Sai Lohit to many is a household name. This war lakorn has been remade four times, with channel 7 being the brave soul to revive this show this year. I have seen Kob and Num’s version back in ’95, it was one that I remembered quite fondly. Kob and Num were koo-jins back in the day, and so Sai Lohit was their follow up to Dao Pra Sook, and a more grown up collaboration. When I say grown up, I mean lots more snuggling and smooching scenes. I decided to take on the journey of Sai Lohit again, 16 episodes in 2 days. Who doesn’t want a challenge towards the end of the year, who doesn’t like to sleep? That would be me.
To set the stage for this lakorn, I’m so glad I took a history lesson via Buppae Sanniwas and Neung Dao Fah Diew. As a matter of fact, Sai Lohit takes place at the same time as Neung Dao Fah Diew. At one point in time, I was expecting Phor Kanthong to make an appearance. Wouldn’t that be a hoot? Heroes colliding in Sai Lohit, aptly named as Legend of the Braves. I grew up with too many TVB martial art series that if I’m going to watch a war lakorn, I wanted it to be where all the heroes are fighting together to save the middle earth. Well at least save each other. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Sai Lohit brings us to the end of Ayutthaya era. The moral of the story, like any lakorn war stories, is that Ayutthaya fell because there was no unity, it was where traitors prevailed, and heroes died, so by coming together, we can ensure history does not repeat itself. But more so than our standard message, I felt that Show was also attempting to explore the saying “Behind every great man, there is a great woman.” A soldier’s woman.
This is evident as we follow the life and growing pains of Dao Reurng, a curious, inquisitive ten-year-old. She was raised by Grandma Nim who reads people’s destiny, by her father, who makes gold jewelry, as well as her older brother, who is a soldier, and her older sister who is engaged to a soldier. Dao Reurng is unlike any girl her age, everything fascinates her, from the various markets, to the temples and beauty of Ayutthaya, to every nook and cranny of something new. She’s Grandma Nim’s favorite grandchild, and Grandma takes a personal responsibility to ensure Dao Reurng is raised to be independent and to understand the world around her. Because it is a big world for a little girl, and as we watch Dao Reurng learn lessons and teachings from Grandma Nim, we all become better people along with her.
Show does a good job in taking us into the world of Dao Reurng, and the potential struggles that come from such a young, curious mind. The young Dao Reurng truly brought her character to life, she made me very curious as to how this character will grow up. Her older sister Lamduan is set to marry Luang Thep, who is our hero’s older brother. Our main characters are bonded by marriage. Young Dao Reurng meets 20-year-old Khun Krai (Porsche Saran) at the market where she eyed a pretty bangle. Grandma Nim has taught her that she should not tell people she wants something, because that would be shameless, but she can’t help it if someone ends up overhearing her say that she wants something. So Khun Krai crouches at eye level with her and offers the bangle. From there, Khun Krai really took to young Dao Reurng because of her inquisitive mind, and their kindred spirit.
Khun Krai comes from a long line of soldiers, warriors that protect the country. He’s no different than his ancestors, enlisting in the military at a wee age, and being the walking, talking, poster child of Ayutthaya warriors. His character is a straight forward one, he’s determined to protect and free his country at all cost, and if he’s not holding a sword and fighting, he’s not living. We watch how everyone else is repulsed and afraid of war, but Khun Krai walks towards it like the fearless, stubborn warrior that he is. But with Dao Reurng, he is incredibly gentle. Khun Krai would take young Dao Reurng and her entourage of servants around town, touring the temples, opening her eyes and ears to the world outside of her home. Young Dao Reurng finds out that Khun Krai would join the ranks of the military to fight in the war with Burma, so this little girl would walk the distance to send off her P’Krai. During this adorable moment, young Dao Reurng gave her Buddha necklace to Khun Krai to keep him safe. I love how the young Dao Reurng reciprocates in kind. Tit for tat.
There are traitors and cowards in this show, but the biggest weasel is Meun Thip, the #1 womanizer in all of Ayutthaya. He’s the biggest offender of raping any maids in town. He sets his caps on Khun Krai’s younger sister, and upon clashing with Khun Krai, he is determined to marry the sister and make her life a living hell just to spite Khun Krai, who is everything he is not. Meun Thip is the guy who drives the conflict for Khun Krai and Dao Reurng in this story. He weasels his way into leadership’s good graces – Jao Khun Pholathep (who is also an important villain figure in Neung Dao Fah Diew) and the two continue to plot ways to deter Khun Krai, whether that is in aiding the enemy or saving themselves. For example, during the early battles, Meun Thip would abandon the ship (so to speak) and runs home lying to everyone that Khun Krai is dead, when in fact he was just severely injured. Khun Krai gets to heal at Dao Reurng’s home and even though he comes and goes from different battles, young Dao Reurng was always happy she got to see her P’Krai.
Until one day he gets sent to a different province for a good, long time. Until one day when her nanny/maid P’Yeuan marries Ban Sing (Khun Krai’s servant, right hand man) and must move with him also. Young Dao Reurng is devastated. We start to see how Dao Reurng (young and old) struggles with accepting loss, people abandoning her, and the war itself. Her character arc is accepting people’s destinies (her destiny) as well as learning to be self-sufficient. One other important thing that Grandma Nim imparted, which truly resonated with me, is that life is sad, but in between all that sadness, there is small measure of happiness. So when we think that our situation is downhill, know that happiness is just right around the corner. That’s how I felt about all of the downers in this show: the war, the villains, the tears, the separation, I look at the small uplifting things like warm embraces, nuggets of wisdom, and villains’ karma.
As much as I understood Dao Reurng’s character arc, the older Dao Reurng (Now Tisanart) lost so much of the spark and curiosity that the younger Dao Reurng imbued. There are times I wish she would cry less, do more, move the story forward more, be the protagonist that solves problems (kind of like Mae Mangmao who is such a smart heroine), but by the same token, when she cries, Khun Krai would wipe her tears away and comfort her. During these trying times, I live for those embraces. Their first reunion after so many years away, is one of my favorite reunions: Khun Krai’s sister and mother passed away because of Meun Thip, so Khun Krai returns home with a vengeance. He comes by at night on a small boat (unannounced) and sees Meun Thip with a woman at the boat house. He thinks that it’s one of Meun Thip’s trysts, so he confronts the duo. Unfortunately, Meun Thip manages to get away, while Khun Krai gives the older Dao Reurng a death glare to stay put while he sees to Meun Thip. Dao Reurng was so happy to see her P’Krai, her face lights up, but he doesn’t even know who she is. Dao Reurng dejectedly sneaks away.
Khun Krai catches up to her by grabbing hold of her arm, that is when he gets a good look at her. Those doe eyes! The beautiful face! Khun Krai is at a loss for words, but he does utter her name as his face breaks into a smile. Gah, that was so cute. He apologizes for mistaking her and can’t seem to take his eyes off of her. It was the start of something new in their dynamic, when it shifts from adoration for a little girl, to full fledge attraction for the young woman. Khun Krai finds excuses to get her alone, this sneaky fellow. He knows she likes to go out so he invites her (and her entourage) for some sightseeing. Dao Reurng is no match for such an experience, and conniving fox, hahaha. She does not stand a chance from his relentless courting. He manages to sneak lots of hugs and kisses (the sniffing kind, which I think is just as good as the real kind because it seems like he’s a fox tasting a morsel). The more they fall for each other, the more Khun Krai fears Meun Thip would harm her.
One day on a freakin’ boat, Khun Krai asks her dad for her hand in marriage. It’s a memorable proposal because his parents are both dead, his brother is away, and he has no time to lose. He decided to play his own matchmaker and asked for her hand. Ballsy. But that is exactly why we love Khun Krai. They have a small, quick wedding, but unfortunately due to Meun Thip’s meddling, Khun Krai gets sent to a battlefield right on his wedding night. Talk about a cock blocker. (And what happened to the weasel? Eventually Meun Thip gets ratted out by his servant that he had been supplying the enemy with sustenance. Due to an altercation, Meun Thip dies by the hand of his servant. I’ve never been so blood thirsty for a character to meet its demise.)
It’s a new reality for Dao Reurng. She’s now a soldier’s wife and must emotionally navigate the rough terrain. It’s easy to see why she can resent her husband at times, such as why he would want to fight and go to war all the time. She struggles with understanding why people sabotage other people’s country and destroy its land and beauty. She has a hard time staying strong and putting on a brave face, when she’s so torn up inside. Hence the tears. Dao Reurng may have cried enough tears to fill up the Chao Praya river.
There’s a climax of the story where Dao Reurng comes to acceptance, that being a soldier is part and parcel with her husband. He is not happy unless he is defending his country, and in order to ensure he goes to the battlefield with confidence, Dao Reurng must be a stronger person for him. While he’s fighting for the country, she has to be the one holding down the fort. This acceptance comes from the loss of Ayutthaya, the home that she could never come back to. The process of making Dao Reurng stronger is so unfair though. She lost her brother, her dad, her grandmother, her home, and now she must separate from her sister and nephew, who follows Luang Thep to Burma after they lost Ayutthaya. They may never see each other again. The goodbye scene, and the brother’s promise was quite touching. They said that no matter what, one day the two ancestors swords – called Jan and Thong respectively – will reunite.
Khun Krai and Dao Reurng make their journey to find The Great Taksin (also an important figure in Neung Dao Fah Diew) and along the way get caught as prisoners of war. I actually loved this part because the two would sneak in the woods and get intimate. The distance making the heart grow fonder. Khun Krai actually joked that he’s glad they don’t have kids during this time because it would make things very difficult. Dao Reurng admitted that for the last two years of their marriage, she had prayed for no children. Khun Krai laughs and teases that the power that be must listen only to Dao Reurng, because he prayed for children to no avail. The younger woman chides that she will make a different prayer next time. And just as soon as that’s decided, Dao Reurng falls pregnant. She doesn’t share this news with Khun Krai, because they are prisoners at the village and she doesn’t want to worry him.
Some days later, they make their escape, found fellow Thais and venture to The Great Taksin’s community. Khun Krai volunteers to join the allegiance to the Great Taksin and goes on the fight to take back Ayutthaya. He doesn’t know his wife is expecting until he comes back from the battlefield and sees her pregnant belly. That was another cute reunion. I tell ya, ALL of their reunions are pretty swoony, I legitimately cheered every time Khun Krai returns home. The time away allows them to miss each other terribly, and for us to hope they reunite soon.
Khun Krai gets promoted with higher titles as time passes due to his skill and sacrifice. He manages to build a house for his wife that mirrors her home in Ayutthaya, he says that he would do anything to make her happy and to see her smile again. Dao Reurng is one who appreciates and love everything about her town. The loss of Ayutthaya was devasting to her, especially the thought of never going back there again. So to have her husband build familiar grounds for her, was touching.
At this home, they built a family. Fast forward eleven years, Khun Krai is an established man, they have five children (2 girls, 3 boys) and peace is upon them. I love how he teases her that he wants one more child, that if he had mistresses, she would not be so inconvenienced. Dao Reurng teased back that she never said he couldn’t. Khun Krai laments that he made a promise to her dad that he would never hurt her, and he just loves her too very much to do that to her. He says that she is his first wife, his last wife, his only wife. SWOON.
But everyday that Khun Krai does not get to hold his sword and defend his country, those are days he isn’t truly himself. Even though I would love for the show to end it right here, that perfect harmony where everyone is together and happy (and I appreciate that Show gave us so much time to watch Khun Krai and Dao Reurng play house), it would not be true to Khun Krai’s character, nor the sequel to this story.
Khun Krai volunteered to fight in a new battle, as he says goodbye to his family, and is carried away to the battlefield, our hearts will break forever. Khun Krai does not return. His sword is taken back to Dao Reurng with the news that her husband fought valiantly but was struck by an arrow through the heart, similar to how his own father had died on the battlefield. Khun Krai had been the one to say that the most honorable way to go is on the battlefield. He is a soldier through and through. It was his destiny, it just hurts so much to see him go.
His death is important for Dao Reurng’s character arc though. She’s now the sole parent for her children, the mistress to her home and people that depend on her. And she must be strong for everyone. I love that Khun Krai is such an impactful character that the future King visited Dao Reurng’s humble abode, alone. He stands before them, the majestic light surrounding him, and he says that he wanted to pay a visit because he heard Khun Ying (Dao Reurng) had fainted. He adds that her husband was an honorable hero, but that it’s a natural occurrence in life to meet our makers. He takes the boys under his wing, to teach them everything Khun Krai (now Praya Krai) would want to impart with his son. It doesn’t ever happen where a future King visits your home and offers to watch after your sons. Thus it is everything a single mom could want and more.
P’Yeuan, Dao Reurng’s loyal maid/nanny, is sad to see Dao Reurng managing the house and finding ways to put food on the table. Because she would not want to wish this on her worse enemy, especially the little girl whom she raised with her own hands. But she did not think it through when she approaches Dao Reurng with a suggestion that a marriageable man lives in the neighborhood, and that he wouldn’t mind marrying Dao Reurng. Our widowed, single mom levels her eyes on P’Yeuan and what she tells P’Yeuan is a mark of character growth. She says that if P’Yeuan loves her, she would never bring this up again. Dao Reurng says that she has only one husband, will only love one man in her lifetime. She recently lost her love, so the town would surely speak nasty gossip. Even though their bodies are not together, their hearts will never change. But more importantly, she’s happy with herself now. She has her children to look after, she has a purpose in life, and she would not have it any other way. She is after all, her grandmother’s granddaughter. That was just beautiful.
Khun Krai does have one final wish before he left for the battlefield that claimed his life: he imparts to his wife and oldest son, Jan, that one day, the distance between Burma and Chanthaburi would not seem so far away, the roads would become more feasible, and the two ancestor swords would join again. Little Jan stops by home after some training to ask mom for the sword, but Dao Reurng laments that she will hand over the sword when Jan is older and ready to take on the responsibility. She wonders if the dream of reuniting the swords would ever come to fruition. Dao Reurng finally says to her son that this is one thing she believes to be true.
It was one of those bittersweet endings that left me crying for a good, long while. But with these types of storyline, that commits to their storytelling, they can have all of my tears. The ending was sad, but it got me excited for what is to come. Jan will grow up and go on a hero’s journey to find his cousin Thong, and reunite the missing sword. But he won’t have awesome Dad to join him or mentor with him, and I am crying all over again.
Sai Lohit is a lakorn that focuses heavily on the war, but it also manages to remind us of what matters, that war sucks and life is hard, but there are moments of triumph, moments of love and happiness. Those little moments build up to a lifetime of memories.
I would like to envision that after Jan left, Dao Reurng would gaze into the clear, dark night. She would see the full moon to a distance, and she would hear a soft footstep. It is like one of those unexpected moments that makes her breath catch in her throat. Similar moments to when Khun Krai would appear after a battlefield whether to rescue her, to dry her tears, or just to stand behind her and envelope her with his warmth. But this time is different. He would tilt his head to the side and give her his half smile, the conniving fox smile, and opens his arms out to her. She would walk towards him, half believing this is real, though it’s only a dream, but she goes towards the heat anyway and burrows her head in the crook of his shoulders. “You are doing great,” he says. She used all her powers not to cry in front of him, instead she musters her resolve. She takes his face in her hands, just the way she knows he likes it, and presses her lips to his, exactly the way he likes it. “See you tomorrow,” she says. It was the same parting words they always say when they were separated during the war.