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H.E. Raushan Yesbulatova Ambassador of Kazakhstan

H.E. Patrick Simiyu Wamoto

H. E. Satu Suikkari-Kleven Ambassador of Finland

H.E. Mrs. Kshenuka Dhireni Senewiratne Ambassador of Sri Lanka

Ambassador of Kenya

H. E. Evren Dagdelen Akgun Ambassador of Turkey

H. E. Mary Jo Bernando-Aragon Ambassador of the Philippines

H. E. Joaquim Amaral

Ambassador of Timor-Leste

H. E. Noh Kwang-il

Ambassador of Korea

H. E. MarĂ­a del Carmen MartĂ­nez Arosemena

H. E. Alicia Somchein

Ambassador of Argentina

Ambassador of Panama

H. E. Francisco Vaz Patto Ambassador of Portugal

As part of the family of 54 Nord Anglia schools located around the world, we provide a unique learning opportunity for our students, including collaborations with The Juillard School, a world leader in performing arts education, and the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As both a day and boarding school we encourage our students to be ambitious in their learning and believe there is no limit to what your child can achieve. We would love you to experience it for yourself. Visit our website to book a tour or call +66 (0) 93 135 7736.

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The Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Russia celebrates diplomatic relations Steering a course for education in Thailand 12 expert tips for a stress free Valentines Day Fresh air for a new romance All you need is love Look after yourself Loving yourself, made easy Meet the headmaster All about dairy Preventing and reverting type 2 diabetes Sugar: why it is harmful to your health The truth about fat Easy ways to fall asleep faster Natural ways to increase fertility in men The wonders of strength training for women Conquering fear when it matters most Feeling tired and worn out Along China’s Silk Road Why I love Cuba Celebrating Ayutthaya Koh Tao - close encounter of the aquatic kind Bhutan bliss at great heights Phang Nga Bay unbonded Something from home Four days exploring Hanoi Words don’t fail me now Work life balance as a 21st century student Bitcoin

Our front cover features the Ambassadors to Thailand that took part in the “Celebration of Silk Thai Silk Road To The World 2017”, project and exhibition in honour of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit's 85th birthday anniversary. This tribute to Her Majesty was for her tireless effort in supporting and providing work for silk farmers in Thailand and promoting Thai silk around the world. SHOM (Spouses of Heads of Mission) has been actively supportive of this project for the past 7 years which has grown to become an annual event celebrating Thai Silk with a fashion show and exhibition. The show was televised by Fashion TV, the world’s number one fashion channel to more than 500 million viewers around the world promoting one of Thailand's key exports.

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Medical tourism, Thai style Dentistry in Vietnam Bangkok - medical emergency - what now Unshaken amidst the storm Vipassana at Prathat Doi Suthep 2017 - a year without alcohol Fashion in February - a time to impress … St Lucia in Klongtoey Life of a five star chef Love them, don’t ride them The Movement Playground Social pictures

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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Retiring to Thailand

Fulfilling happiness

The new residential concept in retirement Recapture your passion Jin Wellbeing County is a completely redefined retirement experience - where your dreams can come to life again. Discover a boundless lifestyle within a community that is well crafted for seniors and life planners who are looking for quality of life in their retirement years. Here, age has no limitations, with services and facilities that allow you to focus on doing what you love. Meet like-minded residents and enjoy activities on their breathtaking landscape or easily shop at the retail mall close by. Have fun and enjoy life the way it should be done: where every day is always filled with delight, comfort and soul. Jin Wellbeing County is a world class living experience created by the Thonburi Healthcare Group, widely renowned for their healthcare services with over 40 years of expertise. The ultimate living environment You’ll be living right in the lungs of downtown Bangkok - amid expansive parks that make up 50% of the 55.35 acre property. Conveniently located on Phaholyothin Road, Jin Wellbeing County is a short distance to Don Muang Airport and connects to SRT Dark Red Line*. Shopping centres, local markets, universities, government offices and a golf club are also just a stones throw away. *(future projects according to government masterplan). The ultimate senior facility designed with universal design philosophy An understanding and appreciation for the beauty of life drives the empathetic design choices at Jin Wellbeing County. Created by Thomson Adsett, an award winning design and architect for retirement homes, all the design and material choices are centred around your wellbeing and safety. The interiors follow universal design principles to ensure that the furniture and other designed elements are simple and easily adaptable to each resident’s preference. All family members can live harmoniously and equipment for seniors can be conveniently and safely installed in the future. The architecture is designed with the passive ecology at heart, where reduced energy usage is achieved through

breezy ventilation and natural lighting. Calming streams run through the entire public areas, which are designed to provide shade and flows of cool breeze that circulate to all buildings. Moreover, there is also a highly secure water management system for flood protection as previously seen in 2011. The ultimate senior healthcare services Life can be all about happiness and fun with health woes off your back. At Jin Wellbeing County, healthcare is simplified with their all around services. Prevention: Their health evaluation provides each resident with a clear picture of their health. With professional consultation and recommendations, residents can better understand and care for their bodies by following tailored dietary plans and wellness activity classes. Treatment: Live with a carefree mindset thanks to the 'on premises' general clinic (OPD) and emergency response team. Rest assured that you are able to be treated at home and safeguarded at all times. Recovery: Get active again with the rehabilitation hospital and hydrotherapy programmes available. Long term care: Keep tabs on your recovery process and enjoy a personal approach to ongoing good health from their team of medical specialists at the aged care and nursing home. If more intensive care is required their team of doctors and nurses are ready to help maintain your wellbeing. The ultimate safety and security systems Let unforeseen accidents and your medical issues be the least of your worries. Jin Wellbeing County strongly commits to safeguarding the community and its residents. Their personal tracking system and emergency response team is on standby 24/7, as alert systems are installed in each room and across the community. Highly secure control systems and keycards protect the premises entrances at every gate and lift, where security officers are present at all times. 24/7 CCTV monitoring and smoke detectors are implemented across the community, while fire protection halls are built on every floor*. *(no need to go downstairs while seeking and waiting for help, as it offers protection for 3 hours).

The ultimate society that enriches - through learning and sharing Retirement never meant the end of learning. Every day is a chance to satisfy your curiosities and to complete all the passion projects you never got around to. Meet new friends, seek inspiration and light new fires with the centres workshops and classes. Each is designed to uncover your full potential and renew your sense of self-appreciation. Learn a new instrument or try a new recipe! Learn how to paint, decorate, and even dance. If you still want February/March 2018

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

to work it, everyone can start earning a stipend by turning your favourite pastime passions into classes for fellow residents. The ultimate lifestyle amenities and facilities Enjoy and relish in family activities specially designed for seniors and people of all ages. Experience the joy of shared activities with loved ones and new friends made possible by the wide range of peerless amenities and world class facilities. Pets are also welcomed! Indoor facilities managed by juristic person - Swimming pool - Prayer room - Fitness centre - Games and activities room - Karaoke and mini theatre - First aid room - Recreation and multipurpose room Outdoor facilities managed by Premiere Home Health Care Co., Ltd.* - Planting area - Park for pets - Lagoon - Jogging track - Bike lane - Wheelchair lane - Outdoor activity space - Outdoor fitness - Stone path for foot massage   Services for clubhouse members - Prayer room - Kids zone - Hydrotherapy - Swimming pool - Thai massage room - Fitness centre - Computer and reading corner - Karaoke and mini theatre - Games room - Recreation and multipurpose room - Spa, sauna, Jacuzzi and steam room

The ultimate investment opportunity Jin Wellbeing County offers incredible value as a long term investment due to its clear financial and life benefits. This is an investment ideal for future buy-and-sell opportunities or as rental businesses, thanks to its prime location near the Dark Red SRT Line and new MEGA Projects in its proximity. Most importantly, it’s an investment for the priceless joy and wellbeing of our dearest loved ones. It is a redefined experience of retirement, one where dreams can come to life again and all worries are left behind. Let yourself and your family live the good life in this enhanced living experience, made possible by tailored services and amenities, stunning architecture and top of the line healthcare systems. This is the truly world class living experience you’ve been waiting for. 9 reasons to retire in Thailand • 1st most cost effective country - Thailand has gained fame as the best place for expats seeking an improved quality of life with minimum expenses. • The weather - Tropical Thailand is blessed with warm weather throughout the year. • The best food every day and everywhere - Thailand has a variety of food from all corners of the world. From affordable street food to fine dining, the menus here are endless. • The culture - Thai people are renowned for being very friendly. They’ll be happy to see you and help you out. • The best leisure destination in Asia-Pacific - There’s a great number of recreation and leisure options for everyone and the living facilities are amazingly affordable. • An international nightlife scene - Enjoy a dynamic nightlife thanks to Thailand’s cosmopolitan and international environment from all lifestyle’s level of your choices. • Hospitals like hotels - Thailand is one of the top rank medical hubs of Asia for those looking for first class care at affordable prices. • Departure hub of Asia - The unique geographical location of Thailand makes SE Asia accessible and only a short flight away. • Retirement visa - Thailand’s retirement visa has very few basic requirements to support an expat who is willing to retire in Thailand. Please call 065 192 4996 for more details or email

Shops and additional services in the community - Restaurants - Convenience store - Salon and barber - Cleaning service - Laundry service - Event organising service - Butler service - Mealplan service - Shuttle bus service Enrich your life with our facilities and services all offered by our team of professionals. Everything is more convenient than ever with additional services such as property management, home moving services, visa application, travel management and legal services. *(Owned and managed by Premiere Home Health Care Co., Ltd. right of servitude)

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


The Philippine Ambassador to Thailand H.E. Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon

Expat Life had the opportunity of sitting down and talking to the delightful Philippine Ambassador to Thailand H.E. Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon on a fitting day - International Migration Day, December 18th. As where we would all be without Filipino nurses, doctors, and other migrant workers. We met in the Embassy building on Sukhumvit Road - a former royal palace at Phrom Phong which the Philippine


February/March 2018

Government purchased in 1963. She hopes that the Philippine government will continue to invest in the building as

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it is on a central key site and is a lovely building. Currently they are building a separate entrance to the consular section to ease traffic flow through the building. On 14 June 1949 the Philippines established diplomatic relations with Thailand and celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2019. Ambassador Mary Jo is looking forward to help organise the celebrations as a fitting end to her service to her country. It also coincides with Thailand's Chairmanship of ASEAN, which is rotated annually among the ten Member States. Mary Jo has been the Philippine Ambassador now for two and a half years since July 2015 and was born and raised in Manilla. This is her first posting as Ambassador and will be her last as she has served her country for over 38 years taking the oath of office when 25 years old. Her late father Benito Castro Bernardo was with the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission and was seconded by the Philippine Government to the International Atomic Agency in Vienna, Austria in 1969. While her older brother did most of his schooling in the UK, Mary Jo and her older sister were schooled in Vienna, Germany and London. This gave her a taste and an interest in international relations. As one of three Filipino families in Vienna, she learnt

how to integrate with the international community and set out to find a career that would enable her to assist Filipinos overseas. She wanted to meet different people, cultures and nationalities and contacted her embassy’s abroad to find out how one goes about applying to join the foreign service. In the days before the internet she was advised to read as many Filipino newspapers that she could get hold of and study foreign affairs, current issues and what else she needed to learn. She found out that she could not join until the age of 25 and took the written exams in 1978. She was one of three that passed from the test centre in Geneva and was summoned to Manilla to take the oral examinations. The interview was over 3 days an individual interview by a panel of 7. The second day was a group discussion which concerned her, as she had been out of the Philippines for 10 years, then a formal dinner hosted

by one of the Deputy Foreign Ministers. The country was under martial law then in 1978 but she was informed at the end of January 1979 that she had passed and proudly joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as it was then. She was the first in her family to go into the foreign service. Her first overseas posting was from Carlos P. Romulo, who assigned her to Brussels between 1982 and 1990 - an 8 year posting and was on the ASEAN Brussels Committee as one of the original 5 Member States - Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. The committee had regular meetings with European Commission Officials and an annual dialogue with the European Parliament. Roberto R. Romulo signed her assignment order to the Philippine Mission to the UN in New York for her second posting between 1994 - 2001 where she took part in many debates in the UN. While assisting Filipinos overseas has always been part of the work of the Philippine Foreign Service, this mandate was further expanded in 1995 when a law was passed to protect the rights of Filipino migrant workers

abroad and their families. She was appointed as Consul General in Los Angeles by Alberto G. Romulo between June 2006 and October 2012. This was her third foreign assignment from the Romulo family. Her post before being appointed in Bangkok was as Assistant Secretary for Internal Audit to ensure good governance reporting directly to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Bangkok, as the birthplace of ASEAN and the site of several regional international organisations, is regarded as an important post for the Philippines. In addition to being the Philippine Ambassador to Thailand, she is likewise accredited to the UN ESCAP. When she returned from Manilla on the 19th November 2017 after the ASEAN summit with a nasty cold, she still took part in the Celebration of Thai Silk in support of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit's noble project. Thailand has close to 14,000 Philippine nationals working in the professional fields and there are Filipinos who are married to Thai nationals. She was pleased that the ASEAN Leaders signed the 2017 ASEAN Consensus on the Protection EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. There are more than 7,000 islands in the Philippine archipelago, even more at low tide. Not nearly as many as in Indonesia where there are reputed to be more than 17,000 islands she tells me. She said that people often take her for Thai and that the Filipinos and Thais are alike as they are generous of spirit, helping each other and smiling as they go about their day. The Thais prefer spicy food though she added as an afterthought. Her days in Bangkok are very busy and on average she attends an event or function every day but sometimes up to four when she does not even get time to attend her office. If she does ever get time off, she likes to walk around Bangkok incognito. She takes her job seriously and attends as many events as she can to represent her country especially those with women’s influence (The Red Cross, YMCA, IWC). She is fortunate and truly grateful to have a team of highly competent and dedicated officers and staff to help her in her work. I asked if she had travelled in Thailand and she said that she has joined the Embassy’s consular outreach in Chiang Mai and Hat Yai.


February/March 2018

While in Hat Yai, she also took the opportunity to visit Pattani to meet her Filipino compatriots in the south at the invitation of Senator Anusart. She has also joined study visits organised by the Thai Foreign Ministry and other Ministries or Foundations such as Chiang Rai, Nan, Hua Hin, Petchaburi, Samut Songkhram, North Eastern region to see the Royal development projects, the mangroves and reforestation projects, to name a few. Her admiration of His Majesty the Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej came through when she spoke of his state visit to the Philippines in 1963 and she said that he had inspired so many in the SE Asia region with his Sufficiency Economy Philosophy which he shared

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

with so many. He will be sorely missed she added. I asked what her most cherished moment will be from her time in Thailand so far and she said that she was honoured to present her diplomatic credentials to the Crown Prince, now King Maha Vajiralongkorn. She proudly showed me her photograph of the presentation. We ended our discussion and she kindly walked me downstairs and out into the gardens of the embassy where the busy rush hour traffic of Sukhumvit Road sped by. A diminutive yet delightful lady with a winning smile and a fine representative of the Filipino people in Thailand.


Russia and Thailand, celebrating 120 years of diplomatic relations by Agneta de Bekassy photographs by Daniel Herron

Shortly before Christmas, the photographer Daniel Herron and I were invited to the Russian embassy for an interview with H.E. Ambassador Mr Kirill Barsky PhD the current Russian Ambassador to Thailand.

The embassy and residence are located in Silom and fortunately, we found a friendly taxi driver who immediately knew exactly where the embassy was located. This is a medium size embassy with approximately 20 - 30 diplomats and with a staff of around 55 people. As we were a bit early (due to public transportation and lack of a vehicle with driver) we were greeted by Mr Denis Antonyuk, First Secretary Political Affairs and Press. This polite, young man escorted us into the reception room and offered us coffee, tea and cookies and kept us company. At exactly 10am Ambassador Barsky entered the room. He gave us a


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warm smile, spoke English fluently and had a very pleasant and down to earth attitude. I had forwarded some questions in advance to the Ambassador, but we forgot about them and started to chat like old friends. What a charming, cultivated, experienced, human and talented man. He told us about this special year 2017 with all the big happenings, part of the 120 year’s celebration of Russia’s and Thailand’s diplomatic relations. You could hear the pride in his voice, when telling us about Russia’s participation in several big events like the “Dance and Music Festival”, art exhibitions, lectures, you name it. More than 30 different events have taken place during 2017 to underline the deep friendship between Russia and Thailand. I had to ask; how does it come that the friendship has become so deep between these two countries and was told; Russia is seen as a very powerful friend to Thailand mainly due to the time back when both Great Britain and France were trying to colonise Thailand. King Rama V Chulalongkorn and Nicholas II Emperor of Russia, met in 1891 when Crown Prince Nikolaus made a stopover in Siam, during his trip to Asia. In 1893 Siam was on the edge of “breakdown” as the country faced a difficult time politically and with foreigners. It appeared that Thailand may end up divided between France and Great Britain. The King of Thailand

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

travelled to St Petersburg to meet with then already Tzar Nicholas and asked him to protect Siam, which he did and so Thailand survived and remained a free country. When we listen to the National Anthem of Thailand today, we should also send a thought to Russia as the Royal Anthem of Thailand (Sansoen Phra Barami) was written in 1888 by the Russian composer Petr Shchurovski. This was known since Dr Sugri Charoensuk of Mahidol University’s College and Music found out 35 years ago. “We knew every bit of the history of this song from the first time it had been played for His Majesty King Chulalongkorn the Great, but very little of how the music had been commissioned and written. From the very start I wanted to find a way to verify Shchrovski’s authorship, not only by the analysis of the melody, but direct historical research in Russian archives,” Khun Sugri Charoensuk said in an article, published in the newspaper “Russia in Asia” on December 7th, 2017. So, who is Mr Kirill Barsky? Mr Barsky’s family comes from a relatively small city of Vladimir, located east of Moscow. In ancient times Vladimir was the capital of Russia. Mr Barsky spent his childhood in Moscow, where he attended school. As a young boy, he was very interested in travel and languages. He wanted to become a teacher. He read many books by Jules Verne and the British explorer James Cook and dreamt about working outside

“Unfortunately many people have the wrong perceptions about Russia”

Russia. He studied oriental languages at the University of International Relations and became fluent in Mandarin. He graduated in 1989 and at the same time China and the former Soviet Union, normalised their relations and Mr Barsky was sent to China as an exchange student. He became a highly appreciated translator to many high officials, from President Gorbachev to Vladimir Putin. For 6 years he worked in Beijing, China and then moved to New York for 3 years, a time he loves to look back on. He worked for the UN in Human Rights (a perfect task for him if you ask me) and after he returned to Moscow and stayed 3-4 years, as Chief for the China desk. His next destination in Asia was Jakarta, Indonesia. From the years in Jakarta, he also says that he has plenty of great memories and he plans to take his family back there for a visit soon. Today he and his family have been living in Bangkok for a little over 3 years. I asked him of his impression of Thailand and he answers “it was such a surprise to find the Thai people so friendly and welcoming”. “Unfortunately many people have the wrong perceptions about Russia, thinking of the old Soviet Union, but today everything has changed and has

become much different. Thai people don’t know much about Russia. I can see that this is starting to change now; people are willing to listen and learn about Russia and the Russian people. It’s a country with many traditions, a great history, beautiful heritage, important literature, well-known music, ballet, the arts and much, much more.” In Thailand today, you will find 11 Russian Orthodox Cathedrals, amongst them the beautiful St Nicholas Cathedral in Bangkok. Mr Barsky is married to his loving wife Olga and they have a 13 year old daughter. He also has a 28 year old son from a previous marriage. Their daughter is a student in the Russian school at the embassy and she is dedicated to acrobatics and physical education. His son is a journalist working for the “Russia Today France” TV Channel. His wife Olga is, of course, a member of SHOM (the organisation of spouses to the ambassadors) and the Chairperson of the Red Cross Committee. Mr Barsky is rightly very proud of his wife, who was recently recognised by the Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and now she works as Chairperson of the Diplomatic Committee of the Thai Red Cross patronised by the Princess.

“She is a lovely woman the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn” he says. The Princess has paid a visit to the Russian school, and spent some time talking with them. The school has around 70 students and 10 teachers. Half of the teachers are from Moscow and the other half locally employed. The school offers classes from Grade 1 to 9. One of the most popular teachers is Mrs Julia Tutarskya, the dance teacher. She is also a ballet dancer and has performed extensively in and out of Thailand. The school is focusing on keeping up with Russian traditions; they have excellent math, science and languages teachers as well as sports, dance, acrobatics etc. The pupils are also taught how to reach out to the community, very important Mr Barsky points out. I also got to know that Her Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, was a teacher at the Royal Military Academy and that she had visited Moscow last October, presiding over a performance at the 300 years old theatre “Mariinsky” during her stay. The 29th of November 2017 was

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“A great historical day” for us Mr Barsky says, the Princess came to visit us at the embassy, met the students and tried all the Russian specialties that Russia provides us with. We have never served so many Russian dishes as on that day, he says with a big smile. I was a bit curious to hear how many Russians visit Thailand as tourists and learned that in 2013 and 2014 there were about 1.6 to 1.7 million. I was a bit surprised as I thought Sweden had more with the 400,000 to 500,000 tourists arriving to Thailand during November/December months. In 2015 the number dropped 50% due to the falling oil prices that impacted the Russian economy, but picked up again in 2016. This year we have an increase of 24%. There are 80 flights weekly between Thailand and Russia. Russian tourism is a gold mine. Towards the end of the 1990s Russians made a lot of money and started travelling and discovered Thailand as a warm and pleasant destination. Today you see more educated tourists visiting the Kingdom. The trend is to come and discover the historical sites in Northern Thailand. Medical tourism has also increased and we find Russians coming to find out about the religious situation here and to visit our Russian Orthodox Cathedrals. There are no political problems to face between Thailand and Russia. Trade is raising, investments are increasing, and we are discovering new territories like IT, security, food production and jewellery to mention just a few. For many years Pattaya had


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been the favourite destination for the Russian people, but nowadays they are discovering the islands of Phuket, Koh Samui, Ko Pi Pi as well as the northern cities such as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Thai people are also travelling to Russia much more than in the past. It is one of the most important goals for the Ambassador to teach the Thai people about Russia today and to change preceptions towards the Russian people. If someone can do it, it will be this man. I could write a book after our meeting, which we unfortunately had to finish after almost 2½ hours. Before I finish this article, I will reveal a few more things Mr Barsky told us; President Putin will be running for another term as President in March 2018 and if he is reelected, the Ambassador wants to bring him to Thailand. It was long ago, in 2003, that the Russian President last visited Thailand. So the Ambassador feels it is time again for a visit. When the Ambassador has time off, which is not often as he usually works 7 days a week, he likes to devote his time to family and friends. I can also tell you that this man is talented in many other ways, not only a dedicated family man and diplomat, he is a painter and writes poetry. He has had books published in the Russian language and one more soon to be published. I couldn’t resist telling him he should organise an exhibition with his drawings and sign his books and sell them, giving the funds to charity. I said; Daniel and I would with great pleasure become his agents.

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We received a big warm smile and a “thank you for believing in me.” I had one last question; if you could choose one person to dine alone with, anyone in the world, who would this person be? I expected the Ambassador to say Queen Silvia of Sweden, Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain or maybe someone like the opera singer Botticelli or President Donald Trump’s beautiful wife Melania, but no, the answer was the tennis player Maria Sharapova. “That woman has absolutely everything” was the comment but he added, don’t tell my wife though please. I’m sure that his wife would enjoy a dinner for two with maybe, Roger Federer?

Before we bid farewell, we were told that the World Cup will be played in Russia next year in June/July and that 12 new stadiums have been built in 11 cities. A testament for football fans …. Both Daniel and I found this morning incredible interesting and we left the Ambassador and Mr Denis with a promise to be back as soon as they have a wish to see us again! My last sentence can only be; from Russia with love! Thank you Ambassador Barsky for your valuable time.

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Steering a course for education in Thailand

M L Pariyada Diskul Secretary to the Minister of Education by Jocelyn Pollak

If you ask a Thai person what are the top three things in Thailand that need major reform, education will undoubtedly be included. Plagued by corruption and ever changing leadership, the Ministry of Education has struggled to implement long overdue reforms, until now. I had the opportunity to sit down with M L Pariyada Diskul (Khun Parry), the Secretary to the Minister of Education, and have a candid discussion about the state of education in Thailand, both on the subjects of public and international schools. She is a true pioneer and has been fighting for education reform in Thailand for decades with some very impressive results. Now, she is working in the Ministry of Education, not as a politician, but as a fierce mother


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fighting for what is best for the children of Thailand and for the country as a whole. Khun Parry moved to the UK when she was just 6 years old as her father’s role as a military attachÊ caused the family to relocate. When she returned to Thailand as a teenager and had to go to Thai school, she found it very difficult to adjust to the rigid system based on rote memorisation. After completing high school, she returned to the UK for further studies and met and married her husband. A tragic car accident widowed Khun Parry and she moved back to Thailand with her son. From

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this sprung her early motivation to fight against the antiquated education system in Thailand. Because her Thai son was not the child of a diplomat, he was not allowed to attend any international school in Thailand despite the fact that he had grown up abroad. Khun Parry saw this archaic limitation as not only a problem for her own child, but for the children and future of Thailand. So, she did something about it. With a small coalition, she fought the bureaucracy to have this law repealed and they had some success; Thais would then be able to attend international schools for three years. Obviously, this was not exactly what she had hoped for, but it was a success nonetheless and she built upon this momentum and eventually the law was fully repealed, which is why Thais can now attend one of the over 175 international schools in Thailand. Upon the wings of this initial success, Khun Parry continued to use her world experience to change the minds of some long-established bureaucrats who, amongst other old-fashioned beliefs, thought English education in Thailand was unnecessary because Thailand had never been colonised. In her eyes, this mentality was totally unacceptable in the globalising world and would put Thailand well behind other nations. She became a director of Bangkok Patana School and used her time

“Thais can now attend one of the over 175 international schools in Thailand.”

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to fight for reforms which allowed more international schools to open in Thailand with the hope that the country would one day become an educational hub. When she began her journey, there were only 5 international schools in Thailand; now there are over 175 and that number continues to grow every year. As the founder of the International Schools Association of Thailand (ISAT) and as president for 2 terms, she has used the collective bargaining power of all the international schools to get the government to reform regulations to benefit the students. On a larger scale, she believes that if excellent students and families can be attracted here because of the top tier educational institutions, their money and their minds will stay in Thailand and help to develop the country economically. On the smaller scale, she believes that parents should have a choice in where they send their children to school and those schools should be of the highest standard possible. After being appointed to the Ministry of Education three years ago by General Prayut Chan-Ocha, she has shifted her fire towards a major overhaul of English education in Thailand. As she said, regardless


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of your political opinions, the current administration has been in place for three years and this has created the much-needed stability that the MoE requires to actually make real changes. Previously, the ministers had changed every year, leaving little opportunity to actually get initiatives off the ground. With the new Minister of Education, Dr Teerakiat Jareonsettasin and his team at the forefront of these new reforms, there are some truly inspirational changes happening for the average Thai student. There is a current government mandate, which has not occurred in the past, to upgrade the English skills of all Thai students so that they can be more capable of competing in a global marketplace. After learning that of the 40,000 Thai English teachers in Thailand, only 350 were CEFR level B1 (most teachers are advanced beginners at best) Khun Parry set up Regional English Training Centres (bootcamps) programme in partnership with The British Council, that all teachers are required to attend. This 6 week programme instructs with modern pedagogy that will place the Thai English education system more in line with international standards. She and her team have built a programme with a career path and incentives

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

for teachers so that they will actually be more motivated and feel more supported than they have ever been in the past. It recently launched for the first groups of teachers and the feedback from the 6,000 so far has already been overwhelmingly positive. The launch of an English teacher development programme like this is truly revolutionary for a system that has seen very little emphasis placed on such a critical part of modern education. So, what does Khun Parry see for the future of education in Thailand? She envisions a country where education is a major factor behind the wellbeing of the entire population. She wants Thailand to become an example of a country where change is possible; a better education for everyone is possible if you just fight for it. It’s said than an angry mom is capable of getting more done than anyone else and from the beginning, that’s what Khun Parry has been, not a politician or a businesswoman, she’s simply a mother who saw that her children were being limited so she fought for them just as any mother would fight for her children. Her fight has inspired so many others to join her cause and affect positive change in Thailand that has never been seen before.


SHREWSBURY TOPS NATIONAL AWARDS LIST SHREWSBURY STUDENTS TAKE 38 OF 120 AWARDS IN THAILAND, 8 OF 12 TOP IN THE WORLD AWARDS The 2017 “TOP IN THE WORLD” recipients are: Himalaya Agrawal - Mathematics (Without Coursework) IGCSE, Ploypat Taedullayasatit Mathematics (Without Coursework) IGCSE, Doaia Lokitiyakul - Mathematics (Without Coursework) IGCSE, Waitin Lee - Mathematics (Without Coursework) IGCSE, Supatra Tachaplalert - Art & Design AS Level, Pimara Nicola Soongswang - Biology AS Level, Mizuki Tojo - Psychology AS Level, Poonnika Molloy - Art & Design A Level





The 2017 “TOP IN THAILAND” recipients are: Pitiporn Panpoonsup - Biology IGCSE, Dontr Lokitiyakul - Chemistry IGCSE, Waitin Lee Economics IGCSE, Minnie Phadungkiatskun - Physics IGCSE, Ploypat Taedullayasatit - Art & Design IGCSE, Thorthong Soncharoen - Computer Science IGCSE, Praewkanit Pichayangkul - Economics IGCSE, Dontr Lokitiyakul - First Language English (Oral Endorsement) IGCSE, Sithipont Cholsaipant - Physics IGCSE, Kochakorn Buasri - Economics AS Level, Gunjan Jain - Biology A Level, Kirk Goodway - Economics A Level, Pira Srivikorn - Physics A Level

Best Across Eight Cambridge IGCSEs award winner: Nisada Sila-On 16 High Achievement Awards







We are now accepting applications for Year 7 and 9 entry in August 2018 Please contact Ms.Ilka Hodapp for a school tour by calling on 02 675 1888 ext. 1110, or email to or visit our website

Exceptional People • Outstanding Opportunities • Academic Excellence


Developing critical thinkers through Robotics by Peter Howe, Bangkok Patana School Leader of Learning, Primary ICT

You know that you’re doing something right when students are having so much fun in the classroom that they don’t even realise how much they are learning. Whilst teachers refer to this as ‘learning flow’, other people would simply say the students are ‘in the zone’. Learning flow is a common occurrence in the new Robotic Enrichment Programme for Years 1 and 2 at Bangkok Patana School. The programme involves two classes from each year group participating in an eight week robotics course continuing the rotation until every student in Year 1 and 2 have experienced this enrichment. Within the enrichment classes, students learn how to programme and operate robots so that they can complete basic obstacle courses and challenges. Bangkok Patana’s robotic enrichment programme is not primarily about equipping the next generation to work


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

as software engineers, it is about promoting computational and critical thinking. It combines mathematics, logic and algorithms, and teaches a new way of viewing the world. Computational and critical thinking teaches students how to tackle larger problems by breaking them down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable problems. It’s a skill that is very useful in modern life.

What is Robotics? Robotics refers to technology that deal with design, building, programming and operating robots. A robot is a mechanical device that can be programmed to follow a set of instructions. It has a processing unit, motors and mechanics to move limbs or wheels, and sensors to help it interact with its environment. Some robots have the ability to make sounds or speak whilst others have lights that respond by flashing according to instructions.

The outline of the programme The Enrichment Programme at Bangkok Patana starts with students using Bee-Bots which are very basic floor robots that can be programmed to move forwards and backwards, left and right. The Year 1 and 2 students have been designing simple obstacle courses and then instructing their Bee-Bots, by creating algorithms (sequences of commands), to complete these courses. Once the students have mastered their Bee-Bots, we introduce them to our new state of the art Dash Cleverbots which really are the kind of robot every kid has dreamt of having - able to sing, dance and talk! One of the best ways for children to learn is by having fun and being completely engaged in an activity. One of the most popular Enrichment Programme activities so far has been the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ challenge where students programme the robots to perform a variety of coordinated dance moves. We believe the student feedback speaks for itself.

Why are Robotics important? The Robotic Enrichment Programme is one of the first steps that students take into the world of logic, sequence and programming. The applications of this approach stretch beyond writing software. Just as languages open up the ability to communicate with worlds of people, programming gives children the ability to create technologies that impact those around them. With just a computer, students can use their programming skills to build things that could change the world. What else are they learning? As well as developing computational and critical thinking, the students develop a number of other very important soft skills. All of the activities promote good communication and require teamwork in order to achieve success. When observing students during the programme it is encouraging to see these skills developing; we are seeing students who are usually shy and quiet, become articulate, problem solving collaborators when engaged in the robotic activities with their classmates. It also helps students learn how to FAIL (First Attempt In Learning), one of the most important lessons to learn:

“The key to success is failure … success is made of 99% failure.” “Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success.” James Dyson

Student feedback “It is fun when we work together and try to finish the quests” - Tilly, Year 1 “I like robotics. I like Dash because he is cute.” - Aria, Year 1 “Robotics is fun because I like the free play when you can make Dash do things!” - Armaan, Year 1 “Dash is very swag! He does what he is told! He follows all the sensible instructions I give him. My mum would like him because he listens!” - Chris, Year 2 “I think Dash is a smart robot because he follows our algorithms. I like to use the GO app the best!” - Tatsha, Year 2 “It’s cool when we give him loads of instructions at once. He works his way through them one at a time. I can’t do that!” - Sean, Year 2 EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



12 expert tips for a stress free Valentines Day by Stella Bella

Do you get stressed out around Valentines Day? From quick stress survival strategies to mood-brightening foods. These 12 Valentine stress busting tips will help you in the mood for a loving, happy, healthy, energised, relax and actually enjoyable Valentine’s Day. 1. Take a whiff of citrus: For an all day pick me up, dab a little lemon or orange essential oil on a handkerchief to tuck in your pocket. Researchers studying depression have found citrus fragrance boost your wellbeing and alleviate stress by increasing levels of norepinephrine by 27% - a hormone that affects mood. 2. Savour a spicy meal: Hot food triggers the release of endorphins by 18%, the natural chemicals that trigger feelings of euphoria and wellbeing. 3. Eat breakfast before coffee: Caffeine on an empty stomach can cause blood sugar levels to spike, which can case irritability and cause attention problems. 4. Turn up the tunes: Listen to your favourite music, weather its Jay Z or a love song. Studies have shown that hearing the music you love can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. That not only is good for your heart but also calms you down too. 5. Fit in exercise: It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you are stressed out, but hitting the gym, going for a walk or run can actually make you feel better. Studies has found workouts can boost your mood for up to 12 hours. 6. Think positive: An optimistic outlook will help you cope with challenges that come your way. Remember, it's time to love up with the one you love (even if they do stress you out!) Focus on the good. 7. Go tech free: What better time to turn your gadgets off and embrace a digital detox than during Valentines Day. Constant mobile buzzes, email alerts, Facebooking keeps us in a perpetual fight or flight mode due to a burst of adrenaline, contributing to mounting stress levels. Enjoy spending time connecting with the one you love without the worry.


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8. D  ip into some honey: Research shows that its antioxidant and antibacterial properties (the darker the honey the more powerful the antioxidant punch) may improve your immunity as well as an instant kick and energy for the long haul. 9. R  ecipe for relaxation: Sweet craving? Opt for a delicious mango pie, the sweet, tangy scent of mangoes in a research from Japan shows may later your blood chemistry and send waves of calmness over your body. 10. Don't over schedule: Remember it's OK to slow down a bit. If you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed, don't over schedule your time and take more than you can manage. 11. Sleep better with 5-HTP: 5 Hydroxytryptophan or oxitriptan a naturally occurring amino acid and plant extract (recommended dose of 150 milligrams daily available in capsules at most health stores) is thought to increase serotonin, improve sleep and reduce anxiety. 12. Squeezing the hoku: in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the fleshy place between your index finger and thumb is called the hoku spot. So when you start to feel overwhelmed by the holiday chaos, give your hand a squeeze and take a deep breath by applying firm pressure there for 30sec.

Stella Bella is the resident wellness and network fairy at Stella Wellness and Holture. When she is not creatively creating up a wholesome meal or menu, she is with nature moving her body through yoga and trekking out to the rural farms around Thailand and teaching others like you to do the same. To find out more visit


Fresh air for a new romance by Benny Shup

Cupid finally improved his (or perhaps her?) aim enough to snag me a great partner last year. He’s certainly had enough practice, so it was about time. Bangkok has been a fascinating backdrop to dates ranging from the sweet to the bizarre. The zest for a satisfying romantic adventure led my boyfriend and I to try things from a night time bike tour of Dusit to paddling around Benjakiti Lake in the kitschy fibreglass swans. There’s also the time we both rode one bike - a push bike - to go dancing at RCA. We like chances to enjoy the fresh air. Or lack thereof. What can be exotic and enticing when it’s new can become busy and loud when the novelty has worn off. Precisely for this reason, we have had some of our best weekend warrior moments in day trips where we traded in the concrete and traffic for a more relaxed pace in Bangkok’s nearby provinces. These trips have recharged our relationship by reminding us of the things that drew us into loving Thailand and each other - romantic dinners al fresco sans the blaring din of the street, or a refreshing breeze off a river where there’s more fish than plastic bags. Once, we even dumbfoundedly remarked on how we had gone an entire day in a neighbouring province without seeing a 7/11 - I’m a firm believer that love starts where halogen lighting and convenience store jingles end. So come along on three special escapades that sparked romantic sizzle. Each of these trips would be comfortably doable in a single day from Bangkok. Each location also offered unique activities that were fun to do with your special gal or guy. Our best weekend date excursions are Chachoengsao, Ratchaburi, and Petchaburi. Chachoengsao - about 80km east of Bangkok There aren’t too many times I


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will in good conscience recommend taking the train to get anywhere in Thailand, however for us, the train ride to Chachoengsao really set the day in (moderate) motion. In just under 80 minutes, we took in the transition from towering condos, then palm-fringed moobans, and ending with kilometres of lush, verdant fields, before pulling in to Chachoengsao’s station. We have done this trip twice and even though there is a dramatic, old world feel to chugging out of historic Hua Lamphong terminus, we recommend boarding the train at Asok station (at the ground level track platforms directly next to Makkasan Airport Link station; not the Asok BTS station). Getting on at Asok spares you the most congested section

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

of the Thai Railway system between Hua Lamphong and Bang Sue stations. By miracle or possible repayment of good karma, the trains have arrived on time for every departure towards Chachoengsao that we’ve taken. Furthermore, as where you get off is the terminal stop for the line, that means the trains are usually punctual when taking you back to Bangkok. There’s no first class on the train, however not all 3rd class seats are made equal - we walked through the train wagons until we reached one with padded backs. The seat is still hard, but that’s just all the more reason to cuddle up for comfort. There’s also no air con on board, however the train is usually moving at a pretty good clip

and the windows are (permanently?) open, so there’s a fair amount of air moving about inside the cars. Get your camera ready and be prepared to watch the scenery of Thailand’s rice basket unfold. Once the train passes Lat Krabang, the rest of the trip takes you through fields greener than Lumpini Park in rainy season. Cows, buffalo, and stately coconut trees pepper the landscape. Even better, the ride is free going out of Bangkok. You only pay for the return journey, which costs a mere 45B. Hopefully you’ve saved your appetite, because once you’re off the train your first stop should be the Ban Mai 100 Years Market. It’s as charming as floating markets come, and has a prime location built right along the Bang Pakong River. It is open everyday and offers the most romantic spots to dine. The market, entirely constructed of wooden shophouses dating from the time of King Rama V, has retained an authentic antique feel. There are no neon signs, no blasting music, and no touts. For an extra special meal, grab a table riverside at one of the restaurants with a deck facing the Bang Pakong. You can see long tail boats going past while your meal is being prepared. The breeze feels fresh, so breathe in deep and give your lungs some therapy. Fish dishes are especially recommended here, with river catch coming in fresh daily right to your plate. After you’ve eaten, you can even get onto the river for a short cruise. I have done this trip à deux with my partner and I being the only passengers on the rowboat. Your gondolier might not be serenading you, but you’ll still enjoy gliding past clusters of dense mangroves and palms so close to the waterline that the tropical leaves will brush past your hair. Hopefully you didn’t load up on garlic at lunch so you can enjoy a quick embrace as you meander down the river. Also hold onto your hat - fishing your cap out of the river costs extra. The last train to Bangkok leaves at 6:00 in the evening, but before

you head back make sure you and your date find time to stroll along the riverfront promenade. The riverwalk is a picturesque place to walk close to your date and polish off a shared cup of fresh coconut ice cream from one of the vendors along the promenade. Not far from the end of the promenade is the impressive Wat Sothon, a beautifully grandiose structure that blends Western and Thai designs. If you time your visit for sunset, the last rays of the day will set the golden-accented roof ablaze in light. It makes for a stunning last sight before you get back on the train to Bangkok Ban Mai Riverside Market Banmai Rd., Ban Mai, Muang Chachoengsao, Chachoengsao 24000

worth discovering during the day, after which you could spend the evening in Amphawa to catch the floating markets and ambiance there. Our favourite sight in Ratchaburi was Khao Ngu Stone Park. The park’s pièce de résistance is a Dr Seuss like lake with stone cliffs rising up around it on all sides. There is a walkway that curves around the southern bank of the lake, complete with an arched suspension bridge linking two sections of the walkway. The place exudes so much romance that on a weekday afternoon we saw not one, but two wedding photo shoots. At the second photoshoot, my boyfriend accidentally interjected himself into one couple’s wedding photos when he came down a stairwell from a viewing platform after the bride had started posing for pictures. The lake itself is home to shimmering schools of goldfish. You can also rent a paddleboat here to explore the lake more. The drive to the park from the main road takes you through a kilometre or so of what is decidedly monkey territory. Many of the primates were also feeling the romantic vibes as we witnessed several pairings in rather scandalous positions, often in the middle of the road. Use the gas pedal sparingly and keep your car windows up until you are safely out of the monkey zone. Khao Ngu Stone Park Ko Phlappla, Ratchaburi 70000 063 472 5562

Wat Sothon Thep Khunakon Rd, Tambon Na Muang, Amphoe Mueang Chachoengsao, Chachoengsao 24000 038 511 048 Ratchaburi - about 100km west of Bangkok Only about 40 minutes further by car from better known Amphawa, Ratchaburi is an overlooked gem that is EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Petchaburi - about 130km southwest of Bangkok With the nearby resort havens of Cha Am and Hua Hin just past it, most travellers whisk pass Petchaburi (town) without stopping, yet the provincial capital offers a lot for couples to explore. On a recent trip to the beach, we decided to give Petchaburi a go for a day on the way back to Bangkok. We are really glad we did, as the city is home to a pair of charming historic palaces. The first we saw was Ban Pun Palace, built during the reign of Rama V in 1916. It is a pleasant bike ride if you are staying in the central part of Petchaburi. The palace is set in a vast emerald green lawn, surrounded by landscaped gardens on all sides. The distinctively German look is no coincidence, as it was designed by an architect from Germany. Making a big circle around the palace grounds will whet your appetite to go inside, where you can see the highly skilled level of craftsmanship in each room. Ban Pun is exceedingly romantic to discover,


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back onto the palace, is also worth the extra steps. We saw both and then dashed back to the inclined trolley just as rain clouds broke out above us. We found Khao Wang to be a great bonding activity to see the vistas from above (and survive the snack-stealing monkeys).

with cherubs playfully positioned on grand staircases that lead to woodencarved chambers illuminated by stained glass windows. It definitely has a strong European charm - think Neuschwanstein meets the tropics. We enjoyed the feeling of being transported away to a European castle, only reminded of being in Thailand when you spot the palms outside the windows. This is also a lovely place to sneak in a peck on the lips when the guards aren’t looking, which is most of the time. After Ban Pun, we gave up the bikes and tuk-tuk’ed it to Khao Wang, a.k.a. Phra Nakhon Khiri. Like Chachoengsao, getting there - up there (it’s on top of a small mountain) - is part of the charm. We took the inclined trolley up to the palace grounds, for which my feet thanked me. Once at the summit, you will find several handsomely laid out pavilions dotted along the hilltop. Get ready for steps and monkeys, both of which there are many. Going with a partner gives extra protection. Squeeze tightly (your date, not the monkeys) and don’t try to feed the primates. The highlight of Khao Wang is the highest pavilion, from which you get a sweeping view of the impressive chedi on the next hill over, as well as the surrounding city of Petchaburi spreading out in all directions below you. The entire complex’s terraced walkways are lined with countless hundreds of gorgeous blue and white porcelain flower pots, giving the experience a very imperial feel. Hiking over to the adjacent hill to see the chedi, which in turn provides views

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Ban Pun Palace Khlong Kra Saeng, Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi 76000 032 428 506 Khao Wang Khlong Kra Saeng, Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi 76000 032 425 600 From my love life to yours, perhaps you can take some of these tried and true recommendations next time you want to add some adventure to your dating routine. What we loved about seeing these destinations was that they reminded us why we fell in love with Thailand in the first place - the incredible sights, friendly faces, and tantalising meals that are waiting to be uncovered. All without the crowds and pressure of big city life. So go clear a weekend to leave the 13 million behind in Bangkok to focus on the one most special person in your life.

Food and Beverage

The Coffee Club

Infusions: Widened cold brew possibilities The Coffee Club has answered its customers request for a wider range of cold drinks to go with their extensive menu and created a range of interesting blends to accompany your lunch, dinner or need for food. The Coffee Club’s baristas know how and handcrafted skills make them the perfect accompaniment. That’s why their new range of cold brews go beyond the classic original black to exotic tastes like yuzu lemon, orange tonic, sparkling raspberry and hazelnut milk. Don’t just settle for bottled water or a carbonated drink as you can always get one the suits your mood at any time of the day. Because infusion makes cold brew even more fascinating! Black coffee: a classic cup made of our signature blend Hazelnut milk coffee: a nutty taste to lift up the chocolatey scent of the coffee with some milk to make it extra smooth Orange tonic: an refreshing cup with two of the most refreshing forces, orange and tonic Sparkling raspberry: the berry side of the coffee becomes obvious with the addition of raspberry and some bubbles Yuzu lemon: Japan’s favourite citrus gives an intense, unique aroma to a cup of coffee

So now your choice of drink is almost as varied as the menu options for food at The Coffee Club’s 38 branches countrywide. If you make an date to meet someone in Thailand make a date to meet at The Coffee Club where you are always assured of a warm welcome and quality food and drink. Branches Bangkok: • Baan Rajprasong • Convent Road Silom • River City • Ekamai • Hive • Maze Thonglor • Riverside Plaza • Maitria Hotel • Mode Sathorn Hotel • Chatrium Sathon • Suvarnabhumi Airport - Food Stop • Don Muang Terminal 2 • Citadines Sukhumvit 23 • Montien Mall - Bangkok

Wireless Road

Phuket & Krabi: • Banana Walk • Beach Point Phuket • Jungceylon - Patong Beach • Jungceylon 2 • Phuket Airport • Kler Hotel Patong • Turtle Village - Mai Khao Beach • Ao Nang • Central Ashley - Patong Beach • Phuket Domestic Airport (airside) • Phuket International Airport (airside) Samui: • Central Festival Samui • Samui - Chaweng Beach • Bophut - Samui Pattaya:


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Royal Garden Plaza

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Motorway - Outbound

Hua Hin:

• Bluport

Hua Hin

Hua Hin



Love and the family

All you need is love by Meghan McKenna

“I do not know how to love in moderation. My heart breathes a gentle intensity” As a Mom of four boys, I get asked two questions very often. How I do it? How do I manage, take care of and handle 4 boys each and every day? I usually reply that I actually have 5 boys, including Pete, my husband in the tally. (Nothing like some sarcasm to take a sincere question seriously). The second question is how do I live so far from my family? That one, comes with a lump in my throat and a fake smile … we do the best we can, it isn’t easy … I say. More than anything, I believe all things are possible with and when there is love. I think you can overcome any problem, struggle or disagreement, with love. I believe you can survive years of long distance relationships away from loved ones, because of the base of love. As the saying goes, love, love is all you need. Let’s tackle the first question. I feel like I’d be fibbing to you, if I didn’t get a few things out of the way, before I pour you a glass of love filled thoughts. Living in Thailand has given me the gift of two beautiful helpers, who make my daily life easier, less stressful and the ability to be more present with my children. They handle the housework and chores and I’m able to focus on the kids and Pete and their activities, their school obligations etc. They also allow Pete to work the hours he can, which is why we are here, for him to fulfil his passion. The second thing is, it isn’t always pretty. Real life with 4 boys can be overwhelming and loud and quite frankly an utter shitshow at moments. I’m not telling you a story when I say our life and the boys are filled up with love and surrounded in it, but they are also kicked around by each other, shouted at by a frustrated Mama and sat in timeout when any (or all) of the top 3 forbidden things have been done. With that said, there is one thing I know for sure. The boys are my ultimate joy in life, including the 5th (Pete) who


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is really my first and true love. I dreamed of becoming a Mom when I was little, with a cute husband and children. When your dream comes true, the ups and downs, the hard times, sad times and utter crazy times are in perspective, because your dream became this reality. I am humble and grateful. There are frequent moments of question, more so as they get older of, if we are doing this parenting thing right. As they say there is no manual and every child is different. I find balancing the boys and giving them exactly what they need is a juggling act. If one ball drops, the others fall and my job is to pick them up and try my hardest to put them back in the air and make everyone stabilised again. Each of the boys has their own personality, they each march to the beat of their own drum. I love them all the same with a deep intensity. I often imagine my heart to be separated into something like a pie chart. Each of them owns a certain part of my heart, giving me and others in their little world the gift of who they are and what they shine at. Brody, the leader and the socialite, he is kind and mature, an old soul, a friend to all. Parker, the caretaker, he gives his heart to those he loves the most, he takes care and pays attention to others needs, he will protect to the end. Camden, the mighty one, he is strong, confident and powerful and yet soft and gentle. He speaks up and fights for what he believes in. Ryker, our tiny buddha, gentle and calm. He smiles and laughs more than any baby I’ve ever seen. When times are tough and I feel the stress they can bring, the love always steps in and takes over. I find when I am at my wits end that little smile kicks in from one of them or a hug arrives on my leg. They are gifts to Pete and I and the world. We often say how honoured we are to be chosen to raise them, no matter how many times we’ve bent down to pick up dirty laundry just next to the laundry basket, or chocolate off the couch they aren’t “allowed to eat on.” Early on in my expat life experience the homesickness overtook me and I felt I was living half of my life here, in Bangkok and the other in the town where I grew up, where my immediate family lives in the USA. Which is odd really, because I haven’t lived in that town since I was 18 years old. Maybe not odd really, when the sign I walked by every single day for those 18 years said “Home is where the heart is.” We are creatures of our environment and I grew up with homemade cakes and cookies, sprinkled with love. I grew up with a pool in my back yard and a street that few cars drove

down making it safe and fun for my siblings and I. My parents worked hard, my Dad had two jobs, my Mom bounced being present for us and finding jobs that worked for our schedule and for her to be home at the same times we were. Most importantly, my parents showed us what it was to love, every single day. Growing up with the love that I did, makes it hard for me to be away from both my parents and my older sister, Heather and younger brother Russ. Add in a gem of a brother in law (now, my big brother) and their 2 daughters and a son and my cup is overflowing with adoration and fondness for them all. Stepping away from them and not being a part of their lives has always been hard for me. Pete and I moved away to the mid western part of the US from the East coast after college, 5 years later we were back by family, moving jobs, selling our home to make this happen. Fast forward 4 years and we found ourselves this time, moving away with our 3 little sons to the other side of the world. A friend of mine told me early on, if you love your family you’ll probably never fully enjoy where you are living if you are away from them. That’s where my body jolted and I thought, because of love? I surely can’t have this attitude for the next three years I thought. Mind you, those three years have turned into 4 and will probably, likely be 6 in total by the time we return to the place we call home. Instead of not embracing my experience and life here, my thought and mantra is this. Due to the strong feelings of love I can do this, due to love we can all get through this and because of the bond and immense feeling of love, we will survive this experience and end it closer than ever before. The boys will learn this with us hoping someday this stays a part of them as well. The summer months bring us back home to that family and close friends. We spend time visiting and sliding into our families lives. There is such an embrace that is felt. The kids snuggle into everyone that hugs them, knowing the clock is ticking on our most used hashtag “allweneedislove”. They are spoiled and given endless opportunities to have fun and adventures with Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, Aunt’s, Uncle’s and cousins. Rarely is No said, like it or not, you can’t say

many No’s to adults who love these boys and only get to have them a few times a year, and that is easy for me to accept. As my nieces get older, they understand and feel the pain of seeing their cousins go after months summer of fun. This year was one of the hardest. Caitlin, 10 and Cara, 8, full of tears, looking exactly like my sister and I. Leaving me with the feeling that they are old enough now to feel how this feels. And also they too, living the reality of being brought up surrounded by strong bonds and unconditional love they have the quality to, to love and love hard and what that pull hard on your heartstrings is like. We chose to focus on the good. We try hard to choose happy. We live in acceptance that this is our journey and although we don’t have our families alongside us living it and experiencing it, we do have them in our hearts. There is also our obligation and our centre to be there for our children and support them in every way our parents did for us. As I’ve gotten older, living most of my 30s in Bangkok I’ve come to a stronger and greater grip on what my job is now and what I am responsible for, and that is Brody and Parker, Camden and Ryker and always Pete. Love is our baseline and as the saying on the wall next to our kitchen table says “In this house we are a family. Love each other. Laugh a lot. Be happy, truthful and grateful.”

Love and the family

Look after yourself by Judy King

This is not a new concept, but one that I come across in my coaching business all the time. Especially when talking to women who have families.

This concept of looking after yourself, or self-nurture. Looking after number one. Sounds so selfish doesn’t it. I hear your reactions already. It goes against everything you have been taught. Don’t think about yourself. Give and you will receive. The best people are those who think about others constantly. Sure. If you are on top of your game. Giving out of a well that is topped up with goodies of energy, enthusiasm, creative ideas and healthy mindsets. But what happens when you are giving out of a place of tiredness, negativity, and resentment? Nothing happens. Nothing good, anyway. You are not effective when you have been run ragged and feel like falling into a heap. Your mindset around looking after yourself needs an adjustment (or perhaps a massive overhaul). When you are operating at a ‘10’ - that is the best that you can possibly be, to your maximum effectiveness and full potential, you are giving an amazing gift to the world and the people in your life. Not only will you feel the best you have ever felt, absolutely buzzing and full of motivation, but those around you will get the overflow. Your relationships will flourish, your creativity will be heightened, your business ideas and management will much more effective and your greater productivity levels will free up more time to spend on areas that you love (like hanging out with your family). Change is always daunting at first and takes time to implement. But the start of change is making a decision that you are not going to keep living like you currently are.


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Step 1: Redefining priorities Take a good look at where all your time is being spent currently and what areas are being a little neglected because you are tired, or focussed elsewhere. Come back to the areas and people in your life that are most important to you and think about why you want to be investing your energy there. What areas of your life are sucking the life out of you that perhaps you need to disconnect from. Step 2: See the benefits of change Look at all the areas of your life that you are pouring so much time and energy into currently and write out a list of how those areas would benefit if you are operating at your very best. Change is the essence of life, and unavoidable. We

are constantly changing whether you are consciously aware of it or not. The benefit of considering the creative changes you want to make in your own life is that you step over the line where everything is happening to you and at your expense, to a place where you are creating a life that is full and fulfilling. By initially focussing on your values (what is important to you) you can move in a direction that is firstly benefiting you personally and then benefiting the people and the areas of your life that are most important to you. Step 3: Give up the excuses The only person who really believes your excuses is you. We all know enough these days to see that if we really want to find the money, or take the time to do something we can. If we really, really want to. Get honest with yourself about why you burn yourself out constantly. Understand that even though you say it is for others, really it comes back to you needing some kind of fulfilment.

When we blame others and make excuses we are living in a zone that is referred to in our coaching process as the “effect” zone. This is where everything in your life is happening to you. This often leads to high levels of frustration, overwhelm and resentment. This is living life by default and is how a lot of the world live. The realisation that you have a choice between living that way OR living at cause is huge for a lot of people. When you live at cause, you are aware that you are able to make the decisions that are necessary at any given moment to create the life that you dream about and desire. This is what moves you closer to living at your full potential and with purpose. You live daily on-purpose. This process of looking after yourself and making time for yourself is a big step in the direction of a life by your own design.

“When we blame others and make excuses we are living in a zone that is referred to in our coaching process as the “effect” zone.” It might be signing up to start a new fitness programme, or enrolling in a course you have always wanted to do. Alongside this look at the resources needed to do these things and how you can work towards that. There are a couple of common mindsets that present themself here that becomes a challenge for a lot of people. The first is the guilt that is often associated with doing something for yourself. We are so consumed with looking after everyone else (especially in families) that it is sometimes hard to move past this. The key here is to come back to the overall benefits of this change. Low self-worth is the other negative mindset that rears its ugly head here and usually goes hand-in-hand with that guilty feeling. Writing down a list and acknowledging yourself for all the good things you are, do and create in your life is a great exercise to help you start moving beyond this. Write down 100 things that you want to be acknowledged for, and start reading these things back to yourself. Even better, ask your partner to read 10 of them to you every night! Accepting them from this person is also extremely important. Step 5: Start with just one thing When we want to transform our lives, often overwhelm is a massive contributor to us falling off the wagon. We want big results now, and when we don’t see that we give up. Today, think of one thing you can do for yourself to help you feel better, relax more or feel more satisfied. Just one thing. After you have done this one thing, reflect on how it made you feel. What was your attitude afterwards. How were your energy levels? How did it effect the people around you? Your work? This sort of mindfulness will help you see the positive effects and move you forward.

Step 4: The steps to creating the change Write out next a big list of all the things that you think you need to do to create this change. It might be having a conversation with your family or partner about setting aside a time each week where you can focus on having “me” time.

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Love and the family

Step 6: Implement a plan to review this on a monthly basis Every month take a couple of hours to sit with yourself and review what you have done for yourself this month to nurture yourself, grow yourself and develop a pattern of respecting yourself. Reflect on the benefits. Then make a plan for what you will do in the following month that will keep this new habit going. Step 7: Non negotiables Once you get into a regular routine of creating time for yourself you will start to find the activities that really do energise and re-inspire you. Make some of these things non-negotiables in your week or daily routine. Good supportive habits are best when they are committed to and set in stone. If you don’t lock these into your calendar, there will always be something else that comes up that will distract you, or steal your time. For example, if it is going to the gym every day that really gets you going, then lock in the time and treat it like an important appointment (think doctors appointment, client meeting etc). When something else comes up that wants to steal that time, you immediately answer no - you are already booked for that time. What I found was I started with making small time outs for me, like 10 minutes of meditation, or an hour to go have a coffee and read. It then grew to bigger chunks of time for me such as my morning ritual with meditation, gratitude journal, exercise and reading (before my daughter woke) and now I take 3 days off every 6 weeks to completely switch off whereby I check myself into a hotel to completely give back and re-energise myself from work (running multiple businesses), travelling, social media, parenting, partnering and housework. It’s been such an incredible discipline to fill up my tank so I can give back so much more. Here’s some areas to consider that will help you to do this (areas we often neglect): 1. Rest - sleep is essential to our wellbeing, and yet we abuse it so often. When you don’t get enough sleep, or your have a bad sleep routine, you are never playing on top of your game. Make this a non-negotiable. (Make naps when you can a non negotiable with a new born!) 2. Exercise and nutrition - this is not just about looking good. This is about getting your body and mind into the place when it is functioning at maximum energy and efficiency. 3. Take time out - this is really important for coming back to what is the authentic ‘you’. When you are surrounded by people and noise constantly it’s hard to hear your own soul voice.


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4. H  ave a hobby or something you love doing regularly that is totally you - not something you do with your kids or your partner. Find your own thing that really excites you or enlivens you and practise this on a regular basis. It might just be as simple as getting your nails done every week, or going to an art gallery. Most importantly, have fun taking care of yourself and discovering what you truly need so you’re functioning at your best!

Judy King is a passionate coach, trainer and keynote speaker who is serious about creating transformational change in the lives of those she works with. After spending 23 years as a leader and influencer in the fitness industry, Judy realised that lasting change must start with a shift in mindset at a unconscious level. This lead her to become an NLP Master Practitioner, master coach and trainer. Because of her combined experience, she is a powerhouse speaker and a dynamic coach. Judy is energetic, motivational and very real about the challenges in life and business. She works with both companies and individuals who are fully committed to rapid growth and change, as evidenced by very real results in themselves and their clients. FB/IG.Twitter: @thejudyking

A school where your child will

At St Andrews Sukhumvit 107, your child will develop greater understanding through enquirybased learning, which links different curricular topics with common themes. This encourages the development of interconnected thinking and the ability to place knowledge in context. The benefits of this proactive but closely-guided learning are your child’s confidence in their own abilities, the courage to act on their own initiative and develop a lifelong passion for learning.

St. Andrews International School Sukhumvit 107

Love and the family

Loving yourself, made easy By Isabel Valle

It makes me so happy to be writing this article for you. At last, it is becoming trendy to “be loving to oneself”, and I want to be part of this incredibly worthwhile movement. Over the last few years, there has been a more conscious approach to health, spiritual practices and caring for the environment. A shift happening on a global scale. Now more than ever, we are starting to realise how important it is to truly care about ourselves. Because when you love yourself, healing takes place in all areas of your life. Your life will improve dramatically. You will feel way better than you are feeling right now. You will attract the kind of people that truly deserve you. You will get the job you want. You will earn the money you need. Your relationships will improve and your overall fulfilment and satisfaction of life will bring you all the joy and happiness that you crave. Therefore, the most important decision of your life, the one that will affect every other decision you make, is the commitment to love and accept yourself, being 100% into YOU, happy with your real self, faults and all. I know. Easier said than done. It is frightening to observe how easily we can become our worst enemies; how easy it is to show up in the way we think the world wants to see us. I am well aware that one of our greatest struggles in life is to accept, embrace and love ourselves, with all of our imperfections. We struggle to show up honestly and authentically, giving ourselves credit for everything we are, being brave enough to show up genuinely, knowing that not everyone will agree with us or like us every step of the way, and to be OK with it. In this article, I aim to help you shift the focus into becoming your own best friend instead. The challenge here is not to discover self-love; it is about breaking down the walls we have built against it. Self-love lives within us, we have just forgotten how to access it. So we need to work on breaking down those walls. Because when we have the courage to push through them - to really know and embrace ourselves, despite our flaws, our human imperfections and our rejections - we also open the door to connecting in a more caring and empathic ways with others who are truly worth loving.

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” Thich Nhat Hanh


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So why is it so hard to love yourself? We live in a world that is constantly telling us what to buy, what to wear, how to look, what to eat … how to be, essentially. All over the media and social media we are being told who to be and what to do to be happy and successful, creating impossible to reach expectations. This constant stream of unrealistic demands is hurting us in more levels than one. As we get caught up into this dangerous world of pretend and made up perfection, we unintentionally become too focused on our flaws, what we lack, comparing ourselves to others, missing all together the opportunities to love and appreciate ourselves. Society at large also tells us that our worth is found in the idols of our culture - technology, status, youth, beauty, power, money, etc. Consistently comparing ourselves to such unrealistic demands flood us with thoughts of “I’m not good enough, I don’t have enough, and I don’t do enough.” Feelings of lack are neverending. The thing is that, if you base your self worth on the external world, you’ll never be capable of self-love. In it’s simplest form, loving yourself comes down to

your ACTIONS. The more you love, cherish, and honour yourself, the more you will flourish, come alive and feel safe and energetic. So be aware of every time that you ignore and neglect yourself. Now, a word of warning. Learning to truly love yourself is a journey, and there is no magic pill for it. You will go through highs and lows, good and bad days, and it will be an adventure worth investing into, because the rewards will provide you with true riches. So let’s begin the journey to love ourselves. Let me share with you some simple, proven ways to get you to fall in love with yourself in no time.

1. Stop the negativity Our brains are running our lives, controlling us as we spend our days engrossed into negative thoughts and worry about ourselves, rather than actively loving and respecting ourselves. So the action step here is simple: Stop all criticism right now. Criticism and negativity never changes a thing. If you want to love yourself, you are going to have to start demanding of yourself much more than you have so far. Focus on approving of yourself, wherever you are, and refuse being critical of yourself. Everybody changes. Take a look around you, and you will find a world filled with beautiful imperfection. Criticism breaks down your self-esteem, so find intentional ways to praise yourself instead, as much as you can. You need to become aware of your thoughts and your words, and work to stop the gossip and the complaints. Complaining is a negative energy that locks us into a negative way of thinking. When we think and speak about the negative in ourselves and others, we zoom in on exactly that - the negative surrounding us. Also, you need to be aware of comparing your life to someone else’s - remember that people often only show their highlight, made up version of themselves, especially online - not their reality. So instead, we need to work on shifting our radar towards what inspires us in others and ourselves, and look for connection, growth, love and joy. And as we begin to work on this shift, those are the exact qualities that we’ll be able to nurture in our own lives. It takes time and practice to achieve this shift, and you will undoubtedly come across many hurdles. Don’t let any of that stop you. Keep going and it will get easier and easier, until it becomes second nature.

2. Mind your mind It has been estimated that an average brain has anywhere between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day, and around 70% of them are believed to be negative. Additionally, nowadays the information we consume in just one day is equivalent to that of a whole year back in the 1970s. Now, it doesn’t take long to realise that our brains are on overdrive, unable to develop at the speed of technology advancements, and we are all paying a big price for it. As a result, you may be living your life on auto pilot, overwhelmed and worrying about everything. What many of us don’t realise is that with some fine tweaking and awareness, we can all take control of our minds, instead of letting our minds control our lives. You must become aware of the type of information that you allow your brain to consume. Just like your body feels grumpy if you feed it unhealthy foods consistently, your mind will also feel pretty terrible if it is constantly being fed rubbish - and your mood will suffer too. Stop consuming as much media as possible, instead, feed your brain with uplifting, positive and inspiring content, like TED Talks. Unfollow or unfriend people in your social media newsfeed that only spread negativity. Be very intentional what you feed your brain, the benefits will be huge. 3. Forgive your past self I cannot begin to tell you how many of the people that I work with find it extremely difficult to let go of their past, their mistakes and failures, and the way they may have acted a long time ago. We tend to be really hard on ourselves, and often find it difficult to forgive ourselves for our wrongdoings. Holding onto this negativity isn’t helping you. You did the best you could with the resources that you had. Enough already! Time to let go. You are not the same person as before. So give yourself permission to grow and change, and become a better version of yourself, whilst continuing to work on doing your best, one day at the time. And whatever happened in the past, it’s just that, past. Make peace with it. Time to refocus on your present and future now. So stop regretting what could have been, or how it should have been, and start paying attention

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Love and the family

to who you want to become. What you focus on grows, so time to break up with the past. It’s just a matter of accepting that sometimes good people make bad choices. It doesn’t mean you’re bad; it just means you’re human.  There are many things you can do to make peace with yourself. You can journal about it, meditate or talk about it out loud, creating the intention to forgive yourself for your past actions. You did the best you could at the time; you didn’t know any better, and you now know that you will act differently in the future. Occasionally, it takes help from someone else who understands the situation to go into these dark places - it could be a close friend, mentor, confidant, coach or therapist. You don’t have to do this work alone, just find someone who has walked the path successfully and sympathises with you fully.  4. Be kind and acknowledge yourself It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It is so much easier to be patient and kind with the people we love. So how come we don’t seem to apply the same principle to ourselves? We are so used putting ourselves last. And the fact is that, unless we are gentle and kind with ourselves, we’ll never really give ourselves a chance to be and do our best. So be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to take a chance on life, to explore new areas, to give yourself room to grow and, yes, fail and make mistakes, as this is the only way to learn and truly live. Treat yourself as you would someone you really love. Create a daily routine to acknowledge yourself so that you can focus on all that you are doing, rather than what you aren’t. Ask yourself daily: “What do I acknowledge about myself today? Write down any achievements, however big or small. On a bad day, go back to your entries, it will help you see how much there is to appreciate about yourself and how far you’ve come on your journey. Feeling worthy requires you to see yourself with fresh eyes of self-awareness and love. Acceptance and love must come from within. You don’t have to be different to be worthy; your worth is in your true nature. It begins with you, enfolding yourself in your own affection and living in appreciation. So train your mind to be grateful, appreciate your talents, beauty, and brilliance. Love your imperfectly perfect self. One of the greatest presents you can give yourself


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(and your loved ones), is to be present, every chance you get. Your life is not what happens between your birth and death; your life is what happens between now and your next breath. So pay close attention to your life as you’re living it; so much is lost when we don’t.

5. Take care of your body Your body is your temple, and if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. You don’t need to be an expert in the subject. We all know the basics of what needs to be done to live a healthier life, we just choose not to apply them. And if you don’t, it has never been so easy to access relevant information and professionals to help you regain your health. If you spend your day sitting and watching too much TV, then your creative and emotional energies will be trapped in your body. The danger of this is that when we are chronically stagnant with our bodies, that stuck energy often turns into anxiety and sadness. So instead of living a sedentary life, get up and move as often as you can. Find some form of movement that feels good to you, and make it a priority. From walking outside for a few minutes, a fun class or workout, and even dancing, do something that you enjoy and your body will thank you for it. Likewise, if you are making poor food choices, you are going to feel like junk. So eat clean most of the time, drink lots of water, eat fresh foods and limit your intake of processed foods. Add to that adequate sleep and you will feel like you can conquer the world. Finally, you must regularly make time for rest and relaxation. We expect so much from ourselves, which is causing us to feel stressed and verging burnout. To counteract this, take naps when you feel like it or treat yourself to a nice bath or a spa treatment whenever you want. Occasionally allow yourself to have no plans. Let your soul breathe. Self-care is an essential aspect of loving yourself, so start paying attention and find a way to cherish the temple you live in. Don’t wait until you get better, or lose the weight. Start loving your body and yourself where you are right now, and do the best you can.

6. Remember to have fun What makes you happy? Many of us don’t really know the answer to this question. Life has become so serious, and we have lost touch with the things that make us feel alive. Well, it is time to put a stop to that. Without fun, life is not worth living! And if you don’t know where to start, try to remember the things that gave you joy as a child. Incorporate them into your life now. Find a way to have fun with everything you do. Let yourself express the joy of living. Smile and laugh as often as you can, and you will start liking yourself a lot more for it. Become more intentional about how you spend your time, and create time for the things that matter most to you. Give yourself permission to say no to people, work or circumstances that don’t serve you and your values. Make a point to spend time with people whose company you enjoy on a regular basis. The more you honour yourself and how you spend your time, the better you’ll feel. Don’t wait around for someone else to give you permission to live. Caring for yourself is not selfish. We simply cannot give what we don’t have. So give yourself permission to live a good life and do things that you care about and take good care of yourself. Loosen up and be a little less serious about it all. Don’t take life too seriously; if you do, you’ll end up fearing every new step you take. So take life with a pinch of salt and laugh at yourself and your circumstances. People with a good sense of humour have a better sense of life. 7. Invest in fulfilling relationships Not only is spending time around your favourite people good for you, but actively loving others, being kind and spending quality time with them, helps you channel love into your relationship with yourself. So take time to love your closest friends, family members, and significant others, and watch your self-love grow as a byproduct of being a good friend, sibling, child, lover to those who you’ve deemed to be worthy of your time. Treating your favourite people with love and kindness makes you feel good in the same way that being intentional about how you spend your time makes you feel good. You’re essentially saying to your heart that “Yes, I care about you enough to put love into the places that I deem to be worthy of my time, attention, and love.” So form relationships where you

feel loved and appreciated. The path to unconditional love isn’t meant to be a lonely one. Furthermore, one of the best ways that you can cultivate a loving relationship with yourself, is to spend some time alone regularly. So you are also going to have to learn to spend time alone - with yourself, a very scary thought for many. Find ways to enjoy your own company. Go out, take a walk, meditate, do whatever appeals to you, and create the space and listen for insightful thoughts and revelations to come up for you. Be guided by your intuition. All answers come from within. Continuously look for signs and pay attention to your gut feelings and the messages from your heart. Confidence comes from knowing that what you’re doing is right, and that what you’re doing is right for YOU. So make contact with your real inner self through meditation, self-reflection or contemplation, and create some quiet time every day to make contact with your inner world. You will come to appreciate and really enjoy the real you, your authentic self. 8. Seek professional help Self-rejection and neglect is painful. You deserve to be happy. You have a right to be accepted and loved. If necessary, seek help from a support group, counsellor, or coach. It’s the best investment you can make. Because we are all interconnected, when I love me, I also love you. Together through our love, we can heal ourselves, each other, and the world at large. Love is our purpose, our true calling. It begins with and within each of us. So get started with whichever tips seem either the easiest to you, or the most challenging, depending on where you are in your journey and what you’re looking to work on. Start with one, focus on incorporating it into your life, and when you feel like you have a solid handle on integrating that habit, then start the work of adding another. People will come and go. So will life’s events. So will days and nights. And a true love for yourself will always stay with you, if you nurture it. So do those things that help you love yourself more, and never look back. Over to you now: Which of the above points do you struggle with the most? How will you love yourself more today? What are the 3 most important steps that you need to take to help you on your way towards loving yourself more? You are lovable and it is your birthright to be loved, so invest in reconnecting with your true self. There is not better time to begin than now. I wish you the best of luck in your self-love journey. Here’s to your success! Isabel

Isabel Valle is an accredited ICF PCC Coach, Leadership Mentor and Facilitator currently based in Bangkok. Isabel has held senior positions within the hospitality industry in countries around the world, and facilitates a holistic approach to leadership, growth and success. She specialises in virtual coaching and online mentoring that inspires action and helps leaders from all walks of life around the globe bring their gifts to life to help them create professional excellence and personal fulfilment. More information available on

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Meet the headmaster Expat Life sat down with Ryan Barnick the headmaster of the American School in Bangkok Green Valley Campus just before the end of the year and found out how he arrived in Bangkok and what was his journey. Where are you from? I grew up in a small farming town of 700 people (Alden) in rural southern Minnesota in the USA. I am proud to come from a community where everyone knows and supports each other. I believe that because of my upbringing I have a keen understanding and value for the importance of creating, building and fostering relationships. What attracted you to teaching? How has your background influenced you as an educator? While studying abroad in Samoa during my senior year of college, I volunteered for a few weeks in a village school, it was then that I decided I did not want to work in

the finance industry my whole life, but rather I wanted to work with children. So upon successfully completing my first Degree a Bachelor of Arts in Financial Economics, I then quickly changed direction and pursued a Master's Degree in Education and entered the teaching profession. As a child I enjoyed the balance of athletics and academics, thus deciding to work in a school setting for my career was an easy one for me. At which schools were you before ASB and in what capacity? I taught special education in an urban setting at the elementary and middle school level for eight years, and one year as an administrator in Minneapolis Public Schools in Minnesota. When did you first become a headmaster? In 2013, I became the assistant principal of ASB. In 2014, I became the principal of our Green Valley Campus. What do you consider your greatest success in schools before coming to ASB? In Minnesota, I worked in very diverse schools serving students and families that faced profound social and economic difficulties. All things considered, I believe my greatest success in education prior to ASB was increasing student attendance through community and school engagement. When you are deeply involved with families in an urban school setting, there are many variables to consider to get students to school. For example, many of the children I worked with come from families with parents that themselves did not finish high school, or the student is the caretaker of their siblings due to their mother or father being incarcerated. Additionally, many of my students were homeless, and would come to school inadequately dressed and or hungry. Ultimately, when you work with students and families in critical need, your job becomes about more than providing a traditional education within the walls of a classroom. I really felt I had made a difference in the inner city as I was able to connect emotionally with students. I became a role model, particularly for the male students who were desperately seeking out a positive male figure in their lives to look up to.


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What was the most challenging teaching/administration situation you faced before coming to ASB? Before coming to ASB, my biggest challenges were increasing student attendance and supporting students social and economic needs to enable them to fulfil their full potential at school. Do you have a personal educational philosophy? My personal educational philosophy is pretty simple: All students can and will learn if we surround them with the right people. Every student can not only succeed, but they can unquestionably excel when the learning environment is supportive and we believe in their success. I believe it is important that we all work together collaboratively in education to involve as many stakeholders as possible when making educational policy decisions for our children. What are some of the current trends in international education? Education today is about building a growth mindset within our students. Students need to know that failing is okay and that through failure we learn, grow, build resilience

“Education is about second chances and do overs, mastery of learning, reflection and growth.� and eventually succeed. Education is about second chances and do overs, mastery of learning, reflection and growth. As educators, we need to provide opportunities in our classrooms and schools for innovation, strategic and extended thinking and synthesising complex information. By changing the ways we assess student learning, and the strategies we use to teach, we can better prepare our students for the world which they will one day encounter. How do you adapt them to ASB? All teachers at ASB are engaged in a year long Professional Learning Community (PLCs) where they work collaboratively on a mini action research project. The PLC process allows teachers to continue to develop their professional practices and improve student learning. The topics of our PLCs range from educational neuroscience to developing curiosity in students. Our PLC topics support the EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



school's mission and goals and are chosen by teachers. This process ensures the continued growth and development of our teachers and our school to meet the demands of 21st century learners. What are the benefits (from your point of view) of an international school education? I believe that an international education opens up our children’s minds and viewpoints and teachers them that a healthy world is about all of our collective efforts. Children learn many perspectives, tolerances and through experiences are better prepared to contribute globally. What are the challenges (eg 3rd culture kids syndrome) and how do you address them? I believe one of the most challenging aspect of being a “3rd culture kid” is identifying socially who you are, what you represent (what is “home”?), what is important to you, values, etc. I often hear that a child (my own included) “misses” A, B, and C from home, yet fail to acknowledge the benefits they have gained from living in Thailand as a 3rd culture kid. That said, I am quick to remind them of all that they have gained and learned as a 3rd culture kid and they always agree 100%. What attracted you to ASB? I believe in the American educational system and what it has to offer the student. Our curriculum provides specific learning standards in Science, Math and Language Arts


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critical to future success in western colleges and universities. The American School Bangkok has adopted these standards, creating an optimal learning focus for students. My own children (age 5 and 7) attend ASB and I am confident in the quality of their education and that it meets the standards of public schools in the US. Of course, like many other educators in Bangkok, the culture, food, etc., of Thailand intrigued me as well. How long have you been at ASB? This is my fifth year at ASB having previously completed 8 years in education in the Minnesota in the USA. What is ASB’s philosophy? Does it compliment yours? The philosophy of the school centres on promoting excellence in children and youth through laying the foundation by building positive healthy relationships, focusing on literacy, the creative arts and developing global citizens. I believe strongly in the importance of healthy positive relationships in order to best engage students in their learning. What are some of the school's greatest accomplishments? What are some of the biggest challenges this school faces? 1. W  e are the first school in Thailand to offer the Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma. Our advanced students have an opportunity to earn an AP Capstone Diploma by completing four Advanced Placement classes, in addition to a research based class and capstone seminar class. 2. W  e also offer a wide array of Advanced Placement classes, in which students can earn college credit while attending class at ASB. Many of our students take advantage of this, especially if they are planning to attend University in the USA.

3. We are one of the (if not the most) preeminent schools in all of Asia to integrate Mindfulness Education into our curriculum. Our assistant director has been vital in the development of mindfulness education at ASB, attending various trainings around the world and then bringing that information back to ASB. “Mindfulness Education” at ASB is simply us teaching students how to regulate and understand their emotional wellbeing. 4. One of the biggest challenges we face, like many other schools, is teacher retention. I am proud to say that the teacher retention rate has decreased dramatically at ASB Green Valley. 5. Another challenge we face is ensuring that we are meeting the individual needs of each and every student. Though we consider diversity to be one of our biggest strengths as a student body, with that also comes challenges being that our students come from 39 different countries around the world. As such, we also an expansive English Language Learner (ELL) department and Learning Support department to ensure all students needs are being met. Do you try to meld American, British and IB standards? Or is ASB strictly IB or strictly A levels? Why and what are the benefits? At ASB we stay true to the American education curriculum. Kindergarten through to Grade 12 we offer the American Common Core Curriculum and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for science. How is technology used to support teaching and learning? We offer technology courses for every student in our school, starting with our Early Years class (age 2) all the way up to advanced tech classes for our high school classes. In the past few years, we have heavily integrated coding into

our technology classes starting with our elementary students, and now are providing students with opportunities to apply what they have learned in these courses in our robotics clubs. This year, our students will compete locally in a robotics competition, and next year we will expand on that and compete at the international level. In regards to supporting teaching and learning, our technology team works with our teachers to integrate technology into their lessons. My opinion is that technology can be as much of a distraction as it can be a positive in the classroom. If a teacher understands how to use technology in the classroom to “enhance” their lessons as opposed to simply “using technology”, students benefit greatly. Otherwise, as experienced educators have learned, it can be more of a distraction. What extracurricular opportunities (sports, clubs, community service, competitions) are available for students? At ASB, we are proud to say that we educate the whole child as we offer a plethora of both athletic and academic extracurricular opportunities. For athletics, we compete as a member of the Bangkok International School Athletic Conference (BISAC) in many sports for both boys and girls. In addition to BISAC, some of our teams compete in international events overseas. For academics, we offer students opportunities to participate in Model United Nations (MUN), World Scholars Cup and the Tournament of the Minds, to mention a few. What is the homework expectation? What do you say to people that say homework is unnecessary? This is an interesting topic and always a popular discussion among international educators. For me, I am not a firm believer in the “more is better” theory in that I believe homework should be given simply for ‘practice’. In the international education world, there is a polarising dichotomy that is present when it comes to “homework”; in that culture plays a role as to what is “best”. For example, many of our students that were raised in Asia expect more homework, and their parents often request that additional assignments to work on at home. In contrast, many of our families that were raised in the USA or UK simply don’t value homework as much. Of course, this is not true for every family, but generally speaking this is the feedback I hear from parents. This all said, we certainly do require ASB students to complete homework at home, but have worked with our families to find the right balance as to how much time students should be spending on homework each night. For our older students, a large part of the “homework debate” is simply preparing them for university life. No doubt, when our students attend university/college they will endure long nights of studying and homework, thus it is our responsibility to help them prepare and understand the expectations when it comes to commitment level. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Student Support Are counsellors available to help students make important decisions about classes and about university choices? We have a full-time Academic Counsellor who works with our students to apply to universities, find scholarships and advise students regarding course selections regarding specific career options. How do you help children that find the curriculum challenging or have social or emotional problems? The school employs a full-time Social Emotional Counsellor who works with our students from nursery through to grade 12. We also have Mindfulness specialists who provide classroom instruction and workshops for both students, faculty and parents. Does the school have a tutoring programmes so students can get extra academic help if they need it? Yes, tutoring is offered everyday after school for all subjects should parents wish to enrol their children. What strategies are used to teach students who are not fluent in English? We do have an expansive ELL department for students at all grade levels. This team primarily focuses on the students individual needs, creating a programme for each student based on their current level of English proficiency. Our ELL teachers support ELL students in the mainstream classroom and also teach English directly in their own classroom. Our goal for our ELL students is to ultimately exit them from ELL Services to attend class without support from our ELL team. ASB has a wonderful history of success with our ELL students from an academic standpoint. In fact, one of our previous students started 9th grade as an ELL student and graduated as our school valedictorian. Where do students go after they graduate? How many attend four year college? Are graduates prepared for college? Do you have business links, ties to university, information about how to get to the next stage of their lives? Most of our students enter into universities all over the world, however, the majority of our students further their education in the USA, Canada or the United Kingdom. I believe ASB properly prepares our students for university. One of the perks, I would say, as a principal is connecting with previous students when they return back to ASB after their first semester/year to visit. It is telling in that our students consider ASB to be their family - thus their excitement glowing when they return to discuss their new life beyond ASB. Our academic counsellor, Ms Meca, does an absolute phenomenal job in assisting our students obtain scholarships at universities all over the world.


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Logistics What are maximum class numbers? What is the teacher/student ratio? Our school teacher to student ratio is 1-10. How do you deal with bullying? Discipline? We use different models to support our students depending on the situation. We practice a restorative justice model where the focus is not on punishment but on learning and remorse to support the victim and and repair the harm done by the offender. We also implement a restitution model and engage the Social Emotional counsellor and Mindfulness specialist with the student and teach students the skills required to self regulate their emotions. Teacher recruitment? Each year in late January I travel to North America to interview and recruit licensed international teachers. I primarily hire at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) Overseas Recruiting Fair in Cedar Falls, Iowa (USA) and The Teachers Overseas Recruiting Fair (TORF) at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario (Canada). Do you have busses to pick up and deliver students? We do offer transportation services in which students can be picked up either at their door or at a preassigned stop, depending on their age and location. When can people arrange tours? Tours can generally take place any time from 7:30am - 4pm at our Green Valley campus. If families are interested they can arrange and tour with Mr Martin by simply calling and scheduling. When is ‘enrolment season’? Our first day of school each year in the first week of August, thus is it best if a student enrols prior to the school year starting. That said, students can and do enrol throughout the school year, it just depends on the student's individual situation.


Beyond homework:

positive parent - teacher partnerships There is likely no stronger bond than the one that develops between parent and child. Adding a teacher to the dynamic, especially during the early years, may feel uncomfortable, unnatural and just plain wrong - not only for the child, but (especially) for the parent as well. To consider parent-teacher-student relationships at various stages of a child’s education, Dr Darika Lathapipat, President of Dhurakij Bundit University, recently sat down for a chat with Chris Nicholls, Master of Wellington College Bangkok, Katie Byrne, Assistant Head at the British School in Tokyo, and Christian Bishop, Head of Wellington College Bangkok’s Junior School. DL: If parents are sending their child to a new school, how do we make the relationship work with teachers in real life? CN: In her 2015 book 'How to Raise an Adult', Julie Lythcott-Haims


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studies a range of evidence from scientific research and concludes that there are some common things that good parents do. But, as partners in the process of bringing children up, I think teachers ought to look in the same direction. Some examples she gives are: • making the children do chores (the Japanese famously do this in school

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and, having lived and taught in Japan for years myself, I am a big fan of this practice); •e  xplicitly teaching, and reflecting on, social skills, such as making friends, helping others, listening and so on; • s etting high expectations; •m  aintaining healthy relationships with each other (in a school, that’s between us teachers – at home, between husband and wife!);

“Teaching and encouraging children and young people to think and take responsibility for themselves is such an empowering thing for us to do.”

“Knowing we genuinely have someone else’s support, whether we are a teacher, a parent or a child, is hugely reassuring.”

• teaching mathematics early; • not letting the child feel stressed; • giving more credit for sincere effort and less for avoiding failure; and • being authoritative, that is, teaching behaviour rationally rather than based on fixed cultural rules. DL: Hold on - without some stress, won’t a child just become lazy? CN: Bad stress – where negative emotions seep in – is never a good thing. Some people say ‘it never did me any harm!’ – but that’s simply not true. While no one can be permanently in a state of happiness, what we all want is a better family dynamic; to put it bluntly, negative stress always works against that ideal. KB: Being authoritative in the sense Julie uses the term is a large part of what Wellbeing is all about. Teaching and encouraging children and young people to think and take responsibility for themselves is such an empowering thing for us to do. CB: We are able to build on the best examples here in Bangkok, to ensure that the children feel safe and secure in their learning environment. Another focus is specific to Thai culture: I am a big fan of the wai khru ceremony, as something that strengthens the importance of the teacher-student relationship, which should be based on mutual respect and understanding. DL: Is there a difference in how Thai parents approach education? Does it affect your work? CB: From my experience teaching here, I see Thai parents support schools more and, in general, are

far more respectful and trusting of teachers and their professionalism than in many other countries. CN: The key thing in this positive environment is to harness the trust and create a really strong relationship, without intruding. A reason why we include one hour of ‘homework’ time within the school day as the children get older is to remove a classic source of passionate parent-child conflict from home life! DL: How do you adjust your approach for working parents who, as much as they wish they could, are simply not able to attend every school event or parent-teacher meeting? CB: The relationship does not have to be centred on formal meetings. Even just five minutes here and there for a quick exchange of emails or messages can serve a vital function. CN: I often say to prospective parents that, when their phone buzzes with a message from school, I don't want their first reaction to be 'Oh no - what's happened?!' but rather 'Oh good - a message from school!' DL: What are your ideal outcomes from a successful teacher-parentstudent relationship? KB: I find what works best is an initial, deliberate getting-to-know-you phase. After that, everything is so much easier. As teachers, the best thing we can do in the early stages is listen. Parents, quite rightly, love to talk about their children! But that information is so valuable for us. And once a parent understands that our job is not to criticise, or stand in judgement, but rather to support and assist – and that we’re actually interested in them and their children as human beings, that’s the outcome right there. CB: Communication, especially

in the early years, is crucial and we like to keep parents as informed and involved as possible, to create a coalition for learning. Likewise, when a child has had a bad night’s sleep or is troubled by something at home, the parent needs to feel the teachers are aware of this to enable them to adapt their approach with the child. Communication to and from school is on and around every aspect of the child; this way, the transition between home and school life is fluid, the care and empathy seamless. DL: How should the relationship evolve as a child gets older? In Wellington’s case you will be seeing the children develop from toddlers all the way to teenagers and the cusp of adulthood. CN: It’s a bit of a myth that family and school life have to become unpleasant when a child becomes a teenager. It’s not an easy time for anyone but, if we continue to communicate, and we are clear, forgiving and (most importantly) selfaware and reflective, we can all help each other through. Human beings need attention from each other, but it doesn’t have to be negative attention. Knowing we genuinely have someone else’s support, whether we are a teacher, a parent or a child, is hugely reassuring.

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Creating recreation facilities for schools SEARA specialises in the planning, design and construction of sports, fitness, recreation, health and wellness facilities built to a professional standard in Asia. For nearly 30 years they have created and delivered high quality installations using selected imported products, localised construction and installation techniques. They provide full service and support promptly through 12 branches in Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Samui, Hua Hin, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Laos, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives. They meet customers requirements in the business of sports and fitness clubs, real estate developments, educational installations, government projects and private residential facilities. Work with commitment and responsibility to fully execute and complete each project, standing behind their work and valuing the trust of their clients. They providing technical support and installation, giving technical advice prior to installation on sports surface systems and games accessories installation to provide turnkey installation. Qualified service and maintenance teams provide indoor sports flooring maintenance.


February/March 2018

After sales service for outdoor field facilities. Their objective is to create the right solution, design and product application for every project's requirements. Recent installations are at Brighton College, Rugby School, Concordian International School, Singapore International School of Bangkok (SISB), BIS Phuket, Thanyapura Phuket, Mahidol University, Bangkok Glass Football, Jett 24 Hour Fitness, The Hills Parking Stall, True Arena Hua Hin … the list goes on, property clubs, healthcare, corporate and hospitality. They are the recognised experts in SE Asia for design, planning and construction of international standard facilities. For tennis courts, football, track and athletic fields, indoor and outdoor sports courts, fitness flooring systems and equipment, squash courts, landscaping artificial grass, decorative concrete and playground safety flooring systems. For tennis courts they can use Plexipave and Plexicushion 100% acrylic surfaces for both outdoor and

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indoor courts. The grip-texture surfaces last even longer when in wet conditions. The Plexipave system has been widely installed in hundreds of courts in Indochina and is the official surface of the WTA. Plexicushion system is also the selected official supplier for the Australian Open and many of the World’s Grand Slam tournaments. For artificial turf sports fields they are an official distributor of Xtreme Turf. Providing the best quality football, futsal and tennis synthetic turf surfaces. All come with international certified standards from FIFA, IRB, IHF and many of the world’s governing bodies.

The Decoflex universal indoor sports flooring system is a first-inclass seamless polyurethane that is officially certified by international sports federations: FIBA, BWF and IHT. The system supplies impact and slip resistance, good ball bounce and reduces the risk of injuries. The Decoflex outdoor sports flooring is engineered to suit all weather and sports applications by incorporating a resilient recycled rubber base mat available in all thicknesses. It has been optimised for just about any outdoor sports requirement and is ideally suited as an outdoor multi-sports surface. They install badminton and fitness flooring systems from Neoflex, a rubber floor covering for areas subject to heavy wear with a host of excellent features to enhance the look, feel and life of your floor. Capable of supplying complete flooring solutions for fitness as well as commercial uses it is supplied in a variety of colours ranges, format and thicknesses to suit a multitude of fitness applications. Safety is the number one concern of commercial flooring applications. With Neoflex you are compliant with excellent slip resistance performance, anti flammable qualities. For base fitness sport flooring systems they recommend Tinsue - a flooring made from PVC vinyl. It’s composed of slip and wear resistance, ultra-polyester grid stabilisation layer, foam backing, a variety of colours ensures the floor will provide the optimal level of comfort and protection based on its usage. Prestige is a free floating resilient maple wood sports floor system

imported from North America and is designed for all levels of sport from amateur to professional. Recommended for basketball, volleyball, badminton, aerobics, team handball, racquetball, squash and all other multi-purpose sports activities providing resilience, impact resistance, high performance, shock absorption, good ball bouncing properties and weight distribution throughout the entire gymnasium. For landscaping artificial grass they use Act Global Xtreme Lawn - an ideal, versatile solution for all event spaces and venues, particularly in hot, rainy or inclement weather. The turf provides a soft, clean surface throughout, whilst dust, mud, maintenance, and watering are minimised for the ease of usage. The natural looking synthetic grass offers solutions for lawns, gardens, road medians, pool decks, patios, rooftops, apartments, hotels, golf courses, driving ranges and backyard putting greens. Wherever aesthetics and performance matter. Decorative concrete Avista by Parchem - stencil patterned concrete is a hardwearing and practical solution which allows for a range of finishes through applying colours and patterns to fleshly laid wet concrete or resurfaced concrete. There is a

multitude of colour and pattern options which help create just the right look for any facility with minimal base condition required. The best playground safety flooring is specified by Playflex which are prefabricated modular rubber tiles supplied from 15mm to 105mm in thickness an produce a resilient, durable, weatherproof, water permeable and anti slip material properties. Each tile can be custom made with inlaid graphics and are available in several designs and sizes supplied in a terrific colour range to suit any private or public environment.

Contact SEARA for all your sports and leisure needs:,, EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Computational thinking 21st century literacy

by Vikki Dodd, Head of Computing and Digital Technologies, Brighton College Bangkok

The importance of developing computational thinking skills, such as decomposition and algorithmic thinking cannot be underestimated. These will enable our children to solve problems and to develop into independent thinkers and tinkerers. Last month I was scheduled to teach a Year 2 class at my school. I usually teach Year 5 and above so this was already outside of my comfort zone. It was their writing lesson and the class were to practise their cursive writing, authoring a letter to Santa Claus. As a teacher of computer science, leader of digital technologies and a ‘bit of a computer geek’, I hadn’t had to write cursively for two decades. I thoroughly enjoyed the lesson, practising my cursive writing on the 60” interactive touchscreen to display words that they were struggling to spell, such as ‘Ed Sheeran’ and ‘drone’, all things featured on their Christmas lists. It made me wonder whether cursive writing would even be considered a skill by the time that they entered the world of work in the wholly digitised mid 21st century. Digital technology now infiltrates every part of our daily lives, from being woken in the morning by an alarm on our smartphones to navigating the roads of Bangkok using Google Maps


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and tracking the quality of our sleep using a smartwatch. Unfortunately, few of the world’s education systems have kept pace with the rate of technological development and digitisation and this has led to a global shortage of people who possess the skills to create and maintain the technology upon which we have come to rely. As the governments of the world have gradually realised the scale of their country’s reliance on technology and its contribution, or potential contribution, to their GDPs, they have started to act. Israel, like some of the ASEAN member states, was ahead of the game in this regard and introduced compulsory Computer Science for all children of high school age at the turn of the last century. The UK followed their example and Computing became a compulsory subject for children age 5 to 16 in 2014. The United States, under Barack Obama, introduced the CSforAll initiative, a drive to ensure that all children, from elementary level upwards, had the opportunity to study computer science. So, as a result of this delayed global realisation there has been a huge emphasis on teaching our children how to code. This is great. But, what about the wider skills that are required to enable our children to become the tech wizards of tomorrow? There’s a quote, “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes”, attributed to Edsger Dijkstra. So what is it about? Computer science is about

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solving problems using computers, which we have to programme so that they can reproduce solutions automatically. We must teach our children how to solve these problems so that they can design the solutions, the tech, to do it for us. This involves a myriad of fundamental skills collectively described as ‘computational thinking’, the new 21st century literacy. When I ask a class what this means the inevitable answer is “thinking like a computer”, but computers cannot think (yet). It means solving problems like a computer; methodically, systematically and logically. Someone who is a good computational thinker will analyse a problem and apply logical reasoning to form judgements. They are able to decompose the problem, breaking it into smaller, more

manageable parts, look for any patterns and use abstraction to simplify it to help identify possible solutions. They will do all of this algorithmically. Did you get those big words? Just in case, that was decomposition, abstraction, pattern recognition, algorithm and logical reasoning. There is a famous example used to describe the application of computational thinking. In 1854 London there was a cholera epidemic and Dr John Snow suggested that the cholera was spread through contaminated water, contradicting the theory that diseases were spread by bad smells. It wasn’t quite as controversial as Galileo, but not far off. Snow approached the problem algorithmically, applying a systematic method and logic to what he knew to be true. He knew where there were confirmed cases of cholera in the city so he mapped them. He knew where the water pumps were located so he mapped those too and clear patterns emerged. This approach helped to identify cholera as a water born disease, the importance of clean water and ultimately saved millions of lives. Of course, Dr John Snow did not know he was applying computational thinking in his approach because we have learned from him, and others like him, how huge problems can be solved. In my Computing classes we make jam sandwiches, or at least we try to make jam sandwiches, by following algorithms. A recipe is just like a Dr Snow's cholera map

computer algorithm, it describes the basic technique to get the job done.

As the children solve brain teasers and logic problems, I ask the children ‘How did you solve that?’, ‘Where did you start?’, ‘What steps did you take?’, ‘Why did you do it that way?’ I want them to be able to explain, using logic, how they came to a solution. I have seen computational thinking concepts used across the curriculum at my school; a blindfolded teacher being given directions in French, a dance sequence broken down into a series of steps and the simplification of a cell structure made from clay. All hugely fun activities that also teach computational thinking

skills and therefore help children learn how to approach problems. Why is teaching computational thinking important? Imagine telling a group of children to put a Mentos into a bottle of soda. They’ll have great fun watching the resulting explosion but they won’t be any wiser to understanding the chemical reactions that took place in the bottle if they haven’t been taught the scientific theory. Teaching children how to code without also introducing them to some of the fundamental principles of computer science is the same.

The OECD South East Asia Regional Forum recently produced a report entitled ‘Opportunities and Policy Challenges of Digitalisation in Southeast Asia’. The opening line of this report is ‘The world is in the midst of a digital transformation..’ and it goes on to identify four key priorities for future governments in developing their employment and skills policies. The number one priority, “Ensuring that initial education equips all students with solid literacy, numeracy and problemsolving skills, as well as basic ICT skills and complementary socio-emotional skills, such as teamwork, flexibility and resilience.” We need to teach children how to identify what the problems are and how a computer program can help to solve these problems. Writing a computer program is not the hardest part, identifying what to write is. And that requires a whole new type of literacy, computational thinking. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

All about dairy by Monique Jhingon

Dairy is one of those controversial foods. Discussions stir up question marks and different viewpoints and it is quite obvious that the decision to drink or not to drink milk is very personal. It seems to work for some and doesn’t work for others. Many people believe milk consumption is essential for growing children, for energy, for building strong bones and for preventing osteoporosis in adults. A lot of the advertising campaigns for milk are built on this widespread belief. At the same time there is growing awareness in the world today about the potential health damaging consequences linked to dairy consumption. I believe it is, as always, necessary to consider all angles before coming to a well-informed decision that works for you. In this article I will first look what conventional milk actually is. I will then examine some different viewpoints and common health problems that have been associated with dairy consumption so that you have some more detailed information available that will hopefully guide you in deciding for yourself whether dairy should be in your diet or not. Milk today Research has shown that for as long as tens of thousands of years


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humans have been drinking milk. It has for a very long time been one of the most important sources of nourishment for the world’s population. It is, however, relatively recent (about a hundred years ago) that the kind of milk we consumed changed significantly through the introduction of batchprocessing pasteurisation machines. Before that people survived and thrived on the consumption of fresh, raw milk. Pasteurisation became a necessity when diseased cows, housed in cities,

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produced milk which was tainted with bacteria and when dairymen were often infected with diphtheria which spread through the raw, warm milk to other people causing severe epidemics. However, in the case of healthy cows that were well looked after, allowed to roam and graze on grass, there were never such health risks. In her book “Deep Nutrition” Dr Cate Shanahan explains these developments in a lot of detail. She points out that when savvy businessmen and milk producers recognised the potential growth in output volumes with the help of pasteurisation machines, they initiated aggressive campaigns to promote pasteurised milk which were centred on creating fear in the mind of consumers about drinking tainted raw milk. And it worked. In most parts of the world today the only milk people are able to buy in stores is heavily processed, pasteurised, homogenised

milk. Most of this milk is from factory farmed cows that are fed hormones and treated with antibiotics all of which land up in the very milk you consume. No wonder there are so many health related problems linked to dairy consumption. According to Dr Shanahan and many other nutrition experts, the processing of milk significantly reduces the nutritional value and alters its micro-architecture, which makes it highly irritating to the digestive tract and leads to many potential health issues including cancer. Raw milk Proponents of dairy consumption that understand the problems associated with “modern processed milk” agree that milk in its natural and raw state is highly nutritious and contains highly bio available healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Even the ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda confirms this belief. Cow’s milk is considered to be a “sattvic” food that is good especially for growing children provided it is used raw and heated to boiling point, which renders it more digestible, with mucusdecreasing spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and cloves (Ayurvedic Healing - David Frawley). The problem is, as I pointed out earlier, that fresh, raw milk is often hard to come by. And if it is, it is important to make sure the milk has been obtained from healthy, grass-grazing cows under the most hygienic conditions. Secondly, there is the question of whether even fresh, raw milk should be consumed freely by all, especially adults. In the

words of Mark Sisson of “Mark’s Daily Apple”*: “Milk is baby fuel. It’s literally meant to spur growth and enable a growing body. Our bodies definitely recognise dairy as food, even foreign bovine dairy. But is it good nutrition?” Good nutrition or not, the fact is that dairy is everywhere. We consume it in the form of plain milk, in our coffee and tea, as yoghurt, ice cream, butter, cream, buttermilk, cheese, in desserts, sweets, sauces and the list goes on. To figure out whether this is such a good thing, let’s have a look at some of the problems that have been linked to dairy consumption: Digestive issues Lactose intolerance Lactose is the type of sugar found in milk. We digest this sugar with the help of the enzyme lactase which nearly everyone has in their digestive tract but many lose as they get older. It is estimated that about 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, this being more prevalent in people of Asian, African or Mediterranean descent.

Lactose intolerance causes a number of different symptoms including cramping, acne, bloating, diarrhoea, gas, eczema, headaches and nausea. Most people that are lactose intolerant can tolerate small amounts of dairy, which makes it difficult to figure out if you have this problem. The best way to determine if you do is an elimination test, which means you exclude all dairy from your diet for a period of at least 2 weeks. After this period of elimination, when you re-introduce it you will have a heightened reaction if you have a problem digesting lactose. Fermentation breaks down lactose, which makes products such as yoghurt and cheese sometimes easier to digest. Please keep in mind that most of the store bought yoghurts has only been fermented for short periods and therefore has higher amounts of lactose still present. Traditional Greek yoghurts seem to be an exception to this. Making yoghurt at home and allowing it to ferment for longer is the best way to reduce lactose to acceptable levels. It is also important to note that yoghurt contains many gut-friendly bacteria that help maintain a healthy digestive system.

Casein Casein is a type of protein found in milk. It is not the only one but makes up about 80% of the total milk protein. Certain protein fragments (or peptides) within casein’s molecular structure have specific physiological functions. They are, for example, able to cross the intestinal barrier in young children but also in adults who have a compromised digestive system (i.e. intestinal permeability). Once in the bloodstream they bind with opioid receptors, EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

inducing morphine-like effects. These peptides, more specifically BCM 7 (Beta Caso-morphin 7) have also been linked to higher risks of type 1 diabetes and heart disease. Interestingly, not all cows produce milk that contains BCM 7. According to Keith Woodford, author of “Devil in the Milk”, there are two types of casein: A1 and A2. Only the A1 beta-casein releases the “problematic” peptide BCM7. Whether the milk you drink is of type A1 or A2 is a result of the genetic makeup of the cows that it comes from. Awareness of the difference in types of milk is slowly growing. In certain countries such as Australia and New Zealand there has been a conscious shift towards producing more of the health beneficial A2 type milk. Goat, sheep, and yak’s milk are A2 milk by the way. In their book: “It Starts with Food” Melissa and Dallas Hartwig speculate that the very presence of this BCM7 casomorphin is perhaps one of the main reasons some people find it hard to give up eating cheese. Cheese is mostly made of concentrated casein blended with enzymes that partly digest the casein molecules, liberating some of the morphine-like compounds. With regards to digestive issues, casein shares some structural properties with the proteins found in gluten. Many people who are sensitive to gluten are therefore less likely to tolerate dairy. Effects on insulin In addition to lactose dairy products contain whey, which is another type of protein. Whey is made up of several different types of smaller


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proteins and hormones including immunoglobins, insulin, insulin like growth factor, oestrogen and other growth factors. The combination of lactose and whey is therefore the reason that milk causes the release of very large amounts of insulin when consumed. When we are no longer in an aggressive growth stage (meaning when we are no longer infants) the resulting insulin spike can be detrimental to health, especially for people that need to improve their insulin sensitivity such as pre-diabetics and diabetics. Hormone imbalances We are all extremely vulnerable to hormonal imbalances, especially so now, with the lifestyles we lead, the pollution around us, the products we use on our skin and in our homes, and the foods we eat. Many people (including myself for a long time), are not aware of the fact that hormonal imbalance is the real underlying cause of their health problems. They blame

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their fatigue, irritability, mood swings, depression, menstrual problems, low libido on ageing and their bodies refusing to cooperate. Or they go around in endless circles trying to address their issues without getting down to the real cause. There are many things we can do to naturally restore the delicate balance of our body’s hormones. For one, our diet can make a big difference. In this context conventional milk which comes from factory-farmed cows contains, amongst other things, synthetic growth hormones which can interfere with your body’s natural hormone balance. Especially excess levels of oestrogen have been associated with the consumption of conventional milk products. Excess oestrogen has in turn been linked to menstrual irregularities, fibroids and endometriosis among other things. Milk and cheese have also been shown to increase matrix metalloproteinase (MMK), which creates inflammation in the body, which in turn leads to higher levels of

androgens (hormones responsible for growth and reproduction) and acne. Lastly, here is what Annemarie Colbin, PhD writes in her book “Food and Healing” about milk in any form: “Milk is a product of the reproductive glands of a cow and contains an appreciable amount of hormones, including gonadotrophin’s, thyroidreleasing hormones, ovarian steroids, and an epidermal growth factor.” Whether the milk your drink is conventional, organic, Type A2 and/or fresh and raw, this is something to keep in mind especially if you are dealing with hormonal problems.

more difficult as well. As always, any food in its whole, unrefined state is a carefully balanced set of nutrients and elements in its ideal proportion. The topic of bone health and osteoporosis requires a much deeper understanding of calcium requirements and absorption as well as other bone building nutrients. I will cover this in more details in a future article but for now we can safely conclude that dairy is not essential or perhaps even recommended for building or maintaining bone health or for calcium requirements in general. Conclusion It’s almost like opening a can of worms when you delve into dairy details. At least so it seems. I personally do not tolerate milk very well but I do occasionally like to indulge in a bit of cheese, preferably goats or

sheeps without that causing much of a problem. I know many people in the Paleo community (and others too) who swear by drinking raw, fresh milk and in rural areas across the world many families drink milk fresh from a cow, which is kept for that purpose. In some countries, like India, the consumption of homemade yoghurt is a daily habit. Where would Holland and France be without its cheese? The decision to eat dairy or not is therefore not as blackand-white as we would like it to be. My main philosophy regarding diet and nutrition is that it is all about awareness. To understand what you put into your mouth, why you put it there, the effect it has on your overall state of health, and last but not least, the joy of eating. The information in this article is meant to increase your level of awareness so that you can make the best possible decision that suits you.

Dairy and calcium One of the first questions that pops up when people start thinking about cutting out milk and other dairy products from their diet is “where do I get my calcium from?” Due to very effective advertising campaigns and other propaganda we have been led to believe that milk is the best if not only source of calcium. Let me ask you this: how do elephants, cows and giraffes build and maintain their large bone structure if they never drink milk after weaning from their mother’s milk? They definitely don’t drink the mother’s milk of another animal. They obtain their calcium and other bone building nutrients by eating grass, leaves and other vegetable matter. There are many foods that are rich in calcium which is often more bio-available to our bodies. These foods include beans, nuts, green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables, sesame seeds, small fish with edible bones and bone stock. It is therefore absolutely not essential to consume dairy products in order to get sufficient calcium into your body. In fact, many of us who drink lowfat milk for that reason might actually be achieving the opposite effect: the fat in milk is not only healthy but also assists in the assimilation of calcium. Removing the fat from the milk could be making the digestion of milk protein

Resources: • “Deep Nutrition. Why your genes need traditional foods.” - Dr Cate Shanahan and Luke Shanahan • “Digestive Wellness” - Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D., DDN, CHN • “Ayurvedic Healing” - David Frawley • “Healing with Whole Foods” - Paul Pitchford • “Food and Healing” - Annemarie Colbin • “The Whole-food Guide to Strong Bones” - Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D. • “It Starts with Food” - Dallas & Melissa Hartwig •

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Monique Jhingon is a Functional Nutrition & Lifestyle Practitioner who offers select private coaching to expats whose health and digestion has been compromised as a result of transitioning into new environments, cultures, climates and foods. You can read more on her website and sign up for a free nutrition breakthrough session here:


Health and fitness

Preventing and reverting type 2 diabetes by Dr Donna Robinson

Type 2 diabetes is growing to become a common disease amongst people who struggle to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. It is a disease that causes your blood glucose (sugar) levels to be higher than normal, meaning your body is not using insulin properly. Insulin works to keep your blood glucose level normal and healthy, if it fails to do this, it is called insulin resistance. This essentially means that the pancreas cannot continue to produce extra insulin to keep the blood glucose levels healthy. Type 2 diabetes can be caused through multiple reasons, however, the most important is simply, lifestyle. An unhealthy lifestyle can be detrimental to a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. From a lack of exercise to the problem of obesity, these issues can strengthen the chances of type 2 diabetes being a large component in someone's everyday life. A lack of exercise is a substantial contributing factor towards the cause of type 2 diabetes. A limited amount of physical activity in a person’s daily routine means that muscle cells lose their sensitivity to insulin, which controls blood glucose levels. So, not only does it increase the risks of type 2 diabetes, it’s also detrimental to the physical and mental health of someone. This can affect someone’s mental well being, which can eventually lead to a lack of motivation, happiness and confidence. To combat the bad habit of having a limited amount of physical activity in your daily routine, there are a few easy solutions to make this doable, as well as preventing type 2 diabetes. Joining a gym or scheduling workouts in advance will ensure that you are receiving the right amount of physical activity to guarantee that your muscle cells stay receptive to insulin. Another way to stay active is to participate in sporting activities. This is a less strenuous, and perhaps more


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

enjoyable way of keeping fit. Not only does it allow the body to receive its daily intake of exercise, but it can open doors to many social opportunities. Although a lack of exercise is one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes, an unhealthy diet is the fundamental cause of the disease. Unhealthy meal choices, for example, foods with high levels of carbohydrates, sugar and calories, which are missing the fundamental fibres, nutrients and minerals work to raise the chances of type 2 diabetes. In this day and age, unhealthy, high carbohydrate and calorie dense foods have become easily available as they are often inexpensive and quick to order. Although these foods hold a certain amount of convenience, and generally taste quite good, they are processed, artificial, and harmful to the body. When these high carbohydrate and calorie dense foods are eaten, the digestive system breaks down the carbohydrates into sugar, which then enters the blood. This causes the pancreas to produce more insulin to keep up with the high levels of blood glucose levels. As mentioned before, over time the pancreas will be unable to continue to produce high levels of insulin. This consequently, will result in a higher chance of type 2 diabetes, which will develop over time. For people who wish to prevent type 2 diabetes, or who already have the disease and wish to reverse it, a solution includes the low-carb meal plan. Essentially, a daily routine that involves the intake of meals with low levels of carbohydrate will improve blood glucose levels in the short term. The low-carb meal plan will also work to achieve weight loss in the long term, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease. Although the low-carb meal plan is beneficial and can help prevent and revert type 2 diabetes, it can also be harmful if initiated while treating your type 2 diabetes with insulin. Following the low-carb meal programme can

put you at risk of hypoglycaemia, which is essentially when blood glucose levels are too low. To ensure that this does not happen, please make it a necessity to consult your GP before beginning the low-carb meal plan. They will help you regarding the adjustments of your insulin intake, which will reduce the risks of low blood glucose levels. There are many low-carb meal plans that you can follow online, however, it is always useful to do your own research on foods with low carbohydrate levels. It’s important for your health to remain educated and aware of what your body is intaking. This will help to prevent the risks of type 2 diabetes, and overall improve your physical and mental health. To become aware regarding how well you are controlling your diabetes, the HbA1c test is a very important blood test. The HbA1c essentially indicates blood glucose levels from the past two to three months. It measures the amount of glucose that is being carried by the red blood cells in the body and is the most common way that type 2 diabetes is diagnosed. To undergo this HbA1c test, a blood sample is taken from the patient’s arm, and is the used to produce a reading which will determine whether your blood glucose levels indicate pre diabetes or a diagnosis of diabetes. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the following diagnostic guidelines for diabetes are: • HbA1c below 42 mmol/mol (6.0%): Non-diabetic

•H  bA1c between 42 and 47 mmol/mol (6.0-6.4%): Impaired glucose regulation (IGR) or Pre diabetes •H  bA1c of 48 mmol/mol (6.5%) or over: Type 2 diabetes

If your HbA1c test returns a reading of 6.0-6.4%, that indicates pre diabetes. Your GP should advise certain lifestyle changes that can help prevent the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Dr Donna Robinson is a UK qualified, trained and experienced doctor. She has been a resident of Thailand for over 25 years and is one of the few foreign doctors to hold a Thai Medical Licence.

Health and fitness

Sugar: why it is harmful to your health by Monique Jhingon

If I had to choose the biggest culprit in nutrition related health problems today, it would be sugar. Seemingly unrelated health issues such as mood swings, sleep deprivation, belly fat, skin problems, heart disease, arthritis and many more have been scientifically linked to the excess consumption of this sweet, white powder. Most of us don’t realise how much of it we (and even more importantly our children) are consuming. Or the effect it has on our bodies and our minds.

My own health quest started about 8 years ago and over those years, while I cleaned up my diet and began understanding what worked for me and what didn’t, I saw great improvement in my physical wellbeing. But it wasn’t until I removed sugar from my diet altogether that I felt remarkably better. And after all those years I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what a healthy way of eating was! The process wasn’t easy because, although I wasn’t exactly a sugar “junkie”, I did have a sweet tooth. It wasn’t easy because sugar is almost everywhere and it is addictive. It triggers dopamine, a chemical that controls pleasure in the brain. Given the apparent link between sugar and health I spent a good amount of time researching and trying to understand why sugar consumption causes all these problems. In this article I will try to explain what the possible implications of a high sugar diet are and I will give some tips on what to do to limit the harmful effects of sugar consumption. The link between sugar consumption and health In our daily diets we eat a combination of macronutrients, which are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Carbohydrates are generally considered to be the most important source of energy for our bodies. Once we eat a carbohydrate, whether it is in the form of bread, rice, fruit, a cookie, vegetable or pasta, it gets converted in our body into a simple source of sugar called glucose. Glucose is a source of energy but in large excess amounts in our bloodstream it is toxic so the body has a way


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to get it out of our bloodstream quickly and store it in our cells. This is done with the help of insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas that helps move glucose into the liver and muscles where it is stored as glycogen for future energy requirements. This system worked perfectly well 10,000 or more years ago when our ancestors consumed 80 grams of carbohydrates daily. There was no agriculture, therefore no grains, and fruits and vegetables were limited. Our “huntergatherer” ancestors survived (and thrived) on a diet, which largely consisted of proteins and fats. Today many of us consume in the range of 350 to 600 grams of carbohydrates per day and most importantly, a large portion of that is made up of high sugar, refined, processed foods. Our bodies are simply not made to process such an overload of sugar. It interferes with our hormones, especially insulin. Once the liver and muscle cells are filled with glycogen, they become resistant to the “call” of insulin. Continuing high levels of glucose in our bloodstream lead to the pancreas’ release of even more insulin which in turn leads to even more resistance in the cells. Eventually the excess glucose in the bloodstream is converted into fat. At that point we are looking at weight gain, insulin resistance, which leads to leptin resistance. This means our brain will no longer “hear” the signal of the hormone leptin that we have enough fat stored and can stop eating and start moving. As a result we eat even more and continue to add fuel to fire. High, toxic levels of glucose as well as high levels of insulin eventually lead to the formation of Advance Glycation End products (AGEs), which clog our arteries, cause systemic inflammation and deposit in joints to make them stiff. Once the liver becomes insulin resistant it can’t convert thyroid hormones T4 into T3 so we have thyroid issues to boot. We are looking at hormonal imbalances, weight gain, heart disease, cancer, and so on and so forth. And that is not the end of this story. To make matters worse we have High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), a corn

derived cheap form of sweetener, which is found in almost everything from soft drinks, condiments to breads. Dr Robert H Lustig, a paediatric endocrinologist at the university of California and a leading expert on childhood obesity, calls it the most widespread legal form of drug available today. Both HFCS and regular table sugar (sucrose) are part glucose and part fructose. Fructose is literally a toxin to our bodies. Around 30% of fructose is metabolised in our bodies as fat, it has been linked to learning and memory problems, Metabolic Syndrome, higher levels of cholesterol (the bad kind) and more. In his lecture “Sugar - The Bitter Truth” Dr Robert H Lustig explains in detail why fructose is toxic to our bodies. You can find his lecture on YouTube: How do we limit sugar’s harmful effects? So here we are: our carbohydrate consumption has increased to excessively high levels and a large portion of that consists of toxins. Add to that our sedentary lifestyles and it is no wonder that we are dealing with a whole host of health problems. But it is not too late to make changes and transform your health. With a little bit of willpower, support and certain lifestyle changes you can successfully reduce sugar’s harmful effects. Here are some tricks and tips: 1. Limit your sugar intake • Reduce carbohydrate consumption. Unlike popular belief we can get all the carbohydrates we need from vegetables and fruits. Add to that high quality protein and good fats and you have a very well balanced diet with plenty of fuel for your body. If you do include carbohydrates in your diet in the form of grains, choose the whole grain option (see tip 2). • Eliminate from your diet the refined, processed, high sugar kinds such as soft drinks, fruit juices, candy, biscuits, ice cream, white bread, etc. and be extra wary of products containing HFCS and high amounts of sugar. Instead, choose whole, fresh foods that include good fats and protein. This will cover all your nutrient needs and will make you feel satisfied longer. Try eating nuts for a snack or (dried) fruits, smoothies and raw vegetables with a dip.

•S  kip dessert or eat fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth. Although fruits are high in naturally occurring fructose they contain fibre (the natural antidote to sugar - see tip 2) as well as important nutrients and antioxidants. 2. Increase your fibre intake •F  ibre is a natural antidote to sugar. Fibre increases satiety and reduces the intestinal rate of carbohydrate absorption. This is the reason that whole fruits are good for you despite naturally occurring fructose. Nature takes care of itself. It is the processed, unnatural foods that cause the problems. •F  ibre also inhibits the absorption of some free fatty acids. These free fatty acids are then metabolised by bacteria in the colon into short chain fatty acids, which suppress insulin. •H  igh fibre foods are whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts. 3. Get moving •D  uring and after exercise muscles burn the stored glycogen, making room for more. In the process insulin receptors are up regulated making them more sensitive to insulin and ready to move glucose into cells. •E  xercise reduces stress and lowers cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol contribute to insulin resistance so you want to keep your stress levels in check. Physical movement also helps detoxify fructose, improving hepatic insulin sensitivity. •D  o yoga, walk, go to the gym, dance, play! Move. Every day. It really is non-negotiable. Our bodies are meant to move. Not to sit around all day long behind a desk or on a sofa. Find a type of exercise that suits you and incorporate it into your daily routine. 4. Include Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet •O  mega 3 fatty acids will protect against damage caused by sugar to the synapses: the chemical connections between brain cells that enable memory and learning. Check out the following article for more details: http://www.sciencedaily. com/releases/2012/05/120515150938.htm •O  mega 3 fatty acids are not made by the body and need to be obtained from our diet. The best natural source of Omega 3 is fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel. Vegetarian sources are flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. •T  ake a supplement. There are so many benefits associated with the consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids that it is worth your while making sure it is a part of your diet. A supplement will make sure you consume it daily even if you don’t eat fish, walnuts etc. Supplements are mostly in the form of fish oil, cod liver oil, flax seed oil. For more interesting reading on sugar visit the following article written by Gary Taubes, an independent science writer and journalist and author of “Why We Get Fat”: html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

The truth about fat by Monique Jhinghon

Nutrition is a fledgling science and what proves it more then anything else is the fat saga we have been subjected to in the last few decades. We have been given diametrically opposing dietary recommendations by doctors and government health authorities alike and although there now seems to be growing consensus among scientists and researchers on some irrefutable fat facts, there still is a lot of confusion among the general public about the kinds of fat to eat and the effects those fats have on our health, our heart health most importantly. The biggest misunderstandings seem to be with regards to saturated fats as well as polyunsaturated fats. In this article I will outline some basic fat facts that will hopefully clear up some of the confusion. The 5 kinds of fats we find in our diets 1. Long chain saturated fat These are the fats that are found mostly in dairy and the meat of ruminant animals (cattle and sheep). Butter, ghee, lard are some of the long chain saturated fats used for cooking. Traditionally these fats were used freely in our diets until the 1950s when, on the basis of what has now been recognised as incomplete research data, the world began to mistakenly pinpoint these same fats as the underlying cause of heart disease.


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

In 1953 Dr Ancel Keys published a paper on the link between saturated fats and heart disease. The report was based on an underlying study of 6 countries that linked a high consumption of fat to a high rate of heart disease. It was this paper that started the global demonisation of saturated fats. What we now know is that Dr Keys conveniently left data of 16 other countries out of his study which, had they been included, would have proven the exact opposite: countries with the highest rate of saturated fat consumption have the lowest rate of heart disease. A number of additional scientific studies have since debunked the “myth� that saturated fats are not good for us. In 2010 the results of a meta-analysis were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, concluding there is no link between the intake of saturated fats and the incidence of heart disease or stroke. *Furthermore, there are several indigenous tribes around the world that are living proof of how eating a high saturated fat diet is possible without heart disease. For example, the people of the Maasai tribe in Kenya and Tanzania thrive on a diet containing 66% saturated fats, the Inuit Eskimos in the Artic on a diet comprising 75% saturated fats. Neither of these tribes have any history of experiencing cardiovascular health problems. Long chain saturated fats form the core structural fats in our bodies. When the body stores excess energy from food for future use, it stores it primarily as long chain saturated fat. People who are metabolically healthy and have normal insulin levels can eat saturated fats without adverse consequences. Even in high doses these fats are non-toxic and can easily be burned for energy. Saturated fats have been scientifically proven to enhance the immune system, build strong bones (helps absorb calcium), provide energy and structural integrity to the cells, protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins, help build healthy lungs (saturated fatty acids create the surfactant that protect and coat the lungs airspaces), provide building blocks for hormones, a healthy brain and nervous system and assist in mineral absorption and cardiovascular health. Verdict: Good for you!

2. Medium chain triglycerides These are another type of saturated fat found in coconut and mother’s milk. They are metabolised differently and, as a result, are very easy to digest. Medium chain triglycerides are burned directly by the liver for energy thereby boosting your metabolism. These fats also contain lauric acid, which has anti viral, anti bacterial and antioxidant properties. In addition to these health benefits, coconut oil can withstand the high heat of cooking without becoming unstable or vulnerable to oxidative damage (unlike industrial refined vegetable oils). Verdict: Good for you!

3. Mono unsaturated fat These are fats found in beef, avocados, olive oil, and certain nuts (e.g. macadamias). Just like long chain saturated fats, they form core structural fats in the body and they are non-toxic even at high doses. Because these fats are unsaturated they are not as stable and unable to withstand high heat. Avocados and nuts also contain Omega 6 poly unsaturated fats which we need to be careful with, as I will explain later on. Verdict: Good for you, only don’t overeat nuts and avocados and use olive oil without heating.

4. Poly unsaturated fats: Omega 6 and 3 These unsaturated fats are essential fatty acids because they are not made by our bodies and have to be obtained through our diet. There are however several problems associated with these fats, especially the Omega 6s. First of all, due to their chemical structure these fats are extremely fragile. They are vulnerable to oxidative damage when exposed to light and heat. Secondly, for optimal health we should consume an Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of 1:1 and these fats should account for no more then 4% of our total calories. The current ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 in our diets has been estimated to be more in the region of 12:1 and higher. Furthermore, because vegetable oils have replaced the more traditional cooking oils and because of an increase in the consumption of refined, processed packaged foods the omega 6 polyunsaturated fats constitute a lot more then 4% of our total caloric intake. According to research this is what has played a significant role in the rise of modern diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease etc. Where do we find these polyunsaturated fats? Omega 6: In small amounts these fats are found in most whole foods: fruits, vegetables, cereal grains and meat. Large amounts are found in industrial processed vegetable oils. Most nuts as well as poultry, especially dark meat with skin contain relatively high amounts as well.

The three fats mentioned play an important role in your diet and they should form the bulk of your fat intake. In addition to the health benefits outlined above, they help reduce the risk of heart disease. Long chain saturated fats, medium chain triglycerides and mono-unsaturated fats raise HDL (the “good” cholesterol”), lower triglyceride levels in the blood and lower the small, dense LDL particles, which are the main culprits in cardiovascular disease.

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Health and fitness

Omega 3: There are two types of Omega 3 fatty acids: short chain (ALA) and long chain (EPA and DHA). The long chain Omega 3 is what is beneficial to our bodies. These are found mostly in seafood. The short chain fatty acids (ALA) are found in plant foods such as flax seeds and walnuts. Our bodies can convert ALA to the long chain Omega 3 fatty acids we need, only the process of doing so is highly inefficient, especially in people who are ill or have nutrient deficiencies. Verdict: Drastically reduce your Omega 6 intake and increase the Omega 3s in your diet to rebalance the Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio. Consume only in small amounts. 5. Trans fats Trans fats are found in their natural form in small amounts in the meat, dairy and fat of ruminant animals. Artificial trans fats are used in certain processed, packaged foods. Most people are well aware of the harmful effects artificial trans fats have on our health. Their use is not as widespread as it used to be and most government health authorities, including India, have labelling laws in place that require companies to report trans fat as an ingredient on product labels. However, as per the current labeling laws

there is no requirement to mention small amounts of trans fats on packaged food labels. Verdict: Not good for you! Eliminate all artificial trans fats in your diet. Conclusion: •L  ong chain saturated fats, medium chain triglycerides and mono unsaturated fats should form the bulk of your fat intake. •C  ook with ghee, coconut oil, or other traditional fats such as lard. •E  at small amounts of nuts every day (for reference: a portion size that fits into the palm of your closed hand) •U  se cold pressed olive oil on your salad dressings or just drizzle over raw or cooked veggies. •R  educe your Omega 6 intake: Replace industrial processed vegetable oils with the cooking fats mentioned above. Avoid deep fried foods and processed foods such as chips, biscuits and other snacks fried in vegetable oils. • Increase your Omega 3 intake: Eat fatty fish regularly (3 times a week) or take an Omega 3 supplement daily. • If you must eat processed foods, read the labels. If it mentions trans fat (“partly hydrogenated vegetable oil”), don’t eat it. Best is to avoid processed food altogether. * ajcn.2009.27725.abstract

Monique Jhingon is a Functional Nutrition & Lifestyle Practitioner who offers select private coaching to expats whose health and digestion has been compromised as a result of transitioning into new environments, cultures, climates and foods. You can read more on her website and sign up for a free Nutrition Breakthrough Session here:


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A school where students are







*Achieved by Green Valley students over the past 3 years **Published worldwide IB results 2017

At St. Andrews Green Valley we offer a broad and balanced program, but are also proud to have established a culture of academic excellence with some students gaining IB diploma scores that place them in the top 2% in the world. Each year graduating students are accepted into leading universities around the world, proving St Andrews is an excellent launch pad for securing a successful future. If you are interested in enrolling your child at Green Valley, then please get in touch.

St. Andrews International School Green Valley

Health and fitness

Easy ways to fall asleep faster and sleep better by Judith Coulson

If you have difficulty falling asleep or getting a good night's rest, this is for you. Good sleep is crucial for a well-functioning body and quality of life. Poor sleep can affect many areas of your life, including learning, memory, emotional wellbeing and biological functions. Let’s look at some simple ideas to help you to fall asleep faster: Daylight and darkness are equally important Light can influence your body’s internal clock, which regulates sleep and wakefulness. Irregular light exposure can lead to disruption of circadian rhythms, making it harder to fall asleep and stay awake. During the day, exposing your body to bright light tells it to stay alert. At night, darkness promotes feelings of sleepiness. In fact, research shows that darkness boosts the production of melatonin, an essential hormone for sleep. Get out and expose your body to sunlight or artificial bright light throughout the day. If possible, use blackout curtains to make your room dark at night. Avoid naps during the day Due to poor sleep at night, people with insomnia tend to be sleepy during the day. This often leads to daytime napping. While naps of short duration have been linked to improvements in alertness and wellbeing, there are mixed opinions about the effects of napping for longer than 15-20 minutes. Some studies have shown that regular, long (two hours or more) and late naps may lead to poor nighttime sleep quality and even sleep deprivation. One study showed that among 440 college students, those who reported taking three or more naps per week, those who napped more than two hours and those who napped late (between 6 and 9 pm) had the poorest nighttime sleep quality. Another study found that older adults who napped frequently had lower quality nighttime sleep, more depressive


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

symptoms, more limited physical activity and were more likely to be overweight than those who rarely took a nap. To find out if naps are affecting your sleep, try either eliminating naps altogether or limiting yourself to a short nap early in the day. Get on a schedule Your body has its own regulatory system called the circadian rhythm. This internal clock cues your body to feel alert during the day but sleepy at night. Waking up and going to bed at the same times each day can help your internal clock keep a regular schedule. Once your body adjusts to this schedule, it will be easier to fall asleep and wake up around the same time every day. It is also important to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. This has been shown to be the optimal sleep duration for adults. Getting on a schedule can help ensure that you get a good amount of sleep. Lastly, give yourself 30 minutes to an hour to wind down in the evening before getting in bed. This allows your body and mind to relax and prepare for sleep. Do not look at your clock It is normal to wake up in the middle of the night. However, the inability to fall back asleep can ruin a good night’s rest. People who have a hard time falling back asleep

in the middle of the night tend to watch the clock and obsess about the fact that they cannot fall back asleep. "Clock-watching" is common among people suffering from insomnia. This behaviour may cause anxiety about sleeplessness. To make matters worse, waking on a regular basis without falling back asleep may cause your body to develop a routine. As a result, you might find yourself waking up in the middle of the night every night. If possible, it is best to remove the clock from your room. If you need an alarm, you can turn your clock and avoid watching it when you are trying to fall back asleep.

Read something Reading could be a good activity to help you wind down before bed. At least for kids, it seems that bedtime reading may promote longer sleep. However, it is important to understand the difference between reading an electronic book (Kindle or iPad) at bedtime and a traditional paper book. Electronic books emit a kind of light that can reduce melatonin secretion, making it harder for you to fall asleep and causing you to feel tired the next day. Therefore, it is recommended to read from a physical book in order to relax and improve your sleep. Choose your reading material wisely. Before sleep it is recommended to read something light, funny, or relaxing. Something that takes your mind off your day and work. Practice journaling Some people have difficulty falling asleep because their thoughts keep running in circles. Research has shown that this can produce anxiety and stress, which can generate negative emotions and disturb sleep. Even stressful daytime thoughts and worries may affect sleep at night. Research has shown that journaling and focusing on positive thoughts can calm the mind and help you sleep better. Writing down the positive events that happened during the day can create a state of gratitude and happiness, downgrade stressful events and promote more relaxation at bedtime. In fact, a study of 41 college students found that journaling resulted in reduced bedtime worry and stress, increased sleep time and improved sleep quality. Try practicing this technique by setting aside 10 minutes every night to write down 3 positive things about your day.

Get comfortable Having a comfortable bed is important to good sleep. It has been shown that having a comfortable mattress and bedding could have a remarkable effect on the depth and quality of sleep. A medium-firm mattress has been shown to positively affect sleep quality and prevent sleep disturbances and muscular discomfort. The quality of your pillow is also crucial. It can affect your neck curve, temperature and comfort. A study determined that orthopaedic pillows may be better than feather or memory foam pillows. Additionally, the use of a weighted blanket could reduce body stress and help improve your sleep. Lastly, the fabric of the clothes you wear to bed can affect how well you sleep. It is crucial you choose comfortable clothing made of fabric that could keep you at a pleasant temperature through the night. Turn off all electronics Using technology frequently has been shown to be bad for sleep quality. It seems that watching TV, video gaming, mobile phone use and social networking could make it significantly harder for you to fall and stay asleep. There is plenty of literature on the effect of electronic use and social media on the quality of sleep in adolescents. However, this problem is also found among adults. It is recommended that you disconnect all electronics and put away computers and mobile phones so you can ensure a quiet place, free of distractions. You will be able to fall asleep much faster. Lower the temperature Your body temperature changes as you fall asleep. Core temperature decreases, while the temperature of your hands and feet increases. If your room is too warm, you might have a hard time falling asleep. Setting your thermostat to a cool temperature between 15 - 23°C could help you fall asleep faster. Individual preferences will vary, so find the temperature that works best for you.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

Use the "4 - 7 - 8" exercise The “4 - 7 - 8” exercise is a simple but powerful breathing method that promotes calmness and relaxation. It might also help you unwind before bed. It consists of a breathing pattern that relaxes the nervous system. It can be practiced anytime you feel anxious or stressed. Here are the steps for the "4 - 7 8" breathing method: •E  xhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose while mentally counting to four. •H  old your breath to the count of seven. •O  pen your mouth slightly and exhale completely, making a whoosh sound to the count of eight. • Inhale again, and repeat the cycle at least three more times until you feel calm and are ready to fall asleep. • If practiced daily, this technique may help you fall asleep faster. Visualise your happy place Instead of lying in bed worrying and thinking about stressful things, visualise a place that makes you feel happy and calm. 41 participants suffering from insomnia were able to fall asleep faster after they were instructed to use an "imaginary distraction". This technique helped them occupy their mind with good thoughts instead of engaging with worries and concerns during the pre-sleep time. Picturing and concentrating on an environment that makes you feel peaceful and relaxed can take your mind away from the thoughts that keep you up at night. Adjust your sleep position Good quality sleep may depend on your body position during the night. There are three main sleeping positions: back, stomach or side. Traditionally, it was believed that back sleepers had a better quality of sleep. However, research has shown that this might not be the best position to sleep in, as it could lead to blocked airways, sleep apnea and snoring. In fact, a study done on 16 people determined that the participants who reported consistent poor sleep spent more time on their back and were awake longer than good sleepers. Although individual preferences play an important role in choosing sleep position, the side position seems to be linked

to high-quality sleep. If you sleep on your side, you may benefit from placing a pillow between your legs for more back support. If you sleep on your back, consider a good quality pillow that will support your neck. And, if you sleep on your stomach, it may be best to not use any pillow at all, so you do not strain your neck. Watch what and when you eat It seems that the food you eat before bed may affect your sleep. For example, research has shown that high-carb meals may be detrimental to a good night's rest. A review of studies concluded that even though a high-carb diet can get you to fall asleep faster, it will not be restful sleep. Instead, high-fat meals could promote a deeper and more restful. If you still want to enjoy a high-carb meal for dinner, you should consume it at least four hours before bed, so you have enough time to digest it. There are specific foods that have been proven to help you sleep better, including warm milk, fatty fish like salmon and fruits like kiwifruit or tart cherry juice. Regardless, it’s never a good idea to go to bed with a full stomach. It is recommended that you wait long enough after dinner to allow your body to digest the food before going to sleep. Limit caffeine and drink a soothing beverage Caffeine is widely used among people to fight fatigue and stimulate alertness. It can be found in foods and beverages like chocolate, coffee, sodas, teas and energy drinks. Unfortunately, caffeine can negatively impact sleep. Research has shown that caffeine consumption may make it harder for you to fall asleep. It could also lead to shorter and poor quality sleep. Although the effects of caffeine vary from person to person, it is recommended that you refrain from consuming caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. Instead, you could drink a soothing tea, which has been shown to promote sleep and relaxation. Traditional teas like green and black tea have been shown to have good concentrations of L-theanine but also contain caffeine which could interfere with sleep. Other tea’s that have shown positive effects on sleep are chamomile, passionflower and valerian. Eat breakfast Having breakfast might be key to better sleep. It has been shown that tryptophan improves the quality of sleep. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is transformed into serotonin in the brain and subsequently converted


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

to melatonin. Interestingly enough, the transformation of tryptophan to melatonin is higher in the presence of light rather than darkness. Therefore, to maximise melatonin production, tryptophan intake and the timing of light exposure should be considered together. That’s why the combination of tryptophan-rich foods for breakfast and exposing yourself to light during the day could maximise melatonin production and help you sleep better at night. Some tryptophan-rich foods you can incorporate into your breakfast are yogurt, eggs, oats, nuts and seeds. Exercise smartly Physical activity is often considered beneficial to healthy sleep. Exercise can increase the duration and quality of sleep by boosting the production of serotonin in the brain and decreasing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. The time of the day when you exercise is also critical. To promote better quality sleep, working out early in the morning appears to be better than working out later in the day. Therefore, moderate to vigorous exercise in the morning could significantly improve the quality and quantity of sleep. Practice yoga, meditation and mindfulness Yoga, meditation and mindfulness are tools to calm the mind and relax the body. Moreover, they have been shown to improve sleep. Yoga encourages the practice of breathing patterns and body movements that release stress and tension accumulated in your body. Meditation can enhance melatonin levels and assist the brain in achieving a specific state where sleep is easily achieved. Lastly, mindfulness may help you maintain focus on the present and worry less while falling asleep. Practicing one or all of these techniques can help you get a good night's rest and wake up re-energised. Listen to relaxing music Music can significantly improve quality of sleep. It can even be used to improve chronic sleep disorders like insomnia. A study of 24 young adults demonstrated that sedative music promoted deeper sleep. Another study revealed that 25 participants had a more restful and deeper sleep when they were exposed to soothing music for 45 minutes at bedtime, compared to those not listening to music. Lastly, if relaxing music is not available, blocking all noise, using ear plugs, could also help you fall asleep faster and promote uninterrupted sleep. Try aromatherapy Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from specific plants that have been shown to relieve health problems,

such as insomnia and anxiety. Aromatherapy is commonly used by those who have trouble falling asleep, as it may help with relaxation and sleep. A systematic review of 12 studies revealed that the use of aromatherapy was effective in improving sleep quality. Additionally, it seems that lavender and damask rose are popular scents with positive effects on sleep. An essential oil diffuser could be helpful in infusing your room with relaxing scents that encourage sleep. Practice acupressure Acupressure is a non-invasive form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the pressing of specific sensitive areas of the body, called acupoints, with your fingers. It is believed that the pressure placed on these acupoints can stimulate the production of melatonin and other sleep-promoting hormones like gamma-butyric acid (GABA) and serotonin. A study treated a group of 28 elderly individuals with acupressure. Results showed that acupressure was effective at promoting longer and better sleep compared to the placebo and control group. A faculty member from leading natural health university Bastyr University suggests these acupressure techniques to alleviate sleeplessness: • Between your eyebrows, there is a small depression on the level of your brows, right above the nose. Apply gentle pressure to that point for a minute. • Between your first and second toes, on top of the foot, there is a depression. Press that area for a few minutes until you feel a dull ache. • Imagine that your foot has three sections, beginning at the tips of your toes and ending at the back of your heel. Find the distance one-third back from the tips of your toes and press on the sole of your foot for a few minutes. • Massage both of your ears for a minute. Acupressure seems to work by applying pressure for one to five minutes to each acupoint, three to seven times a week. This technique can be self-administered at home to improve your sleep.

Judith Coulson is a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist, Positive Psychology and Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach, working with individuals, executive teams, schools and companies based in Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

Natural ways to increase fertility in men by Judith Coulson

Sperm counts are decreasing in most western nations but non-pharmacologic remedies may help. For several decades, researchers have known that sperm quality and fertility rates have been in decline in most Western nations. According to a 2017 study, between 1973 and 2011 the average sperm count in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand dropped by 59.3%. Despite studies identifying the problem, the reasons for this decline and ways to reliably reverse still need more research. Ways to increase sperm count naturally Sperm count or total sperm count refers to the average total number of sperm present in one sample of semen. Sperm count is one of the several qualities that are assessed during routine semen analysis and is considered an important factor for fertility. Based on the most current World Health Organisation guidelines, a healthy sperm count is 15 million per millilitre (ml) or at least 39 million per sample. A sperm count lower than 10 million per ml is considered abnormal and commonly associated with male infertility. Anything that impacts the hormones that control the production of sperm or acts as an anti-oxidant may aid the healthy development of sperm and help improve sperm count. Overall, factors that influence testosterone levels are thought to have the most significant impact on sperm number and quality.

Fast facts on how to increase sperm count: •E  xercise, eating habits, stress control and sleep have been shown to improve sperm count. •T  he first recommended line of treatment is to try non-pharmacologic remedies. •S  moking has long been known to reduce overall health, sperm production, and quality. Natural ways to increase sperm count include: Exercise and sleep Several studies have shown that weight loss and exercise in obese and overweight individuals can lead to improved or increased sperm counts. However, the science linking a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) to a healthy sperm count is still weak. A 2017 study found that performing a 16 week aerobic exercise programme of at least 50 minutes of moderate exercise at 50 to 65% peak heart rate 3 times weekly, increased sperm volume and concentration in 45 sedentary, obese men. Learn more about a better sleep: Reduce stress A healthful diet and exercise may help to reduce stress. Any form of stress can cause the body to take defensive


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

actions and conserve energy. In times of distress, it makes biological sense for the body to become less concerned with reproduction and more focused on surviving. Reducing stress requires addressing the cause: Increase intake of antioxidant-rich foods Antioxidants are molecules that help remove and deactivate free radicals and other compounds that damage cells. Several vitamins and minerals have shown to act as antioxidants, and several studies have linked antioxidant consumption with increased sperm count. Antioxidants that may contribute to a healthy sperm count include: • selenium • vitamin C (ascorbic acid) • vitamin E • glutathione • coenzyme Q10 • I-carnitine These antioxidants are best eaten in whole foods, as only the natural combination of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemical's and fibre within a wholefood product, guarantees optimal absorption and usage of the nutrients. Talk to a nutritionist: Increase healthy fat intake Polyunsaturated fats or so-called healthy fats, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6, are crucial to the healthy development of the sperm membrane. Some studies have shown that individuals should consume these two essential Omega compounds in equal quantities for ideal sperm development and antioxidant benefits. Reduce unhealthy fat intake A 2014 study that surveyed 209 healthy Spanish men between the ages of 18 to 23 years of age found that as they increased their consumption of trans fatty acids, their sperm count decreased proportionately. Several studies have also shown that trans fatty acids may impair the ability

of long chain polyunsaturated fats to incorporate into sperm membranes, a critical step in sperm development. Get enough vitamin D and calcium Researchers are not entirely sure why, but vitamin D and calcium serum appear to impact sperm health. Some studies have shown that low dietary vitamin D intake seems to correspond with lowered sperm count. Avoid soy in foods Soy products contain phytoestrogens (plant oestrogen), compounds shown to reduce testosterone bonding and sperm production. Many canned and plastic products are also high in synthetic forms of oestrogen. Get enough folate and zinc Consuming folate and zinc in combination has been shown in limited studies to increase overall sperm health, including sperm concentration or total count. Foods to improve sperm count Though supplements are considered a safe way to get the recommended daily intake of most vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the body does not always easily absorb them. Most studies suggest that eating foods rich in specific compounds and chemicals allows the body to use them more efficiently. So the best way to increase sperm count naturally may be to increase the consumption of foods high in sperm-friendly nutrients. Talk to a nutritionist: EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

Foods high in sperm count boosting nutrients include: • walnuts • citrus fruits • whole wheat and grains • most fish, especially wild salmon, cod, and haddock • most shellfish, especially oysters • organic eggs • dark chocolate (70% cacao plus) • garlic • bananas • broccoli • ginseng • turmeric • asparagus • most leafy greens, especially spinach and kale • fermented nuts and seeds

Fenugreek supplement Fenugreek has long been used as a natural remedy for poor sperm health, and advocates suggest it may improve sperm count. A 2017 study found that some nutraceuticals which are developed from fenugreek seeds, significantly improved overall semen quality and sperm count. Learn more here: Ashwagandha Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, has long been used in traditional medicines as a remedy for several forms of sexual dysfunction. A 2016 study found that 46 men with low sperm counts who took 675 milligrams (mg) of Ashwagandha daily for 90 days saw a 167 percent increase in sperm count. Learn more here:

Stop smoking A 2016 study reviewing the results of over 20 different studies with a total of nearly 6,000 participants found smoking consistently reduced sperm count. Avoid excessive alcohol use and drugs The number of studies exploring the link between sperm health and drugs is limited given ethical considerations. However, some researchers have linked the worldwide use of drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine to decreased sperm production. Avoid several prescription medications Some prescription medications can potentially decrease the healthy production of sperm. Once a person stops taking the drug, his sperm count should return to normal or increase. Medications that temporarily reduce the production and development of sperm include: • some antibiotics • anti-androgens • anti-inflammatories • antipsychotics • corticosteroids • anabolic steroids (up to 1 year recovery time) • exogenous (outside) testosterone • methadone


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Avoid or limit exposure to environmental or occupational toxins and contaminants As the environment and atmosphere become increasingly polluted and congested, environmental factors, such as air quality and toxic chemical exposure, have frequently been linked to reduced sperm health and total count. Avoiding environmental toxins wherever possible also contributes to overall health.

Judith Coulson is a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist, Positive Psychology and Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach, working with individuals, executive teams, schools and companies based in Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Health and fitness

The wonders of strength training for women by Rishi Haria, photos by Vishal Haria, model Lotta Lemon

The ratio of men to women in a yoga studio is vastly different to the free weights area of your typical commercial gym. I could easily count on one hand the number of men that take part in yoga classes in the studio next to my work. I’ve trained myself in many of the big gyms in Bangkok and you still see less women lifting weights than men. You may think that this a reflection on what each gender requires to reach their fitness and body shape goals. It is in fact quite the contrary. I believe that this is a result of cultural expectations and misconceptions about strength training. A lot more women are weight training now compared to before - but still more women should start to include it into their exercise regimes. The type of training you do should be structured according to your goal, as opposed to it being gender

specific. A man and a woman with the exact same goal should train in almost the same way other than small nuances. Men naturally have higher levels of testosterone than women so they generally have more potential for muscle gain. This is one reason why women generally are unable to become as muscular as men. In extreme cases, women resort to injecting testosterone in order to build more muscle than they naturally are capable of doing. That is why a lot of female bodybuilders begin to develop masculine characteristics. Women do naturally have higher levels of oestrogen than men. This allows

them to recover faster from training and to fatigue less than men. Therefore, it is normally better for women to have shorter rest periods during their sessions when compared to men. These are just minor differences that should not affect the overall programming of your training. The general advice I would give for fat loss and ‘toning’ would be to strength train at least three times a week, be strict with your diet, and to do a slowly progressive amount of cardio. I would give the same advice regardless of gender. If you’re looking to sculpt your body as much as possible, strength training should be a staple in your training routine. Activities such


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

as yoga and pilates have numerous benefits, but they will not have the same effect as strength training. Think of anything to do with barbells, dumbbells, and free weights when you talk about this form of exercise. Strength training will help you lose those inches off your waist - providing that you control your food intake. Throughout the year I go through periods of wanting to gain muscle mass followed by a fat loss phase. This is just a personal preference and I would not recommend this to everyone. My weight training always stays consistent - the only difference is that I will start to add in cardio and eat less once I enter the fat loss phase. When you gain muscle your metabolism improves and you become more efficient at burning calories from the food you consume. That’s not to say that you will become big and ‘bulky’ from lifting weights. To gain weight you need to be eating more than your body needs. So whether or not you’re strength training, you will end up becoming heavier if you eat too much. Strength training combined with overeating will result in some of the weight gain being muscle. It’s important to look at all the variables and adjust your training and diet accordingly. It’s not just body composition that strength training is beneficial for. The positive effects on your posture, bone health, and disease prevention cannot be understated. You might be surprised by how helpful lifting weights can be towards getting rid of lower back pain. Vanity is what initially got me into this fitness lifestyle. However, it’s the importance I place on my overall health that will keep me training well into my senior years. As you can probably tell by now, I’m a strong advocator of strength training for both men and women. More women are realising how important it is to include weight training to their lifestyles. Around 50% of my clients are women and I focus on strength training with all of them. There are still some incorrect myths out there about

women and strength training. I feel this is preventing more of them from joining this positive trend. You won’t start looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger the moment you pick up a barbell. It’s not that easy to gain a massive amount of muscle even if you wanted to. My strongest female clients are generally the ones with the leanest physiques. Even if your goal was different to fat loss and you wanted to gain weight or improve athletic performance, then strength training will also enhance that. One of the main things that need to be adjusted is your nutrition to coincide with your goal. Eat more to gain weight and/or improve output, or eat less to get leaner for your summertime bikini body. If you rely too heavily on cardio to get into shape, you start to burn through muscle mass and begin to look super skinny. Think of a marathon runner that does hours of cardio every week compared to a fitness model on the front of Women’s Health magazine. Many women aspire to look like the cover model rather than becoming too scrawny, unless their primary focus is endurance events. Having said that, even top-level marathon runners do a bit of strength training to help their race performance. Fitness models are a prime example of women that rely on weight training to give them that

strong, aesthetic, healthy look. If you find that they’re too muscular for your preferences, you can easily dial it down a notch by eating less and adjusting your cardio. The periodisation of your training and diet will determine whether or not you look like a fitness chick or an underwear model. Even Victoria’s Secret’s models have videos of themselves doing strength training so it really caters to everyone. There’s more to improving your body shape than simply dropping the number on the scales. Strength training can significantly help both men and women to achieving their fitness goals for 2018. Start now and reap the all the benefits of lifting those weights!

Rishi is a strength coach and takes a holistic approach to training and body transformations. He holds a Sports Science BSc from Brunel University (UK) and has also competed in Men’s Physique and Strongman competitions. He believes that training should be, progressive, enjoyable and goal oriented. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


mind matters

Conquering fear when it matters most by Isabel Valle

Are your fears holding you back? Lessons in leadership, parenthood and facing your fears … A few years ago, I took my children back to Spain during the summer break as I do every year. On this occasion, my husband Pete managed to come with us for a few days, and we took advantage and travelled to Alicante for a long weekend, to get some rest and quality time as a family. We had heard that not far by boat, there was the beautiful island of Tabarca, so we decided to spend the day enjoying what the island had to offer. It was a great day, and we made the decision to head back to the mainland before the crowds did. And that’s when it happened … As the boat left Tabarca, there was a sudden change of winds and before we knew it, we were caught in one of the worst storms the area had ever witnessed. In no time, our catamaran was no match for the angry sea and the big waves. Water started coming in and there were people being tossed from side to side of the boat. The captain decided that it was too dangerous to go back to the island, and our only way out was to continue towards the mainland, at painstakingly slow speed. The boat was eerily quiet; everyone was too scared to say anything. Soon, we started witnessing people getting very sick. I was petrified, completely frozen by fear at the prospect that this could in fact be our last day alive. I looked at my children and my husband and I remember feeling so guilty for having insisted on visiting the island. And then, in that moment, I felt responsible for putting them in harm’s way. If there was a peak moment in my life where I felt true, raw fear, that was it. There have been many occasions during my life where I felt fear, but this one was different. We truly had


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

no control of the outcome, and it was down to what mother nature decided to do with this little boat we travelled in. It was imminent, each minute worse than the other, with no end in sight, just waiting to see if we would make it out alive. Then I looked at my son, who was 2 years old at the time; he was staring at me in silence, unable to express his feelings, yet understanding at a deeper level that our situation wasn’t a good one. And then it hit me, I had allowed fear to completely disempower my thoughts and my actions, and right there, a small window of opportunity opened up for me to be able to do something that was under my control.

I smiled at my son, gave him a big hug and told him all was well, and to go to sleep if his eyes felt tired. He took a big breath and then he closed his eyes and slept for the remainder of the ordeal. My daughter, 5 years old back then, she was a different story. She was looking around terrified of what was happening, and was being shifted between myself and the end of the seat every time the boat moved. She had already watched me moments earlier and knew that I was terrified, so she wasn’t looking for comfort from me. If I wanted to help her, I would need to let go of fear. I closed my eyes and for a moment, I allowed myself to visualise the absolute worse thing that could happen to us. I imagined a big wave tipping over the catamaran, the four of us being thrown into the angry sea, seeing my children drown unable to help them and, finally, drowning myself too. And then, as I went through all that in my head, I realised that even if that was to happen, I still had some precious moments left with them, and all of a sudden I felt tremendous gratefulness for being so lucky to have enjoyed my life and my children for as long as I did. That time, I came to realise that whether I died imminently or not, it had no bearing on how I could choose to be right in that moment. I looked at my daughter and smiled, and she felt straight away that my connection was genuine. I told her that rather than fighting the fear, we should just join in and go with it. She asked me how, and I told her to imagine that the boat was a big giant ride, similar to the one we had been in just a few months ago. I asked her to move with the ride, and not against it, so we wouldn’t bump ourselves. So when the boat went up, we didn’t fight it; instead, we went up with it, and as it crushed against the waves, we sunk

with it too. We held hands and for a moment we almost felt joy. People all around us were being sick everywhere. You could see it in their faces, the exact moment when they allowed fear to creep in, and their body decided to let go. Powerless. It was the longest 90 minutes of my life. We finally made it safely to shore. By that point, every single person in the boat had been sick many times. We were the only family that managed to keep it together. The captain told us in the 12 years that he had owned that boat, that was his worst trip ever. It took us many hours afterwards to finally get a feeling of the stable ground underneath us. We survived to tell the tale, and I am incredibly grateful to have been one of the lucky ones. I also learnt a very valuable lesson: in the face of fear, always ride with it, don’t resist it. I have since become interested in the subject, and have come to understand that fear is truly just the precursor of change. If we feel the fear and run in the opposite direction, then we’ll never know what could have been.  I have since been able to get more comfortable with the idea of fear, so much so that, whenever possible, I pursue those things that I am afraid of the most, as I now know that behind fear, lies incredible opportunities for us all to raise up, grow and evolve. So jump in and enjoy the ride! Conquer the fear by facing it and going along with it. You will realise that confronting your fears is nowhere near as scary as continuing to be held back by it. If you are willing to explore the boundaries of your fears, you will find that it either holds no logic, or it is actually nowhere near as scary as you make it out to be. So have the courage to explore your fears, and free yourself from what holds you back. Over to you now. What fear or fears are holding you down? What’s the nature of these fears? In the absence of fear, what would you do? Here’s to your success! Isabel x

Isabel Valle is an accredited ICF PCC Coach, Leadership Mentor and Facilitator currently based in Bangkok. Isabel has held senior positions within the hospitality industry in countries around the world, and facilitates a holistic approach to leadership, growth and success. She specialises in virtual coaching and online mentoring that inspires action and helps leaders from all walks of life around the globe bring their gifts to life to help them create professional excellence and personal fulfilment. More information available on EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

Advanced cardiac rehabilitation centre

Advancements in cardiac rehabilitation Recovery processes for heart patients are complex, requiring various treatments to ensure the body’s heart and circulatory system return to functioning normally. In the light of recent medical developments, Dr Punnawich Wongwiwatthanon a rehabilitation specialist at Sukumvit Hospital explains the importance of cardiac rehabilitation in the pursuit of a successful recovery.

Understanding your condition allows for a greater chance of a successful recovery According to Dr Wongwiwatthanon there are numerous heart conditions that require on-going rehabilitation, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, and patients who have gone through surgical procedures such as cardiac ablation. Apart from choosing the right medication and surgery practice for each patient, it is crucial to understand the causes of these conditions and how they have developed based on a person’s general health, body systems, as well as their lifestyle choices. It is also key to recognise the risk factors


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involved with each treatment choice. Intensive research has proven that cardiac rehabilitation allows for a greater chance at preventing a

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

relapse or the deterioration of a stable condition, creating a better chance for heart patients to live life normally. New developments in apparatuses and technology At Sukumvit Hospital’s rehabilitation centre, the facilities are aimed at long-term therapy for heart patients. Under the right care, individuals have access to specific exercise equipment that can help the heart become stronger, including the use of weights. These apparatuses can be tailored to fit an individual’s body type and ability which ensures maximum comfort and safety. In order to promote the heart’s resilience, the

clinic features exercise bikes and treadmills that have been developed and constructed specifically for heart patients. Furthermore, the clinic offers oxygen therapy machines for those who suffer from heart failure, or other conditions that make it difficult to breathe as a result of the body being unable to produce enough oxygen under stress.

Dr Pannawish Wongwiwattananon Rehabilitation Medicine

Rehabilitation principles that can aid in restoring good health There are various steps and approaches one can take in contributing to a successful recovery period. In addition to using the equipment available, consistent participation in simple exercises can aid in restoring cardiac health, including walking around and standing up from a sitting down position. It is also crucial to include a warm-up and warm-down period to minimise the risk of injury. At the clinic, vitals such as a patient’s blood pressure are constantly monitored to prevent any kind of overstraining the system. The processes involved with treating the heart are incredibly complex and delicate, requiring a skilled team of cardiologists and specialists to execute. The team at Sukumvit Hospital establish their clear vision through careful planning, creating the possibility for patients to achieve stability in regard to their health. This functions on a case to case basis but the clinic aims at achieving success by taking into consideration an individual’s capacity for recovery as well as their safety and comfort.

“Sukumvit Hospital, which began operation in 1977, has just completed a major makeover. Not only have they built a brand new building, but the entire team of doctors, specialists, nurses and assistants have all been trained with the singular aim of helping their patients maintain optimum health. Then there are the equipment, state-of-the-art MRIs, Cath labs and myriad of others, so that their specialists have the best available tools for diagnosis and treatment. Conveniently located on Sukhumvit Road with English speaking staff, Sukumvit Hospital is now ready for any emergencies or treatments.” Dr Davin Narula, Hospital Director

Sukumvit Hospital 1411 Sukhumvit Road (Ekkamai BTS) Prakanong nua, Wattana, Bangkok, Thailand 10110 Tel: 02 391 0011 EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

Feeling tired and worn out by Monique Jhingon

For most of us, there are days where we feel energised and days where we are a bit more slow. It typically has to do with how well you slept, what’s been going on in your life, the weather, your hormones. The best thing you can do, when you’re feeling lower energy, isn’t to push through, but to practice self-care: listen to your body, support yourself with the best possible nutrition and take it a bit easy for a day or two. You’ll see that you will soon be ready to rock and roll again, when you allow yourself to be tired, when you’re tired.

I often see in my clients’ health history a stomach infection or digestive complaints that correlate with a trip or relocation. Which is a common reaction to changes to your environment, climate, foods and even the stress of travelling or relocating. Your digestive system and in particular your gut flora are exquisitely sensitive to these kinds of changes. In identifying whether this is a possible explanation, it is important to look at your health history and other symptoms that may be present. In my client’s case there was a history of Ulcerative Colitis (UC), which is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease, water retention, acidity as well as joint and muscle aches and pains and allergies, all of which intensified while travelling. All of these symptoms pointed at inflammation, an imbalanced immune system and a compromised digestion.

However, constantly feeling fatigued and low on energy is not normal. When you can barely make it out of bed each morning, need a cup of coffee to get started and more to keep you going, when you would like nothing more than a nap after lunch and you simply feel like you’re worn out all the time, something is not right. I am working with a client who reached out to me when she was experiencing all of the above symptoms. It was an alien feeling to her, not to have an endless supply of energy. She was used to being extremely active, always on the go and described herself as a spinning top. Yet here she was, feeling tired, lethargic, worn out and desperate to figure out what was going on. Low energy and fatigue is an issue with many women and even more so among expats and frequent travellers. Many of my clients experience a drop in energy levels that doesn’t seem to resolve itself when moving to Asia and many blame the hot and humid weather conditions. While this definitely plays a role, it typically isn’t the only thing that is going on.

Good health (which translates into feeling well and having good levels of energy) begins in the gut. For your body to function optimally you need to not only eat a high quality diet but also be able to draw nutrients from your food. When your digestive system is compromised you may not be able to do so efficiently. And this can show up in many different ways and have a ripple effect in different ways, including lower energy levels.


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The good news is that you don’t have to continue to suffer fatigue or lethargy. It is possible to rebalance your digestion and boost your health and energy levels. Here’s how I approached this with my client: 1. She revamped her diet and took out all the foods that contributed to inflammation and brought in nutrient dense foods to bring in as much goodness as possible. In addition to inflammatory foods, she turned out to be highly reactive to histamine so I helped her fine tune her diet to be low in histamine. 2. We brought in some high quality baseline supplements (a methylated B Complex, vitamin C, vitamin D (her lab tests showed low levels of this important vitamin), magnesium and specific strains of probiotics to support UC and histamine intolerance). 3. She included special foods that support gut healing such as bone broth and coconut oil and foods that are naturally high in anti histamine. 4. She adopted certain habits that help to support digestion such supporting stomach acid levels, hydration, including plenty of fibre and prebiotic rich foods.

and focus on bringing in plenty of nutrient dense foods. Leafy greens are some of my favorites! Try my favorite green juice recipe (below) for a quick influx of nutrients, first thing in the morning. If this isn’t enough to do the trick and if you want help getting your energy levels up, I invite you to sign up for a free nutrition breakthrough session here so that we can discuss ways to have you spinning like a top again, just like my client! Be well. Monique

Green juice (serves 2) Ingredients: • 1 bunch celery • 2 cucumbers • 1 green apple • 1 lemon (peel removed) • 5-7 kale (or other green) leaves • 1/2 bunch parsley

It didn’t take long for her to feel like herself again. 2 weeks to be exact. Her swelling, joint pains and leg cramps, and acidity were gone as was her afternoon drowsiness. Her energy levels were up and she had dropped 4½ kilos in weight. It is important to note her that she had a remarkably quick recovery and that it isn’t always so easy to turn your energy levels around. There can be other underlying causes that may need to be addressed, like hormones. Your digestion is, however, always a great place to start. My recommendation would be to start by taking out the top three inflammatory foods for a period of time and see if you notice a difference: sugar, gluten and (conventional) dairy

Preparation: Run ingredients through a juicer or blend all ingredients in Vitamix or blender and strain through a nut milk bag or muslin cloth.

Monique Jhingon is a Functional Nutrition & Lifestyle Practitioner who offers select private coaching to expats whose health and digestion has been compromised as a result of transitioning into new environments, cultures, climates and foods. You can read more on her website and sign up for a free Nutrition Breakthrough Session here: EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Along China’s Silk Road by Michael Whitaker

I had not expected to find Marrakesh in China. Yet here we were in the far west of the country and apart from the Chinese characters on the street signs, the look and feel of the place was as if we were in a modern Arabic country. And all because Europe and the Middle East wanted to buy Chinese silk two thousand years ago.   I was on a tour of China along the old Silk Road from Xian to Kashgar; Xian being the ancient capital of China and Kashgar the furthermost city before you go over the mountains and into the countries of the old Soviet Union - Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.  We flew to Beijing which I had first visited in 1984 as an independent traveller, the second year that China had allowed this to happen and in those days it was not really geared up for tourism in the way it is today. It was December 1984 and Margaret Thatcher was discussing whether the British should keep Hong Kong island and Kowloon after the lease on the New Territories ran out in 1997. Fortunately for everyone, she


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decided to return the lot. The rest, as they say, is history. I had been warned that Beijing had changed over the intervening 33 years, but I was not quite prepared for the extent of the change. In 1984 Beijing was a city of bicycles with the occasional vehicle, usually black and in the style of a Soviet diplomat’s car. I thought at the time that if ever the Chinese population got cars instead of bicycles, then what a change that would make - roads growing wider to accommodate the traffic, to say nothing of flyovers and motorways. Needless to say, all this has happened, along with buildings heading skywards making Beijing a modern-day metropolis. How different from 1984 when life was very much a dawn to dusk existence. Admittedly,

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there was more staying up late and going out at night the further south you went, such as in Shanghai and Canton, now Guangzhou, but in Beijing it was difficult then to find a restaurant that stayed open after 8.30pm. Now all that has changed. Not exactly Las Vegas, but certainly a sense that people want to enjoy themselves more. For example, over the past 33 years the Chinese have gone in for lighting the buildings at night in a big way so that many monuments as well as skyscrapers will be lit up or have a light show of flashing LEDs on them. In 1984 it was purely functional street lighting. All this makes a very different atmosphere, along with the bright colours in people’s clothing,

especially for the women. Jeans and tops for both sexes make the cities like any Western-styled place across the globe. The Mao jackets have long gone.   But perhaps the most telling change and indicator of greater affluence, at least in the cities, is the fact that the Chinese are travelling in their own country. In Beijing, places like the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Mao’s Mausoleum and the Temple of Heaven now have many Chinese visitors following their tour leader’s flag or wearing caps of a particular colour to distinguish them from the rest. I longed to see a time when two different groups with the same coloured caps would meet and then I could enjoy the ensuing

chaos, but it never happened.    After Beijing we took the overnight train to Xian, famous for the discovery in 1974 of a vast tomb consisting of terracotta warriors made to keep the first Chinese emperor, Emperor Qin, safe in the afterlife. A large building, like an aircraft hangar, was built in the late 1970s to cover the statues and two more hangars have been built more recently to cover further exhibitions. One big change that has happened since I last saw them in 1984 was that we were now permitted to take photos, endlessly. In typical modern fashion, the Chinese tourists took selfies with the warriors in the background. I did the same. After all, when in Rome do as the Roman's as it were! Thirty three years ago there were guards on duty to ensure no photos were taken. Now

it would be impossible to stop it. I never really understood why we were not allowed to take photos then; I can only assume it was to encourage tourists to buy postcards. Outside the hangars a burgeoning theme park is being developed with a cinema showing a very well made documentary about the terracotta warriors and an even more spectacular cinema is under construction. Already there is a flourishing market and souvenir shops. I don’t expect a terracotta funfair in the future, but you never know! And to think that all this came about in 1974 when a farmer digging down to make a new well found an ancient army instead of water.  Xian was China’s capital when the terracotta army was constructed in around 200BC. The 8000 warriors, 30 chariots and several hundred horses

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are replicas of the actual warriors who guarded Emperor Qin during his time on earth. It was their duty to guard him in the afterlife. Qin unified China after the Warring States period and gave his name to the country he ruled. The ensuing peace encouraged merchants to head west ending up in the Roman Empire - a route now known as the Silk Road. To be more accurate, this was the start of several Silk Routes heading west as there were different ways to get to Europe and the Middle East.   The first indication that we were going to be moving into a more Arabic influenced part of China was the Muslim Quarter in Xian. It is rather like a Chinatown area in a Western city there is a main road that is obviously different to the surrounding culture and concentrating on restaurants and food markets. In the case of Xian’s Muslim Quarter, some of the men wore skullcaps and some women had a headscarf covering their hair, a distinctively Muslim fashion statement. It was also the start of new territory for me as in 1984 I headed south after Xian, whereas now we were heading west.   Jiayuguan, notable as the end of the Great Wall, was our next stop. There are so many statistics about


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the Great Wall that it is impossible to take in - how many people died trying to build it, the date it was started and then how many extensions and so on. But the most interesting fact, to my mind, is that it takes four hours to fly from Beijing (which is not even the start of the Wall) to Jiayuguan where it finishes. Imagine how far one can go in a plane from Bangkok and then try building a wall across mountains and hostile terrain and then you can see why it is called “Great”. Needless to say there was a massive fort at the end of the Wall, which along with the Wall itself, was designed to keep out the invading armies to the north which it has succeeded in doing for the most part.  It is perfectly understandable why the Chinese phrase to describe

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the land beyond the end of the Great Wall translates as something like - the land from which no traveller returns. Viewed from our high-speed train that took us to the next city, the land was dead flat with just a few scrubby plants. It showed no sign of human habitation apart from vast numbers of wind turbines designed to generate electricity. One usually thinks of China as having polluting sources of energy, and certainly that was the case elsewhere, but on the evidence of our journey between cities in this region, another greener form of energy is being developed. But not just green electricity, green transport as well. In particular, electric motorbikes are a popular way to get around in Kashgar. These are totally silent and are driven on the pavements which are wide enough to accommodate them, although pedestrians do need to be cautious, especially as the minimum age for driving these machines is 12!  Along the particular Silk Road that we were following, lie cities which must have started as staging posts for weary travellers, built around oases, evidence of which still exists today. Now they are bustling with all the modern signs of affluence. The Chinese are developing them at a tremendous pace - shopping malls, high rise flats, grand theatres, exhibition halls, motorways etc. In fact, a new Silk Road is being built, namely a massive motorway that will reach from Beijing to Pakistan. There is a real sense that China has the money

and technology to develop their own regions in the west as well as the countries that surround it. Despite all the wealth that is being generated by the new infrastructure projects, each city retains their historical roots, popular with visitors from China and abroad. Markets abound as they must have done for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Cities then developed as somewhere that the merchants of old could stop and sometimes settle down rather than move on. The period that the Silk Roads were in operation was from the time of the first Emperor of China, Emperor Qin, in about 200BC until the time that the Ottoman Empire put the shutters down in about 1400AD. During this time Buddhism came to China, evidence of which is in the beautiful cave paintings and massive statues of Buddha. All very necessary to give the travellers spiritual uplift for their impending journey across the desert on camel.   Nowadays, the dominant culture for spiritual uplift in this part of China is Islam. Over the centuries, mosques have replaced Buddhists temples; the people look more Arabic than Chinese; and the food and music are distinctively Middle Eastern. For the first time since we arrived in China we were sitting at rectangular tables to eat instead of round tables with

a ‘lazy Susan’ in the middle to convey the dishes round to everyone. It was also the first time that we had to go through a security screening in order to get into a restaurant. Obviously one has them in airports and sometimes in hotels but here it was for restaurants as well. We were now in the Uygar region of China in the far West. As tourists we were welcomed and respected, but you do notice a police presence on the streets that was not so obvious elsewhere. Road blocks existed outside of the cities where we had to get off the coach and present our passports and have our fingerprints taken. We went through quite smoothly but there were long queues for the indigenous population. There were also more Chinese flags than I recollect seeing in other Chinese cities.   Uygar is an autonomous region within China which sounds as if they have some control over their destinies. To some extent that is true. For example, they have their own language which is very different to Mandarin Chinese and is written in what looks like Arabic script. But it also means that the Chinese authorities can put restrictions on them, so that they have to get permission to travel to other parts of China but the Chinese can

come to the Uygur region without any such bureaucratic fuss. No doubt a cause of resentment.  One of my abiding memories from my travels round China in 1984 was the fact that cities like Shanghai had not changed at all since 1949. It was like walking into a film set for the original King Kong movie. A similar amount of time has elapsed between then and now - such a difference. One can only imagine what China will look like in a generation’s time. One thing is certain though - unlike the first 33 years after the Communist takeover, it will have changed beyond all recognition. The future is with China. 

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Why I love Cuba by Stefania Grncic

Cuba - step into a living museum, a truly fascinating place, known for its cigars, rum, music, vintage cars, as well as it’s colonial buildings. But, there is so much more to Cuba than that. As soon as you land and step off the plane, the hot air encompasses you. Different sounds, smells, and colours all propel your senses into sensory overload. As you step out and start exploring the country, be prepared to expect the unexpected, be prepared to get frustrated, feel overwhelmed, amazed, and to become completely mesmerised. At the airports, be it Havana’s José Martí International Airport, or Varadero’s Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport, or any other, you will exit the building into a sea of taxi’s, and beyond them, a sea of official tourist coaches. Cuba has official Government yellow taxis and tourists are advised by their tour operators to use only these for transportation. However, the second type of taxi’s are the vintage cars (e.g. Buick’s, Chevrolet’s, Cadillac’s, etc.),


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which of course, tourists prefer! If you do ride in these cars, make sure (if seated at the front) you wear your seatbelt! Generally, the cars are safe, but better be safe than sorry! A friend of mine experienced her front door of a Ford 1956 swing open at a roundabout! Many visitors travel to Cuba via a tour operator and stay at (usually) all-inclusive resorts; however, more and more travellers are now going to Cuba by organising their own trips. The popular Airbnb has now spread to Cuba and there are many choices as well as the Casas Particulares, where

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the families are often on hand to show you around and provide you with a real Cuban experience. Cuba, having a dual currency system, is a closed currency, which means that you can only exchange money once you land on Cuban soil. Locals use the Cuban Pesos (CUP), whereas the tourists use the Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). The CUC is 1:1 with the US dollar. You can exchange money at the airport, at your hotel, or at banks. If you go to the bank (they have the best rates), make sure you don’t forget your passport and wait in line (usually one person is allowed in at a time). Havana, the capital city, a legendary city, and full of colonial beauty. It is a city that is hustling and bustling and you will want to spend at least 3 or 4 days here. All of Havana is good to see, but don’t miss: the Revolution Square (Plaza de la Revolución). Historically and politically, this is an important square

outside of the old town you will see houses crumbling). To properly take in the vibrant streets of the old town, explore it by foot and absorb the atmosphere. Cuban music echoes from all the doorways as you roam around, be it salsa, rumba, bachata, reggeaton, jazz, and so on. Chat to the locals and join them in a dance on the streets if you wish! There are a plethora of places to eat, sit back and relax with live music, sipping on sweet Cuban coffee or rum (have it straight, without ice, as the Cubans do; best try this with Havana Club 7 años).

where many a speeches were held by leaders such as the late Fidel Castro. At the square, you will see a massive 109 metre tall monument and statue of José Martí that houses a museum. It is also the highest point in Havana with fantastic views. Opposite the square, to the east and the west are large murals of Commandants Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. From the Revolution Square, hop into a brightly coloured vintage taxi and drive around the area of Miramar. This is the most affluent area of town with stunning villas. Apart from Casa de la Musica (where you might want to go dancing when night falls), most of the embassies are situated here. From Miramar, the next area to drive through is Vedado. Here, you will want to make a Mojito pit stop at the famous 1930s Hotel Nacional de Cuba with grounds that overlook Havana and the Malecón. If you’re hungry and want to eat some good food, there are many options. I’d recommend Café Laurent, situated on the 4th floor of a residential block. Exquisite food and views. If you want something more low key, with no tourists, try El Cochinito (order the traditional pork, rice and beans, and plantain crisps). From Vedado, head to the old town, Habana Vieja, passing the 8km long sea drive: the Malecón. The Malecón has a different vibe

depending on the time of the day or night! Fishermen love this place, as well as groups of friends or lovers, just coming to hang out, chat and some, dance, or watch the world go by! Habana Vieja, a UNESCO world heritage site, is packed with things to see, from the hotel where Hemingway first stayed (before he moved to the outskirts of Havana into a glorious house, which can be visited and is a must), to his local hangouts (La Floridita, La Bodeguita del Medio), including stunning architecture everywhere you look (though in places

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If you want to stay in walking distance of the old town, the best place to stay would be at one of the hotels near Parque Central, such as the Inglaterra Hotel (Cuba’s oldest hotel with a rich history) as it is a stones throw away from the old town and right opposite Calle Obispo - one of the most famous streets that lead you to anywhere in the old town! It is impossible to list all the places to visit in Habana Vieja, but here are just a few suggestions: Catedral de San Cristobal, Plaza de Armas, City Museum, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de San Francisco. What makes Cuba, is not just Havana, but the warm and flirtatious people, the lively and colourful culture, the music, the magnificent architecture (even unfortunately the crumbling buildings), the tropical flora and fauna. When you’re there, notice the different types of palm trees - one of them is


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indigenous only to Cuba, often termed ‘the pregnant tree’ - easily spotted! If you have time on your hands, do visit the western province of Pinar del Río and see the colourful widespread countryside with mountainous regions, cigar factories, and the Viñales Valley. Here you’ll get to see the rural countryside, you will notice the different architecture, as well as different vibes in the air. Also, visit the beautiful city of Trinidad (de Cuba), as well as Cienfuegos and Santa Clara (historically important and the resting place of Che Guevara). Colón is also a place of interest and possible as a day trip or overnight stay if you want to take it leisurely. The town has beautifully restored colonial buildings and in the middle of the town square you will find a large statue of Christopher Columbus pointing towards Spain. The town has two hotels (Santiago Havana Hotel and Hotel Caridad) as well as a number of Casas Particulares. When staying in Havana, you can also take a taxi for a day trip to an old Cuban town Bejucal. This is slightly off the beaten track but well worth seeing the real Cuba. If you dare, travel like a Cuban and take a local bus. On the way to Bejucal, you will pass lively villages, see locals go about their daily chores, and you will also get to see lots of sugar cane plantations. If you want to go further east, it’s best to fly there directly (e.g. to Santiago de Cuba) from your home country as a separate trip. If wanting to visit there whilst in Cuba, be prepared for a 12 hour journey in one direction! For beach lovers, don’t miss

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Varadero. Yes, it is a peninsula that is filled with all-inclusive resorts, but the beach is fantastic. Crystal clear turquoise waters and white sand stretch for roughly 20km. Day trips will take you out of Varadero, but if you prefer to lounge around the beaches, do hop into a taxi before sunset to sip a cocktail on the top floor of the prestigious Xanadu Mansion (the Dupont’s old family summer home), which is just off of the golf course. Great views from there. When the mango is in season (usually April, May), go for the mango daiquiri! If you find that the food in your resort isn’t up to par, go to downtown Varadero where you can find some good bars and restaurants (El Rancho is a great steakhouse; for some afternoon snacks and late night fun try the Beatles bar and Calle 62). After dusk, Calle 62 turns into a Cuban outdoor dance venue spilling onto a side road which eventually transforms into one large dance floor. Tropicana shows, live music, locals and tourists all dance or people watch into the early hours of the morning. For a change from touristy Varadero, go to the town of Matanzas for a dose of real Cuba. Spend time slowly meandering about and chat to the welcoming locals. Walk down to the

large Che Guevara mural and go for a delicious meal to La Casona, which is tucked away in one of the side streets (best take a taxi there). The prices are listed in CUPs but they will convert your bill to CUCs for you. If you decide to stay overnight in Matanzas, there are a number of hotels, but I’d recommend the grand hotel in the centre of downtown Matanzas (Hotel Velasco), or you can also stay at a number of Casa Particulares (my personal favourite is ‘Hostal Vega’, which is a house with two apartments and a terrace overlooking the sea). In the evening after dinner, pop round for a dance to the local Las Palmas outdoor dance bar. The setting is great: whilst listening to Cuban vibes, look up at the starlit sky beyond the tall palm trees! Sway the night away, … but check that it is open first before you venture there, as it’s not open every night. Entrance prices are in CUPs but they will convert it into CUCs for you. If it’s closed, another dance venue would be La Salsa, though the crowd there is usually much younger than at Las Palmas. If you’re not so much into dancing but you are up for diving, there are lots of options available from Varadero. For those wishing to explore the depths of the oceans that are rich in fish and corals, diving trips can be organised easily. If you are a diver already and have a diving licence, remember to bring it with you. Various diving agencies offer dives near Varadero and also on the other side of the island, at the historically known Bay of Pigs, should you wish to make a day trip combined with the diving. When to go - weather wise? The best time to go is from Nov/Dec to Mar/Apr. May/Jun are rainy, whereas Jul/Aug are their hottest months and even the Cubans struggle to keep up with the heat. Aug/Sep/Oct are rainy again with threats of hurricanes. Any time of the year that you choose to go, make sure you take insect repellent with you that has a high DEET percentage. Music is there all year round, no matter the weather.

Wifi on Cuba is spotty, you can only catch a wifi signal if you are in a hotel, or near a wifi centre. To get access to wifi, you will need to buy an ETESCA wifi card. If strolling around villages or towns, you will know where there is a wifi signal, as you will see lots of groups of people huddled around their phones chatting away, sending emails, or doing FaceTime. It is a beautiful country with a beautiful people but it is also heart breaking to hear of their wages; on average 20-30 CUC per month. Pensions are on average 10 CUC per month. Their supermarkets often lack basic essentials, so make certain that you don’t forget things you will need whilst on your trip. If you have space in your luggage, feel free to bring clothes that you don’t want to wear anymore, including lots of essentials such as

soap and toothpaste. Handing these out to locals in villages or suburbs will fill your heart with warmth as well as make their day. Despite the low economic status, Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, at 99.8% of the 11 plus million population being literate. Education is provided free of charge by the Government as well as free medical care. You will see richness, you will see poverty, but the people are always upbeat even with just 30CUC a month. To fully understand the country, and why so many people fall in love with Cuba, make certain that when visiting, you also visit the real Cuba, and not just the tourist Cuba. It is an extraordinary country that will occupy a special place in your heart. During my cousin’s first Cuban experience, he proclaimed, with a smile: “there’s something in the air”, and there sure is. A special magnetism that, with an open mind, you feel Cuba. Cuba has a complex history, which I won’t go into now. Economically, the country is poor, but culturally, it is rich. The people are kind, friendly, and hospitable. It is a safe country to roam about and knowing even a little Spanish, helps. Immerse yourself into Cuban life and if you let your inhibitions go, you will have an undoubtedly good time, feel good, and gain some strong friendships on the biggest Caribbean island!!

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Celebrating Ayutthaya:

The Siamese Kingdom a UNESCO Heritage Site by Arlene Rafiq

In a country's development, old customs and traditions are almost always forgotten as time passes and new influences replace the old. Fortunately, not with Thailand as it has maintained the preservation of their cultural heritage. The Thai people are certainly proud of their birthright as is evident in customs, food, architecture, arts and crafts. Thailand has so much to offer to anyone from magnificent architecture, awesome landscape to areas of relaxation and recreation and one of the most popular places and frequently visited is the city of Ayutthaya. Known in the ancient times as the Siamese Kingdom, Ayutthaya was described by visitors in the past centuries as a flourishing city. It was considered as one of the richest cities in the East as they traded with the West. However, luck was not always on its side. In the 16th century, it was attacked by the Burmese and eventually invaded. Ayutthaya fought back and the Burmese retreated. In the middle of the 17th century Ayutthaya became very prosperous but it eventually lost control of some of its provinces as local governors exercised their own power which resulted in a rebellion. In the middle of the 18th century, Ayutthaya was again at war with the


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Burmese who left the Kingdom in total ruin. Everything that is important to the Thai people was destroyed. It is hard to see the former glory of Ayutthaya but the charisma remains. With this brief history, when one hears of Ayutthaya it brings a feeling of special memory of the past. Modern development has brought with it housing subdivisions, golf courses and industrial parks. It was good that someone realised and thought that while progress is good, that history should not be forgotten. The renovation of the ruins began and the government saw the need to continue the work even when the ruins were declared a historical park in 1976 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. Since receiving this award, Ayutthaya has celebrated its marvelous past through an annual festival showcasing its customs and traditions. The festival definitely reminds the young of their roots.

It is now that time of the year when I get excited knowing I will again witness the celebration, my third since I came to make Thailand my home. The Ayutthaya World Heritage Fair is an annual event I dare not miss. The whole of Ayutthaya is brightly lit with multi-coloured lights on the main thoroughfares ... it's like being in Las Vegas but with a different touch. As Thailand was still in a mourning period for His Majesty the Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, last year’s event featured activities in remembrance of the late King. Highlights include a special exhibition featuring royal works relating to the Ayutthaya Kingdom, grand light, sound and water fountain presentations using Hologram technology, a demonstration of the sufficiency theories projects of King Rama IX, displays of Ayutthaya’s local way of life, cultural events, booths selling local products and food galore. The best part of the morning is to explore the areas where the activities would occur. The mahouts preparing the elephants for the show. Participants getting ready to get their faces and costumes done for the performances. It was fun watching the vendors cooking their specialties wearing traditional clothing of the era. In the mid day, people started to gather, it was time to see the local artisans at work and local musicians providing traditional music. Surely, the organisers took a long time to put up an event as gargantuan and spectacular as this. I strolled inside the huge market and it was like a walk in the past as I exchange my money for replicas of gold and silver to use to buy food and other things on sale. Everybody was in a festive mood, men and women dancing in the street, children playing and young folks walking leisurely or snacking. In one area, a swamp was transformed into a floating market, reminiscing the Thai custom of trading goods along the river. I sampled some of the food sold on the boats which include stir-fried noodles, boiled sweet potatoes and corn. In another area, several old style wooden tables were installed

just like in the ancient times, seated on wooden platforms, where female servants presented traditional foods. Several platforms were used in strategic places for staging a variety of programmes. On one stage, Thai musicians competed while on the another bands played traditional country music. Solo performers showing their talents inspired their listeners to realise the importance of Thai culture and arts. There were many activities during the week-long celebration. One Tambon, One Product (OTOP) projects showcased local fare from a number of districts within Ayutthaya and the surrounding provinces. The whole of Ayutthaya, not just the historical park, celebrate this event through various programmes such as cooking/beauty contests and singing competitions. The highlight of the festivities and definitely my favourite was the light and sound presentation. This is by far the most awaited part of the entire programme as it presents the history of the Kingdom in magnificent pageantry. Hundreds of performers were students from Rajabhat University. After almost three hours of walk through Ayutthaya's history, a grand firework display followed and all the performers took a bow to an audience of over 3,000 people in the open air auditorium. To understand the show, foreigners could rent headsets with English, Chinese or Japanese translations. It was definitely an educational experience that provided more of positive learning tool than reading books or listening to teachers explain the history of Ayutthaya. I hope that they'll resume the festivity this year after the long mourning period. I would certainly go back for another magical walk in the past. With such a beautiful culture and civilisation that seems unchanged, this impressive heritage has become the bedrock of Thai society and has shaped the Thai way of life as it exists today. If anyone wishes to be a witness to this grand celebration next year, call the Tourism Authority of Thailand and mention Expat Life in Thailand and ask for their next schedule of celebration.

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Koh Tao - close encounter of the aquatic kind by Netra Ruthaiyanont

Of all the beautiful beaches in Thailand, the ones in Koh Tao or Turtle Island are, by far, our all-time favourite. Located in the Gulf of Thailand east of Surat Thani, this 21 square kilometre island has many attractive beaches that visitors can never get enough of. It is a popular place for scuba divers many of whom come to Koh Tao for the purpose of taking their open water diving course. This little island is also a favoured destination for snorkelers because its shallow coral reefs and beautiful marine creatures that are so easily accessible, since most are just within a short distance from the shore. Take for instance, Jansom Bay which belongs to the Charm Churee Hotel where we stayed. Where else can you wade just a few metres from the beach into the sea, stand is waist deep water and see the fish swimming all around you in crystal clear water? There’s a small trick to enjoy this experience though. You need to take a piece of bread, or going Thai style, a handful of sticky rice, and hold it in the water. In no time,


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swarms of fish will dash in and feast on the food literally from your hand. They are so wild that they are not afraid of us don’t seem to realise or care that we are humans. They just want to fill their bellies and go on with their lives. The wonderful feeling we experienced from this activity was magically amazing. We were mesmerised with watching the commotion of fishes darting all around us and we soon found out that the bread we brought didn’t seem to be enough and the fish never appeared to get full. Despite Koh Tao’s magnificent natural beauty, the main deterrent that discourages people from going to Koh Tao often is the inconvenience of getting there. First, there are no direct flights to Koh Tao. It takes about six hours to drive some 600 kilometres from Bangkok to Chumphon. Then, you go to Lomprayah pier to take the 1.45 hour ferry ride to Koh Tao. You can fly from Bangkok to Chumphon but the airport in Chumphon is quite far from the pier. It is also possible to travel by sea from neighbouring Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. During our last trip, we opted to drive to Chumphon to take the ferry to the island. We started off really early in the morning, at the ungodly time of four in the morning, to avoid Thailand’s famous traffic jams. After being on the road for almost six hours, we arrived in Chumphon around lunchtime. We parked our car at the Pomprayah pier and took the 1pm ferry to Koh Tao. This schedule was different from our

last visit. At that time, we left Bangkok later in the day and arrived in Chumphon in the afternoon. We spent one night in Chumphon and took the ferry across the next morning. Before getting on the ferry, it helps to check out the weather. In any case, you pray that the sea will be calm so that you won’t get seasick. During our last trip, the sea was so rough that I got terribly nauseous. For fear of making a mess, I kept a plastic bag close to my mouth for the next two hours and it became my best friend until we moored. This is a common phenomenon and it is not unusual for visitors to have to unexpectedly extend their stay for a few nights due to bad weather and patiently wait for calmer seas and for the ferries to start operating again. Unlike Phuket, Koh Tao is relatively a new travel destination, being discovered in the 1980s. Most of the hotels, tours and restaurants are run by Thai owners and long time expats living on the island. So far, there are no six star international hotel chains. However, there is a wide range of lodgings for visitors to choose from, starting from non-air conditioned guest houses at the rate of 300B a night to beachfront rooms at 18,000B a night. WiFi is available everywhere but we were surprised that there was no TV in our room. In general, the food in Koh Tao is good, readily available everywhere, and the prices are quite reasonable. Eateries offer Thai, Western, Italian, French cuisine, whatever you fancy. Shops offer tasty hamburgers and pizzas, a nice breakfast coffeeshop with great bread and pancakes. Sidewalk stalls offer rotis (Indian style flat bread) as well as crepes to tourists. Sandwiches are also sold at every corner. We saw some shops making their own buns. One shop owner told me the chocolate flavour was the most popular among visitors.

Snorkelers visiting the island usually join tours for the day to visit places like Shark Bay, Hin Wong Bay, Aow Muang and Koh Nang Yuan. Many hire a long tail boat for the day to take a private tour of the various spots. Once on the island, you walk a lot on hilly, not so smooth pathways. You can rent motorbikes to get around but be warned that the lanes are small and not well constructed. However, wherever you stay, it is most likely that there are restaurants and beaches are within walking distance. If all else fails, you can always resort to buy everything you need at the ever popular 7-Eleven which is doing brisk business all day and night. Take mosquito repellent. Good shoes. Enjoy the long drinks and fresh fruit as you watch the sunset.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Bhutan bliss at great heights by Barbara Lewis

My husband and I decided October 2017 was our year to trek in Bhutan. Mid August my daughter decided she would come to Bangkok sometime in October or November on an extended buying trip for her online homewares business around Southeast Asia. We all decided why not kill two birds (so to speak) with one stone and have her come on the trip with us. This way she would get to trek in Bhutan; something she had always wanted to do and we would then have three people trekking on the same country passport and would not just have to pay as if there was a third person.

My daughter, even though she loves travelling and has been all over the world, is terrified of flying. We did not want to tell her that there were only eight pilots qualified to land in Paro. The route into this airport is very challenging. They weave through a narrow valley coming within a few feet of clipping dozens of houses during the landing. We thought it was best for her to discover this as it was happening and she could literally do nothing. There were times as we were landing where I felt like I could reach out and touch the sides of the mountain. The fright of the landing was all erased by the beautiful architecture of the airport building after we landed. This is the first time where people took their time on the runway after disembarking and wandered around taking pictures. No one seemed in any hurry to get into immigration or pick up our luggage. We left Bangkok in the wee hours of the morning and arrived into Paro around 8 or 9am. We were taken to our hotel where we were given some breakfast until our rooms were ready. We chose a heritage hotel, called Gangtey Palace,


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which was a lovely old Bhutanese hotel, not glamorous or very modern but we liked the fact that it was historical and had a beautiful view across the valley to the biggest Wat and City Hall, which were both lit up at night. As a warm up for our trek and to get acclimatised to the elevation we hiked to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery the next day which round trip is 6.5kms with 600m elevation gain. It was a spectacular hike even though it was very crowded. We ate lunch at the halfway point on the side of the mountain looking at the Tiger’s Nest. Unfortunately, on the day we hiked up an older man with a heart condition, who perhaps should not have been making the hike, as it is quite strenuous, died. There were many people making the climb that really did not seem prepared for the hike. Some were in flip flops and bare feet, much older adults carrying young children who were capable of walking themselves. It is very steep in spots and a continual uphill climb the entire way until reaching the Tiger’s Nest. What a Wat once you get there. How they accomplished building it is beyond thought. All the materials to build the Wat were hand carried up the mountain by monks to build it.

Once we hiked down from the Tiger’s Nest we stopped in Paro and bought some supplies. Some snacks to take on the trekking trip with us. I bought some chocolate and some cereal bars that were vegan friendly but little else. We found these Bhutanese potato chips “Happy Chips” that were fantastic. We wished we bought more to take with us. For our meals for the trip we decided that it was easiest to eat vegetarian since our daughter is a vegan. This meant that they would have eggs and cheese for myself and Ken but not for Alyssa. When you plan your trekking trip you must have a guide and it is required by the Bhutanese government for each foreigner to spend $250.00/day/person. The tour company we decided to go with was recommended to us by a friend who organised our tour in Nepal - Mountain Journey Tours and Treks. They organised a private trek from Paro to Thimpu for the three of us five days and four nights with a guide, cook, camp assistant, outfitter and pack mules for equipment. The first day’s trek was about 10 -12km. We trekked up to 3500m and camped in a slightly lower valley. It was a beautiful hike and we arrived at our camping spot mid afternoon. It was a comfortable temperature for hiking even if the wind was blowing and it is cool because the trekking is a good workout but once you are done for the day by the time the sun sets it cools quickly. We brought some wine we hadn’t finished in the restaurant and we said it would have been nice to have a couple of more bottles for some of

the other nights. If you don’t like tea and coffee you have a problem. Our daughter learned to drink a lot of hot water to keep warm. I have a gluten allergy so eating bread is not great for me but I just didn’t worry about it. Most of the time we had rice. We did have eggs in the morning most mornings - they didn’t seem to understand that my daughter didn’t eat eggs. We made do with what they gave us to eat, not gourmet but certainly good. On the first night we met a couple from Austria and they were doing a similar trek to us. As it happened we ended up trekking with them most of the way although we camped in different locations. We shared several lunches where the guides would combine our food together with theirs and we would have a hot/warm buffet on the trail. If it sounds luxurious it was. The second day we hiked across a high pass and to a lake. At the top of the pass we stopped to have lunch. After lunch we had just started out walking when out of nowhere three huge yaks came hurling toward us. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



All three of us jumped out of the way luckily in the right place so we wouldn’t get trampled. This was our first real encounter with yaks. Later we came across a lot of them scattered all over the hillside and across our narrow path. The guides were careful to tell us to stay close because they said the yaks are very unpredictable and will charge at you. There were several young calves, one chased us for a while. I believe he was testing his masculinity. The lake where we camped the second night was beautiful about 4000m and fortunately for us the yaks were up in the hills. Again we hiked the next day reaching over 4200m about 10 -12km everyday. This day we decided to camp by a small lake because there were several large groups of people camping in the area where we were supposed to camp. The lake was in the hills and we were surrounded by yaks. It was so cold that night that we asked if we could eat our dinner in our sleeping tent. My daughter had a tent to herself and my husband and I had a tent. It was our practice before dinner to have a nap and warm up all in our tent. We decided not to leave our tent for dinner as we had already managed to get marginally warm there. At every campsite they set up a latrine tent for us which was basically a hole dug with a toilet seat over it and a tent covering the whole thing. A luxury when you are out backpack camping. We also had a tent where we ate our meals and of course there was a cook tent. The outfitter who looked after the mule pack slept with all their gear in the eating tent and the rest of the people slept in the cook tent. They didn’t worry about being too cold as the tent was always steaming from the gas stove heat. Once the mule pack are unloaded and their gear removed they are set free to roam for the evening until the next morning. After dinner it was too cold to do much else other than read by our headlamps or flashlights, hiking was quite tiring so we didn’t usually have a problem with being asleep usually at the latest by 8pm.


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Flashlights or headlamps were definitely needed to get to the latrine in the night. On the evening when we decided to eat dinner in our sleeping tent we were surrounded by yaks not far in the hills. Once we were finished dinner Alyssa went back to her tent to read and took my flashlight with her. At the beginning of the trip I had given each person a flashlight and Ken and I had headlamps. Our headlamps were burning out but we weren’t worried since this was our last night and we would be hiking out the next day.

About midnight Alyssa told her dad from her tent that we were surrounded by yaks and that was the snorting and snuffling we could hear. Ken thought it was the mules but in fact when he looked outside the tent it was yaks 100’s of them. They were coming through our area. Alyssa had our flashlight so she was using it to illuminate the tent and told us to do the same however all we had were headlamps that were burning out and we could not find the flashlight that I gave Ken. Consequently, it got left in the suitcase he left behind in the van in Paro, a fine place for it! Plus I had all the batteries and Alyssa in the other tent had the other flashlight. The yaks ran over the latrine, the cook tent and the dining tent. We were fine only because we managed to keep some kind of light going until they moved through which was well over an hour. It is quite something to be on the ground when a one ton animal leans into your tent and snorts. We were all very scared to say the least. Our Austrian friends camped about a few miles further on and they had two bull yaks fighting and trampled through their tent. Their tent was demolished but they were unharmed which was a complete miracle. The next day we reached our highest point of the trek at 4330m and then started hiking down to the capital city of Thimphu. It was a long hike down. We stayed the night and the next morning we toured an art and weaving area, the national Stupa and the world’s largest sitting bronze Bhudda. We also saw the national animal, a Takin, which looks like a cross between a mountain goat and yak. We then drove back to Paro and once there my daughter was insistent on having a hot stone bath she had heard about. It was very interesting. You have little or no privacy if that is important. The water is heated by hot stones which are loaded into your wooden tub from the outside. There is a wall separating you and the people loading the stones. The water doesn’t look overly clear and they put herbs in the water. You are separated from the people you are with by some very poor shower curtains. When you want more heat you just yell at them to add more stones. It was an experience.

Trekking in Bhutan is not for the faint of heart but it is something I would do again in a heartbeat before it becomes too westernised. It was as beautiful as Nepal and much different because it was more about trekking through nature rather than through villages. The length of time we took seemed exactly right not to strenuous but challenging enough.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Phang Nga Bay unbonded by Scott and Nori Brixen

There are over 100,000 photos tagged #jamesbondisland on Instagram. Guys with six pack abs, women testing the limits of their bikinis, Muslim ladies in swimming hijabs, kids doing the ‘happy beach leap’ - all posing in the same spot with that famous limestone spike behind them. They look happy. It’s all good fun. What these images don’t capture is the long line of people waiting for their chance to be shot, the mob of insistent souvenir sellers crammed on the narrow isthmus or the jumble of boats waiting to zip the tourists back to Phuket. In the high season, dozens of boats daily make the trip to Thailand’s extraordinary Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island is a highlight. Thailand will receive 34 million international visitors this year, with approximately 5 million visiting Phuket, the Kingdom’s largest island. In 2016, a major expansion saw Phuket International Airport’s capacity double to 12.5 million passengers a year. Phuket is already a world famous resort island - in the same league as Bali or Oahu - and it’s only going to get busier. Was it still possible, we wondered, to find empty beaches and unfrequented islets? When in Phuket, we usually base ourselves in the northwest (Bang Tao and Mai Khao beaches). The area


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is only 10-20 minutes’ drive from the airport and is less developed than the grungy/glamorous beaches of the southwest. We’re fans of the Anantara hotel chain and their Vacation Club Mai Khao property has spacious 2 bedroom family suites that were perfect for us. The hotel is designed for families. The Turtle Bay shopping centre is across the street. And a very long, effectively private beach is just a short walk (or cycle) away. With over 40 islands strewn across 400sq km of the Andaman Sea, Phang Nga Bay is big enough for everyone. But most tourists will visit the same ten islands on US$4050 tours that vary only on the type of boat and the order in which the islands are visited. We had given the Anantara’s activity manager what I thought might be an unachievable assignment: deliver an adventurous and exclusive feeling visit to Phang Nga Bay, one of Phuket’s (and indeed Thailand’s) most popular excursions.

Most tours to Phang Nga Bay leave from Ao Po Pier, located on the northeast of Phuket. Our boat was instead departing from Boon Chu Pier in Phanga Nga, the mainland province just across the Sarasin Bridge. I couldn’t locate the place on Google Maps, which I interpreted as a good sign. After forty minutes of country driving, we crossed a small bridge over a muddy river and saw the sign: Boon Chu Pier Long Tail Boat Service. First impressions weren’t positive. The reception hut was an authentic backwater construction, the kind of place where guys named Duffy hunt gators and drink Bud. There were angry looking red ants on the wooden walkways and trash stuck in the mudflats below. But this was Thailand and you can’t judge a boat by its pier. Our jovial guide, Mr Witoon, had been well briefed by the hotel. “I understand,” he smiled, “that you want to go to different places, right?” “Yes.” “You don’t want to be around lots of other boats?” “Yes! No! I mean, we prefer to be on our own. And we’re happy to hike, climb, swim, whatever.” “No problem,” he said with confidence. Our boat was a wider version of the classic Thai long tail, with a tarp canopy that shaded six rows of bench seating. It could have carried 30 people; instead it was just the six of us, Witoon and the captain. We had a cooler box full of bottled water and some pineapples and watermelon for slicing later. For an hour, we motored along the curving, vein-like waterways of the estuary. First, along the narrow Klong Tha Yu and then into the main Klong Bang Lam channel. We passed several villages with whole neighbourhoods built out over the water, the simple wooden homes raised up on rickety stilts. In each, the tallest (and most colourful) building was the village mosque. As we approached Phang Nga Bay, the horizontal monotony of the calm brown river and the flat-topped mangrove forest was disrupted by towering ridges that thrust

“A short climb brought us to the mouth of a large, white cavern illuminated by two openings from above.” straight out of the depths. These jagged karst islands ranged across the water like a naval fleet, imposing grey hulls rising high above the waterline. The island ahead of us was a wall, and we were heading straight for it. Then I spied it: a keyhole in the rock, white light spilling through from the other side. As we neared the cleft, it expanded to a roughly rectangular passage dripping with contorted stalactites. Just tall and wide enough for our boat to pass through. But then I saw a path leading up from the tunnel. “Sure! You can walk up there if you want to. There is a very nice cave. But it’s steep so the boys may be too scared,” our guide warned. A short climb brought us to the mouth of a large, white cavern illuminated by two openings from above. One by one, the boys ascended using fixed ropes and steps cut into the slippery cave wall. We emerged to an incredible sight: a

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



stalactite-framed window on Phang Nga Bay. Far across the water, we could see two large, yellow boats zooming towards the same destination: James Bond Island. “Actually, they have something like 500 boats,” our guide claimed. “All those yellow boats are owned by Chinese through a nominee structure. All the Chinese tour groups use these boats. They pay their Thai guides and captains poorly. I didn’t want to be a part of that. So when my relative decided to start a local tour company, I was very happy.” Later, we circumnavigated James Bond Island, pausing to take photos from the water. (Apologies to whoever we photobombed.) It was certainly an unusual and film worthy formation - though hardly large enough for a proper evil lair. From this angle, things looked orderly on shore. However, as we continued around the island, the chaos became clear.   Our next destination was a little island with a pretty beach not far from James Bond Island. In general, Phang Nga Bay isn’t a snorkelling spot; the water is turbid and the currents can be surprisingly strong when the tide is running. And while the islands have a million promising cliff-jumping locations, the shallow water and lack of visibility makes it suicidal. While the boys “painted” the side of our boat with wet sand, I followed Witoon to a well incongruously filled with cool, fresh water. I dumped a few bucketfuls over my head and groaned with relief.    Our final planned destination was Hong Island, a very popular stop on the Phang Nga Bay day tours. We expected crowds, and we got them: an unbroken loop of tourists in inflatable kayaks being paddled around by wise-cracking local guides. In Thai, horng mean ‘room’. The island is famous for a hidden lagoon that is only accessible at low tide.   But it wasn’t low tide. We had to lean back like limbo participants to clear the narrow cave opening. Colliding with other kayaks was unavoidable. When we reached the end of the tunnel, I could see a bit of light bouncing off the cave bottom. Our guide started to u-turn. “Wait a moment! Can we swim under?” I asked in Thai. “Dai krup,” he replied, “no problem!” “Boys, stay in the kayaks!” I shouted as I rolled off into the water. I took a deep breath and submerged. Light was streaming into the water just a few metres ahead; it looked easy enough. A few strokes later I surfaced in a truly magical spot: a placid, milky blue pool circumscribed by high, jungle-draped cliffs. I floated on my back and soaked up the tranquility. It seemed impossible to believe that on the other side of that wall, fifty kayaks and a hundred tourists were jostling for photo opportunities. “Daddy! Daddy!”


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So much for tranquility. First Logan, and then the rest of the boys and Nori popped up. Our guide had shown them an easier way in. My initial anger at their not obeying was quickly replaced by pride: what brave little boys! On way back to Boonchu Pier, Witoon asked me if we’d like to visit another cave. Of course! The captain navigated towards an unremarkable recess in the cliff face. I never would have seen it. “We just discovered this place a few months ago!” he said. Given the nature of karst formations, there must be hundreds of caves and grottoes in Phang Nga Bay that have never been explored by humans. The first room of the cave had some beautiful flowstone terraces and pools, thick columns and an alcove that looked like an open mouth, complete with dangling epiglottis. We had to turn our headlamps on and crawl through the narrow entrance to the second, larger room, where the boys’ constant chatter reverberated into a kind of parental Hell.   We had a very late lunch at Ruean Phae Che Son (Jason’s Houseboat), a floating restaurant on the Klong Bang Lam. While the boys scampered about observing the fish in the holding pools, I finished the last of the tom yum goong and thought about the incredible adventure we’d had. Apart from the James Bond sail by and the visit to Hong Island, we’d been completely on our own. We had explored two caves, swam on an empty beach and even had a hidden lagoon to ourselves. The islands of Phang Nga Bay are so beautiful that even the most mass-market tour offers fantastic views. But if your family is into adventure, a private boat with a knowledgeable guide is well worth the extra expense.

Scott & Nori are avid travellers and knowledge seekers who have travelled to 110 plus countries across all 7 continents. Now they're sharing their wanderlust with their two sets of twin boys, Tai, Logan, Drake and Kiva. Follow their travels at


Something from home by Neil Brook

"Give me a street market in Asia any day" A guy pulls up on his motorbike with live chickens tied together by their feet straddled over every part of his motorbike as the lady at the chicken shop rushes out to greet him. She grabs a handful by the claws and tosses them onto the scales. I have long since left any sense of shock or horror behind as I immerse myself into the culture and explore many parts of Asia. I love it. A true market economy where everything - fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, clothes, spices ‌ spill out onto the streets as motorbikes weave in and out, stopping now and then to load up before zooming off to the next customer. The chicken lady has made her choice and hands over the money however not before the seller grabs a knife and heads for the birds squawking on the scales. Their tail feathers are trimmed to perfection. No blood letting just yet. For a minute I thought that I was to bear witness as he slit their throats. They're better alive and fresh. A couple of stalls along another chicken lady sits cross legged


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with her birds plucked and plumped up, their claws dangling over the sides of her table. I'm not sure how they got from feathered to plucked but then again that's not a question I ask myself as I pick up the skinless breasts from the deli down the road. I do however recall distressed chooks dangling above a vat of boiling oil down a side street in Hong Kong. Actually I recall them being dropped in literally cooked alive. Is that any different to lobsters

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

being boiled alive with reports of them squealing for mercy? Markets are kaleidoscopes of colour and noise and are essential pitstops if you are to discover the backbones of societies where butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, juggle for position with tropical fruits and leafy green vegetables with the earth still fresh on their roots. Slabs of bloody meat hang on hooks and fan out on tables glistening in the sun, dripping red onto the floor and those fish that still have air in their lungs flop around on woven trays as their mates get gutted and cleaned while blocks of ice struggle to keep buckets of prawns mildly chilled. If you have any trepidation and can't quite work it out, just look for the animals head plonked next to the meat and you'll know what it is. That is before someone snaps them up to flavour the delicious stews and soups that are highlights of many Asian cuisines. Yes, Asian economies are doing just fine thanks. Keep away the European style regulators that force their standards of hygiene and

refrigeration onto others who wish to join them. Greece comes to mind, where octopus hanging up in the sun to dry had been doing just fine for years. I've stumbled upon Cho Xóm Mói by accident even though it's the largest street market in town. To me this is one of the pleasures of living an expat lifestyle and no matter where our life’s journey takes us I am always fascinated and intrigued as I stumble upon treasures as I get lost merely wandering, letting the streets guide and the sounds distract as they pull me towards them uncovering the cities beneath the cities. There's a sense of community here and of lives intertwined amongst the barter and organised mayhem. Camaraderie and social interaction that glues society together where scattered amongst the stalls men play Vietnamese chess and men and women sip coffee and tea, it seems all day. Order a coffee and you'll get an iced tea on the side. Local markets are of particular interest as I love food and I am happy to sample the offerings held out by welcoming hands as they smile at my reaction to fabulous flavours and, well not so fabulous delights. What better way to know what to buy and what to steer clear of. Local cooking classes which include market shopping for ingredients combine two of my favourite things. The inevitable vibrant colours of the fruit and vegetables would make still life painters set up easel and while away the hours as nearby every imaginable seafood and pieces of meat wait to be snapped up. You can buy everything and anything here although they are yet to catch up with China in the variety and sizes available in clothes and shoes (large here still means midriff boob tube in many cases) and ‘labels’ are gradually creeping into the mix. These are things that aren't on my list here or in China for that matter. Why support organised crime, dilute the allure of the ‘real thing’ or slap fake Chanel makeup onto your face in the hope that the lead content won't strip your skin bare.

Would you support your child toiling away in sweatshops so others can save a buck? Anyway … The flowers here are a surprise with their variety in all shades of the rainbow. Buds protected by tiny nets cupping them into a holding position in an endeavour to make them last in the heat. At home released from their grip buds flower, roses open and unless you have air conditioning resembling a fridge, wilt in a couple of days. Flowers to me make a house a home so it's worth the journey every couple of days to freshen up the look. Perhaps an extravagance? At local prices these are the little luxuries that allow those of us living in Asia an indulgence now and then. I can wander around for ages, snacking on mango and dragonfruit which while colourful with its almost fire like appearance and white centre spotted with tiny black seeds, adds texture but little flavour to fruit salads. Or is it just me? The fresh orange juice

laboriously squeezed with manual presses is anything but tasteless, bouncing with flavour as the carcasses surprisingly greenish in tinge lay in bins devoid of their bright orange flesh. I eat street food but still hesitate at buying my seafood and pork off the racks drifting in and out of the sun. Although I admit I have snapped up wiggling prawns from my local markets in Singapore and survived to tell this tale and in fact returned time and time again. They were fresh and delicious. Nothing ventured … it's all about picking your target and trusting the lines at some vendors. Here in Nha Trang I am gradually surveying the scene. I've found my favourite fruit and veg stall, my flower lady and my coffee man. I no longer have to start at the top of the price chain and work my way down. The fun and challenge of bargaining left for other purchases. There's always a feeling that perhaps I could've done better. Rule 1, they won't sell if the price is too low and rule 2, a bargain is what you are willing to pay.  These markets have been an incredible find. I go there just to linger and look. Tasting and sipping as I go. I'm still to find my prawn guy and as for the pork chops, they still call from the chillers as the supermarché.

Neil Brook will try anything once and agrees with the bizarre foods motto, if it looks good eat it! He now calls Vietnam home and is looking forward to discovering more of Asia, making the most of this opportunity. A regular contributor to the Aussie travel site The Big Bus Tour and Travel Guide he enjoys sharing his experiences, endeavouring to create a fresh perspective as he travels the globe. @treadingtheglobe I EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Four days exploring the vibrant daily life of Hanoi by Monica Nilsson

Bless the long weekends in Thailand in December, which gives you a chance of travelling even more while you are here in Asia. We decided to go to Hanoi this year during Fathers Day celebration, since my husband had not been there before. I had been there many years ago with a group of girlfriends from Singapore while enjoying my expat life there. The Hanoi visit was combined with Halong Bay that time. I will tell you about that at the end of this story. Anyway, I booked us on Pan Pacific Hotel which is located right by the big West Lake, not to mix it up with the lake with the red bridge most of you have seen on pictures. The name of that lake is Hoan Kiem Lake. I was happy I did that booking actually and I can highly recommend this newly renovated hotel. The hotel had just the perfect distance from the noisy streets further down the Old Quarter and I would like to mention a few things I appreciated with the hotel. The first impression was the


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immediate meeting with the reception girl. She was the perfect staff member in that position. Very friendly and very informative in the right kind of way and she even managed to sell me the upgrade to the Executive Lounge in a manner that I didn’t feel robbed and we didn’t regret it either. We started our early evening by walking for 1.5 hour around West Lake and noticed just like I remembered, all the men sitting on the tiniest plastic stools you can imagine so they could be close to the ground. The ground

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that held the table for their Mahjong game. The pollution in Hanoi was not good during our first 2 days and unfortunately choked me the most. It was almost unimaginably bad with PM 2.5 over 200 for those of you like myself, who have been hooked onto the air quality Apps. I even said to my husband that “how can I write an article (that I want to be positive) about Hanoi without mentioning this? I just have to. Its in a way kind of part of our Hanoi story and memories forever now even if I would like it so badly to be different. I wanted to be a clear blue sky with small white clouds on it. People and especially children with no face masks etc. China, India and Vietnam are the countries mentioned to be worst when it comes to bad air quality mainly in Vietnam because of coal mining,

fossil fuels and industries. December in Vietnam is like Scandinavia and the northern part of Europe and the US in wintertime. When they have 17-18 degrees celsius they wear leather jackets and scarfs. When we in Sweden where I come from get 17 degrees in early May we gladly throw away our winter jackets and enjoy the warm temperatures. It sure is different in other parts of the world. We head back to the cosy Christmas decorated luxury hotel for a glass of wine and some cheese in the executive lounge before going out again to a restaurant called HOME. I think I spotted it at TripAdvisor and I had a table reservation. The restaurant was worth the visit and also walking distance from the hotel. Nice setting with lots of coloured lanterns in the ceiling. The special with this place was also that they had live music, a guitarist and a violinist playing cover songs you recognised. Not too loud, just nice to listen to while you enjoyed the dinner. The second day we wanted to go to the Old Quarter and to Hoan Kiem Lake. We took a tuk tuk ride for half an hour that lasted for about 20 minutes and the driver wanted to have extra money after the trip over and above the negotiated price, “just 200,000 Dong for some beer” he tried. Good advice in Hanoi is to be careful also with taxi drivers to have taxi meters with a

speedy meter that shows you 6 times more fare than the taxi ride should cost. It is very annoying but apparently well known by the hotel when I discussed it with the staff in the lobby. I was recommended to take a picture of the taxi and ask for drivers name. Another thing they do if you are requesting to take you back to your hotel - they don’t go up to the hotels entrance but instead drop you off at the side of the street. In that way you cannot get help from the hotels staff. The staff at Pan Pacific mentioned this to me. We walked around in the smog and tried our best not to think about pollution so much, but to enjoy all the nice café’s and small boutiques there are. The Vietnamese people are coffee drinking people and you just have to try both egg coffee and the Vietnamese strong coffee with condensed milk in it.

It is sweet like a dessert so there is no need to have a cake to the coffee. Just the coffee is enough for your daily dose of sugar. There are of course hundreds of small shops everywhere but if you want to find a nicer more exclusive one we got this recommendation to go to Tan My on 61 Hang Gai road. It is a very nice shop, a bit pricy but lots of nice clothes and things of better quality too. Out on the streets again my husband wanted to buy a helmet for his little (yes it is small) motorbike at home in Sweden and he found one of course and some jackets for future cold autumns and winters ahead. Because one day, in a few years from now we will leave Thailand and Asia behind us with all our fantastic memories. In Hanoi almost everything is transported on a motorbike unless it

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



weighs a ton. In some ways nothing has really changed in 15 years since I visited the last time. There are more high-rise buildings on the outskirts but in the city centre it is pretty much the same daily life going on. It is very interesting to see of course and you cannot help admiring, in Vietnam like in Thailand the street vendors, the struggle they do every day from early morning to late night. The 9 to 5 working day is nothing that seems familiar to their lifestyle. That evening we went to a very nice popular restaurant by the small lake called Cau Go. We also happened all of us there to be witnesses to a young couples engagement. The man proposed after having stood up and explained to us in English what he was about to do. He knelt and held up the ring to his girlfriend and bride to be and she seemed so happy - the air was for a moment filled with passion and romance. A nice thing that we will all share with the cute couple forever. I hope they will be happy together. At least their beginning looks promising. Our third and last full day I had booked a tour with GetyourGuide taking us a few hours outside of Hanoi to a picturesque place called Trang An

as the last stop. The first stop was a Buddhist temple called Bai Dinh. The temple is rather new and situated on a huge land area. It was completed in 2010 after 7 years of construction. After lunch we were biking for 5-6 km in a fantastic landscape surrounded with beautiful limestone hills and mountains. The last stop and the main attraction for the day was the boat ride for 2 hours in a rowing boat. It was very relaxing and we also made a short stop at a small island where they filmed the monster movie from this year 2017 “Kong Skull Island�. Overall my second and my husbands first visit to Hanoi was very good and I would very much


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recommend you to go there or to go back if you have been long time ago, like me. The people and the food very pleasant, they speak better English than in Thailand and the best part is: the quite inexpensive and short 1.5 hour flight there. It is not complicated to walk around in Hanoi and I really like the French architecture with window shutters that remain even today. Halong Bay is also fantastic and to experience what we girls did 15 years ago, to sleep on the deck watching the starry night on a pitch dark sky and then wake up and jump in the sea right into the sunrise reflection was nothing but magical and I will never forget this as long as I live.

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Words don’t fail me now by Barbara Lewis

“If you have the choice between right and kind always choose kind.” Dr Wayne Dyer A value, which I have tried to live by my whole life. I love words - well obviously I write. I also believe that I have a fairly good vocabulary, not excellent or exceptional but perhaps above average. Recently I had an experience with words that as a teacher of young children and people of all ages struggling to learn the English language, shockingly made me take stock of myself and what I say because ‘words’ do matter to all of us and some can cut like a knife. Pedagogically I have knowledge of the skills it takes to decode words and how we all go about doing both consciously and unconsciously. We use clues in the context of the surrounding text to figure out an unknown word. We use phonemes and phonics sounding out to begin to decipher the unknown word but we need the words around the unknown word to help it make sense to us. As ageing adults I am sure you all know that our eyesight starts to wain and things blur. We may or may not be able to make out the words on the page. Perhaps some come into focus and then this is when some of our old deciphering and decoding skills come into play. By knowing the context of the words in general and using some of the decoding skills at our disposal although we might not clearly be able to make out what is written we can make a guess and generally a good majority of the time we are correct. If we get to frustrated then of course we must take out the reading glasses and put them on. I was at a party of a book club and we were exchanging books; the room was dimly lit and I needed to read aloud the back description of a book. In vanity and because I have the belief that the more you wear glasses the more you need them, I was not wearing my glasses and could not really make out the words on the back description of the book. As I often do in these circumstances my deciphering skills kicked


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in and I started to read however there was one particular word that I had never seen before and because I couldn’t see it clearly I couldn’t really decode it to say it. I got very nervous and stumbled over the reading several times until finally someone took the book who was wearing glasses and read it. I should say she rescued me but a comment was made that if I can’t read perhaps I shouldn’t be in the book club and this must be why I loved listening to books on Words do cut like a knife even when they may be said in jest. We all come across words we don’t know or are unfamiliar with so we don’t know how to pronounce them or decode them. I knew the form of speech the word was from but I had never seen it used before. It was in a list of adjectives so the context gave me little help. My mother I believe was a controlled stutterer and has been corrected all her life for the way she pronounces words so sometimes she will take a few seconds longer to get out a word because of her thought process. I often get selfconscious around people whom I know to be very intellectual if they start using terms or language I am unfamiliar with. I think most people are like this. We shy away once we are adults from asking if we don’t know. I digress, the key is we must be aware that what we say matters and has consequences. I saw a talk by Whoopi Goldberg where she said that the worst most destructive swear word in the world was ‘stupid’. She outlined why this word was so much worse than any other swearword you could possibly say yet people throw it around all the time: what a stupid thing to do, oh don’t be so stupid, this is so stupid, you’re just stupid. These kinds of statements can be said over and over again and they can cut to the core, making people believe something about themselves that just isn’t true. Words matter, let’s be careful with ours.


Maintaining a work life balance as a 21st century student by Sakooltipaya (Koko) Lotharukpong, Year 12 student, Bangkok Patana School

As 21st century students, our lives are filled with endless activities, from academics and sports to music and service in the community. Throughout this, maintaining a healthy work life balance is imperative to staying stress free and achieving success. Having recently experienced the (I)GCSE examination period, I have learnt several valuable lessons about how to balance one’s rather hectic lifestyle. For many secondary students, achieving over eight hours of sleep may seem impossible. I thought so too; I sometimes slept under six hours and know of peers who consistently slept for only four. However, during my exam period - spurred by Head of Year Mr Hume’s wise mantra of ‘Eat, sleep, revise, repeat’ - I strove to sleep for nine hours every day. This change really helped to rejuvenate me daily and increased my concentration tenfold. It had a much more positive long-term impact than skiving sleep to study. I often wasted several studying sessions procrastinating or reviewing information I already knew. I realised it is important to study smart: to set specific studying times and have a clear, achievable goal for your study period. When I didn’t do so, I would sit down to revise and find that, two or three hours later, I had achieved nothing but watched YouTube or scrolled through Instagram. This is something I am still struggling with. Clearly setting aside defined time to study and time to relax, is vital to ensuring you can concentrate. Doing so allows for shorter, more productive studying and, most importantly, frees up time for other activities like sports. An often-overlooked factor of maintaining work life balance is the importance of setting aside time to spend with

your family and friends. They are usually the ones that ensure you are working at a healthy and fruitful pace and having downtime with them really does help to destress and clear the mind. During the Songkran break, I went to the beach with my friend; we set ‘study times’ and studied extensively, but the holiday also allowed me to unwind and reinvigorate myself. The motivation and encouragement from family and friends helped carry me through the exams. Exercise is also key to a well-rounded lifestyle. Personally, I think it is crucial to continue to participate in your activities, whether they are sports, music, or service, even when studying for an exam. Several of my friends believe that doing sports helps them relax, feel more confident in their abilities, whilst also allowing them to take a much-needed break from studying. I really enjoyed attending my ballet classes and practicing gymnastics as a healthy break from academic study. As I now grapple with the International Baccalaureate, I have quickly realised that my work life balance is even more essential. The IB requires much greater time management skills so those life lessons learnt during the (I)GCSEs are even more valuable now! I plan carefully to make sure I sleep, study, exercise, keep up with my ECAs, and leave time for family and friends! I am already bewildered by the first term - I can only imagine what I’ll be feeling in a year’s time when I am just months away from final exams in Year 13. Mr Hume’s mantra is great and will stay with me for years to come, although I have added a slight revision - Eat, sleep, revise, RELAX, repeat. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Bitcoin by Bernard Collin

It is very difficult today to find someone who hasn’t heard of Bitcoin, or cryptocurrency in general, but it is just about impossible to find a consensus on the future of these digital coins. You will often hear that they are a scam, people are going to lose all the money they have invested, and often that this digital money is only used by criminals and drug dealers as main payment system … You will also hear about people who became millionaires in a few years starting with a low investment in Bitcoins … Let’s take a step back and look at a more comprehensive picture, and understand what is good about the cryptocurrency, what is possibly bad and what could be the ugly side of it. How money came about First, let’s have a look at how money was invented and has since evolved into the system we have today. Gold coins Money has existed for a long time, and originated from bartering with livestock and food to using rare metal coins. The first traceable coin originates in what in now Turkey, around 600BC and was an alloy of gold and silver, representing a roaring lion. The coin, valued as a rare metal, was more transportable, and was somehow divisible as you could scrape the metal of the coins and pay small amount in gold dust and more practical to deal with than camel or goats.

it so practical that he brought the concept back to Europe. Paper money was harder to accept but seems to have been in use around 1640AD in Europe. Until about 50 years ago, paper money was a representation of its real value in gold, gold which was kept in a government bank. Today, there is no link between the gold reserve of a country and the value they can print on paper, hence a constant loss of value every time the government prints another batch of money. Plastic Money After the second world war, the concept of plastic money was invented, which in fact is more a payment system which does not require having the paper money available in hand, but a guarantee from the bank that your transaction will be honoured. It is a representation of the paper money, designed to make it safer, easier to transport and convenient for commercial transactions.

Paper money The first paper money was invented by the Chinese, around 400AD and Marco Polo who travelled to China, found


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Cryptocurrency Cryptocurrency originated in 2009 with the invention of the Bitcoin by an unknown person or group who published it under the name Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and can be used as a payment system. It is the first digital currency, which works without a central bank or single administrator and operates on the internet. Transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary, and are verified by network nodes through the use of cryptography and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain.

send currency to it. Crypto currencies can only live in a piggy bank, they have no existence outside of it. You can also give the public key of your piggy bank to anyone who you would like to receive a payment from, and using this public key, anyone can transfer cryptocurrency to your piggy bank. You could anonymously make your public key available as a QR code, and people could transfer payment to your piggy bank without knowing who you are. Each coin is original, it cannot be faked nor copied, and each transaction is final, once your currency has been transferred, it is gone, you have no way to access it ever, which makes the transaction very safe as the recipient knows he is getting a real coin that nobody can take back. The good … How can we compare the traditional money, called FIAT* currency versus cryptocurrency? *Fiat is a latin words that means “so be this” to expresses the value set arbitrarily by a government

A mathematical formula requires a calculation to establish each coin through a process called mining, people mining or managing the network are rewarded when they identify new coins or when they validate the transactions on the network. How does it work - simply explained: A cryptocurrency is entirely virtual, you never have anything in hand but a link to a repository where the currency is held. To make it easier to understand, we should understand the concept of a pair of keys, one public key and one private key. Let’s assume you have a key (your private key) attached to a piggy bank and that piggy bank is in a public area, visible by everyone. When people look at all the piggy banks, they cannot see their content, nor who owns them nor any private key, but each piggy bank is identified by a its public key, which is secretly linked to its private key. So, if you have the private key of your piggy bank, you can see the content, and you can move currency from that piggy bank to another one, you just need to know the public key of a piggy bank to

You can easily see the advantage of the cryptocurrency, where the number of Bitcoins is limited to 21 million coins, and no additional coin can be issued, which automatically leads to its increase in value with time.

How can you join the number of people who have invested and be part of this amazing transformation? It is not extremely complicated but it can be painstaking because of the regulations that banks must comply with, and you need to start from a bank account with local currency to

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



be used to purchase your first coins. Your exchange will need to make sure you respect the “AML” anti money laundering regulation and the “KYC” know your customer rule, meaning you must be clearly identified to open your account at the exchange to trade in cryptocurrency. Passed this, everything is a lot easier. The bad … You can purchase coins on the exchange, keep them there if the amount is low but if your investment is significant, it is better to transfer your currency to a wallet. The main difference is that when your money is on an exchange, you do not own the private key, they do and you access an account with a user name and password where they give you the value of your currency, if the exchange goes bust or get hacked, you have lost your coins. Your wallet is in fact the repository of your private key, with a piece of software that will access your public piggy bank through the private key and give you an overview of the amount of cryptocurrency held in your piggy bank. The exchange (example here is a Thai exchange) you might have selected to start with your currency will depend where your FIAT currency is, because exchanges are not always accepting currencies from unknown new customers, as a result, if you start in Thailand, your exchange will have a limited number of coins, and you might want to purchase currencies of different nature which your exchange does not hold. Once you have coins in an exchange, you can move them to your wallet or to another exchange where you have been accepted and you can trade coins.

The ugly The risks with cryptocurrency are quite high, and there are many ways you can be left with less money than you started with. What are some of the big risks? The first one is volatility, Bitcoin started a few cents, and reached in December an all-time high of 20,000USD per Bitcoin. For those who purchased them for a few dollars, this is a massive gain! But for those who joined at 20,000USD in December, today (Jan 2nd) the value dropped back at 13,000USD, so an extremely sharp loss. It is impossible today to predict which way the Bitcoin will go, however there are many signs that indicate that it will climb back to 20,000USD and continue to climb. The second one is simply the loss of your currency, and this can happen in many ways. • Your exchange can be hacked, this has happened in the past, or the owner can pretend to have been hacked but have in fact pocketed your coins.


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•Y  ou could simply also lose your private key, many early investors who bought their coins at a very cheap value did not really pay attention to their key and lost it, which means that there are several piggy banks around with lots of coins in and nobody can claim ownership. •Y  ou might also make a false manipulation, handling coins requires extreme attention and some basic knowledge, if for instance you transfer one currency from an exchange to another currency but select a public key in a different currency (ie: you transfer Bitcoin to an Ethereum (ETH) address) your coins would simply be lost. If the value is high, the exchange might offer to help recover them but at a significant cost. •Y  our wallet has many protection mechanism to avoid losing it, for instance, if your telephone (or computer) is where your wallet is, you would have a backup mechanism through which if you were to lose your phone or crash, you could restore your wallet on another phone or computer without any loss, but it also means that if your phone (or computer) is compromised with a Trojan, the person who compromised you can access your wallet and steal your coins. •T  he scams, due to the nature of the system, it is very easy to entice someone to transfer coins to a wallet thinking they are doing a transaction with a person but in fact they have been directed to a fake public address and are sending their coins to a thief. This is extremely common in the world of ICO (initial coin offering) where you are interested in an investment in a new crypto venture and you are purchasing coins or token from that company. Hacked website or phishing sites will trick investors to send their coins to their address and the transaction is irrecoverable. Security today is however very high if you apply basic knowledge and common sense to your coins and the structure where they are held. First you need to use a 2 factor authentication mechanism to access your exchange or account, meaning a password must be complemented by a code from your phone, then you need to make sure you do not use your phone or computer on sites where there is a risk of virus or Trojan (always use legal software and up to date antivirus) and have a backup of your data and a copy of your private key on a paper wallet in your safe, and a copy in another safe. If you want to know more about Bitcoin investment, security of your wallet and portfolio, or legal aspects of the cryptocurrency applicable to your country for tax purpose, SafeComs and DHDL hold regular seminars on cryptocurrency where you will get all information to start safely and protect your investment. Write to the author ( to get more information and a timetable for the seminars.

medical tourism

Medical tourism, Thai style a primer for the new millennium by Robin Westley Martin

Medical tourism first started to gain a foothold in Thailand as we left the 20th century and entered the 21st. Prior to this time medical tourism had a rather different meaning than it has today. In the past tourists from poorer, less developed countries would travel to the more developed nations, where the medical facilities and training of the doctors was so much better than that found in their own countries. But in the new millennium things started to change. In East and SE Asia countries such as Thailand, India and Singapore began to offer a rising number of world class medical facilities, staffed by doctors whose training equalled that of their counterparts in the west. Nowadays many people from developed nations are opting to travel to those less developed, as the medical facilities, capable doctors and nursing staff, and technology available in those countries is often now on a par with their own. At a far more reasonable burden on their wallets. Thailand is at the forefront of this growing trend towards medical tourism. Growth in the popularity of medical tourism in the Kingdom, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, has attracted the attention of government policymakers, researchers, the business sector, and the media. Business owners, government policymakers, and resorts focusing on wellness and health spas are well aware that medical tourism represents a multibillion dollar opportunity for them, that is expected to grow exponentially over the course of the coming decade, at least. Thailand offers the medical traveller far more than the transgender procedures or plastic surgery that often occupies the media spotlight. As well as cosmetic surgery specialties include cancer treatments, orthopaedics, cardiology, IVF/reproductive medicine, spinal surgery, gastroenterology and dentistry. Despite rising standards of living, Thailand remains one of the world’s best values for money, with cost savings on medical procedures ranging from 40/60% over out-of-pocket fees found in United States, the European Union, the Middle


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East, or Japan. Thailand’s world-renowned spas and wellness resorts, often set in breathtaking coastal surroundings, make it even more appealing to the health traveller, particularly in a world now more conscious of preventable disease, and alternative treatment strategies. Medical spas have led the world in combining relaxation with clinical procedures under medical supervision. The citizens of many countries who would previously have travelled to the United States and or to the developed countries of Europe to seek the expertise and advanced technology available in leading medical centres are now heading towards SE Asia, Singapore and Thailand in particular. A medical tourism sector has emerged, and an increasing number of citizens who live in the more developed countries of the world are choosing to bypass the care in their own communities, and travel to places further afield to receive a wide variety of medical services. Also, an increasing number of Middle East countries governments are encouraging - and in many cases sponsoring and paying for - their citizens to fly to Thailand

with their family, paying for the treatment received, and the patients then move to a coastal resort to recuperate. It is cheaper for their host government to do this, even if they had the specialised services available, than to pay for them to be treated in their own country and stretch their own resources. This trend is advantageous to Thailand, although, currently, larger numbers of rich and middle class citizens from neighbouring countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia are electing to come to Thailand for their medical procedures. The distance for them to travel is not so far, and they can find western standard hospitals in Bangkok and other centres, and a level of medical expertise - with the accompanying highly trained doctors and nursing staff - that it is impossible to find in their own countries. Medical tourism, though, is indeed becoming increasingly popular worldwide and it is projected that over a million Americans annually (American Medical Association) will seek offshore medical care by 2020. This phenomenon is driven by marketplace forces and occurs outside of the view and control of the organised healthcare system in their own country. The medical tourism marketplace today consists of a growing number of countries competing for patients by offering a wide variety of medical, surgical, and dental services. Many of these destinations boast modern facilities with advanced technology and appealing accommodation. A substantial number of the physicians in medical tourism destinations have received postgraduate qualifications from the first world countries they studied in, and may also have practiced there before returning home. When they do return home with their expertise they transfer their knowledge to the doctors in their team, and others in the universities and medical schools of the country they have come back to.

Benefitting not only the private hospitals, but the government run ones, too, as most doctors who work in Thailand donate one or two of their days a week for free to the state-run hospitals, where the poorer members of the public are treated for free, or at a minimum cost. This transfer of medical training, techniques, and the technology it brings with it is having a very beneficial knock-on effect for Thailand’s medical services. Medical tourists from around the world are presently travelling to faraway countries for dental procedures, bariatric surgery (dealing with weight problems), assisted reproductive technology, ophthalmologic care, orthopaedic surgery, cardiac surgery, organ and cellular transplantation and executive health evaluations. A number of countries in Central and South America have developed strong reputations for bariatric procedures, transplant surgery, and dental care, while India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are well-established medical tourism destinations that have become popular for patients seeking cardiac surgery and orthopaedic surgery, gastroenterology, cosmetic surgery and gender reassignment procedures. Medical services in these countries are affordable, attracting international customers as well as the more well-off from their neighbouring countries. The availability of exceedingly reliable medical care in Thailand, offered at a fraction of the cost incurred in western countries has created, and is continuing to create, a wealth of lucrative business opportunities and alliances in the Kingdom. Throughout 2018 Expat Life in Thailand will be taking a close look at the medical facilities available in the Kingdom; the range of medical treatments and procedures available; the state of the art technology and equipment; and last but not least, the impressive locations, hotels, rehabilitation centres, wellness facilities and spas that patients can go to for their recovery and recuperation. We will be talking to doctors and patients from several of the top hospitals, and hospital groups in Thailand, such as Bumrungrad Hospital, Bangkok Hospital Group, Sukhumvit and Praram 9 Hospital. We will be talking to health and wellness resort owners. We will tell you what types of procedures are available in Thailand. We will put you in touch with all the right people, right here. As we proceed throughout the year on this project we welcome your feedback, and will attempt to answer any questions you may have, as the series progresses. We wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2018.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


medical tourism

Dentistry in Vietnam by Neil Brook

"I've taken the plunge to get my dental work done at home in Asia" Sitting on the beach in Nha Trang in Vietnam a casual conversation with a lady sitting next to me turns to dentistry. She's had them all done! Shiny white veneers from top to bottom. I've heard the many stories of great work and cheap prices but for some reason I have avoided, or maybe not really avoided, I've just never thought about getting my dental work done in Asia and we've lived here for six years. When I think about it, it's crazy I haven't considered it. I guess I've always been a little apprehensive and concerned about quality and hygiene. Given I have crowns and fillings lining my mouth it's something I have now come to consider as previous work starts to degrade and the ravages of time mean that replacement is now imminent. A recent checkup in London before I left revealed a chipped crown. After price checking crowns in the UK (not too bad) and Australia where the price of each one could support a small family in Vietnam for a year or buy a Vespa, both of which are more appealing ways to dish out my cash, I've taken the plunge. I've done the internet scroll and found a place that advertised as ‘international’ with clients from all over the world. They have clinics all over Vietnam and opened in Nha Trang three months ago. Given that's an easy set up whether you have testimonials or not. Reading their website a pop up opens and I start a real time conversation and have booked in for the next day. Just a checkup to start. I arrive to a clean, fresh townhouse with welcoming staff. I'm a little early and


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escorted upstairs to meet the dentist (doctor) who speaks perfect English and so we begin. She apologises for her English as she studied in Paris so French and Vietnamese are her first languages. OK then. I have checkups and cleans every six months in London when I am there and the last was three weeks ago, which as we start the initial consultation and Dr Ho mapped out my mouth with a telescopic camera makes me wonder why I bothered. While the front of my teeth seem clean enough, the backs slap me in the face when I see the stains. So firstly a clean. At $20 it's worth a go and the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos speak for themselves. Something else strikes me as we continue. The dentist seems to care. We take a walk around my mouth via the photos on screen. I've really just come to discuss replacing the crown that is chipped. Now however I see another two are chipped. I've been complaining about food stuck between a gap for some time. Just floss it out and use these wire brushes to clean was the response. Mind the gap! Now I know why. I can't imagine how this hasn't been picked up and how I didn't choke as a piece, like a huge iceberg crashing free from it's glacial host into the sea, has broken off and disappeared. No doubt I passed that through my system months ago. Anyway there are also two fillings to replace that look dodgy. So let's do them now? OK. There's a cavity underneath one that takes some time to clean out. The dentist puts a material in the tooth that will nurture and protect the tooth and will replace it with a composite on another visit for no extra charge. Did I hear that right? I'm apprehensive as the dentist suggests no needle as it ‘isn't good for your health’ but don't worry ‘I'll be gentle!’. Didn't feel a thing and afterwards I can eat and drink without drooling like I've had a stroke. I've booked to have my crowns replaced. Three for the price of one in Australia and less than half the price of one in London. I am heading to Ho Chi Minh city shortly on my way to London and we decide to do two there as my dentist will be there when I am and they can scan in the morning and have them fitted later that day. The third I'll get sorted when I return to Nha Trang. In Nha Trang it may take two days. Really?! I arrive at the clinic in Saigon (as locals

still call it) and as I have a couple of days to pass decide to have the scans and impressions done and return the next day for fitting leaving plenty of time for a final check if need be. On my return one fits perfectly whilst the other needs a little adjustment. The technician pops in to have a look, takes it away and returns fifteen minutes later. My dentist is not available this morning so another does the fitting and she can't quite get this one to fit perfectly. I'm getting pushed for time now so we arrange for me to return the next morning to see a crown specialist, early as I fly out at 2pm. He drills, just a little and pops it on. My first experience here will not be my last. Caring professionals provide treatment with gentle hands and attention to the finest details. I have however taken away a couple of lessons. My original dentist in Nha Trang is excellent and her communication and knowledge is exceptional. I will insist on seeing her at all times. In Nha Trang she is the resident doctor so all's good. Secondly while all done in a day sounds great in theory, and in some cases in may be, with major work allow a couple of days for unexpected hiccups. While you may feel like the only person they are treating, there are other appointments you may need to work around. Medical tourism is a booming industry and for good reason. You can fly over, book a hotel, bring the kids, have

some work done and a holiday and still have cash to spare compared to the prices in Australia and London and I can only imagine in most other western countries. Who can afford dental work in the States? Time will tell if the choice I have made has been worthwhile. I live in Nha Trang and split my time between there and London so I am privileged to have choice. For the time being, I have made mine.

Retiring to thailand

Bangkok - medical emergency - what now? by Susan Dustin and Daniel Sencier

“I never thought this would ever happen to me ….” might be the start of thoughts flowing in slow motion through your mind as you’re wrenched from the motorbike taxi by the impact of the lorry at the busy junction on Sukhumvit. Bad enough that you’re going to sustain as yet unknown injuries, you’re going to have to think fast when you come to a standstill; your life may depend on it! Would you know what to do? You might be lucky, get up with a few bruises and jump back on, but what if you need a hospital? If you’re able to, and your injuries are minimal, just flag down the nearest taxi and get to the local hospital; an easy option every time. But now you’ve landed in the gutter, the dust is slowly settling and you can see by the lacerations on your legs, the absence of feeling below your waist, and the expressions on the faces of horrified onlookers, that hospital is your only option. Call 1646 You will most likely have your phone, if not shout for someone who has one. In Bangkok it’s unlikely that there won’t be an English speaker somewhere and if a Thai speaker calls for you, you’ll probably get a better result. Call 1646 and when someone answers they’ll already have your position on GPS (check your phone settings) and will be able to speak at least basic English, enabling an ambulance to be with you in 5-10 minutes or so. Note: The more information you can give the 1646 operator, the better the chance of getting the appropriately equipped ambulance for your injury needs. For the rest of Thailand, call 1669, but that number also covers Bangkok.

Your choice of ambulance At this point, an ambulance has been allocated to you, but others may have heard on the airwaves, and the local ‘bush telegraph’ may have alerted nearby ambulances hovering for victims at busy junctions or even volunteer charity non-governmental services not necessarily staffed by properly trained medics! One vehicle will almost definitely arrive, but so might many others; after all, you’re a valuable cargo that the nearest hospital will pay the volunteer charity service workers handsomely for. Take your pick when they arrive, but if your injuries are that bad, the first one would seem a sensible choice. They will assess you and decide which hospital is going to be best, given the nature of your injuries and the proximity to all available treatment. If you’re a foreigner you’ll more than likely end up at a private hospital, as state hospitals may refuse you, but you have rights and can push for them, and anyway, they have to accept you by law for at least 72 hours. Accountants run hospitals If you have no medical insurance and it’s looking like your treatment may take some time, you’d be better getting to


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a state hospital as soon as you can. You may have to fight to be transferred to state, or have someone lobby your cause, but with the upmost respect and politeness most things can be achieved. What might initially look like relatively minor injuries can quickly turn into something far more sinister, even ending up with you in an induced coma, on a ventilator, oblivious to your spiralling debt. You could be racking up 20,000B a day in a cheap hospital just for your room, and 50,000B if that room is in the Intensive Care Unit. I visited a friend in hospital recently who had gone through all this over a period of about 2 months, and what initially looked like the cost of a course of antibiotics, turned out to be a final bill of over 2,000,000B. Two accountants would come to his room in intensive care every day to point out to his daughter that if she hadn’t paid her Dad’s outstanding costs by Friday, they would have no choice but to refuse all further treatment! If you have to transfer to another hospital, for whatever reason, there is usually excellent cooperation between these institutions. They will arrange for your transportation as well as your acceptance at the other end. All your notes, scans and other history will be transferred over also, so that your new doctor will be immediately up to speed on your case. What plans can you make? Of course, planning ahead for this kind of eventuality is never top of our list, is it? After all, it’ll never happen to you! Well it’s a good idea to at least do some planning, not just because it could save your life, but it could also prevent your financial ruin! Carry the two medical emergency numbers with you at all times, ideally on your phone and in a place where you don’t have to search for too long. Also, carry the contact details of two people (ideally one who speaks Thai) laminated in your own and the Thai language. They should be close friends/ relatives who can be contacted immediately, or that the hospital can contact if you are unable to. You may be unconscious, so who’s going to make those possibly ‘life and death’ decisions on your behalf? This person can be your partner, or a good friend, but make sure it’s someone who can gain access to vital information about you. They will need to know what your wishes are regarding so many things. Would you allow a blood transfusion? Are you on any medications? Have you any allergies? This along with a raft of other details, depending on how complex your medical history is. If you are going to pay for your treatment then they’ll need medical insurance information, or if you don’t

have any, your bank/credit card details. A private hospital will not continue treatment without some kind of guarantee of payment! Who can make those difficult decisions? In short, you need to appoint a ‘Health Care Advocate’, and the choice of person is extremely important because you have to trust them, perhaps one day, with your life! Choose someone who knows you very well, cares about you, and who can make difficult decisions. A spouse or family member may not be the best choice and you have to think about that very carefully. I have a living will document, given to me by my good friend Susan Dustin, a Death-Walker (Compassionate-Care, End-of-Life Companion), and it’s called … ‘My Five Wishes: End of Life Directive.’ It’s something you can read through, then perhaps fill in now while you’re still alert and well, knowing that one day, all your dearest wishes are recorded and that a few caring people might take all that pressure from you at a time when you just need to lay back and rest. I’ll be happy to forward this to anyone who would like one, just state whether you want it in Thai or English please. As you read through, its significance will grow on you and help you understand the importance of your undertaking. It may also, one day, make some very difficult decisions far easier for the people who love you.

Researched in collaboration with Susan Dustin of Daniel Sencier was born in London 1951, the son of Belgian/ Irish parents who settled in England after the war. He spent his childhood being raised by his grandmother in the Republic of Ireland, before moving to school in England. He is married to Beverley, who is Head of an International School in Bangkok, and they have eight children between them. After service in the military, aircraft and hotel industries, he retired to further his education at the University of Cumbria. He successfully completed a Bachelor’s Media Degree then qualified as an English teacher. Now in Bangkok, Daniel is organiser of the ‘Bangkok English Speakers Lunch Group’, encouraging others to improve their English and explore this wonderful city. Contact Daniel for all your writing/copywriting/ proofreading needs: EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


mind matters

Unshaken amidst the storm by Helen Jandamit

A tale from the Theravada Buddhist elders tells a story of a flea infested dog. The dog is sitting on sandy ground near a makeshift fence. It shakes itself occasionally and lifts a back foot to enthusiastically scratch behind one ear. The dog is still for a short time, and then it gets up, stretches and walks towards a shady place at the foot of a nearby tree. It settles down with its chin on one of its front paws. After a few minutes, it shakes a bit then rolls on its back and writhes around trying to scratch a place near its spine. The dog keeps moving from one place to another to get away from the fleas, only to carry them with it wherever it goes. On the level of relative truth, it is essential to engage with the proximate cause of discomfort or injustice. If you see that there is injustice, it is important to reveal it and root it out. On that level, you need to get informed and to stand up for your rights. However on the level of ultimate truth, even if you have won court cases against massive odds, you may still be irritated by the unfinished inner


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business that you may carry with you wherever you go. If you realise that you carry your own version of ‘fleas’, you may choose to come into your latent spiritual warrior status and to delve deep within, to locate, know and allow the roots of the discontent that you have unknowingly carried with you for so long, to be uprooted and come to an end. When that happens, a person is unshaken by, but still fully aware of, the changing nature of the physical world and all that is playing out around him. He knows it. He feels it - but he is not shaken by what he perceives. Combining concentration with awareness of the present Insight Meditation (also called Buddhist Vipassana Meditation) is a way of practising meditation that combines heightened concentration with authentic awareness of the stream of present moments. Although it dates from over 2,500 years ago, the practice of Insight Meditation is timeless and exquisitely relevant to the intelligent seeker of today. It is one aspect of a more inclusive path - or way - to wellbeing - The Middle Way. When practising Insight Meditation you become your own experiment: You’ll be both the observing scientist and also the process being observed. You’ll be both the cat and the mouse. Insight Meditation involves stepping into life in all its fullness - yet not habitually reacting, as a result of old programming, to what occurs or experienced. That path is traditionally called the Middle Way. It is usually associated with Buddhism but you do not have to be a Buddhist to practise it. You are not required to believe in it. Instead you are encouraged to give

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

it a try to see whether it works for you or not. As the Buddha said, "Believe nothing just because a so called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.” Insight meditation is both an attitude and a practice: What is this attitude? It is an attitude of open, direct experience of whatever arises in your experience of the ‘here and now’ - with as little prejudgement as possible. How do you practise? When practising formally, especially in a group situation, you ‘walk’ and then ‘sit quietly and breathe’. There are various ways to practice walking meditation from ’striding over the fields’ to maintaining a slow focused awareness on each step. As a general rule, if you walk for fifteen minutes, you then spend another fifteen minutes practising sitting meditation. Although in the past and in Asian cultures, many meditators would sit in some version of a crosslegged position, it is not essential. What is essential is that you sit with your back straight (but not soldier stiff) in a stable position that you can maintain, at least at the beginning of the sitting, without pain.

Your blood circulation should not be restricted so fairly loose clothing is preferable. With eyes closed, you focus on a point about the size of a fingertip on the surface of your skin, just below your navel. Observing through feel, you note in mind the movements there that accompany breathing. You also note any sounds, sights, tactile sensations, thoughts and so on that arise. They have a place in the meditation and you observe them - while directly experiencing - them as they arise, have being and change or fade away. As you do so, you gradually become calmer allowing clearer states of mind arise by themselves. The results that you can expect at the beginning are enhanced tranquility and greater general wellbeing. Over time with fairly regular practice, deeper states arise and you may come to experience profound insights into the processes of life. Here is a description of an authentic experience: Slowly falling and coming to rest On a recent Vipassana retreat at a contemporary meditation centre in the suburbs of Bangkok, a middle-aged English lady was listening to some additional instructions at the end of a long sitting session. She had long blonde hair and to loosen up after sitting still for a long time, she stretched her arms up and back, lifting her hair and letting it fall. She was still focused on the moment and in a heightened state of awareness - so she moved slowly, feeling the movement with great acuity, noticing the muscles in her arms engaging and the rising movement of them as she stretched and then, as she later recounted, her attention zeroed in on the contact of her hair with her skin. She was able to distinguish each strand separately - and to feel them individually, slowly falling and coming to rest on her shoulders. It was a world-changing event for her. It was a moment when she came

fully into the moment, with awareness wide open. Her automatic pilot had no longer been functioning and she had tuned into her authentic presence and, as a result, awakened to a field of extraordinary clarity. When this happens, the previous familiar ways of perceiving the environment around you and your interaction with it seem, in comparison, to be washed out and lifeless. Feeling elephants Let’s look at the well-known illustration of several blind men each touching different parts of an elephant and receiving different impressions of what the animal could be like. One of them might feel the massive flank of the animal and get the impression that an elephant was a wide expanse of rough skin with enormous ridges that moved slowly beneath the surface. Another man might touch the tip of a tusk and get the impression that an elephant was made of hard shiny stuff that curved upward to a sharp point. Yet another man might wonder what kind of animal was made of leathery flapping sheets suspended several feet up in the air. It illustrates the misleading impressions a person might have as a result of incomplete information. When a person in a darkened room realises that the curtains can be

drawn back and does so, light floods into the room. At that illuminated point, the objects in the room gain definition. The quality of the colours increases exponentially. What had previously been a dim jaundiced hue - becomes bright dancing citron vibrancy. There’s an intrinsic dimension of in-itself-ness that appears in the light of awakening. After the blinds have been drawn up, they can never be pulled down again in the same way. Gradually, you come to know that this enhanced awareness is in fact, your true nature. It is not something that is added to you. The opposite is true. Obscurations and mental habits that may have blocked your direct experience of presence simply dissolve away when Insight is present. If you would like to find out more about Insight Meditation conducted in English, you can email the author at or visit

Acharn Helen is a Vipassana acharn, an author, a visual artist, an editor and frequency healer. British born, she has lived in Thailand for more than 40 years bringing up her family and sharing her extensive experience and knowledge of traditional Buddhist Vipassana Meditation. She was ordained with the Mook Rim Society (Korean Zen) for eleven years and now works as a spiritual independent running workshops and courses at The House of Dhamma. She worked with Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University - MCU. and the Young Buddhists Association of Thailand - YBAT for many years. On invitation, she has travelled to run courses and retreats in Austria, Australia and the USA. In 2002, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, she was honoured as the Foremost Western Woman Meditation Master in SE Asia. Acharn Helen Jandamit at a retreat held at the YBAT centre in Pathum Thani. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

Vipassana at Prathat Doi Suthep by Wentworth Power

I was first introduced to my dark passenger a decade ago when I herniated a disc in my lower spine lifting weights (classic idiot)! Since then, he has metamorphosed, inflicting muscular tension or pain on different parts of the body and inhibiting my lifestyle to varying degrees. It has been a long journey with which many chronic pain sufferers would be familiar. I have had to learn to respect the limitations of my body and adapt my daily regimen of diet and exercise. Having trialled a real hodgepodge of western medicines and eastern treatments, one of the more successful methods for mitigating flare-ups has been guided meditation sessions using podcasts. The more I have learnt about mindfulness and the connections between my brain and body, the more intrigued I have become about how far I could develop these techniques and regain control. A couple of months ago, I was inspired by a friend's visit to a Buddhist meditation retreat in Sri Lanka where he practised 10 days of a technique called Vipassana. I was curious to learn more about this intense training schedule of 10 hours a day, but hesitant to undertake the compulsory vow of silence and virtual solitude for such a long period of time. So I searched for a shorter option that I could fit between my work schedule - a sort of try-before-I-buy. The International Buddhist Centre at Prathat Doi Suthep is located 15km from the centre of Chiang Mai and 800 metres above sea level on the Suthep mountain. The school grounds sit on a precipitous hillside amidst a verdant canopy of thick foliage some 50 metres below the main temple. It’s an idyllic getaway from the modern world for some personal introspection. Students receive individual meditation instructions from the Dharmma (teacher), a Thai monk, but must practise the techniques alone. Each session of meditation comprises a period of walking meditation followed by a period of sitting meditation. Beginners start with two 15 minute periods, followed by a 10 minute break before repeating the exercises. The length of the meditation periods is increased by 5 or 10 minutes after every couple of days.  Initially the challenge is to maintain focus on the rising and falling of the abdomen during sitting meditation, and the movement of the feet during walking meditation. The central tenet of a Vipassana retreat is that, after a few days of focus on the breath, any thoughts (or distractions) begin to fade. That sustained myopic focus of the mind


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begins to enhance your sensitivity to natural physical sensations. Theoretically, after several days of quiet, you begin to understand that each of these stimuli, whether physical or emotional, is just an interpretation by the mind and body. The thoughts become compartmentalised, diluted and given less credence. Accommodation at the retreat is basic. The rooms are private with lockable doors and insect screens and are located in separate areas for men and women. Mounted high on stilts, the boarding houses jut out over a ravine and are a steep climb up the path to the main building where the ceremonial hall, meditation and dining rooms are located. From the balcony of the meditation hall on the top floor, a gap in the trees reveals the mountains on the distant horizon and glimpses of the city lights below. This, I found, was an ideal spot to practise walking and sitting meditation. It was away from the other students and an extremely pleasant view when each time I opened my eyes. The school day begins at 4.30am, giving students 30mins to prepare for the morning’s Dhamma talk (a sermon by the monk) in the main hall. Breakfast is served at 7am and lunch at 11am. No food is to be consumed after midday. The evening’s session of Buddhist chanting in the main hall commences at 6pm. Students practise meditation in time with their own circadian rhythms during the many hours of free time that the light schedule provides. During their stay, meditators are

asked to observe eight precepts, including “not chit-chatting” and “to abstain from killing any being”. When you first arrive, it is hard to avoid cynical thoughts about the otherworldly atmosphere generated through the unfamiliar ceremonies, strange religious rituals and the peculiar, introverted behaviour of the students. For my first dining experience, I felt like I had wandered on to the film set of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. The canteen is a bright but soulless, whitewashed room with grating across the windows. Fifteen students, all dressed in white, sat one to a table, facing the front; projecting a communal detachment and anaesthetised silence as they waited patiently for their food. The blank canvas that is created makes it hard to apply the usual prejudices to your fellow students. I contemplated: who was running away from a difficult past; who had committed gross misdemeanours in a former life; and who was a wise academic adding greater intellectual depth to their thinking? In those initial hours, I was thinking too much but the discipline of respectful silence helped me to train the mind and focus on the mental exercises. The technique we were taught to help maintain our focus involved noting any distractions mentally. For example, during walking meditation, if someone moved across your field of vision, distracting you from your focus on the movements of your feet, you would recite three times: “seeing, seeing, seeing”. This helped to acknowledge the stimulus, give it a neutral classification, and to return the mind back to pure observation of the motions walking movements. While meditating, if you experienced physical sensations (e.g. the wind or tension in your muscles), or sad or happy emotions from memories, the practitioner would silently recite: “feelings, feelings, feelings”, helping to nullify the response and return the focus to the breath. I found nature offered more than enough sonic stimuli that disrupted the pattern of thinking. A sustained focus on the breath for 15 or 20 minutes is a huge challenge when millions of insects are chomping, marching, whirring and buzzing their way through the forest. The forest choir whipped up a cacophony of animal gargles, cackles, coos and drones. The most memorable sound of nature regularly hissed in and out during the

daylight hours; a shrill chorus of insects that would rise to a crescendo and last for half an hour or longer. When it finally petered out, it left behind a peaceful afterglow that inspired a collective sigh of relief from all other sentient beings. However, I soon mastered the technique. If such a sound piqued my focus, I would silently recite: “hearing, hearing, hearing” to help me return to my observation of the breath. For the first couple of days, I battled with the pains and sensations associated with long periods of sitting and unnatural walking. I experienced a few significant moments of heightened emotional responses. I desperately wanted to quit, particularly in the evening while sitting crosslegged for an hour of chanting, or while lying in bed in the lonely dark. But at the dawn of each new day, I woke up refreshed, and ready to start all over again. Boredom was probably my greatest adversary and a true test of my resilience, particularly during the 5 hour afternoon sessions. It is difficult to stay in the moment, watching each second tick by, and the minutes slowly evaporate. You are living in virtual solitude, alone with your own thoughts. There are no electronic devices, books or conversations to distract or pass the hours. But by day three, I had found positions and routines that worked for me and the distractions by memories of friends or work began to fade. With everything quieted down, and maintaining continuous awareness of these sensations, without reacting, I learnt that nothing is permanent. I was able to alter the habit of blind (subconscious) reaction; a significant challenge for chronic pain sufferers. I began to appreciate the beauty and deeper complexity of different stimuli; the humble grounds and vivid nature around me. Sometimes, the faint sounds of Thailand’s country music, with the treble high resonance of a 1920s gramophone, wafted across the treetops assisted by a gentle breeze and the broom strokes of monks sweeping leaves. These were no longer distractions but complements to my experience. I have returned to my normal routine in Bangkok with a greater respect for myself and less frustration towards my dark passenger. I continue to meditate regularly but with a renewed sense of optimism and I am eagerly anticipating my first holiday to a meditation and yoga retreat in India. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

2017 - A year without alcohol by Daniel Sencier

That was the target I set myself back in December 2016. Why? Because I'd been drinking regularly since the age of 15, probably earlier, and at 65 I wanted to tweak a few things in my life, to see if things could be done differently. I guess the driving force was sort of a ‘bucket list’ item: I wanted to see what it felt like to be a non-drinker again, just one more time.

So, why not give up for a week, even a month, wouldn't that do it? Well, I tried that last year when I gave up for 90 days, and here's what happened. After 30 days you realise that you're starting to come out of a mental haze, a numbing cloud that's always there with you, but you’re never aware of when you're a regular drinker. I had no idea how thick that cloud was, after all, I'd never tried walking out of it before! After 60 days, the cloud was getting noticeably thinner, but I was still moving through it and felt that I hadn't yet reached the edge. This was even the case at 90 days, and because I'd reached my target, I had a bottle of wine that night to celebrate, and a few beers. If only I'd continued, would I have found the edge of that cloud? Would I have one day been able to look back at that fog, see it from a distance and say, "hell, I was trapped in there once." I concluded that 3 months was probably not enough time to know what it felt like to be a non-drinker. The answer lay further into the future, and I was determined to find it, but the time had to be right and I had to be ready. My top tip - don't try and stop drinking with willpower alone; it simply doesn't work. You'll be forever walking past bars full of ‘happy' people and couples sharing bottles of wine, and you'll be wishing you were sat right in there with them. That's not the way! You need to do what I did first and change the way you see alcohol and the role it plays


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

in the lives of all who allow it to run their agenda. See how we are brainwashed almost from birth into thinking that this substance is our friend, used at every celebration, a reward for a hard days work and such a cool thing to do. No better book taught me this than one written by Annie Grace, 'This Naked Mind.' You need to turn that switch in your mind before embarking on this adventure; you have to change what you have always believed about this ‘nectar' and start to question the benefits that you get for the money you spend. When you reach the 90 day mark, yes, it's a significant achievement and probably the hardest point to reach. Friends will try and steer you the other way, and there will be many, many times when you question your judgment. You'll be continuously reminded of what fun it is to drink, on films, advertising, almost everywhere you look. This is also the time when many people fail, but if you can crack the 90 days, there are huge rewards ahead. It's somewhere after the six months point that you suddenly realise that you've ‘broken the habit.' You don't want

a drink of alcohol anymore; you've replaced that habit with other types of drinks and activities. Maybe we’re all creatures of habit, rabbits that stick to the same runs, day in, day out, so if we do choose a habit, better to try and pick some good ones. There were physical and mental changes for me, some very unexpected. I lost over 10kg, which meant I had to buy more shirts and trousers, but hey, I was feeling healthier than I had for years. I'd started to dream again, that surprised me! I'm told it's because you sleep far deeper when there's no alcohol involved, even though it may take you slightly longer to get to sleep, and you sure do wake up feeling a hell of a lot better than after a skinful the night before. You can ignore the restraints that alcohol used to put on your life, such as what time you go shopping because it has to coincide with licensing hours, and when you can and can't take the car, because now you can drive at any time. The money I save, although not the driving force was a massive bonus and I can now treat myself to things I used to view as extravagant. I drink more coffee than I used to and certainly eat a bit more chocolate, even the occasional cake, but on balance, I'm happy with my diet. Did I ever like the taste of alcohol? I remember the first time a tasted Whisky, it was probably the worst thing I'd ever tasted and couldn't spit it out fast enough. Years later though, after absorbing enough adverts and cowboy films, I wanted to be that ‘wild west hero' who shot all the bad guys, pulled all the chicks and then hit the local saloon for a large Jack Daniels. I was hooked! I grew up with Guinness in Ireland, as much part of the culture as the Catholic Church and the second word I learned to spell. The Guinness brewery in Dublin draws its water from the bogs that feed the River Liffey.

As is tradition, my Grandfather and I stood at the edge one day and sent our joint waters into those marshes, knowing that we would both unite and become part of the Guinness forever; such is the tragic magic that weaves Irish folklore into the shareholders dividends of this national brewery. Yes, I can look back now and see that cloud, and wow, it was far bigger than I could ever have imagined. I walked out of that mass without really knowing how far from the edge I was, or even if there was an edge. Was I an alcoholic? I don't think so. I didn't get the sweats or shakes when I stopped, or contract any mental health problems. Did I have a bad habit? That more fits the bill. Yes, I had a bad habit! Will I drink alcohol again? I'm not setting any target, that’s a sure way to fail, but right now, I can't imagine going back into that cloud when everything out here is so vivid and clear. For support: Take a look at a fantastic UK based organisation run by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns.

Daniel Sencier was born in London 1951, the son of Belgian/Irish parents who settled in England after the war. He spent his childhood being raised by his grandmother in the Republic of Ireland, before moving to school in England. He is married to Beverley, who is Head of an International School in Bangkok, and they have eight children between them. After service in the military, aircraft and hotel industries, he retired to further his education at the University of Cumbria. He successfully completed a Bachelor’s Media Degree then qualified as an English teacher. Now in Bangkok, Daniel is organiser of the ‘Bangkok English Speakers Lunch Group’, encouraging others to improve their English and explore this wonderful city. Contact Daniel for all your writing/copywriting/ proofreading needs: EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Fashion and Beauty

Fashion in February a time to impress … by Talar Zambakjian

The festive season is over! Hope that by now you’ve already taken the action of dieting to lose all the chocolate and wine weight added from last month .... now it's Valentine’s Day! A new goal for us ladies! The most romantic and beautiful occasion to look forward to, and a reason for us to dress up again! Before I start giving suggestions on how to dress, I want to elaborate on what this means for us; certainly it’s an occasion to celebrate love in all its ways, whether with a partner or with family or friends, all we need is to feel loved and to love in return. Everything around us already is decorated with red hearts, beautiful roses and some love music, which is very inspirational, and make us look forward for a romantic dinner. Have you made all the necessary arrangements to dress up on that night, to look beautiful, to feel beautiful and just celebrate it with your loved ones? If not, then let me give you some suggestions @be_a_starlette way ... Christmas and New Year are family celebrations, but Valentine’s Day is purely for you and your partner ladies! It’s the time to disconnect from all your work, motherhood and all the responsibilities that you have, and to feel like a woman again; fragile, yet strong, beautiful, yet unsure. It’s the time you want to be taken care of, with knowing exactly what you want …. it’s the time of the culmination so to say of your yearly efforts and accomplishments. It’s the time finally to put on a seductive clothes to feel sexy and desired again … As a career professional, as a wife, as a mum or as a socialite this is when you breathe your rewarding breath. Remember you’ve achieved something during the year. You’ve worked hard, contributed, built and nurtured. So the fashion


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this natural urge is created to re-draw ourselves for these commitments with fitting and enthused attitudes. We naturally want to stand out with our styles and appearances. There’s also something spiritual in this. Let me explain this spiritually from the @be_a_starlette curator’s perspective. But this time I want to focus on the Valentine and any style can be applicable in all the events. spirituality of this season is that you need to celebrate your success and dress and feel accordingly. Make it reflect on you. Makes sense? Take a two day vacation with your partner or just arrange to have a beautiful romantic dinner, this is what you both need. Other than the Valentine’s, there’s the Chinese New Year (the year of the dog) and all the beginning year’s new events started to burst up. On this occasion a new list of happenings are starting to make our calendar busy again; which raises repeated and daily queries and propositions on wardrobes and style predicaments. Most of us are compelled to tune in and receive social invitations, events and societal engagements, and therefore,

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

So on Valentine’s Day, whether you decide to have a dinner at home, or to go out, with your beau or friends, just remember it is again a beautiful occasion for you to celebrate your gorgeousness. This is your opportunity to look sexy. The style choices you make should naturally lead you to impress, preferably with more attractive looking than previous occasions of the year. Thus, the dilemma on what to wear. So, for all of us Bangkokians, we have the luxury of sunny days and starlit February/March evenings, the weather will still be acceptable. First things first, don’t dress cold or too covered for the dinner. Show the right amount of skin and blow your partner’s awe with your appropriate nudes and statement Valentino reds. Can also be classic …. all blacks. Do it stylishly. Go for the longline yet fit clean silhouettes as you’ve worked hard to keep yourself fit. If not, stick to an only protein diet for a month so you can have the slim “you” to present during your romantic dinner. Remember, sophistication and contemporary character will elevate yourself and reflect your wonderful aura around.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Fashion and Beauty

Here are some elegant and provocative looks that you can be inspired and easily put together on that day. The easiest choice is a nice elegant and chic slim dress showing your silhouette and making you look desirable by the partner ;). Concluding, as a fashion stylist and consultant my main advice and thoughts to share for this Valentine is to celebrate love. So dress yourself accordingly by showing your Osé sense of style, your beauty, your fashionable allure. Share that creativity and feminism with your friends, family and peers. Habiller pour seduire dress to seduce my dear starlette’s.

Have a lovely Valentine’s Day and don't forget, this is the period to celebrate your sexy you and most of all to celebrate your wonderful #SELF.

@be_a_starlette @talarz


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


St Lucia and SWEA in Klongtoey by Agneta de Bekassy

”Mamma’s kök” (Mother's Kitchen) in Klongtoey's slum hosted, for the second time, a Swedish traditional St Lucia celebration for kids living in Klongtoey’s slum. St Lucia and her entourage surprised the kids with beautiful classic Christmas carols. This festive evening took place on Friday December 15th and was organised by Mamma’s Kök, with sponsor from SWEA and Hotel Royal Bangkok at Chinatown, with its Swedish GM Nick Moberg. Nick and his staff brought a huge bag with Christmas gifts for the kids as well as a magician that was there in the memory of Nick’s mother that passed away some years ago. Mia Palmqvist and her staff, served classic Swedish Christmas food like; Prince sausages, saffron buns and much more and Annika secured a lots of ”tomteluvor” to all the kids. SWEA made a donation and a few of the SWEA women and a few staff from the Swedish Embassy with spouses helped out to make the evening a special memory. SWEA has, during several years, helped out organising different projects in the slum. Who hasn't heard of Annika Jonasson? She started years ago, a project in the slum to help single moms to learn to support themselves and their children, by teaching them how to do beautiful hangers, today a well known brand "Hang on Hangers". Bracelets, necklaces and other products followed and many of those single mom’s lives have changed to the better with Annika"s initiative. Mia Palmqvist, born in Thailand and at a very young age adopted by Swedish parents and brought up in Sweden, decided to return to Thailand to search for her roots. To show her appreciating for everything she has received, she decided to "give back" and started Mamma's Kök, taking on young Thai people, educating them in cooking, baking, serving, selling and much more, giving them a chance to find a job.  Nick Moberg, GM at the Hotel Royal Bangkok at Chinatown and his staff, have shown a big heart by organising the gifts for the kids and participate at the event. Great support that made many kids day.  Quite a few photographers came to catch the happening and among them, SWEA’S own photographer Camilla Davidsson. A beautiful, memorable evening organised by people with big hearts. A tradition we all want to keep up with.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Food and Beverage

Life of a five star chef by Richard Sawyer - The St Regis Hotel Bangkok

When I was asked me if I would like to write an article for Expat Life of 1200 words, I had to stop and think for a moment. I asked myself the question “How am I going to compile over 30 years in hotels and restaurants in such a few words” and more importantly, “what exactly would I focus on that would make interesting reading”? I have to say that the life of a five star chef might sound glamorous these days, especially with how the industry is portrayed on television and with so many cookery shows. However, in reality, the journey is a long, exhausting and sweaty one to say the least. Back in London when I started my first proper job in the capital in 1991, if you were lucky enough to get a junior position in what we call a decent high-end kitchen, a seventeen hour day, every day, was not uncommon. Arriving to work before the sun had risen and going home after midnight was something you just got used to. Never seeing natural day light for days on end, if the kitchen was in the basement and enduring temperatures of over 40 degrees. It was hotter than that in the summer. Tempers and tantrums, physical violence, flying saucepans, burnt arms, sleep deprivation, fridge meetings, dehydration and a facial complexion that resembled a ghost were just some of the perks of the job. However, in this crazy industry, it’s all about perfection, consistency and being the best. I guess that’s why we all decide to choose such a career. Chefs after a while are often left out on invitations to family weddings, birthday parties or popping round to a


February/March 2018

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

friend’s house for a Christmas drink because it’s always the same answer …. “No sorry I can’t … I’m working”. Hence back in those days, we didn’t make good boyfriend material since you spent more time with your kitchen colleagues than family or friends. On that long road to getting to where you want to be, there are many that come and go and simply just quit. I remember one particular restaurant that we opened in London in 1995. 200 seats .. 55 chefs .. took nearly two years to open serving 600 people a day. I recall chefs in tears and leaving on the first day and over the 3 years that I was there, more than 300 had come and gone through those doors. I wonder where they all ended up … where are they now? Are they still cooking? Maybe they took a normal job and go home each day at 5 o’clock. So enough of all that there is a flip side to everything. Working as a cook in a fine dining restaurant kitchen does have its rewards funnily enough. These are not financial as we all know but rewards associated with achievement, great teamwork and a bond with fellow human beings like nothing else. To be able to knock out 400 three course meals every night requires not just physical stamina or the passion and love of food, but a bond between ten to twenty other sweaty ghostlike faced people around you. You rely on each other, trust each other, go to hell and back every day with each other and do it all again the next day. This bond or almost blood like brothership extends to anywhere you end up working and in any kitchen anywhere in the world. I have been fortunate enough to spend 13 years in London, worked in Germany, had my own restaurant in the US and as of now, 9 years in Asia. They say that if you can cook … you can work anywhere. The people you meet along the way are unforgettable. They are all different individuals doing the same thing for the same cause. So many

“Working in Hong Kong, Macau, Kuala Lumpur and now Bangkok has taught me so much.”

kitchens these days are multinational and it’s often difficult to hold a conversation in each other’s language. Working in Hong Kong, Macau, Kuala Lumpur and now Bangkok has taught me so much. Not just about the different fantastic cuisines that come from these amazing cities but the people to which they belong to. You spend hours and hours with others nearly 6 days a week for years. Then, when it’s time to move on, to never see or hear from them again. As you move up the long ladder and eventually become a head chef or executive chef, you are more than just a cook. Those days seem a long time ago as you take on a new role. I discovered in my first senior position that you suddenly need to become not just a boss but a father figure, agony aunt, businessman, teacher, IT specialist and a social media guru. How things have changed over the years. So … the life of a five star chef … we are all five star chefs .. everyone that I have encountered along the way deserves to be recognised as that. Would I change anything? No not a thing. It’s all I know now and looking back it has been an amazing journey to get here. Looking forward to the next chapter. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Love them, don’t ride them by Amina Youssef

When the plane finally landed, we exited into the steamy, humid air. My droopy eyes could tell this experience would be something totally new. My sister and I had travelled from our small hometown in Colorado, where the air is too thick to breathe and the mountains rise high around each crack of the town. After thirty hours in airport and planes, we had reached Chiang Mai, where we would be experiencing a new culture, climate, and an eye-opening volunteer project for the next two weeks. Exhausted, we longed for a good night’s sleep in a cool, air-conditioned hotel room with a cosy bed; however, that is far from what we got. As we drove to the Elephant Nature Park, tall green trees rose on each side of the narrow dirt path. Small villages lined the side of the road, and busy people walked along caring for the children and animals around them and preparing for nightfall. Finally, the bus stopped and we were taken to our room: a tiny room with four small beds, two unknown roommates, and large mosquito netting around each bed to keep off the bugs as we slept. The windows were just holes along each wall, looking out onto the reserve. I could tell by my sister’s eyes that we were both thinking the same thing: what had we gotten ourselves into? Too tired to talk to the people who would be sharing our room, we both climbed into our mosquito nets, but sleep didn’t come. I could hear exotic bugs buzzing outside the windows and in the room. I could even hear the powerful elephants rumbling and calling one another not too far away. I was nervous and excited. Once I started to hear dogs barking in the distance, I knew sunrise was coming soon.


February/March 2018

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

I could not wait to experience firsthand the reason I had travelled all this way: to work with the beautiful and nearly extinct animal, the elephant. Once a pink light started seeping in the windows, the dogs were barking without rest. I called to my sister, who also hadn’t slept, and we went to breakfast. Over fried rice and instant coffee, we watched the mist rising off the mountains and looked at families of elephants wandering across the

reserve. I had come to the Elephant Nature Park to donate medical supplies and work on partnering in distributing donated medical supplies throughout Asia, but I was looking forward to spending a week working with the elephants. The week was full of beauty: learning how the park had gone from just four elephants hidden in the forest to huge sanctuaries in three countries, feeding a rescued elephant hand cut watermelons, bathing an injured elephant in the river, walking a three-legged dog who had been rescued from being sold for meat, meeting volunteers from all over the world … the memorable moments came one after another. But my time at ENP also meant learning the truth about elephant conservation. Many tourists coming to Thailand dream of riding an elephant. I will admit, it looks exotic and magical, and if I hadn’t learned what’s behind training an elephant to be ridden. In order for an elephant to be able to safely transport people on its back, it must be trained to fear injury. This means baby elephants are taken from their mothers at a young age and put through the pajaan, a breaking process that includes trapping the elephant in a small cage and injuring it with rocks, sticks, nails, and knives until it follows

commands. For elephants to be kept docile, they must be kept afraid. And for animals as smart and caring as these, who know and miss and mourn their families and who crave familial relationships, mental stimulation, and companionship, the results are tragic. Fortunately, most people who want to ride an elephant or watch it paint feel that way because they love elephants. For that reason, education is the solution: if those people understand that the elephants will suffer because of that ride or painting, they may opt for a more humane solution. So as we continue to spread the word, the elephant tourism industry changes, and there is hope for these brave and beautiful creatures. As a visitor to Thailand, it was hard for me to understand how the Thai people could love elephants but also exploit them. I realised that it’s easy to see hypocrisy in other cultures but hard to see it in our own. So I tried to look from the perspective of a Thai person. If training an elephant meant that I could feed my family and send my child to school, would I do it? Probably. By putting aside my initial judgements, I was able to listen. I believe this is how travel helps us to find real solutions: listening to the people involved and finding out what motivates them. My time with the elephants was amazing. It’s caused me to give one piece of advice: before you travel, get informed! Spending an afternoon researching is better than regretting your uninformed Instagram photos when you get home. You can have an ethical experience and an amazing time. I didn’t ride an elephant, but I got to look one deep in the eye. I heard one crush a pumpkin in her strong jaws. I stood in the cold river and bathed a baby elephant. I rode a truck through a lush, green forest in the rain to cut elephants food. I got to see elephants up close and watch them interact with their families, playing and almost laughing together. These amazing experiences will stay with me forever, and I never have to regret them or feel for pain that they caused. My experience in Thailand will stay with me forever because travel imprints on you in a way that nothing else can, and I am glad that it imprinted something I can teach: if you love elephants, don’t ride them!

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

The Movement Playground by Meghan McKenna

The Google search looked like this “What is Parkour?” A noun “Parkour is the art of using effective and efficient jumps, vaults, climbing and swinging to conquer obstacles. The idea is to not be controlled by your surroundings …” It was the first time, (well maybe not the first), but it certainly feels like the first time even now. A time that the boys were telling me about something I had never heard of. They were asking if they could “do Parkour” and shouting to each other “look at this Parkour Brody!” I asked my husband if he knew what was. He knew, answering that he had done it with his younger brother, Matt when they were kids. I thought “how come he never told me about that?” Anyway … from then, and that was in April of 2016 to now, it’s been Parkour mania in our home. I say that with a smile and at times a pause of breath making sure they land safely off whatever they’ve climbed up and jumped back down onto. The best part about the boys enjoyment of it, is that here in Thailand is one of the only Parkour indoor gyms and it just so happens to have moved out of the city and into Bangna area making it an easy and safe place for the boys to visit and actually learn the art of it and join other children as well. I met Julien when the boys began attending classes at the Movement Playground in September. From then to December it was small talk during pick up and drop off. I sat down with him to share his story, to hear how The Movement Playground came to be and I’m left feeling nothing but admiration, gratitude and respect for him and his vision. It’s moving my two eldest son’s choice to spend their free time here in such a positive, body and soul strengthening atmosphere.


February/March 2018

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

First things first, Julien tells me, is this. The why, why the Movement Playground? He has three reasons and that’s the very first thing he wants to know. First is Movement. People, moving what ever you do, your body is designed to move, so move your body. Second reason is, he’s giving back, this is his paying it forward. A shy boy who was not large in body and big on socialising he found this to be the largest life impact on who he is today. He’s giving that back to any and all, sharing and showing his values of courage, discipline and a finish what you start, motto. The last, is the impact to your every day life. It’s that you may have to overcome a challenge or taken a risk on an apparatus that then leads to you, on Monday morning at work, speaking up. Or taking on a project you may have otherwise not believed in yourself to do before, and now you felt that you were capable of being successful at it. Parkour came out in the early 1990s. It is one of a kind. Julien suggests “Jump London” as a great documentary to getting the history on all that is Parkour. “It’s not like running, or lifting weights. It’s fully focused, its a mind body connection, Julien says, “this isn’t like going for a jog with your friend and being able to talk while you run. You can’t talk, you have to focus and pay attention to your exact move with your body on whatever you are going to land on or hang on.” He goes on to say “it engages the mind, forces problem solving and fear management.” Julien had the honour of being taught by one of the 8-10 founders of the group, 25 years ago. He and two brothers born in France, spent their years together as boys growing up, climbing up and jumping down, and across anything they could find in the outdoors. Creating, practicing, challenging each other with the power of Parkour and the quest to find challenges to grow as a human being.

The passion and values were inside of Julien as he began his working career in general business at an insurance company, to do the work his hard earned degree had showed him. Soon, as this happens, his inner voice lead him back to his brothers and his ultimate quest. That voice reminding him of his truth, his body, moving and not sitting behind a desk, selling. One of his elder brothers opened the first Parkour gym in London. Shortly after that he went to Thailand where the family had ironically been holidaying together for years, and opened the first Asia Parkour studio. A while later Julien’s second older brother joined in Bangkok and then the calling for Julien to join came, and he to found himself in Bangkok running and coaching in the gym. For boys raised together with a younger sister who is also involved in the business with marketing and graphic design it is certainly a Parkour of generations for this family. As it goes, things shift and after 5 years, various studio location changes Julien’s older brothers next move to Dubai and France, running their own gyms. Leaving him, as the brother in charge in Thailand. The move to a new location, and a new vision. The vision and change for someone who has a visual and focused mind such as Julien came with a mental obstacle and not a physical one. The Movement Playground, a Parkour based programme with a goal to impact lives in different ways. Julien says he has kept the value of his vision, he is the guardian of the original spirit of what he believes in. The classes offered at the gym range from Ninja Warrior, mobility training, and the feeding the new craze of Spartan racers with the ability to train and practice for the upcoming events. They hold classes, camps, workshops, personal training, private events and extra curricular activities at 7 international schools around Bangkok. The energy in the gym is strong and focused. One might look at the equipment and think the children or

adults would jump around and be silly on the apparatus. It is not the case as I have seen a quiet calm amongst my highly energised boys. The coaches are beside them, reminding them, to go slow, think carefully of your foot placement. Focus the energy. Keep your mind present, they say. The repetitive process that is used is how they train the body, teach the muscles, support the decision making and fear management. The age to begin is 6 for Julien’s gym, based mainly on safety. He says anyone any age can get out there and try, but he has to be careful of safety and liability. “When they are young, it enhances the children reaction to control your body when you feel fear and to react in time”. I can’t tell you how many times my children tell me “Mom, I can do it, I do Parkour.” The Movement Playground typically has kids and adults of all ages at all times. When you are finished with your class you’ll leave with the biggest gift Julien says, “something you did for yourself and by yourself.” There is no ego, you pushed and got yourself to a better or higher or stronger place than you were before you stepped into the gym. Which in many ways is what Julien embodies right now, no ego, a new space, adapting throughout the challenges, shifting, growing with the same moves in a new movement with an exceptional quest.

The opening of Brasserie 9 in Sathorn

The Pink Ladies funds raiser

KLM presenting "Anytime for you" at So Sofitel

Fashion show at MONTANA Charoen Krung "ROSEBUD"

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


IWC'S luncheon/Getting to know you with Canada theme

IWC's Gala at Marriott Marquis Queens Park


February/March 2018

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

St Andrew's annual ball at Amari Watergate

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


IWC's Charity Gala in Remembrance of the late King Bhumibul


February/March 2018

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Swedish Embassy celebrates St Lucia in the garden of Sukhothai

Argentinian Polo Day at Thai Polo and Equestrian Club

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Celebration of Silk "Thai Silk Road to the World" at Centara Grand CentralWorld


February/March 2018

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Tree lighting at Anantara Siam and Finland's 100th Day of Independence at The Athenee

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Tibetan antique furniture, fine blue and white Chinese porcelain, ceramics from Japan’s ‘Living National Treasures’, vintage watches and jewelry, spectacular natural crystals from the four corners of the globe, Samurai warrior suits of armour, Burmese lacquer, exquisite Thai textiles, Benjarong tableware, maps, contemporary artwork, period furniture, and much more.

Located on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok’s vibrant Creative District is River City Bangkok, Asia’s premier center for art and antiques. It is home to some of Asia’s most respected antique dealers, RCB Auctions and Thailand’s antique association and has four floors dedicated to 60 galleries of antiques, fine and contemporary art, objets d’art, and decorative items.

National Stadium




Hua Lamphong

Silom Sala Daeng

Millennium Hilton The Peninsula

Royal Orchid Sheraton Mandarin Oriental Shangri-la Hotel

Charoenkrung Road, Soi 24

Saphan Taksin Sathon Pier

ศูนยการคาริเวอรซิตี้ แบงคอก ถนนเจริญกรุง ซอย 24

Free Shuttle Boat From Sathorn Pier 5 minutes by taxi from Saphan Taksin BTS or Hua Lamphong MRT

Centre Concierge - From 10.00 AM (+66) 2 237 7608

@rivercitybkk RiverCityBangkok

Expat Life in Thailand February/March 2018  
Expat Life in Thailand February/March 2018