Falang Where I Live in Thailand
There are two things that I will need to explain about that title to most people reading this article. First is that ‘falang’ means Caucasian in Thai and second is that I live in a small village in northern Thailand’s rice belt near Phichai.
‘Falang’ is a much-misunderstood word by those who are falang. It is written ‘farang’ but most Thais say ‘falang’, however that is not what falang find confusing about it.
Many falang confuse the word with the Thai for ‘crisps’ or ‘potato chips’ because Thais call them ‘man falang’ which means ‘foreign thing’ – ‘man’ meaning ‘it’. So, a dog or a tree is ‘man’ in Thai.
I guess you are beginning to see how those with only a little knowledge could draw the wrong conclusion. I have sat in bars countless times listening to Europeans talking angrily how Thais secretly hate us and call us ‘potato men’ or ‘spud heads’ behind our backs’.
I have never heard a Thai say that in ten years of being here, but I have met a lot of tourists and expats who are quick to judge the locals in many countries, which is why I was happy to get out of Pattaya, the most pleasurable city I have ever been in, and come to live ‘up here’ or ‘up country’ as falang say.
So, I live about 550 km north or Pattaya or about 470 km north of Bangkok, near a small town called Phichai, which is famous all over Thailand for the warrior who used to run the place called Daap Hak, or to be more accurate, Praya Phichai Daap Hak, which roughly translates as Sir Phichai of the Broken Double-handed Sword.
He led the local men and women in the successful route of the invading Burmese about 250 years ago. May cars in Thailand carry a window sticker of him with his two swords, one whole and one broken.
Anyway, not many falang know about the place, because it is in the rice belt off the tourist routes in an area that used to be called Lanna centuries ago – The Land of a Million Rice Fields – and it is still like that now.
I have lived here for nine years and I bet that I have met less than twenty foreigners both tourists and residents. On the residential side, I know of only three others here now and a teacher (they tend to be more transient), so let’s say four.
Two others are ‘away’ or back home, making a grand total of seven if we were all here at the same time. Seven falang over a radius of ten miles!.
Well, one of them is coming back today, my old mate, Murray. Murray is coming back from Canada and will come to our village with his wife El to visit me and my wife Neem and I can’t wait.
The falang contingent will be almost at full strength for the first time in six months – there will be six of us ‘spud heads’ within the nearest 300 square miles!