Wing Chun Academy of Thailand
I've lived in Thailand since 1994.
Here's a little summary of Thailand and Thais, extracted from my
"What's with the yellow polo shirts?" I'm often asked by visitors to
"Do Thais have a uniform?"
They ask because they see
many Thais wearing yellow polo shirts in the streets, TVs, and
For good luck, Thais have designated a color for each day
of the week:
Sunday is red.
Monday is yellow.
Wednesday is green.
Thursday is orange.
Friday is sky
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
I still enjoy photographing the monks receiving alms. Sadly, there are
also images of very poor folks begging for alms, but receiving very
Here's a slideshow of young recruit monks learning the ways of monkhood, and
of beggars in the market (3.3 MB).
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).
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).
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
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
Here's a slideshow of the the Pediatrics section at Bumrungrad Hospital (4.2
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
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
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
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
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
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."