Sunday, March 18, 2012

(Mostly) Lao Spoken Here

I began visiting Northeastern Thailand (The Isaan) in 1999, when I first met my wife Thiphawan. In March 2012 (Buddhist year 2555), I retired here and I thought that I would write about the many things I’ve seen and experienced – and continue to – that I have not read about in any travelogue or guide book of the area.

After marrying Thip, I tried my hand at learning the Thai language somewhat. Like many countries of Southeast Asia, Thai script is completely different from the Roman, which is used by all Western countries and even beyond. So, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

It soon became apparent that I was hopelessly lost and couldn’t translate easily. Thip was far quicker picking up English than I was at Thai, so that helped, but many times whe she would say something and I tried looking it up in my Thai-English dictionary, I could not find it.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me quite some time before I realized that those many words Thip used were Lao – not Thai! This is because even though The Isaan has been officially part of Thailand since 1768 C.E., its people were originally part of the Lao (aka Laos) and Lan Xang before it.

In 1768, the new Kingdom of Thailand – formed out of the Kingdom of Ayuthaya the year before – claimed The Isaan for itself and fought the Lao Kingdom for it twice, in 1777 and 1827. The Isaan has been considered to be part of Thailand since 1768…

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