This is my father, no really. In Thailand, when a loved one dies we cremate them in the furnace at the local temple, and we take a piece of the bones that remain, and place them in a locket.
The locket is kept near to us, this one normally stays near my Buddha table, and when we go on holiday, it often comes along too.
The picture above is my wrist with string tied on it. In Thailand on special occasions like birthdays and weddings, a common tradition is to give wishes in the form of string. The person rubs the string down your wrist while making the wish, then ties it around.
Today is a temple party, and for the next 4 days there are festivals in all the Buddhist temples across Thailand. I'm visiting Wat Tham Mongkhonat (13.6872N 100.6150E). Wat is Thai for temple, and Wat Tham Mongkhonat is a large and popular complex of temples and schools a short bike ride from On Nut Skytrain station.
It starts early, I arrived at 7.30am with an offering of food for the monks and there was already a long queue snaking around the car park. On this day the monks eat first, so I have not eaten breakfast.
Every country has their popular foods, and the corresponding condiments to go with it. In Thailand noodles are the food that comes with condiments, and we have our own common set of condiments to go with it.
Each day of the week has a stance of Buddha (sitting, standing, etc.), you find the weekday and time of your birth, then pray to the Buddha corresponding to you're day. There are 9 in all, Wednesday has 2 stances, one for day-time and one for night-time, and the 9th is a Buddha for when you don't know your birthday.
This fortune teller is on the 2nd floor of Imperial Shopping mall. My fortune was, well lots of generic things about being good, and not worrying if people don't listen to what you say, and that if I get a baby it will be a girl, and any sickness will pass soon and no quick luck.
Well I didn't win the lottery, so it's come true, no quick luck! And have you seen the readership of this blog? So I don't worry if people don't listen to me! How accurate! There's lot of superstitions in Thailand, people believe in ghosts, spirits, all manner of luck and karma.
Wander around Chinatown in the center of Bangkok and you see a lot of shops seeling strange paper goods. Paper shirts, with Laco5ta 'brand' names similar to famous ones. Bank cards from CityBank, iPhonie and Nokiea movile phones, all made of paper.
There are many many places where you can feed fish in Bangkok, and each time you do it, you are helping make some fish very fat and lazy. Never mind, it's fun to watch them go berserk in a wild thrashing of tails.
These are in the Chao Praya river, the river running through the center of Bangkok, the feeding area is near to Ratchawong pier. This is the pier you stop at when going to China Town, so you can combine your fish feeding with a visit to Bangkok's China town.
The cost of the fish food was 10 Baht, the location is on the map below. When I talked to the seller, he told me these are just babies, the really big fish are further up the river at Tha Tien pier, but they look huge to me.
The above is a picture of a Thai cutlery shop, what's wrong with this photo?
There's no knives! In Thailand we eat with forks and spoons, since we eat mostly rice dishes. Noodles we sometimes eaten with chopsticks, but the western style knives and forks we don't use. Knives are usually steak knives handed out with western dishes.
At the information kiosk in Jatujak market, they provide a free map showing the different areas in the market and the stalls available. Bank ATMs public transport, how this market has grow since I worked here ten years ago, and it's become so touristy and modern!
But as I used the map, it didn't really seem to match the market at all. So I went to double check the colour coding on the poster map near one end of the market. What was that blue colour? It's not shown on my map! A plot is afoot, Dr Watson!
This is a medicine originally from China, known as 'bel-low' brand, it's to aid menstruation. Women are supposed to take it, two tablespoons, 3 times a day for 3 days during menstruation and it helps the flow of blood and reduces pain.
Well that's the sales pitch on the bottle anyway. It tastes like Ya-Dong, but without the alcohol, very herby and medicinal. I believe that ya dong would be better, because it is alcoholic and the alcohol makes you flush with blood.
I don't think it works, but I wanted to try it anyway.
She suggests you keep them in the fridge to make the fridge smell nice, but I like to have them on my table. She sells them at the market next to Imperial World Samrong Branch, they were 20 Baht (less than $1), see the green arrow on the map below. They last about days before they become too dry and brown.
The BIG+BIH gift and housewares show I visited had some very interesting companies from neighbouring Cambodia too. This one is Bodia Nature, from Siem Reap in Cambodia, where the famous temple Anchor Wat is. Although their website is in French, the Commercial Manager spoke English. Contact Emma Skudder firstname.lastname@example.org , Bodia Nature 347 Viheachen Village, Sway Dongkom Commune, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
They have some beautifully packaged bathroom soap, scrubs and even my old friend, the crystal we use for cleaning water, for deodorizing under the armpits and for rubbing on the skin as a sort of solid aftershave to kill bacteria and sooth the skin. You can see they have carved them into blocks and wrapped them neatly in string. Very professional presentation.
In this post Flooded Don Muang by Chihiro Train, I was in the flood area and bought a lottery ticket from a ticket seller right in the middle of the floods (a bit of water wasn't going to stop him selling his tickets, or stop my buying it).
Thais believe that where there is bad luck, there must also be good luck to balance it out. Since there was a flood, it follows that the lottery ticket I bought, number 235612 for tomorrow (1st Nov) is sure to be the winning ticket. No doubt about it, an absolute certainty, and I'll video the draw tomorrow so you can see my celebrations at this foregone result!
How the Thai Lottery Works
The Thai lottery is drawn twice a month, on the 1st and 16th. Each ticket comes as a pair with the same number. More often these days the two tickets are sold together, but if they're split, then each holder gets half the prize. The price of the ticket is officially 40 baht (80 the pair), but the actual price varies from the seller. Early on they charge more, 100 baht or more, dropping the price as the lottery comes closer, until they're offered at a discount, 3 for a hundred baht, or similar deals to clear the last tickets.
On the second Saturday in January, Thailand celebrates 'Children's Day'. A day of festivals and events aimed at Thai children. I went to central Bangkok to catch just a few of them, but right across the country, towns and villages have events laid on for their local children.
It's Chinese New Year, and today (Saturday) is the time to stock up on cakes and snacks and feast food. Although I'm not Chinese, celebrating the festivals enriches my life, so I'm going to be having a feast tonight too.
Today is shopping day, for my feast I've bought a duck, some candy, the traditional cakes and snacks. I'm going to be making Peking Duck. Those banana leaf parcels conceal bean and salty egg savoury snacks.
The Chinese new year is getting into full swing, Chinatown is a sea of red decorations, dragon toys and hustle and bustle. Everywhere there are firecrackers exploding, Dragons, red clothes. The video below gives you some of the feel for Chinese New Year, here in Bangkok.
Songkran is coming, the festival that celebrates the Thai New Year runs from the 13th to the 15th April each year. The New Year was moved to 1st January to be in line with the rest of the world, but we still keep the celebration in April. It's famous for the water fights. In the old days we'd throw water from metal cups, but technology has advanced, and with it the water soaking weaponry has far advanced beyond primitive cups of water!
So step 1 in enjoying Songkran is to choose your weapon. I recommend a smaller water pistol, something light, that can be carried in crowds and used for close arms soakings. The larger soakers can intimidate, but aren't much use in crowds*
I'm here for the day, so naturally that means two meals, maybe even three, four perhaps. I don't want to risk going hungry with so much seafood to choose from! Beside's its a long walk the length of the beach and I feel faint! I need a barbecued squid infusion stat!
I decide to eat next to the beach, 700 baht for shrimp, squid, barbecued fish and beer. That's pricey for a Thai seaside resort, more than $20.
I have only a one day break from work during Songkran, and I'm not going to waste it. Less than two hours away from Bangkok is the beach resort of Bangsaen in Chonburi, and today and tomorrow (16th 17th of April) it celebrates Songkran with a sand-temple building competition. You build sandcastles, but we Thai's build pagodas and temples, since we don't really have castles in Thailand. I plan on taking a bus down to Chonburi, enjoying the festival and be back by the night, ready for work tomorrow.
Keeping songbirds is a big tradition down in the south of Thailand. Once you've got your song bird, and you start showing off how good its singing is, well one thing leads to another and you quickly end up with large songbird competitions.
The birds get to sing their hearts out, and the owners get to crow about how good their birds are. Catch the video after the break to see how confusing it all is.
Today, a nearby temple has a party to gild a Buddha with gold leaf. It's a very solemn ceremony as you can imagine, ...not!. It has food, entertainment, music, dancing... For the temple, they host a fund raising party with music and a show, and stalls, food, a market, and games. For the people they enjoy the party and help the temple financially. This is how temple life works, the donations to the temple are not compulsory, the temple is part of the community and it forms a social center around which we can meet and enjoy life. You donate because the social aspect is important.
This temple in Phuket is holding a party with a spiritual side of prayer and ceremonies like gilding the Buddha statues with gold foil, and lighting candles, and a sand mound. I'm not sure what the mound represents, I stuck the flag in it like everyone else, did my prayers and pushed the sand up to the peak three times, like everyone else. I'm sure it has deep significance, but I don't know what it is. Around that the festival is held.
Each temple has its traditions, but its all ultimately about the social hub. A good opportunity for young and old to interact, and for the traditions to be passed on.
In the center of Phuket island, there's a monument, and on that monument is a statue of 2 women. The Phuket heroines, Than Phuying Chan and her sister, Khun Muk. They're credited with driving off a Burmese invasion of Phuket in 1785. They raised an army of villagers, got the women to dress as male soldiers to pad the ranks and make the Burmese think they were facing a much larger army and the Burmese fled.
Each year beginning March 13th, they celebrate the heroines with a festival in Talang town. You can catch it today and tomorrow too. The Heroines Monument gets its own celebrations, this coming weekend.
There's plenty to see and do, and a laser fireworks show illustrating the battle, which I've recorded a video for.
At Ao-Po (Pier Po) in the North East, they're boat racing. A two day event with teams from the local islands racing each other in heats. It's not very photogenic, well not unless you have a big zoom lens and a heavy tripod and I have neither.
This is the bay you leave from when heading for nearby Naka Island, not surprisingly there's a team from Naka. I decide to support them, and they immediately lose their heat.
I'd almost forgot about this event, there's a festival down at Saphan Hin in Phuket city, and live music at Monument every night for the next week.
It's war! April 13th 2013 and across Thailand, fighting is breaking out! Naturally war reporter, Appon will be there on hand to report the carnage and join in on the fighting.
Nobody quite explained to me who we're fighting this time, it doesn't seem to be Burmese invaders, the enemy seems to be a roaming militia on pick-up trucks. No matter! I bring my weapon of choice, a waterproof camera and some dry ammo. I'll see off this militia if its the last dry thing I do!
Chef Win, an occasional guest chef on this site and friend marries another close friend Boom and naturally I went to their wedding in Bangkok. I've never been to a Bangkok wedding, so I want to see what traditions they have here. Different regions have their own traditions, but with a lot of similarities.
There's a temple party on in Talang town, Phuket island. I've covered these before, they're a music, live shows, carnival, shopping and religion, experience all rolled into one. Well I've found something new among the stalls, a custom key ring maker.
He paints a message onto a key fob of your choice, decorates it, varnishes it, and all for 30 baht.
The 1st of May is Labour day in Thailand, and to celebrate there is a party going on at Saphan Hin in Phuket. It lasts until the 9th April 2015, so if you want to do something, this is a good excuse to get out. It's 3rd May when I post this, so there's still plenty of party to go!
If you miss it? Well it moves to Rawai beach, at the South tip of Phuket, after the 9th, so it doesn't move far! It tours from place to place in Thailand, so if you have an empty field next to you, stand still in the middle, and wait, and wait and wait. If you wait long enough, either this party will arrive at your field, or a condominium will be built on your head.
Things change fast in Thailand, and you have to keep up and keep moving or you'll be wearing a 1 bedroom studio hat with free hair conditioning!
I need a massage, and that's very easy in Thailand, every beach, every street, practically has a massage place.
Tourists think all massage places are really brothels, but that's nonsense. As a general rule, if the front is shut off and pink neon signs announce its a massage place, then you can get a massage there but it won't be a very good massage!
Phuket has a large Chinese descendant population, and it's Chinese new year... well at least it was last week, but this year its being celebrated on the trailing weekend to merge with Valentines day. I'm going to name this the "Valenese Festival"! We have a long tradition of Valanese Festivals going ball the way back to 2016!
We're having a girls night out to see Gam, winner of a TV show called "The Star" from 2009. She's very very good. She sings the Frozen theme to show just how good she is. Faultless, intense, and in one take/live. She's followed by a talented girl singer who could be the winner for 2029!
March 1st is Turtle Release Day, at Thai Muang. There's a marine conservation unit here, and one of its jobs is the preservation of sea turtles numbers by captive breeding.
Once a year they hold a festival, and if you're lucky you get to release a sea turtle into the sea. There are usually more people wanting to release the turtles than there are turtles, so they pick the lucky few by a draw.
The owner of the resort tells me, she got them made in Chiang Mai, but as I drive north, just near Hua Hin, I notice two companies competing to make these traditional Teak Homes. One on each side of the highway. I just have to stop and look.
I wanted a chair to sit on. A chair I could put next to the door, and enjoy the warm breeze. Something small, light and comfortable. Something I could put away when not in use.
But where to find such a chair?! Well Japan of course!
Tokyo has tiny appartments, and there's no space for beds and chairs, so they use mats and compact furniture. So I did a bit of searching and was amazed to find traditional tatami mats, complete with headrests, here in Bangkok at Paradise mall.
The mats are nice, but the price is not so nice. Three thousand baht for a tatami mat? No, not for me. That's over priced. Upstairs in the mall, in Homepro of all places, I found a furniture section filled with hi-tech Tatami chairs.