Cheesy Shrimp and Grits

This quick and easy shrimp and grits recipe will wow your family as a weeknight meal or impress guests at a dinner party. The vein of the shrimp runs along the back of the shrimp, just below the surface, and is actually the digestive tract. It won’t cause you harm to eat, but can taste gritty (and you definitely don’t want that), so it’s best to remove it.

This dish lends itself to many variations. Andouille sausage, crab, scallops, chicken. Add smoked paprika for heat. Fix it to your liking. Make it your dish!

grits 04

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 ears grilled corn
  • optional andouille sausage
  • smoked paprika, to taste
  • grilled scallops, blackened
  • roasted peppers, chopped

Drink with a rich smoky chardonnay. Or a Pinot Noir.

 

How to Make It

Step 1

Bring chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat; stir in grits. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in salt and next 3 ingredients. Set aside, and keep warm.

 

Step 2

Cook chopped bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 3 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon from pan.

 

Step 3

Cook shrimp in same pan over medium-high heat 3 minutes or until almost pink, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice and next 4 ingredients, and cook 3 minutes. Stir in bacon.

 

Step 4

Spoon grits onto individual plates or into shallow bowls; top with shrimp mixture. Serve immediately.

 

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Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong (ลอยกระทง) is a festival that is celebrated in Thailand, Laos and some other places in Southeast Asia that have a Thai or Tai heritage.

The Loy Krathong festival takes place on the evening of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. The dates of Loy Krathong change every year. This is always a source of confusion. Loy Krathong usually falls in the month of November.In Chiang Mai the festival is also known as Yi Peng or Yee Peng Festival. It last three days. The first day is the lantern festival, the second day is the full moon day and the third day is now the day of the Loy Krathong parade. Loy Krathong is not an official public holiday in Thailand. Most activities take place after dark. In 2018 the dates are November 21, 22 and 23.

Sky Lanterns

Over the years the release of sky lanterns (โคมลอย) has become the most popular activity of the Yee Peng or Loy Krathong Festival.

History of Loy Krathong

The history of the Loy Krathong Festival is rather obscure. Some people claim that the tradition of Loy Krathong originates in Sukhothai and was first organized by a court lady called Nopphamat. Others believe it was a Brahmanic festival that was adapted by Thai buddhist to honor the Buddha. Anyway, the ritual of Loy Krathong is about paying respect to the Goddess of the Water showing gratitude for the plentiful use of water and ask for forgiveness in the ensuing pollution. It is also about getting rid of misfortune and bad things that happened in the past and asking for good luck in the future. For this people float a “krathong” in the river.

The meaning of Loy Krathong

What does Loy Krathong mean? The verb Loy (ลอย) means to float. Krathong has various meanings. In this case it is small container or basket made of banana leaves, adorned with flowers, incense and candles. Loy Krathong means “to float a basket” which is what many people do during the festival on one of the three days. On many river or canal locations makeshift bamboo construction or steps are constructed to allow people to approach the water. Near these places food and drink sellers gather and local people sell their housemade krathongs to revellers.  Each year the Loi Krathong Festival features activities at various venues throughout Chiang Mai such as boat races on the Mae Ping River, a lantern procession and contest, a beauty contest, and Krathong parades and contests.

float 01 float 03float 02

float 04  float 05

Yee Peng

In North Thailand the Loy Krathong Festival coincides with the Lanna festival called Yee Peng or Yi Peng. That makes experiencing the festival in Chiang Mai extra special. Yee Peng is all about lanterns. The day before Loy Krathong is called Yee Peng but during the three days you will find lanterns everywhere. Houses and temples are decorated with lanterns and on the evening of the first day there is a stunning lantern parade in Chiang Mai. The most stunning though used to be the hundreds of sky lanterns that were released. There used to be a mass release of sky lanterns near Mae Jo University. In recent years there has been a crackdown on releasing sky lanterns because of the danger to air traffic. There is no mass release anymore. Releasing sky lanterns is only allowed during set hours on the full moon night. This law is strictly enforced. There are a couple of commercial small scale sky lantern events that include a dinner.

 

 

Classic Car Rally ~ Hua Hin

Hua Hin Classic Car Rally

Yet another demonstration of how worldly Hua Hin is. Each year, normally in December when the chances of rain are slight, this rally takes place between The Sofital Central Plaza, Bangkok and The Sofitel Central, Hua Hin.

Some 60 antique and classic cars make the 225km journey and after arriving in Hua Hin, rest up in town for the night before setting off on a parade around Hua Hin the next day that takes them to Klaikangwon Palace, via the railway station and back again.

This is quite a spectacle, reminiscent of The London to Brighton rally that takes place annually in the UK.

If you’re fond of old cars, then you are sure to appreciate the examples you will see, especially in such a foreign land. They are normally in pristine condition and include fine examples of E-Type Jaguars, Mercedes, Alfa Romeos, Fiats and many more.

Hua Hin Grows

More seeking southern comfort

‘Thailand Riviera’ to link coastal tourist attractions by road and rail

The ‘Riviera of the East’ will link both coasts and dozens of tourist attractions by road and rail.

Following a mobile cabinet meeting to Chumphon and Ranong last month, various bodies are coming up with ideas to expedite promoting coastal attractions further south on the spectacular western coastline as an extension to the already popular destinations in Phetchaburi’s Cha-am district and Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin district.

The ambitious idea has already been turned into a tourism development scheme called “Thailand Riviera” to link existing coastal tourist attractions in the four provinces and introduce more unseen ones to visitors, and so generate more tourism income in less known destinations, Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat said.

“Thailand Riviera is basically a tourism development project in a vertical line running along the Tanao Si Range, Phetkasem Road and the southern railway,” he said.

First of all, fresh water resources in areas along the western coastline will have to be better regulated to prevent conflicts between the farming sector and the tourism sector when demand for fresh water in the tourism sector grows, he said.

“New roads will then be built to allow better access to the magnificent views along the coastline and at the same time help ease traffic on Phetkasem Road.

“Each of the major train stations along the coastline will be renovated to make them worthy of a photo shoot,” he said.

Local fishing communities and nearby natural tourism sites such as trekking paths will be included in tour packages designed for tourists who may want to leave their belongings with a luggage storage service at any of the train stations and drop by these unseen attractions during their train trips.

“The geographical location of the Royal Coast project, the official name of Thailand Riviera, has potential to be developed into a resort coastline similar to the French Riviera and Italian Riviera,” said Thanasorn Dokduea, chief of Prachuap Khiri Khan’s provincial tourism and sports office.

The project is designed to be a sustainable tourism development based mainly on car and train travel, he said.

So transport development is an important element in the implementation of this project, which will attract high-end tourists to attractions along the western coastline, he said.

The Department of Rural Roads had surveyed the location for a plan to build a minor road that will run along the western coastline, said Phaibul Ruangyuwanon, director of the Prachuap Khiri Khan Rural Road Office.

On certain spots along the road, there will be sufficient scenic points for tourists to stop and enjoy the view and cycling tracks connected to tourist attractions in the nearby communities.

“Most parts of the construction project will deal mainly with improving, expanding and connecting existing roads,” he said.

Vason Kittikul, vice-president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, welcomed the government’s decision to push ahead with the project, saying the government deserves the credit for coming up with it.

However, he said, to achieve the ultimate goal of becoming another Riviera, the government and all parties concerned would have to first connect Hua Hin with Cha-am in terms of both tourism capacity and quality.

“Community tourist attractions, enterprises and health-based tourism sites will have to be connected, for the sake of tourists’ convenience,” he said.

Numerous royal projects in Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan as well as their local history, art and culture should also be included in this tourism development project.

“Phetchaburi, for instance, has several historic Buddhist temples with a long and interesting history and three palaces, namely Phra Nakhon Khiri (Holy City Hill), also known as Khao Wang; Phra Ram Ratchaniwet, also commonly known as Ban Puen Palace; and Mrigadayavan Palace,” he said.

Hua Hin district has Klai Kangwon Palace, he added.

And aside from developing land transport infrastructure for this project, the government should include offshore cruise ship moorings into the plan, he stressed.

More importantly, the government should aim to attract more foreign tourists starting with those from Scandinavian nations which now make up the majority of holiday makers in Hua Hin.

Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak told the Board of Investment that the BoI should take a more proactive role in attracting foreign investors to tourism and related industries. He said the BoI knows the potential of each company in various sectors.

Thailand Culture ~ Cats

Cats in Thai Culture

One hundred years ago, when , Burmese, Korats, Siamese, and Tonkinese,

(Burmese)

first arrived to the Americas and England, people made up stories about their life in Thailand. They were beautiful cats and people created beautiful stories to go along with them. However, creative, the back “stories” were just plain old wrong.

(Korats)

But the biggest reality is that Thai people are kind to cats. They are kind to them in the streets, in the Temples, at the markets, and in their homes. The reality is that cat is a big part of Thai culture, people love cats, and they love their national treasure… the amazing coat color mutations that popped up in Thailand long ago. These beguiling cats appear in the historical record as long as 700 years ago. For sure they were a prominent part of Thai culture before that, but, paper does not last long in the Thai heat and humidity. The fact that there are written records that survive that long is a feat in and of itself.

(Siamese)

There are two principle myths associated with these imported cats. The most popular was that they were the exclusive property of the Thai King….. and they had been smuggled out of Thailand, without his knowledge. Not true. Thai cats were never the exclusive property of the King of Thailand.

Reality? Wealthy people are more likely to keep pets than poor people. For this reason, its likely that wealthier people, in Thailand, kept them as pets.

(Tonkinese)

The other popular myth is that these cats were worshipped by the Thai people, so much so, they had temples dedicated to them. Also not true. Thai people never worshipped these cats and never dedicated temples to them.

Reality? Thai Buddhism encourages kindness towards animals, and, Buddhist temples act as a kind refuge for cats that don’t have homes. The monks feed the cats as an act of kindness. And, if a person can no longer keep a cat, they drop it off at a temple…. They know it will be fed.

Though they were never the exclusive property of the King, nor worshiped, Thai people do love the unique cats that sprung up around them and do see them as a national treasure. They have kept this breed alive for hundreds if not thousands of years. Historical Thai documents mention these unique cats and this suggests they may be the oldest Natural Breed of cat around.

Why have Thai people keep these cats as pets for possibly thousands of years? For the same reason we do. They come in a dazzling array of colors and, they make excellent companions. When you have a Thai cat, you have a friend waiting for you when you get home. One that is always happy to see you. Maybe a little too happy!

If you want to know more about Thai cats in Thailand, check out this fantastic book, “Siamese Cats Legends and Reality,” by Martin Clutterback. This book is fantastic and tells you everything you could ever want to know. Legends and Realities!

 

 

Mosha, the Elephant with a Prosthetic Leg

Meet Mosha, the Elephant With a Prosthetic Leg

Prosthetic limbs aren’t just for people. They can be for elephants, too. Victims of landmines come in all shapes and sizes and Mosha the elephant is no exception. Mosha was just 7 months old when she lost her leg to a landmine near Thailand’s border with Myanmar where rebels have been fighting the Myanmar government for decades according to the FAE’s website.

Mosha, a baby elephant from Thailand, became the world’s first pachyderm to be fitted with a prosthetic limb in 2007.

But the three-year-old has been growing so quickly she’s outgrown two previous artificial legs and is now on her third.

Mosha the elephant, a permanent resident of the hospital run by the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation in Thailand, is the first elephant ever to receive an effective and functional prosthetic leg.

As she continued to grow, her missing leg put tremendous pressure on her remaining three limbs and her spine. Luckily, the FAE was able to give Mosha a prosthetic leg, and the organization is continuously designing and creating new molds to accommodate the growing elephant. At the time of her injury, Mosha weighed about 1,300 pounds. Now, she weighs over 4,400 pounds.

When Mosha waits for a new prosthetic leg, she is able to do things like lean against rails in order to relieve some of the pressure, the site says. Designing and constructing her new prosthetic is a very complex process.

Fellow FAE hospital resident, Motola, also has a prosthetic leg. She was right behind Mosha as the second elephant to receive one. Unfortunately, Matola is not quite as comfortable in her new leg as Mosha is due to her growth patterns. Matola had her foot amputated following an accident in Southern Thailand while working in a logging camp. Elephants are often used to carry logs.

Insurgents frequently use explosives activated by pressure plates or tripwires to kill and injure people working in rubber and fruit plantations. Separatist insurgents have used landmines to maim rubber plantation workers and seriously disrupt the daily life of people in Thailand’s southern border provinces.

A number of elephants have also been injured by land mines, but the charity says this is just one problem facing the animals in Thailand.

They say the number of domesticated pachyderms has dropped from 13,400 in 1950 to today’s estimated 2,500, while the number of wild elephants has also dropped dramatically.

Muay Thai

Thailand’s child kickboxers who fight to feed their families from as young as five

I have already written about the young girls trekking from the poor region of Isaan (the largest area of Thailand located in the Northeast) to the big cities to search for their future riches; working in bars and selling sex. This is about the young men from the same region.

Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport. Known as the “art of eight limbs”, the full-contact-sport uses fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet.

A tiny youngster pounds the giant punch bag in his makeshift home gym. The corrugated iron roof on the room he shares with his father and brother ­rattles and sends chickens scarpering across the yard.

This grueling ­session, 10km runs and a regime fit for an army bootcamp, are all part of Boosong Samrong’s brutal daily regime.

For the boy, who looks more like Mighty Mouse than Mike Tyson, has to fight to earn money for his poor family.

Unlike most Western kids, Boosong will never dream of being a footballer or an astronaut – the 12-year-old’s future as a professional Muay Thai boxer has already been decided by his father.

Boosong from Rayong Province in Chang Wat is one of thousands of children – some as young as five – pitted against each other in prize fights worth $305 usd in Thailand.

Sadly, serious injuries are common and Boosong can end up bruised and battered. All for $103 usd a fight, but as his father only earns $25.26 usd a day, this is a fortune for his family.

The youngster says: “I don’t mind the bruises – the worst part is not being able to eat what I like all the time.

“I hope that one day I will be a champion and build a better life for me and my family.”

Once a month, Boosong and his family travel over an hour to the seaside resort of Pattaya. This month, the young boy will attempt to extend his current record of 31 wins in 36 bouts.

In between competitions, he works hard on his physique by completing his arduous daily training. No sweets or treats are allowed.

Boosong says: “The only thing that matters to me is boxing. All day I look forward to coming home and doing some more training and it is especially exciting when I fight for real.”

Like thousands of poor young boys and girls around Thailand, Boosong and his family see Muay Thai – the country’s national sport – as a route out of poverty.

Boosong’s father Sompong says: “I am so proud of my sons – they work very hard. Of course the money comes in handy and Boosong has made a promising start to his career, making around $122 usd per fight.

“I earn around $30.50 per day as a casual laborer on local construction projects so it makes a big difference to our life. It is very common practice here – it isn’t odd for children to do this sport.”

Sompong, who used to fight competitively but now focuses on training his sons, says: “Boosong has a real drive to make it. He’s got the right ­attitude and studies the professionals on TV. He’s dedicated, and hasn’t lost often, but when he does lose he is horrible to be around. He gets frustrated and grumpy.”

Sompong admits that he pushes his boys hard, adding: “If I don’t put them through their paces, they might not take it seriously enough. I admit the training has a big impact on their life and sometimes it is tough but it’s the only way.”

Boosong’s brother Preeda is also a fighter. He says: “After a big fight, my legs get really swollen. Sometimes it gets so bad that I can’t go to school or hang around with my friends.”

At the stadium, the crowd roars and people lay cash bets totaling $1525 on which child will win.

The screech of live traditional music does its best to drown out the action in the ring, but there is no mistaking the sound of clashing limbs as the kids go head to head.

Boosong doesn’t win and comes away with bruises, but running up to his father, he says: “You’ll see me on TV one day. I won’t give up.”

Not everybody in Thailand believes that Boosong’s hobby is healthy though.

Child rights activists in Thailand have pushed for stricter control of child boxing and, in 1999, the Boxing Act set the minimum age for professional boxers at 15.

In practice, it does little to protect child boxers. It simply bars them from the ring, unless their parents sign a letter of permission.

Professor Sombat Ritthidech from Ramajitti Institute, who surveyed aspects of child ­boxers in Issan, found that many of his study group were often absent from school due to training.

He says: “Many of the children showed stunted growth because of measures taken by trainers to control their weight.

“It is also very possible that boxing for years might cause brain damage in later life, which is a worry.”

At Por Tapan Han, a training camp for Muay Thai kids run by the local authority, junior boxers Amarin, 15, Namchoke, 13, and Thanapat, eight, are training before bed.

Their mother Kanlaya, who raises her boys alone on a daily salary of $9.15 says: “The money the boys bring in to me is invaluable, but I really worry about their injuries.”

With the long day drawing to a close, the brothers set off on a final 8km run with the other kids from the camp.

Watching her tiny boys ­grimace as they do chin–ups on their return, she doesn’t flinch.

Instead, she smiles and says: “I’d like a car, new clothes and things for myself and I also want to give the boys the things that they want.

“Everybody wants more money, that’s how the world is – and we’re no different.”

History

Where did Muay Thai come from? Of course, the obvious answer being simply “Thailand” still doesn’t answer why, and how it was formed. Historically, what many regard as the most devastating of the striking arts has its roots embedded in the country’s formative years, and on the battlefield. Swords, shields, and conventional weapons aside, the systematic use of the body’s hardest points came to be known as classical Thai boxing.

An excerpt from the well-known Muay Thai manual “The most distinguished art of fighting” by Panya Kraitus paints an incredible picture of early Thai boxing techniques as used by the legendary warrior Phraya Phichai of the broken sword:

“He was the commander in chief of the army who led the common people in bravely resisting the enemy without giving thought to the possibility of his own death. For love of his country, he pushed fiercely forward in battle until his sword broke. Throwing it down he continued the fight with his fists, knees, and elbows. Because of his knowledge of Thai boxing, he came out of the battle alive and victorious.”

 

Myth? Legend? Truth? Who can say for sure. One thing is for certain, that Muay Thai is unique in its style of “following through” on a strike, something very much in common with the weapon techniques of the day.

 

An umbrella term given to the Thai style of fighting arts, Muay Boran was the original name given to Muay Thai prior to the sporting rule sets introduced in the 1930’s. Muay Boran encompasses both the empty hands and weapons style (Krabi Krabong) of the Thai martial arts. Fighters would wrap their hands simply in rope for a degree of protection. You can see why a stricter rule set was introduced as it gained popularity both nationally and internationally.

Muay Boran was originally the “science of 9 limbs”. Both legs, knees, elbows, and fists make the 8 limbed attacks we know today, but originally the use of head butts was also allowed. In any of the books available on Muay Boran, you can find many examples of techniques that may be somewhat illegal in Muay Thai today. Flying head butts and even grappling on the floor as found in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was previously included.

One of the most popular accounts regarding the history of Muay Thai is that of the famed Thai Boxer Nai Khanom Tom. He was one of many prisoners taken from his home in the sacking of the ancient Thai capital Ayutthaya during conflicts with Burma.

As the legend goes, in 1774 The Burmese King ordered a seven-day, seven-night celebration in honor of a Buddhist pagoda in the Burmese city of Rangoon. Among the festivities organized was a royal presentation of combat between Thai boxers and Burmese “Lethwei” fighters, to demonstrate the absolute dominance of Burma’s martial arts.

On the first day of celebrations, Khanom Tom was matched with a Burmese boxer. Much to the confusion of the crowd he immediately began what looked like an intricate dance around his opponent prior to the fight beginning. The referee announced that this was called the Wai Kru, a dance we know today to be a warm up, stretch, symbolic gesture of thanks to both the crowd, opponent, and a fighter’s teacher, parents, and ancestors, as well as a psychological attack on the enemy.

When the start of the bout was signaled, Nai Khanom Tom attacked with such a ferocious barrage of elbows and knees that he quickly finished his Burmese opponent. The referee judged this to be unfair, saying the Burmese boxer was distracted by the “black magic” of the Wai Kru. Khanom Tom was forced to fight nine other Burmese boxers, one after the other. Each one was dismantled in succession, including a local boxing teacher who allegedly suffered his loss via kicks to the legs, a common occurrence in modern Muay Thai competition. In response to his devastating victory, the Burmese king rewarded Khanom Tom, adding that “every part of the Siamese (Thai) is blessed with venom”, a phrase still heard within the Thai community today.

There are a handful of fantastic stories such as that of Nai Khanom Tom that litter the Thai history books. Another great story is that of two French brothers who visited Thailand in 1788. They travelled from city to city making challenges until they were eventually “greatly shamed” by a famous Muay Thai fighter of the time, Muen Phlaan, famed for his prowess in both striking and “wrestling” (most likely a version of the clinch we see today).

Eventually, and in line with Thailand taking its place on the world stage, great events were regularly held for Muay Thai fighters to compete against each other for both money and fame. During the 1920’s, King Rama VII began this process of modernization by constructing a western style boxing ring for Muay Thai competition in Suan Kularb, Bangkok.

Referees, rounds, time limits measured in minutes, and gloves were all introduced. These rules made many original Muay Boran techniques obsolete, and others were outright banned. Soon the old art went into decline, and Muay Thai saw a surge in popularity. Muay Thai became a way for many to pull themselves and their families out of poverty, and fighters soon became known on the world stage.

Eventually Muay Thai entered what is commonly referred to as the “golden age” during the mid eighties to late nineties. Many of today’s top Muay Thai fighters were taught by these golden era fighters, and echoes of Muay Thai’s proud roots can still be seen in them to this day.

https://video.sanook.com/player/1317033/

 

Bar Girls ~ Thailand

Why I Don’t Blog About Thai Bar Girls

Recently a friend of mine asked me why I didn’t write posts about Thai bar girls and the sex scene to increase traffic on my blog. Everyone else does!

The answer was short and simple, yet the explanation slightly longer.

In short; quite frankly, it’s boring. The subject matter of bar girls has been discussed into oblivion on hundreds of other websites.

Blog and forum owners happily let people thrash out misogynistic musings on their sites as link-bait to drive traffic, but this isn’t what I set up my blog to do, and the reality is that Thailand is so much more than the bar scene.

It is part of it, but the longer you live here the more insignificant it becomes.

I don’t want to waste time discussing questions like “Can bar girls ever be faithful”? Or debating stories of men who feel aggrieved at having struck up a relationship with a bar girl and spent tons of money, only for her to move on to a new “handsome man”.

I don’t enjoy degrading people either. I don’t enjoy talking about women as if they are inhuman, as if they are objects to be sexually exploited. I had a mother and sisters and Aunt. Go figure.

Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with casual sex. I am not a prude. What consenting adults do together is up to them.

But for all the hatred and idiocy ranted on forums and blogs by “barstool experts”, people would do well to remember that these girls are the daughters and sisters of other human beings, and at one time children with dreams and aspirations – just like our own children.

So, the point of this one and only article about bar girls is to go beyond the heavy make-up and high heels and look at the industry from the ground up. To strip naked (no pun intended) the circumstances that have resulted in so many women entering the industry and ultimately being de-humanized by punters and society at large.

bar-girls-in-ao-nang

Life Before the Bar

Firstly, let’s look at the demographic of the average Thai prostitute.

A sub-standard school education, if she finished school at all.

Married young in a rural village – usually in the North or North East somewhere and partnered by her family with an ill-suited young man, who quickly becomes restless and ends up boozing and womanizing like his father did, and his father before that.

Boy leaves girl with one or two kids. Girl receives no social security money from the state, or child maintenance from the father of her children.

So, pressure falls on the girl to find work to support the children and her aging parents, who, by the way, she has already disappointed by having a failed marriage, and further upset by now being a single mother and scarring the face of family pride.

Girl then becomes determined to give a better life to her children, and to elevate the face of her family in the village.

Girl hears from another girl that working in a bar in the city, or on one of the popular tourist islands, is the best way to make fast money, and to meet a rich foreign boyfriend who will be prepared to take on her kids and support her parents (or a story very similar to that).

Due to her lack of education, the girl then weighs up the other options as a cleaner, rice farmer or factory worker; facing ridiculous hours of work that will never provide enough money to make her children’s/parent’s lives any better than the current situation.

So, girl migrates to the city/island to start her covert initiation into the world of prostitution; most likely with no idea what it entails and what she’s letting herself in for.

*At this point it should be noted that some (not all) girls arrive at bars in debt to middlemen who arrange travel and accommodation. So even if the girl wants to leave after arrival, she will have to work off that debt first.

This is a devious way to keep the recruitment numbers high and the deserters low. I mean, once you’ve sold your body a few times the deed is done; it’s pointless returning to disappoint your parents with the news that you didn’t make it in the “big city” after all. Once you’ve crossed the line, you might as well try and make it work, right?

Cultural & Social Obligations

Having traveled to the North and North East of Thailand a few times and seen the lack of opportunity, pressures of money (debt) and “keeping face” that young girls grow up with, when I see a girl standing outside a bar on the street, no matter how sexy she is trying to act, I find it impossible to see her as anything other than a victim of circumstance, of a system that in many ways socially engineers and encourages prostitution.

What I see in the bar is not a piece of meat to be exploited, but a girl that grew up believing that one day when she finishes school (if possible), she would find a good job and be able to make her parents proud.

I don’t see a girl who grew up aspiring to be a dirty old man’s fantasy, or a girl who aspired to have nightly sex with western men she doesn’t find attractive.

I see a girl who naively bought into the idea that her teenage husband would stay faithful and do his best to always support her and her kids and invested in the antiquated cultural requirement that a girl must marry the first seemingly decent boy she is caught flirting with.

I see a girl who felt she had to sell her soul, to go against the morals she was brought up to better the future of her family.

I see a girl who has sacrificed her own happiness, and potentially her mental stability, for the benefit of others. No girl should ever have to do that.

And then I see a plethora or foreign men coming to exploit, not help, as they may proclaim, the unfortunate situation of a woman failed by a society that does not provide social welfare or adult education for single mothers and does not hold men in the slightest bit accountable for their offspring.

Is it Really a True “Choice”?

No doubt someone will surf on through here and tell me that many bar girls do the job by choice, making that self-serving observation that “she doesn’t have to do it if she doesn’t want to”.

But as I have covered, the unfair cultural pressures and limited choice of economic progression force the hand into the fire. So, the word “choice” becomes an ambiguous one at best.

When you debate this issue and use the word “choice” as your key defense, do you mean the same “choices” (quote on quote) that you would accept for your kids or close friends? I very much doubt it.

If the alternative career paths wouldn’t provide an acceptable level of living for our children, then how can we so flippantly use the word “choice” as a justification for what these girls do?

The Reality Behind the Heels & Smiles

I won’t lie: indeed, my eyes danced when I first saw the bright lights, high heels, elegance and youthful beauty of the girls in the go-go bars, and it really didn’t compute that the hostesses in the bars were no different to the hookers lurking in the back streets of every large city.

And it’s this sugar-coated version of prostitution that makes it easier to ignore the truth.

However, the more I learnt about the industry, the social-economic structure of the country, the systematic oppression of the lower classes and regional prejudice, the more I couldn’t help but see the radiating internal sadness and longing to be respected… beyond the external smiles and gracious gestures.

Strangely, men seem to get so caught up in the ego trip of being a “handsome man” that they neglect to notice that these bar girls are simply young Thai women, and by preference probably don’t fancy western men.

Most young Thai women are into teenage Korean pop stars and TV Thai movie stars.

Yet being from the social underclass, divorced/separated (often with kids) prior to the bar, the only Thai men they have access to on a serious relationship level are also from that social underclass.

They are low income earning men that will (generally) resemble similar characteristics to the inadequate man they were once married to. As we know, gambling, alcoholism and abuse is rife in such economic settings. Again, consider that word “choice”.

Moreover, once a Thai girl has been in the bar, she will struggle to get a Thai boyfriend at all. Therefore, once in the bar, a westerner/foreigner isn’t a choice, he is the only option.

If you know an iota about Thai culture, you’ll know that a girl who has worked in a farang-style beer bar will struggle to earn the respect of other Thais going forward. Thais, unfortunately, tend to be able to tell working girls / ex-working girls simply by their mannerisms and by asking a few strategic questions.

Of course, few will refer to her as a prostitute. In fact, the word prostitute is frowned upon so severely that Thais seldom label a girl they know to be a prostitute as a prostitute. Two of the more preferred terms are “Poo ying gaan koon” (lady working at night) or “Poo ying haa gin” (lady looking/finding (something) to eat).

A girl who has worked in the bar, regardless of whether she bags a rich farang or not, will suffer a lifetime of gossip and stares from the village folk, not to mention the standard whispers and looks most Thai women endure when they have a foreign boyfriend.

What’s strange is that Thailand has an abundance of what one might refer to as average, middle-class single women – university educated and hardworking – yet many foreign men choose to hang around in the bar scene paying for sex while looking for a partner. They then wonder why it all goes belly up.

Not so long ago a friend of mine was in town and he wanted to walk down the infamous bar-laden Soi Nana in Bangkok.

We paced the cesspit of hawkers, child and amputee beggars, ladyboy and female street hookers and plethora of unkempt men. Honestly, it made me never want to walk on that street again and i needed to return to my hotel room and shower as soon as possible.

Rather than thinking, “Wow look at all these hot women”, I thought, “Man, this must be one of the most soulless places on the planet, one that exists for one reason only; for the desperate to feed off the desperate”.

Bar Girls Want the Same Things We Do

A Thai bar girl isn’t a nymphomaniac seeking a life of endless sexual encounters (though I’m sure someone will anecdotally comment that “I met this girl once….”)  as many expats and forum lemmings would have you believe.

No, she is seeking a guy to take her off the lowest run of the ladder and elevate her and her family’s status to heights that simply wouldn’t be possible trying to run the capitalist gauntlet from her current standpoint.

She also, like every other human being, wants to be loved, respected and valued.

And this is the one thing guys that frequently pursue encounters with bar girls can’t face up to: that underneath all the makeup and forced sexual suggestion, is a girl who wants to be loved acting like a woman who can’t be broken. I think Bob Dylan put it best when he sung:

“She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl”

The reason guys hate to be reminded of the human side of a bar girl is because it would take the “She loves it!” shine from the conquest.

Imagining that one of those girls could be your own daughter or sister brings the conscience into play. It makes guys realize that these girls have feelings and emotions beyond the fantasy of the delirious male ego that believes these girls are more than happy to be exploited for sex in exchange for money.

Becoming a full-time bargirl takes conditioning. Just look at the face of a new addition to a bar, and then return two months later to see her stripped of all that might have been sacred. I have seen it with my own eyes….

I will never forget one very timid girl who looked like a rabbit in headlights on arriving at her new place of work. Her “cousin” had invited her to take up a position as a “waitress”. It took her weeks to be conditioned to “go with a customer”; I know this because the bar boss was an acquaintance of mine for a while.

Three months later my travels took me away from the island, and as my taxi passed the bar on the way to Samui airport, she was swinging on the dance pole, hair extensions, knee high boots and calling out to men walking by.

The way men generally discuss these girls is as if they were born to do it. Again, this is a self-preserving attempt to separate their actions from the cause. Perhaps some do take to it like a duck to water, but the majority must be broken in and are conditioned by the Mama Sang and other working girls.

The Irony of Similarity Between Bargirl & Customer

Ironically, the average sex-tourist isn’t so far removed from his subject.

He may talk a good conquest to his pals, but secretly he longs to be admired as a man, to be loved, to be held, to be respected and noticed by women; things life may have failed to ever present amicably, or in a way that would be considered “normal” to the average guy.

So, he chooses to pay, which may be the only avenue he has to getting close to what he really wants from a woman. There’s nothing wrong with that, if the transaction is consensual, right?

Yet all too often in this transactional realm, the man falls foul to the strategic lies of a seasoned player.

He gets too involved. The lines get blurred. He forgets it is a financial agreement not a real romance and ends up losing not just his integrity but a considerable financial investment.

His bitterness at being “played” then results in increased misogynistic behavior, and the need for revenge through the verbal degradation of Thai women in general.

 

Psychological Impact, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse

Can a bar girl have a normal relationship after the bar?

Of course, it’s possible, and I am sure there are many happy relationships that have lasted the distance between bar girls and westerners.

The number of foreigners maintaining contact with bargirls and sending money to them once they return home is testament to the fact that in many cases the needy find the needy on common ground.

She admires he complies, she “takes care of him” and he “takes care” (financially) of her beyond the bar. The success rate, however, comes into question when reading all the negative stories foreigners post online.

On the other hand, it should be considered that sleeping with men twice/thrice their age, and men they generally have no physical attraction to, week in week out, will take its toll on most girls.

And no doubt in some cases there is physiological damage like that experienced by victims of sexual abuse, albeit the bargirl act is consensual and transactional.

Therefore, it isn’t surprising that so many girls experience breakdowns and urn to drugs and alcoholism and end up in refuges. The reality is that most struggle to ever have a normal, loving relationship post the bar.

The lucky few can settle for a retired expat, who is prepared to pay the bills in return for regular thrills. True love really isn’t an option for most bargirls, period. But then what is true love, anyway?

When you hit the bars on a Saturday night, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking the last paragraph regarding drug and alcohol abuse and refuges is a little far-fetched. I would have thought so many years ago.

Until Imet someone who taught martial arts at a women’s refuge in Bangkok, that is.

He met well over 50 women there who were victims of bars. Those that had broken down psychologically, those who experienced family abandonment when their parents found out (or rather when the friends and other villagers found out what they already knew), and perhaps most disturbingly, those who were pregnant after having been raped by pimps/facilitators, bar owners or customers.

I was shocked by the stories.

When I tell the “It’s a choice” guys about the refuge, they simple can’t believe it, either.

Neither can they believe that many girls are bought and pimped, and in fact can’t leave the bar until the debt is paid in full. Admittedly this is getting rarer, but it still happens in the very poorest of rural areas.

For these girls, the fewer customers you go with the more your rent accumulates on top of the money that was paid for you to secure the job in the first place.

Of course, not every case fits this template, and there are many variations in circumstance, but the point is that most bar migrations aren’t fully transparent, and most girls, however they may seem now, would have been largely ignorant to the life that would become them.

In Conclusion

Three thousand words in and I hope you may now understand why I do not glamorize the bar scene on my blog.

My blog isn’t a platform to speak about these girls as toys to be played with and treated with contempt.

My blog is not a corner of the web that will degrade, marginalize, generalize or spread hatred.

A Thai bar girl is a woman, just like your mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend or wife.

The key difference between the dearly loved women in your life and a bar girl is an education and a level playing field of opportunity, which amounts to nothing more than the lottery that is birth.

I want to end by playing you Mae Sai by the group Carabou. The song is about a girl from the North who goes away to become a prostitute to make money for her parents. She gets hooked on drugs and by the time she returns her mother is dead.

The video has English subs, so don’t worry if you don’t speak Thai.

Makes you think, huh?

 

Food Festival 2018 Hua Hin

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Hua Hin Food Festival 2018 to be held 24-26 August

Hua Hin’s annual food festival will return to the popular seaside resort later this month.

On Monday, officials from the local municipality, Tourism Authority and Hua Hin and Cha Am Travel Association announced the Hua Hin Food Fest 2018 will be held at the area known locally as 19 Rai from 24-26 August.

The festival gives visitors the opportunity to sample a huge variety of international and Thai cuisine served from more than 100 outlets, including many of most famous hotels and restaurants in Hua Hin and Cha Am.

In addition to the food, there will be lots of entertainment in the form of live cabaret shows, music and dancing, as well food contests and cooking demonstrations.

In you are in Hua Hin this is one event that is well worth attending. Be advised to get there early to beat the crowds.

(Event normally starts from 5pm)

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Thai Superstition … More to Follow

Thai Superstition: Don’t Cut Your Hair on a Wednesday

The Kingdom of Thailand or Thailand or LOS (Land of Smiles or Land of Scams or land of superstitions); this is a country with many superstitions and ancient beliefs. Some are taken more seriously than others and whlet not everybody adheres to all of the old ways, there are many Thais who do. Thinking about getting your hair cut? Check the day first. In Thai culture, it’s considered bad luck to cut your hair on a Wednesday. Some traditional neighborhood barber shops actually close on a Wednesday for this reason. But where does the belief come from? It seems that nobody knows for sure and depending on which Thai person you ask, different reasons may be given. However, there does appear to be two particular possibilities that have given rise to the belief that cutting your hair on a Wednesday is bad luck.

Thai idiom

In ancient Siam, Wednesday was viewed as the day of agriculture and gave rise to a Thai expression which translates as ‘Don’t cut on Wednesdays and don’t pull out on Thursdays’. With farming and the land so important to a rural population, it’s plausible that everything would be done to ensure good luck for the crops and it’s easy to imagine how the no cutting crops on Wednesday belief could have extended to not cutting hair on that day too.

Royal connection

Some older Thais tell of a belief that has been handed down to different generations. Apparently, the Thai king would traditionally have his hair cut on a Wednesday. Because the day became associated with a royal haircut, Thais thought it disrespectful to cut their hair on the same day.

The old belief that you shouldn’t cut your hair on a Wednesday does mean that some barber shops in Thailand are closed for the day. However, trendier hair salons and beauty shops will normally be open, especially in shopping malls and in cities. With a new generation of Thais challenging some of the old traditions and beliefs, you can normally find somewhere open if you are desperate for a haircut on a Wednesday. But if you don’t want to tempt fate, there are other more auspicious days to go for a trim:

  • Monday – cutting your hair on a Monday is meant to bring you long life.
  • Tuesday – brings you power.
  • Wednesday – bad luck; don’t do it!
  • Thursday – you’ll be protected by guardian angels.
  • Friday – you’ll never want for anything.
  • Saturday – a good day for a haircut if you are looking for admiration.
  • Sunday – a short back and sides on a Sunday will bring you long life.