Thai Terms for Character Analysis

There are a number of components that Thai talk about when they talk about the soul and character.

The soul is divided into two parts: Khwan and Winyan. The khwan is the spirit, the essence of life, or the soul element; while the winyan is the consciousness of the soul. Winyan is from the Pali word vinnana and it refers to the part of the soul which remains after death.

To describe character there are three components: Sanda, Nisai and Chai (Chit-Chai). Sandan is related to the inborn traits that a person has, often dealing with a person’s upbringing. Nisai is used to describe a person’s characteristics or personality. Chai or Chit-Chai can be used interchangably with the term heart or mind. Most often a person’s nisai is described in terms of the character of his chai. Sandan, nisai and chai are frequently used to describe or judge the quality of the character of a person.

Source: Thai Buddhist Character Analysis

Thai Buddhist Prayer

Many Thais who practice Buddhism will suat mon, or chant, before going to sleep every night. Saying the prayers starts by putting your hands together in a Wai position, sitting with your knees on the ground facing the Buddha and bowing your head towards the ground 3 times, or bowing 3 times on the pillow. Then followed by these two general payers:

  1. Namotasa
    Namo tatsa pakka-wato ara-hatto samma samputtat-sa,
    Namo tatsa pakka-wato ara-hatto samma samputtat-sa,
    Namo tatsa pakka-wato ara-hatto samma samputtat-sa.
    ( * And slightly bow with your head to your hands 1 time
    or bow towards the floor 1 time *)
  2. Arahang Samma
    Ara-hang samma-sam-putto pakka-wa put-tang-pakka-wan-thang api-wa-temi, (Bow 1 time)
    Sawa-ka-tho pakka-wa-tha tammo
    tammang namat-sami, (Bow 1 time)
    Supha-thi-phanno pakka-wa-tho
    sawa-ga sang-koh sang-khang na-mami (Bow 1 time)

And then feel free to finish with a well-going wish followed by finishing off with a bow towards the ground/pillow 3 times.

5 Free Thai iPhone Apps

1. BKK Transit

Bangkok’s BTS Skytrain and MRT Subway systems are not very extensive compared to London’s Tube or the Paris Metro, but this handy app can make it easier to find out where you want to go. BKK Transit lists the attractions at each stop, such as local markets. Even more useful is its Chao Praya Express boat route info.

2. iTraffic

The most useful app for battling Bangkok’s daily gridlock, this graphic-based program lets you see what the traffice situation looks like using a simple coloring code: green means “go” and red means “stop”. iTraffic is only available in Thai, but it’s still handy for showing to taxi drivers.


3. Major Movie

The helpful app makes it possible to get correct movie programs and showtimes for movies showing in any Major Cineplex movie theater. It has Thai/Eng languages and provides information about movies as well as where they are being shown. This app makes planning a night at the movies possible on the go.


4. Bangkok Post News

Even the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s largest English newspaper, has a dedicated iPhone app. To keep up with current events in Bangkok and the region, this app is worth the download.


5. Nation News

This new app from the Nation newspaper is packed with real-time news about Thailand. Keep up with the local news easily with this iphone app.


Thai Women Don’t Sweat in the Gym

I’ve been working out at my local gym in a suburb of Bangkok and I’ve noticed that many of the Thai women in their 30s and 40s don’t really exert themselves. I’m not sure what the reason is but when I’m walking on the treadmill I always feel like these women are barely walking. Is it because they are sticking to the trainers minimum requirement of walking at 3.0 mph and dare to go no higher?

Yesterday, I was pedalling along on the recumbent bike machine when a woman sat down at the bike next to me. She started pedalling and I really felt like she was barely going. I glanced at her screen and saw that she was on the lowest level and lowest resistance. She biked for about 5 minutes and then proceeded to stop for another 5 minutes. I was confused as to what kind of workout she was doing but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt because maybe she’s a beginner or has a injury she’s recovering from.

But perhaps this all has to do with the resistance of Thai people to sweating. Funny if it extends to the gym, since it is the one place where sweating is a requirement. Perhaps Thai women in particular don’t feel comfortable doing an unfeminine thing like sweating in public. For the sake of their gym memberships I hope these women learn to increase the intensity at some point so that they get more out of their workout.

Essential Herbs and Spices in Thai Cuisine

The special combination of herbs and spices used in preparing Thai dishes is what gives Thai food its distinctive character. There are about 20 main herbs and spices which form the basis for Thai cooking. They help to achieve the balance between the four essential Thai tastes: salty, sour, spicy and sweet.

  • Chilies (prik)
  • Siamese Ginger (khaa)
  • Shallots (hom daeng)
  • Cinnamon (ob chuey)
  • Cardamon (look krawan)
  • Ginger (khing)
  • Basil (krapao)
  • Lemongrass (takrai)
  • Turmeric (khamin)
  • Kaffir Lime (makroot)
  • Lime (manao)
  • Sweet Basil (horapa)
  • Spring Onions (ton hom)
  • Pepper (prik thai)
  • Cloves (kaan phloo)
  • Lemon Scented Basil (maenglak)
  • Mace (dok chan)
  • Fish Sauce (nam plaa)
  • Mint (saranae)
  • Nutmeg (look chan)
  • Cumin (yiraa)
  • Pandanus Leaf (bai toey)
  • Galingale (krashai)
  • Garlic (kratiam)

Thai Superstitions About Color

Thais are a very superstitious people and there are many superstitious beliefs and customs that have long been observed in Thailand. Some superstitions are about good luckand some are about bad luck. For example, there are superstitions about the meaning of colors and some take it very seriously.

Black, which is a mourning color, is worn at funerals and is a color associated with death and grieving. Therefore, it is forbidden to wear black at auspicious ceremonies like weddings. Traditionally, it is taboo to wear black except during the funeral rites and periods of mourning for the family. Nowadays black has become a very fashionable color to wear among younger Thais and the taboo is no longer adhered to in most cases.

There is also a color assigned to each day of the week: yellow for Monday, pink for Tuesday, green for Wednesday, orange for Thursday, blue for Friday, purple for Saturday and red for Sunday. Those living in Thailand may be familiar with the practice of wearing yellow on Monday to celebrate the King’s birthday and blue on Friday to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. These colors were chosen to according to the day on which the respective monarch was born and is used to symbolize them.

Thais believe that wearing the right color on the right day would bring luck. Most people don’t really seem to follow this practice anymore, but some may have a small piece of clothing, like a tie or handkerchief, which is the correct color. It is more common that people consider the color of the day of their birth. Many times people consider this color to be their lucky color. Thais seem to know which day of the week they were born on although this is not something I ever learned and will have to ask my parents about.

Smiles Have Many Meanings

Thailand is known all over the world as the “Land of Smiles.” New visitors often assume that the Thais are a very friendly and happy people, but this is a bit of an oversimplification.

Thais have a much broader range of uses for smiling than westerners. Thai may even smile in situations which would be considered as inappropriate or even as rude in the west. For example, if a Thai bumps into you in a bar and spills some of your drink, he’ll probably smile – a reaction that is unlikely to go down well with the average foreigner.

But the smile (yim in Thai) is perceived in Thailand as being just about the most appropriate reaction to any possible situation. It’s used to show a multitude of feelings and emotions including: happiness, embarrassment, fear, tension, resignation and remorse. What the smile means depends on the ‘type’ being used and is often hard for foreigners to distinguish.

So, just because a Thai is smiling, you can’t assume that they are happy. It helps to be aware of the less pleasant varieties of smiles though. It will help you to keep from being mesmerized by the ‘happiness’ of everyone that you don’t see what’s really going on underneath the sometimes superficial smile.

Rain Brings Out the Worst in Bangkok Part 2

It has continued to rain every afternoon this week and I have encountered few more nasty side effects of rain in Bangkok. Even after a quick rainfall, you might find yourself in a very wet situation if you are in an area which floods easily. Many streets in Bangkok have poor drainage systems and when the water cannot flow off the road swiftly, you’ll find the streets flooded up to several inches. This is especially true in areas like Sukhumvit where the streets are small and occassionally the water will be too deep for a car to safely drive through.

If you are a pedestrian walking next to a street which is flooded or has a few large puddles, beware of getting drenched. Cars and trucks take little notice of people walking on the sidewalk and might create a wave of water going by that is hazardous to pedestrians who are trying to keep dry. Also, in cases where there is no sidewalk and the road is flooded, there will be no avoiding the waters unless you catch a taxi or motorbike.

People in Thailand have developed interesting ways of beating the problems caused by rain. Motorbike riders are the most skilled at devising ways of beating the rain. As soon as the rain gets harder than a light drizzle, many of them will try to wait out the rain under a bridge or fly over. You’ll see dozens of motorbikes and their drivers clustered in these dry spots as you drive by. A few of the drivers will be prepared and will don a full body rain suit before continuing on despite the rain.

Even once it stops raining, motorbike drivers have funny ways of dealing with the wetness that is left behind. I’ve seen many picking up their feet and placing them on the neck of the motorbike in order to avoid the water splashing below them. They’ll even modify their motorbikes by placing plastic bags or even leaf branches to lessen the splashing caused by the motorbike’s tires.

The flooding of the road during and after rain is an unavoidable part of living in Thailand. If you observe the Thais around you, it’ll help you figure out ways to make the best out of the situation. At the very least, try to carry an umbrella with you or else you might have to go about like some of the locals with a small plastic bag covering your head.

Running Into Other Thais in Europe

For the past month I have been running around various countries in Europe with some of my family. It turns out that we are not the only people from Thailand enjoying our summer holidays abroad because in every country we visited we ran into at least one Thai person doing the same thing. The months of March, April and May are prime time for Thais, especially those with children who are normally in school, to get out of Thailand and hopefully evade the intense summer heat.

In larger cities or popular tourist spots like Vienna and Venice, one would be wise not to make a wise crack about someone in Thai in case a fellow Thai might overhear your bad manners. Many times, we’d run into other Thai tourists and briefly chat about where they were from and where they were going to visit next. In Versailles, we waited in line for almost two hours in front of a Thai woman and her French boyfriend without knowing it until she asked us if we were Thai. In smaller towns around Europe, you’ll hardly find another Asian face other than the ones belonging to the group you’re travelling with.

Some of the people we met were living and working in Europe. It was most useful to run into this type of Thai person since we could ask them advice on where to go for good eats and the like. One Thai woman we met was on holiday with her American husband in France, although they are currently living in Germany. Another man we met was actually Chinese but owned a wonderful Thai and Chinese restaurant in Rouen, France where we satisfied our craving for rice and spicy dishes. How I envied these people their ability to speak the local language, whether it be German, French or Italian, because while normally you can get by with English, they were occasions where we had to “use our hand and feet” (German saying) to get our point across.


Kitchen Mortars – kroke

A Thai kitchen would hardly be complete with a kroke or kitchen mortar. Today, as in the past, the krokeis a mainstay in the kitchen and is used regularly to pound curry pastes or dipping sauces. Mortars and pastels are an important part of Thai daily life as much as they were centuries ago.

Other Southeast Asian countries also use kitchen mortars and many of them bear striking resemblances to those used in Thailand. The stone mortars used in Bali, Indonesia are very similar to the ones used in Thailand. The Balinese mortars differ in that they are made from volcanic rock while Thai mortars are made of granite. The wooden mortars used in Burma are similar to those used in Cambodia and Northern Thailand. The ceramic mortars used in Thailand are identical to those used in Laos.

In the past, most Thai kitchens had mortars made from ceramic and had a wooden pestel. While they were relatively strong, the ceramic mortars would sometimes break under the constant pounded required to make curry paste. Stone mortars made of granite were more costly than their ceramic counterparts, but were preferable because they could withstand frequent poundings. The finer the grain of the granite used to make the mortar, the longer it would last.

Originally mortars in Issan and the North were made from wood because the material was common and inexpensive. These wooden mortars were often homemade and one household might have several different wooden mortars. Each wooden mortar would be used for different kinds of work, such as for salt or curry seasonings.

As stone mortars because less expensive and more common, household around the country started using them instead of the wooden mortars. Again, different mortars would be used for different kinds of work. In Issan, for example, there is a special mortar that is used for making som tam, Thailand’s signature papaya salad, since it requires a deep mortar.

Krokesthat have been used regularly for decades bear the wear of use, but these stone kitchen tools were designed for pounding. In fact, many women prefer the worn mortar and pastel that belonged to their mothers over new mortars because older mortars are worn-in and easier to work with. Our family has one from my grandfather that even made its way to America and is still used by my aunt while a newer mortar and pestle remains unused in five years.