The City of Witchcraft and Wizardry

After all these years, you might have been wondering if there is still a magical place on earth like in the movie Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings.

Look no further. Bangkok is the place.

Thai people have firm beliefs about supernatural powers. They never doubt ghosts exist, not to mention angels and demons. They live with Karma concepts and are looking forward to rebirths.

Bangkokians are no exception. They are just good at how adapting the entire conceptions to fit their urban lifestyles.

You might encounter a Bangkok tycoon who graduated from Harvard presenting his multi-million company’s real estate projects very professionally. The powerpoint slides looks neat. A lot of marketing research and statistical studies are being quoted to back up his points. His slides about financial analysis of the projects is academically correct.

But do not assume that he has a firm beliefs in his rationalizations. Chances are, at home, he is consulting fortune tellers for the project feasibility. The  real estate has probably been designed according to Feng Shui. The project was probably scheduled based on astrology.

There are quite a number of celebrities in Thailand who claim they used to work at NASA. They called themselves great scientist, but they still think that the Thai supernatural powers are far superior than science. Some of them believe in the power of the Pyramid. Another believes in psychic powers attained from meditation. Some even hold a strong belief that the most parts of the earth will be under water soon so he has moved to the mountain for good. Formal educations can never alter their faiths.

Since ancient times, the Thai society was the society of strong social stratification. People in lower class were assigned to the masters of higher class to serve as labor or slavery. There was no such thing as social mobility. They never have control over their lives. As such it’s not hard to understand why they tend to view major incidents in life as the impacts of external forces such as luck or Karma. Although Thailand is now a modernized country, these ways of thinking are still imprinted in Thai people’s DNAs. For every major event in their lives e.g. university admissions, job seeking, career promotions, starting up a business, marriage, having a child, etc., they put a lot of efforts on bribing the supernatural beings ghosts, angels or even the Buddha himself to help them succeed.

(photo from ibtimes.co.uk)

.

Share

Mai Pen Rai

Bangkokians talk clever conversations. The kind of dialogs that cannot be interpret literally. In other words, they never mean what they say and vice versa.

When you ask your Bangkokian friends whether or not they want you to buy anything on your trip overseas. If they say no, it usually means a yes. If you fly back to Bangkok empty-handed, you might have already lost a friend.

Things get a bit trickier when they really don’t want you to buy anything. They will also say no. So, it is your job to guess if it’s a real no or an implicit yes. You may beg them to tell the truth, but they can never do that. This kind of guesswork had driven a lot of westerners crazy.

When you go out for lunch with Bangkokian colleagues, you might ask them what they would like to eat. Most of the time, they gonna reply “Anything.” Again, do not interpret literally. Do not take the liberty to pick the restaurant you want. Bangkokians have their favorites in mind, but they cannot speak up. In this case, I suggest you should keep suggesting restaurants. If it is not the same place they want to eat, they will keep quiet. Once you hit their place, they will say something like “Okay, if that’s what you want to eat.” Then, you can safely go to that place for lunch.

You can imagine two Bangkokians go for lunch together. Oftentimes, they would keep asking one another back and forth for a long time and never reach conclusion.

To Thai people, it is considered evil to have personal desires. But in reality, every human has personal desires. Therefore, Thai people get away with this by trying not to be the one who speaks about their own needs openly. This is very weird, but having or not having own desires does not matter anymore. It is not saying it that counts.

Tip: When you say sorry to a Bangkokian, you might get a rude response as “Never mind.” Don’t take it seriously, because he probably didn’t mean it. Many Thais confuse the phrase with “It’s alright.”, because in Thai they are the same words i.e. Mai Pen Rai.

Share

Stuff Bangkokians like

Bangkok ranks high as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.

In Bangkok , tourists can do anything, littering , jay walking, you name it. We have rules and regulations, but they do not strictly apply. In fact, you can commit all of the seven deadly sins in Bangkok e.g. drugs, prostitutes, sex parties. Do come to Bangkok and let yourself go wild.

Anyway, whenever you encounter Bangkokians during your stay in Thailand, do not flatter them with this fact. Instead, tell them you enjoy your stay here because Thailand has so many cultural and historical attractions. Tell them Thais people are friendly and conservative. They will love you.

Do not tell them you visited Silom road for bars and nightclubs. Do not tell them you enjoy drugs at Kaosan road. Tell them you went to Pattaya to see temples. Tell them you went to Suratthani for mediation, not the full-moon party. They will be very pleased.

Despite the fact that Thailand earns massive income from sex tourism, Bangkokians do not like to mention it. They are too shy and too highly virtuous to admit that their country does have something unethical. They prefer to see their country as the most conservative and moralistic country in the world. And by ignoring some facts, they can remain thinking of themselves as flawless.

(Inspired by the book, Stuff Parisians Like: Discovering the Quoi in the Je Ne Sais Quoi by Oliver Magny)

 

Share

What affects the taste of coffee

Understanding what affects the taste of coffee so you can choose the best way to brew your cup of coffee.

img_0845

It is true that the taste of coffee varies by origins and/or species of the coffee beans. Arabica tends to be less bitter, but Robusta usually has more textures. Nonetheless, the way we brew them also matters a great deal.

Roasted coffee often taste stronger. However, some people may not like the taste of roasted coffee than the original taste. It is a matter of tastes and preferences. We can vary the coffee taste simply by varying the time to roast them.

The brewing temperature impacts the bitterness. In general, we do not use boiling water to brew coffee. Some people say 94 degrees celcius is perfect. The brewing time is also another important factor. The longer the time the hot water get passed the coffee ground, the more bitter the output. Hence, espresso is often less bitter and less caffeine than drip coffee.

The filter paper can also help reduce bitterness. The paper prevents tiny coffee dusts to remain in the water after brewing, reducing the time the coffee ground touches the hot water and therefore less bitter.

There are several ways to brew coffee e.g. espresso, aeropress, hot drip, french press, cold drip. etc. There is no consensus as to which way gives the best coffee taste. It is a matter of preference. Anyway, hot drip tends to be less bitter than espresso due to brewing temperature below boiling point. Cold brewing offers more depth into the coffee taste than hot drip in general. Different people like different tastes. So it is totally up to you.

Share

Pratuang Emjaroen, Traces and Trails

img_1247I stopped by Bangkok Art and Culture Center to visit an exhibition regarding Pratuang Emjaroen, one of the most renowned contemporary Thai painters of our time.

When he was a teenager, he was so inspired by a book about post-impressionism that he vowed to devote his life to art. He began to travel around to paint.

Later he moved into the realm of abstract art and had discovered his own style ever since. After becoming a famous painter, he has never stopped painting.

 

Share

How to appreciate impressionist paintings

Impressionist painters aim to record the moments. It is not what you see but what you “feel” about what you see that matters. Good impressionist paintings can convey certain atmospheres. They are emotional than realistic.

Most impressionist painters do not look very perfect. The painter has to roughly finish the painting before the moment is gone, In reality, the painter do go back to the studio and spend a lot of time completing the work, though.

Color plays important role in impressionism. Impressionist painters use complementary color a great deal to dramatise the subject. Impressionist paintings tend to be colorful and unreal. You don’t see a pure black in impressionist painting, because even the shadow should have some color in it.

Impressionist painters love to leave the brush strokes on the painting, because brush strokes can also convey emotions. You can even enjoy impressionist paintings by looking at the brush strokes alone. It is also recommended to watch impressionist paintings from a distance, because distinct brush strokes can combine one another and make a difference from a distance.

Share

A life of a babyboomer

Last week I went to enjoy Chicken Fried Noodle at a renowned street vendor. Recently this vendor was ranked number one by audience of a TV food show. It was so crowded that we needed to wait for one and a half hour to eat the food. 

IMG_0271

The entire place is operated by the owner, his wife and two workers. They open 7 days a week from 4pm to 10pm in which the owner has to stand continuously for six hours cooking by himself dish by dish everyday to ensure quality. During daytime, they also have to prepare the raw material. They have been doing the same routine over and over again non-stop for decades.

They live just a few metres away from the place. The house is very old, dirty and messy. They also dress poorly. People might look down at them, because they work on the street with close to zero education.

It is not difficult to roughly calculate their income.  Each day they sell at least 300 pans at 50 baht a pan. Assuming the gross margin is 50% (typical for food business), They are earning at least 2.8 million baht a year in profit. Having done this business for decades, they probably have 50-100 millions baht in saving since they do not have time to spend the money and possibly never want to do so.

Their lives depict the lifestyle of the baby-boomer generation, probably at the extreme. People of this generation tend to believe in hard work and they are very stingy on average. This contrasts to the lifestyle of the young generation in which they tend to believe in shortcuts and the philosophy of get-rich-fast. The young generation also put more emphasis on looking successful and therefore, unlike the old generation, they spend more money on cosmetics and/or luxury goods than the old generation We cannot say which generation is right but the mentality of these two generations are really poles apart.

Share