My Thai Life

This “travel guide” is a cultural blog about Thailand. This is Chapter 1. You should always know something about the captain before boarding the ship. So let me introduce myself.

Press Ganged (Married) Into Thai Culture

I never gave the country of Thailand a second thought until I was 42. Then one day, I was introduced to my soon-to-be Thai wife Waranya and my American life took an unanticipated path.

That was well over twenty years ago. Twenty-four as of this writing to be exact.

What I didn’t quite understand at first was the simple fact that if you marry a Thai woman, you also marry her family. My wife has 9 brothers and sisters, along with a confusing assortment of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. That’s a whole lot of Thai in-laws. Some live in the U.S.; some in Sweden, and many all over Thailand.

My wife also came with a 14-year old son. So my White American bachelor life came to an abrupt end when we were married in a Buddhist wedding ceremony in a Thai Buddhist wat.

I have one older brother who I rarely see and my mother lived in Florida while I lived on the West Coast. (She passed away a few years ago.) So my wife Waranya, her son and relatives are really the only family I have.

Swimming in a Sea of Green Curry

My Thai Wedding
My wife Waranya and I getting married in a Thai Buddhist ceremony. Little did I understand then how Thai culture would affect my life.

Mexicans have a wonderful phrase: “Una mosca en la leche”.  A fly in the milk. They use it to describe themselves living in White culture in the U.S.

I think of myself as “swimming in a sea of green curry” to describe my life as a White American living within Thai culture, whether in Thailand or the U.S.

Since my marriage to Waranya, I have breathed Thai culture 24/7 regardless of whether I’m in our home in Thailand or Los Angeles . Thai is commonly spoken at home. I eat more Thai food (northern Thai food) than farang food. Thai etiquette rules daily life-Don’t point with your feet! And while I’m not religious, I do often accompany my wife and Thai family to Buddhist ceremonies either in Thailand or the U.S.

At our Buddhist wedding (I didn’t understand a word of what was being chanted during the ceremony because I don’t speak Sanskrit.), inside an ornate wat with 9 monks chanting, my mother’s eyes were big as saucers. I’m sure she had hopes that I’d marry a White, docile mid-western girl. But at the age of 44, she was probably just relieved I was getting married.

And so I dived head-first into a sea of Thai green curry. Sink or swim. I swam.

A Rural Thai Life

My wife was born and raised in Lamphun Province. It’s about 40 kilometers from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand in what was once the Lanna Kingdom. We live in the old family home built of teak and laterite.

Yes, I’ve been to Bangkok countless times (probably at least 60-70 times over the years), but what I know best is rural Thailand, especially the north and Esaan (northeastern Thailand). I know the people, the food, the traditions, the Buddhism and moral values of rural Thais. (You may be interested in my post: Thai People: A Deep Psychological Profile)

House of Thailand, LLC

Waranya and I started a Thai import business called House of Thailand years ago. (I’m now retired.) We primarily sold Thai pillows and traditional Siamese apparel such as fisherman pants, pantaloons, harem pants and sarongs.

Modern Thai Pillow Making
Here’s some of the Thai pillows our business made. Fabrics are the key to making great Thai pillows.

Our business made me an expert of Thai pillows and especially Thai fabrics. Our Thai pillows were made in rural Esaan and the Pillow Makers became close friends of my wife and I. I worked alongside Thais and learned their habits and ethics.

Year after year, I would travel the lonely roads of rural Thailand searching for silk and cotton fabrics to make pillows and apparel.  I watched countless weavers producing incredibly sophisticated fabrics on their old wooden looms. Slowly, but surely, I became an expert about Thai fabrics, especially Thai silk. (See my blog posts: A Vagabond to Essan and Confessions of an International Thai Pillow Dealer)

Keep the Porch Light Burning

Time flows by like water through a broken dam.

I’m in my sixties now and have never felt better. My marriage to Waranya has only grown stronger as the years pass by.  That’s better than any jackpot Las Vegas could ever offer. I couldn’t image life without her.

My bonds to Thailand have also grown deeper. I understand Thai people infinitely better than I did just 10 years ago. I hope to say the same thing 10 years from now.

My blog is merely an attempt to share some of my knowledge with those who wish to delve deeper into Thailand than just cavorting with bar girls or visiting a posh beach resort in the south.

Waranya and I always keep the porch light lit when we’re at home in Pasang. Rural Thailand gets inky dark at night.

My blog is your “porch light” to Thailand. I’ll keep it burning. Enjoy.


  1. Is the porch light still on here? Jeff – I want to thank you for sharing your wisdom via this blog. As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel in Patong Phuket and only contemplating all the choices I’ve ever made in life having been in country for a mere seven days. I understand the scope of your blog is not focused on “marrying Thai” – But that’s exactly what brought me here. And I want to thank you for what you wrote in this post. I like you were when your journey began, am 43 years of age. Never been married. Not even close. We could argue why in all the ways that might be my fault, but in any case, no girl.. no Western girl even gave me the time of day. I didn’t come to Thailand looking for a wife. Far from it. Truth be told, I gave up on finding a mate. I gave up on finding anyone at all to love. I only came to Thailand because I was invited by a friend. And of course as you might imagine any middle-aged unmarried Western man, yes, I’ve been spending quite a few Baht on “bar girls” as you say. Despite appearances that I’ve laid forth so far, I find myself entirely awoken by the this place and quite smitten by it’s people. It may be ludicrous and it may be completely delusional – But I find myself hoping again. The hope that perhaps I still can share my life with someone. That hope is all I’ve had in quite a long while and so if its crazy, I chose to embrace the insane. Anyway, just wanted to mention how your words touched me. I Hope you are well Jeff and ขอบคุณ!

  2. Good Evening to you good sir,

    Ive just read a bit of your blog and I felt compelled to contact you. I, like yourself have found myself involved with a woman of Thai extraction. She was visiting California, we met and well…magic. She lives in Chiang Mai, I remain in California. While the question of marriage is one for the future, the question of business opportunities is front and center. She has preexisting relationships with local area artisans, weavers and such. We have discussed import/export as a way of charting our own future together. Id like to launch my own import company, producing various siamese wares for sale in the U.S. I would very appreciate any words of wisdom, advise or otherwise goodwill you may be able to share with a fellow entrepreneur. I will continue to follow your blog in order to better understand my own journey…thank you for lighting the way

    • Thanks so much for writing. I have two suggestions for you based on my experience:

      1. Rule #1: A reliable source of product(s) is always better than a reliable buyer. Many Thai artisans are notoriously unreliable in my experience. They don’t have deadlines, contracts, or production schedules. I was lucky with our Thai pillow production that our pillow makers could somewhat meet our deadlines and fill orders. But for our Thai fisherman pants we could never find a source that could consistently and timely fill our orders. (Just because they do it once, doesn’t mean they can repeatedly do it.) On the same note, quality control will also be an issue. Somebody has to do QC and your supplier must understand that poor quality will not be accepted.

      2. Be an expert in logistics. You need to be very good at the “exporting” part of the business. You need a very good freight forwarder in Chiang Mai (We used Siam-Mandalay). There are many rip-off freight forwarders in Chiang Mai that prey on tourists. The cheapest is never the best when it comes to your forwarder. There are a huge amount of Custom rules that must be followed to legally pass Customs. Paper work is critical. The last thing you want is Customs seizing your load and either fining you or worse rejecting it and sending it back (which you’ll pay for). And you need a good Custom’s Broker on the import side to get the load through. This is absolutely true for ocean freight, not so much with air freight if you only ship small amounts. I was lucky as my wife worked in international ocean freight before we started our business.

      I could go on all day, but I’ll stop now. If you haven’t read my post “Confessions of an International Pillow Dealer” I recommend it. I talk about some of these issues. Best of luck

  3. Hi I was wondering if you knew which mill factory would have upholstery remnants such as schumaker, high quality that is produced there for companies

    • Thanks for writing Denise,

      Sorry, but I make traditional Thai pillows. We use handwoven Thai fabrics, kapok and rice straw. That’s it. I really don’t know anything about upholstery remnants or even mill factories. Best of luck.

  4. Brought a tear to my eye, the love you have for your wife. Travelling to Thailand next month and reading whatever I can … enjoying your site. Thank you

  5. Dear Jeff,
    Thank you a lot for sharing your expertise and passion. Learns me a lot!
    My wife and I commissioned some silk from Isaan, which will be ready in a few months.
    Meanwhile we have some ideas and inspiration for prototypes which we would like to make in high quality cotton.
    Reading through your blog the last two days I know you are the right person to ask for some advice.
    We planning to travel to Chiangmai this week, or do you suggest Lamphun, Pasang?

    Hope you and your family are ok and this message finds you well. Would love to hear from you. My email:
    Kindest regards,


    • Hi Ken. Thanks for writing. You’ll find very good cotton fabrics in Chiang Mai-go to the Fabric District per my blog post-for directions. Pasang/Lamphun is also a nice day trip from Chiang Mai and you’ll find very nice cotton fabrics especially in Pasang. Again, go to my blog post about buying cotton fabrics near Chiang Mai for full info. You’ll often see cotton weavers working in Pasang. Another town near Chiang Mai is Chom Tong where they weave beautiful cotton fabrics. You can also find Chom Tong cottons at the Chiang Mai Fabric District. Good Luck!

  6. Hi Jeff. I am a Romanian journalist, former architect and very passionate traveler to Thailand. I wrote and published a book about Thailand, in 2014, now preparing for the next one.
    I reached your blog searching the net for „Thai fabric scraps/remnants” – I have a project involving Thai textile – and it was a pleasure and a joy to discover your experiences and knowledge. Also, is a rich source of info. Congratulations!

  7. Thanks for your informative description of Thai pillows.
    Do you know where in Chiang Fai I can find good quality pillows/ mattresses?

    • Hi Carlos! I assume you mean “Chiang Rai” not Chiang Fai. I don’t know where to buy Thai pillows in Chiang Rai. Remember, all Thai traditional pillows/mattresses are made in Yasoton Province in Isaan. Middle sellers come to Yasoton, buy the pillows and then resell them around Thailand. There is no traditional pillow making in Northern Thailand. Best of luck.

  8. Hi, I am a wool spinner in Canada, will be traveling to Thailand in Feb. with a group of fellow travelers, staying a week in around Lamphun then a week near Nakhon Ratchasima. We will be hosted with different families. I have been reading your blog about the Thai silk being woven. We really like to incorporate silk into our wool using “tops , hankies/caps, naps and noil. ” Is it possible to give me some advice as to where I might purchase some when in Thailand? Probably not in a shop with woven bolts.. but where they are processing the silk cocoons .
    Best regards

    • Hi Rose. Thanks for writing. If you haven’t yet read my blog post on Thai sericulture I highly recommend it. The silk weaving villages that produce their own silk yarns use 100% of their raw silk so you never see silk yarns or products for sale where village sericulture is ongoing. There are only 3 commercial silk yarn producers in Thailand located in Kon Gan and near Korat. Thailand has a shortage of high quality, native Thai silk cocoons (this silk is used especially for the warp) and these commercial yarn makers specialize in that product so I don’t even know if they produce any hankies, noil, etc.

      Just one more mention (you probably already know): The best quality silk yarn in reeled from the cocoons. Spun silk is very low quality and is known locally as either noi silk or raw silk. My honest answer is that I don’t know who sells noi or hankies in Thailand. Best of luck.

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