Red Fanta at Thai Shrines
The most common question I asked in Thailand was, “What’s with the Red Fanta?” Which probably seems like a weird question so I’ll explain myself.
There are a lot of shrines in Thailand, with the most common being Spirit Houses. When land is cleared and buildings are put up, Spirit Houses are erected to house the displaced earth spirit, called Chao Thi(Land lord). Although Thailand is 95% Buddhist these are not shrines to Buddha or Buddhist shrines at all. The concept of a Spirit House is rooted in animism. It’s a bit like Christians decorating evergreen trees or searching for Easter eggs, despite those practices coming from Pagan beliefs. It’s a spiritual side of Thailand that exists alongside Buddhism based on ancient beliefs that existed long before Thai Buddhism. These beliefs hardly seem religious at all to Thai people. There are spirits that guard over the land, houses must be built for them, offerings must be given. That’s just life, nothing religious about that.
Where there are Spirit Houses there is Red Fanta, known as Fanta Nam Daeng. I don’t make the rules, that’s just the way it is. Every morning an offering is made to the spirit and an extremely common offering is a fresh red Fanta. Some flower petals, food or trinkets might be used as well, or even non-Fanta soda but red Fanta is the favorite offering. Although a quick drink of stolen Fanta might sound deliciously refreshing whilst walking around Thailand, it’s wise to avoid consuming these offerings. If the movie Major League has taught us anything, it’s that consuming spirit offerings is never a good idea.
The real reason people offer the spirits strawberry Fanta is because that’s what they’ve been offering them for decades. It’s tradition at this point. That, above all other reasons, is the answer behind the red Fanta mystery. I asked numerous people about the red Fanta, basically everybody who was trying to scam me, as it was part of my con-defense script that I’ll talk about in a later post. Different people gave different reasons but they all seemed to have some validity.
Red is a lucky color. Red is the color of blood and is a replacement for a blood sacrifice. It’s a symbolic offering of life force.
It’s in a glass:
Unlike many other beverages, Fanta comes in a glass. It won’t be blown over in a moderate wind. Practicality goes a long way when appeasing earth spirits in a country prone to sudden storms.
The king likes it:
Fanta is the most popular drink in Thailand, but Green Fanta is the most popular drink of them all. The king prefers red and the Thai people love their king. Which is something you should keep in mind when traveling through Thailand. You may think nothing of the ubiquitous oversized king pictures, but inadvertently disrespecting said picture will land you in jail. Thai jail. That’s not a place you want to be.
In summary, red Fanta bottles are everywhere; because they are easy to find, stable and red. At this, point red Fanta is just the assumed favorite drink of the spirits, so that’s the main reason and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon.
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