Monday, April 27, 2020


We’ve now made it over a month and a half in quarantine. The days are getting warmer, the trees are turning green, and I finally saw the fox that lives in my neighborhood. I’ve navigated home-based learning while working from home at the same time. My husband has navigated buying groceries, trying to buy car parts to fix my car, and encountering people who act like they’ve never heard of social distancing. It’s certainly been a learning experience. I just try to keep somewhat busy, spending my time listening to music and writing and doing Duolingo (I just made my one-year streak this week).

For as many eggs that are in this, you could probably call this a protein bar.
I’m grateful this blog keeps me busy. Today, we’re making food from Timor-Leste. It was kind of difficult to find a unique bread from this small country. After some searching, I found a recipe for Bibingka. But I had to make sure I had the right one since there’s also a version from the Philippines. For the Timorese version, I started out beating four eggs in a large mixing bowl until they were pale yellow. Then I gradually added in 1 ½ c sugar until it was well mixed before adding in a ½ c of melted butter to it. I mixed my milks together into one large measuring cup: ½ c whole milk plus one 12-oz can of coconut milk. I stirred to make sure they were the same consistency, even though it was still a bit lumpy. Then I poured in a bit of this milk alternately with my 2 c of rice flour, stirring to make sure it was all blended well. Then I pulled out my baking dish and greased it well with butter and then lined it with wax paper and poured this mixture in it until it was ¾ full. (You can also use small, individual brioche molds.) At this point, I took four salted hard-boiled eggs that I chopped up (the whites only) and sprinkled them on top. Before putting it in the oven, I sprinkled sugar and grated coconut on top of it. I baked it for about 20 minutes at 325ºF, but it was still really liquidy. I turned my heat up to 350ºF and left it in there for another 30-35 minutes or so. I could’ve been the baking dish I used, or the recipe was way off on the temperature and time recommendations. When it was done, I took it out and let it set up and cool a bit. I was skeptical about the salted eggs part, but with the coconut, it actually tasted good. The texture was a little chewy, but not bad. I was fairly impressed. The hardest part is making sure you get all the wax paper off of it before eating it.

This was pretty easy to make and tastes like it was much more difficult.
The main meal I made today is called Caril de Amendoim e Galinha, or Chicken with Peanut Sauce. I made some amendments to this for the sake of time, ease, and availability. The original recipe calls to use 4 c of raw peanuts and grind them down with water to make a paste. I’m going to skip that part and go with 1 c of peanut butter and mix it with water until it’s the consistency of thick milk (it ended up being about 2 c of water). Then in a large skillet, I placed some chicken thighs and let the outsides brown just a bit. After the outsides didn’t look pinkish anymore, I added in a can of diced tomatoes (I would’ve liked two cans, but that was all we could find), some diced onion and salt and let it sauté for about five minutes over medium heat. Then I slowly poured in my peanut sauce, letting it come to a boil before reducing my heat. If you want it spicy, you can add in a bit of hot pepper to it. The longer you cook the pepper, the hotter it’ll be. I left the pepper out completely and served this with some jasmine rice. I really liked this, even though it may have been better if my peanut sauce were a tad thicker. But it was good either way. My son was not a fan of it, but I thought it was wonderful. The chicken just practically fell apart.

Maybe one day, I'll head out to the international market and look for kangkong and try this again.
Finally as a side dish, I picked a dish called Kangkong Stir Fry. No, not King Kong, but kind of close because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to find it during this pandemic. So, I substituted bok choy for it. I washed and trimmed it before I did anything. In a skillet, I heated some coconut oil (the recipe called for sesame oil that I thought I had but couldn’t find) over medium-high heat and added in some chopped onion, minced garlic, and minced ginger (that I had to substitute ground ginger). I sautéed this until my onion started to turn translucent. Then I added in my bok choy, water, and soy sauce (you can also add hot peppers to this as well, but I left them out. I thought about adding just a tad of crushed red pepper). I stir fried this until the leaves started to wilt and then took it off the heat, garnishing it with sesame seeds and basil. I liked this, but I think it would’ve been better with the sesame oil or a bit more salt. Everyone liked it, pretty well, I think.

Overall, I liked this meal. It wasn't the consensus, but their votes don't count. LOL.
I’m glad that I was able to cover this country that all I really knew was that it was part of the Portuguese-speaking world. In fact, in one of my polyglot groups, someone recently joked, “Oh, yeah? I bet you don’t even know what side of the island Dili is on,” to someone. Of course, I replied, “Psht, everyone knows it’s on the north side of the island.” It doesn’t matter that I just learned that a couple weeks ago. Those details are clearly not important. The point is that I know now, and so does anyone who’s come across this blog. And we’re all better people for it. Well, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Up next: Togo

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


The music of Timor-Leste reflects its history, borrowing on Portuguese and Indonesian traditions to develop its own styles. Many of the instruments used reflect this as well: from different drums like the babadok and gamelan imported from Indonesia to guitars that are used in Portuguese music. Even at that, they did have their own stringed instruments that were played in similar fashion to European guitars.

There are quite a few dances performed in Timor-Leste, most with Indonesian backgrounds. One that stands out is the likurai dance. Originally, it was a dance that women performed as the men came home from war, danced to the rhythms of a small drum and sometimes danced with the heads of their enemies (clearly, we are lacking in decapitated head dances). Today, it’s been modernized as a dance for courtship (the decapitated head part comes later, I’m guessing).

As the 20th century progressed, music was used as a catalyst for the independence movement. One song by the band Dili Allstars was used as an anthem of sorts to gain momentum going into the referendum vote. In fact, even the UN got in on the inspirational song game and commissioned a song that encouraged people to get out and vote. Like a Timorese version of Rock the Vote, I guess.

Dili Allstars
I didn’t find too many musicians on Spotify, but I did find a couple. The first one I listened to, and probably the most notable band, is Dili Allstars. I listened to their Best Of album. As a rock band, their sound really varies from song to song. Some of them sound like 80s/90s rock, some sound like reggae or ska, and some have a tinge of the blues in it. It’s all really catchy; I liked it all. And they sing in English, Portuguese, and I’m guessing Tetum.

Ego Lemos
The other album I listened to on Spotify was by Ego Lemos. This was heavily based on the acoustic guitar and had a folk sound to it. It’s primarily sung in Tetum. I don’t know much about the Tetum language, but I’m imagining from its spellings that it’s probably an easy language to sing in. There are some songs that remind me of the 70s band America or even Simon & Garfunkel. I could really listen to this on a rainy afternoon while I was trying to chill. I’m quite impressed with this.

Up next: the food

Saturday, April 18, 2020


Timorese arts are divided into two major types: handicrafts and visual arts. Their handicrafts share many of the traditional styles of nearby Indonesia and other island countries in Southeast Asia. Some of these crafts include jewelry making (mostly bead and metal work), woven baskets, woodcarving, metal knives, pottery, and other similar items.

One type of art they’re known for is a type of hand-woven fabric called tais. Depending on where they are woven, tais can come in a variety of designs and colors, some of which are sought after by collectors. Tais are used in a number of ways, from ceremonial dances and religious gatherings to more everyday purposes like bags, purses, table runners, and even bookmarks. These fabrics and many of the other crafts, mostly created by women, can be found in shops and roadside galleries throughout the island.

Mural on the wall at Valedares National Hospital in Dili

There are art schools that teach more Western-style painting, ceramics, and sculpture. And several of these art schools are also open as galleries where students can showcase and even sell their work. Many of the Timorese artists use their craft to express the history and culture of their island, often using bright colors to portray their way of life.

There are quite a few poems and other works published in the Tetum language. However, I think that most literature that is published from Timor-Leste is in Portuguese (probably ideal for a broader audience). But Timorese literature in and of itself is just not that extensive. One common theme in poetry and novels are centered around celebrating their island culture as a sense of what it means to be Timorese, i.e. what separates them from Portuguese and/or Indonesian culture. There are some efforts to teach Tetum to the outside world, and I've found several books on Tetum grammar for English speakers.

Xanana Gusmão

One writer that stands out among Timorese writers is Xanana Gusmão. He was the leader of the political party known as Fretilin (Frente Revolucionária de Timor-Leste Independente), which started out as a resistance movement as they gained independence from Portugal and, later on, Indonesia. He had written a couple books about the struggles for independence that the country went through, but he was also a well-known poet as well. One of his most famous poems is called Grandfather Crocodile. Fun fact: his real name is José Alexandre. Xanana is just a nickname he got when he was younger, named after a song by the Danish glam rock band The Walkers. (I've also read that it was from the American rock band Sha Na Na.) 

Luis Cardoso

Other writers from Timor-Leste include Luís Cardoso (novelist who writes in Portuguese, famous for his book The Crossing), Fernando Sylvan (poet and writer who was born in Dili but spent most of his life in Portugal, wrote a lot about Timorese folklore and stories), and Francisco Borja da Costa (Tetum-language poet who was famous for writing the lyrics to their national anthem, was executed by Indonesian forces the day after their invasion).

Up next: music and dance

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


In 2004, I was working as a teacher assistant in a middle school. Part of my job was to go to different classes with students who had some learning challenges and took notes on what their homework was and help them further (mostly sit down and be quiet). It was in a social studies class that I first heard about the newly formed country of Timor-Leste, called East Timor back then (to be fair, Wikipedia also lists it under East Timor). I found out later that its official name is the Portuguese version, which is why I’m covering it now instead of in the E countries. (However, I think there are a lot of places that still list it as East Timor, though.)

The word Timor is the Portguese spelling of the Malay word timur, which means east. And the Portuguese word Leste also means east. So, essentially, the country’s name means “East East.” Just in case you weren’t sure which direction it is.

Timor-Leste is located on the eastern side of the island of Timor in Indonesia. It’s part of the Lesser Sunda Islands group and located across the Timor Sea north of the Australian territories of Western Australia and Northern Territory. It also includes the islands of Jaco and Atauro Island and an exclave on West Timor (part of Indonesia) called Oecusse. It’s only 8-10º south of the equator, so their climate is generally hot and humid. The Nino Konis Santana National Park has the last tropical dry forested area remaining in the country. There are also a number of coral reef systems off the northern part of the country that are at risk.

Humans from the areas around Sri Lanka, Australia, and other areas around Southeast Asia started to move into this area around 42,000 years ago. This was followed by a second migration wave by the Melanesians about 5000 years ago. People from southern China and Indochina (mainland Southeast Asia subcontinent) made up one of the final migration waves. They were part of the established trade networks between China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India. The hot ticket items at the time were sandalwood (I love sandalwood!), honey, wax, and unfortunately, slaves. However, it was the sweet and woody smell of the sandalwood that attracted the Europeans to the island during the 1500s and 1600s. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to take control of the island. They renamed it Portuguese Timor and declared Dili the capital in the late 1760s. The Dutch occupied the western half of the island until 1914 when it was handed to Indonesia and the eastern half remained Portuguese. The Portuguese really didn’t invest much money into the half-island colony, and sandalwood and coffee were still its main crops heading into the 20th century. As Portugal’s economy started to struggle, they started demanding more money from these colonies, and the Timorese people were not happy with that arrangement. World War II came, and Japan occupied the capital city of Dili, using the natural mountainous terrain for guerilla warfare -- hence, the Battle of Timor. The estimated number of Timorese deaths are between 40,000-70,000. Japan surrendered at the end of the war, and Portugal regained its control over its side of the island. In 1974, Portugal essentially backed out of East Timor, leaving the two political parties to fight it out. After a resisted coup, they declared its independence from Portugal. Fearing they’d become a communist state, Indonesia entered the picture and made them one of their provinces -- only nine days later. This occupation was not well received to say the least, basically because it led to about 25 years of conflict and tens of thousands of deaths from killings (and also related hunger and illness). In 2002, they were finally granted independence once again, this time from Indonesia. It was this time when they officially changed their name to Timor-Leste and decided to keep Portuguese as their language. During this time, they’ve held elections and have joined a number of international organizations.

The capital city of Dili is located on the northern side of the island. It’s also their most important port city and part of the free trade zone set up between Timor-Leste, Australia, and Indonesia. Although there are still quite a few buildings still standing from the Portuguese era, many buildings in Dili were damaged or destroyed in the fighting with Indonesian forces in 1999. One of its main attractions is the Cristo Dei of Dili, a statue of Jesus with arms extended located at the top of 597 steps on the Fatucama Peninsula (kind of similar to the famous one in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, in my opinion). It was a gift from Indonesia to celebrate their being part of Indonesia.

Timor-Leste depends on a few of their main exports like coffee (Starbucks is a major purchaser), sandalwood, marble, cinnamon, cocoa, and mung beans. Petroleum was discovered off the coasts and now receives revenue from these oil and gas reserves. However, there is still a sizable gap when it comes to income inequality. Timor-Leste actually uses the US Dollar as its currency, but it also uses the centavo as its coinage.

There are two official languages used here: Portuguese and Tetum, the original language of the island. Tetum, the Portuguese spelling of Tetun, is an Austronesian language that’s been influenced by Malay, Indonesian, Portuguese, and other indiginous languages. Sometimes English and Indonesian are used in Timor-Leste as well. A number of other languages are also spoken on the island: Tetum Prasa, Mambai, Makasai, Tetum Terik, Baikenu, Kemak, Bunak, Tokodede, Fataluku, and quite a few others (including a few that are on the endangered list). Portuguese is the language of educational instruction, but the country has a special program where they get teachers from the Philippines to teach English.

Because of the strong Portuguese influence, nearly 97-98% of the population are Roman Catholic. (Timor-Leste and the Philippines are the only Roman Catholic countries in Asia.) There really weren’t that many Roman Catholics there to begin with, but after Indonesia took over, they forced people to believe in one God and get rid of their animist beliefs. They went from a 20% Catholic rate to over 95% in a matter of decades, making it one of the most Catholic countries in the world. Of those who aren’t Roman Catholic, the rest are mainly made up of Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu, and some combination of other or indigenous religions.
José Ramos-Horta
Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo

In 1996, two men from Timor-Leste were given one of the most prestigious awards in the world. Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo (a Catholic bishop) and José Ramos-Horta (previous Prime Minister and President) were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward peacefully ending the conflict with Indonesia. And I’m glad it ended well because Timorese food, with its various Asian and Portuguese influences, seems like it’s going to be quite tasty.

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, April 5, 2020


We’ve made it through three weeks of quarantine now. So far, my family has been ok (except for exchanging my regular anxiety for this new pandemic anxiety). I’m really glad we moved to a place that has more land around it now, so we can at least go outside without being close to people. All the schools will be closed for the rest of the school year, and now we’re transitioning to figuring out how home-based learning works (and that goes for the teachers AND students - no one’s ever been in this situation). My kids like school for the most part and wish things were back to normal (we all do). I’m glad this blog has been a nice distraction for me, and I’m glad I’m making Thai food today.

Bet money my husband eats all the custard.

The first thing I started off with was the bread: Thai Fried Bread, or Pa Thong Ko. I first combined the yeast with some warm water and set it aside until it was foamy. Then I mixed my flour and oil in a bowl and poured my yeast mixture into it, combining it all until it formed a dough. After dusting a workspace with flour, I kneaded the dough for about three minutes. I placed it in a bowl and covered it with cling wrap to let rise for an hour. When the dough had risen, I kneaded it for another minute. Then I rolled it out into a log and cut it into small strips (about 2.5cm x 5cm). I dipped my finger in some water and ran it down the middle of the strip and quickly stuck another piece of dough on top of where I just wet it. It sort of glued them together. I suppose they could look like X’s or even butterflies, but I think they look like chromosomes. Then I did this for the rest of the strips. When that was done, I heated up my oil in a frying pan over high heat and placed each piece in there to fry. I turned them when they turned golden brown (it doesn’t take long) and set them on a paper towel to cool and drain.

To go with this, I made Thai Coconut Custard Dip called Sangkhaya. It’s supposed to be made with pandan leaves, but with the pandemic, I was only trying to go to one store, so I left it out and substituted vanilla extract instead. So, I mixed the vanilla extract with the coconut milk in a cup. Then in a saucepan, I whisked together the yolks, sugar, salt, and cornstarch until it was smooth. Then I slowly mixed in the vanilla-coconut milk mixture and stirred out any lumps. I brought it to a gentle boil, whisking constantly. After about two minutes, it started to thicken up, and then I took it off the heat and let it cool. This was probably one of the few times I’ve made custard and it set up like it should. I really liked this. It went really well with the bread, and it was clearly a hit with the kids.

I loved the simplicity of this.

My main meal today is Thai Basil Pork. I heated up a large skillet (or you can use a wok, which I don’t have). I added a bit of oil and stir fried some crushed red pepper (in lieu of chilies that my family doesn’t like anyway) for 20-30 seconds and then added my pork cutlets that I cut into thin strips. When the pork was cooked through, I added in half the chicken stock. Then I pushed all the ingredients off to the side and cracked an egg to make scrambled eggs and mixed it with the rest. Then I added in the stirfry sauce. (The recipe mentioned how to make your own, but for the purposes of buying ingredients during a pandemic, I bought store-bought this time). After mixing well, I reduced my heat to medium-low, letting it simmer for a couple minutes. I also couldn’t find any fresh basil, so I bought a jar of chopped/dried basil. After a few minutes, I added in the rest of the chicken stock plus the chopped green onions and the basil and stirred well. It should be a bit salty, so I squeezed a bit of lime juice on it. I really loved the flavor of this. It had just a bit of spice but the sweetness of the stirfry sauce balanced it out well.

This is a definite recipe to keep handy.

To go with this, I made Stir-fried Bok Choy. I only bought one large bok choy for this, and cut off the large white sections at the bottom, chopping the remaining sections into smaller pieces. I added some coconut oil in a skillet and added the bok choy along with just a little stirfry sauce. I sauteed it until it started to seem dry in the bottom of the skillet. Then I slowly added a little more sauce while stirring until the leaves were bright green and the stems started to get soft. You can add some extra chilies if you want or flavor it with lime juice if it’s too salty. My family loves collard greens, so they really enjoyed this Asian substitute for greens. I think this makes a simple side dish to any meal to make sure you get your leafy greens in.

Too bad for my son, I'm making this again.

And finally, a dish I’ve never had but wanted to try: Thai Vegetarian Pineapple Fried Rice. I made some plain rice early this morning and set in the fridge to cool and dry out. Then I took it out and added a little oil to it to separate the chunks. (It was actually supposed to be made a day or two ahead of time, but I forgot). In a cup, I mixed some soy sauce with some curry powder (and I think I ran out so I just used a bit of garam masala, cumin, and turmeric). I added a bit of oil in the skillet, then added some chopped onions (instead of shallots), minced garlic and crushed red pepper, stirring for a minute. Then I added just a little chicken stock. I cracked an egg in it to make scrambled eggs again, and then added in some shredded carrots and some frozen peas, stirring for a minute (adding stock as needed). Then I added in the rice, pineapple chunks, and you can also add in currants and cashews (which I left out). Then I drizzled the soy mixture into the rice and stirred for about 5-8 minutes. After this, I took it off the heat and added a tad more soy sauce along with a bit of lime juice, topping it with chopped spring onions and cilantro. I really liked this, but my son was not a fan of the pineapple in it. (It was also good if you mixed in the basil pork!)

This meal was amazing. All of it.

Overall, I was grateful for something different to do today. Although I’m still working, it’s from home. I’ve really been searching for keeping some form of normalcy. This blog does that for me. I know many people still do carryout and delivery for food, but we haven’t -- just to minimize the exposures we have. I’ve been doing a lot more cooking at home. (And amazingly, we have more money because of it!) I miss the Pad Thai noodles from this place near my job, but now I know a few other dishes to try.

Up next: Timor-Leste

Saturday, April 4, 2020


Thai music is a wonderful blend of Chinese, Indian, Persian, African, Greek, American, and European styles. Thailand was never colonized, and that made them all the more diverse in what they took in and adopted.

Much of their classical music forms were centered on what was played in the courts, having now developed for nearly 800 years. As this music spread with their borders, it influenced Lao and Cambodian musical styles as well. One of the main styles is Piphat, a style that signifies the dancing of a dragon (because you know, everyone knows how dragons dance). It’s created by putting together an ensemble consisting of two xylophones, an oboe, barrel drums, and two sets of tuned gong-chimes. There are several other classical styles that all consist of different ensembles types with slightly different styles.

Thai music utilized many instruments that were native to other countries: a type of drum from Indonesia called a klong kaek, a three-stringed fretted zither of of Indian origin called the jakhe, a type of Persian hammered dulcimer called the khim, and a type of Persian drum called the klong thap. Some of the traditional instruments you’ll find in Thai music include the khong wong lek (a set of 18 small gongs arranged in a semi-circle), the sueng (a type of plucked stringed instrument), the khaen (similar to a large bamboo panpipe), and the klong yao (a type of hand drum).

Dance has long been an integral part of entertainment in Thailand for many centuries and is also closely tied to music and theatre as well. It’s essentially divided into two categories: classical dance and folk dance. Three of the main classical dances are the khon, lakhon, and fon dance. As for folk dances, there are far more out there. Every ethnic group in every region has their own particular type of folk dance. There’s also a type of artform called nang yai, or shadow puppets. These lifesize puppets are painted on buffalo hide as a prop for a dance that goes with the story.

The 20th century saw an influence of American music on Thai styles. One style they really latched onto is jazz. Starting in the 1940s, jazz bands started popping up throughout the country and with that, an influx of Western-style instruments like guitars, saxophones, and brass instruments. King Bhimibol (also known as Rama IX) was very much into jazz and wrote quite a few compositions of his own. In fact, he went on to perform (he played both saxophone and clarinet) with American jazz greats like Benny Goodman, Benny Carter, and Stan Getz. After this, rock made its way into Thailand in the 1960s and hip-hop in the 1990s.

I found quite a few Thai musicians and bands on Spotify and had a quick listen. The first genre I listened to was the rock bands. The first one I listened to was Stone Metal Fire. They kind of reminded me of the 1980s hair bands style, even their ballads. I am kind of intrigued. I can’t read any of the song titles since I can’t read Thai. But, another band that falls in this category is Hi-Rock. They remind me a little of Whitesnake, or a band like them. 

Then I moved into the mainstream/alternative sounding bands. The first one I listened to was Moderndog. I liked what I heard; they had a nice beat and solid vocals, I thought. The next one was Silly Fools. Their music was a little harder than the previous one. But the melody lines were catchy. Reminds me a little of some harder J-pop stuff I’ve heard. I listened to a greatest hits album of Clash (not to be confused with the English band The Clash). They are definitely more chill than the others. And one band whose name I laughed at is called Big Ass. They’re a pretty decent rock band. I’m starting to get the feeling that Thai bands can do rock pretty well.

The band Bodyslam takes rock and mixes a little more of a subtle techno sound into it. I liked their sound, although they reminded me a little of Coldplay at times in their transitions. I also checked out Slot Machine. There are a couple songs I heard that sounds like they used some traditional instruments and electronica. And I would definitely put the band So Cool in this category. They have a nice mix of EDM and rock that’s put together really well.

I even found a few Thai hip-hop artists as well. The first one I checked out was Dajim. It was pretty up-beat and had kind of a dance beat on some of the songs. I also checked out Thaitanium. I think they were one of the few Thai musicians/bands that I heard that uses English quite a bit in their songs. But their use of English rivals that of J-pop or Japanese hip-hop. The last one I listened to was Youngohm. His music was a little more on the R&B side of hip-hop. I could definitely chill to this.

Up next: the food

Thursday, April 2, 2020


Thai art can be traced back to its early days that have been discovered, from earthen pots dating to 2300 BCE to archeological findings dating to much earlier. As Buddhism became the established religion in Siam, as it was called prior to the early 20th century, Buddhist art became one of the main art forms and may have even depicted the style in which people were portrayed. Statues and sculptures in Buddha-like poses were commonly built, from small ones that can fit on a desk to the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho in Bangkok, measuring at 45m x 15m (147ft x 49ft).

Ceramics held many purposes, many of them for holding water and food preparation. However, different ethnic groups had their own styles of formation, materials they used, and ornamentation/design. And these things also changed through time, too. Many of these used a variety of red and black clays, and some may or may not have used glaze. In the early days, these ceramics were often traded with their neighbors. In more recent centuries, ceramics were painted with bright colors and gold on top of the glazed enamel.

Traditional painting in Thai art is for the most part influenced by Buddhism. It also tends to be two-dimensional. But it wasn’t all solely Buddhist-related materials: there were plenty of paintings depicting life at the time and folklore stories as well.

Thailand has some unique architecture for both common homes and for their temples (called wats). Traditional houses were built on stilts to allow for flooding during the rainy seasons and used as storage at other times. Wat architecture has changed throughout the centuries but all have an enclosing wall, which is designed to close it off from the secular world (isn’t that the point of all walls?). Regardless of its era, wats are typically highly decorated with carved designs and can be elaborately painted (often with gold).

Early literature in Thailand is almost exclusively written in Thai and mostly in the form of poetry. Although it was a highly developed artform, many works were lost when the Ayuttahaya fell in 1767. The epic poem of Thao Hung Thao Cheuang (although Laos takes claim for it) was one whose style was unique among other forms of poetry in Thai and Lao literature and would go on to influence the greater literary styles of Southeast Asia. Most prose at this point was basically just historical accounts, court records and the like.

Scene from Ramakien

During the 1400s and 1500s as Buddhism and Hinduism spread into Thailand, the Thai language borrowed influences from Indian languages such as Sanskrit and Pali. Poetic styles were also expanding to include different styles like using humor to portray different moods. Thailand did have one epic story called Ramakien, which was basically their rewritten version of the Hindu story Ramayana. (Apparently, there weren’t many plagiarism laws back then, huh.) It played a huge part in creating the dramatic arts that are known today.

King Rama II
The Ayutthaya period saw quite a bit of expansion in poetry and several epic works came out of this period. King Rama II, who ruled after this during the early 1800s, wrote quite a bit of poetry and plays himself, so it was no surprise that he supported poets and the arts in general. He wasn’t the only king who was a writer: King Rama V and King Rama VI were also writers, both mainly in prose.
Duanwad Pimwana
During the 20th century, the literary trend started shifting into more light literature. However, longer works of a more serious nature have promoted some authors into the limelight. A few authors of note include Duanwad Pimwana (award-winning female novelist, poet, journalist), Siburapha (newspaper editor, novelist, human rights activist), Prabda Yoon (filmmaker, novelist, magazine editor, translator), Chart Korbjitti (award-winning novelist and short story writer), Khamsing Srinawk (writing as Lao Khamhom, short story writer and novelist), and Pira Sudham (novelist, short story writer, poet).

Up next: music and dance