World on the Weekend: Thailand


I visited Thailand in 2000, literally spending New Year’s Eve there at the turn of this century.  Though I spent most of my time doing a course for English teachers in Bangkok, I did take the opportunity to travel around when I had the time.  Some parts of the country were as noisy and polluted as any other modern-day country.  Other parts were truly breath-taking, National Geographic-style images burned into my brain.  I saw young monks in their orange robes walking through the streets with their traditional begging bowls, I watched elephants nonchalantly stroll down city streets, I ate fragrant curries of every kind, I witnessed poverty and squalor, I visited the notorious Pat Pong area and stayed in a hostel on the Khao San Road, and I learned to navigate the colorful local markets of both the day- and nighttime variety.  



Bangkok and Chiang Mai are famous for their night markets.  Essentially the system works because the markets have too many vendors during the day, so some people began to sell at night to avoid competition and overcrowding.  It didn’t really work and now the night markets are every bit as bustling as the daytime ones.

To organise your own night market, wait until after dinner or until the sun goes down.  Then get a few bits and pieces to sell: toys, books, fruit, DVDs, whatever you have.  Put a price tag on each item.  Hand out some play money and take turns being sellers and buyers.


The fun of a proper Thai meal is to do it correctly.  Sit on the floor.  Everyone has a bowl of sticky rice.  Eat with the right hand only, though you may use a spoon if you wish.  Central dishes such as coconut shrimp, stir fried vegetables in peanut sauce, Thai dressing for green salad with cucumber, pad Thai can be placed in the middle with spoons so that everyone serves themselves.


Thais have fun traditional children’s games. The “One legged rabbit game” (Gradai Kha Dee-o) involves one of you hopping around on one foot trying to chase the others .

(khi ma kan kluai) is essentially a hobby horse made of a banana leaf, but go ahead and make one however you want. 


Floating candle boats are sweet: make paper boats and place small lit tea candles in them.  Float them in water in the bathtub.

You can make a “sky lantern” with candles (look here for instructions: ) .  Making the frame out of wooden sticks is a good lesson in 3D geometry.  The science has to do with how heat from the candle makes the lantern rise.


Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease which attacks people in most tropical countries.  It’s worth learning about, and there are many websites and excellent YouTube videos explaining the cause, preventions and treatments.

Dance and Math

The 1000 hands dance is a stunning visual display which you can watch here:  The activity consists of lining your family up in front of a mirror in height order and attempting to replicate the dance.  This is a challenging exercise in symmetry, and harder than it looks!


We had a very nice Thai dinner and did the market activity afterwards.  Child loves playing market, and very much enjoyed the one we did for Ancient Rome, so this was fun.  This time we practiced using an abacus to add up the sales totals.  The night-time atmosphere made it more exciting.

While we had dinner, we watched spectacular videos of the 1000 hands dance, and then tried our own which was fun.

We learned a lot about malaria, which is useful since Child and Daddy spend a lot of time in the Amazon rainforest.  We learned that malarial mosquitoes tend to thrive more in towns and villages where there is stagnant water collecting in old tires and containers, but less so where there is moving water like in jungle rivers.  Still, long pants and sleeves along with a good repellent are essential for protection.

We tried to make the “sky lantern” which, for some reason, refused to float.  I think our kebab sticks ended up being too heavy.  Building the frame was a great STEM project, aided by Daddy and his hot glue gun. It was a nice evening and we went outside to try to make it float.  Though it failed, the lantern certainly was pretty to look at.   

The boats worked better: candle stubs in walnut shells float nicely.   

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