Posted: August 16th, 2011 | Author: | 1 Comment »

If you pick 10 random Thais, according to statistics, nearly 9.5 of them will tell you they are Buddhist.   Thai Buddhism is considered to be a branch of Theravada Buddhism, however it incorporates elements of animism, mysticism, and even the belief in earth-dwelling ghosts.   To most Thais, the presence of spirits on earth is unquestionable.   Although not entirely a cultural faux pas, talking about ghosts and spirits isn’t the most popular topic of conversation.   Many people here believe that spirits are everywhere.   Every home, school, restaurant, 7/11, girly bar, dance club, and dive shop you walk into in Thailand, you will be able to find a spirit house, or san phra phum.   When an individual encroaches on a property to establish a home or business, he is displacing the spirits who have been occupying that land, to which spirit houses serve as a new home.   The steps of these mini ghost condos are often adorned with offerings of food, flowers, and drink (often red Fanta™, presumably because no animate being likes red Fanta™).   While the notion of ghosts and wandering spirits are generally laughed off and dismissed as crazy-talk in America, the situation is much different here.   I have Thai friends and students who tell me, with very serious tone and expression, that they have seen ghosts.   When the subject comes to conversation around my university, people often talk of one particular building as being haunted.   I lived in this building for about six months and never saw anything that resembled a floating white bed sheet with eyeholes, but I know at least one person who has.   The building has a history peppered with stories of tragic suicides—students who had succumbed to the pressure of family, teachers, and society in a culture where “saving face” can sometimes lead to pent-up emotions.

It’s chilling sometimes to consider the topic of ghosts and think about the difference in attitude that Americans and Thais (maybe even Westerners and Asians) hold—someone is right.

Spirit House outside of an apartment building in Bangkok

Image I took of my family's home in Baltimore County, Maryland-- December, 2001

One Comment on “GHOST. [GMT +7 BANGKOK]”

  1. 1 Bangkok gmt | Kiroset said at 6:06 AM on September 14th, 2011:

    […] GHOST. [GMT +7 BANGKOK] | PEN & IMAGEAug 16, 2011 … Each day, contributors from London, New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong interpret a random word within 24 hours. […]

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