Retirement in Thailand

Thailand has become a popular country for retirees from Western countries. The best places for retirement in Thailand are considered to be Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Bangkok. Today, there are also retirement villages and homes for those who need assisted living.

Even though the options for retirement homes are still limited in Thailand, there are three facilities that admit expats in need of daily assistance. For instance, there are the Thailand Retirement and Long Term Care Communities in Pattaya. This institution has been known for assisting disabled foreigners.

Retirement in Thailand

Retirement in Thailand

Retirement in Thailand

Pattaya is a nice location for all retirees who like to enjoy the beach, sun, entertainment and fast life in a transcient place. Nevertheless, there are also two main hospitals that offer great healthcare. These are Pattaya International, a private hospital, and there is Pattaya-Bangkok International which is located a short distance outside of Pattaya.

What is more, in Bangkok you can find the Golden Years Hospital which also take care of elderly expats. They also offer special tour programmes for elders in which the elderly are accompanied by a personal caregiver. There are many advantages of being nursed in the Golden Years Hospital because the doctors and nurses provide warm and close care.

Another well-known facility is the Mc Kean Rehabilitation Centre in Chaing Mai which has a complete nursing home for the elderly. It is a Christian Centre which wants to provide good life quality to seniors so that they can live in a caring and supportive community with dignity.

Thailand is a popular place for retirees from Western countries

Thailand is a popular place for retirees from Western countries

If you do not necessarily need a retirement home, there is also the possibility to buy or rent a small condo. Particularly, these kind of small condo units can be found in Pattaya where there is a large expat community. If you want to buy such a condo of around 50 square meters, the price is commonly around 900,000 Baht.

These condos for expats are usually in close proximity to immigration facilities. For instance, in Pattaya, Thai Immigration Building is in Jomtien, where you can find numerous condo units for senior expatriates. Hence, Jomtien has become a hot retirement spot and thus there are also many facilities for expats like clubs.

Actually, many of the Thai expat retirees in these areas live off their government pension. This is important because a government pension is a requirement for a retirement visa. Do you want to find out how much you need to live well in Thailand? Try the Thai Retirement Calculator found on my website.

Finally, we may say that Thailand is a very popular place for Western retirees because of the excellent weather and the generally stable economy. Thus, many Western seniors consider getting a Thai retirement visa for expats. In addition, the living costs in Thailand are much lower than in Western countries like the USA, the UK and Europe in general.

Yours, Sirinya




Thai Folklore: The Tale of Sang Thong

Sang Thong is a very popular folktale in Thailand and it is maybe the most well-known tale among Thai people. It has been transmitted in various forms ranging from jataka tale, written literature, folk drama, local legend to television drama. The first written version is Suwan Sangkha Chadok  in Panyasa Chadok (Suvannasankhajātaka, Jataka Tale).  Thus, today I’d like to retell this story for you.

The Tale of Sang Thong

Sung Thong, the prince in the conch shell (photo: thaigoodview.com)

Sung Thong, the prince in the conch shell (photo: thaigoodview.com)

Once there was a king who had two wives. When his major wife gave birth to a son, this son was born in a conch shell. The minor wife wanted to banish the major wife and her son from the kingdom and she was successful. The king ordered the major wife and his son, Prince Sang, to live in another place with an old couple.

Detail of the murals of the Sang Thong Tales, Viharn Laikam at Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai, Thailand, (photo: ich.culture.co.th)

Detail of the murals of the Sang Thong Tales, Viharn Laikam at Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai, Thailand, (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Each day, Prince Sang would leave his shell to work in the household of the couple. When his mother learned about this, she broke his shell. Still the minor wife longed to get rid of the Prince. Thus, he found harbour at the place of a giant lady who took care of him.

Chao Ngo mural (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Chao Ngo mural (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

The giant lady forbade the Prince to jump into the golden well but one day the Prince broke this rule. He jumped into the well putting on an ugly mask to escape. When he wore his ugly dark mask he was called Chao Ngo. This was when he came across the Samon kingdom. The king of Samon had seven daughters. Hence, he ordered all kings to send their sons to his place so that his daughters could choose their husbands.

Sang Thong mural painting (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Sang Thong mural painting (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Six of the king’s daughters chose a husband but only his youngest daughter Rodjana did not. To the king’s surprise and anger, she finally took Prince Sang as her husband. She was the only one who could see his golden body whereas to other people the prince appeared as an ugly dark person. Enraged, the King chased his youngest daughter and her ugly husband away to live in a rice field.

Sangthong mural, Thai folklore (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Sangthong mural, Thai folklore (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Hence, the king also ordered his other sons-in-law to bring him a 100 fish and deer. He wanted to see Chao Ngo dead. However, Chao Ngo was clever and could perform magic. Thus, he was the only son-in-law able to bring the king what he wanted. Finally, Chao Ngo was the only one who could help King Samon to protect and save the kingdom. This was when his golden body and his royal origin were revealed.

Sang Thong, the hero, is finally acknowledged (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Sang Thong, the hero, is finally acknowledged (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Summing up, we can say that Sang Thong is a hero who becomes finally accepted. At first he hides behind ugliness and deformation but then his true nature and beauty is revealed.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Siraporn Nathalang, Thai Folklore. Insights into Thai Culture, Chulalongkorn UP 2000)




8 Fun Facts About Thailand

 

Thailand is an amazing country that stuns the visitor in many ways. Thus, get ready for some fun facts about Thailand in numbers 🙂

8 Fun Facts About Thailand

  • 2 grams weights the world’s smallest mammal. It is the Kitti’s Hog-nosed bat which is also known as the bumblebee bat. It is a vulnerable and rare species of bat and the only extant member of the family Craseonycteridae. It occurs in Western Thailand in the Kanchanaburi province, more specifically in the Sai Yok National Park, where it occupies limestone caves along rivers.

Kitty's Hog nosed bat (photo credit: nationmultimedia.com)

Kitty’s Hog-nosed bat (photo credit: nationmultimedia.com)

  • 95% of all Thai people are Buddhists. Thai tradition supports laymen to go into a monastery for a certain time period. This retreat is expected of all male Thais and is commonly scheduled after high school. Such retreat brings honour to the family and merit to the young man.

Young novices entering a monstery in Thailand (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

Young novices entering a monastery in Thailand (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

  • 169 letters has the official name of the capital Bangkok: It is known to Thais as Krung Thep Maha Nakho, but its full ceremonial name is Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.

View from Baiyoke Sky Tower on the capital Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

View from Baiyoke Sky Tower on the capital Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

  • 70% of all animal and bird species are living in Thailand. Thus, Thailand is one of the world’s countries richest in species. There are over 200 different reptiles living in Thailand according to Thai National Park’s ‘List of reptiles’.

A country rich in species (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

A country rich in species, here a lizard (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

  • 172 meters high is the world tallest stupa. It is located in Nakhom Pathom and called Phra Pathom Chedi. It was completed in 1870 and the name Phra Pathom Chedi means ‘the first holy stupa’.

Phra Pathom Chedi (photo credit: ScorpianPK, wikimedia.org)

Phra Pathom Chedi (photo credit: ScorpianPK, wikimedia.org)

  • 1430 islands are there in Thailand, ranging from desert islands to spectacular islands. Some are well-known and popular among tourists while others are still pristine.

Angthong Islands National Marine Park (photo credit: Amazing Thailand, FB page)

Angthong Islands National Marine Park (photo credit: Amazing Thailand, FB page)

  • 1586 meters long was the catwalk of the Pattaya International Fashion Week in 2010. Thus, it was a Guinness World Record in Pattaya.
  • 1,500,000 Bath (around 37.000 Euro) was paid for a painting created by eight elephants from the Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai. The painting measured 2,4 x 8 meters.

A paiting elephant (photo credit: elephantpaintings4you.com)

A paiting elephant, a fun fact about Thailand (photo credit: elephantpaintings4you.com)

Well, did you know all that? Do you know more amazing and astonishing fun facts about Thailand? Feel free to comment 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Thailand Magazin TAT 2015, German Version)




Media Review: Thai Ways by Denis Segaller

Today’s media review is about Thai Ways by Denis Segaller (ISBN: 9789749575734 ). This book was published in 2005 by Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The book is in English language, comprises 254 pages and is available as print version and e-formats (iBooks, Kindle, Google Books and Kobo). It costs 395 Bath, on Amazon the print version is about 15 EUR. You may take a look inside the book here.

Denis Segaller: Thai Ways

Thai Ways written by Denis Segaller (b. 1915) can be regarded as a delightful collection of stories and tales covering nearly all aspects of Thai culture, customs and beliefs. Segaller came to live in Thailand at an older age in 1965, married a Thai lady, became a Buddhist and worked as a writer for the Bangkok Post among others.

‘Thai Ways’ comprises many of Segaller’s magazine articles that were mainly published, updated and completed during the 1970s in the popular weekly column ‘Thai Ways’ in the ‘Bangkok World’ which was the former afternoon tabloid companion to the Bangkok Post. The weekly ‘Thai Ways’ column ran continuously from 1975 to 1985. In short articles and anecdotes, the author describes Thai culture very comprehensively and accurately. Even though the selections are about four decades old, they nevertheless remain as informative today as when Segaller first wrote them down.

The book starts off with a preface and a note about the spelling of Thai words. ‘Thai Ways’ has ten chapters which are each divided into several sections. The chapters are about ‘Royalty and Nobility’, ‘Festivals’, ‘Ceremonies’, ‘Customs’, ‘Beliefs and Superstitions’, ‘Legends’, ‘Families’, ‘Thai Fortune-Telling’, ‘Names, Words and Language’ and ‘Miscellaneous’.

Thai Ways, customs & beliefs: It's a Thai belief that if you put a coin up and it stands still, then your wishes will come true (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Thai Ways, customs & beliefs: It’s a Thai belief that if you put a coin up and it stands still, then your wishes will come true (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

The chapter about ‘Customs’ takes up the largest part of the book. For instance, this chapter is divided into 16 sections. To give you an impression of the structure of this book, this chapter is subdivided into the following topics:

  • Some Social “Do’s and Don’ts” in Thailand
  • Khun: An Everyday, but Deep, Word
  • Some Other Social Norms
  • The Wai
  • More Elaborate Forms of the Wai
  • Music – Classical and Western
  • Worshipping Brahma and Other Deities
  • Lak Mueang – The Log that Helped to Found a City
  • Traditional Thai Medicine
  • Preserving Thailand’s Traditional Arts of Self-Defense
  • Telling the Time
  • Lunar Months
  • The Twelve-Year Cycle
  • When a Child is Born
  • When Traditions Intermingle
  • Some Like It Hot

Segaller covers numerous aspects of Thai culture and customs, thus demystifying constructs like the system of royal ranks and the Thai musical scale, and customs like the Loi Krathong festival and the Wai Khru ceremony, for instance.

In my view, the book is a gem of information that provides insight into the heart, mind and social structure of an Asian country not to be subjected to the culture of colonial rule. It probably provides more information than the typical tourist wants to know. However, for anyone who has personal, economic or diplomatic interest in Thailand it is a source of important insights. The book might seem a little dated, nevertheless it offers a deep understanding of how Thailand has developed and functioned on many levels.

Finally, I can highly recommend Thai Ways by Denis Segaller because it is comprehensive and provides you with a picture of Thailand that the non-Thai readers are not likely to encounter elsewhere. In addition, it should be noted that there have been two subsequent publications titled “More Thai Ways” and “New Thoughts on Thai Ways” which offer additional topics presented in a similar format.

Yours, Sirinya




Woodcarving – A Famous Thai Art Form

Woodcarving can be regarded as a characteristic decorative Thai art form. It reflects the fertility and vitality of nature in technique and subject matter. Wood has been primarily used for furniture and religious objects, and thus not so much for creating Buddha statues. Hence, woodcarvers have sought their inspiration primarily in nature and mythology since they have been free of restrictive iconography.

Thai Woodcarving

Carved facade at Thawan Duchanee's Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu)

Carved wooden facade at Thawan Duchanee’s Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

Woodcarvers have employed a composite technique that allowed them to carve single parts of a work separately and later assemble them. Thus, the art work appears spontaneous and effortless, hence paralleling the creativity of nature.

In tropical countries like Thailand, wood is an abundant material that is also considered to have a kind of spiritual quality. Therefore, trees are considered to house spirits. Among these spirits, the most well-known to Thai people are Phra Sai (the spirit of the banyan tree) and Phrase Pho (the spirit of the pipal tree). These are frequently mentioned in Thai literature and are included in the group of heavenly spirits. The other two famous spirits are Nang Tani (the woman spirit of the banana tree) and Nan Takian who is the female spirit of the hopea tree. Nevertheless, teak wood is preferred to other wooden material because it is easy to carve and relatively resistant to the elements and insects.

Large Carving on Wall at the Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bikkhu)

Thai woodcarving from the most recent past: large carving on wall at the Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

The earliest Thai woodcarving pieces date from the 16th century. The high-point of this Thai art form is found in images of lesser religious figures which date from the late Ayutthaya period, i.e. the 17th to early 18th century. For instance, the collection of the National Museum in Bangkok includes such fine pieces like the mythical dancer and celestial swan Kinnari (in Thai: กินรี).

Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

The Kinnari is a mythological figure, an inhabitant of the Himaphan (Himalaya) forest, that is half-human and half-swan. It is a symbol of feminine beauty, grace and cultural accomplishment. The Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok is 110cm high and dates from the 17th to early 18th century. Its tail is in a stylized design which is called ‘kranok’. It is often found in Thai art.

Peaceful head wood carving by Thawan Duchanee at Baan Dam (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu)

‘Peaceful head’ by Thawan Duchanee at Baan Dam (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

In fact, there had been a rich developing tradition of woodcarving in Thailand over prior centuries. However, earlier works, before the 17th century, did not survive. Nonetheless, this amazing workmanship continued into the early Bangkok period. Nevertheless, in the most recent past, Thai National Artist Thawan Duchanee also created stunning wall and façade carvings at Baan Dam, the Black House Museum in Chiang Rai.

Even today, woodcarving is a prominent art in Thailand. Thus, the finest wood sculptures have been closely associated with architecture, animals being a favourite subject. You can buy objects carved from wood at special markets like the cultural and craftsman’s market in Chiang Mai. The following video shows you which kind of objects are created and available at these markets. In addition, it also relates something about the history of this art form (in Thai).

By the way, there is also a new privately-owned museum named Woodland in Nakhom Pathom Province. The presentation is about a fantasy land and Grandfather Teak who relates the story of the woodmen in thousands of elaborate woodcarvings. These sculptures are from a collection owned by Narong Thewphaingarm and his father. There are three areas in the exhibition: firstly, the Story of Woodland, with over 5,000 wooden objects, secondly, Woodland Village where you find restaurants and souvenir shops, and thirdly, the Resort, which is the former residence of the owner’s family.

Woodmen room at the Woodland museum (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

Woodmen room at the Woodland museum (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

Finally, we may say that Thai woodcarving has a great tradition in Thailand. It is a very elaborate, amazing and stunning craft that requires a lot of skill by the craftsman.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Treasures from The National Museum Bangkok, Selected by The National Museum Volunteers Group, 4th reprint 2006)




Dara Rasami – A ‘Foreign’ Princess at The Siamese Royal Court

Dara Rasami (in Thai: ดารารัศมี, also spelled ‘Rasmi’), born in 1873, was a Princess of Chiang Mai and a descendent from the Chet Ton Dynasty. Her parents were King Inthawichayanon and Queen Thipkraisorn Rajadevi of Chiang Mai. Dara Rasmi Na Chiang Mai, as she was officially called, became a princess consort of Siam by marrying King Chulalongkorn (Rama V of Siam). They had an only daughter called Vimolnaka Nabisi who, however, died at the young age of only 2 years 8 months.

Later, the Princess was promoted to the rank of High Queen ‘Chao Chom Manda Dara Rasami’.

Princess Dara Rasami

Recently promoted to the rank of High Queen, Dara Rasami poses for a formal portrait in her hometown, Chiang Mai. Note that she wears a phasin [skirt] made from a Burmese court textile calle*

Recently promoted to the rank of High Queen, Dara Rasami poses for a formal portrait in her hometown, Chiang Mai. Note that she wears a phasin [skirt] made from a Burmese court textile calle*

King Chulalongkorn’s marriage to the Princess of Chiang Mai was mainly a strategic alliance. In the 1860s and 70s Siam became increasingly concerned that the British might colonize the Kingdom of Chiang Mai since they had already taken neighbouring Burma. In addition, there was also a rumour that Queen Victoria intended to adopt Princess Dara. Hence, the Siamese court became alarmed that the British wanted to take over Lanna. Consequently, the King’s brother, Prince Phichit Prichakorn, was sent to Chiang Mai to forward the King’s proposal to the princess. In 1886, Dara became a concubine to the King, entering the Siamese Royal Court.

Dara Rasami in front of her dresser, unwinding her hair. All images courtesy of the National Archive of Thailand*

Dara Rasmi in front of her dresser, unwinding her hair. All images courtesy of the National Archive of Thailand*

However, the princess who came from Chiang Mai was not really accepted at the Grand Palace but rather disparagingly referred to as a ‘Lao Lady’. She and her retinue were also teased that they ‘smelled of fermented fish’. Nonetheless, Dara and the ladies in her entourage were not to be deterred by these circumstances. In fact, they stuck to their northern style clothing and long hair. Thus, they did not adapt their appearance to the fashion of the Siamese court where the ladies wore short hairstyles at that time.

A princess with 'exotic appeal' and ethnic distinction*

A princess with ‘exotic appeal’ and ethnic distinction*

As a matter of fact, Dara’s appearance, her way of clothing and her extremely long hair, differed greatly from that of the Siamese ladies at the court. Thus, her ‘foreignness’ or ‘exotic appeal’ is strikingly on display in a series of photographs taken by Erb Bunnag who was also a royal consort.

The Bunnag sisters, royal consorts, notice that they all wear a short hairstyle*

The Bunnag sisters, royal consorts, notice that they all wear a short hairstyle*

Dara is portrayed in front of a dressing table and mirrors which evoke an atmosphere of intimacy. The viewer gets the impression that he is in the private sphere of the princess. It is also interesting to note that Dara’s face is often reflected in the different mirrors and thus seen from different angles, a fact that she did not seem to be aware of.

Dara with loose hair and face reflected in different mirrors*

Dara with loose, floor-length hair and face reflected in different mirrors*

These photographs stress the ‘foreignness’ of the princess and point out that she is different and does not really fit into ‘the otherwise ethnically homogenous environment of the Siamese royal court’ (Leslie Woodhouse). It is primarily her amazingly long hair that signals Dara’s ethnic distinction from the Siamese ladies. This fact is particularly on display in these photos. In a broader sense, this presentation also indicates what can be considered siwalai (‘civilized’), adjusted and what not.

Long hair as a signal of ethnic distinction*

Long hair as a signal of ethnic distinction*

In other words, Dara is presented as feminine, however, her way of dressing and styling does not seem to be in accordance with Siamese ‘siwalai’ standards. Thus, it is hinted at her ethnic inferiority. Nevertheless, she stayed more than two decades at the court but a few years after King Chulalongkorn’s death in 1910, Dara asked King Rama VI for permission to go to Chiang Mai for retirement. Her wish was granted and she returned to her hometown in 1914 where she continued her royal duties to the Lanna people. She died at the age of 60 in 1933.

Here is a video clip summing up the most important stages in Princess Dara’s life.

Finally, we may say that Princess Dara Rasami can be considered a ‘foreign’ and ‘other’ concubine at the Siamese Royal Court. In fact, she had the status of ethnic inferiority which is also displayed in contemporary photographs.

Yours, Sirinya

(*photo credit: National Archive of Thailand, pictures retrived from quod.lib.umich.edu)

(Reference: Leslie Woodhouse, Concubines with Cameras: Royal Siamese Consorts Picturing Femininity and Ethnic Difference in Early 20th Century Siam, Volume 2, Issue 2: Women’s Camera Work: Asia, Spring 2012)




Media Review: Thawan Duchanee: Modern Buddhist Artist

Today’s media review is about Thawan Duchanee: Modern Buddhist Artist by Russell Marcus (ISBN: 9786162150562). This book was published in 2013 by Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The book is in English language, comprises 168 pages and is available as print version and e-formats (iBooks, Kindle, Google Books and Kobo). It costs 595 Bath; on Amazon the print version is about 18 EUR. You may take a look inside the book here.

Thawan Duchanee: Modern Buddhist Artist

This book is a comprehensive work about Thai National Artist Thawan Duchanee. It is structured in five main sections, namely ‘Paintings’, ‘Buildings’, ‘Artistry’, ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Life’. Hence, the author focusses on different aspects of Thawan’s art reflecting Buddhist philosophy and portraying Buddhism in a subtle manner.

The first section about ‘Paintings’ is subdivided into four chapters which deal with the dangers of doubt, lust, fear, and lack of concentration. What is more, Marcus points out that man’s pursuit of pleasure and escape from and avoidance of pain is primary subject of Thawan’s paintings. In addition, the work argues that virtues are exemplified in the previous lives of the Buddha. Thus, the first chapter is about the Dhammapada showing us how Buddhist teachings are reflected in the artist’s works. The next chapter, the Battle of Mara, deals with Buddha’s fight to reach enlightenment. The third part is thus concerned with the Last Ten Lives of the Buddha. These are moral tales illustrating the Buddha’s ten characteristic virtues. The fourth chapter of this section is about Seeing What Is Visible meaning to look beyond literal interpretations of Thawan’s work.

Thawan Duchanee (photo credit: chiangraitimes.com)

Thawan Duchanee (photo credit: chiangraitimes.com)

The second section of the book is concerned with ‘Buildings’ created by the artist. This is mainly about Thawan’s outstanding architectural and decorative achievements in Chiang Rai and Germany. Hence, the fifth chapter of this work deals with the Buddhist Meditation Room and the artist’s paintings from the Buddhist meditation centre of a German castle. Finally, the following chapter is about Thawan’s greatest achievement, namely the Black House Museum village in Chiang Rai (The Biggest Work of the Painter Is Not a Painting).

The next section ‘Artistry’ is about Thawan’s mastery of a wide range of styles, techniques and media. Thus, the fourth section ‘Philosophy’ lists what the artist said about his own work, including his concerns and passions regarding art, artworks and his own unique way and style. The final section ‘Life’ is Thawan’s biography.

In my view, this book is a very comprehensive and detailed work about Thawan’s different art forms. In particular, I welcome that there are more than 100 colour and black-and-white images that serve to illustrate the diversity and versatility of the artist’s work. In addition, I very much appreciate that the book offers deep insights into Thawan’s creative genius and also explores his philosophical backdrop.

Finally, I can highly recommend Thawan Duchanee, Modern Buddhist Artist. Particularly to everyone who is interested in the versatility of Thai and Buddhist art.

Yours, Sirinya