Thailand Village Life

Traditional Thai Wedding in a Village Home

Source

Maps of Thailand and Making Merit to Monks

Administrative Map of Thailand
Administrative Map of Thailand | Source
Map of Thailand with Major Regions
Map of Thailand with Major Regions | Source
Making Merit to Monks at a Village Temple
Making Merit to Monks at a Village Temple | Source

Significance of the Thailand Village

If you haven't lived in or visited a Thai village, you haven't really experienced traditional Thai culture. Everyone knows Thailand by its famous cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai and its well-known beaches on Phuket and Samui. Not many people, however, are aware of life in the countryside villages where most Thai live. The big cities are as westernized as you can get, but there still exists a simpler, older and colorful rural life in the villages worth examining. This hub will first introduce the geography and administrative structure of Thailand. After briefly discussing life in the cities, it will describe in more detail life in the villages and the towns to which they are attached.

Thai Geography

Formerly known as Siam, Thailand is a country about the land size of Spain located in Southeast Asia. It is bordered on the north by Burma and Laos. Laos and Cambodia are to the east of Thailand. To the south lie Malaysia and the Gulf of Thailand while the Andaman Sea and Burma are to the west.

The physical geography of Thailand is very divergent ranging from mountains in the north to rain forests in the south. The central flat Chao Phraya river valley is separated from the northeastern section of the country by mountains. The land in the northeast aka Isan sits on the Khorat Plateau and is bordered to the east by the Mekong River. The southern region of the country begins on the Kra Isthmus and terminates at the Malaysian border.

Thai Administrative Structure

Thailand has a population of approximately 66 million residing in 76 provinces including Bangkok which is also a specially governed district. Although many people live in the big cities including Bangkok which has a population of about 12 million, two-thirds of the people still live in villages in the provincial countryside. Most of the villages are located in northern and northeastern Thailand. Administratively, the country is divided into provinces which each have a capital city. People who don't live in the provincial cities live within amphoes (districts) in the countryside. Each district has a capital town and its local government. Districts are further divided into tam bon's (sub-districts) which are further divided into villages. To cite an example, my wife is from Udonthani Province in northeastern Thailand. Udonthani is the capital of Udonthani Province. Her native village is in Kut Chap District which is in the western part of the province. The name of her village is Nongyibao and it is part of sub-district Pangchut which is part of Kut Chap District. Kut Chap District altogether has seven sub-districts. There are 94 villages under the seven sub-districts with a total population of about 62,000.

City Life in General

Most tourists are well acquainted with life in the cities. Places like Bangkok and Chiang Mai are political, commercial, industrial, and cultural centers. In addition, there are numerous universities, hospitals, and entertainment venues for the population. Since the people are living in a high densely populated area, their housing and quality of life is different from rural residents. Instead of living in a house with their parents, city dwellers are packed into apartments or single rooms where there is much less space. The quality of life is less healthy with various forms of pollution. The pace of life is much quicker than that of the countryside, and most people aren't as friendly to their neighbors. There is less traditional Thai culture in the cities which has been replaced with western influences such as the ubiquitous Seven-11's, supermarkets, and MacDonalds. City life in Thailand is appealing to most western tourists because it is comfortable and convenient with many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

Daily Life in a Thai Village

Thailand Village Life

Village life in Thailand is much different from life in the cities just as it was when I was growing up near a farming village in the 1950s. The average Thai village has approximately 100 families with a population of around 600. Most of the residents are engaged in agriculture. In taking my wife's home village as an example, almost all of the houses are two story wooden structures on stilts. Traditionally, the farmers kept livestock such as chickens, ducks, and pigs and farm equipment on the first level under the second level where the family lived. Nowadays, the open area on the first level has been enclosed and made into living areas for the family. In many of the older houses there is no indoor plumbing, and one must use different styles of outhouses with both squat and sit down commodes. Many homes also don't have showers. The traditional way of showering is by scooping some water with a container from a large storage urn and then throwing it on your body. Most villagers have about one acre of land on the side and in back of their houses where they have gardens and fruit orchards. Agricultural land for the growing of rice, sugar cane, potatoes, and now lately rubber trees is found usually 1-2 kilometers from the village.

The village itself has very few stores and almost no public services which cities have. In the village of Nonyibao I observed only 2-3 small outdoor cafes, a beauty salon, and 2-3 small Mom and Pop convenience stores. There is a small public elementary school for grades 1-6, but there are no police or fire and rescue squad services. There are also no banks, doctors or clinics, supermarkets, fast food restaurants like MacDonalds, and department stores.

The district town of Kut Chap which is 15 km from Nongyibao and 25 km from Udornthani City provides the public services which are lacking in the village. Kut Chap has both public and private schools for elementary and junior high school students (grades 1-9). Senior high school students, however, must go into Udonthani City to study. Kut Chap has police and fire and rescue squad services and a small hospital on the outskirts of town. Recently both a mini Tesco-Lotus shopping center and a Seven-11 have opened. There are also wired internet connections which the village does not have.

Lanna Village Life in Northern Thailand

Thailand Village Life

What do you like most about Thailand village life?

  • Importance of temple activities
  • Celebration of festivals
  • Slower pace of life
  • Caring nature among residents
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Rocket Festival in My Wife's Home Village

Buddhist Temple Ceremony near a Thai Village

Unique Features of Thailand Village Life

Since 2006 I have learned a lot about life in a Thai village. Summing up all of my experiences, I would say these are four unique features worth noting:

1. The Importance of the Temple and Buddhism in Village Life:

In many respects the temple and Buddhism are the center of life for most villagers. As a case in point, my mother-in-law regularly visits the temple every morning before 7:00. The temple is located in a wooded area about 1-2 kilometers from the village. Four or five Buddhist monks live there and lead prayers and chants every morning. My mother-in-law prepares food for them most mornings and takes it to the temple as a way of making merit. Many other women in the village do the same. On special Buddhist holidays the monks will come into the village and lead prayers for the villagers at the village Center for Career Development where the village headman (puyaiban) carries out community affairs. Buddhist New Year activities have also been held on the temple grounds. There is also a crematorium on the temple grounds. All deceased members of the village are created there after funerals, and their ashes are put in urns which are enclosed in colorful monuments placed at the edge of the temple grounds.

2. Significance of the Village Head Man (Puyaiban):

I first became aware of the village headman when I was awakened by his loud public address announcements at 6:00 most mornings. The village headman who is elected by the residents of the village always seems to know when I'm in the village because he comes to visit me. Most of his morning announcements which are in Isan, the northeastern dialect of Thai, have to do about village affairs. Very often he will mention the names of all of the villagers who have contributed money for a cause and the the amount of money they have contributed. If there are any disagreements among residents of the village, he will work to resolve them. Since there is no mail delivery to individual villagers, the village headman will announce every morning or evening who has mail. The villagers will then go to his office to pick up their mail.

3. Celebration of Festivals:

When Thai villagers are not working they really like to have a lot of fun. Villagers do have the chance for fun in the celebration of the many festivals which Thailand has. Many of the festivals are related to Buddhism such as the Buddhist New Year (Songkran). During this festival the elderly sit on the sides of the village streets while younger residents come and pour water over their hands as a sign of respect and making merit. Prior to this ritual, monks from the temple come into the village and lead the villagers in prayers and chants. Then, behind a huge truck with enormous amplifiers, residents parade around the streets of the village while doing the traditional Thai "ram" dance. Some other traditional Thai festivals like Loi Krathom are held in the district town. For this festival, residents from neighboring villages come to float little banana leaf boats adorned with flowers and candles on a pond, and make a wish for good luck. Other people will release lit hot air boxed kites (kornfai) high into the sky after making a wish. There are many games for kids to play and adults are treated to singers and dancers in concert.

4. Genuine Caring Nature for One Another:

Finally I have noticed the genuine caring nature which all members of the village have for each other. During a visit to the village in 2009 I slightly injured my lower back in a traffic accident. Many of the villagers went to special trouble to prepare Thai medicinal treatments for my speedy recovery. I have also seen many villagers help each other with farm work and the care of children.

A Thailand village is really an interesting and exiting place to visit. You might not have some of the comforts and conveniences of city life, but you will be rewarded with a glimpse into Thailand's colorful traditional culture.





© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn

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Comments 17 comments

Travelwyse 4 years ago

Hey great post!

What is it like to spent Christmas in a Thai village? I ask because I recently wrote a post about Christmas in Thailand. Thanks :)


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Paul Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

I have spent a few Christmases in a Thai village, but it's nothing there compared to the Christmas season in the States. Most of the villagers really don't celebrate Christmas, but they take 3-4 days off for the New Year celebrations with street parties and all night karaoking. Thanks for the comments.


DDE profile image

DDE 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Thanks for the insightful Hub on Thai Living


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Paul Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

DDE,

Thanks for reading and your great comment.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Very interesting read, Paul. It seems the village life is not very different from here apart from the rituals and faiths being practiced by people.

Voted up, useful, interesting. Shared and pinned.


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Paul Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Rajan,

Thanks for reading this hub. I always enjoy visiting my wife's village because it is much more peaceful and less hectic than city life. The people also seem more friendlier. Thanks for you comments, sharing, and pinning of this hub.


me 2 years ago

boring!!!!!!


hi 2 years ago

cool


i am cool 2 years ago

awesome website


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Paul Kuehn 2 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Thanks for commenting. Why do you think this article is boring?


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Paul Kuehn 2 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Thanks for commenting! I'm happy you liked this hub!


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Paul Kuehn 2 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Thanks for your comment.


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Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

Hi Paul; Very nice to see this hub and to reminisce a little! I have visited Udon Thani six times myself, and probably spent about four weeks living in a Thai village, in the home of my ex-girlfriend (since then I have another girlfriend who lives in Bangkok but has family in a village in Petchabun).

So much of what you say is familiar to me, and that of course includes the warmth and hospitality on offer. Even since my relationship ended, my former girlfriend's family - mother, father, brother, aunts, uncles and cousins - have remained my friends and I have visited once more, welcomed back like a member of the family. I will be going back again to see them in the New Year on my next visit to Thailand.

The one thing I haven't really experienced are the festivities and ceremonies you describe - something I will have to rectify in the future!

Ignore the one silly comment Paul - some people seem to enjoy being rude just for the sake of it - the article is an informative insight into life in a Thai village - a life which many who only visit Bangkok or the island tourist resorts will simply not be aware of. Thanks, Alun


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Paul Kuehn 13 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

&Greensleeves Hubs , Thanks for commenting! What is the name of the village in Udonthani Province where your ex-girlfriend is from? Perhaps during your next visit up here we can get together.


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Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

Thanks for your reply Paul. The village is Ban Nanokhong, in Phibun Rak district. Last time I visited I only stayed for 4 days (because my main purpose was to visit my new girlfriend in Bangkok), and I stayed in a hotel in town because I didn't want to impose on the family in the circumstances. However, they had offered for me to stay with them in the village, having sympathised with me over the break-up. During the 4 days I visited the village twice - once for an eve of wedding party, and once just to spend the day with the family members. (My 'ex' was not there - she was in BKK with a new boyfriend, though we are still amicable). The rest of my time was spent travelling round the region with the cousin of my former girlfriend. I mention all this just to indicate to any other readers how - even though the family are quite traditional - Thais are understanding of other cultures. They had always been welcoming and hospitable, but as soon as trust had developed, so a loyal friendship also quickly developed.

When I next visit, I'll probably use a hotel again, but I can drop you a line. I daresay if my cousin's at work, I may have spare time. It'd be nice to meet and share notes :)


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Paul Kuehn 13 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Alun, I'll have to get out my map and see where the PhibunRak District is located. I'm living in Udonthani City now and would like to meet you in the future.


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Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

Sure. If possible I'll definitely look you up. (In the last paragraph of my comment of course I meant 'her' cousin, not 'my' cousin) :)

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