomachs just aren’t big enough to eat everything.

Best: Hanging out with my mom’s best friends and served as my late mother’s proxy on a few of the essential trips. They missed her on their excursions and having me there seemed to fill a little bit of the void. The Aunties took us out for lunch at the aforementioned Goethe Institute. Then to do some shopping for silk at The Old Siam. And finally, they took us on a day trip to Khao Yai National Park.

Worst: Having to hold our tongues the whole time as the Aunties tell stories of joining the “mobs” and all other yellow-shirted tid bits. Endearing, but frustrating at times.

Best: Got to see Khao Yai National Park at its greenest. Gorgeous jungle covered mountains and valleys. Roads owned by monkeys. Braking for deer and screaming inside the van for the other car to stop for the deer. (Poor Brandon and our driver possibly lost their hearing for the next hour after that incident.)

Worst: Shelling out for Brandon’s entry fee of 400 baht, ten times of the local entry fee of 40. One of the aunties said we could’ve stuffed him in the back of the van, and nobody would’ve known.

Best: We were pulled over for allegedly speeding up to the tollway booth. As our driver discreetly offer him money, the officer said, “Thai police these days don’t take any bribe.” The van full of aunties exploded in applause.

Partly, our driver mentioned that he works for a “Madame Or”–which is the nickname of Thaksin’s now ex-wife–which is not really a lie as my aunty is also named Or. Haha! Partly, as the aunties believe, is because Brandon was up front with the driver and the cops don’t want to make bad impression. Obviously, none of us believe the officer was truly “honest”. It is sad how we’ve become so jaded.

Worst: Spotting more check points coming back from Khao Yai through Saraburi. Agricultural trucks were being pulled over. Our driver told us that the cops pulled those guys over, inspect the cargo, and ask for their produce instead of money, or sometimes in addition to.

And finally…

Best: My postponed return date allowed me spend Father’s Day and weekend with my dad. We went shopping, had dinner, and saw Ong-Bak 2, something he would probably wouldn’t have done on his own. Now THAT was the best part of the trip.

Worst: Because we were staying at my house, we didn’t get to enjoy the 2,000 baht a day stipend other stranded tourists get at their hotels. Oh well.

A House Divided

There is only one rule I go by during my current trip home.

Do NOT bring up politics with family or friends.

Nowadays in Thailand, for some people, you are either the Yellow Shirt (PAD-People’s Alliance for Democracy) or Red Shirt (Anti-PAD).

I have talked to many friends from both sides of the fences. The Yellow Shirts are out and about, strutting proudly while all the “Red Shirts” I know are closeted ones.

Everywhere you go, at some point it will come up. As much as everyone seems to avoid talking about politics, you really just can’t ignore the elephant in the room.

Sometimes people would just make a few jokes about their side just to ease the tension, and the conversation moves on to something else.

I’ve made conversation with chartered van driver in Phuket who would come up to Bangkok to join PAD mob in a heartbeat if he doesn’t have a family to worry about. I’ve talked to a Red Shirt cabby who wouldn’t take any Yellow Shirt passengers. I’ve heard of the uncles and aunties getting dropped off at PAD rally by their Mercedes’ and BMW’s. I’ve listened to a daughter fighting with her mother trying to explain what democracy really means.

I have heard from both sides and I nodded in agreement to both sides. Not because I agree with what they said entirely, but just to keep the peace.

A friend told me her PAD aunt is so adamant that she takes a side because neutral is unacceptable. So she only takes her side in her presence. I found myself doing the same thing.

I usually just wait to see which side the person I’m talking to is taking. Then I would nod and simply go along with what they said.

When being neutral is not an option, but being a fake Red/Yellow to be civil.

Once in a while, my defense was, “I live in America. I have no idea what to think. What do YOU think about Obama?” Subject changed. No problem!

It seems we Thais know exactly how to keep peace in our households and circles of friends.

We just can’t seem to keep the same peace in our nation.

P.S. I am still in Bangkok through December 4. Brandon is supposed to leave tomorrow but airport is still closed. Stay tuned for updates from us two (kind of) lost souls!

Hope starts today

U.S. President-Elect Barrack Obama:

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who’ve been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

Swap out categories of people in the first paragraph to PPP, PAD, “Red Shirt”, “Yellow Shirt Folks”, royalists, socialists, elitists, Buddhists, or Muslims.

Use “Thailand” instead of “America”.

That would be the speech I hope to hear one day in my home country. A united front of Thais who truly love their country and their King. A united front of the people who want to see the country move on forward. A united front of the people of peace.

Someday soon. I have hope.

And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Yes, we can too.