Company Logo

Wing Chun Academy of Thailand

About Thailand

I've lived in Thailand since 1994.

Here's a little summary of Thailand and Thais, extracted from my personal blog:

YELLOW POLO

"What's with the yellow polo shirts?" I'm often asked by visitors to Thailand.

"Do Thais have a uniform?"

They ask because they see many Thais wearing yellow polo shirts in the streets, TVs, and newspapers.

For good luck, Thais have designated a color for each day of the week:
Sunday is red.
Monday is yellow.
Tuesday is pink.
Wednesday is green.
Thursday is orange.
Friday is sky blue.
Saturday is purple.

"But why is everyone wearing yellow polo shirt every day?"

The king of Thailand, Bhumipol Adulyadej, was born on a Monday. In 2006, Thais celebrated and commemorated the 60th anniversary of their beloved and revered king's coronation, by wearing yellow polo shirts the whole year. 2006 is over, but the Thais continue wearing yellow in respect and love for their king.

Yellow Thais
King Bhumipol Adulyadej's 60th Coronation Anniversary

So ... if and when you visit Thailand, don't ask if yellow polo shirt is the country's uniform; just buy and wear one. You will be loved by the Thais ... even if you are an American. ;-)

***************************

Thais use their nicknames more than their official names. Thai official names are quite long, particularly their surnames. They are usually meaningful titles, which through generations, are bestowed with more. Often when two affluent families marry, they lump the two names together. They would have surnames such as "Phanphensophon," "Wattanaphohonyothin," or "Karoonboonyanan." Although the first names are not as long, they are sometimes as long as the surnames.

Thais hardly use their surnames. A person is always formally addressed by his/her first name. The prefix is always "Khun" regardless of sex, age or status. Therefore, I'm referred to as Khun Daniel, or Mister Daniel. Selene would be referred to as Khun Selene. Neither of us would ever be referred to as Khun Xuan.

However, to make matter simple for everyone, all Thais are given short nicknames, such as Oiy, Wan, Toe, Giow, Lek, Yai, or Oowen; meaning, Sugar, Sweet, Table, Glass, Little, Big, or Fat. A person's nickname is used more often than his/her official first name. The prefix "Khun" is placed in front of the nickname to formalize it. Therefore, a person would be addressed as Khun Oiy, Khun Wan, Khun Toe, Khun Giow, Khun Lek, Khun Yai, and Khun Oowen; meaning Ms. Sugar, Ms. Sweet, Ms Table, Ms. Glass, Mr. Small, Mr. Big, and Mr. Fat. The nicknames are used so much so that many dear friends would not know each other's official first or last names even after a lifetime's association. Many of the work associates I had worked with at the US Embassy, who had known each other for 30 or 40 years, did not know each other's official names. Many Thais don't even know their parent's first names as they have always addressed them as "Paw" and "Mae."

Because of the English language infiltrating into the Thai language, many parents now use English vocabulary to nickname their children; thus, you have kids with names such as "Mac" (as in the fastfood chain), Sirnooka (actually Snooker), Bon (actually Ball, but Thais pronounce "L" as "N" when it is at the end of a word), and Pen (actually Ple, short for Apple, but pronounced "pun" for the same reason).

Many parents just choose an English alphabet as a nickname for their child. So, you have Thais named "A," "B," and "S." Selene's nanny, Wee, whose name I thought meant "comb" all these years, turned out to be "V." Thais don't have a "V" sound in their language, so pronounces it as Wee. If you say it with a slight tone change, it will mean "comb," another common Thai nickname.

With all these twists and turns in Thai names, they mean little to most Thais, who change their names as often as they change their cellular phones numbers. They like to visit fortune tellers, who like to tell them to change their names to change their fortunes. Selene's Mom is probably onto to her 10th name.

Thailand has been credited to have the longest name for a place in the world. The name of the place is Bangkok, its capital city. Of course, "Bangkok" isn't the longest name, because it is only the nickname for English speakers. For Thai speakers, the city is called Krungthep. However, that is not the official name of the city either.

Go to http://fun-with-words.com/longest_place_names.html to read its full name (163 letters) and meaning.

As you can see, Thai naming convention is quite different from other countries, and can be quite confusing for unseasoned travelers.

Parents have such high aspirations for their children. I remember a customer of mine from my fashion-business days; he was a Hollywood film producer, He named his first born "Force." Thai parents are no different. A Thai friend of mine named her son and daughter, Peak and Prim (short for premium). My daughter has a classmate named Winner; however, this boy consistently ranks last in the school exams. I wonder if it isn't a subconscious defiance towards his parents' high aspirations. I also wonder what has become of Force.

***************************

I think people are generally followers, as attested by how they follow trends. They become alike after awhile, especially when they live in the same vicinity or town; therefore, are often stereo typed.

Waterbottles in front of
House

One of the things that many Thais do, is put (plastic) bottled water in front of their houses. The bottles are lined up like a fence. One day, I asked a friend of mine why Thais do that, thinking it might have some spiritual or religious significance. She said that the water bottles kept the street dogs away, and prevented them from urinating on their plants and walls. I asked why the bottled water would keep them away. She said that when the dogs see their reflections in the water, they'd be frightened off. I laughed at her for pulling my leg. However, when I asked another friend, she gave me the same answer. One of them is an MBA graduate, the other is an owner of a massage shop. Both believed the same. I have since asked other Thais the same question, and have gotten the same answer.

Waterbottles in front of
House

Although the dogs consistently walk through the threshold and knock the water bottles down, Thais continue to put the bottles up. I had to test out this phenomenon by putting water bottles around my garbage bags where dogs often dig for food. Guess what? The dogs still tore them apart. So, why do so many Thais do it? Perhaps just because someone else does it.

Waterbottles in front of
yard

One of my neighbors has decided to be unique, and has hung tons of garbage bags (filled with garbage) in front of his house. Perhaps he wants to start a new trend. I dare not ask him the purpose of his act, as I would probably get another appalling answer that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Garbage Bags in front of House

***************************

One more big news sometime ago. A Thai girl who made Ripley's record for sleeping with hundreds of scorpions for a week or so, met and married a Thai guy, who made Ripley's record of sleeping with hundreds of centipedes for a week or so. So, what creatures will they sleep with on their honeymoon night?

***************************

Breakfast by the Lake

Selene and I have recently made it a regular routine of visiting the weekend market in our neighborhood. We have our breakfast by the lake, and around flea-infested dogs.

Dog in Market

I still enjoy photographing the monks receiving alms. Sadly, there are also images of very poor folks begging for alms, but receiving very little.

Here's a slideshow of young recruit monks learning the ways of monkhood, and of beggars in the market (3.3 MB).

Monk receiving Alms

Occasionally, my daughter and I go to Bangkok's biggest weekend market, Jatujak. There, amongst wealthy vendors and shoppers, you will also find poor beggars. I use the adjective "poor" for these beggars to differentiate them from those healthy and capable ones you find in the U.S. and Canada standing arrogantly asking for "spare change."

Here's a slideshow of Jatujak beggars and idiosyncracies (2.1 MB).

Jatujak Idiosync

We also like going to the floating market in our old neighborhood. We always take visitors there to enjoy lunch on the floating boardwalk. It is still not infested with tourists, but do get occasional parrots joining in for lunch and conversation.

Here's a slideshow of the floating market in Taling Chan district (4.2 MB).

Parrot on Shoulder

***************************

One of the nice features of Thailand is the inexpensive medical service. One of the best known hospitals in the world (acknowledged by the international hospital association) is the Bumrungrad. Forty-five percent of its patients consists of overseas visitors from world-wide. It is the largest international private clinic in Asia. The current facility, commissioned in 1997, covers over 1 million square feet, has 554 out patient beds and includes a fully licensed medical heliport. Patient volumes at Bumrungrad exceed 2500 patients daily and total over 850,000 patients annually. It serves over 270,000 international patients annually from 154 countries. Treatment at Bumrungrad is provided by a staff of over 600 physicians and dentists who are predominantly internationally trained and certified. Non-medical and medical support staff number approximately 2000 employees. The hospital is managed by an American led international management team.

Although Bumrungrad is considered the second most expensive hospital in Bangkok, a treatment or visit is usually 25% of what it would cost in the U.S.

To learn more about the hospital, go to it's site www.Bumrungrad.com. To know more about the management group, to Global Care.

The Pediatrics section is amazing. I remember as a child how scary and dreadful a hospital felt. In Bumrungrad, the atmosphere is light, playful, and fun. The colors on the walls, ceilings, doors and windows are bright. There is a play room that contains a colorful plastic Jungle-Jim, large video screen showing children's favorite cartoons, and several desks with computers, which has the latest and most favorite children games.

Pediatrics in Bumrungrad

Here's a slideshow of the the Pediatrics section at Bumrungrad Hospital (4.2 MB).

For example, our visit to a pediatricians on a Saturday, without an appointment, took only 40 minutes to complete. That includes the extra 5 minutes I gave my daughter to play in the games room. Can you believe that?

The British trained general pediatrician's fee was US$12.50; the vaccines fee was US$22.75; and the facility fee was US$2.75.

Well ... Canada is well known for its Medicare Plan. Great financial plan ... but you can't get an appointment with a doctor for 3 months; and still have to wait hours to see him on the appointment day.

Can you understand why I live in Thailand?

I have a love and hate relationship with Thailand. The very things that I like about Thailand are the very things that I dislike about it.

I like it that I can walk down any street and find vendors on the sidewalks to fancy by shopping or gormandizing urge; I hate it that I can't walk quietly through a sidewalk without bumping into crowded vendors, shoppers, and gluttons.

I like it that I'm not hassled by the police for minor traffic infractions; I hate it that drivers do not abide by the traffic laws, and that the police ignore them.

I like it that Thai folks are non-confrontational; I hate it that they don't speak their minds or hash out problems.

I like it that Thais are sharing and commune oriented; I hate it when they feel that they own what is mine.

I like it that Thais are tolerant; I hate it that they don't fight for their rights.

I like it that Thais are patient and easy-going; I hate it when I have to wait for ages to get things done.

I like going to the boonies of Thailand, but hate the disamenity in small towns.

***************************

Here's a quirk that you'll have to get used to in Thailand, and may even become a habit:

Only recently, Thais have begun to install and use Western toilets, the sitting type. Traditionally, they had been using the squatting type; i.e. keyhole-shape opening on ground level. They still use this type in most parts of Thailand, and about 25% of Bangkok's homes and public facilities. I had used this type of toilet when I lived in India, so didn't take long to get used to it. Westerners usually have trouble with them as squatting is not a normal posture in their daily lives; that is, bending both knees and having both feet flat on the ground. Squatting for Westerners normally mean having one knee higher than the other in bent position with the front foot flat on the ground, and the rear foot on the toes; one side of the butt sits on the ankle of the rear foot. This is more like a crouching position. For the rest of the world, Asians, South-East Asians, Middle-Easterners, South Americans, North and South Polers, squatting means having both feet flat on the ground. Westerners find this position somewhat degrading; they'd rather sit, resting both butts on steps, sidewalks, paved streets and dirt road than to squat in that position. The rest of the world find sitting on the ground degrading, as they treat the ground as the dirtiest surface on earth, thus spit on the ground freely, or allow dogs to leave their doodles on them. Occasionally, you'll find Asian beggars and the "bums" sit on the ground as they don't care about their appearance or status. However, it is a rare site in Asia. A debatable cultural difference.

So, if you're not used to squatting flat footed, it becomes difficult to pass your stool sitting on one butt, one ankle, and one bent foot. Not only will your foot and knees tire quickly, but your bottom orifice would not be pointing directly downward; it would be pointing at an angle going slightly upward and backward. So, there would be a strong likelihood that your excrement would not go straight down. You'd probably have to clean more than your anus.

Thais started using toilet paper quite recently. Traditionally, they've used water to clean their bottoms. They'd always have a small well and a dipper beside the toilet to clean themselves. I had done that in India as well. Now that I've been living in Thailand these years, I've gotten back to using water agina. Most Western style washrooms in Thailand have a water hose for this purpose. Imagine the amount of money one can save using water instead of toilet paper!

Westerners would consider it gross to wash their bottom orifice with their hands, thus use tissue paper. However, consider this: If you dirtied your hands with dust, grease, mud, or excrement, would you be content with just wiping your hands with tissue paper, and washing them only at the end of the day? Of course not. However, that's what you'd be doing if you didn't wash your bottom every time you took a dump; and only washed it when bathing at night.

As I said, one gets used to a culture. I use both, squatting and sitting toilets in Thailand. I prefer using the squatters in public washrooms since I wouldn't have to sit on a toilet seat that someone urinated on, or after some guy with skin disease sat on it. For someone who has not squatted before, it would be difficult to assume this position in the toilet; however, overall, it is more beneficial to you as the position facilitates the bowel movement, stretches back-muscles and spine, and exercises the legs.

My ex-American friend, who married a Thai, assimilated the Thai way of life, except for the squatting toilets. He said that he could live in Thai villages ... except for the toilets. He said that the only thing he'd want different from other villagers is a Western toilet. I understand his dilemma since he weighs over 200 lbs. I said to him, "Yeah, it would be pretty tough for you to squat." He replied, "No, the squatting is no problem. I just can't reach my butt to wash it!"

I do have a beef with public Western-style in Thailand toilets. When they converted the toilets to Western-style, they didn't quite grasp the whole concept; they removed the water well and waterhose from the toilets, but did not replace them with toilet paper. I guess they figured that it was costly to supply toilet paper. If you were lucky, you will find a tissue-paper vending machine in some washrooms; but often, you'd rush into the toilet and find that there is no toilet paper or water; or you'd that the vending machine is broken; or you don't have the exact change for it. I have often ran into such situations. What did I do? Use your imagination!

You may not find toilet paper in Thai washrooms, but you'll find them on dining tables. Thais use them instead of Kleenex or napkins. They've even designed pretty boxes to put the toilet rolls in. Toilet paper on a dining table does not bother Thais when they're eating. Their imaginations don't go beyond wiping their mouths.

***************************

One of the things I despise the most in Thailand, for that matter, anywhere in the world, are the mosquitos. They are bountiful, bloody-fools, and are everywhere in Thailand. They just love my blood. I could be in a crowd of 20, and the mosquitoes would zoom in on just me. I just can't kill enough of them. I tried to overcome this hatred, and rationalize that the mosquito barely sucks a drop of blood from me to feed itself; that the human race kills millions of living creatures to gluttonize itself; that it is hardly a fair trade for the mosquitoes; that I should not complain about the little blood I give to sustain a mosquito's short 3-day life; that I couldn't kill enough mosquitoes to prevent the transmittal of viruses and diseases (since it takes just one mosquito to transmit); that they have just as much right to live on earth as we are; that they are part of the cycle of life; etc, etc, etc. I was feeling almost enlightened ... I was beginning to see the bright "light," when suddenly, a mosquito crossed my path. I awoke, and went on a rampage. I massacred as many as my hands could swat. I must confess that I enjoyed slaughtering them. My bathroom walls are splatted with them as trophies of my victory and a warning to those who are still buzzing around.

***************************

Don't get me wrong. I may sound like that I'm bashing Thailand, but really not. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't have lived here as long as I did. It's a wonderful place to live and visit. Thais are very nice folks; they'd bend backwards for you ... as long as you don't cross them.

***************************

To see my photography on Thailand, click to the Galleria/ link. "Da ... da ... da ... Dat's a-all, Fo-Folks."