Tuesday, January 20, 2009

House Numbers in Thailand

Hearing that a culture employs an alphabet with forty four consonants and over twenty vowels, you may be forgiven to suspect that the culture enjoys complexity. Discovering how they number the houses for postal purposes may convince you once and for all.

Major streets get names. From city to city, these are somewhat duplicative. Every city has a “Charoen Muang Street,” and most have a “Ratchadamnon Street.” All over Thailand there are streets named for the same major kings. Onto the major streets are hung “Soi,” side streets to the major street. For instance, I live on Soi 44 of Ramkhamhaeng Street. One side of the street takes Soi with even numbers, the other side is odd. They start at the point of origin of the big street. The Soi are not evenly spaced, so across the street from Soi 44 is Soi 73; there just happened to be more side streets over there. The same side street, running between two major streets, may be Soi 43 of one and Soi 122 of the other.

Soi can be confusing enough, but the postal identification numbers have little to do with the Soi. A house ID has a number, or two numbers separated by a slash. In the fractionalized numbers, the bottom number represents a later construction on the property. The numbers are assigned in the order in which the houses were built, take a moment to digest that.

Then comes the name or number, or both, for the local neighborhood (Moo), then the name of a larger neighborhood (Tambun), and finally the name of a district (Amphur).

So good luck finding anything. The mailmen are so local that they know everybody, so they do ok.

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