The Supernatural World in Thai Culture

If you’re familar with Thai culture, you know that belief in ghosts and the supernatural is very prominent. Thus, supernatural beings can be divided into two main groups which are the benevolent and the malevolent spirits.

The Supernatural in Thai Culture

The benevolent spirits are primarily guardian spirits, for instance the guardian spirit of the village proper and the numerous territorial spirits which are the spirit of the forrest (Chao Pa), the spirit of the hills and mountains (Chao Khao), the rice goddess (Mae Phosop), Kuman Thong (กุมารทอง), the spirit of young children and Mae Sue (แม่ซื้อ),the guardian goddess and female ghost of infants.

Guman Thong effigies (photo: kumarnthong.com

Guman Thong effigies (photo: kumarnthong.com)

A very well-known spirit in Thai culture is the ghost of the house compound which is called Phra Phum. Every Thai house and building has a guardian spirit that lives in the spirit house in front of the respective house.

Spirit houses, San Phra Phum (photo: W. Horsch, wikimedia.org)

Spirit houses, San Phra Phum, example of the supernatural in Thai culture (photo: W. Horsch, wikimedia.org)

The group of benevolent spirits also include the heaven spirits of Thewada which are usually referred to collectively. Malevolent spirits cause trouble to people and aim at harming them. Most often these evil spirits are supposed to be the spirits of people who died violently or accidentally. It is a common belief that if a person dies violently or suddenly, his spirit wanders around in this world since it still aims at fullilling its role in this world.

Phi Krasue drawing by Xavier Romero-Frias, (photo: wikimedia.org)

Phi Krasue drawing by Xavier Romero-Frias, (photo: wikimedia.org)

However, there are also other kinds of bad spirits like Phi Pop (ผีปอบ, a malevolent female spirit that devours human entrails, Phi Krasue (กระสือ, a woman’s head with her viscera hanging down from the neck) and Phi Krahang (กระหัง, a male ghost that flies in the night) for instance. These spirits have the ability to possess people and can even kill a person and devour his viscera. Hence, it does not come as a surprise that the majority of good spirits are referred to as individual ghosts whereas the evil ones are categorized in groups.

A humerous comic version of Phi Krahang (photo topicstock.pantip)

A humerous comic version of Phi Krahang (photo topicstock.pantip)

The benenvolent spirits are supposed to assist and protect the living. In return the good spirits receive offerings and sacrifices made by people. In this way, the spirit has to be pleased so that it will help people. Hence, we may speak of a reciprocal relationship between the spirit world and human beings. As far as the malevolent spirits are concerned, people often make an offering first in order to pacify the spirits. If that does not work, the assitance of the benevolent spirits is needed. Thus, it might also be the case that Buddhist rituals are necessary to pacify the malevolent spirits.

Taksin Memorial Spirit House (photo: wikimedia.org)

Taksin Memorial Spirit House (photo: wikimedia.org)

What is more, it is a general belief that if human beings behave badly and disrespectfully towards a good spirit, this ghost might turn malevolent. Hence, we may say that the distinction between good and evil spirits may not always be clear cut.

Mae Nak Phra Khanong shrine offerings, portraits of the spirit and dresses (photo credit: Xufanc, wikimedia.org)

Mae Nak Phra Khanong shrine offerings, portraits of the spirit and dresses (photo: Xufanc, wikimedia.org)

Summing up, we might be justified in claiming that generally, in Thai culture, spirits and the supernatural are very important. Ghosts are classified by their nature of origin as benevolent or malevolent. Some of them also have their own shrines for worship like Mae Nak who is the famous female ghost who died at childbirth.

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




Top 5 Posts: Nadech & Yaya Are Number One

Do you like to know which are Sirinya’s Thailand Blog’s most popular posts? Well, since I’ve been writing my blog for more than nine months now, I think it’s time for a small review of the Top 5 Posts.

Top 5 Posts: Nadech & Yaya Are Number One

Can you guess who is the number one? Yeah, it does not come as a surprise to me that it is Nadech & Yaya.

Nadech & Yaya (photo Nadech & Yaya Vietnam Fanpage)

First among the Top 5 Posts: Nadech & Yaya (photo Nadech & Yaya Vietnam Fanpage)

I think you all know this cute on-screen couple that is also frequently paired for fashion shootings and TV commercials. Both Nadech and Yaya are very talented young half-Thai actors popular in Thailand but also in other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam. For instance, there is the charming Nadech & Yaya Vietnam Fanpage that provides fans with the most recent news about the two actors.

Nadech & Yaya in The Rising Sun (phot:o konchke.blogspot.com)

Nadech Kugimiya & Yaya Urassaya Sperbund in The Rising Sun (photo: konchke.blogspot.com)

Not surprisingly either, my article about Yaya Urassaya Sperbund is the second most viewed post on my blog. I think Yaya is so famous and loved by her fans because she is very lovely, playful, effortless charming but also a bit childish sometimes which makes her particularly amiable.

Yaya Urassaya Sperbund (photo: Nadech & Yaya Vietnam Fanpage)

Yaya Urassaya Sperbund (photo: Nadech & Yaya Vietnam Fanpage)

Most recently, Yaya graduated from Chulalongkorn University. Congrats, dear Yaya! You are very talented 🙂

Yaya Urassaya just graduated from Chulalongkorn University (photo: Nadech & Yaya Vietnam Fanpage)

Yaya Urassaya just graduated from Chulalongkorn University (photo: Nadech & Yaya Vietnam Fanpage)

Next follows an article about another young luk kreung actress – do you guess who it is? It’s actress and model Mai Davika Hoorne who became famous with her role as Mae Nak in the movie ‘Phi Mak Phra Khanong’. No wonder she is so popular – she is not only lovely but her beauty is also classic. Thus, she has been the cover girl on numerous glossy magazines like the Vogue for instance.

Thai-Belgian actress Davika Hoorne (photo: Mai Davika FB page)

Thai-Belgian actress Davika Hoorne (photo: Mai Davika FB page)

This leads us to my number four post which is about Thai-German actor Mario Maurer. It seems that the most popular posts on my blog are all about young actors. Well, Mario has been in ‘Phi Mak Phra Khanong’ in the leading role alongside Mai Davika. Apart from acting, Mario also does a lot of TV commericals and has been advertising for TAT ( Tourism Authority of Thailand), thus promoting different areas of Thailand.

Mario (photo credit: TAT Kunming)

Mario Maurer (photo credit: TAT Kunming)

Most recently, there has been a cute Mario Maurer doll (Funko Pop). A must for all true Mario fans, I guess 😉

Mario Maurer with his Funko Pop (photo Mario Maurer FBpage)

Mario Maurer with his Funko Pop (photo: Mario Maurer FB page)

Hence, last but not least, my fifth most popular post varies from the rest since it is about the Thai Tradition of Tattooing called Sak Yant. I can understand that this is a subject of interest to many people since to some extent, Sak Yant has also become popular in Western countries. What is more, Sak Yant differs from ‘common’ tattoos because they are supposed to have a magical meaning and power.

Tattooed Monk of Wat Bang Pra (photo credit sak-yant.com)

Tattooed monk of Wat Bang Pra (photo credit: sak-yant.com)

Did you like this recap? And do you like the top four young actors as much as I do? I think we all love Nadech & Yaya and are thrilled by the Yadech-Factor 🙂 Thus, enjoy reading my blog and getting to know more about Thai (popular) culture!

Yours, Sirinya




The Cult of Mae Nak

The story of Mae Nak is very popular and well-known in Thailand. Certainly, you remember the latest filming of this story: ‘Phi Mak Phra Khanong’ starring young actors Mario Maurer and Davika Hoorne. In fact, the gothic tale of Mae Nak has been filmed numerous times over the past decades and every one of the movies is a box-office hit. Thus, this story has also found its way into Thai popular culture.

Mae Nak Phra Khanong shrine offerings, portraits of the spirit and dresses (photo credit: Xufanc, wikimedia.org)

Mae Nak Phra Khanong shrine offerings, portraits of the spirit and dresses (photo credit: Xufanc, wikimedia.org)

The Cult of Mae Nak

However, it is unknown whether Mae Nak really existed or if her story is only a myth. As a matter of fact, there is no conclusive historical evidence of her existence. What is more, there are also different versions of her tale. Nevertheless, the main story line runs as follows:

Davika Hoorne as Mae Nak in 'Phi Mak Phra Khanong' (photo credit: bk.asia-city.com)

Davika Hoorne as Mae Nak in ‘Phi Mak Phra Khanong’ (photo credit: bk.asia-city.com)

Shortly after Nak and Mak get married, Mak is conscripted for military service. Thus, he leaves his pregnant wife involuntarily behind. Nak waits for her husband’s return but one day she dies during labour along with her unborn child. They are buried immediately, however Nak’s spirit refuses to perish and let go. When Mak returns home from war, Nak disguises herself and her son as humans. However, Mak soon learns the truth and runs away. Hence, the ghost of Nak follows her husband and kills everyone who comes between them.

The shrine of the spirit, part facing the canal (photo credit: Xufanc, wikimedia.org)

The shrine of the spirit, part facing the canal (photo credit: Xufanc, wikimedia.org)

To get rid of the spirit, the villagers try to exorcise Nak. Her husband finally finds habour in the Mahabute temple and the venerated Somdej Phra Puttajan from Thonburi seizes the spirit by imprisoning it in a ceramic pot. Then he drops this pot into the river. In some versions, Nak’s skull is made into a belt buckle by the monk and passed into the possession of the Prince of Chumporn. As far as the fate of Mak is concerned, in some versions he becomes a monk whereas in others he starts a new family. In some stories, Mae Nak reappears as an enraged ghost.

At the shrine (photo credit: Ananda, wikimedia.org)

At the shrine (photo credit: Ananda, wikimedia.org)

Her burial place is supposed to be where the Mae Nak shrine is today. This is located at the edge of Wat Mahabute, Sukhumvit Soi 77 in Bangkok. Here the devotees pray to her statue, which faces a television that is kept on day and night. People bring her many offerings including colourful dresses, cosmetic products, sweets, flowers and toys for her child. Devotees turn to her because she is said to be benevolent at giving out winning lottery numbers. What is more, she is popular among young men who will attend a ‘lucky draw’, which is the so-called ‘red bean black bean’ draft. She is believed to detest the call-ups since her husband had to leave her to fight in the war.

However, pregnant women are advised to stay away from this place because Mae Nak is not a blessing concerning pregnancy. In addition, there are two old takian trees next to her shrine which are considered to be very powerful. Thai people relate ancient trees to spirits. The devotees scrub the trees believing that winning lottery numbers will be revealed by the spirit. In fact, Mae Nak is considered to have brought fortune to some individuals of the community.

Making merit, actress Mai Davika at the shrine (photo credit: Instagram @davikah)

Making merit, Mae Nak actress Mai Davika at the shrine (photo credit: Instagram @davikah)

Finally, I think that the cult of Mae Nak prevails because her story deals with an universal theme, namely that two beings are torn apart because they are different and come from opposing realms. Her story shows that it is impossible for humans and ghosts to live together. Accordingly, most screenings of this story do not have a happy ending since man and ghost are separated. For example, in the ‘Nang Nak’ movie (1999), starring Intira Jaroenpura and Winai Kraibutr, Mak finally becomes a monk to pray for the spirit of his dead wife which cannot let go of him.

Nonetheless, the last filming of the story, ‘Phi Mak Phra Kanong’, breaks with this convention – in contrast to traditional Thai ghost stories, there is a happy ending because humans and ghosts can after all live together and be happy ever after.

Phi Mak & Nak, scene from Thai horror movie 'Phi Mak Phra Khanong' (photo credit: news.zing.vn)

Phi Mak & Nak, scene from Thai ghost comedy movie ‘Phi Mak Phra Khanong’ (photo credit: news.zing.vn)

Summing up, we may claim that Mae Nak has a special place in Thai culture and tradition. This is because her story is concerned with an universal topic that everyone can identify with.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Siraporn Nathalang, Thai Folklore. Insights Into Thai Culture, Chulalongkorn University Press, 2000)




Mai Davika Hoorne: Thai-Belgian Actress

Davika Hoorne is a young half-Thai actress and model popular in Thailand. Born 1992 to a Thai mother and a Belgian father in Thailand, her nickname is ‘Mai’. Thus, she is often referred to as ‘Mai Davika’. She was discovered as a model early in her teens at the age of 14. Later she was educated in Communication Arts at Rangsit University.

 Mai Davika Hoorne

Davika Hoorne (photo credit: women.sanook.com)

Davika Hoorne (photo credit: women.sanook.com)

In 2010 she debuted in the drama series Ngao Kammathep in the role of Tien. In addition, she starred in a number of other Thai TV drama series like Neur Manoot (2011), Maya Rasamee (2012), Roy Lae Sanae Luang (2013), Kularb Rai Kong Naai Tawan (2015) and most recently as Rinlanee in Nang Chada (2015). In Nang Chada, Mai also engages in some classical Thai dancing, wearing the beautiful and opulent Khon dancing dress.

Mai Davika has also done a lot of modelling for brands like Ponds, Nikon, ZA and more. In addition, she has appeared as cover girl on numerous magazines like for instance herworld. She was recently the cover model of this magazine in February 2015. Here is a video clip of this shooting from behind the scenes.

Mai has also been engaged in some popular Thai movies. For example, in 2012 she debuted in the film Bpidtu Poom Prom Dan Haeng Ruk. A year later in 2013, she became famous as an actress in Phi Mak Phra Khanong in the role of Mae Nak, the wife of Phi Mak (Mario Maurer).

Lovely Mai Davika Hoorne as Mae Nak (photo credit: news.zing.vn)

Lovely Mai Davika as Mae Nak (photo credit: news.zing.vn)

In fact, Mai and Mario are a nice film couple and hence, they have also been paired in photo shootings and commercials.

In 2014 Davika starred as Riam in the Thai romance-drama Plae Kao (The Scar), a remake of the same-titled film from 1977. This is the story of two peasants in rural Thailand engaged in a tragic, romantic relationship.

Today, Davika is a well-known young lady in the Thai modelling and television industry. Nevertheless, she seems to be still the nice girl next door, natural and very lovely.

Finally, we may say that Davika Hoorne is an amazing young luk kreung actress and model. What is more, she has got the look to become extremely successful in Thai entertainment industry with her fair skin, tall statue and large eyes 🙂

Misstar Cafe (photo credit: Misstarbydavika, FB page)

Misstar Cafe (photo credit: Misstarbydavika, FB page)

Additionally, she has recently founded ‘Misstar by Davika’ and promoted the Misstar Café.

Yours, Sirinya




Thai Ghost & Horror Movies and ‘Phi Mak Phra Khanong’

As you might remember from my recent article about Father Red & Uncle Boonmee or A Thai Ghost Story, belief in ghosts and spirits is very popular, enduring and present in Thailand. This belief in the supernatural is also a part of Thai everyday life considering the popularity of Buddha amulets and spirit doctors, for instance. In Thai tradition, spirits are either protective and beneficent or evil and antagonistic. Hence, we may also claim that the belief in spirits (‘Phi’ (ผี)  in Thai) have contributed greatly to the overall popularity of Thai ghost movies (หนังผี).

The Thai horror movie genre

Phi Mak & Nak, scene from Thai horror movie 'Phi Mak Phra Khanong' (photo credit: news.zing.vn)

Phi Mak & Nak, scene from Thai horror movie ‘Phi Mak Phra Khanong’ (photo credit: news.zing.vn)

As a matter of fact, we may speak of an ongoing cultural relevance of the Thai horror movie since this genre has constantly been popular among the Thai moviegoers. Thus, Thai horror films are very often based on folklore, myths and legends. They refer preferably back to old Thai ghost stories such as the ‘Mae Nak’ (แม่นาค) ghost which is based on a tale about Lady Nak who is a spirit woman. Generally, female ghosts are revengeful because they have been done wrong and thus stand for human maliciousness and punishment. In addition, however, they also want to discourage people from committing evil deeds and actions.

For instance, you may remember the horror movie ‘Shutter’ (2004) with Thai movie star Ananda Everingham as photographer Thun who is haunted by the ghost of a young woman whom he run over and killed. This is an example of a revengeful female spirit who wants to punish the one’s who let her die.

Nevertheless, there are also Thai horror movies with some comic elements which hence cannot be taken too seriously as a ghost movie. An example is O.T. Ghost Overtime (2014), starring again Ananda Everingham and two partners who run a weird company and are hired to do a wedding party at an old hotel. It is a luxurious hotel but they don’t know that it is haunted by ghosts. This film can be regarded as a kind of horror comedy. However, ‘Ghost Overtime’ might also be seen as a thriller.

As far as early movies from the 1950s and 60s of the horror film genre are concerned, female ghosts are prevalent since they are also dominant in Thai folklore. In contrast, male spirits (so-called ‘poo som fao sap’ ปู่โสมเฝ้าทรัพย์) are mostly ‘fictional’ and not based on legends.

However, let me elaborate on the recurrent topic of Mae Nak, the dead wife who becomes a spirit and haunts her husband by refusing to leave him. In fact, there are numerous movie versions of this story, more than 20 versions have been filmed over 50 years. The most recent one is called ‘Phi Mak Phra Khanong’ (2013) which is a comedy ghost film like O.T. Ghost Overtime. The main actors are the young half-Thai movie stars Mario Maurer as Phi Mak and Davika Hoorne as Nak.

It is a very cute story and some scenes are truly hilarious. What is more, the film has numerous anachronistic elements which contribute to the comic effects.

Lovely Mai Davika Hoorne as Mae Nak (photo credit: news.zing.vn)

Lovely Mai Davika Hoorne as Mae Nak (photo credit: news.zing.vn)

The story is about the soldier Phi Mak whose wife dies during pregnancy while he is away to fight in a war. When Mak returns home the villagers behave strangely towards him and avoid him because they know that Nak has died and is a ghost now. Mak and his friends are ignorant of this fact. However, the friends are suspicious and want to go into the matter. When they realize that Nak is a ghost, they try to warn Mak but actually they get confused themselves and mistake Mak for a ghost instead of Nak. They turn to a monk in a temple for protection and guidance. In Thai horror movies, monks often function as antagonists to evil spirits.

Scene from Phi Mak (photo credit: enjoythaimovies.com)

Scene from Phi Mak (photo credit: enjoythaimovies.com)

Nak is not evil, she only wants to be with her beloved husband Mak and finally love wins against all odds. There is a comic and also romantic scene when Mak and Nak go to a fair, take a ride on the Ferris wheel and also go to a tunnel of horror 😉 What’s more, there is also a fun song!

Thus, the story differs from ‘original’ tales about Mae Nak because in this movie version Nak is neither bad nor is she the main character. Her husband Mak is he protagonist. In contrast to more traditional Thai horror stories, there is also a happy ending because humans and ghosts can finally live and be happy together. Thus, Nak is accepted as a ghost in the village and she can also do some acting in the tunnel of horror 😉

On the whole, it is a romantic story which is funny but also has some sad moments. This is for instance underlined by Palmy’s song ‘I want to stop the time’.

Summing up, we may say that the Thai horror movie genre is predominantly based on traditional beliefs and tales. Hence, it seems that the subject of ‘ghosts’ is highly popular over there 😉

What is your favourite Thai ghost film if you have one?

Yours, Sirinya