Telling the Time

Telling the time in Thai is a little … weird. Things start quite simply. Counting the hours from 1 a.m. you have:

tii 1 (1 a.m.)
tii 2 (2 a.m.)
tii 3 (3 a.m.)
etc.

(“Tii” means “strike” or “beat” and refers to the watchmen’s marking of the hours throughout the night. In my moobaan a security guard still makes the rounds every hour through the night on a bicycle striking a bell.)

When you get to 6 a.m., things go awry:

6 mohng chaaw

then:

mohng chaw (7 a.m.)
2 mohng chaw (8 a.m.)
3 mohng chaw (9 a.m.)
etc.

So 6 comes before 2. Seriously strange.

This pattern continues up to midday:

thiang (12 p.m.)

Then the pattern changes again:

baay mohng (1 p.m.)
baay 2 mohng (2 p.m.)
baay 3 mohng (3 p.m.)

And in the late afternoon, yet another pattern (just for a couple of hours):

5 mohng yen (5 p.m.)
6 mohng yen (6 p.m.)

(“Yen” is the Thai word for “cool”, reflecting the cooling as the sun gets low in the sky.)

And then another pattern:

thum 1 (7 p.m.)

but then:

2 thum (8 p.m.)
3 thum (9 p.m.)
etc.

and finally midnight:

thiang kheun (12 a.m.)

All this time-telling complexity probably explains why a certain fugitive from justice had 26 watches, including 9 Patek Philippe, 2 Audemars Piguet, a Cartier, a Chopard, a Rolex, a Breguet, and 3 Vacheron. Total value: 10 million Baht – over £200,000 at today’s exchange rate.

Unfortunately for the criminal concerned they have all been seized by the state.

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1 comment so far

  1. Boonsong on

    Very well explained. Well done


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