Textures of Lad Prao

More photos from the “oh, yeah, I’m supposed to be maintaining a blog” series … Lad Prao is a traditional neighborhood along the edge of the Lad Prao canal (คลอง, pronounced “khlong”). The neighborhood is slowly being abandoned and demolished for new, higher-income housing. The demolition, and condition of the buildings generally, provide opportunities for abstract/textural work.

Yeah, we got that

There’s a section of Bangkok’s Chinatown called Talat Noi that is filled with small industrial concerns. You go there for steel construction material, hardware and the like. It all seems pretty organized until you get to the streets where the used auto parts stores are. Then things get funky. I have been fascinated by Talat Noi since I first visited it in September. There are scores of stores, one after the other, all selling what look to be the same things. How do all these stores stay in business? How does anyone know what their inventory is? Who buys and…

Wat Hua Krabue

Welcome to Wat Hua Krabue, the Temple of the Water Buffalo Head! We visited Wat Hua Krabue recently, enticed by the public domain photos we saw on the internet, such as these: The story of Wat Hua Krabue is that the chief abbot decided to create a memorial to the Asian water buffalo, which has seen a rapid decline in population as farming has become more mechanized and people have increased their consumption of buffalo meat. The abbott began collecting skulls from nearby farms and slaughterhouses, and – according to one website – now has a collection of over 8,000…

Let’s learn Thai! – part 6, in which it gets worse

Thai has three types of consonants: “middle” consonants, which are simply regular consonants; “high” consonants, which follow certain rules; and “low” consonants, which follow certain other rules. Within the low consonant class, there are “single” low consonants and “paired” low consonants. Paired low consonants match the high consonants, so we start with these. For simplicity’s sake, I am including in the below table only the primary consonant, rather than (for example) all the different ways one can make the “s” sound. “kh,” “th” and “ph” are aspirated k, t and p, respectively. /kh/ /ch/ /th/ /ph/ /f/ /s/ /h/ high…

Spirit houses 2

Spirit houses in their natural habitat. In my quest to find out where spirit houses come from, I started with a visit to the website of K.T. Spirit House (http://www.kt-spirithouse.com). Unfortunately, the store is located far outside Bangkok, and the proprietors didn’t answer my email. I considered heading out and taking my chances, but then I found a store in town that sells spirit houses, and the woman running it spoke English so I didn’t have to struggle with Thai to explain my interest. In response to my first question, she told me that hers are made from molded poured…

Let’s Learn Thai! – part 5, in which we learn more about the Thai alphabet (UPDATED)

At my request, my teacher began to teach me to read and write Thai (rather than rely on a phonetic system of writing in English characters). Be careful what you wish for, may you live in interesting times, all of that. It turns out that two of the reasons that Thai has so many consonants are that, for example, in addition to the aspirated consonants ด (“D” as in “dog”) and ท (“T” as in “Thai”), there is a “DT” sound, ต, which is its own letter. Some of the other consonants get similar treatments, for instance there is a…

Let’s Learn Thai! – part 4, an introduction to the alphabet

The dog was sick all morning, throwing up on the Persian rugs (due to a bad reaction to a pain medication we gave him for his arthritis), so I stayed home from Thai class and did a little self-study. My lessons don’t include reading and writing yet, but I want to get a jump on the topic. As it happens, when I learned we were going to Thailand last October, I bought a self-study book on Amazon which I used for three days before putting it away on the shelf. It made no sense to me at the time, but…

Spirit houses 1

Spirit houses, which one sees in front of many houses and businesses in Thailand, are the local version of the Greek proskinitaria that I documented in my book (copies of which, ahem, are still available). Unlike proskinitaria, however, spirit houses, or san pra phum, are intended to provide a home for spirits that could otherwise create trouble for the property owners if they are not cared for and given offerings of flowers or food. Although the Thais are predominantly Buddhist, their culture still reflects an earlier time when animism played an active role in people’s thinking. Hence, every place has spirits that need…