MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok

MOCA is the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok. It is located in 499 Kamphaengphet 6 Rd., Ladyao, Chatuchak. This museum is a special, serene place and definitely worth a visit if you are in Bangkok. The MOCA is supposed to provide a solid platform in building “Art Society” in Thailand thus encouraging newcomer in various branches of arts. This is the museum’s vision.

MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art

MOCA - Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok*

At the MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok*

This museum was established by Mr. Boonchai Bencharongkul in honour of Prof. Silpa Bhirasri (Corrado Feroci) who is considered the ‘Father of Thai Contemporary Arts’. What is more, the MOCA is also supposed to appreciate the great favour of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

An artist at work - preserving the essence of Thainess at MOCA*

An artist at work – preserving the essence of Thainess at MOCA*

The Italian-born Prof. Silpa Bhirasri (1892-1963) worked mainly in Thailand and was ground-breaking in establishing modern art in Thailand. In addition, he was instrumental in founding Silpakorn University. In accordance with Prof. Bhirasri’s vision, the MOCA wants to protect and maintain Thai art and culture in order to preseve the esscence of Thainess for future generations. In this way, the art collections should reflect the basis of Thai culture.

An artful sculpture of Ganesha (Phra Pikanet) a Hindu God in Thai culture*

An artful sculpture of Ganesha (Phra Pikanet) a Hindu God in Thai culture*

Hence, the museum’s mission is to give Thai people and foreigners the opportunity to admire and appreciate Thai art and artists. In particular, Thai people of the younger generation should be strengthened in their love for the uniqueness of Thai culture. Thus, they can learn a lot about the artists’ inspirations and methods of creation in the museum.

These sculptures remind me of Thai court dolls, preserving Thai culture*

These sculptures remind me of Thai court dolls, strengthening Thai people’s love for  Thai culture at the MOCA*

The MOCA has five sections displayed on five different floors. Hence, the 1st floor has two halls in which the works of Prof. Chalood Nimsamer and Paitun Muangsomboon are displayed respectively. Both are National Artists of Sculpture.

Unusual sculptures and works of art*

Unusual sculptures and works of art at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok*

On the 2nd floor you find contemporary art of different themes and concepts such as social knowledge and Buddhism while on the 3rd floor there are creations displaying imagination in Thai contemporay art. For instance, there are works of the famous Thai National Artist Chakrabhand Posayakrit.

Displaying social knowledge and Buddhism in art, exhibition at MOCA*

Displaying social knowledge and Buddhism in art, exhibition at MOCA*

The 4th floor harbours works of one of my favourite Thai artists – Thawan Duchanee. He is also a famous and remarkable National Artist in Thailand and is considered a modern Buddhist artist. What is more, the highlights on this floor are three gigantic contemporary paintings called “The Three Kingdoms-Heaven, Middle Earth, and Hell” created by the artists Sompop Budtarad, Panya Wijinthanasan and Prateep Kochbua.

The works of Thawan Duchanee. modern Buddhist artist*

The works of Thawan Duchanee. modern Buddhist artist*

The Three Kingdoms-Heaven, Middle Earth, and Hell”*

The Three Kingdoms-Heaven, Middle Earth, and Hell at the MOCA*

Last but not least, the 5th floor is about international contemporary art and there are also paintings from the 19th century Romantic period of Queen Victoria.

International art at the MOCA*

International and Thai art at the MOCA attracts many foreign visitors*

Finally, we may say that the MOCA – Museum of Contemporay Art in Bangkok is a remarkable place created to preserve the display the essence of Thainess, Thai culture and art. Fore more information, I recommend you check out the museum’s website.

Yours, Sirinya

*all photos in this post, credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66




‘Creative Industry, Gift for MOM’ at Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem Market

This month’s topic of the Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem (คลองผดุงกรุงเกษม) market is all about presents and gifts for moms since H.M. Queen Sirikit’s birthday and Thai Mother’s Day is on 12th August. The market is situated next to the Government House in Bangkok’s Old City.

This canal market festival will take place until the end of this year featuring a different theme each month. In the previous months, the market featured topics like ‘Fruits & Vegetables’, “Plants, Flowers and Fish” and different ‘Thai Herbs, Massage & Remedies’. The main focus is on the preservation and presentation of Thai culture and ‘Thainess’.

Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem Market

Creative Industy, Gift for MOM at Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem market

‘Creative Industy, Gift for MOM’ at Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem market

The event ‘Creative Industry, Gift for MOM’ takes place from 3-23 August 2015, daily from 10 am to 7 pm. The market offers something for everyone: There you can find various selections of inexpensive factory products but also fine handicrafts, jewellery and many Thai wisdom products. In addition, you may get a free haircut and free gift wrapping for a purchasing of 300-500 Bath.

Purchase 30 eggs for 60 Baht ( 4 times a day: 12.30pm, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm) at this event “Creative Industry, Gift for MOM” at Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem market

Buy 30 eggs for 60 Baht (4 times a day: 12.30pm, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm) at the event “Creative Industry, Gift for MOM”

The market offers a variety of useful basic foods and foodstuffs like fresh eggs, palm oil and sugar. Eggs are basic foods because they are rich in protein, help prevent macular degeneration, prevent cataracts and are rich in nine species of amino acid. Similarly, sugar is also essential for the function of body organs and tissues since they all require energy from sugar.

Purchase sugar for only 19 baht / kilo at “Creative Industry, Gift for MOM”

Purchase sugar for only 19 Baht/ kilo at “Creative Industry, Gift for MOM”

What is more, you also find a variety of processed foods at the market. Hence, there are the well-known Pantai Norasing Products such as Suki sauce, Plum sauce, Oyster sauce, Sweet sauce, Chili sauce & paste and many more condiments.

Pantai Norasing Products

Pantai Norasing Products

A special treat is Kanom KO. This is a snack made of glutinous rice flour and roasted wheat flour mixed with water and sugar. Kanom KO may also be prepared with some other ingredients like minced mung beans, minced sesame or some flavours mixed with the flour. Thus, the snack can either be prepared plain or filled with many flavours. This interesting snack can be pressed in a variety of shapes such as squares, circles and ovals.

Taste this interesting snack: Kanom KO

Try this interesting Thai snack: Kanom KO

However, you may also treat yourself to some fine food like steamed shrimp dumplings which are Chinese dumplings served with chili sauce, sweet soy sauce mixed with chili. So delicious 🙂

Steamed shrimp dumplings

Steamed shrimp dumplings

Well, what are the special gifts for moms? For instance, the market offers quality ‘health’ shoes for comfortable walking, quality lingerie by the brand Wacoal and Pueraria soap with 100% natural herbal ingredients. This special soap is very beneficial to the skin and is suitable for all skin types. It is also good for sensitive skin. What is more, this soap helps to firm the breast and makes the skin smooth and radiant.

Health shoes of many different types to choose from several affordable prices, soft and comfortable, ideal to buy as a gift

Comfy shoes of many different types and several affordable prices. ‘Health’ shoes are soft and comfortable, ideal to buy as a gift

Quality lingerie by Wacoal

Quality lingerie by Wacoal

Pueraria soap with 100% natural herbal ingredients. ueraria Extract helps reduce shine, acne, freckles, removing pimples on the nose, dark circles Spots and scars caused by acne.

Pueraria soap with 100% natural herbal ingredients. Pueraria extract helps to reduce shine, acne, freckles, removes pimples on the nose, dark circles, spots and scars caused by acne.

In addition, you also find amazing Thai handicraft products at the market. For example, there is a very unique hand-woven Thai silk called ‘Preawa Silk’. This fabric is produced by the Phutai tribal group. Well indeed, it took six people and eleven months of work to create this perfect silk fabric. It has a value of 270,000 Baht.

Precious Preawa Silk hand-woven fabric of the Phutai tribal group.

Precious Preawa Silk hand-woven fabric of the Phutai tribal group.

There is also something for the children, thus learn more about the making and the art of Thai court dolls. The event features demonstrations and workshops by the Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts Center to learn molding these dolls that should reflect Siamese life in the past.

Thai court dolls made from clay

Thai court dolls made from clay

Last but not least, if you decide to get a new style, free haircuts are offered to everyone at the market festival. This is a campaign by the Beauty Association in order to celebrate and honour Queen Sirikit’s 83th anniversary.

Free haircuts at the event “Creative Industry, Gift for MOM”

Free haircuts at the event “Creative Industry, Gift for MOM”

For more information, please check out: facebook.com/khlongphadungkrungkasem. For tourists, I recommend that you print this map out and show it to a taxi driver, adding that the market is situated next to the Government House (ทำเนียบรัฐบาล).

Map & travel info

Map & travel info

Finally, we can say that the new market at Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem is an innovative attraction in Bangkok appealing to both locals and to tourists with monthly changing topics concerning Thainess. Indeed, the fair always offers something for everyone, ranging from specific Mother’s Day gifts to Thai handicrafts, basic foods and free haircuts 🙂

Yours, Sirinya




Luk Kreung and the Construction of Thainess

Cultural studies have explored the relationship between farang and Thai national identities or Thainess. These studies put forward that since the 1950s and the beginning of the 21st century, foreign influences have intensified to intimate levels of cultural and physical hybridization. Thus, in the form of Thai-farang or luk kreung, foreign otherness seems to have become an object of cultural intimacy in Thailand.

Luk kreung & Thainess

We may say that as a post-Vietnam War era phenomenon, cultural intimacy between Thai and farang have increased, hence exceeding the forms of cultural contact in previous generations. Thus, interracial marriages have become a widespread social phenomenon since then, although these kind of unions, and hence luk kreung people, have been known since the Ayutthaya period.

Prince Chula & Elizabeth Hunter (photo credit: viola.bz)

The half-Thai Prince Chula Chakrabongse & his English wife Elizabeth Hunter (photo credit: viola.bz)

In earlier times, i.e. prior to the later decades of the 20th century, interracial marriages were generally limited to small groups of people. These were persons who were in the main cultural contact zones (e.g. Christians, Chinese) and who worked closely with Europeans.

Ekaterina Desnitska and Chakrabongse Bhuvanath (photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org)

Ekaterina Desnitskaya, Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanath and son Chula (photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org)

Nevertheless, there were some rare cases in which Thai and European unions occurred among royals or the elite. For instance, think of Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanath (Prince of Bisnulok) and his Ukranian wife Ekaterina ‘Katya’ Desnitskaya and their half-Thai son Prince Chula Chakrabongse.

Prince Rangsit, his wife Elizabeth and their three children (photo credit: songkran.eu)

Prince Rangsit, his wife Elisabeth and their three children (photo credit: songkran.eu)

Another prominent example is the racially mixed marriage between Prince Rangsit Prayurasakdi and the German lady Elisabeth Scharnberger. They had three children, two sons and a daughter called Princess Charulaksana Kalyani Rangsit.

Princess Charulaksana Kalyani Rangsit (born 7 August 1924) (photo credit: Seissenshi, wikimedia.org)

Princess Charulaksana Kalyani Rangsit (born 7 August 1924) (photo credit: Seissenshi, wikimedia.org)

In fact, there were a few Thai men of royal descent who married Western women at the beginning of the 20th century. For instance, there was Lady Ludmilla Ivanovna Barsukova from Russia who was married to General Mhomjao Thongtekhayu Thongyai. They had four children together and stayed in Hua Hin. Lady Ludmilla, who is probably of Russian royal lineage, lived in Thailand until she died in 1980 at the age of 90. Her Thai name was Mhom Mali.

Lady Ludmilla & Prince Thongyai with their four children in Hua Hin (photo credit: returnthai.com)

Lady Ludmilla & Mhomjao Thongtekhayu Thongyai with their four children in Hua Hin, 1921 (photo credit: returnthai.com)

Thai-farang relationships first became a common social practice since the 1960s when American GIs were stationed at the US military bases in upcountry Thailand. Hence, some of them formed relationships to Thai women who mostly stemmed from the countryside. As a consequence, a remarkable numer of half-Thai people were born who also became a prominent topic in novels, movies and TV series during the 1960s and 70s.

The most significant novels dealing with Thai attitudes to luk kreung were Sifa’s ‘Khao nork na’ (1976, Wild Rice or literally translated ‘Rice Outside the Paddy Field’) and Botan’s ‘Phuying khon nan cheu Bunrort’ (‘That Woman’s Name Is Bunrort’) which was published in 1981. You might recall my previous article about ‘Luk kreung and Concepts of Mixed Race in Thailand’, then you know that the luk kreung from the Vietnam War era were not regarded as desirable.

The Siam Renaissance (photo credit: viki.com)

The Siam Renaissance – luk kreung as representatives of Thainess (photo credit: viki.com)

However, this perception has changed since the 1980s. Generally, it seems that Thailand has discovered Thai-farang as representatives of a modern form of Thainess. For example, the movie ‘The Siam Renaissance’, starring Thai-French actress Florence Faivre, deals with this subject. The movie reveals how the concept of the powerful West is stripped of its foreignness in order to become part of modern Thai identity.

The Thai-ization of the farang (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

The Thai-ization of the farang in the Siam Renaissance (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

What is more, cultural anthropologist Jan R. Weisman argues that the luk kreung boom reveals the Thai fascination with half-Thai people, a phenomenon related to issues of modernity, sexuality and race. In this way, Thai-farang is presented as being cosmopolitan, thus being able to act on a global stage. Hence, the general popularity of Eurasian luk kreung have also strengthened the allure of farang in popular culture that manifested first in the late 19th century with the Siamese strive for ‘siwalai‘ or ‘civilized’ things.

Summing up, we may claim that the present popular cult of the European-Thai luk kreung shows that they are very important in constructing a modern Thai identity which is also referred to as Thainess.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Rachel V. Harrison & Peter Jackson eds. The Ambiguous Allure of the West. Traces of the Colonial in Thailand, 2010)




Media Review: Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture

Today’s media review is about Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith (text & photographs) and John C. Goss (photographs) (ISBN: 978-6167339375). The 2nd edition of this book was published in 2013 by River Books Co., Ltd. Bangkok, Thailand. Compared to the 1st edition from 2005, the 2nd edition has been expanded and fully updated comprising 209 new photos, 64 more pages and four extra chapters. The book is in English language, comprises 320 pages and 590 colour photos, hardcover. It costs 995 Bath, on Amazon the book is about 22 EUR.

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture

'Very Thai', cover of the 2nd edition 2013

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture, cover of the 2nd edition 2013

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith & John Goss (photographs) can be regarded as a very influential best-selling guide to Thai pop culture and street life. The 2nd edition has been revised to reflect the dramatic changes in Thailand.

The British author Philip Cornwel-Smith has been living in Bangkok since 1994. He is the founding editor of Bangkok’s first international-standard city listings magazine called ‘Bangkok Metro’. Furthermore, he has written for various international media concerning Thailand. A few examples of his works are guidebooks like ‘Eyewitness Thailand’, ‘Thailand: A Traveller’s Companion’, ‘Lonely Planet’s World Food: Thailand’ and ‘Time Out Bangkok’.

‘Very Thai’ can be described as a book reflecting modern Thai consciousness which may also be referred to as ‘Thainess’. In an amusing manner, the work gets to the bottom of what makes something ‘very Thai’. The books starts off with a a preface by Alex Kerr who is also the author of ‘Bangkok Found’. Next follows an introduction addressing the central question of what makes something ‘very Thai’ and explaining how the 2nd edition differs from the 1st one. In this context, the author points out that the new edition records how Thailand has changed since ‘Very Thai’ was launched a decade ago.

What could be more Thai than a farang in a Tuk-Tuk? (photo credit: Very Thai, FB page)

What could be more Thai than a farang in a Tuk-Tuk? (photo credit: Very Thai, FB page)

Hence, ‘Very Thai’ has five chapters which are divided into several sections. The chapters are about ‘Street’, ‘Personal’, ‘Ritual’, ‘Sanuk’ and ‘Thainess’.

The chapter ‘Street’ is concerned with streetlife in Thailand. Thus, it covers topics like street food ranging from drinks in bags to insect snacks. It also deals with common sights on Thai streets like different kinds of vendors, soi animals, blind musicians, tangled wires and trash recyclers. What is more, ‘Street’ is also about the different and sometimes funny and amusing means of transportation on Thai streets ranging from Tuk-tuks to floral truck bolts and colourful bus art.

Amusing way of Thai transportation (photo credit: wilkipedia.com)

Amusing way of Thai transportation (photo credit: Les Wilk, wilkipedia.com)

‘Personal’ reveals a lot about Thai mentality and lifestyle. For instance, this chapter addresses themes like male and female grooming habits, nicknames, high society (Hi So) and the delight in dressing alike in uniforms. What is more, there is also a section about the ‘Katoey, Gay & Tom-Dee’ community. However, it also addresses other topics like potted gardens, portable plants for luck and lifestyle, and the urban Thai dream in form of malls, theme parks and the suburb.

Bangkok as a World City & the urban Thai dream

Bangkok as a World City & the urban Thai dream (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

As the title of the chapter ‘Ritual’ suggests it is all about Thai traditional rituals and culture. For instance, the author explains the use and meaning of royal portraits in establishing the Thai sense of identity. He further explains that the days are colour coded in Thailand, and that lucky numbers dictate prices. The sections about ‘Amulet Collectors’, ‘Trade Talismans’, ‘Taxi Altars’, ‘Fortune Tellers’, ‘Ghosts Stories’ and ‘Mediums & Shamans’ are all concerned with superstition and animist beliefs in Thai culture. Thus, the author is also concerned with ‘Magical Tattoos’, which we know as Sak Yant, entrancing the wearer.

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

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

‘Sanuk’ (Fun) is very important in Thai culture. Thus, this chapter is about ‘sanuk’ activities like temple fairs, festivals, gambling and animal contests like cock fighting. In addition, there is also Muay Thai, different kinds of beauty contests, celebrities, comedy and soap operas that make Thai life fun. What is more, it also mentions the importance of Thai folk-blues (‘Songs for Life), Thai country music (luuk thung) and the Thai independence music scene which produces ‘Songs for Lifestyle’.

The final section ‘Thainess’ is the new chapter in this book. It is about ‘Vernacular Design’, ‘Contemporary Thainess’, the rise of ‘Thai Thai’ retro culture and an afterword concerning the ‘Role of Very Thai’ by Pracha Suveeranont who is an expert on visual culture.

In my view, Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture is an amazing and amusing read providing profound insight into Thai mentality, pop culture and street life. Mixed with presenting some oddities in Thai culture and tradition, this guide is truly fun and cool to read 🙂 In fact, the book itself is cult! I can highly recommend it to everyone interested in modern Thai culture and Thainess in particular.

Yours, Sirinya




Market at Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem – Remedies for Alzheimer Disease

This month’s topic of the Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem (คลองผดุงกรุงเกษม) market is generally about traditional Thai herbs, remedies and massage. However, the theme and focus changes weekly this month. Last week was was about techniques and treatment of Thai massage and this week is specifically about Alzheimer remedies. The market it is situated next to the Government House in Bangkok’s Old City.

Entrance to the fair: At Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem

Entrance to the cultural road: At Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem

This market festival will take place until the end of this year featuring a different topic each month. In the previous months, the market featured themes like ‘Fruits & Vegetables“ and “Plants, Flowers and Fish”. The general focus is on the preservation of Thai culture and different aspects of Thai tradition, which may also be referred to as ‘Thainess’.

Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere

Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere

You may enjoy the relaxed atmosphere there and explore the cultural road offering many Thai food specialities like Thai curry and BBQ chicken for instance.

Thai curry, gang kiew wan

Thai curry, gang kiew wan

 

BBQ chicken, speciality on the cultural road

BBQ chicken, speciality on the cultural road

Hence, this fair can be considered a new attraction in Bangkok that is interesting to both locals and tourists.

Thai massage by hammering part of the body to restore the energy flow

Thai massage by hammering part of the body to restore the energy flow

This week’s topic (13th-19th July 2015) is all about cures and remedies for Alzheimer disease. For instance, you may get a doctor’s evaluation, if you have risk of the disease.

Mental health clinic free consultant service concerning Alzheimer's disease

Mental health clinic free consultant service concerning Alzheimer disease

Hence, the empahsis is on acupuncture for treating it, consultation and massage for curing the disease. Furthermore, the market presents exercises to prevent Alzheimer. In addition, they also sell medication and special food for treating this disease. For example, they present Mamui (Mucuna pruriens), a plant which has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for treating many dysfunctions. Mamui is beneficial to the brain’s function, it reduces stress and improves men’s fertility.

Mamui - good for brain, reduces stress, improves men's fertility

Mamui – good for brain, reduces stress, improves men’s fertility

Mamui is also known as a coffee substitute named “Nescafe”. The beans can also be eaten when cooked. Thus, at the fair they also offer Mamui and herb coffee.

Mamui & herb coffee & other herbs

Mamui & herb coffee

Another important plant presented at the fair is known in Ayurveda as ‘Brahmi’ (or ‘Promi’, Bacopa monnieri). This plant is used as a neurological tonic and cognitive enhancer. Hence, it is supposed to have neuroprotective properties. You might want to check out the market’s brochure about the beneficial effects of Bacopa monnieri.

Bacopa monnieri inside brochure with english name

Bacopa monnieri inside brochure with english names

Promi plants (Baccopa monnieri)

Promi plants (Baccopa monnieri)

Here is the timetable of the schedule of this week’s theme and activities.

Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem activities & shedule

Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem, this week’s activities & schedule

The market is open every day, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information (in Thai), please check out: facebook.com/khlongphadungkrungkasem. For tourists, I recommend that you print this map out and show it to a taxi driver, adding that the market is situated next to the Government House (ทำเนียบรัฐบาล).

Map & travel info

Map & travel info

Finally, we can claim that the new market at Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem is an innovative attraction in Bangkok appealing to both locals and to tourists with monthly changing topics about Thainess. Even if you are not so much interested in medical treatments and massage, you may still enjoy the delicious Thai food on the cultural road. The fair offers something for everyone 🙂

Yours, Sirinya




The Thai Human Imagery Museum

The Thai Human Imagery Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์หุ่นขี้ผึ้งไทย) is the first museum of fibreglass models in Thailand. It is located in Nakhon Chaisi, Nakhon Pathom Province, Thailand. In fact, it is not exactly a wax museum since the models are all created from fiberglass. The reason for this is the hot tropical climate of Thailand. All models look amazingly authentic in every part of their bodies, including skin, limbs, eyes and even hair.

Thai Human Imagery Museum

The enlightened monk Luang Poo Mun Bhuridatta.Considered the true and prime leader of all monks dedicated to Kammatthana practice (Buddhist insight meditation) in Thailand

The enlightened monk Luang Poo Mun Bhuridatta. He is considered the prime leader of all monks dedicated to Kammatthana practice (Buddhist insight meditation) in Thailand*

The figures mainly depict scenes from Thai life and culture from past to present. For instance, there are representations of the daily life of farm labourers, slaves, gamblers and even a man reading a Thai newspaper. What is more, there are various Thai history sets. Among them are for example the Chakri Dynasty Kings. Furthermore, there are models of famous enlightened monks, poets, politicians, aristocrats and artists. In addition, some prominent foreigners of history can also be found there, among them for instance Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi - Father of the Indian Nation*

Mahatma Gandhi – Father of the Indian Nation*

This museum was created by artist Duangkaew Phityakornsilp and a group of Thai artists. They spent more than ten years creating the life-like fibreglass figures. Their aim was to promote and conserve Thai tradition, art and culture (‘Thainess’) for future generations. Thus, I would like to focus on some highlights of the exhibition.

The Royal Images of Chakri Dysnasty King Rama I – VIII.*

The Royal Images of Chakri Dynasty King Rama I – VIII.*

These are the Royal Images of Chakri Dynasty King Rama I – VIII. The first King, Phra Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, who was the first Chakri Dynasty King, established Bangkok as the capital city of Thailand in 1782.

King Chulalongkorn*

King Chulalongkorn*

In 1868, Chulalongkorn was coronated at the age of 15. He was determined to abolish slavery. Hence, King Chulalongkorn bought a number of slaves with his own money and set them free as gesture of goodwill so that his subjects might follow his example. Thus in 1905, he declared the end of slavery in Thailand. It took 37 years to achieve this noble aim.     

Abolition of slavery was King Chulalongkorn's aim*

Abolition of slavery was King Chulalongkorn’s aim*

The museum also introduces traditional Thai games. Thailand is known for many games such as the famous Manohra Play, Kite Flying, Post Seizing Monkeys (Ling Ching Lak) and Fish Entering Net (Plaa Long Uan) which date back to the Sukhothai period. Among the young, these games are still popular even today. Additionally, the museum presents four sets of Thai traditional children’s games which are called a’ree-ree khao sarn’, ‘maeng mum’, ‘cham chee’ and ‘khee chang chon kan’.

Khee Chang Chon Kan, a traditonal children's game*

Khee Chang Chon Kan, a traditonal children’s game*

There are also traditional Thai games for adults such as ‘Bald Head Smashing’ (“Hua Larn Chon Kan”). This game is very old and recorded in the “Sumudkhot Kham Chand”, a noted Thai literary piece from the age of King Narai.

'Bald Head Smashing', "Hua Larn Chon Kan”*

‘Bald Head Smashing’, “Hua Larn Chon Kan”, depiction at the Thai Human Imagery Museum *

However, the museum is also concerned with arts. For instance, you find there a figure of the famous musician Khru Ee-ah Sunthornsanan. He was the first leader of the Musical Group of the Publicity Department. His songs became very popular by the name of “Suntharaporn”.

Khru Ee-ah Sunthornsanan, the first leader of the Musical Group of the Publicity Department*

Khru Ee-ah Sunthornsanan, the first leader of the Musical Group of the Publicity Department*

Summing up, we may claim that the Thai Human Imagery Museum can be compared to Madame Tussauds. However, it is less concerned with popular than with traditional culture and with preserving and presenting Thainess 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

*photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66

(Reference: rosenini.com)




Pad Thai Noodle – A Popular Thai Dish

Pad Thai (ผัดไทย) might be called the most well-known and common Thai food. Everyone who has been in Thailand, has come across this delicious Thai meal. It is also called Guai Tiau Pad Thai, ‘Guai Tiau’ referring to the rice noodles that are the main ingredient in this dish. Further ingredients are shrimps, tofu, eggs, some vegetables, fish sauce and peanuts. Hence, sometimes this dish is also called Pad Thai Gung Sot (ผัดไทยกุ้งสด) because it is prepared with fresh and dried shrimps.

Pad Thai Noodle

Homemade Pad Thai Gung (photo: Sirinya's Thailand Blog)

Homemade Pad Thai Gung (photo: Sirinya’s Thailand Blog)

Nevertheless, even though Pad Thai is a familiar Thai dish nowadays, it originates from Chinese cuisine. This dish was first introduced to Thailand in the 1930s and 40s in the course of the country’s modernization. Thus, then prime minister Plaek Pibulsongkram tried to define and establish Thailand’s national identity which is today generally known as ‘Thainess‘. This modernization among others, included changing the name of the country from Siam to Thailand.

However, today this kind of stir-fried rice noodles is considered a typical Thai dish which differs from the Chinese version since Thai people made their own creation of this meal.

Here is what you need to cook two portions:

  • 300g thin or medium size rice noodles
  • 6 fresh shrimps (or as to taste)
  • 2 TSP dried shrimps
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 8 TSP vegetable oil
  • 1 TSP garlic, chopped
  • 3 TSP fish sauce*
  • 4 TSP palm sugar, or regular sugar
  • 1 TSP tamarind sauce or paste*
  • 50g salted radish, finely chopped
  • 1 packet of extra firm tofu, cut into thin slices
  •  3 eggs
  • 1 TSP white pepper
  • 500g soja bean sprouts
  • 150g garlic chives
  • roasted peanuts

*Optionally you may also take a Pad Thai sauce, then you will not need the tamarind and fish sauce. You may buy this gravy at a local Asian supermarket or prepare it yourself. Here is a recipe how to prepare Pad Thai sauce.

Preparation:

Heat about 3 TSP of vegetable oil in a pan or wok. Put in the garlic and shallots and roast them gently. Add the rice noodles and coat them with water until they are soft. In a next step add the fish sauce, tamarind juice and sugar (optionally the Pad Thai sauce) – stir everything together. Then put the noodles onto one side of the pan, take care that they do not stick together. Heat another 3 TSP of vegetable oil in the pan and add the radish, tofu, shrimps and dried shrimps. Mix them with the rice noodles and put them aside. Heat the remaining 2 TSP of oil, beat the eggs and mix that with the noodles. Finally add the garlic chives and the soja bean sprouts.

Garnish your meal with roasted peanuts, some white pepper, fresh garlic chives and soja bean sprouts.

The following video by Rin Silpachai will demonstrate you how to prepare Pad Thai!

Hope you’ll give this dish a try!

Yours, Sirinya

(P.S. Please check out my Thai Food Dictionary for more general information)




Thainess, ‘Luk kreung’ & The Siam Renaissance

The Siam Renaissance (Thawiphop, dir. Surapong Pinijkhar, 2004) is a movie about a young Thai woman named Manee/Maneechan (Florence Vanida Faivre). She is from the early 21st century and educated in France but with the help of a mirror she is able to travel back and forth in time.

Hence, she visits Siam’s early modern past and then goes back to the present. The movie is adapted from the historical Thai novel “Tawipob” (Two Worlds) by Tamayanti which is also a love story. Thus, the movie can be classified as historical and romantic film because apart from time travelling, Manee finds valuable lessons in life and love along the way with soldier Dhep (Rangsiroj Panpeng).

The Siam Renaissance

The Siam Renaissance (photo credit: viki.com)

Scene from The Siam Renaissance, Manee & Dhep (photo credit: viki.com)

Being in 19th century Thailand at the court of King Mongkut (r. 1851-1868), Manee criticizes the Western influences in modern Thailand. When asked by two nobles at the court, she generally presents the ‘farang‘ (Westeners) and tawan-tok (the West) as a threat to Siamese cultural identity. Thus, it seems that her point of view is in accordance with Thai nationalist discourses.

Although we know that Thailand has never been colonized, there have nevertheless been strong Western influences. Hence, the movie also raises the question what Thainess is or rather what remains of it considering these influences. In addition, it also deals with the question of Thai national and cultural identities and points out ambiguities implied in a modern construction of Thainess which is devoid of Western contamination.

Here is a trailer to the movie. By the way, you may also watch the full movie with English subs here.


Florence V. Faivre in the part of Manee is interesting in the context of this film, since she is luk kreung (Thai-French), considering the fact that Thainess in brought into question by the threat of the farang Other. That is to say, it might appear weird that a half-Thai (who is herself partly farang) expresses nationalistic thoughts. However, we must also note that in the movie the protagonist Manee is supposed to be a full-Thai woman. Nonetheless, since the film dwells very much on her beauty and often focusses on her body and facial features, we may assume that she, Florence Faivre, as a luk kreung, represents the Thai beauty ideal of the day.

Focussing on Manee's beauty (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

Focussing on Manee’s beauty (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

Nonetheless, the half-Thai actress might also reiterate the message for the Thai need to accommodate and to move with the times but above all the movie is about a young woman’s quest for her identity.

Manee's transformation (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

Manee’s transformation (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

This is emphasized in the scene when Manee/Faivre is transformed from a traditionally dressed lady of the Siamese court to a kind of ‘farangized’ guest at the French diplomat’s residence. The film pays very much attention to Manee’s transformation. Thus, she is shown rotating behind a screen until her naked form is revealed. She is then bathed and massaged in a traditional and aestheticized Thai manner. Finally, she is dressed in a Victorian garb.

Manee farangized (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com

Manee is farangized (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com

However, despite her outer appearance, the protagonist Manee is and remains essentially Thai at heart. The point is that she may look and seem to be half-Thai and hence, all the prettier for being so in contemporary Thai viewers eyes. Nevertheless, her core and heart are completely Thai through her performance of the protagonist Manee. For this reason, we might be justified in claiming that the movie is not so much about the ‘farangization‘ of Thainess than it is about the ‘Thai-ization’ of the farang.

The Thai-ization of the farang (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

The Thai-ization of the farang (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

In other words, we may argue that the Siam Renaissance shows how the concept of the powerful West is stripped of its foreignness in order to become part of modern Thai selves. This might seem a controversial topic. What do you think about it?

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Rachel V. Harrison & Peter Jackson eds. The Ambiguous Allure of the West. Traces of the Colonial in Thailand, 2010)




What does ‘Discover Thainess’ mean?

Discover Thainess

I’ve recently come across TAT’s (Tourism Authority of Thailand) activity ‘DiscoverThainess’ which is a contest that invites non-Thai people to engage in five different categories of activities related to ‘Thainess’. These categories are ‘Thai Boxing’, ‘Thai Cooking’, ‘Thai Dancing’, ‘Making Thai Style Garlands’ and ‘Speaking Thai’. In fact, competitors are asked to do things that are considered to be typical Thai, i.e. characteristic of Thai culture.

discover thainess tatnews.org

DiscoverThainess (photo credit: tatnews.org)

TAT Launches Online One and Only Contest to Promote …

Minister Kobkarn said, “The Royal Thai Government has declared 2015 as the year to “Discover Thainess”, which is in line with our national agenda to promote sustainability and accelerate economic and social development …

Hence, I’ve asked myself what the concept of ‘Thainess’ is actually about? First of all, one might think that this is merely a Thai government campaign to become more visible and important in the tourism industry. If we are critical, we might also claim that ‘Thainess’ may be all about stereotypes concerning Thai culture. However, I also think it is a campaign to make foreigners (or using the Thai term ‘farangs’) understand what Thai culture and mentality is actually about.

Discover Thainess Parade Ramakien (photo credit: tatnews.org)

Parade, Ramakien show (photo credit: tatnews.org)

Nonetheless, if we try a definition of the term ‘Thainess’ we might say that it means a kind of active decency towards each other. It is not merely about activities like Thai dancing or cooking but it is actually an attitude of mind. In fact, ‘Thainess’ expresses Thai culture and shows the way Thai people differentiate themselves from everyone else in the world. Hence, ‘Thainess’ is mainly based on the Buddhist dharma of decency and politeness.

Discover Thainess Parade Royal Barge Supannahong (photo credit: tatnews.org)

Thainess Parade, Royal Barge Supannahong (photo credit: tatnews.org)

In other words, it is all about what Thai people call ‘Kreng Jai’ (in Thai: เกรงใจ). Translated literally ‘Kreng Jai’ means something like ‘awe of heart’ or ‘consideration’. In short, we might say that ‘Kreng Jai’ means awareness of other people’s feelings and thus showing respect and politeness towards one another. In point of fact, we can also argue that ‘Kreng Jai’ allows the other person to maintain his face.

For this reason, I think that ‘Thainess’ is also the awareness of ‘Kreng Jai’ and it means to do all of one’s actions with consideration. Thus, ‘Discover Thainess’ will say that on the one side, you become familiar with specific characteristics of Thai culture and on the other side that you should engage yourself in acting polite and decent. Finally, if you want to participate in TAT’s ‘One and Only Contest’ keep in mind to act ‘Kreng Jai’ while engaging in one of the five ‘Thainess’ activity missions 🙂

Have you come across the term ‘Discover Thainess’? And what does it mean to you?

Yours, Sirinya