Category Archives: Thai Books

To Wai or Not to Wai …

..that is the question.

Searching through my mental backlog of blog ideas I remembered this was one of the first I thought to write for Thai-blogs I just never got around to it πŸ˜‰

The Wai is one of the most famous of symbols that people recognize as being ‘Thailand.’ To do it right is almost an art form and something that many Thais take great care to express properly and sincerely because not only is it ingrained from an early age into Thai culture it also comes from the heart and it is literally a true measure of how much respect to show someone.

From the foreigners perspective if you want to socialize in Thailand so Thai people will a) be somewhat impressed and b) prove not all farangs are uncultured bores only into Thai women (or men if the case may be) and ruining Thai culture with our western ways then take the time to learn some Ways of the Wai. Sounds cool doesn’t it?

At first glance the ‘Wai‘ looks simple and easy however to understand the rules to a proper Wai you soon realize this is no simple slick Thai style ‘handshake’ or even an exotic-cool, ala Vulcan ‘Live Long and Prosper’, salutation. Oh no. But I’ll get on with the rules alittle later, for now I’ll get on with the jokes. πŸ˜‰

For me making a proper Wai was almost, if not more, nerve wrecking in the beginning learning Thai culture than trying to say maai mai mai mai mai ไม้ใหมไม่ไหม้มยั้ (a Thai tongue twister meaning “New wood doesn’t burn, does it?”) in all the right tones while learning to speak Thai !

To make things more interesting I’ll let you in on a secret. However you might imagine me to be like according to my blog personality in real life I am very much the opposite. Not shy but reserved and quiet most of the time preferring the sidelines and keeping to myself in crowds rather than draw a lot of attention. Hence my ingrained American reluctance to do something publicly that would look odd to any one other than a Thai.

But I do have my moments where you put me in the spotlight especially if I know what I am doing, or blogging about, and I can take center stage no problem! In fact I hope this will be a good skill for pursuing a future teaching career in Thailand when I finally break orbit from Planet America.

If you ever watch a Thai perform the wai it is amazing the skill they have. They can gracefully and respectfully wai carrying anything! Imagine trying to see an American do that with a mobile phone in one hand, Starbucks coffee in the other and always rushing somewhere because we Americans are always late for everything. In the beginning making my first attempts to wai I was doing good just to manage a wai with two bare empty hands but I felt so awkward and self conscious! Yes even with something as simple as pressing your palms together in greeting I would do it so fast my hands made a clapping sound and it looked like I was trying a strange new way to swat mozzies! With practice though eventually I got more smooth and graceful at it and my bathroom mirror, kitchen refrigerator and the mailbox down the street on the corner have never been shown so much respect! πŸ˜‰

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Klong Toey stories

Most people outside of Bangkok have probably never heard of Father Joe Maier. I was not aware of the man myself until only a few weeks ago by accident. So who is this man and what does he have to do with Thailand? Quite a lot!

About a month ago I stumbled across his book of short stories called “Welcome to the Bangkok Slaughterhouse: The Battle for Human Dignity in Bangkok’s Bleakest Slums.” I was looking for some interesting books on about Thailand (of course, do you think this Thai fanatic would be looking up anything else?) So I decided to add his book to my order. I knew from the books title and sub-title this would most likely not be a collection of happy reads but I was curious. However Father Joe, as he is called, has a real amicable and easy way of sharing these true, and often heart rending, stories. Once I picked up the book it was impossible to put down.

A self-described ‘product of the Sixties’, a priest but also a hippy, Grateful Dead fan, Vietnam War protestor and maverick’ in 1967 Father Joe was dispatched to his first parrish as far away from the Seminary Order as they could possibly send him which happened to end up being in the Klong Toey slums of Bangkok working amongst the poor. It was an “exciting free trip to the other end of the world” as he says. Now almost forty years later he is still there.

In 1974 Father Joe, with Sister Maria Chantavarodom, helped start a non-denominational, community based outreach project in Klong Toey which has eventually become the Human Development Foundation. They started with a one baht per day kindergarten and since then have opened outreach health clinics, built schools and started programs to help the poor in over 30 slum communities in Bangkok culminating with Mercy Centre, a shelter for street kids and a home and hospice for mothers and children with AIDS.

In many of his stories Father Joe writes of a time when growing up in Klong Toey meant life was tough and hardscrabble at best, you were poorer than poor and always had to do without, well, everything! But people were decent and lived by a unique code of honor. In my neck of the woods growing up in rural Alabama we called that being ‘poor..but proud!’

Sadly in todays world of drugs and violence that honor and innocence is all but gone still Father Joe is there in Klong Toey where he lives simply and honestly in his Mercy Centre helping the poor sometimes just by showing them someone cares. Isn’t that all that anyone really wants, to know someone cares? That’s what Father Joe, a hard nosed, swearing and bare knuckled American priest does best and has done for the past almost 40 years now.

Some of the stories in his book will make you want to cry, some will make you so angry at a system that does nothing sometimes but placitate it’s own greed. Almost all the stories will break your heart but they will inspire you too. I know after reading about life in Klong Toey I sure don’t have anything to complain about.

If you only like nice stories with happy endings then you might want to skip the next page. I am taking a backseat to blogging at this point to post one of Father Joe’s stories from his book. Read it and let him take you by the hand into a world in Thailand not many people see or want to see. If you really love or care about Thailand you’ll be moved and challenged enough to want to help. I hope somehow I can do some small part to help by sharing his stories and getting the word out. Maybe you can too so go ahead. I dare you. In the end you’ll be glad you did. Wit.

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Thai Book of Lists

Digging around on the computer today I was deleting some old Word and Excel files that I no longer used and I found an old document of Thai Lists that I thought you might enjoy reading.

I used to work for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum here in Washington. My job was managing the bookstore inside the main gift shop. The museum itself holds several records, the Worlds Most Visited Museum for one and the gift store is, I believe, also the worlds largest. It was like a Department Store with three floors of the typical tourist souvenir junk except for my floor (of course πŸ˜› ) which was all books and in fact the largest single retail collection of books on aviation in the US..another record!

During the height of the tourist season we were always overrun with tourists from all across the US and every country in the world including Thailand. When I found out a customer was Thai I would begin speaking to them in Thai and sometimes the reaction was quite funny. One time a customer almost fell over in shock to hear a farang speak passable Thai πŸ˜‰

During the winter months with most of the tourists safely back home a lot of times I would have nothing to do most of the day so one day I was browsing through one of the books in our general science section.

This was a cool book with some interesting lists, many including Thailand. Sometimes Thailand or Thai culture was number one, sometimes it was farther down the list. Bored and also intrigued I started writing them down for an e-mail to send to a Thai friend. I wrote all the ones I found in each category including Thailands place on the list and who beat them out for number one. I forgot I had saved it on my PC so here it is some cool facts and lists that might surprise some of you so enjoy!

Top Ten Book of Lists on Thailand (and other stuff)

Countries with the Highest Pet Dog Populations

1. United States – 61,080,000
10. Thailand – 6,900,000

Countries with the Most Rice Production (Paddy production in tons)

1. China – 197,648,870
6. Thailand – 29,711,797

Longest Reigning Living Monarch

1. King Bhumibol Adulyadej – Thailand
Born: Dec. 5th 1927
Accession: June 9th 1946

10. Carl XVI Gustaf – Sweden
Born: April 30th 1946
Accession: Sept. 19th 1973

Beliefs with followers world wide

1. Christianity – 2,050,616,000
5. Buddhism – 367,538,000

Largest Buddhist Population

1. China – 105,829,000
2. Thailand – 52,383,000

Religions in the US

1. Christianity – 159,030,000
2. Buddhism – 1,082,000 (tied with Islam)

Longest Place Name for a City or State

1. Krung teip mahanakhon bovorn ratanakosin mahintharayutthaya mahadilok pop noparatratchathani burirom udomratchanivetmahasathan amornpiman avatarnsathit sakkathattiya visnukarmprasit The poetic full name of Krung Teip (Bangkok), Thailand a total 167 letters long!

(Check back on this one I want to post the complete name for Krung Teip in Thai Script – anyone know where I can find it? πŸ™‚ )

ed. note
My Thanks to MrBradUSA for showing me where to find the full name of Krung Teip in Thai Script. Thanks also for the typing lesson since I had to retype the entire name here since the website where MrBrad found it would not let me simply use cut and paste. I hope I got all the spelling correct! Here it is.


10. Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhubhghaill A city in Scotland 32 letters long, looks kinda wimpy by comparison huh?

Tallest Hotels

1. Jin Mao Tower – Shanghai, China completed in 1998 88 stories tall – 1,214 feet high

3. Buiyoke Tower 2 – Bangkok, Thailand completed in 1997 89 stories tall – 1,013 feet high

6. Thai Wah Tower 2 – Bangkok, Thailand completed in 1996 60 Stories tall – 853 feet high

Primetime viewers on Network TV 2001-2002

1. Academy Awards – 26,832,000 viewers
7. TV Show Survivor: Thailand Special – 14,124,000

Countries with most external debt for fiscal year 2000

1. Brazil – 237,953,000,000 Reals
10. Thailand – 79,675,000,000 Baht

Worst Fatalities
Motor Vehicle and Road Disasters

1. Afghanistan Nov. 3rd 1982 Soviet Army Truck collides with a fuel tanker – explosion and vehicles involved kill an est. 3,000 people

2. Thailand Feb. 15th 1990 Dynamite truck explodes killing over 150 people

Travel and Aviation
Busiest International Airports

1. Heathrow Airport, London UK – 53,796,000 passengers in 2001
8. Bangkok International, Thailand – 21,394,000 passengers in 2001

Goal Scorers in International Soccer

1. Ferenc Puskas – Hungry/Spain played from 1945-56 and scored 84 goals
9. Kiatisuk Senamuang – Thailand played from 1993 (still active) and scored 59 goals

So there you have it. I wonder what could be in the lists for 2005? Hottest chillies? Wettest New Year? πŸ˜‰ We’ll have to wait and see.

That’s it for me this time check back next week when I take a trip to Thailand in the movies! Anyone got the popcorn?

Till next time,

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