Jak Ga Jaan
Well, I'd never heard of these on any of my previous stays in Phuket, but one day after being buried in the sand at Mai Khao Beach (long story - next tip), a few locals came along with a net which was strained over some sticks. They would push it into the sand with each wave along the beach and then retrieve some small creatures from it.
Once I was "exhumed", I went to join them, along with our masseuses. They were catching creatures which they call Sea Grasshoppers, Sea Cicadas or Jak Ga Jaan. They look like a cross between a crab and a prawn and bury themselves into the sand after each wave.
We all had a great deal of fun trying to catch them with our hands and ended up with a creepy looking bagful of them. They are considered something of a delicacy as they are time-consuming to catch and not too many of them.
They are put into ice to put them "to sleep", then have the main body shell removed before they are coated in flour and deep fried. I did try them and have to say as off-putting as they looked, they really were delicious!
- Food and Dining
Hop In the water is fine
I found the water in Phang Nga Bay, part of the Andaman Sea, to be very bouyant. You could not drown if you tried. I'm not sure why the salt content of this sea would be higher than that of say the Atlantic Ocean, but it is. The water was about 90 degrees F and felt like a hot tub soak. One note of warning, these waters are frequented by jellyfish and I did get a nice little welt from a sting--but a small price to pay for a superior swim.
The Thai Longboat
These longboats are everywhere in Thailand. You cannot be at a beach, or a river or a National Park and not hear the tremendous decibels of the diesel engines on the rear of the longboat. Dirty, noisy and present at every venue in large numbers. You cannot fight the Thai longboat, you can only accept it as a part of your Thai experience.
Zrim the sailor man
If you are going to sail Phang Nga Bay, I highly recommend going on a guided cruise. The sea was a beautiful turquoise, the temperature was a perfect 89 degrees F. A gentle breeze blew. The karsts were magnificent. The only thing that could have ruined the tableau was work. And to me, rigging sails and steering a boat is work. Much better to leave all that to the experts and kick back with a pineapple drink and watch the world go by.
One of our best experiences in Phuket was being invited by a Thai friend to his family's spirit night; an annual ceremony of invoking spirits, making offerings, blessing and giving answers/remedies.
Our friend lives down a laneway (soi) where all of one extended family resides. They have their own homes yet live communally, eating at one place where everyone is cooked for etc - a gathering place really. This is where the spirit ceremony is conducted.
The ceremony was ritualised with a sense of reverence, yet it was a fine line. The "Grandfather" would make a statement and one or two people are allowed to challenge him, causing a few laughs. Mobile phones even came into play which just seemed so odd. At one point one of the "Grandfathers" told off the guys playing the drums because they had been much better at practice, then handed them some whiskey. One of the guys answered his mobile phone which went off, leaving the band a man down for a few tinkles of his bell.
It was quite an involved ceremony with two different "Grandfathers", each invoking different spirits whilst sitting in front of the offerings of fruit, candles and Thai whiskey. The spirits invoked begin at a basic level, gradually working up to to the highest spirit.
The first "Grandfather" sat cross-legged on the altar table whilst he held a stick and a candle. He kept pouring the hot wax over his head and body as he sat incanting. He ended up in a trance and got off the table to be helped into the house and out to the altar again. He crouched like a very old man of well over 100 years - because that was the spirit he had invoked. I think it also alluded to the wisdom of age. He calls each mother to 'hand over' her baby to him. He then calls the baby his, effectively making him the great "Grandfather". This is disputed, then he responds, somehow making it so.
After the ceremony, a meal is eaten - including the fruits and eggs which were blessed/used in the ceremony to bring good luck to the consumer.
An awesome experience.
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Wat Chalong is Phuket’s most important Buddhist temple and is the biggest and most ornate of Phuket’s 29 Buddhist monasteries.
The architecture is typical of wats found throughout Thailand. Wat Chalong is associated with the revered monks, Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang, both of whom were famous for there work in herbal medicine and tending to the injured of a tin miners rebellion in 1876.
From the Chalong traffic circle take bypass road Why 4021 3km (2 miles) and Wat Chalong is on the right.
- Arts and Culture
- Religious Travel
Manorah dancing is considered very special by Thais anywhere and is treated with great reverence. It originated in Southern Thailand, in the province of Phattalung. It is the dance of a half-human/half-bird creature, which you can see by the "tail" that is part of the costume. Frequently you will see beading on the costume as shown in this picture, which are representative of the feathers.
The dance troupe can vary in number, depending upon the story being danced. I have seen single Manorah performances through to seven or even fourteen dancers on the stage at once. The dancers are either male or female and I've noticed that when the dancers are male, such as the one in the 3rd & 4th pictures, they seem to be gay, very feminised in their speech. It is highly engaging, with the audience participating by going up to the stage and giving offerings of food or money to particular dancers during the dance. The dance is quite informal, as I have also found holy Thai ceremonies to be. There is the atmosphere of reverence, but also a lightheartedness with it that even involves laughter by the performers of the ceremony or dance.
Dancers of the Manorah begin learning and preparing as children. As you can see by the second picture, the fingers of dancers bend right back. This is because from when they are young, the mothers push their hands into the insides of a coconut shell to shape the hands to give the elegant look. Extensions like nails are added to the hands for extra grace.
If you get the chance to see a Manorah dance, make sure you do, it's great, but it's also fun to watch the audience as they get so involved with what's going on on the stage. Usually when there is Manorah dancing, there is also Nang Talung which is another cultural specialty from Phattalung, one of the oldest provinces of Thailand.
- Arts and Culture
Monks are highly venerated in Thailand and must be treated with the greatest respect.
There are 4 different levels of monks The only way to differentiate between each level is by age, but that is not always a reliable indicator either. The first level is Nong Pee which means "young brother". This title is reserved for very young monks; children & teenagers. Next is Luang Pee, which means "brother" and can refer to monks up to about 60 years of age. Luang Por is the reference to senior monks, aged into their 80's. Luang Poos are the most venerated, older monks aged 80+.
Monks wear a variety of shades of saffron and brown robes. This does not have any bearing on their status, but rather the colours are for country or city living. The bright orange is used for city dwelling monks who walk along roadsides daily, collecting offerings. The bright colour is required for safety, so they are seen by passing vehicles. In the country, such colours could alarm wild animals and so, brownish tones are worn.
A woman must never touch a monk or hand anything to him. Monks are celibate and as such, there is implied temptation by the "exchange" of male/female energy. If a woman touches a monk, he must spend the day meditating to clear the energy.
Never turn your back to seated monks, nor stand near them if they are seated, as your head should not be above theirs. When passing monks, one should duck as a show of respect.
Monks eat once per day. The meal must be taken before midday. Other than this meal, monks can drink as much coffee and other fluids as they like and eat things like sorbet, which is not considered as solid food.
When greeting a monk, wei to them with your fingertips positioned up against your forehead (the higher your hands, the greater the show of respect). Instead of saying Sawasdee, you say "Na Ma Sa Gan". If you ever have the opportunity to invite a monk into your home, to sit or let him go before you, you must use the words "Ni Mon". To invite him to eat, the words "Ni Mon Chun Kiao" are used.
I was constantly asked why i was carrying a umbrella around. After Bangkoks downpour i didnt want to get soaked again walking miles back to the hotel. Finally in Patong a girl told me that if you walk around with a umbrella your considered gay... cause your a man and you shouldnt be scared of rain.... well im not scared, just sick of walking around in soggy clothes , well that would explain all the questions.. i dont care im still gonna bring the damn umbrella with me.... and im not gay either hahaha
Vegeterian festival is celebrated in phuket every september
or october depenting on the chinese calander.The locals that
attend this festival abstain from meat-sex-alcohol where
white clothes and pierce they're body with sharp objects
(this festival last about 6-7 days)
The traditional way of eating in Thailand is to add rice to your plate, then take just a small portion from each dish onto your plate - and just one dish at a time. It's not like we do when we eat - putting everything onto your plate at once. Usually the person closest to the dish will serve their fellow diners rather than handing the plates of food around the table.
Eating in Thailand is done somewhat slowly. It is to be savoured. Thais can take ages to eat a meal, stopping to talk for 15-20 minutes before trying the next dish of food. Thais eat with a spoon and fork or chopsticks (chopsticks are usually reserved for meals with noodles). You actually eat from the spoon and use the fork or chopsticks to push the food onto it.
For traditional Thai eating, a plate of fresh greens will be served with your meal. It will include things like young Cashew leaves, Cha Om leaves, raw Thai eggplant, long beans, cucumbers, Gotu Kola leaves etc. These accompaniments are for digestion and also for eating with chilli dishes to cool the palate. Meals are usually finished with fresh fruit.
Why Wai ???
I found the Thai's respected that we had taken the time to learn how to Wai and some basic phrases prior to arriving. Wai, if you don't know is a bow with your hands together in front of your face with your thumbs about on the tip of your chin, used as a greeting. The Thai's also have a great sense of humour, much like the Aussie sense of humour and love to learn Aussie phrases and what they mean, I taught one young Thai what "having a perve" meant, he loved it and laughed every time he saw us. Use the web link below to learn some basic Thai.
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The bargaining power
Remember to bargain for almost anything (even sports activities on the beach) you want to buy in Phuket, at least start with 30% - 50% (or maybe more, depending on how good you are) of the original price. Having communication problem with the locals? Don't worry. Calculator is a common thing in every stall in Phuket as the local sellers know you might need it to communicate the price with them. You'll find it interesting and fun to bargain, especially when you manage to get a really good deal. :-) So, happy bargaining!
- Family Travel
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If you are planning to visit a Buddhist temple, dress conservatively and take your shoes off when you enter the temple.
Women are not allowed to touch monks and the monks cannot accept anything from a woman's hand.
Rear seats on buses are for the monks and other passengers have to vacate these seats if necessary. You will also see a couple of seats reserved for monks in the departure areas of some airports.
Never lose your temper or raise your voice no matter how frustrating the situation is.
Only patience and humour will get you any results.
Thais believe that the head is the most sacred part of the body, so never touch or pat anyone in Thailand on the head.
The feet are considered the lowest part of the body, so don't ever point at things with your feet. When sitting down, make sure the soles of your feet are not facing towards anyone.
- Religious Travel
Anyone wanting to take home a statue of Buddha may be interested to know that you can get Buddhas from temples. They are not for sale, however. In a back room at some temples, you'll find older Buddha statues, as they have been offerings at one time, but the temples get too many to keep on display and these ones are then available to anyone who would like to make an offering to the temple. We have found much nicer Buddha statues available at the temples this way. The Buddha's that are most sought after are the bronze/brass ones where the corrosion has started, verdis gris in the shape of a mushroom signifies more power/magic in the piece. One thing I've learned from the Thais is that certain pieces, whether amulets or statues have different amounts of power. Some people, including our monk friend can "feel" for the power.
When getting yourself a Buddha, bear in mind that there is a different Buddha image for each day of the week. The Thais place a level of importance on the day of your birthday, each day is represented by a different colour and Buddha image. To maximise your good luck, any amulets should be in the colour of your day. To check for your day colour and Buddha, see this website; Thai Birthdays
You can also ask a monk to "open the Buddha's eyes". A ritual is performed on the Buddha, where the monk touches the Buddha's eyes with his ritual balm. Once the Buddha's eyes are open, you can pray to him.
Please note that there is no problem taking Buddha images from the country, but they cannot be historical pieces. If you are buying wood, make sure that there are no pin-sized holes in it, as that means borer. You will have to declare any wooden artefacts to Customs when entering Australia or New Zealand.
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