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You know when you've become a part of a community when your photo starts appearing in local tourist publications.

The latest issue of the Jungceylon free shopper broadsheet includes two photos of my wife, son, and myself taken when HRH Princess Soamsavali Phravararajatinuddamatu visited Patong on 19 May.  I'd previously written a blog entry about how I'd been the subject of a number of official photos taken during the royal audience as the only farang seated up front.  Well, these are the first I've seen (although some friends of Tim's said they'd seen some in various Thai-language newspapers) and aren't too bad at all (my face is partially obscured by a yellow King's flag in one, however).




Ton Sai brochureLast weekend, we made a family outing to Ton Sai Waterfall in the heart of Phuket’s last remaining pristine tropical rainforest.  Officially called the Khao Pra Taew Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Center, this 5,570-acre non-hunting sanctuary sprawls north to south over three tambons in Amphur Thalang — Thep Krasatri, Sri Sunthorn, and Pa Klok.   The three highest peaks in the mountain range are Khao Pra Taew at 384 meters above sea level, Khao Bang Pae (388 meters), and Khao Phara (422 meters).

Declared a wildlife park by the Royal Forest Department in 1977, the sanctuary features a wide variety of wild animals such as the tusked hairy wild boar, Malay sun deer, langurs, porcupines, deer (including the barking deer and mouse deer), monkeys, gibbons, cobras, pythons, monitor lizards, flying foxes, civet, bats, macaques, flying squirrels, chameleons, and many species of birds.

Dransfield palmThe tropical rainforest contains many kinds of trees and plants with various ferns, climbers, palm shrubs, and bamboos sharing space with tall canopy trees without many branches dominating.  There’s also a unique species of palm not found anywhere else in the world.   Kerridoxa elegans Dransfield grows to about five to seven meters and has fairly large fanlike serrated leaves.  Commonly called palm lang khao, or Thalang Governor’s palm, the back of the leaf is greenish white in color which is a unique characteristic of the species.  The palms grow cream-colored flowers from December to February and they produce yellow fruit which is eaten by some animals.  the nut has a yellow rind that becomes darker when ripe.  Fallen seeds take root on the ground, becoming new plants.

Many small underwater wells rise to the surface in the dense forest and flow into two waterfalls, Bang Pae in the southeast and Ton Sai on the western slopes of the range.  There is a large ficus three located near where Ton Sai originates, hence the name meaning “ficus waterfall” (ton is southern dialect for waterfall and sai is Thai for ficus tree).

The park has a number of hiking trails in the forest including a 2km circuit of Ton Sai waterfall and a 14km trek connecting it with Bang Pae.  Guides can be hired from the reserve office near the Ton Sai entrance.

map 1To get there, head north from Phuket Town towards the airport on Thepkasattri Road (route 402) about 22km.  Turn right at the main intersection in the town of Thalang; the road is actually called Ton Sai Waterfall Road but is narrow and easy to miss (it’s a bit north of Thalang Hospital and the Provincial Electricity Authority and a bit south of the Provincial Police Station).  You will drive through about 5km of rubber plantations before reaching the Forestry Department checkpoint.  Two-tiered pricing in in effect here (100 baht for farangs) but if you have a Thai driver’s license or tax ID card you can get the local price.  Admission is free after 3pm.

Ton Sai waterfallI was very impressed with the facilities at Ton Sai.  The grounds themselves are nicely landscaped and the trails well-maintained.  There’s a small visitor center with information about the flora and fauna found in the park.  While the displays are written in Thai, brochures are available in several languages including French and English.  There’s also at least two restaurants, nice restroom facilities (not sure if they were squat or Western-style toilets as I didn’t need to go), and a playground.  Just past the parking area is a large reservoir ringed by fig trees; bearing fruit year-round the local villagers eat the figs with chili dip or rice spaghetti and curry.  The falls themselves are fairly attractive, descending in several streams forming a number of pools.

Although much smaller than Bang Pae I think I much prefer this waterfall as it’s less crowded, cleaner, and has a prettier setting.  We’ll definitely return at some point for a picnic and some hiking (Alex and did a bit of climbing around the falls).  A few small bungalows are located near the waterfall and are probably worth further investigation.



Wai Khru krabTeachers are very highly regarded in Thailand.  The most important event at schools throughout the country is the Wai Khru.  This is always held on a Thursday towards the beginning of the academic year because Thursdays are considered to be an auspicious day for teachers.  Our school held Wai Khru ceremonies for the English Programme this past week.  It was my first experience of this truly memorable event.

"Wai Khru" is Thai for "pay respect to the teacher."  The students present their teachers with flowers or jasmine garlands, thanking them for teaching them in the past and also to gain merit and good fortune for the future.  The students actually prostrate themselves at the teachers' feet in what is called a krab — the most polite way to show respect.  It's similar to lay people making an offering to high monks which says a lot for how Thai people feel about teachers.

Our school had two Wai Khru ceremonies in the English Programme — one in the morning for the Kindergarten and another after lunch for lower Primary through Mattayom 1 students.  They each began with the school band playing a song for teachers and the students reciting several prayers.  The teachers and school administrators were seated in a line of chairs across the length of the assembly hall.

The flower presentations began when a boy and a girl representative from each class in turn approached the center of the line of chairs walking on their knees.  They then presented a flower arrangement they'd made the day before to the school's manager and principal.  The flowers used in these arrangements are chosen for their symbolism. Dok Ma Khue (eggplant flower) stands for respect because when the tree blooms it's branches bend down in the same way a student pays respect to his teacher.  The Yam Puek (Bermuda grass) flower stands for patience and perserverance; it actually appears wilted but it is very much alive.  And Khao Tok (popped rice) is symbolic of discipline because the rice is placed in a pan together and heated up to become popped rice.

The students prostrated themselves, presented the flowers, gave a wai to the school manager and principal, and then proceeded along in front of the row of teachers' chairs while remaining on their knees.   The flower arrangements were passed along the line from teacher to teacher until eventually there was one sitting in front of each of us on a knee-high bench.

Next, each class in turn lined up and approached the row of teachers.  They did a krab at our feet, presented us with their individual flowers brought from home, waied us, and then proceeded back to sit on the floor of the assembly hall.  Most students gave us the Dom Kem flower which means "needle" in Thai.   It's symbolic in that the students believe it will make them sharp-witted and brainy.  Many of these flowers were presented in an arrangement with incense sticks and a candle.  Together with the flowers, they represent the Triple Gem (ratanatri) of Buddhism — the Buddha, his Teachings (Dharma), and the Community (Sangha).

We each received so many flowers (there being some 800 students in the English Programme) that once we received them we would hand them to student volunteers behind us.  I kept a particularly beautiful arrangement to give my wife when she picked me up later in the day, surprising her immensely.

Wai Khru ended with a speech from the school's principal and the band playing a song for HM the King.  It truly was a remarkable ceremony and I felt somewhat humbled to be on the receiving end of so much respect.  I did videotape portions of the event from my vantage point in the row of teachers; although I'm still without a camera I hope to post some photos taken by some of the school staff later in the week (the picture of the students doing the krab at the head of this entry is from a post by Richard Barrow on the Praknam Web Forums).

The only detractor to the afternoon was the intense heat — our school's assembly hall/canteen aren't air-conditioned and the three or four large fans brought in for the ceremony just couldn't cope.  It was quite a trial for students and teachers alike to sit there sweating for some two-and-a-half-hours.  Still, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.  My first-ever Wai Khru really did make me feel like a part of something special.

[Cross-posted on my Thai culture & news blog at Baan Jochim Phuket.]



The Thai Ministry of Communication Information and Technology has lifted their country-wide blocking of the Blogspot domain.  This is good news for Thai-based Internet users and blog-writers as we can once again view hundreds of thousands of blogs that are hosted by the Blogger service.

Aside from occasional cross-posts with my other blog, Baan Jochim Phuket, GOODNIGHT PHUKET's primary focus will now be my family life with occasional travel/tourist/local info.

Baan Jochim Phuket will deal primarily with the politics, religion, customs, etc. of my adopted country of Thailand with various news clips, other blog posts that I find interesting, as well as my original writings.  I urge you to check both sites regularly (or subscribe to the RSS feeds).

New content on my Wordpress-hosted blog includes a primer on Thai culture and customs, news items about violence in the south and an increase in protests as the new national constitution is drafted as well as a user's guide for Thailand's ubiquitous squat toilets.  I've also included a page listing the holidays and festivals in Thailand for 2007 (although I still need to complete the section on regional special days).  Please check it out when you have time...

My next post on GOODNIGHT PHUKET will detail a weekend trip we made to Ton Sai Waterfall in Tambon Thalang that included a stop-off at Bangrong Pier in search of gibbons.  I also plan to write a report on our school's Wai Kru ("Honor the Teacher Day") which will occur on Thursday.  Watch for both to appear soon...



HM the King 80th Birthday LogoHis Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช), or Rama IX as he is known in the West, ascended to the throne following the death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol on 9 June 1946.  The world's and the longest-reigning current head of statelongest-serving monarch in Thai history, he was formally crowned in Bangkok on 5 May 1950.  During last year's massive celebrations for the 60th anniversary of his rule, the King and Queen appeared on the balcony of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall before hundreds of thousands of people on 9 June which was a public holiday (as was most of the following week).

On 16 January 2007, the Council for National Security officially declared the end of the 60th anniversary celebrations and commenced year-long celebrations of Bhumibol's 80th birthday.  Thus, today was extremely low-key compared to the festivities last year.

But we do have a new song, courtesy of the Office of the Prime Minister — "Father of the Land" (พ่อของแผ่นดิน, Poh Khong Phan Din).  The song was first played nationwide this morning at 9:00 a.m. and will be continuously aired in public places to encourage people to learn the song. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont (สุรยุทธ์ จุลานนท์) is inviting people from all corners of Thailand to jointly sing the song.


In Thai schools, there are many chants and prayers said at morning assemblies and lunch.  Although the school where I work is bilingual with 800 students in their own English Programme building, all of these are said exclusively in Thai.  This leaves curious teachers like myself wanting to learn more Thai in order to understand what is going on (at least I can now [almost] sing the entire national anthem...phonetically).

When I take my students downstairs for lunch (in separate lines for the boys and girls), they are seated at long tables in the canteen (again, boys on one side and girls on the other).  Only when all of the classes are seated more or less quietly at the tables is the lunch prayer said.  A kind of grace, it is not really religious but more ethical.  It's to remind the students that they should eat properly and that they should be grateful to the people who provided them with the food. The children and adults wai while a school administrator or teacher leads them in the prayer, repeating each section.

I just found a translation of one Thai school lunch prayer done by a Primary 6 student.  I'm not sure if it's exactly the same as the one said at our school but the general content is probably the same:

"During the time that we eat lunch, don't speak or say things that aren't good.  Don't make a noise.  Take enough food for only one mouthful.  Chew the food into little pieces so that you can digest the food properly.  Before you get up from your seat, clean up your desk.  Put the plate or a bowl orderly into the enameled basin.  You mustn't waste any food.  You must eat it all.  There are many starving children in the world.  Pity all of the children that don't have anything to eat.  All of the food has a worth.  When you eat food you must have good manners.  Don't chew the food loudly.  Don't talk when you are eating and don't say something that is bad.  Don't laugh when you are eating.  Thank you to our teachers that take care of us and all of the cooks that make us the food we eat.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you very much."



We've come to the end of another long week.  I did a bit more substitute teaching — Language Activities for a P4 class and English for P5 — in addition to my regular Reading classes for P3.

On Monday I was in charge of the lower-Primary Cub Scouts during which I (tried) to teach them the Scout Motto ("Be Prepared"), Oath, and Rules.  I'd made a worksheet that explained each of these — both in English and Thai — but this group of Scouts just don't seem interested at all.  The Thai Scouting program is a big part of teaching morals to students in the schools here but I'm finding it difficult to reach the kids in this way.  Perhaps my co-Scout teachers (Tony and Ted) will have more luck this coming week.

During my lunchroom break duty on Wednesday, a P1 student came up to me saying he'd lost his shoes.  When we began to look for them I asked where he'd last seen his shoes to which he replied in all innocence, "On my feet, teacher."  File this under "the funny/cute things kids say..."

Friday was extremely eventful as I was given a Homeroom, sort of.  The teacher in P3 Yellow had had some problems so the school's director decided to move him to another level.  I've been given the responsibility of teaching all the English-related courses (including Phonics, Language Activities, etc.) for that class in addition to my P3-level Reading classes.  Two very experienced teachers will teach the Math and Science courses in P3 Yellow (one has been at the school for eight years now), sharing the class with me.  Unfortunately, I don't get to take over the Extra Lessons in the afternoon (which means more pay) but at least I'll be learning more of the homeroom routines and have a chance to tackle the administrative duties (paperwork) as well.

That evening was the P3 Parents' Night.  Our school's director personally came to the P3 Yellow classroom so he could explain the change in teachers and introduce us to the parents.  I was a bit nervous at first but the parents soon warmed up to me when I answered their questions about how long I'd been in Thailand (virtually every Thai I meet are very impressed when they find out I have a Thai wife and family).  One of the mothers invited me to her son's birthday party the following day.

The party was held in a very nice house in Land & Houses Park — a gated community about five minutes from our home in Chalong.  Upon arriving at the clubhouse I heard some children call out, "Hello, Teacher Mark."  The more I teach, the more I run into my students at all sorts of places.  Teachers Dave and Donna were there waiting for Teacher Cornell.  When he arrived we made our way to the parents' home.  It was a very nice get-together.  The father is from America; he and his (Thai) wife had laid out a very impressive spread of food that included guacamole with chips, baby-back ribs, and fajitas.  I gave everyone a crash course in how to prepare and fold a fajita.  There was cake and ice cream for desert and I'm still full almost 24 hours later!

My wife had a good time as well as the hostess's mother is from Lamphun (Tim's home province) and they spent sometime talking about that area.  We did have to leave earlier than I would have liked but we needed to check on Alex who'd been left with a couple of Tim's friends.

I've been fairly lazy today — working on the computer (some school-related work, some music-related tasks) and watching a bit of television.  I think I'll try to read for an hour or so before going to bed.


Ever since my website host was bought out by another company last year, I've experienced intermittent problems.  Most of these problems have involved billing; I changed my credit card details with the hosting company after my old card expired at the end of last year.  Yet each month since then they've attempted to bill the old card and the site gets shut down for a couple of days until I resend the newer card info.  They still send billing and change-of-service notices to my AT&T e-mail address although I've sent customer service the domain email address (that THEY provided in the first place) repeatedly over the past year.

Well, the latest is that I just received an email that my domain is due to expire in five days along with a link to renew the domain.  Yet, clicking on the link brings the error notice "The domain zone is not supported by vendor."  When I visited the log-in page for my website's control panel, I received the message "Invalid Domain, IP address or password" after entering the same log-in information I've been using since the beginning of the site.  And this comes after they sent an email a few months ago announcing site upgrades, along with an increase in fees from $9.95 to $19.95 per month.

I'm fed up with the whole thing.  I really haven't had time to make any updates to the site in several months and it had become rather cluttered.  So I think I'm just going to let fade into the past.  Perhaps I'll bring it back sometime in the future in a better-organized form — at least I have most of the pages backed-up.  Plus, I'll be saving around 800 baht per month and at this point that's more important than having my own domain.  Now, to start writing all those change-of-email-address notices...