Madison Morrison’s Web / Sentence of the Gods / Life / Jomtien


Madison Morrison

1  Preserving a Piece of Thai History on Palm Leaves

Author situated, former hotel lobby now general store. Early Thais used bai larn or palm leaves to keep written records. Its multiple spaces filled with the various equipment required by the hospitality industry. Such as the Jataka (the story of the Lord Buddha’s life). Half the lobby has been adapted to the requirements of the store that has everything. Endowed with a deep faith in their religion. At its open-air entrance: the daily papers, in Thai and English. People also used palm leaves to write about their way of life. Along with Thai magazines and comic books is a local German weekly. With the exception of the alphabets and the languages used. “Today,” reads the orange newspaper rack. The palm leaves, the inscriptional techniques and the tools used throughout Thailand were almost identical.

At this oasis for all-night beach revelers it is 3:30 am. A palm leaf book called Pathom Kappa, which I found in a village off Muong Sayaburi, reads as follows: At one of its outdoor tables sit two songthaew drivers, both relaxing from a long day’s work, momentarily disconcerted by author activity, now reconciled to it. In the beginning there was God. Ten-liter jugs of water for sale, in white, in translucent plastic. His name was Phya Thene. Plastic two-liter bottles of water. He created the first man and woman. Their labels in red and blue. There was no light, nor did the sun shine then. Cheaper six-packs of water in one-liter plastic bottles. The land was very small, no larger than a deer’s footprint. The market is offering a special on a local beer, two cases of which have been set at the entranceway, one opened, one still waiting to be.

Trees were as small as tiny balsam plants, lobsters as big as buffaloes, carps as big as elephants. The palm leaf was the commonly used material for writing, due to its ubiquity. Religion did not exist, and The Lord Buddha had not yet arrived. This store, open seven days a week / 24 hours a day, has no doors. There were no animals, no Hell, no moonlight and no sunshine. Each leaf presented adequate space for inscribing, the inscribed palm leaves could be easily sewn together, and the pages could be opened and read conveniently. There were no pillars supporting Earth, and there were no rocks, only a large empty space with the wind blowing through it. Behind author, who views her from his blue plastic chair in the lobby, a sweeper has begun her morning’s work, rasping rhythmically to gather up leaves from sand-strewn Beach Road.

When the teaching of the Blessed One was announced. She wears a purple smock, over it a white bodice-cover/face-mask, above which a straw hat rises to a truncated cone. Bai larn was also used in school, taking the place of paper as the raw material for books. Everything started with the wind and the waters. At 4:00 am, entering quite strongly off the sea, a steady breeze fills the store. Whereby the fish and the earth were created. The owner and his wife are waiting to put price tags on merchandise. The early Thais also used palm leaves for their religious texts. Again the wind blew, and a man appeared, followed by a woman. Their younger daughter joins them. The wind continued to blow, and there arose two lumps of earth. Dressed in a yellow tee shirt and pink pajama pants. On one stood a man, on the other, a woman.

The owner retreats into the former hotel. The wind blew again and united the two pieces of land, allowing the man and the woman to be united as well. Wife and daughter discuss the task of labeling, for something, it appears, is missing. They were the first man and woman on Earth. Before them sit open-work baskets piled high with Lays Potato Chips: This grandfather was called Sangasa, this grandmother, Sangasi. “Original,” “Seaweed,” “Sour Cream and Onion.” They planted the trees and grass and from clay fashioned the animals. Packages of candy and cookies lie scattered on the table. Man and woman worked hard helping each other create all manner of things. Finally the son appears with two price-sticker dispensers in red, in yellow. Next they made a son and a daughter. For applying little white tags to the packages.

But their children would not grow, because they had no rice to feed them. Behind the mother and her younger daughter sits an ice cream freezer, in yellow swirls on red. At a clearing in the forest, guarded by fierce beasts, a giant was growing rice. On the wall above it, an ad for ice cream products, depicted in pastels: Grandfather Sangasa sent an emissary to ask the giant for a share of his crop. Mauve, violet, pale blue, coral, pink. The guardian beasts let the ambassador pass, and the giant gave him a grain of rice as big as a man’s arm. Beside a blue Popsicle a cartoonish lion smiles. Sangasa planted the grain, and from then on rice plants have provided the peoples of the Earth with an eternal supply of food. Above the ice cream ad, with a magic marker has been written an announcement in Thai that includes the number “24.”

Two girls in their early twenties have entered the store to peruse its comic books. Because of rice the children grew up and created altogether seven of their own children. One is wearing slack grey shorts, through which the line of her panties is visible. These were sent out to rule the seven lands that the country was divided into. The other, a loose white shirt, sexy over green halter top. Men further multiplied in great numbers. Now their Thai boyfriends arrive, thin as movie stars. And, when the Lord Buddha arrived in this world. To comment on scribbling author. Grandmother Sangasi fell in love with him and tried to seduce him. From his seated vantage point author views the family table, which accommodates another beautiful new arrival in black windbreaker. For this she was cursed and turned into Mother Earth. Perhaps a cousin.

Sangasa became a stork who lived along the riverbanks to be near her at all times. At Savannakhet the following books may be found in Puthai village: From this vantage point it is difficult to see into the store’s aisles, which begin behind a counter off to the right. Khun Ting, Nang Ua and Xiengmieng (the Laotian version of Sitanonchai). Or into the hotel reception area, off to the left. The Golden Turtle, Karaket and Sao Samen. In the store’s forecourt are displayed colorful, patterned bathing trunks. Master Golden Tong, Thai Thao and The Black Crow. Behind them rise headless, shallow manikin torsos, modeling women’s bathing suits and men’s tank tops. Thao Konkak, Honghin and Sin-Xay. Behind the manikins, at the end of the lobby, high above a desk, are calendars bearing portraits of the younger King and Queen.

Unaccountably the father returns, whereupon he, his wife and their daughter. The Cock, The Sparrow and Suriwong. (The latter two having arisen from the family table, where they had moved to sit with the “cousin.”) Kakanam, Mah Youi and Pavet (the Laotian version of Vessantara). All proceed to the front of the store, thence on out to the street. The Abidhamma, Pra Chao Gotama and Pathom Sombodhi. The daughter pauses solicitously before the seated songthaew drivers, whose pickup trucks, each with two rows of seats, are parked across the way. The Dog with Nine Tails and Mahosot. She returns to tend the check-out counter, onto which are stuck two ads for “Bic” pens. Thao Pahdeng and Nang Ai. The mother and the cousin. Pruirat and Sotat-kim-None. Suddenly arise and, with the daughter, disappear into the ancient hotel.

Padaek and Pasamoh, Singkalo, Sanghomtat, The Golden Bull and The Red Crow. Now none of the six family members is tending the store.

2  The Youngest of the Twelve Sisters

Once upon a time there were twelve maidens, the daughters of a man who lived in the forest. One day, after their water tank had dried up, the sisters went in search of fish that were stranded in the mud, where each of the twelve managed to catch one. In those days monks did not exist, since Buddhism was yet to arrive in this region. But there were holy men who spent their lives seeking for the truth, and one of them, while wandering through the forest, taught the sisters not to cause any loss of life. The maidens, however, did not heed his teaching and instead killed the fish that they had caught by threading a string through their eyes. On the other hand the youngest sister decided that she would not kill her fish but rather keep it alive as a pet in a jar of water. She wove the string through only one of the fish’s eyes, so that it could live.

Author up to investigate the former reception area of hotel lobby. Meanwhile, a yellow Bangkok taxi arrives in front of the general store, as a garbage truck’s three sanitation workers in orange day glow parkas empty green trash receptacles on the opposite side of Beach Road. The sweeper continues to rasp away at the sandy street in a balletic display of elegant movement. Perambulating author crosses threshold between brick-floored porch and former hotel lobby, which is paved in sections of cream and brown conglomerate. In search of a place to rest his open notebook he proceeds on to the former reception counter, behind which hangs a mother-of-pearl intaglio depicting six storks against a black sky. Beneath its somber surface hang faded black-and-white photos of two grandparents, doubtless the hotel’s founders.

Years went by. When the sisters died, they were reborn as the children of a village headsman. When they had all come of age, their father, who wished to please the king, gave him as a present all twelve daughters. The king thanked him and brought the sisters back to the palace, where as his wives they lived together in harmony. Meanwhile, in the country of the ogres, famine arose, and travelers, who sometimes wandered into this unknown country, were imprisoned by the ogres, who devoured them. But for some time no travelers had dared to approach the region, and the long fangs of the ogres had begun to fall out of their mouths from lack of human flesh to eat. When they eventually lost their fangs, the ogres became men. Worried that the loss of his fangs might turn him into an ordinary man, the ogre king sought his wife’s advice.

Before the grandparents’ photos, sitting on a small wooden table, is an improvised altar, on which sit: a vase of white paper roses, a boat-shaped bowl of bamboo stalks, a round container for magenta incense sticks, behind which, in two brass holders, stand: two red candles, the paraphernalia of ancestor worship successfully obscuring the features of the two photographed elders, who peer out at the viewer through the flowers and foliage, through candles and incense sticks. To the right, atop a rusted file cabinet no longer in use, sit representational icons: two mythical lion-beasts, in bronze; behind them, in silver, a Russian icon of Mary and the Christ child; to the left of the lions, two small, bronze statues of the Buddha, a cup of incense before them. To the right of the empty file cabinet languishes a telephone switchboard no longer connected.

The hideous-looking ogress queen, who had fangs longer than her husband’s, promised that she would somehow find him food. Against the switchboard have been placed: a picture of a model T Ford. She bathed herself in a magic pool filled with the water from a magic spring, thereby transforming herself into a beautiful girl of seventeen. A tinted photo of The Grand Canyon. In this form she went to the village of men where lived the village headsman, the father of the king’s twelve wives. Above, between the photos of the elders. She lodged herself in the house of a widow. Is a clock, on whose face has been depicted the circular face of a comical cat. So fair now was the ogress that all the youths in the village desired to marry her, and one day they besieged her house. Protruding beyond and above the frame are the cat’s ears.

Seeing this, the headsman began to laugh at them all, since he knew that the girl’s beauty was so great that she would be a fitting wife only for a king, not for anyone of lesser nobility. The other side of the L-shaped reception counter is crowded with objects, from left to right: The king brought her back with him to the palace and made her his favorite wife. A long-leafed plant sprouting from a ceramic vase fashioned in the shape of a snail; a model Thai house in three different colors of wood; a photo of flowers framed in gold, behind which dust-covered flowers in fabric and plastic greenery; a miniature altar table, onto which have been stacked many smaller, yet more miniature tables; a framed advertisement for the “Bottle Museum” (inserted into one bottle: a Dutch windmill; inserted into another: a Thai temple).

Whereupon the twelve sisters became very jealous. Alongside the gold-framed photograph sit five pint-sized whiskey bottles, all empty. The ogress queen realized that she must work secretly, for otherwise she would certainly lose the king to the twelve sisters. Before them, a six-legged, foot-high ceramic bug, its legs made of rolled up cloth. One night she stole an eye from the youngest and two eyes from each of the other eleven. Two mallard ducks in painted wood, their buggy eyes painted black. Then, by exerting all her worldly powers, she carried the eyes to the ogre’s palace and put each of them in one of the garden’s twelve compartments, returning to bed before dawn. Two traditional flat-bottomed boats, in teak. All this time the sisters had been asleep. An elaborately detailed motorcycle carved out of wood, its wheels made of woven vines.

After the queen had stolen their eyes, she awakened the king and told him that his wives were witches and that their longing for human flesh had caused them to gouge out their own eyes and eat them. From the first counter one turns about to face the open entrance to the general store and to view the intervening space. The king, who was horrified, believed her. In the near ground rises a six-foot-high wickerwork display case, three-tiered, in the shape of a cylindrical bottle with a short neck. Upon seeing that the other wives really were blind he ordered them all to leave the palace and village at once. Before the wickerwork “bottle” sits a wickerwork table, atop which a circular, red plastic, electric extension plate, out of which a white cord leads to a turquoise fan, intended to cool the person who would lie on a one-armed wickerwork couch.

Since there were no houses beyond the village, the sisters took refuge in a big cave divided into twelve compartments. The wickerwork couch has been pushed up against a display case, one in a line of four whose backs define the hotel reception area, whose fronts, the general store. Behind the shallow plastic manikins in bathing suits and tank tops stands a rack of postcards with views of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Phuket and Samui, as well as Pattaya and Jomtien. The space on the right hand side, between the reception desk and the entrance to the store, is more complexly filled. The youngest sister, who could still see with her one eye, went each day into the forest to gather fruit and nuts. Author takes seat on the arm of a wooden art deco chair, one of four so crowded about a glass-topped table and hemmed in that they cannot be sat upon.

After some time, however, her sisters, who were not content with this diet but also longed for meat, made a pact that if one was to give birth to a baby she must share its flesh amongst them all. Having returned in a pink polo shirt, the owner’s wife steps up to a mirror beneath a clock reading 5:04 to do her makeup. At last the eldest sister gave birth to a baby, which she rationed out among the sisters. She has thrown a red towel over her right shoulder. When the youngest sister received her share, however, she did not eat it but instead cunningly hid it. Now she rubs facial cream into the skin of her forehead, smiling and laughing as she talks to the younger daughter, also just arrived. So that when her own baby was born she could give it to her sisters, pretending it was her own child’s flesh. Behind them stands the motionless electric fan.

Finally, after she gave birth to a child, she passed around the meat without her sisters knowing that it had not come from her own baby. Between fan and author there intervene: a small table covered in white oilcloth, a longer table made of dark wood, a grey metal desk. Her sisters were not at all suspicious. Atop the white table there is nothing. For her own baby was very small and quiet and therefore easy for the youngest sister to hide. Atop the brown: a white teapot, a red coffee can, whiskey bottles, both in and out of their boxes. It never cried. A stack of notebooks, a box of tea bags. For seven days the mother nursed her baby, looked after and fed by twelve sparrows, who also took turns feeding it three times a day. Atop the grey desk is a great clutter of commercial records, unevenly accommodated by open, vertical desktop files.

On the seventh day a holy man appeared among the sisters and sought out the youngest. Behind the three tables, and more difficult to describe (because obscured by its own mass), a mound of material culminates at the store’s outer wall. Taking her off to the forest with her baby under her dress, he produced a magic wand, asked to see the child, and transformed it into a tall, beautiful fifteen-year-old boy. Cardboard boxes filled with unidentifiable contents are stacked atop other boxes. In reality, this child was an embryo of The Lord Buddha, a very special Bodhisattva. Atop which is a package wrapped in newspaper and tied with a saffron string. Which is why he was revered by everyone, including Sakaya, the King of Heaven, who paid him a visit and gave the boy a jackstone that enabled him to beat all the other village boys at their game.

3  Shan Literature and the Bangkok Revelers

In palm leaf fascicles ancient Shan literature has been found aplenty. Returning toward the entrance, author discovers a red compressor underneath another lobby table, on which are stacked, in a plastic rack shaped like an in-out basket, glasses made of glass. The Shans delighted in listening to stories, which a narrator surrounded by a circle of listeners regaled them with. All-night revelers from Bangkok enter and leave the store, crossing and re-crossing Beach Road (along whose curb their cars, parked diagonally, one door open, blast music from CDs), as they leave and return to the party, or to buses that will take them back to Bangkok and their morning jobs.

Shan literature first came from Laos. It is time now to explore the store proper. Which in turn received the influence of Burma during the days of Alaungpaya. Or the half of the lobby where food and other merchandise are displayed for sale on metal shelves. These stories began to supercede the Burmese stories. At author’s feet a grey cat meows. In the North the Thais came into contact with the Mao Shans, who had adopted traditional Chinese tales. Stepping behind her counter, the mother turns the radio to a plaintive Thai ballad. Apart from religious and worldly stories the Shans kept a huge archive of historical books that were lost or destroyed during the war.

The wind picks up from across the beach, causing white notes taped to a case beside the check-out counter to flutter. Two or three brief chronicles, however, still exist. The music changes to a martial rhythm. Like the French colonizers, the Burmese overlords did not encourage the study of Shan history. In turn incorporated into a raucous teenage Thai song re-broadcast from a beachside ghetto blaster. For fear that the Shans might identify themselves with the Thais and therefore make it difficult for them to join the Burmese Union. The mother wipes face and neck with her red towel. This is indeed very sad, since as it is we know so little about the history of the Shans.

4  Assamese Literature and the Store Proper

In considering Assamese literature as a whole, despite the different languages of the subjects of the Ahom rulers, this body of writing was very rich. Rounding the corner of a case filled with snack foods, atop which sit a dozen boxes, of various sizes, filled with chewing gum. Since the Ahoms brought a new element into it that increased its richness. In another case whose back is to the first we reach a display of candy: This element is the serious king of the prose forms, that is, the facts of history and culture. Green net bags of gold-foil-packaged chocolate Euro coins, tube-shaped “Éclairs,” boxes of “Rocklets,” of “Choc Mini,” of “Crunchy Chocolate Snacks.”

Mr. S. K. Bhuyan, Director of Historical and Antiquarian Studies in Assam, estimates that there are about 150 chronicles in existence now. Bars of “Werther Original, the Classic Candy made with Real Butter and Fresh Cream.” To this number can be added those in personal collections. We reach five display cases filled respectively with: (1) Notepads and school notebooks; (2) Pens, staples, magic markers and rulers; (3) Cans of air freshener; knives, tape and glue; (4) Spools of thread, in six different colors; and (5) Baby socks, shoe polish and lighter fluid. And libraries. On the floor, in front of the cases, are dolls, butterflies, dogs and green, red, yellow and blue ABCs.

Mr. Bhuyan says that during the reign (1751-1769) of the Ahom king, Rajeswar Singha, his chief executive officer, Kirtichandra, destroyed a large number of chronicles that he suspected of containing references to the king’s ignominious descent. As author describes this “children’s section,” at his back stands a large liquor display, whose description he will defer to the subsequent section of the text. The depredations of the Moamarias, of the Bengal burkenduzes and of the Burmese that preceded the British occupation of Assam in 1824 had led to the disruption and depopulation of the country, which were also responsible for the loss of many chronicles.

5  Classifying the Chronicles and the Merchandise

We may roughly divide the existing chronicles into the following classes: The bottles of liquor and wine either stand on shelves or recline in metal racks.

  1. Chronicles that deal with events of the Ahom period Among the standing bottles of red wine is one labeled “Baron de Bernissac.”
  2. Chronicles that narrate the history of other countries (such as Burdwan and Kashmir) Among the hard liquors is one labeled “Vodka Statinovich.”
  3. Fragmentary chronicles (dealing with ancient Kamarupa, the Kacharis, Chutias and Jayantias, plus a metrical history of the Raja of Darrang)
  4. Kataki Burangjis (or chronicles of embassies) Among the reclining bottles are three labeled, in turn, “Gato Blanco,” “Gato Negro” and “Grey Fox.”
  5. Vangsavalis (family chronicles) Among the standing boxes, Johnny Walker Black, Johnny Walker Red and Johnny Walker Green Label Whiskey.
  6. Satria Burangjis (chronicles of religious monasteries) Across from the liquor display are shelves of soft drinks and bottled waters.

Reading through the Ahom-Burangji we learn of the customs, rites and life-styles of the people in olden days. An all-red shrink-wrapped six-pack of Classic Coke. The earliest Ahom kings received from the supreme god Indra their divine rights, which enabled them to govern the people so that there would be no social injustice. Single cans of Pepsi and Sprite, Orange, Lemon and Strawberry Fanta. Among their customs were laws to prohibit adultery and incest and to control sexual desire. Schweppes Sparkling Manao Soda, Pepsi “Max,” Lipton Tea, in Peach and Lemon. Which could be quoted here as an example:

If anyone oppresses others, he should be exiled. If he wants to redeem himself, he must sacrifice to the gods three white buffaloes, four white oxen and several pigs. He must also hold a feast of cows. He should make offerings of gold and silver to the Deodhai Pundits. He should ask everyone’s pardon by kneeling down in front of them. All his belongings are to be confiscated, and he must petition the king to be cleared of his sin. If he has robbed his mother, or if, as an elder brother, he has slept with his younger brother’s wife, no one else should associate with him. If someone happens to come across such an individual, he must cast his eyes up to the heavens.

Rounding the corner of the liquor and soft drink displays, we reach the displays of coffee and tea: The elephant has always been held in high regard by the Thai people. “Nescafé Red Cup,” in a large red box; “Moccona Duo Roast,” on the shelf above. His loyalty, his ability to understand the spoken word. There follow directly: And of course his great size and strength. “Nestlé Coffee-Mate,” “Best Foods Pancake Mix.” Have earned him special respect. Next, canned goods: Historically the capture of elephants has been conducted in accordance with prescribed ritual. “Ayam Brand Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce.” And presided over by the king.

“Nautilus Tuna Chunk in Brine.” The proper observance of ceremony. “Roza Sardine.” Is believed. (“Product of Thailand.”) To bring good fortune to the elephant’s owner. “Ship Condensed Milk.” But times have changed. On a shelf below have been ranged: Many elephants are now town dwellers. Plastic bags of monosodium glutamate. Indeed, the elephant has adapted to life so well. Plastic egg racks in maroon and brown. That today he knows man’s ways better. Bottles of cooking oil. Than those of the forest that not so long ago he was forced to leave. Jars of mayonnaise, of Thai chili, of strawberry jam. The elephant rites, however, have not changed.

If anyone should commit the rape of his daughter-in-law or his brother’s wife, his heart should be stabbed with a knife. We have moved along to shelves of condiments, Thai spices and other seasonings, their names not readily legible to the westerner. Such sinners are not to be looked at. Including fish paste. And if they are not put to death. Plus shallots, garlic and pepper. They should be exiled. Mixed together indiscriminately. Into a jungle infested with tigers and bears. Shrimp paste, sesame oil, hot Thai tomato sauce. The culprit should kneel down before the heavenly king. Along with Heinz Ketchup. And a feast should be prepared of cows and buffaloes.

After canned and bottled comestibles come boxed “Calcimex,” “Puenthai Rice Drink,” “Green Tea” and “Nestlé Milo.” Gifts should be offered to all. On a shelf below have been arranged zip lock bags of dried squid, from Japan; “Hanami Prawn Crackers”; and a special Thai snack called “Yes Cracker,” seasoned with green peppers. The culprits should be forced to drink large amounts of water with which Shengdeo has been washed. We round another corner, passing as we do cans of “Top Dog,” in chicken, in beef, in chicken-with-liver. They should then perform the “Rikkhavan”ceremony and, once stripped of their garments, be made to walk around naked.

Cans of “Whiskas” follow. If a person weds someone from his own family. (“From real fish.”) He should not be allowed to escape with impunity. (“Fresh, tasty and nutritious.”) To purify the culprit the pundits should sprinkle holy water over his body. Soap powders, liquid soap for dishes, in yellow, green and white vessels. And he should confess his crime to as many people as possible. We arrive at the major soap display (“Comfort,” “Puff,” “Hygiene”). Anyone mingling with a sinner may be cleared of his sin, if he offers a feast by killing cows and buffaloes. Quickly we move on to toothpaste (“Protex,” “Oral B” and “Colgate,” the last in a bewildering variety.)

Those persons who kidnap women and usurp others’ property, or who rape their own mothers, their brothers’ wives and their daughters-in-law, should be put to death. Listerine “Fresh Burst.” The sacrifice of animals to purge such people of their sins. Listerine “Fresh Citrus.” The Ahoms practice as an ancient custom. Listerine “Original.” And it is still in use among some tribes in remote areas. From mouth wash we continue on to window and bathroom cleaning products. The Thai Dams of Tongking are animists, and they also perform these rituals. One of the most striking is Windex AntiDust.” Which can be seen even today in Bangkok, carried out by the Brahmins.

6  The Thais of Southern China

According to Samuel R. Clarke the Thai tribe found in the South of China is scattered about Yunnan, Kweichow, Kwangsi and Kwantung. The Chinese call these peoples the Chung-Chia tribes, but they are also known by other names. In Chinese records, for example, they are also frequently called the Pa-Yis, and some at Kweiyang were called the Bu Yuei. Edgar Betts traveled across the country from Tushen to Singyifu on a journey that took him seven days and nearly two hundred miles through a region occupied entirely by the Chung-Chia. He recorded that the inhabitants of Tushan City were mostly Chung-Chia or Shui-Chia. These people, he observed, spoke a dialect that resembled that of the Shans and the Siamese. In Anshunfu he found that the Chung-Chia were divided into two kinds, the Pulatsi, who dwelt in the plains, and the Pulungtsi. From information collected in various books there is no doubt that the Pa-Yis or Chung-Chia originated from Nanchao, now a part of Southern China.

It is 5:45. The mother turns off a third of the lights inside the store. Outdoors a second sweeper has joined the first. A gaggle of party animals now stands quietly beneath a streetlight, conversing. A small skiff passes in the background. The father, having arisen from his nap, strides through the store with a proprietary if still somnolent air. The mother, bucket in hand, continues to conduct various cleaning operations. The younger daughter, mop in hand, smiles at author as she passes. Sunlight, diffused and faint, has begun to turn the ocean and sky a uniform pearly grey. A pickup truck passes, its bed filled with a small coffee shop and breakfast bar, the driver’s wife seated at her station above it, as her loudspeaker tape announces the menu. Residents of the beach, having arisen, raked the sands and placed reclining beach chairs neatly about their low plastic tables, drift into the store, along with a motorcycle taxiest, the back of whose vest reads “Pattaya R. C. Power Boat.” Three mosquitoes settle on author’s arm.

According to evidence from a stone inscription, dated 766, discovered in 1805 by Tai-Ho Tch’eng in the region of Kologong. We linger over “Johnson’s Baby Powder.” Fifteen li south of Talifu, the Chung-Chia had their own literature and writing system, before they eventually adopted the Chinese style of writing. “Lux Pure Spa.” And the Chinese script. Is to be found on the same shelf with “Awaken,” “Pure” and “De-Stress.” Unfortunately, Kolofong’s inscription was rendered in Chinese characters that are barely legible. Beneath them is “Masca Eau de Cologne.” The stone had been left lying in a paddy for a long time. In a black box. And was damaged considerably from having been used as a knife-honer. In yellow, bronze, and black, in grey and white, in blue and coral containers. Of its original 3800 words only 800 were decipherable. Are shampoos and conditioners, plus even more shampoos in green, orange and purple.

Nonetheless, it reveals the affinity between the Pa-Yi language and the present-day Thai language. “Hypoallergenic Care,” “Johnson’s Baby Shampoo” and “Exit” are followed by. The Thos or Thailos, and the Nawngs and the Lawngs, who lived near Lungchow in Kwangsi. The bath soaps: Also show traces of Cantonese and Mandarin in their vocabularies. “Imperial Leather Extra Care,” “Imperial Leather Classic,” “Asepo by Vaseline.” In Nanning lived the Chawngs, whom scholars regard as basically Thais. (“Cleanliness for healthy skin.”) They occupied a very large area across the north of Kwangsi. “Protex Herbal,” “Protex Gentle,” “Protex Fresh.” From Kweilin and Pinglo to Szecheng. “Palmolive Naturals,” “Harmony” and “Lux Silky Touch,” “Whitening” and “Nutrition Boost.” Mr. Freeman also found that the aborigines of Hainan, known as the Li-Mu or Loi, have many words similar to those in the Thai language. “Parrot,” with a white rose on its label; “Special,” with a green pagoda.

Colonel E. Digue tells us in Les Montagnards du Tonkin that among the Thai groups in Tongking were the Nungs, who lived on the frontier of China; the Black Thais, who lived in the valleys of the Black, the Red and the Song Ma Rivers; and the White Thais, who lived in the Lao Cai Circle. We have reached the end of the shampoos, conditioners and bath soaps. R. Robert adds that Red Thais lived in the valley of the Nam-Ma and all along its tributaries: Nam Xim, Nam Tuong, Nam Mo, and also along the left bank of the Nam Xam. Whereas the Black Thais, the White Thais and the Thos lived in the valleys, the Nungs lived on higher land. Also to be found in this region were the Nhang, Tho Lao, Tchoung Kia, Liu, Kouei Chou, Thai Muei, Cao Lao, Puen, Thai Nua, Pu Thai and Xan Lao tribes. The Pu Thais existed in great numbers at Huapanh thang Ha thang Hoc. The Thos and the Nungs adopted the Chinese characters. On the shelf beneath are to be found the jumbo shampoos that will not fit anywhere else.

Farther away we had the Muongs. Behind us begin the toothbrushes, among which, “Colgate Fun Grips.” Who lived in Chobo. To one brush is attached a turtle, to another, a cat. Towards the lower part of the Black River. On a shelf below are surgical masks for protection against traffic pollution. “Refresh Special Towels / No Methyl Alcohol.” Toothpicks from China, toothpicks from Thailand. “Audace Tint Concentrate / Color Oil Shampoo.” Since their language was more influenced by Vietnamese, very few traces of Thai are to be found in it. We arrive at “Merry Brite Twins” (scouring pads) and continue on past many plastic containers of powered dish soap. The Nhang live at Luc Khuin, in the circle of Cao Bang, and are very similar to the Nung. Past Modess hygiene pads, past Huggies dry diapers. They employ the Chinese-Vietnamese characters. Past babies’ underpants. Which they pronounce like Chinese. In order to reach the clothes hampers, we must circumvent a tall stack of red and blue buckets.

7  The Flower Period of Thai Literature

Literature flourished during King Narai’s reign (1656-1688), because the king, who was a great poet himself, had encouraged writing. As we turn the corner we reach a display of incense sticks on free-standing wooden shelves, atop which the roof of a traditional Thai house. His country was peaceful and prosperous, because he opened it to foreign trade and bought good relations with foreign merchants. Along the banks of Klong Bang Pho Khwang the wooden houses were once pleasantly sheltered from the outside world by fruit trees. He sent embassies to foreign courts that brought back old knowledge and new ideas for his realm. There was no electricity, and there were no paved roads. He welcomed foreign ambassadors, missionaries and traders. The inhabitants lived at a peaceable distance from one another.

One of his courtiers, Phya Horatbodi, wrote the first Thai primer, which he called Chindamani. Nonetheless a persistent wooden pounding issued from several households. Which was used as a standard text for children until the beginning of the Bangkok period. Where the makers of kradaat khoi, a paper that employs the fiber of the shrub Streblus asper, pursued their craft. His court was honored by a few great Thai poets, one of them, Sri-Prat (son of the author of the textbook mentioned earlier), who revealed his poetic talent at the age of nine. Today the shady fruit grove has disappeared, replaced by cement-paved Soi Sawaisuawan, along which townhouses fight for space like so many hungry insects. The court of King Narai had many renowned poets who conversed with each other in poetry.

Above the incense are “The Finest Mineral Wax Candles,” along with other devotional equipment of the sort required to furnish altars. Even the king’s wives were poets. The klong that used to run through the grove and past the charming wooden houses is now nothing more than a muddy ditch. The guardian of the palace gate also spoke in verse. Of the homes themselves a single structure remains. And so did the king’s teacher, Phra Maharajkru, Prince of Chiengmai. From its lone square plot the rhythmic thumping of hammer on wood continues to sound. Phra Si-Mahosot, Khun Tepkawi and Khun Phrom Montri. Bang-orn Panuarang may be the last person in Thailand to practice khoi paper-making. Khun si-Kawiraj, Khun Sara Prasert and not a few ladies of the court. A tradition passed on to her by her mother.

8  Sri-Prat and the Hardware Section

Sri-Prat breathed out poems without even pausing to think. We have arrived at the hardware section. But like all true poets he could not avoid praising and courting beautiful ladies. The first item, standing alone, is the “Pop-Up Hamper.” Which led to his downfall and eventual death. Followed by whisks and aluminum spittoons. It must be remembered that in those days the king and his provincial governors held absolute power and could order executions without trial. By “Cellox Multi-Purpose Towels,” by garbage bags, by Kleenex dispensers. One day the king wrote two lines of a poem praising a lady and had only two more lines to write. Behind us beckon glassware and paper products. Unable to do so, he asked Phra Horatibodi to finish the poem for him.

Needing a breather from his arduous task, author takes a seat at the store’s street-side restaurant division. When Phra Horatibodi could not think of what to write, he fell asleep. The overcast skies have cleared, large grey and white clouds now drifting over the Bay of Thailand. When he awoke, he found that the poem had already been completed, and that it sounded just perfect. The morning sun sparkles on its turquoise waters. Later he learned that while he was asleep it had been his own son who had written the remaining two lines for him. The owner’s old dog re-crosses the road to enter the store. He was upset, however, because, according to court etiquette, no one was allowed to touch the king’s work without royal permission. Cars drive by quietly.

If his son, he thought, had been able to take such liberty, surely one day the king would be offended and put his son to death for disobeying palace etiquette. Next door the sound of children’s voices is audible. Nonetheless, Phra Horatibodi presented the poem to the king, who liked it a lot. A sparrow hops over the threshold to enter the hotel/store. Upon discovering that it was the work of Phra Horatibodi’s son, he asked that the boy be introduced to him. A man in a silver-striped, bright red parka stands at the prow of his aquamarine-and-white fishing skiff, angling for something. At once the boy was made royal page. A pretty girl with a quilted maroon arm bag passes. The father begged that, should he offend the king, his son be banished rather than executed.

Author back to the task at hand: The king granted the request. To inventory the rubber beach sandals, the plastic beach balls, the plastic beach toys for infants. Here is a literal translation of the famous four lines. We have reached kitchen/picnic equipment.

  1. Who dared touch the lady’s cheeks that they have now lost complexion?
    Beneath a shelf of beer mugs sits another shelf of paper plates.
  2. Was it a mosquito, a gnat, a fly or a midge that took such liberty?
    Beneath another shelf bearing foil “For Cooking, Wrapping and Storing.”
  3. When not even humans dare to commit such an act.
    Are bottle openers, stirring sticks and aluminum tweezers for ice cubes.
  4. Who then dared whiten the lovely lady’s complexion?
    Plastic packages of plastic straws in single colors nestle together.

9  The Late Ayudhya Period and the Storeroom

After the death of King Narai in 1688 the country plunged back into a condition of insecurity. As we round the corner into the storeroom’s antechamber. Made unrestful by various contesters to the throne of Ayudhya. Cases of beer begin to appear. First, Petraja usurped the throne and tried to suppress a whole series of disturbances. Each containing 24 bottles, of Singh, of Chang, of Heinekens. Then his lascivious adopted son, Phra Chao Sua, lived a life full of dissipation and in a constant state of drunkenness. Followed by boxes of Lactasoy Soy Milk, of Thai Sports Drink, and more cases of beer. His successor, King Taisra battled against the Cambodians.

Red Coke cartons are filled with bottles of green, pink, orange and maroon Fanta. After this, civil war broke out between the faction led by the king’s brother and another led by his son. On the hardware shelf sit pre-rusted saws, curtain rods and a Styrofoam chest. Because the king had tried to change the order of succession. Duct tape and shipping tape. By appointing his son, Prince Abhai, heir to the throne instead of his brother, Boromakote. In cardboard boxes sit light bulbs of many sizes and wattages. Who was already viceroy or second king. Alongside plastic plumbing parts, metal fittings, flexible tubing, electrical sockets, power strips, plugs and electrical tape.

Prince Abhai’s army ended up being defeated, and Boromakote took the throne in 1733. On the wall opposite is a blue-black-and-white photo of Michael Jackson. It was under King Boromakote that the country became relatively calm again. One hand raised. And, since the king was a poet himself, literature thrived again in court. The other hand grasping his own genitals. The most famous poet of the time was his eldest son, Prince Dharmadhibet Senapitak. At last we arrive at the storeroom proper. But Princess Kunton and Princess Mongkut too wrote famous masterpieces. Whose two rooms contain: Such as the verse narratives known, respectively, as Inao Yai and Inao Lek.

(1) Stacked newspapers, empty lockers and discarded equipment, as well as merchandise not on display. And Drama. (2) Cases of beer and other beverages. Which also developed during these times. In the first room are cartons of cooking oil. And several masterpieces, such as: “Regency Finest Brandy” and green tea. Manee-Pichai, Sangsilpachai and Sangthjong or The Golden Conch Prince. In the second room, cases of Tiger, Andra and Blue Ice Beer. Suvarnahongse, Kraithong and Manohra. In the first there are boxes marked “Fragile,” “This Side Up” and “Marlboro Lights.” Rathasen, Kobutra and Chaiyachet. In the second, a box marked “Spy.”

10  An Embassy to London and Wat Nivet Dhammapravat

In 1857 King Mongkut sent an ambassador, Phya Montri Suriwongse, to London with presents for the English court. One marked “Double Pagoda Peanuts.” This was the first time that a Thai had visited England. Others marked “Wonder Extra Menthol.” The journey was a long one. “Falling Rain.” Since in those days the Suez Canal had not yet been built. “Gold City.” It takes special understanding and cooperation to restore an important historical monument that has been run to ruin by time. And “Krong Thip 90.” If the result is to be both functional and attractive as a work of skilled craftsmanship. The first room has two boxes stacked side by side.

The ambassador and his party rode camels across the Isthmus to Alexandria, where another ship was awaiting them. One containing “Waugh’s Curry Powder,” one, “Best Foods Long Macaroni.” Mom Rajothai was appointed to act as interpreter. Wat Nivet Dhammapravat, commissioned by King Rama V in 1878, is Thailand’s only Buddhist temple constructed in the architectural style of a traditional Christian church. During their visit they had the chance to experience electricity, trains, telegraphs and telephones, conveniences still unheard of in their native land. Plus an unmarked box containing packets of “Prawn Crackers.”

Situated near the Royal Summer Palace, at Bang Pa-in, the temple was constructed in accordance with King Chulalongkorn’s expressed desire for a design resembling no other in the Kingdom. Mom Rajothai recorded everything that he had witnessed in his diary and also wrote a poetic version of his journey to London called “Nirat London.” The architects hired for the temple’s construction included experts from Germany, France and Italy. He later had it published in 1862 by Dr. Bradley. In 1984 the temple was struck by a freak storm that shattered the stained-glass image of Rama V. Thus it became the first Thai book ever published for sale.

11  Taking it to the Streets and the High Seas

Jomtien Beach Road signs: He considers himself the Boyd Kosiyapong of the clerical community (Bangkok Post article). Futtern wie bei Muttern (lamppost ad for German cuisine). Christianity took root in Thailand 327 years ago (Suthon Sukphisit, The Vanishing Face of Thailand). Refundable for food complain. Best-selling monk Phra Maha Wudhijaya Vajiramedhi warrants comparison. The first Christian mission was brought here by accident, some say by God’s will. Air condition room: His work, which appears as magazine articles, books, television dramas and dharma songs. Normal price. Is read, listened to or viewed by people from five to 90.

A mission from Paris. Welcme. Was on its way by sea to China. “At present I write ten columns for magazines and newspapers,” noted Wudhijaya, 32. When the ship sank off the Khmer coast. Jungle Bungy Jump. As he took a seat behind a low table in the upstairs reception area. Bangalow. Of his kuti at Wat Benchamabopir. Siam Pearl. On it sat a thick appointment diary. Banana Restaurant. One of the most prolific monks around, Phra Maha Wudhijaya has written more than 20 books. Indean Food / Europian Food / Sea Food. One of them, Words of Wisdom, has been made into a TV program for children. Pork Steak / Fish Steak / Chicken Steak.

The range of publications that the monk contributes to is indicative of his breadth and popularity. The seven missionary envoys were saved. Tulip Travel. And they made up their minds to return to Paris by land. It includes almost anything from hard-news newspapers like Matichon. Dansk Ejet Bøf House: To the cooking magazine Health & Cuisine. Grand Texan Style Bar-B-Q. Relationship titles such as Love and Share. Masks and Finns. Strictly dharma and amulet publications. Swedish Kitchen. Like Flag of Dharma and Sacred. Norway Bar. As well as the practical guide Stopping Poverty. Room for rent / Please contract at front desk.

It was thus that they arrived in the Ayutthya of King Narai. One of his books, Rebirth in the Buddhist Context, caught the eye of Amarin Publishing’s top executive Metta Utakapan. Drunks and Dare-a-Lick’s Beer Bar. She invited him to write for the company’s magazines and later published a series of dharma-made-easy books. Love Birds Bar. The Thai king had an open-door policy. Including Anger Management (Dharma Lab Sabai). The Early Opener. Recipes for Success. Opens 7. And The Inspiration. Jack Fashion, Mama & Sommai Bar Beer, Panchalae Starry Night Party, Starduck’s: Among many others. Coffee and Equipment.

Wudijaya cites his love of reading and learning ― not only of religious texts but of current affairs ― as the sources of his strength. The French religious mission was made to feel welcome. “I don’t shut myself in the temple.” Expat storage. “I try to expose myself to society. Impressed by the peaceful capital.Foot massage / Thai massage / Oil massage. “To things that are happening in people’s lives.” Bishop Lambert decided to set up a Christian church. Pen Massage. “I travel,” the monk said. Naughty Bar, Café Sunset, Milky Way Travel Agency. Adding that he was reading the Tripitaka and Encyclopedia. Jomtien Boat House: When he was fifteen. Hotel, Wine & Grill.

“I’ve liked the idea of being a monk since I was a child.” Café Sunshine. “I think it was love at first sight.” Mermaid’s Dive Centre. Adding that his primary school. Nick Real Estate. Shared the same wall. Mr. Cook Menu. With the temple. Canali Tailor: And that the sight of saffron robes. The best way to dress. Was uplifting to him. Eureka Digital. “I never felt deprived that I could not run around dancing and having fun like my friends or people the same age.” TAT  TOO. “I entered the religious life because of faith, not necessity,” he added. King Narai donated a piece of land to the missionary in Tambon Sampao Lom for the construction of the church.

At 21 he was ordained a monk. Body Dead Sea Salt Scrub. Later he took residence at Wat Bechamabopir to continue his Pali studies. SHOW  ER / TOIL  ET. “As a novice I studied to enrich myself,” he recalled. New Baron: “As a monk the aim of my study is to teach others.” Ladies & Gents Suitmakers. “I have also begun to practice meditation.” Moose Divers. “I realized that its practice is indeed the core of monkhood.” Come Soon Bar. Meditation, he added, makes him realize that there is a joy beyond the senses that not many people know exists. The Catholics completed the building in 1666 and dedicated it to St. Joseph, the husband of Mary.

“As a novice I was not that different from lay teenagers.” Three years later they finished a hospital. Moonshine Guest House. “I sometimes listened to music from my small radio.” ETL: “Once I began meditation and practiced it in the forest.” Deliver Your Success. “I stopped enjoying songs.” Shrimp. “I gave the radio away.” Squied. “Ever since, I have practiced meditation.” Muscle. The monk said. Grilled. Bishop Lambert died in 1679. “Meditation is not just about sitting still with your eyes closed,” he added. “You can do it while going about your everyday life.” Steak Steak. His successor replaced the hospital with a brick church.

“I practice self-awareness whenever I take a bath, do my cleaning or walk the street for alms in the morning.” Grand Orchid Travel. “The Sangha cannot wait for people to come to the wat.” Seoul Massage. “We have to reach out and use modern means and media to get dharma to the people.” Hardbody Gym. “Though the church is not fully equipped,” Father Antonio Pinto, one of its early priests, had said, “No other in Thailand can match it.” Wudhijaya views financial interests, fame and sexual desire as the three top challenges. Hanuman Man’s Club. “Fame is like the wind.” We are No. 1 Ago Go. “It makes us feel fresh,” he said, “but we can’t hold on to it.”

When the Burmese army attacked Ayutthya in 1767, Thai villagers took shelter in the church, where they made a last stand against the invaders. Original Foot Massage. When Ayuttaya fell, the church, along with the rest of the city, was burnt to the ground. “I try to divert my popularity to benefit other useful causes,” said the young, charismatic monk. It was to be 64 years before Bishop Palecroix, paying a visit to the site. Pattaya: Instigated a restoration project to carry on the work of those eight devoted priests whose bodies were buried in Ayutthya. The Extreme City. Further restoration work was carried out by Father Perro during the reign of King Rama V.

12  Sumalee’s Smile Massage and the Legacy of a Princess

MM: We have arrived at a very special place in Jomtien: “After King Rama V passed away, the princess returned home.” Sumalee’s Smile Massage. “She felt sympathy for us small children.” Thailand is “The Land of Smile.” “She taught us to dance and play music.” And Sumalee is smiling. “She was a kind person.” And so is Porn. “Who hardly reproached anyone.” How are you, Porn?

Porn: I’m fine, thank you. “The skill in classical dancing that I have been using.”

MM: Porn works here, giving foot massages. “Was bestowed by her.” Sumalee is the owner of this very beautiful massage parlor. Thus Chao Kruekaew remembers Princess Dara Ramsi, the late wife of King Chulalongkorn. With Buddhist images from Myanmar and Tibet, paintings from Laos and Indonesia. Sumalee, do you like beautiful things?

Sumalee: Chao Pa, as she is better known. Yes.

MM: Is a special teacher of Thai classical dance at Chiang Mai Dance College. That’s not surprising, since one of the most beautiful girls here is Porn.

Porn: Born on August 26, 1873. Oy!

MM: Princess Dara Rasmi was the eleventh child of Phra Chao. Eh is so beautiful too!

Eh: Oy! And Phra Thevi Chao Thepkraisorn.

MM: But especially Sumalee so beautiful! She arrived at the Bangkok court of Rama V.

Sumalee: Oy-ee! And before long became his consort in 1886. Thank you!

MM: You know, Porn, when Sumalee was very young, her father said to her, “Sumalee, you are ugly,” can you believe?

Porn: I cannot believe!

MM: Yes, Sumalee’s father thought her skin too black.

Porn: Sumalee is very beautiful.

MM: Yes, she is very beautiful, not only in her face and body but also in her heart, you know “heart”?

Porn: Yes, I know.

MM: What do you think, Sumalee?

Sumalee: I’m very chai.

MM: You’re very “chai,” what mean?

Sumalee: I’m very sh-eye.

MM: Oh, you’re very shy! While she was in the Grand Palace.

Sumalee: Yes. Princess Dara Rasmi’s residence was unique.

MM: Now, people come here, because it is very beautiful. Because it retained the atmosphere. And because Sumalee and Porn and Eh are very po-lite. And the aura. Why else do people come here? Of the Chiang Mai kingdom.

Sumalee: Because they want massage! All the women who lived in that kingdom dressed in the style of Chiang Mai. [Laughter.]

MM: Of course, how could I forget!?! Wearing the northern pha sin. Sumalee, you are giving wonderful foot massage right now! And wearing their hair up in a knot.

Porn and Eh: [Peals of laughter.]

MM: Now tell me, Sumalee, why do people want massage?

Sumalee: Because they want to relack. Chao Kruekaew says that she was six or seven.

MM: And why does foot massage make you relax? When the Princess began teaching her Thai classical dance.

Sumalee: Foot massage good for your feet, your leg walk walk walk make very tired. “I studied in the same class with other children my age,” she said.

MM: Every day Madison go running. “Boys studied music.” Madison need foot massage, so he can run the next day. “While the girls practiced northern folk dances,”she said. But everyone else also walk walk walk, so everyone else need foot massage.

Sumalee: Yes. The Princess taught various folk dances.

MM: Every day! From the Fon Leb, Fon Man Mae Hong Son.

Sumalee: [Laughter.] Yeah, every day, every day! To the Fon Jeen Ram Pha and the Fon Man Mui Chiang Ta.

MM: Madison come every day for foot massage but also come to see Porn and ask Porn to sit next to him. She usually hosted a reception dance at her home. Porn also give very good massage. Now the municipal hall or monument of the three kings. Eh too!

Eh and Porn: [Laugher.] For royalty who came to visit.

MM: Madison so relax, he go home and dream about Eh and Porn. “Princess Darmi’s students,” says Chao Kruekaew, “studied not only dance but also academic subjects.”

Sumalee: No dream about Sumalee, because Sumalee no do good massage for you?

MM: No, because Sumalee have boyfriend. “And the handicrafts.” Madison not allowed to dream about Sumalee. “We had to make artificial flowers and to weave.”

Sumalee: Brother, brother; Larry, my brother, not boyfriend! “The Princess learnt these things in Bangkok and in turn imparted the knowledge to us.” Brother help buy hou[se].

MM: Well, I have no brother, so maybe Larry, Thai name “Em,” can be my brother too!

Sumalee: [Laughter.] Yes, three “M.”

MM: “Three ‘M?’”

Sumalee: Yeah, “M” number 1, “MM” number 2, number 3.

MM: Oh, but you say MM Customer Number 1!

Sumalee: Every customer “Customer Number 1!” Later, when her health declined, Princess Dara Rasmi moved to Mae Rim, into her new home called Tamnak Chao Sabai, taking the children under her tutelage with her.

MM: Now Sumalee has not always been the owner of a massage parlor in Jomtien. There,” recalls Chao Kruekaew. Earlier she worked in Bangkok. “The princess grew many trees.” Tell us about the job that you had in Bangkok. “Many of which the children had never seen before.” Before you came to Jomtien.

Sumalee: Before, I work in company. “Everyone in the household had to help with the gardening.” I make motor for fan.

MM: Oh, Sumalee make people cool!

Sumalee: Yeah!

MM: And now Sumalee make people relax, how nice!

Sumalee: Um . . . Sumalee wake up morning about 5:00 am. “I have never abandoned the art of dance,” says Chao Kruekaew, “which I learned from the Princess.”

MM: When you worked in the factory you had to get up at 5:00 o’clock, take a bus at 6:00 o’clock (so that you could be to work by 7:00 o’clock) and then you worked all day? “I was invited to teach at the college when it opened in 1976.”

Sumalee: Yeah, finisse about 8:00 o’clock. “Now I do not train the students by myself, but I still look after them.”

MM: Finish 8:00 o’clock at night?

Sumalee: Yeah. Said the 84-year-old.

MM: Porn, you have come from Bangkok too, what job you have before come Jomtien?

Porn: Massage. Apart from music and dance, Princess Dara Rasmi was also interested in the agricultural development of the realm.

MM: Oh, you work massage parlor Bangkok! Many plants commonly seen today were introduced by her. You like live Bangkok?

Porn: Yeah, but Porn like Jomtien better.

MM: Why? Associate Professor Dr. Narin Thongsiri, Dean of the Agro-Industry Faculty, Chiang Mai University, says that the Princess introduced many new kinds of flowers, fruit trees and vegetables.

Porn: Because have foreigner. “One well-known fruit that she introduced is the longnan; not many people,” he added, “know that.”

MM: You like falang man better than Thai man?

Porn: Yeah. “There existed an indigenous longnan grown in Chiang Mai, but it yielded a small fruit with little meat and big seeds.

Sumalee and Eh: Ooh-wee!

MM: Maybe Madison and Porn be brother and sister, like Larry and Sumalee.

Porn: Yeah. It was not until Princess Dara Rasmi distributed longan seedlings, which she obtained from China, that the sweet longans known as I-biaw took a firm root in Chiang Mai and became popular and lucrative.

MM: Sumalee, you had job in factory making fans, because not go school very long. A symbol of the area. How long you go school?

Sumalee: About six year.

MM: And you started when you were six years old and studied till you were twelve?

Sumalee: Yes, about thirteen year old finisse school. “I moved out to get married when I was nineteen,” says Chao Kruekaew.

MM: And then did you get job?

Sumalee: Mm . . . not yet, about sixteen I come Bangkok. Princess Dara Rasmi was also the first to bring in a species of bean with shallow roots to replace a kind commonly grown that took a lot of time and labor to uproot during the harvest.

MM: And then you come Jomtien, to do what? She also initiated the practice of growing other crops after the rice harvest.

Sumalee: Yeah, I come Jomtien, do small massage. So the land would not lie fallow.

MM: And how did you get such a beautiful, big massage parlor, with three stories?

Sumalee: Big brother give me. “The most important and exciting thing for me, says Associate Professor Narin, “is that I discovered a document revealing that Princess Dara Rasmi named a rose ‘Chulalongkorn.’”

MM: Maybe brother give Madison “hou” too. Dr. Narin quotes a document.

Sumalee, Porn and Eh: [Laughter.] Stating that, when M. L. Poonphisamai Disku went to a palace of the Princess on Doi Suthep, she found a rose by this name.

MM: Speaking of “hou,” how can Larry be your brother, if he American and you Thai? Its bloom was very large and sweet scented.

Sumalee, Porn and Eh: [More laughter.] A picture of Poonphisamai posing with the rose shows that the bloom is almost as large as her face.

MM: Porn, let’s talk about you. As far as he knows, says Dr. Narin, Princess Dara Rasmi brought the rose with her when she returned from Bangkok. Before you come Bangkok, how long you go to school?

Porn: Go to school twelve year old, finisse 21. Later, in commemoration of King Rama V, she gave the name of “Chulalongkorn” to the rose.

MM: So you studied English at school?

Porn: Yes, study English.

MM: Porn. “I was delighted knowing that there is a rose with this great name.” How you also speak Chinese?

Porn: I go Taiwan five year. “I looked for this kind of rose in several rose gardens in Chiang Mai, but nobody seemed to know about it.”

MM: And you never study Chinese, you learn by talking?

Porn: Yes. Finally Dr. Narin met Phanlert Booranasilapin, owner of Wang Nam Khang Orchard, who revealed that he grew the rose a long time ago but no longer.

MM: You know, Sumalee, Porn very smart, learn Chinese by herself!

Sumalee: Yes. It has three unique characteristics, he added:

MM: Porn very beautiful, Porn very kind, and Porn not too chai [shy]! The large bloom, sweet fragrance, and no thorns. Porn, how you know Sumalee?

Porn: My friend introduce me.

MM: I think you very lucky, for Sumalee wonderful person. The rose had its weaknesses, according to Phanlert. You like Sumalee?

Porn: Yes, she very kind. First, the Chulalongkorn rose had just one bloom per sprouting season.

MM: She always understand other people. It only blooms in December, when it is remarkably cold. She always smiling. It is not popular among rose farmers, because it rarely produces blooms to show to customers. And always laughing.

Porn and Sumalee: Yes. [Porn laughs, Sumalee smiles.] Phanlert adds that he has heard that the rose is still growing at Phu Phing Palace.

MM: Maybe Porn and Sumalee eat restaurant with Madison tonight? After a long search in Chiang Mai, he eventually found two bushes at Don Kaew rose garden. Porn, you like eat Thai food, Chinese food?

Porn: Yes, like eat food.

Sumalee: Porn eat spicy spicy food, spicy girl! “The owner of the garden confirmed that they are the kind of rose that I am looking for.”

MM: And where you live, Porn, in Jomtien? “I have already told him to propagate the plants. You live here?

Sumalee: Yes, big brother buy big “hou.” “I think the Chulalongkorn rose will flourish in December,” said Phanlert.

MM: So big brother have six girls: Sumalee, Sumalee sister number 1, number 2, Porn, Eh, new girl that Madison not introduce to yet? “A rose expert with the Royal Project believes that the Chulalongkorn rose was introduced from France by King Rama V. Porn have boyfriend in Bangkok? At that time France was really advanced at producing roses.

Sumalee: [Smiling] Porn have only brother Jomtien . . . Madison!

MM: Massage almost over, Madison falling asleep, Sumalee smiling. Actually, the rose should have its original and its international name. Why Sumalee always smiling?

Sumalee: She so dark at night, if not smiling, nobody see! [Everybody laughing, smiling.]


The Working Week Press
Nong Khai

Cover photomontage by Laurance Emory
Copyright © 2005  Madison Morrison