This page has been written by the Head of the Computer Department at Sriwittayapaknam School. This is Nattawud's old primary school and the place that he calls his "second home".
Q. Who is Nattawud Daoruang?
A. Nattawud, his friends call him Gor, is a sixteen year old student from Samut Prakan in Thailand. He lives with his parents and younger brother in a terraced house. His father works in the dockyards and his mother is a factory worker. Some people think he is an international student or maybe a Thai student studying in America. But he is not. He is a normal Thai student here in Thailand.
Q. How did he first start working on web sites?
A. Gor started on his first web site when he was 12 years old (October 1997). At that time he was in Primary 6 at Sriwittayapaknam School. It was the winter holidays and he and a friend of his found themselves with nothing to do. I suggested that they might like to try and make a personal homepage about themselves. They agreed and came to school most days during the holidays. Although Gor's friend stopped making his web site after they left our school in March 1998, Gor kept coming back to work on his. I found Gor's old web site on one of the computers. It looks like it was last modified on 23rd October 1997 so it is about 3 weeks old. Click here if you would like to take a look. Another version, dated October 1998, is about one year old. You can already see a big difference from the first one and also some pages which are still around today! Click here to see the second site.
Q. Why is Gor's English so good?
A. While he was in Primary 5 and 6 he was taught English by me. When he was 12, he got together with a small group of friends and asked if they could learn English with me after school. I was impressed with their bravery in approaching me and said "yes". I taught them at first for 30 minutes a day, then 1 hour and finally 90 minutes. In that time we never opened a text book. We just chatted and played games. After two months they didn't need to open a dictionary to find a meaning of a word. After three months they were fluent enough to talk about most things. When they finished Primary 6 in March 1998 they all moved onto other schools. Gor went to a local school called Satree Samutprakan and quite often came to visit with a few of his friends. The smaller group continued to learn English with me. Later in the year there were only three of them left: Gor, Game and Phong. By this time the Internet Center had been opened at the school and our "English lessons" had moved there. Every evening, after school, they would come to play on the computer, surf the internet and work on their web sites. Our little "English lessons" had really finished by then. But they were still learning as they were always talking to me about this and that. They also helped me out with basic maintenance of the computers. We sometimes went out at the weekend to play bowling and watch a movie which also helped them with their English.
Q. When did Gor become serious about making web sites?
A. I suppose it happened gradually. As well as doing his homepage about his life (originally at thaistudents.com/nattawud) he did web sites about his hobbies. As he gained more experience, both Gor and Phong came to help me teach my class how to make a homepage once a week. That was when he met his first girlfriend. In October 1998 I created a web site about the upcoming movie The Beach starring someone called Leonardo DiCaprio. When they began making the film in Thailand in February 1999 I found myself with too much work to do as the site started to receive thousands of visitors every day. So, Gor, Game and Phong helped me with the daily running of the web site (scanning photos and translating news from the papers, making up pages etc). We even drove 600 kms down to the film set at the end of March 1999 to meet the film crew. By this time we had started to get a lot of media attention. This began with Asia Week in February 1999 followed by hundreds of other publications around the world. Gor, Game and Phong soon found themselves famous and the darlings of all Leo fans. This really encouraged Gor to get serious with his sites and from then onwards he started working much harder. He was by now getting a lot of visitors that were coming across from The Beach web site and they were leaving a lot of flattering comments that kept him going. His first big newspaper article was for the Student Weekly in September 1999. Since then he has been featured in dozens of newspaper and magazine articles around the world. In April 2000, the school owners were so impressed with how much he had achieved that they rewarded Gor by giving him his own dot com site: thailandlife.com.
Q. Who works on thailandlife.com?
A. Most people think it is a team of students working on this web site. In fact there is only one person: Gor. It is his site 100%. His ideas and his words. I only edit a few things though I am careful not to change the style. Nowadays I don't have to do so much as his writing ability is much better. For that I am thankful as I have over 300 students like Gor working on their own personal homepages. Most of them won't go beyond five pages but still that is a lot of work for me to check.
Q. Who takes the pictures?
A. Again, Gor takes most of the pictures on this web site and others produced by Sriwittayapaknam School. He is actually very good. I think it helped that he learned using a digital camera as I could look over his shoulder and give comments about his shot. I have trained other student photographers but Gor has been the most successful. He now teachers my students how to take pictures. The pictures that show Gor were either taken by members of his family or myself.
Q. What is the most popular section of this web site?
A. I think Gor was surprised how popular his Secret Diary has become. He originally did it every three months or so and now due to demand he is doing it more often. He has received both criticism and praise for the diary. Personally, I think he is very brave about how much of his life he puts into this diary. Some Thai people living abroad think he puts too much - particularly the frank discussions of smoking, drinking and drugs. Other Thai people praise him for showing that Thai teenagers are just the same as people all around the world. The following is one of my favourite comments someone made: "On the surface we may seem different, but down deep inside all humans are the same, regardless of culture, nationalities, and all the rest of it." A mother of two teenage sons from Australia made a similiar comment. She wrote to Gor telling him that at first she was worried about taking a holiday in Thailand. She thought it would be unsafe and too scary. However, she said that after reading Gor's web site she now realised that Thai people and teenagers in particular were just like her own sons. She said she now felt more relaxed about taking a holiday in Thailand. We are very happy that Gor is doing his part to break down racial tensions.
Q. What are his future plans for his diary?
A. If he can find time, he says he wants to start doing his diary every day. There is certainly a demand for it as he gets hundreds of letters about his diary (advice about his girlfriends and his bad habit of smoking are the usual topics). There are some more personal things that Gor has left out of his diary. He says that his teachers at Satree School would be shocked for sure if they knew about the real life of some of their students. He has an ambitious plan at the moment to write his life story. He has already started writing it and hopefully it will be finished by the end of the year. If he can't find a publisher he says he will publish it himself on the internet.
Q. Why are there no advertising banners on his site?
A. Gor has always said that he does this web site for fun and not commercial gain. That is not to say he wouldn't welcome any money sent his way :-) He does sell a few things in our school's internet shop and in April 2001 he started teaching for money for the first time. It doesn't cost Gor anything to produce this site. All facilities are provided by Sriwittayapaknam School and the server space is sponsored by M-Web (Thailand).
Q. What are his ambitions?
A. At the moment, Gor really wants to be an exchange student abroad. His English is obviously good enough but his parents don't make enough money to send him to America or Australia. Unless he can find sponsorship, I don't think he will be able to go.