Channel 3 TV’s production of Si Phaendin (Four Reigns) Part I by Paul Trafford

Si Phaendin (Thai สี่แผ่นดิน) by M.R. Kukrit Pramoj is a defining work of Thai culture, originally produced as a series of newspaper columns in the early 1950s.  It’s a form of historical fiction that conveys aristocratic life adjusting to change during four reigns from Rama V (King Chulalongkorn) through to Rama VIII (King Ananda Mahidol).

Chulalongkorn, Queen Saowapha & sons (photo credit quod.lib.umich.edu)

Chulalongkorn, Queen Saowapha & sons (photo credit quod.lib.umich.edu)

We follow the fortunes of the central character, Phloi (alternatively spelt ‘Ploy’), initially as a young lady brought up in the Inner Court of the Grand Palace under the tutelage of a princess, before leaving this sheltered existence to set up household life and family outside.  Many of the attitudes to culture and tradition, especially of older generations of Thais, can be better understood through this novel. It has been rendered in English as Four Reigns by ‘Tulachandra’, published by Silkworm Books some passages are translated verbatim, but others are summarised, quite often omitting conversations, and in some cases there is a re-ordering, so it’s quite liberal!

M.R. Kukrit also wrote dramatic works so he knew about performance and the narrative lends itself to theatre; hence in Thailand there have been many productions on stage and screen. In particular, there have been several TV productions that extend to dozens of episodes, generally following the text closely.  (Google Translate is quite reasonable for getting the gist.

Si Phaendin (credit: thaiticketmajor.com)

The cast of Si Phaendin: The Legend Musical (credit: thaiticketmajor.com)

With Four Reigns in hand, there’s an opportunity for students of Thai language to practise listening and observing many facets of Thai life as told through this the story.  Such is its reputation as being of public service that the Channel 3 TV production has been made available on YouTube, all 79 episodes. The actors speak clearly and, what’s more, the online version even omits all but ‘ticker tape’ advertising!  Of course, we can’t cover such a mammoth series in one or two blog posts, so here we shall explore a selection of scenes that highlight encounters with Farangs (Westerners) or Farang culture and their respective influences.

But before delving into the story, let us introduce the theme tune, which is indicative of the nostalgic tone towards times gone by. The lyrics were gleaned from another YouTube post.

With the help of a Thai family friend, an approximate translation is:

“People have life and a body,

having been born [human],

whether as a woman or a man.

The great benefactor,

more than any other, is the realm.

 

It is the land for living beings,

dependent on each other and living together.

Whoever is like the land

is kind to life from birth to death

 

In times of suffering that come by,

they say that in such distress it is like

our suffering visits the body;

when the body is in distress, our suffering is nearby.

[Yet] we can be happy, however we are.

 

When times are good, we are well

and in times of distress, this should ease.

Your benevolence is great and long-lasting;

our duty is to repay the realm.”

<repeat last 2 verses>

Now we come to the scenes.  We’ll introduce them as a series of themes, roughly in chronological order, with references to TV episodes in parallel with chapters and page numbers in the Silkworm edition of Four Reigns given in square brackets [].

The first intimations of Western influence appear in the form of various customs and objects that have been introduced by King Chulalongkorn.  Regarded as one of the greatest Thai monarchs, he made considerable effort to engage with the West, travelling widely through Europe around the turn of the 20th century and sending many of his children to be educated there, leading to significant modernisation.

The royal visit to Europe in 1897 is given as a backdrop in Si Phaendin at a time when Phloi is more absorbed in other matters; as narrated at the start of chapter 8, the elders of the court are sceptical:

“… Now it was being whispered in the Inner Court that His Majesty Phra Chao Yu Hua would be leaving for Europe!  Many elderly people refused to believe it.  It was unheard of, they said; no Thai king had travelled to that remote continent, it was not traditional, not according to royal custom…”

It’s depicted a bit differently in Episode 7 of the TV series, where we see Phloi and her close (and mischievous) friend, Choi, attending to Sadet, the princess, in her quarters.  It’s presented as a dialogue, where Choi seeks confirmation from Sadet about the plans for Phra Chao Yu Hua (the king):

We see a few material results of these encounters, which by and large don’t flatter the Europeans!  For example, we see Phloi offering a box of cigarettes to Sadet, but she becomes annoyed when she sees only two compared with a full box the day before [Ch. 8, p. 106]:

(How times have changed!  The smoking has been censored – was that in the original series or in the upload to YouTube?)

Yet, there was significant and useful technology and ‘know-how’ that could be learnt from Farangs.  On one occasion Sadet enlists Phloi to help her sort through a collection of old photographs [Ch. 10, p. 121].  This is depicted in Episode 9:

Not included in the English translation, but presumably in Si Phaendin, Sadet explains that some were taken by Farangs because in those days there weren’t people around who knew how to do it, but then the Farangs came to teach.

(Phloi is not very attentive as she is distracted by romantic thoughts.)

And the narrative describes how at times this knowledge challenged existing belief systems, particularly astrology.  In Episode 20 [Ch. 18, pp. 248-9], there is an account of the sightings of Halley’s comet, which orbited the Earth in 1910.  Prem, Phloy’s husband, wakes her up to take a look:

For most Thais such a sight had major astrological significance, striking fear into the hearts of the superstitious, particularly in relation to the monarchy.  Hence Phloi wonders anxiously, “What’s going to happen?” Prem, who has been keen to ingest Western knowledge, tries to reassure her, “Probably Nothing … I’m told by people who study farang textbooks and know about these things that it is a natural phenomenon, though a rare one.  Even so, I can’t help feeling uneasy either.”

A bit later, he adds some detail, explaining that it orbits every 75 years .But it’s only the subsequent announcement that King Edward VII of England has passed away, that Prem and Phloi feel relieved.  Their reflection is typically Thai: Prem reports he’s gone to heaven … and must have accumulated much merit that even Thais could see the sign.  Phloi wonders why this should be so, at which Prem explains that Britain has many colonies – India, Burma, etc., so they need an astrological sign for the whole world [Ch. 18, p.250].

In a later scene, Phloi experiences very severe labour pains and becomes unconscious [Ch. 20, p.270].  The Thai midwife seemingly is unable to help any further, so Prem brings in a Farang doctor, who saves her life. Four Reigns describes that when she comes to, she first sees a beard!  But the TV series only shows the scene downstairs with Prem woken up by the baby crying before the doctor (who does have a beard!) comes into view to give the news: he congratulates on the birth of a girl, but this is the last child that Phloi can have (Praphai):

Being English he’s served a nice cup of tea!   (As he’s not a native speaker and has just a bit part, this is probably not easy for the actor.)

In addition to scientific knowledge that resulted from contact with Europe came industrialisation.  One of the key areas of modernisation was transportation, which developed very rapidly.  Thus we come across the humble bicycle [Ch. 12, p.151].  Naturally, the privilege is first granted to royalty, so Sadet has a go, gamely assisted by Choi, but she doesn’t find it easy, so she then hands her bike to Choi.

Phloi herself is subsequently the recipient of her own bike which comes via her brother Pho Phoem – “one of the best makes (German, you know)”, he grins.

He’s rather coy about how he came by it (it’s not something he could afford) as it’s a delicate matter; Choi eventually gets him to admit that it’s from Phloi’s (at that time unwanted) suitor, Prem.

Then there’s the railways, described in the preceding chapter, p. 135.  At the instigation of the British the first surveys were carried out in the late 19th century, but the Thais were wary of undue influence so Germans were also brought in as a counterweight and very soon the railway network was brought under State control.  (For historical details see: Peter Sek Wannametthee’s PhD thesis (1990)

So His Majesty the King is seen taking the train from Hualamphong for the trip to Bang Pa-In, the famous floating palace towards Ayutthaya:

 

However, that train is anachronistic by about 50 years!  On screen we’re seeing the Pacific 824 made by the Japanese following the end of the Second World War.  It’s still very popular for outings on special occasions.

But perhaps the most significant addition (because Thailand’s railway network never grew very much), was the motorcar.   Zooming ahead to the reign of Rama VI (King Vajiravudh), Prem is a keen member of the king’s entourage and embracing just about any innovation and finding an excuse for often expensive and odd fashions.  Thus, in Episode 22 [Ch. 19, p. 262], we find Phloi in conversation with her brother Pho Phoem, flush with his newly awarded title of ‘Luang’. She hears a horn and asks, “What’s that sound?”.  Venturing outside, she sees her husband arrives in a newly acquired chauffeur-driven car.   Phloi asks if it belongs to her husband.  Conscious that it might not be approved, he insists “It’s ours.”

(That’s another anachronistic prop: I’m no expert, but it looks more like a 1930s (Austin?) model, but the period in question is just before start of WW1, i.e before 1914.)

For more insight about Si Phaendin and its adaptation check out Paul Trafford’s blog.




Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives

Today I’d like to present you the outstanding stage culture performance ‘Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives’. This show takes place in Bangkok at The Stage Asiatique The Riverfront, from Tuesday to Sunday, 8PM onwards.

Muay Thai Live in Bangkok

Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives & Warrior Rising Boxing

Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives 

The show was created by acclaimed director Ekachai Uekrongtham. It is a special and spectacular event not only for Muay Thai lovers. The performance is about the history of Thai Boxing, dealing with its origins and its development until today.

A performacne about the history of Thai Boxing was created by acclaimed director Ekachai Uekrongtham

A performacne about the history of Thai Boxing, created by acclaimed director Ekachai Uekrongtham

Hence, the show has five thrilling acts which trace the story of Muay Thai. Thus, the first part starts at the very beginning of the history of Thai boxing, namely in the Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1699 where the ‘Tiger King’ appears. He is not only charismatic but shows extraordinary kickboxing skills.

Ancient Thai Boxing techniques at The Stage Asiatique The Riverfront

Ancient Thai Boxing techniques at The Stage Asiatique The Riverfront

The second act, set in 1767, deals with the ‘Prisoner with Eight Limbs’. After the downfall of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, many Siamese soldiers are confined by their ememies. Among them is a warrior with amazing skills in Muay Boran which is an ancient form of Thai Boxing.

The Prisoner with Eight Limbs

The Prisoner with Eight Limbs

The third act takes place in 1773, a time when the Kingdom is again in fierce war with enemies. Swordsmen are recruted from all over the country to fight against the opponents. General Pichai is a warrior of the double swords. Hence, he is known as the ‘Warrior with broken swords’ because in battle one of his swords is broken. Eventually, he is left to fight with only his body and soul.

Scene from 'The Warrior with Broken Swords'

Scene from ‘The Warrior with Broken Swords’

Fighting with swords and with body & soul

Fighting with swords, body & soul

Act four might be the most dramatic part of the show because this part is about the most dangerous and lethal methods of ancient Muay Thai. These techniques have not been performed over a 100 years. It is also about the ‘Modern Action Hero’ whose fight is reinforced by the combination of stunt techniques and other martial arts.

Modern Action Hero at Muay Thai Live BKK

Modern Action Hero at Muay Thai Live BKK

The dangerous and lethal methods of ancient Muay Thai

The dangerous methods of ancient Muay Thai

Finally, in the last act, the cast performs the ‘Wai Kru’, thus paying respect to the great Thai boxing masters of the past. The Wai Kru is known as Thailand’s unique and most beautiful boxing dance moves.

Wai Kru - Thailand’s unique and most beautiful boxing dance moves.

Wai Kru – Thailand’s unique and most beautiful boxing dance moves

The show is followed by Live Muay Thai boxing as an added feature. In ‘Warriors Rising’ there are two Thai boxing matches that are mentored by Muay Thai Grand Master Kru Sane Tubtimtong.

Summing up, Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives is a special event for everyone interested in Thai culture and the history of Thai boxing. For more information, please visit Muay Thai Live and their FB page. I’m also giving away four tickets for this show on my Facebook page! Thus, head over to Sirinya’s Thailand Blog and participate 🙂

Yours, Sirinya




SIN: Thai ’Song Painter’

Tossaporn Achawanuntakul was born on 1st October 1985. His nickname is Sin and he was a singer-songwriter of the well-known band Singular. This band was originally a duo with singer Sin and guitarist Chotiwut ‘Nut’ Boonyasit as its members.

Sin Singular

Thai singer 'Sin' Tossaporn Achawanuntakul (photo: SIN FB page)

Thai singer ‘Sin’ Tossaporn Achawanuntakul (photo: SIN FB page)

Singular was active in the years 2010 to 2013 and its genre may be described as pop, jazz and acoustic. What is more, the band’s style has also been compared to Metro-Acoustic style.

Singular became popular with its first two singles called ‘24/7’ and ‘Bao Bao’. After the band split up in 2013, Sin has pursued his solo career. Thus, last year he introduced his self-written song ‘Goodbye’ which is also his first solo single. This song brings out Sin’s gentle voice which is underlined by violin sounds.

Previously, Sin has also performed with various artists like Thai singer Lula. Thus for instance, they sang a duet called ‘Possible’ (Mai Mee Arai Tee Pen Pai Mai Dai).

What is more, he also sang the title song of the Lakorn Lom Son Rak (The Wind Hides Love) starring popular half-Thai actor Nadech Kugimiya. Producer Nueng Narongvit chose Sin to sing this song because he found his voice that is ‘Gentle like the wind’ fitted the drama perfectly. This song was awarded the most popular song at the EFM Awards.

Sin started singing at the Bangkok Opera choir when he was in junior high school. Thus, he discoved his love for performing taking his time to figure out what his favourite musical styles are. He gets his inspiration mostly from books, reading but also from watching movies and TV.

Sin Singular (photo: topicstock.pantip.com)

Sin Singular (photo: topicstock.pantip.com)

Finally, Sin’s secret to entertaining people as a solo artist is to simply be oneself and to have fun. Thus, today he is elaborating on his solo career and calls himself ‘A Song Painter’ which is also the title of his new Live Showcase.

Yours, Sirinya




Ice Sarunyu: The Prince of Smiles

Saranyu Winaipanit is a talented young singer who was born in September 1984 in Chainat, Thailand. He is also an actor, DJ and model. His love for entertaining has brought him the nickname ‘The Prince of Smiles’ and of course, he is known as Ice Sarunyu.

Ice Sarunyu - The Prince of Smiles*

Ice Sarunyu – The Prince of Smiles*

The Story of Ice Sarunyu

His parents are Thai teachers and when Ice was young, he was kind of an academic kid indulging in his studies. However, he has always loved to entertain people. Hence, at school he engaged in activities like being a reporter, presenter or announcer. In school he liked social studies and history in particular.

Ice has also always loved movies and became interested in acting, thus taking the role of other characters and understanding their intentions. Hence, he has been in some Thai lakorns and movies. For instance, he was in the movie Superstar Stawberry: Movie on TV (2010) and in the TV dramas Duay Rang Hang Ruk (CH 7 2006) and Gong Jak Lai Dok Bua (CH 3 2007).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97FhJcQPd1k

By the way, if he could chose one actor or actress to work with it would be Thai-Swedish actress and princess of Thai entertainment Ann Thongprasom. Ice himself studied at Sinakarinwirot University, Faculty of fine arts and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Acting and Directing.

Ice Sarunyu*

Ice Sarunyu Winaipanit *

In 2003 he won a competition at the first stage project show and that is how he got into the music business. He performed with many different Thai singers like Palitchoke Ayanaphutra (Peck) and Pongsak Rattanaphong (Aof). They have released an album called ‘Together’ and were in the ‘We R One’ Concert (2008).

Thai singer Ice Sarunyu*

Thai singer Ice Sarunyu*

Ice sees himself primarily as a singer. He loves to sing in every mood and in every situation of his life if happy or sad. However, ‘professionally’ his songs are mostly feel-good pop music. Thus, in 2006 his debut album called ‘ICE’ was released along with the single “Kon Jai Ngai” under the label Thai GMM Grammy.

What is more, he released a Japanese version of the song named “Koi Nanja Nai”. In 2007, his second album ‘Party on Ice’ followed and in 2008 ‘ICE Kool Hits’ were released. This album comprises all songs from his two previous albums. Afterwards, Ice also toured through the USA where he performed in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. Hence, his most recent albums are ‘ICE Festa’ (2010) and Rak Kan Na (รักกันนะ) (2012).

Finally, we may say that Ice Sarunyu is a young man of many talents and and amazing singer. Charmingly, he also likes collecting everything that has to do with the Thai buffalo (Kwaai). He thinks that the buffalo is a beautiful and sweet animal.

Yours, Sirinya

(*all pictures in this post, credit: Ice Sarunyu FB page)




‘Chompoo’ Araya Hargate: Thai-British Actress

Araya A. Hargate, born on 28th June 1981, is a famous actress in Thailand. She was born to a Thai-Lao mother and a British father. Thus, she holds Thai and British nationality. At the age of 17 she was discovered and became well-known after the Misens Motor Show Contest. This was also the time when she was a member of the Girl Power Group that organizes sports day. She was the majorette at this Power Group. In fact, Araya is a very sportive person and does yoga to keep her fit.

Chompoo Araya Hargate

Chompoo Araya

Chompoo Araya

She was educated at Kanmanee School and later got a degree from Badindecha school. Her teens where also the time when her acting career started. Nevertheless, she also went to university and got a Bachelor degree in English from Rangsit University.

Today, she is known by her nickname Chompoo which means ‘pink’ in Thai which is also her favourite colour. She is an accomplished and versatile actress who was in numerous Thai lakorns, e.g. in Luk Mai Klai Ton, Plang Prai, Pee Pian Hotel. Her role models are Thai actors like Chatchai Plengpanich and Lalita Panyopas.

Thai-British actress Araya Hargate at Cannes Film Festival

Thai-British actress Araya Hargate at Cannes Film Festival

Thus, the movie that made her famous was Morlum Summer where she starred as the character Anny. Apart from acting, Chompoo is a model and singer who has been in many music videos. Thus for instance in Lux Thailand’s ‘Soft touch with your love’.

What is more, She is know as a fashionista and High Fashion Queen. Thus, she is also an ambassador for L’Oreal Paris. In fact, she is a regular guest at International Fashion Weeks and at the Cannes Film Festival where she stunns everyone with her impreccable style annd stylistic command. She has had some dramatic appearances wearing marvellous gowns on the red carpet which added to her princess moments. She enjoys wearing designer pieces by Channel, Burberry, Dior, Zac Posen and Ashi Studio Couture.

Fashionista 'Chompoo' Araya

Fashionista ‘Chompoo’ Araya

Up until today, she has received more than 50 awards, such as FHM Sexiest Actress in Thailand Awards 2007 – 2010, W Style Awards, Siam Dara Stars Awards, and The Best Actress Awards.  In 2015, Chompoo got married to the wealthy Thai business man Nott Witsarut Rungsisingpipat which was a great media event.

Araya Hargate & Nott Witsarut Rungsisingpipat

Araya Hargate & Nott Witsarut Rungsisingpipat

Summing up we may say that Chompoo Araya Hargate is an impressive woman and an accomplished artist. In addition, she is also a great fashionista.

Yours, Sirinya

(all photos in this article: Araya A. Hargate, FB page)




Two Popetorn – Thai R&B Artist

Popetorn Soonthornyanakij, born 1980 in Bangkok, is a versatile R&B and pop singer who has also done some acting in the TV drama Club Friday the Series and worked as a judge on The Voice Kid Season I. His stage- and nickname is ‘2’ (Two). Hence, Two began making music as a kid around the age of five. He first learned the basics of music and began playing keyboard at Yamaha School of Music.

R&B Singer Two Popetorn

Two Popetorn (photo credit: music.truelife.com)

Two Popetorn (photo credit: music.truelife.com)

He favours R&B and Motown. Thus, he loves old songs from this era and it shows in his own songs as well. He once said in an interview that this is music which is sincere and charming to him.

After his parents separated, he moved with his mother and sibling to California in the USA. At that time he was a young teenager. After finishing high school, Two attended the Academy of Entertainment in Santa Monica to study computer animation and after graduating from this school, he worked part time as a singer at a friend’s restaurant in Hollywood. At first, singing was merely for fun but later it became his job.

Artist Two (photo credit: news.you2play.com)

Artist Two (photo credit: news.you2play.com)

Hence, he met Boyd Kosiyabong who is a well-known Thai singer, songwriter and music producer who is the founder of the Thai music label “LOVEiS” . Meanwhile, Two also founded the band ‘Sunday School’. However, he describes getting acquainted with Boyd Kosiyabong as the peak of his career. Hence, he was chosen to sing with Boyd at a Christian charity concert in Los Angeles.  Eventually, Boyd asked Two to perform the song ‘What Will I Do’ on his album Rhythm & Boyd Eleventh (2006) in Thailand. This song was highly ranked in Thai pop music charts.

This was the start of Two’s success as a singer. Thus, following his first real hit single, he was for instance featured in a song called “Wherever With You” for a Chevrolet Thailand”s ad campaign. What is more, he also featured “The Sound of Your Heart” for a Select Tuna commercial. In the time following, Boyd and Two worked together on numerous songs and Boyd realized Two’s potential as a songwriter and producer. Thus, Boyd encourage him to produce a Pop-R&B song called ‘Move On’ for the album ‘The Strangers’. Additionally, Two also performed the song ‘Cold Winter’ from the same album. There have also been further collaborations with other artists, for instance with the band Endorphine.

Since then, Two has been writing and producing many songs for himself and for other artists. Thus, he has been also frequently featured in songs for TV series and commercials. For example, he perfomed “Your Garden,” written by prominent songwriter Neung Narongvit, for the soundtrack of the recent TV drama, Nai Suan Kwan (In the Garden).

Recently, he also sang the song Taa Riak Man Wa Ruk (‘If it called love’) in the series ‘Ab Ruk Online’ starring popular actors Ann Thongprasom and Peter Corp Dyrendal.

Summing up, we may say that in spite of his growing popularity and success, Two Popetorn remains laid-back, modest and keeps on improving his music and enjoying the meaningful things in life.

Yours, Sirinya




Pete Thongjure: Thai-American Actor

Pete Puntakarn Thongjure was born in January 1968 in California, USA. He is a famous half-Thai actor and model. His family moved back to Thailand when he was six years old. He is the eldest son of the famous actor and rally car driver Pinyoo Thongjure.

Pete Thongjure

Puntakarn Thongjure (photo: SaReNIE, sharerice.com)

‘Pete’ Puntakarn Thongjure (photo: SaReNIE, sharerice.com)

Thus, it does not come as a surprise that Pete started acting early in his childhood. What is more, his three younger siblings are also well-known in Thailand. Perhaps you’ve heard of Saifar, NamThansod and NamPoung (Honey) Thongjure.

He first did some Thai TV commericals when he was a kid and soon other opportunities arose. Thus, Pete also got into acting and appeared in his first movie when he was only seven and a half. Hence, at the age of nine he was already co-hosting the show “Pao-ying-shoob”. At the age of 11, he was a popular actor in TV series and movies. However, when he was 13, his parents sent him back to the US for his further education. Today, Pete has been in the Thai entertainment industry for over 30 years and he is still going strong.

Over 30 years in the entertainment industry: Pete Thongjure (photo: dara.wirelessscale.com

Over 30 years in the entertainment industry: Pete Thongjure (photo: dara.wirelessscale.com

He was in a number of popular movies and Thai TV series. His first drama was the lakorn ‘Ubattihed’ with half-Thai actress Katarina Glos.

For instance, he starred in the classic ghost story ‘Mae Nak’ (2000) on Channel 7 and he was in horror movies like ‘Bangkok Haunted’ (2001), ‘Lizard Woman’ (2004) and ‘Fan Mai’ (2010) starring alongside Thai movie star Ananda Everingham.

An interesting alternative movie produced by Pete Thongjure is ‘Province 77 Los Angeles’ (2003). He also starred in his movie which is about Thai immigrants in Los Angeles. There is a place called ‘Thai Town’ where most of these immigrants live – hence, it is also referred to the Thai 77th province. The movie draws a grim picture of a Thai family in LA whose restaurant is in danger of being confiscated for unpaid taxes. What is more, it seems hard to maintain traditional Thai values in the environment where gangs rule but finally the family unifies again. By the way, the soundtrack to the movies is by the Thai rap band Thaitanium.

Province 77 movie starring half-Thai actor Pete Thongjure (photo tambon.blogspot.com)

Province 77 movie starring half-Thai actor Pete Thongjure (photo tambon.blogspot.com)

Nevertheless, Pete maybe regarded as a rarity the showbusiness being an actor who is introvert and does not like to talk much about himself. He enjoys his privacy and loves quiet and peace. In his view, keeping his privacy has been vital in maintaining such a long career.

The racing driver and actor (photo: Pete Thonchua Fanclub, FB page)

The racing driver and actor (photo: Pete Thonchua Fanclub, FB page)

His proudest acting achievements are his action TV series whom Pete enjoys very much. Nevertheless, he is a passionate racing driver and loves fast cars like his father. Hence, he also has a reality show about his racing career. He loves race driving because it requires precision and concentration. Thus, racing is like meditating since the mind has be stay focussed and quiet.

Today, Pete is father of three children and a true family man. His wife is Wilailak ‘Jeng’ Tongchua. Hence, we may say that Pete Thongjure is truly a versatile actor with a long career and also a popular racing driver.

Yours, Sirinya




Room 39: Thai Band

Room 39 is a very popular Thai accoustic band that was originally based in Los Angeles, USA. The band has three members called Chutimon “Mon” Vichitrissadee , Isara “Tom” Kitnitchee and Olran “Wan Yai” Chujai. The special feature of this trio is that they literally became successful overnight having a viral success with their YouTube music videos.

Room 39

Thai band Room 39

Thai band Room 39

Back in LA they performed their songs, which were mainly covers, at their friend’s, Baworn “Opac” Abhaiwong, apartment. This is also how the band got it’s name since the friend’s apartment was called Room 39.

Actually, the band’s members met in Los Angeles but everyone of them was born in Thailand. For instance, Mon grew up in Bangkok. Later after studying in Japan and working in Thailand, Mon decided to go move to Los Angeles in order to study marketing and the University of California.

Tom got in touch with the entertainment industry early. He was a child actor on Channel 3’s drama Ruen Mayura. Thus, Tom continued working as a young actor until the age of sixteen. Then he moved with his family to LA. Wan Yai, born in Saraburi, first studied psychology at Srinakharinwirot University before moving to LA where he studied Engineering and Technology at California State University of Los Angeles. In the evening he would make music at bars .

Tom, Mon and Wan Yai, band members of Room 39

Tom, Mon and Wan Yai, band members of Room 39

The trio met and got together at Krueng Tate Restaurant. At first, Tom and Wan Yai played music there. The latter also performed with Thai R&B singer Two Popetorn there. Eventually they met Mon who then became the female singer of the band. The trio is mainly known for its amazing cover versions of popular Thai but also of English songs like this John Legend song called ‘All of me’.

They brought their sound back to Thailand after receiving an invitation by Thai music producer Boyd Kosiyabong. The trio covered songs by Boyd and he very much liked their music. Room 39 think their success is due to the fact that people like to listen to accoustic songs and to cover versions.

The trio Room 39

The trio Room 39

Today, after a few years in the music business, Room 39 is still going strong. Thus, recently they have launched a new single called ‘Can you handle it?’

Finally, we may say that Room 39 is an amazing Thai band that realized the dream of becoming successful overnight on the internet.

Yours, Sirinya

(all photos in this post, credit: Room 39, FB page)




Thai Taxi Altars & Talismans

In Thailand, a taxi ride may be an introduction to Thai culture and belief. Hence, it might even become a kind of religious experience regarding all the sacred objects and talismans that Thai taxi drivers arrange on their dashboard altars.

Thai Taxi Altars & Talismans

Amulets as blessings on the road*

Amulets as blessings on the road*

You may aks yourself the reason for these talismans. Well, since the majority of Thai people are Buddhist, they believe in karma and that each person’s fate is predertermined by previous actions. In other words, this means that what happens to a person, happens because they have caused it with their actions.

A typical yet unusual combination of talismans and mascots in a Bangkok taxi*

A typical yet unusual combination of talismans and mascots in a Bangkok taxi*

Thus, Thai people to some extent believe that safety, driver’s skills and speed are not necessarily related to the probability of having an accident. In other words, if someone becomes a victim in an car accident it is because of his negative karma that has finally caused this result. Strange as it may seem to a rational Westerner, the fate of a taxi might be influenced by the spirits of the passengers that ride in it.

Thai Taxi Altars: Too much is never enough*

Thai Taxi Altars: More is More*

Therefore, on the one hand Thai taxi drivers turn to pok pong which is magic or spiritual protection against danger and harm and pong gun, on the other hand, to avoid accidents by minding practical safety measures such as wearing seat-belts and helmets.

On the road with Buddha*

On the road with Buddha’s protection*

Nonetheless, pok pong plays an essential role to counter the negative influences radiated from the passengers. Thus, taxi drivers transform their cabbies into spiritual life insurances: they decorate their dashboards with numerous talismans and amulets. To bless their car, some drivers have a Yantra drawn by a monk on the ceiling.

Yantra painted on the ceiling of a cab*

Yantra painted on the ceiling of a cab*

Many drivers also hang Thai flower garlands and amulets on the rearview mirror to honour the journey goddess Mae Yanang. The dashboard may also harbour Buddha statues and pictures of enlightened monks and royal images that are considered auspicious.

Flower garlands for blessing the journey goddes Mae Yanang*

Flower garlands for blessing the journey goddess Mae Yanang*

Sometimes not only the inside of a taxi is decorated but also the outside. Thus, Taxi drivers may customise their cars with mascots, stickers, lamps and flags. They also serve as protections against negative karma. But well, finally it’s all about driving good and safe 🙂 Thus, ‘Kup rod dee dee’ whereever you go!

In a nutshell, we can say that Thai taxi altars & talsimans are really special since they reveal a lot about Thai culture, auspicious belief and mentality. Hence, riding a taxi in Thailand can become a spiritual experience.

Yours, Sirinya

*photo credit: Thai Taxi Talismans, FB page

Further reading:




My Top 5 Thai Singers: Number One Is Palmy

Indeed, this year there has been a lot of music on Sirinya’s Thailand blog. Thus, I feel inspired to do a Top 5 of my favourite Thai singers 🙂 Actually, this proved to be a hard tasks because there are so many Thai musicians and singers that I like. However, I’ve tried to narrow them down to my Top 5 at the moment.

My Top 5 Thai Singers

My number one is defintely Thai-Belgian singer Palmy. I really love her style and her way of performing. In most concerts she performes barefoot and this is also her signature feature.

Thai-Belgian singer Palmy (photo: Palmy FB page)

Thai-Belgian singer Palmy (photo: Palmy FB page)

What is more, Palmy, Eve Pancharoen, is so unique because on the one side her style has a 1960s touch but on the other side she is very modern, rocking but also melancholic sometimes.  In a nutshell, Palmy is charming, amiable and true to herself.

For number two I chose Singto Numchok who is known as Buriram’s Ukulele Lion 🙂 I truly enjoy his feel-good music and the way he combines cool jazz rhythms with surf-rock and pop.

Singto Numchok*

Singto Numchok (photo: Singto Numchok FB page)

In addition Thai singer Singto Numchok is also an example of how to escape poverty by becoming a famous and successful musician. His trademark is the ukulele but he also plays the guitar. Indeed, his relaxed sounds may also be called chill-out music.

Well, my number three is a band. Can you guess which one? Yeah, it’s Thai Hip Hop band Buddha Bless. I think they really make great songs and music with a message.

Thai Hip Hop band*

Thai Hip Hop band Buddha Bless (photo: Buddha Bless Official FB page)

Buddha Bless members Gaotong, Gui Oui and Goh-M might appear a bit crazy sometimes but their music is special and thus their lyrics were even awarded by Thailand’s Buddhist Council. Sometimes Buddha Bless seems over the edge and ‘out of control’ (like their latest song) but they like to create songs with messages in accordance with Buddhist thought.

For number four I chose Lula (Kanyarat Tiyapornchai). She is known as a bossa nova queen and her songs range from ballads to pop songs and also electro pop music. Lula has perfomed duets with many other popular Thai singers and what is more, she has also worked on soundtracks and theme songs for Thai TV series and films.

Lula Kanyarat Tiyapornchai (photo: Lula FB page)

Lula Kanyarat Tiyapornchai (photo: Lula FB page)

A very beautiful example is her duet ‘Cross Love’ with Klui for the TV drama The Rising Sun starring well-known half-Thai actors Mario Maurer, Urassaya Sperbund and Nadech Kugimiya.


Last but not least, for number five I decided to choose an artist about whom I have not written an article yet.

Thai singer Bell Supol (photo: Bell Supol FB page)

Thai singer Bell Supol (photo: Bell Supol FB page)

It’s Bell Supol and I chose him because he sung a wonderful jazzy song that I’ve loved for years. I’ve certainly watched the video to the song a 100 times or more 😉 Let’s enjoy this song!


Finally, I may say that my number one among the Top 5 Thai Singers will ‘always’ remain Palmy! What are your favourite Thai artists?

Yours, Sirinya