the isaan people of thailand
What are the differences between people from Isaan in Thailand and those from the rest of the country?
I understand that there is a lot of Laotian culture in that area.
i know thai people and have close family that are mixed with thai. in thailand for locals there are 3 main social groups:
– thai ppl
– laotion people
– malay people in the south
(chinese-thai ppl i included in thai ppl since many thai admire chinese-thai for their wealth and chinese-thai who assimilate further choose often to marry thai ethnic)
most of thai society still discriminate and dislike the isaan ppl as impoverished ethnic laotians and discriminate against the malay ppl as being muslim.
the isaan people of thailand
“experiences From ‘the Flow’ (6): New Beginnings, Old Endings”
“Prosperity: The eternal flow of all that’s good in life…”
By Carl “JC” Pantejo, Copyright January 2008
(Author “My Friend Yu – The Prosperity Mentor,” Copyright August 2007. Pantejo – Y.N. Vurce Publishing.)
*Below is the sixth episode in a series of real life events experienced by the author. The only deviations from the truth may be the names of people and places. These stories are also incorporated in “My Friend Yu – the Prosperity Mentor: Book II,” Pantejo – Y.N. Vurce Publishing. Release Date: Mid 2008.
– The Other Side of the Coin –
I’m sitting here at my laptop, drinking my favorite (meaning: currently available) Thai beer, listening to my favorite old Rock songs, and watching Nueng prepare dinner. It always amazes me how she can prepare banquets fit for Thai Royalty every night on our tiny, one skillet, propane tank “stove.” Today, as usual, she went to the market, shopped for fresh food, and is now cooking dinner for us.
She also remembered to buy anything I needed for the rest of the day and for tomorrow’s workday (i.e., beer, phone card, breath mints, etc.)
Wow. And to think, three short months ago I was miserable! I was dealing with the lying, cheating, very expensive, and now, “ex-girlfriend.”
Living with Nueng, I naturally compare her to the ex.
There’s no comparison.
In fact, they are total opposites in almost all respects! It’s like I’m finally experiencing “the Other Side of the Coin” – the Good Side.
– Stark Contrasts –
First off is appearance. All my life I preferred dark-skinned women. The ex was the first fair-skinned woman I’d been with in a very long time. When I first met her, her pale, white skin didn’t attract me at all – mainly because I’m a Falang (Thai: foreigner).
I guess it’s true what they say about beauty and preferences: 1) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and 2) People usually prefer the opposite of what they see everyday.
For example, Asia is predominantly populated by brown skin people, but white skin is almost always preferred over dark skin.
Anyone who has spent time in Asia (Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.) has noticed how the local people, especially children and women, scurry around trying to avoid the sun. Every form of skin whitening product (e.g., soap, shampoo, facial cream, body lotion, deodorants, anti-perspirants, etc.) is available – and wildly popular – in all Asian stores.
You see, in Asia, white skin is considered more beautiful than dark skin – the total opposite of most Western countries. The reason for this? My guess would be the implied Economic and Social status: In Asia, dark skin instantly conjures up visions of poor, uneducated, farm people toiling away in the hot sun; while their rich, whiter skinned countrymen have wealthy relatives, are college educated, and work indoors, away from all tanning rays.
In contrast, most Westerners seek out dark skin (both for themselves and their mates). They go to the beach and pay exorbitant fees at the Tanning Salon. In the United States especially, tanned skin implies that you are financially well off enough to spend a lot of time outside in the sun, playing volleyball, golf, or tennis, etc.
For the same socio-economic reasons, a similar dichotomy of opinions exists about body type: Westerners prefer slim figures, while Asians prefer people with a little “meat on their bones.” In other words, in Asia, being thin is associated with poverty, while a little fat means you have enough money to eat well.
Nueng has beautiful, brown skin – the kind of skin that most tourists look for in places like Hawaii, Guam, or Bali. Nueng is about 5’ 5”, where the ex was barely 5’ 1” tall.
Nueng’s athletic body is strong and sexy, reflecting her upbringing “up country” – the region northeast of Bangkok where the people are identified as “Isaan.” Isaan Thai’s are regarded as hard working and fun loving; satisfied with a simpler lifestyle than their sophisticated Bangkok counterparts. They are also darker skinned.
Traditional Isaan life requires a lot of daily physical labor, labor that surpasses the exertion required for most American farms
Juxtaposed with Nueng, the ex was petite, ultra-feminine, and fragile. She came from a city in Laos and was not used to much manual labor. I can still remember her complaining about going up and down the stairs of my townhouse.
– Domestics –
Nueng comes from a large family: three “Pee Chia” (Thai: older brother/s), two “Luk Chai” (younger brother/s), and one “Nong Sao” (younger sister). With no “Pee Sao” (older sister) to help her and her mother in their big family’s house chores, Nueng learned early how to cook, clean, wash clothes, and look after her younger siblings.
She was industrious too. At age 7, Nueng would come home from elementary school and then clean the house of a neighbor until late into the evening. This was done for 60 baht per day (the equivalent of $1.70). As an adult, she was the breadwinner for her and her lazy, “no-job, no-money” boyfriend. She would wash and iron other people’s clothes, cook at a local food stand, and serve drinks at a local pub – while keeping up with her own housework and cooking.
Needless to say, I’ve never lived so contently and cleanly since I’ve been in Thailand. Our townhouse is always spotless. My clothes are always fresh smelling and expertly pressed. And, as mentioned before, I enjoy home-cooked meals fit for a king almost every night (with the exception being when I take her out for dinner on the weekends).
Comparison time again.
The ex-girlfriend was pretty lame at domestics. I was the one who routinely washed the clothes and did the dishes. I ALWAYS did the ironing. I cleaned the condominium we lived in when we met (and then cleaned the townhouse we moved into before breaking up).
Working 50-60 hours a week AND doing all the housework, laundry, and bill paying left me chronically exhausted.
What did the ex-girlfriend do all day while I was working? I’m not really sure, but I’d guess most of her day was spent sleeping, watching T.V., or cavorting with her friends; or, as I found out later, maybe even sneaking in a secret date with one of her other men.
I’m not a chauvinist. In fact, like most Falangs in Thailand, I habitually share in all domestic responsibilities. It’s just that I was always so tired working long hours, THEN coming home to “work.” And after a few months of “hinting,” I realized that domestic work was not the ex’s forte.
The resentment slowly grew. Finally, I threw subtly out the window, semi-feigned anger, and basically told her to get off her lazy butt and help me.
This tactic only worked for two or three days. Then it was back to the old routine of cleaning up after her and scrambling every morning for something appropriate to wear to work; finally ending up doing the laundry by myself – again.
Looking back, I’d always hoped that she (the ex-girlfriend) would change. I mean, I didn’t want a “maid,” but an equal, fair sharing of the housework would have made my life so much easier. I guess I was asking the ex to do something she wasn’t accustomed to (or even capable of).
Now, with Nueng, I hardly lift a finger at home. She even scolds me if I try to do something she feels is “HER RESPONSIBILITY.” What a change! I’m not fatigued all the time anymore. Nueng does her thing while I’m at work, so we can enjoy good, quality time together when I come home. What a change, indeed!
Yes, living in “The Flow” is wonderful. My days are filled with laughter, smiles, love, and beauty.
I thank the Original Substance (God) everyday that Nueng and I decided to end our old relationships and begin anew…
(Continued in “Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (7) – Living Well: Friendship, Fidelity, Finances, and Family”)
“Until next time, find ‘The Flow’ and jump in!”
Your Friend in this Intrepid Journey called Life,
Carl “J.C.” Pantejo
Note: If you want to read more about overcoming heartbreak, unconditional love, exorcising past personal demons, and the Illusive Secret of Happiness, please read the following articles:
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’: From Heartbreak to Happiness”
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (2): Coincidence or Synchronicity: FROM RELAPSE TO MIRACLES…”
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (3): LOST AND FOUND – Kindred Spirits and Mistakes made in Haste.”
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (4): LOST AND FOUND – Meant to Be?”
“Experiences from ‘The Flow’ (5): “The Stray”
“How Dare She! Out of Desperation I Learned How to Forgive”
“Remember Who You Are!”
“Need to Heal Your Broken Heart? Read on. Overcome Heartbreak and Learn the Illusive Secret of Happiness.”
(By Carl “J.C.” Pantejo and published internet-wide, keyword:or “Carl Pantejo”)
He is a retired U.S. Military veteran. Believing that school was too boring, he dropped out of High School early; only to earn an A.A., B.S., and MBA in less than 4 years much later in life – while working full-time as a Navy/Marine Corps Medic. In spite of a fear of heights and deep water, he free-fall parachuted out of airplanes and performed diving ops in very deep, open ocean water. He went to Thailand 1 year ago for a week’s vacation, fell into a teaching job, and has never left!
Carl “J.C.” Pantejo
Founder, Y.N. Vurce Publishing
I understand that there is a lot of Laotian culture in the Isaan area.
It’s difficult to explain the differences in a few paragraphs. I think the different must be explained back to the thousand of years of history. Yeah, in a nutshell, Isan people speak different Thai dialect with different food and might have different appearances. Yet again, Isan can also be separated into Isan North and South, while the northern Isan people are closer to Laos, in language, culture, food and so on, the southern are closer to Cambodians.
Thailand is a comparatively large country with mixtures of cultures and very long history. It has similar population of England and France with roughly three time the area of the UK. Look at the UK for example, it has so many people from different roots, dialects, cultures and so on.
It is true enough that Isan is quite dry because it is a high land, so crops aren’t yield much wealth and people in general are going into labour in industry both locally and overseas. Traditionally, one would say that bar girls mostly came from that region. But, generalisation might not be fair, because I’ve seen, and have many friends, who come from Isan being very rich and influential in Thailand contradictory to conventional stereotype.
Prior to the 18 century, Isan was almost a differerent country from the rest of Thailand because of the inaccessibility. Travelling to the area required a long journey over land, mountains and deep forests by buffalo pull carts and because of that the area wasn’t very well develop until the establishment of the railway linking them to the rest of the country.
Isan Ban Hao (Isan, My Home)
Music video from Isan or Northeast Thailand. The song tells how Isan people sustain lives by utilizing environment surrounding them. Besides, the song presents us the process of rice planting.
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