Thongchai Thailand


Posted on: January 23, 2020




  1. THE FALANG WAY: About 600 years ago, in Europe, falangs invented the clock to tell time precisely. The clock divided the diurnal cycle into 24 equal intervals called “hours” and each hour into 60 equal intervals called minutes. Leaving out the second for this analysis, the diurnal time cycle was thus divided into 1440 equal intervals each of them long enough to breathe about 20 times. However, in normal day to day conversational use time can be expressed in conversation in terms of half hour intervals or 48 time events per day described as “O’Clock“. Thus an appointment for breakfast could be set for “8 O’Clock” or “8:30 O’Clock” or for late risers may be “10 O’Clock”. So to this day this is how falangs tell time and how they communicate time and how they make appointments for work and recreation.
  2. THE THAI WAY: A more human and non-machine-like approach to time of day is taken in Thailand. The day is divided into seven intervals of time that are different from each other in terms of how we humans experience them. Each interval is called a “wela” meaning time of day.  There is no requirement that these time intervals should be equal in duration or equally spaced; and there is no requirement that the duration of the welas should be fixed and exactly and precisely specified. The 7 welas, from morning to night,  are as follows:
  3. Wela#1: Chhao-Chhao = “early in the morning”. In terms of falang o’clock terminology this may fall somewhere in the interval between daybreak (6am) and 8am or 8:30am or so before the heat of the day begins to set in. Depending on the season and the latitude, 9am may also work.
  4. Wela#2: Sai-Sai= “late in the morning”. This is the part of the morning where the sun is climbing up the sky and it is getting warm. It is time to get out the umbrella or at least that little pocket towel to wipe the sweat off your brow. Though warm enough to sweat, it is still a comfortable time of day good for visiting neighbors or doing some gardening. In terms of falang o’clock terminology this may fall somewhere in the interval between 9 or 9:30 am to around 10:30 or perhaps 11am depending on time of year. It is a feeling thing and not a machine thing. But certainly it is before noon. That is a hard falang-like specification because noon is a very important time of day in Thailand.
  5. Wela#3: Tiang = “Noon”. Tiang is when the sun is at the azimuth and in terms of falang o’clock time it may fall somewhere between 11:30am and  12:30pm or so. 1pm could also work. Once again it is a feeling thing and not a machine thing. Tiang is a wonderful time of day in Thailand because it is our big meal of the day called “AHAN TIANG” (lunch), the meal of the time of day when the sun divides the daylight hours into their two halves. Restaurants are packed during this time. Book ahead.
  6. Wela#4: Bye-Bye: Or maybe pronounced more like Baii Baii. It is the afternoon. Nice sweet lazy time of day when you could take a nap or make love or read a book or as in my case, crack open a cold Chang and write a new blog post. A sweet and relaxing time of day when you could fall asleep at your desk at work and the boss would just let you because it’s baii baii. If you have an irrigation pump that pumps water from the irrigation canal to your rice field, this is a good time to run it. Or you could just sit around with friends and drink beer. In terms of falang o’clock terminology the Baii Baii Wela may fall sometime between 2pm and 4pm or maybe 1:30pm and 4:30 pm. It’s hard to tell because it is a feeling thing. It is Baii Baii as long as it feels like Baii Baii. Hope that makes sense because that is the best I can do. 
  7. Wela#5: Yen-Yen: The word yen means cool. This is the time of day when the midday heat is abating and a cool breeze is moving into  your rice field and garden and beautiful white egrets are prancing around looking for God knows what. In terms of falang o’clock time this may fall sometime between 4pm or 4:30pm to dusk that may arrive at 6pm or so. This is the time for sports. The golf driving ranges are packed. Young and old alike are jogging along the road oblivious to speeding cars that are grazing them at 100km/hr. The badminton and tennis courts are all taken. The public swimming pools are packed. Some will mow the lawn or just do some gardening. Yen-Yen is when the tropics comes to life. 
  8. Wela#6: Myuth Myuth: Night time. Darkness has fallen upon the earth. The fancy girlie bars are open for business. Fancy restaurants and bars of all colors are serving food and entertaining their customers with loud music. There are bright lights of all colors. It is nice and cool. Everyone is happy. Or as they say in Thailand “happy happy”. In terms of falang time it may fall anytime between 8pm and 11pm or so give or take.
  9. Wela#7: Tiyang Khyun: Midnight or more correctly, the dead of night. May fall sometime between 11pm and 2am or so or maybe 3am. Who knows. I am never up at that time of day so not sure what goes on except that much of the bar girl business is done during these hours. From there we go right back to chao-chao.
  10. The reason it is important for falangs to know the Thai time of day markers is that it improves communication that involves time as for example an appointment or a work schedule. For example, if a falang tells a Thai worker to come to work at 10am O’Clock the worker will internalize that information as “sai sai” and that could mean that even 11am will work. Conversely, if a Thai person makes an appointment with a falang for chao-chao, the falang could take that to mean first thing in the morning and not fully understand the large uncertainty band in the chao-chao time interval. Thus for better time communication between Thais and falangs for work or for leisure appointments such as golf tee times, it is important to understand how each will internalize the time specification for their shared experience. It still won’t work but at least you will know why it didn’t work. The issue here is that falangs find it difficult to comprehend time uncertainty the way the Thai people do. What we have here is failure to communicate. 



Myuth Myuth

3 Responses to "WHAT TIME IS IT?"

In your post Illusory Carbon budgets of August 2 2019 there is a mistake. It is in number 17. You should have said ” between cumulative emissions and cumulative warming ” instead of “between the rate of emissions and the rate of warming”.

Thank you very much. I will make that change.

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