Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Festival of Lights – Loy Kratong

Float All Your Cares Away – By Jeff Petry

“Loy, loy kratong; loy, loy kratong,” goes the popular festival song, the rest of which most of us have no clue.  But singing the chorus over and over is always good for a smile during this most ritualistic and graceful of Thai festivals.

loy kratong udon thani

Floating kratongs in the lake

It’s telling that Thailand’s two biggest festivals revolve around water, as it is such an important and critical part of Thai society, from the fields of Isan to the great Chao Phaya River around which Bangkok was built, and on which so much traffic moves.

There are many holidays and festivals in Thailand, as everyone knows, but most would agree that Loy Kratong is the most striking, picturesque, exotic, and romantic. “Loy” means “to float” in Thai, and a “kratong” is the typically lotus-shaped base upon which candles, joss sticks, flowers, coins, and sometimes food and betel nuts are placed.

Previously, banana leaves were used more regularly for the base, or a spider lily plant, and there has been an environmental movement to return again to these natural materials, instead of the river-polluting and clogging polystyrene. Some celebrants even make their kratongs out of bread, a nice touch that feeds the fish as they gradually dissolve.

This November 10th, when the moon of the twelfth lunar month is full and bright, and the tide in the rivers is highest, friends, couples, families, and lovers throughout Thailand will make their way to nearby klongs, ponds, and especially rivers. Here they will gently float their kratongs out into the water, evoking the spirit of the sacred past under the radiating blessing of the shimmering moon above.

With the rains ended, and the cool season gently moving in, it is perhaps akin to the rebirth of spring in the milder climes of other parts of the world. The great floods that this year brought so much suffering and devastation are now past, and it is the perfect time to purge evil and bad luck from one’s life. Indeed, most of the rice in Thailand is now being harvested around this time and with it much food, and perhaps a little cash, for the coming year.

No one is quite sure of the exact origins of Thailand Loy Kratong Festival. Many believe that it is of Indian origin and based on the “Deepavalee” ritual, which is also accompanied by floating lights in an act of worship to the Brahmin gods Brahma, Siva and Vishnu, or an act of remission or absolution to the Indian Ganga or Ganges.

The Loy Krathong tradition we know today has most likely evolved from the royal rituals of the early Rattanakosin period in which several types of lanterns were set afloat in the Chao Phaya River and its waterways. The practice was subsequently adopted and adapted by Thais throughout the country.

Given the riverine culture that formed the foundation of the traditional Thai way of life, Loy Krathong evolved into a ritual in which offerings are made to Mae Khongkha, the Mother of Waters, the Thai equivalent of the Hindu goddess of water, in an expression of gratitude for providing life-sustaining water throughout the year. It is further believed that the offering are made in an act of appeasement to beg her forgiveness for the thoughtlessness and carelessness of all those who pollute the pristine water that nourishes all life.

As some believe that when launching their kratong, they are symbolically casting away life’s grief, misery and ill-fortunes, there are accounts of some placing tufts of hair or clipped finger-nails into the krathong in the hope of ridding themselves of a spell of bad luck or misfortune, or even to have nicer hair or nails. Coins are also placed in the krathong as offerings, many of which are quickly seized by kids swimming among the kratongs.

In the northern Thai provinces that were once part of the ancient Lanna Thai kingdom, the Yi Peng Northern Lantern Festival is still celebrated. Tubular lanterns, fai khom, resembling hot air balloons, are lit and released into the night sky as offerings to the Lord Buddha. With fireworks going off in all directions in the midst of the reverie, the scene is not dissimilar to that of the Do Lung Bridge in Apocalypse Now.

Watching hundreds of these loy khom floating off into the sky like so many illuminated jellyfish, mirrored by the thousands of kratongs floating down the Ping River, is a truly mystical experience, forever etched into one’s memory. If there’s one Thai holiday not to be missed, it would probably be Loy Kratong.

No-vision Customer Care – Truevisions

No-vision Customer Care – By Steve Graham

Truevisions Udon Thani

Truevisions Udon Thani

I have just experienced the most frustrating period of time since arriving in the ‘Land of Smiles’ and thought I would take this opportunity to share it with you. Anyone who has had dealings with Truevisions will be able to understand the trauma I have just experienced and sympathise with the plight of anyone else caught in the same predicament as myself.

Once upon a time in a place far, far away (Udon Thani) a man used to have his UBC connection maintained by a shop in town. Every year, the owner of the shop would collect the money and the man from Udon would have 13 months of football and assorted goodies. Even though the quality of some of the programme deteriorated over the years, eight years passed and he was still on the Gold package allowing all Premiere League football games to be watched at leisure.

One day, the transmissions stopped. Nobody would answer the telephone and the bewildered man from Udon had to call the Call Center. This was the first mistake of the day! Is it me, or does it require a frontal lobotomy to work in one of these places? This is not a language barrier, it is like ordering Chinese food from the restaurant in, “Dude, where’s my car?” And then????????????????

Having spoken to two robots and got nowhere, I decided to go to Big C and ask at the counter there if there was anyone who could help. Time was running out as Chelsea were playing Manchester United the next day, so I was on a mission. Mistake number two!

The people there were nice enough; however, they were as effective as a chocolate fireguard. I spent most of the time with some one on the telephone who kept telling me that I had to call the Call Center. Would nobody actually listen to what I had to say? I did manage to find quite a few people who could tell me what I can’t do. Not one could tell me what I can do. A reflection of our times, I suppose. I was eventually told that if I wanted a new card, I would have to go to Central Plaza, so off I went. Mistake number three.

I arrived to find what I believed was the voice on the other end of the phone. And of course, no… you can’t get a new card here! Where can I get a card? Bangkok!

Time was ticking away and I had spent more than 4 hours getting absolutely nowhere. Every time I said something it was met with the word Ka. When I said that I wanted to do it, I was told I can’t! If I had hair on my head, I would have pulled it out. I was in pain, my life flashed before my eyes and so I gritted my teeth and paid for another month’s worth of Gold package using my old card, in the knowledge that at least I could watch the game the next day.

Do I have a new card? No! Am I any nearer solving the problem as to why I was cut off initially? No! Does anyone care? Of course not! I am now paying twice as much as anyone else on this planet for Truevisions. Mug!

I decided to write an email to the customer care department at Truevisions; however, my email was returned as the inbox was full. No surprise there then. So I am left to find a solution in the next 30 days otherwise I am back to square one again. To rub salt into the wound, Chelsea lost to Manchester United 3-1 the next day.

Chern Chim Foods Relocates

Chern Chim Foods Udon Thani

Jon & Dao - Owners of Chern Chim Foods

Chern Chim has been a successful part of Udon’s ex-pat food culture for the last two and a half years, supplying imported brand name products, frozen/fresh meats, bacon, ready meals, fresh bread, a popular sausage range and much more.

Due to its increasing popularity, CC is currently undergoing major changes and expansion plans and is moving from their Adunyadet Road business unit into larger purpose-built premises overlooking the scenic Nong Sim Lake and park.

The Adunyadet Road shop will close its doors for the final time on October 28th at 6pm. The new premises will open to wholesale & local business customers on 1st Nov. The official grand opening for general customers is currently subject to the construction deadline and will be announced later on the udonmap forum. The target date however is 10th November.

The new CC premises will host a larger ground floor area, warehousing space for palletized products and forklift truck access as well as ample customer parking space. There is even a spacious apartment available for private rental.

The core of the business will remain the same with some unique additions to the deli-café  menu, imported brand names and a freezer section.

The expansion and development plans will see some new additions to the business such as:

1. Off-license (liquor shop) selling wholesale imported alcohol, and a tasting center selling drinks to enjoy on the terrace or to take-away wholesale in 4’s 12’s, and whole cases of the usual (plus some unusual) imported beers, ciders, wines and party drinks like WKD and others from Europe, Australia, and other countries.

2. An imported alcohol hotel mini-bar supply department servicing the provincial hotels, guesthouses, and resorts.

3. A unique addition to the business will be Udon’s first working classic ‘old’ style shop with traditional 60′s/70′s theme similar to that of the UK TV sitcom “Open All Hours”. The annex will be named ‘Arkwrights’ and staff will wear traditional brown coats and use a delivery bike complete with basket. Photos ops will be available next to ‘Arkwright n GGGGgranville’ – a truly unique shopping experience.

Jon & Dao, the owners of Chern Chim, say the business has really taken over their lives in the last 2 years, but they love it. In their opinion Tesco, Big C, Makro, and similar superstores all have a place in the market; and they see this as investing in Udon Thani, whilst keeping alive the tradition of the corner shop; in turn having fun, being happy doing it and obviously making enough to take care of their family and maintaining the odd hobby.

Jon & Dao said they would like to thank all customers past and present who have in any way supported the business during the last two and a half years.  Without them, none of this dream would have been possible.

The Bookhouse & Coffee Shop

The Bookhouse & Coffee Shop first opened its doors to the public back in September 2009 primarily as a bookstore and café.  Business was very slow initially, says Thai owner Ratchanok Hluengsitong (Nok), and they had to adapt quickly to cater to their customers’ needs.

After a few months of trading, they realized that a key part of their business was missing, so they introduced a small selection of foods and snacks for customers to enjoy while browsing for reading material.  The food sales proved to be very popular and the business took off in a big way.  They gradually introduced more new food items until they had enough items to warrant a menu. The Bookhouse Restaurant was born.

Jeremy (Nok’s husband) then had a menu specially designed and printed, and although it was quite expensive, the resulting increase in business made it more than worthwhile.

The Bookhouse & Coffeeshop

The New Bookhouse & Coffee Shop

A couple of years later they received a call from out of the blue to say that they had to vacate their premises because the land their business was on had been sold to developers; therefore they had to relocate. They then had to spend several months looking around Udon for suitable premises.

They were split between a town center location, keeping the business café-style, or finding a scenic location away from the hustle and bustle to make a new upmarket restaurant, with a pleasant view to attract local customers.

A short time later they stumbled upon an amazing site in an ideal location overlooking the very beautiful and scenic Nong Sim Lake. Not wanting to miss this amazing opportunity, they snapped it up and began converting it into their new lakeside restaurant.

They were up and running in no time and business was full steam ahead. Nok says that after just two months of trading, business had increased by a notable percentage.  Their old location attracted mostly foreigners; however they are now attracting more local Thai customers. Nok says business is looking altogether positive and upbeat.

By the time this article is printed they should have their new menu ready, introducing a wide variety of new Western food items. They will also be doubling their Thai Food selection, as well as introducing a wine and cocktail drinks list.

Their new cake display cabinet is proving to be very popular with its vast selection of tempting treats, and many customers are popping in solely to buy a cake or dessert to take away.

From Double Chocolate Fudge Cakes, Tiramisu, Cheesecakes and White Chocolate Cheesecakes to the humble Apple & Cinnamon Pie, Summer Pudding and Cookies, there is something scrumptious to appeal to all tastes.

They also have special food days including Mexican Wednesday, Indian Curries, and Sunday Roasts with a complimentary drink as well as regular “Daily Specials”.

Nok says her goal is to create a pleasant environment with good food and drink, aimed at a target audience of friendly folks of all nationalities who appreciate the effort they make to ensure every visit is pleasurable and satisfying.

Everyone we speak to agrees that Nok is certainly living up to her word!

TukCom IT Mall Udon Thani

TukCom It Mall Udon Thani

TukCom It Mall Construction Site

An empty piece of land on Udon Dutsadi road near the clock circle, the site that the old Chao Phraya Theater used to sit before it burned down is now the designated site for the TukCom IT Mall. Posters say it will be the largest IT mall in the Issan area.

The mall will have 7 floors and 40,000 sqm’s of retail space. Tuk Com already has malls in Pattaya, Sri Racha and Khon Kaen. They have a website here: Tuk Com means .com in Thai.