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Oct/Nov 2018

lifestyle . travel . education . nutrition . health . tourism . retirement . relationships

The Kenyan and Polish Ambassadors interviewed Exploring: Krakow, Havana, and the Markets of India

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

QSCBC, the Pink Park care home, detection and prevention

Summer holidays in Europe Beautiful experiences, architecture and food

d n a h Healt ss e n l l e W

All about:

Scott and Nori Brixen and children of ‘Two Twins Twavel’ – ‘Komodo: Walking with dragons’

In to Africa

On safari, adventures and following the big five


Meet the Polish Ambassador




There are no children, there are only people


An interview with the Kenyan Ambassador


Out of Thailand in to Africa


Hunting the big five


Ethiopia with two Bangkok expats and a lot of mutton

82 October is Breast Cancer Awareness 91

Interview with Jane Crowder

94 Can lifestyle choices prevent cancer? RETIREMENT 44

Finding the perfect retirement spot: Perusing Penang

TRAVEL 50 Komodo: Walking with dragons 56

Batams up!


Diving back into English culture – The Penrith Show


Get to Havana now!


Markets of India


Animals galore: Costa Rica in a nutshell

120 Provence 130 Bees and quiet 152 Summer holidays in Europe EXPAT LIFE 26

Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park


Expat Book Club

98 An American’s first rugby experience 118 Soroptimist International Club of Bangkok (SIB) EDUCATION 80

The plastic epidemic

101 Welcome to English camp 116 Do we get “up ourselves”



CONTENTS 158 Importing your car and household goods into Thailand ARTS AND CULTURE 108 The relaunch of the Queen’s Gallery 112 Where to find art in Bangkok HEALTH 124 An intolerance to allergies 128 Ever taken antibiotics? 132 Taking a proactive approach to your own health 135 Your health is your responsibility. Take charge! 138 Let’s talk about fat! 141 Shan Zha 148 The gold inside 166 Osteoporosis

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FASHION 142 Fashion with Talar 146 A day in the life of..... EVENTS

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160 Events / social pages

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Coffee Club


e arrived at the Coffee Club like a Bedouin camel train. My daughter six months pregnant, her somewhat frazzled husband, their 4 year old daughter, 2 year old son in a pushchair (the only way we could contain his youthful exuberance) and me lagging behind carrying the baggage. The young uniformed staff in the Thong Lor branch greeted us with broad smiles and graciously showed us to a group of tables in the corner. They brought the gaily coloured menus which my grandson first thought was a colouring book but not being given pencils with it happily decided to decimate it seeing how many pieces it would rip into and how good it tasted. Luckily the menu is varied, something for all tastes and appetites. My daughter took control ordering for the kids and us all. I had poached eggs, toasted sourdough with bacon and avocado. It was delightful with cherry tomatoes, rocket and pistachios, a lovely contrast of tastes. The children had an assortment of items too long to list but I did see spaghetti, pancakes and carrot cake fly past my shoulder on various occasions but it kept them subdued for the 45 minutes to an hour that we were there. The adults enjoyed the opportunity to catch our breath to refuel for the afternoon ahead. They have a wide variety of cold drinks: frappe in red berry, mango and passion fruit, coconut. Yoghurt smoothies in banana berry breakfast, mango and passion and banana and honey as well as a range of dairy free drinks which was well received as my granddaughter is lactose intolerant. They seem to cater for all tastes and palettes. My daughter was very pleased to see that they were aware of all allergens and used cage free eggs and sustainability products. I am sure that they did not have all these allergies when I was a kid? My daughter chose a warm chicken and coleslaw salad which looked great, she obviously enjoyed it and her husband took the option of



having a second breakfast of the day. The children had spaghetti Carbonara, ham and cheese omelette, chicken nuggets, chips and salad and pancakes smothered with maple syrup, red berries and cream feeling them for another action packed day on the go. I had never seen so much food eagerly devoured and I appreciated the lull in the storm whilst the children ate. The staff told me that their head chef from Australia had recently created new menus with quality imported ingredients from Australia. There are even dishes for the health conscious! Power Bowl, a salad of imported avocado, baby spinach, red quinoa, radish, edamame, roasted pumpkin, cauliflower, and tomatoes, balsamic glaze and olive oil. A daily dose of health packed in one go! Coffee Club seem to have numerous stores in key venues – they seem to be popping up everywhere now and the consistency of service, food and drink standards and reasonable prices for all day dining were enjoyed by our party. Our young server always had a smile, doted on the children and even gave us a loyalty card application form so was actively encouraging us to return.

Genuine flavourS FOR great feelings

• Filling your heart with our hands •

Bacon Cheese Omelet Power Bowl

Smashed Avocado with Poached Eggs & Bacon

Poached Eggs, Wok-fried Greens, Red Quinoa and Sesame Dressing

Tuna Nicoise and Pesto OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 5

Meet the Polish Ambassador: Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life by Georgia Knapp

There’s a saying that goes: if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I can’t think of a more perfect phrase to describe H.E. Mr Waldemar Dubaniowski.


aldemar’s enthusiasm for his job and his home country is infectious. “Asia knows about Germany, but (it doesn’t) know about Germany’s neighbours,” he said. “Poland is fascinating because, in addition to our own national and really colourful customs, we have customs that are partly related to both Germany and Russia.” After just a few hours with the Ambassador, I, for one, learned more about Poland than I ever knew about Germany: Polish is the second most popular language in the United Kingdom; the Polish are excellent IT specialists, Polish handymen are known as “the best handymen; they can turn their hand to anything. If you employ a Polish electrician, he can also successfully fix hydraulic faults.” This is just an anecdotal example but seriously Polish are one of the most entrepreneurial immigrant communities, establishing over 20,000 companies across the UK. The country celebrates both a Constitution and an Independence Day; and in addition, which sounds truly interesting – Thailand’s King Rama VI wrote his Oxford University dissertation about Poland (“The war of the Polish succession”) . Most recently, Waldemar has brought



Feature Poland to Thailand through cultural events. He organised Thailand’s first ever celebration of Poland’s Constitution Day (May 3rd) at the “Author’s Lounge”, the oldest part of Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The event featured an extremely gifted Thai pianist – Maestro Rit – who’d temporarily lost the ability to play professionally piano due to health issues but has only recently regained the skill – playing beautifully Chopin. What's more – the Thai choir from the University of Mahidol sang beautifully the Polish national anthem in Polish. It was unbelievable, a one of a kind performance, and you should definitely Google it. Waldemar hopes to establish the event as an annual occurrence. In July, he also hosted a screening of the Polish dark comedy Vinci at The Bangkok Club. Unlike other Ambassadors, Waldemar

does not see himself as a career diplomat. In the end of 2013 he wrapped up a very successful posting in Singapore, where he was elected Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, he left Embassy life to work as the Business Development Director of PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Polish division. A sports buff and an avid and an accomplished tennis player, he then went on to serve on the Polish Olympic Committee. Eventually, the President of Poland offered to him a return to Asia as an Ambassador, citing his strong knowledge of public works and deep understanding of business matters. Waldemar Dubaniowski is one of the newest Ambassadors to arrive in Bangkok. He and his wife, Mrs Ewa Dubaniowska, moved to Thailand in the end of September 2017. They make a good looking couple and are bound to have a positive effect on whatever audience that they attend. He had previously visited Thailand as a university student. On the weekends, Mr and Mrs Dubaniowski prefer to walk around Bangkok, saying that walking allows them to see more and build a deeper connection with their host country. Just like Waldemar is not your typical Ambassador, the Polish Embassy is not your typical Embassy. Where other Embassies look like compounds with high walls, patrolling security guards, and multiple buildings. The Polish Embassy looks like a sleek, modern business; as if you might queue to speak with an Apple Genius. Straight, plain white walls and furniture accented with natural wood. The decor is minimal with a simple bust of Frédéric Chopin near the entrance and one wall full of dried Polish flora. Behind the Ambassador’s desk is a neon outline of the crowned eagle from Poland’s coat of arms, and along the wall is a silhouette of a tree blowing in the wind. The branches are intertwining chrome bars and a few leaves fly loose. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 7

Not one to pass up the opportunity to proudly promote his country, Waldemar pointed to the tree silhouette and said, “That image was chosen specifically for Poland.” In stark contrast to Thailand’s seasons of hot, hotter, and wet-hot, Poland goes through the four traditional seasonal changes: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The blowing tree represents the change from summer to fall. The intertwining chrome bars are Polish snow in winter. Other images around the office show sweeping, peaceful Polish fields, and there is an allusion to bison grass, an iconic symbol of the European country as well as the name of a famous Polish Vodka. Although not a career politician, it’s hard to think of anyone more suited to the role of Ambassador than Waldemar Dubaniowski. “You are always representing home,” he said. “Whatever you say is always seen as the Ambassador’s opinion.” He takes great pride in not only his work and his country, but also in the work of his fellow Polish citizens as well. “There are three Polish musicians playing for the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra at Mahidol,” he said. He also touted three Polish chefs at prominent Bangkok five star hotels: the St Regis, The Muse and the Dusit Thani. When you meet Mr Dubaniowski, he’ll tell you that he is not a workaholic. As he describes his past jobs and current duties as Ambassador, it’s hard to believe this is true. He stays so busy and promotes



Poland so much it feels as though he truly never stops working. However, seeing the joy on his face and hearing the excitement in his voice when he talks not just about Poland, but about his appointment as Ambassador, you finally begin to understand why he says he is not a workaholic. Whether an Ambassador, Development Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, or as a Polish handyman, Waldemar will always find a way to promote his homeland. For Mr Dubaniowski, talking about Poland isn’t a job; it’s what he loves to do. If so, then it is possible that the Polish Ambassador to Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos H.E. Mr Waldemar Dubaniowski has never worked a day in his life.

“Seeing the joy on his face and hearing the excitement in his voice when he talks not just about Poland, but about his appointment as Ambassador, you finally begin to understand why he says he is not a workaholic.” OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 9

Krakow: Newcomer in world’s tourist destination and gastronomic culture scene or simply the city you cannot miss by Waldemar Dubaniowski and Miss Sailamphun Potibal


f in the near future you would like to plan a really interesting trip, you should seriously consider Poland with one of the most interesting city – Krakow. This is certainly a good idea, and you will be in excellent company as the huge number of users of one of the most popular travel portals – has recognised this old Polish city as a favourite city to visit. You might have imagined Krakow as one of Europe’s historical cities, which at one point is absolutely true, however, that is not Krakow’s only striking characteristic. Besides its Historic Centre being Poland’s 1st UNESCO World Heritage Site; Krakow has come to more modern perspective recently. This year, ranked Krakow as one of the top group destinations among Bangkok; Barcelona; New York City; St Petersburg and Rome. The six destinations



were compiled using booking’s survey done by its users who have been travelling in 2017 and who are planning to travel in the coming 12 months. Krakow’s ranking ladder does not end there. In 2019 Krakow will become the 1st city ever to be European Capital of Gastronomic Culture honoured by the European Academy of Gastronomy which may sound like a smooth success for this scenic ancient town of Poland, but no victory comes free. Krakow piles up all the good reasons to receive this title. It creates a large variety of fresh local products that contribute to various traditional cooking techniques, whilst, it hosts 26 restaurants featured in the Michelin Guide. In addition, it has been a venue for the famous ‘pop-up meetings’ where international big name chefs gather for virtual cooking. You should start exploring Krakow from “Rynek”, this is not only truly charming but also one


May we take you a little closer into details by flittering over interesting group-suitable historical attractions, remarkable spots to socialise, world renowned events, up to lifestyle facilities such as a wide range of accommodation and restaurants that you and your friends cannot miss. The Wawel Royal Castle complex What will you find there: Wawel Royal Castle/ Wawel Cathedral/Wawel Hill Why would you like it:

of the largest old squares in Europe as well. Next step, “Kazimierz”, Krakow’s trendy, former Jewish quarter, is another hidden gem particularly suggested for those interested in pre-war Jewish culture. The district was destroyed during World War II before gracefully and excitedly being reborn as one of Krakow’s most interesting quarters thanks to Steven Spielberg and his famous Oscar movie Schindler’s List. Completing the city’s multi-characteristics with its top quality educational institutions including Jagielonian University, one of the oldest universities in Europe, so we can surely say that Krakow is not only about leisure. Since Krakow has constantly made international rankings in various industries, there must be one that draws your attention. Either culture, culinary, art, architecture or history.

A part of the reason that Krakow was listed as UNESCO World Heritage is this Wawel Royal Castle complex. Considering the unique renaissance exterior of the Wawel Royal Castle, the interior is not less attractive due to its the exhibitions inside that are divided into different themes meant to tell you different stories. Wawel Cathedral will satisfy your fancy for heroic tales. It had been the venue for coronations for centuries, as well as the last resting place of Polish Kings, heroes, poets and well-respected saints of Poland. You could walk around and imagine yourself travelling back in to a time when kings were still in reign, wars between lords, politics, forbidden romance, you name it. Lastly, every tale has an end, but a happy one or a sad one? Say joyful goodbye to the Wawel Royal Complex on the Wawel Hill. The hill not only gives top view of the complex, but also the Vistula river and (at the right time) sunset as condiments. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 11

Forum Przestrzenie What will you find there: Café/outdoor multifunctional space/art gallery Why would you like it: Because it is the definition of well managed hipster co-using space. Forum Przestrzenie is a café-clublifestyle space renovated from an old hotel that was closed down in 2002. You might have heard about Polish interior designers’ talents… see it for your own eyes! Its newly made interior design was well integrated into outstanding 90s exterior structure as the designer keeps touches of raw industrial decoration hidden in small corners, while bigger pieces of the decoration are mixture between vintage and modern style. Forum Przestrzenie space utilisation is considerably functional. From the outside, the venue comprises of an open common space to either lay back and chill on a beach chair, outdoor cinema, concert venue, a small amusement park or even an ice rink in winter. Moving inside, some space is dedicated to an art gallery. So, here you could enjoy altered art exhibitions from different Polish and international artists. It is absolutely normal



to be starving after a nice walk around, we would love to navigate you straight to the Forum’s café where you can find fusion Polish dishes or snacks. Talking about food, how well do you know Polish traditional (and one of her most famous) food – Pierogi? How much Pierogi have you eaten in one meal? We challenge you to try out the Pierogi Festival in Krakow. The Pierogi Festival is usually held for around five days in August in Market Square Area. Rather than a chance to taste Krakow’s finest Pierogi from a numbers of shops, you can enjoy a Pierogi making workshop and competition of which the theme changes every year. Poland is not only well known for artistic spirit, but also praised for its summer picnics in the town’s park. Krakow makes itself part of this reputation by establishing the annual “Krakow Picnic” during summer weekends from June to September. The picnic usually takes turns between one of the Krakow’s many parks; Bednarski, Kościuszki, Zalew Nowohucki, Krakowski and Dacius parks. If you are thinking The Krakow Picnic will be the same as every other picnic, you might want to reconsider. It provides a lot of different kinds of activities like art workshops,

Feature acrobatic workouts, yoga or bike-polo tournaments that you can choose to join on top of catching up with your friends. It is not that easy to recommend a single restaurant in Krakow, simply because there are so many of them and every one is special. But let’s try. Surely, the top of the list must be about Krakow and, as the bigger picture, Poland. One of Krakow’s most famous classic Polish and Cracovian brasseries is Kogel Mogel. Its excellent reputation comes from their perfectly cooked dishes as a result of fresh ingredients that the kitchen team purchase daily – their duck and goose dishes are highly recommended with the guarantee as the winner of Best Goose Dish. Kogel Mogel famous ambience amplifies its reputation as well. You can be sure that the majority of customer’s request a table in the courtyard and there is good reason for that. In the courtyard, you will be surrounded by a garden of flowers from different species with a red brick wall background – something quite photogenic! The interior design is not less attractive, the wooden ceiling contrasts perfectly with the black glossy bar counter that gives you warmly welcome feeling, but sophisticated at the same time. It would have been an unforgivable mistake if Corpernicus is not recommended. The restaurant, as a part of Hotel Copernicus, represents modern way of Royal Polish Cuisine among Renaissance atmosphere. Worry no more for being overwhelmed by high table

cuisine filled up with unknown artistry ingredients. At Copernicus, fresh local products such as mushrooms and quails have long been in the restaurant’s focus, as well as, the most selected choice by customers out of its freshness, truly from the community and wellprepared. Though Copernicus underlines simplicity of the product in its menu, the other parts of this restaurant are outstanding. The terrace with a view of the majestic Wawel Castle is beyond greatness, while the castle-like interior is extremely competent. The mentioned combination leads Prince Charles of Wales and the former US President George W Bush to be guests of this fantastic restaurant which was named after a famous Polish astronomer. What distinguishes Bottigllieria 1881 from other restaurants is that it was inspired by owner, Robert Gumuliński’s experience on a vineyard in Italy – the restaurant was first meant to be a wine bar! However, he realises that the variety of local products and envisioned a chance to establish something remarkable in Krakow’s residential quarter, so, the idea ‘why not opening a restaurant with a wine cellar?’ came across Gumulinski’s mind. The restaurant provides customers opportunity to experience creative reconstructed Polish dishes that match with Bottigllieria 1881’s own wine list suggested by in house well-trained sommelier. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 13

When talking about the city’s industrial quarter, restaurants are definitely not the first things that comes to people’s minds. What about a contemporary art gallery? Does it relate to the industrial area? If the answer is yes, then you have come close. But not only industrial art gallery, Industrial Resto & Bar also combines these three extreme symbols of contemporary world: industrial factory, 3D art gallery and innovative cuisine, then express them within the form of one outlet. Located in the same neighbourhood as Schindler’s factory and Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow (MOCAK). The fact that Krakow is a touristic city is not translated into overpriced accommodation options. The choices vary from well designed budget hostels to European standard 5 star hotels in great locations all over the city which emphasises that literally every part of Krakow is worth a visit. Useful recommendations can be found easily on the internet via official Krakow or Polish tourism agencies websites, as well as with international tourism agencies. If you wish to be part of the old school and travel on pages, Krakow provides a number of tourist guides including maps with accommodation. It is certain that price and availability is up to season and location. So, make sure you plan well before starting your trip in Krakow and joy will be guaranteed.



“There are no children, there are only people.” by Ewa Dubaniowski and Mrs Ewa Fuanglikhit


o you find this statement revolutionary? In spite of the fact that it came to life a century ago most of us seem to have difficulty to adopt it. As adults, parents, teachers we always find a reason or an excuse to treat children differently. On the one hand we tend to spoil them and imitate them, on the other hand we are often too strict in the process of their upbringing. However, what children really need from us is to be perceived as human beings and treated equally. This brilliant and ahead of time approach to modern education and pedagogy was introduced by an extraordinary humanist and educator of 20th century Janusz Korczak, Pole with Jewish origin. Janusz Korczak was born Henryk Goldszmit in Warsaw in 1878. During his youth he played with children from bad neighborhoods and this is where he developed his passion for helping disadvantaged youth.



He studied medicine and had a promising career in literature. In fact it was literature that was a turning point in his life. He changed his name to Janusz Korczak which was a pseudonym derived from a 19th century novel called “Janusz Korczak and pretty Swordsweeperlady.” Thanks to his literary skills the difficult truths he conveyed reached a wide audience. His ideas, still applicable today were expressed mainly in “How to Love a Child” and “The Child’s Right to Respect” and became integral part of the post war legislative efforts to benefit children. Korczak’s best known novel King Matt the First shows how children’s spontaneity and sensitivity can change the world – but also how adults effectively fight such change. This story of a little boy who, as a ruler/reformer attempts to make children and adults equal in their rights is to a great extend a literary portrayal of Korczak himself. He considered himself a Jewish Pole but regarded humanity’s universal dimension to be of the greatest importance. That is why he not only lived in Jewish and Polish communities, but also combined them in his social and literary writing, working and being active in both communities. It was in 1912 that he established a Jewish orphanage, “Dom Sierot” where his advanced and progressive educational methods were put to practice. In this particular orphanage children were able to structure their own world and became experts in their own matters. Dom Sierot had its own government, court, newspaper and a radio programe. Old Doctor, as Korczak used to be called created his own particular style of addressing the younger listeners. His program on Polish radio enjoyed immense popularity


among children as well as adults. He worked strongly on implementing his famous opinion: “Dare to dream… something will always come out of it”. He stayed loyal to his believes even in difficult times when the Germans occupied Poland and the Warsaw ghetto was established in 1940. At that time the orphanage was moved inside of the ghetto. As a well-known author and a public figure in Polish society Korczak was offered to be smuggled out of the ghetto but he refused as he couldn’t abandon the children. On August 5 1942 Korczak joined nearly 200 children and orphanage staff members for deportation to Treblinka concentration camp where they all perished. This is how Janusz Korczak devoted all his life to fate and rights of children and that is why his ideas and heroic attitude inspires educators and activists all over the world. A beautiful and recent example can be found here in Bangkok where catholic Priest – Father Joe Meier established a school for street children in 2004 and named it after Janusz Korczak. This is by far more than the school it is simply the institution operated by dedicated people with the real passion and “the huge heart”. And frequently is being called as the second home by kids. It works within a frame of Mercy Centre Human Development Foundation. The HDF Mercy Centre, first opened its doors in 1973 as a slum kindergarten. Forty-five years later it offers shelter to street kids, as well as assistance for children who live in poverty, children with one or both parents in jail, children living with HIV/AIDS, and sexually abused children. The HDF Mercy Centre has opened and maintained 22 kindergartens located throughout Bangkok and provide early childhood education for 2500 children annually, having already provided an educational start to over 45,000 young children. These Kindergartens

provide a safe and serene haven in the slums with small gardens and playgrounds, allowing these children to enjoy learning in peace and safety. Mercy Centre has five orphanages, provides home visits for people living with HIV/AIDS, legal services, a community learning centre, as well as a variety of other outreach programs to serve the local community. After the Tsunami of 2004 initial contact was made with the indigenous Moken sea gypsies who live in and around Ranong province in the south of Thailand. HDF Mercy Centre provides preschool education/day are, primary school education, provision of safe drinking water, health care, health and nutrition services, putting forward citizenship applications, housing and accommodation. Founders of Mercy Center, Father Joe and Sister Maria not only believed in Janusz Korczak idea that “To reform the world is to reform upbringing” but they simply knew that school is the only chance poor kids get. Tens of thousands of slum children have graduated from Mercy Kindedgardens and to ensure that every poor child has a chance to go to school Janusz Korczak School for Street Children was opened in 2004. One of the foremost educators of all times would be proud , especially because Polish ties with this institution are visible. It is mainly due to the Polish Embassy’s in Bangkok participation in many events at Korczak School. 2018 seems to be very fruitful and active in this matter thanks to the spouse of Polish Ambassador. Inspired by famous “Dare to dream… something will always come of it” quote Mrs Ewa Dubaniowska, a spouse of H.E Waldemar Dubaniowski, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the Kingdom of Thailand decided to initiate educational, cultural and sport events to empower Korczak’s school pupils motivation and creativity. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 17

This series of events started with a visit to Korczak school to introduce famous Polish joyous tradition of “Fat Thursday” which is a traditional Christian feast marking the last Thursday before Lent when Poles are consuming huge amounts of traditional doughnuts which in Polish being called – “paczki”. Children were able to learn about the process of making real Polish doughnuts from multimedia presentation produced by Ewa Dubaniowska’s daughter Olga in association with Polish Pastry chef from Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok as well as to taste freshly made Polish delicacy. Fun activities and games that followed brought lots of joy to pupils and educators and provoked a subject for a second visit. It appeared that Korczak children were inspired to learn more about Poland. That is why during next visits many colorful Polish traditions were presented for example, children were able to hear from a Polish architect and artist about design, creativity and importance of dreams in life and about what architect job looks like. Realizing how important a healthy way of life and sport is Polish Ambassador’s wife decided to invite a world famous Muai-Thai fighter and champion from Poland, Mr Rafal Simonides to the next meeting. That was another opportunity to introduce Korczak’s children with the importance of passion in life, commitment to sport as well as a healthy lifestyle and proper diet and so far it was the most dynamic one where children and adults practiced muaythai together. Of course more inspiring events are coming up in the future but in the meantime we will make sure that every meeting with Korczak children is full of energy, a real feast of joy that will  bring  smile for everyone. The Polish Embassy is also implementing an educational program within the frame of “Polish Aid” programme coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland aimed at providing practical learning tools and materials,



much needed in classes for learning language. Hopefully thanks to these aids Korczak School children will gain language skills necessary both for their future educational career as well as daily lives. As Janusz Korczak once said : We never realize that a child is capable of remembering so well and of waiting so patiently. Every time when Mrs Ewa Dubaniowska is heading to Klong Toey Mercy Centre with her team to offer the children another portion of inspirational activities they always have some surprise for her. Be it a traditional dance or flowers or home-made cookies. That’s why the Ambassador’s spouse mentions that every single visit to the Mercy Centre is also for her an extra boost of energy and optimism. It seems to prove that educators at Korczak School are implementing Janusz Korczak ideas in the most excellent way. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 19

An interview with the Kenyan Ambassador by Johanna Stiefler Johnson


ager summer sunlight streams through the large windows of the Ambassador’s home. We are led through a hallway lined with framed photographs: in one, the Ambassador presents a Kenyan painting to the Crown Princess Sirindhorn; the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, smiles out of the frame of another; and a third gives us a first glimpse of the Ambassador, his wife, and their two sons. It is evident as we are led through a dining room, with its long stained-wood table and chairs, that the two boys are given freedom to play as children should. Football goal nets are set up against one wall, and several mini cars and trucks line another. We reach a sitting room decorated with blue and gold chairs circling a coffee table. It is here that we meet H.E. Mr Patrick Wamoto, the Kenyan Ambassador to Thailand. Dressed in a dark blue suit and rectangular glasses, Patrick offers us friendly handshakes and gestures for us to sit. His presence invites us to relax and be comfortable. We chat for a bit before a beautiful lady appears in the archway to the dining room, wearing a buttoned jacket and skirt patterned black and white. We make introductions with Madam Valerie Rugene, the Ambassador’s spouse and an ex foreign service officer herself. The two take their seats in chairs across from us, casual in a way that makes me feel right at home. Valerie teases my supervisor for having a Starbucks cup with him. “The real coffee is Kenyan coffee,” she says. “They sell Kenyan coffee at Starbucks, did you know that?” Between us, the table is beautifully set with a box of Kenyan teas, a pot of coffee, and a spread of samosas and fruit. Valerie fills a cup to the brim with steaming coffee, which I sip gratefully, as Patrick begins to tell us about his diplomatic career. “I am now on my fourth year,” he says, referring to his post in Bangkok. “The last leg. We normally do four years, although my predecessor was here for seven. But I have no intention of staying seven years.” He and his wife laugh. “Bangkok is unique,” continues the Ambassador. “It’s very cosmopolitan. You don’t feel homesick because you meet practically everybody. It’s almost like a UN.” Patrick began his diplomatic career in London. He had spent a year studying Diplomacy and International Relations in Oxford, and travelled to London often, so his country felt it fitting for him to return on business. “They thought I knew London well,” he says, “so it was easy for me to just move in and hit the ground running.” After London, Patrick was posted in Austria as deputy head of mission, and then in Nigeria in the same position. He returned to Kenya as director of the Africa Department and was later upgraded to Chief Political Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thereafter he served as Ambassador to South Africa. Thailand then became his first post in Asia. Patrick’s extensive experience is impressive,



especially considering his age. At 57 years old, he has been in the diplomatic service serving his country for 34 years. The conversation then turns to Mrs Wamoto, whose role as the spouse of a head of mission keeps her equally as occupied as her husband. “Sometimes I joke with him and tell him, I’m busier than you are,” she says. This is partly because people often find Ambassadors’ spouses easier to talk to than the Ambassadors themselves. “Some people find it easier to approach us to bring in a project for the Embassy. If someone is interested in doing something on Kenya, they’ll come to me. So I constantly find myself very occupied.” Valerie describes some of the organisations she is involved with. She recently hosted the International Women’s Club of Thailand in their home. This spurred the organisation’s interest in Kenya, and she supported their thematic annual meeting on the country. She is involved with Spouses of Heads of Mission (SHOM), the association of partners and spouses of Ambassadors accredited in Thailand. Patrick and Valerie are patrons representing their country in a SHOM collaboration with the Young Women’s


Christian Association of Thailand (YWCA), and they also champion the Red Cross. “The spouses do quite a lot,” says Valerie. “In fact,” – he laughs – “at times we get worried that they might take over our jobs. They’re quite a powerful organisation. Very active.” When they are not busy with diplomatic work, the Ambassador and his wife are occupied with their family life. Their sons, ages 7 and 6, currently attend St Andrews International School. “St Andrews is small and intimate,” says Valerie, “so when the kids come from abroad they don’t go and get overwhelmed at a huge school.” As their parents describe, the boys are big fans of soccer and support the local Thai team Port FC. “That’s our other life,” says Valerie. Patrick describes how they often travel to other locations around Thailand for away matches, and how their sons will push aside the furniture in their home to make room for a soccer pitch. “If you look around our house you’ll see our walls are fairly soiled and marked but this is a family house,” laughs the Ambassador. “We can’t stop them from playing soccer inside.” That explains the large set of goalposts in the dining room. In particular, the family enjoys travelling – often, by car. Most recently, they took an 8 hour road trip to Sisaket province. “When you fly,” says Patrick, “it’s over in 40 minutes. You don’t see much. But I believe when you live in a country, it’s also good to drive around, see what it looks like, meet local people – not just in the city but also outside. The best way of doing that is to drive. We stop by the roadside, have some Thai food, meet the local people and then move on.” As Kenyan Ambassador to Thailand, Patrick’s post is one of the only two diplomatic posts in South East Asia. Therefore, his mission is also responsible for several neighbouring countries: Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. Having such a large scope of responsibility, Patrick tries to combine work with a vacation. “Last time we went

to Vietnam we went to Halong Bay,” he says. “We were introduced to the motorbikes of Hanoi. I’ve never seen so many motorbikes in a capital city.” There is a fondness in his voice as he recollects this, as if he can see a swarm of motorbikes billowing out before him. Patrick names Chiang Mai as the family’s favourite place in Thailand. “It reminds me so much of my own country,” he says. He was born and raised in western Kenya, by the border with Uganda. “It’s cooler, green and verdant. It’s just nice, fresh, clean are and very picturesque. I think I like the northern part (of Thailand), because I grew up in rural Kenya and it reminds me of my own early years.” The conversation then turns to the relationship between Thailand and Kenya. Kenya’s population is 45 million, but there are not many Kenyans in Thailand. Because Thailand was never colonised, the two countries were not linked by a historical relation with an outside power. Kenya and Thailand are also slightly disconnected because of language. Thailand has not had a major pull factor for Kenyans because, generally, neither speak foreign languages outside of their native tongues. “We tend to work vote with our feet and go where, as soon as you land, you can communicate,” says the Ambassador. Therefore, Thailand is quite a recent destination for Kenyans. Although the Thais opened an Embassy for Kenya in 1967, there are now only around 400 Kenyans here, mostly working as teachers. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 21

In a foreign policy orientation called “Look East,” Kenya has attempted to bridge the gap between countries like Thailand and diversify its ties, which have previously been much stronger with the West than the East. “That’s when we opened a couple of missions in Asia,” says Patrick. “We wanted to diversify, so we weren’t dependent on one or two trade partners.” Most importantly, the two countries are linked by trade. Kenya’s middle class is quickly growing, and people are now eating more rice than they did in the past. Thailand is a “primary source” for rice, making this an important connection between the countries. Kenya also purchases auto components from Thailand. In Kenya, cars keep left, so the auto components are compatible. Meanwhile, Thailand relies on Kenya for imports like soda ash, coffee, and seafood, giant prawns. “We have a lot of gemstones coming in from Kenya,” he says. “Our gemstones all come raw and then the Thais add the value here.” The Embassy is however now working with the Thai government



on reversing this so that there is more value addition at home. There are many aspects of Thailand’s economy and industries that interest Patrick, and he wishes to introduce these tools to his home country. He admires Thailand’s agriculture system and its effective use of water. He hopes for Kenya to one day follow Thailand’s lead when it comes to agriculture, fishing, sustainability, and even simple things like product packaging. Differences in packaging allow for products to gain value, so improving this industry could only be beneficial for Kenya. Repackaging could increase the value of raw products and bring in a greater profit. Patrick also compliments Thailand’s universal healthcare, which he says the country has handled “wonderfully well.” According to him, the Kenyan prime minister’s goal is to achieve universal healthcare in Kenya by 2022. Both Patrick and Valerie also express their admiration at Thailand’s ability to market itself and bring in revenue. On a small table set against the wall is a framed photo of Valerie on a catwalk, dressed in a beautiful sunsetcoloured garment and the Maasai beads of Kenya. She explains that the garment is of traditional Kenyan style but made

from Thai silk. The picture is from the Thai Silk Fashion Show, which began in 2012 and is held annually in commemoration of the Queen Sirikit’s birthday. This year, as many as 34 countries have been invited to participate. Their traditional garments will be designed in Thai silk and modelled on a runway at the spectacular event, which is growing and expanding every year. They are even set to publish the first “Thai Silk Week” magazine. “The Thais are so innovative,” says Patrick admirably. “They use Thai silk to make designs of other countries. When people see her in silk” – he gestures to the photograph – “African attire, but Thai silk, they want to buy it.” Valerie comments that this is also a very good method for Thailand to market itself. Not only do countries like the look of their garments made from silk, but the designers from abroad are also invited on tours throughout Thailand. In this way, Thais market their country by organising creative ways to bring in revenue and encourage foreigners’ interest. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 23

They organise similar trips for Ambassadors and their families, allowing them to learn more about the country they serve and live in. Thus, the Ambassador believes Kenya could learn quite a few things from Thailand. Nonetheless, there is still much to see and experience in Kenya that cannot be found here in Thailand. An obvious attraction is the safari. Unlike some other African countries, whose safaris’ over neat roads will make you feel like you’re in a city, Kenya can offer a true safari experience. “It’s dirty. A very bumpy ride,” says Valerie. “It’s all about nature.” Patrick agrees: “You come out feeling like, yes, you’ve been on a safari.” Because of Kenya’s efforts in wildlife preservation, it’s very easy to see “the big five” – lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and the African buffalo. “You don’t have to stay in the park and should wander around a bit and get a feel for the country,” says Patrick. In some places, the camps are elevated so you can sit in a Jacuzzi and watch the lions roam free down below. These descriptions made me want to hop on a Kenya bound aeroplane immediately, but the safari is not the only attraction that makes the country worth visiting. Recently, people have begun travelling to Kenya to train with elite athletes. In Thailand, as well as around the world, the marathon is becoming more popular. Thais travel to Kenya to “spend a week there,” says the Ambassador, “do some training, meet some of the elite athletes, see the wildlife, and then come back.” For those uninterested in safaris or athletics, Kenya is worth visiting simply for the good weather, food, people, and beaches, which, according to the Ambassador, “are some of the best.” It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the Kenyan Ambassador and his family plan to return home after their Bangkok post. They’ve spent years travelling abroad and now long to be homebound. This is in part so their sons can get used to being in Kenya before going overseas again, and so that Valerie’s mother can spend more time with them. 24


Until then, they will honour their country’s independence on December 12th with their friends and family. They will celebrate Kenya’s beauty, culture, uniqueness, and people in style, perhaps clinking their glasses for a toast to many years to come - years in which the country may thrive, all the while pleasing its residents with comfortable weather, beautiful beaches, awe striking wildlife, and the wonders that its Ambassador to Thailand and his wife speak so highly of. About the author: Johanna Stiefler Johnson is Danish and American, but grew up moving around Asia, Europe, and the United States because of her father’s work with the UN. She is currently an undergraduate at Boston’s Emerson College, where she majors in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and minor in Environmental Studies. Her fiction work has appeared in The Greensboro Review, Blacklist journal, and Polaris magazine. Her main issues of interest are the environment, animal protection, and feminism. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 25

The importance of Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park by Johanna Stiefler Johnson


hile attending the International School Bangkok (ISB), I had the opportunity to participate in Global Citizenship Week. As the name suggests, this is a week dedicated to the expansion of students’ perspectives through travel and community-building so that they may become global citizens. The trips stretch as far as Bhutan and Tanzania, but in this article I want to focus on a place that is much closer to home: Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park (ENP). ENP is a sanctuary dedicated primarily to the care of elephants rescued from the tourist industry, but it also houses hundreds of cats and dogs that were abandoned by their owners in the Thai floods a few years ago, along with other animals. Those of us lucky enough to visit the sanctuary had the chance to meet its founder, Sangduen Chailert (Lek), who clearly has a deep connection with the elephants that have found refuge there.



Since its humble beginnings in the 1990s, ENP has become globally known. Tourists come from far to volunteer with the elephants; this worldwide reputation is a positive thing, because it allows people to learn about the issues of Thailand’s elephant tourism industry. Contrary to what many people believe, the elephant tourism industry engages in dark and troubling practices. It isn’t surprising that tourists are drawn to the elephant tourism industry. Trained elephants in Thailand provide rides through lush forests, watercolours painted with their trunks, back massages done with their large feet, and other endearing performances and activities. What most tourists don’t know is that the training these elephants undergo is abusive and inhumane. One horror that occurs out of sight is forced breeding: a female elephant is chained up at the disposal of male elephants until she is impregnated. This process goes on for months. In some cases, the mother elephant is so traumatised by her experience that she kills her newborn baby to spare its suffering. Another horror happens to babies that aren’t killed; they are taken from their mothers and subjected to violence. In a process called the Phajaan or “crush,” a young elephant is kept in a tight cage and abused until its spirit is broken. This event is so traumatic that, afterwards, the baby often no longer recognises its mother. During this time,

and for the rest of the elephants’ lives, mahouts (elephant riders) target the sensitive skin behind the creatures’ ears, on their necks, and around their eyes with sharp hooks and slingshots. Sometimes, they are blinded by these slingshots, and if you look closely at an elephant in the Thai tourist industry, you will most likely see scars in these places where cuts have healed again and again. These elephants endure horrors throughout their lives, whether they are enslaved as loggers (pulling heavy logs through forests and up mountains), beggars (begging tourists for money in cities, where they are deprived of food and terrified of the constant noise and activity), or just as performers for tourists to enjoy and engage with. Of course, most people are unaware of what they are supporting when they enjoy these activities. This is why ENP is so important. At the Elephant Nature Park, I learned that elephants are extremely intelligent and social animals. Baby elephants are not only attached to their mothers, but to their grandmothers and “nannies,” who the mothers assign to take care of their babies should anything happen to them. I saw firsthand the way the older elephants of the herd protected

Expat Life

the young. When a baby elephant cried out, the elders rushed to its aid and surrounded it to keep it safe. I learned that elephants aren’t designed to carry weight on their backs, and yet one of the main attractions of the elephant tourist industry is elephant riding; they must carry several people at once for long periods of time, which can take a serious toll on their bodies. They are often worked until they collapse. Elephants can live to be 70 years old, and their lifecycle is remarkably similar to that of a human’s. Their large ears allow for excellent hearing, their sense of smell is thought to be superior to that of any land animal, and their trunks are

extremely versatile. These are just some of the facts I learned about these large and fascinating animals. ENP protects these elephants not only from the tourist industry, but also from extinction. As its website states, there were over 100,000 elephants in Thailand at the turn of the century. Today, because of the killing these creatures have endured at the hands of humans, as well as the loss of habitat they have undergone due to humans’ population growth, only around 3,000 remain. Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park is an incredible place. Nestled among rolling hills, the park offers

stunning views of elephants silhouetted against a gorgeous sky. A river winds beside it, cool and shimmering, which allows a place for volunteers to float on inner tubes. Volunteers and workers walk among the free elephants, helping to clean their stables, bathe them in the river, and cut down food for them to eat. The atmosphere is one of peace, hope, and comfort - for these are the things that ENP has given to all the animals that find refuge there. To learn more about elephants, Lek, and ENP, and to find out how you can help, visit: About the author: Johanna Stiefler Johnson is Danish and American, but grew up moving around Asia, Europe, and the United States because of her father’s work with the UN. She is currently an undergraduate at Boston’s Emerson College, where she majors in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and minor in Environmental Studies. Her fiction work has appeared in The Greensboro Review, Blacklist journal, and Polaris magazine. Her main issues of interest are the environment, animal protection, and feminism. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 27

Out of Thailand in to Africa by Netra Ruthaiyanont


ambo, jambo,” the deep and gentle voice of the security guard breaks the dead silence of the night. “This is your morning call.” “Jambo”, meaning “hello” in Swahili, was the first word we heard as a greeting from our wake-up caller. He was our mobile alarm clock since there were no telephones in our tented camp. It was 4.30am and we were to get ready for our game drive at the Maasai Mara National Reserve. We had arrived at this site which was situated in South West Kenya, 240 miles from Nairobi the night before. The weather was about 11 degrees centigrade and there was no heater in the tent. Shivering, we took our hot showers and quickly got dressed. We took a long walk in the dark to make our way to the open-air dining room of the camp to have our breakfast. It was a good breakfast – with eggs, sausages, beans, toast, cereal, coffee and tea and much more – but all went cold very quickly because of the chilly weather. But no matter. Or “Hakuna Matata”, meaning “not a problem” in Swahili. Safari There were five of us among the tour group of 18 holidaymakers from Thailand. Most of us hadn’t been to Kenya before and were very excited to experience the game drive. We all got on our respective jeeps and headed for the Maasai Mara National Reserve, the large game reserve in Narok County which is adjacent to the Serengeti National Park in Mara Region Tanzania. Each year, during the months



of July to September, over a million wildebeest, zebra and gazelles migrate to Maasai Mara in search of greener pastures. Like every year, they cross the Mara River which is inhabited by fierce crocodiles Fortunately, two people in our group had brought digital cameras with zoom lens and were able to capture beautiful shots of the animals and scenery. We looked out for the big five animals and saw lions and a glimpse of a leopard pouncing on a gazelle to have his meal of the day. Hippos lazed around in the water, some half submerged. Looking at them snoozing by the embankment, it’s hard to believe that they are very agile as well as vicious and can fatally attack crocodiles easily. We had previously misunderstood that hippos were afraid of crocodiles. But in actuality, crocodiles were afraid of hippos and stayed well away from them. By afternoon, the weather became warm and eventually hot. We came across huge elephants that came close enough to our jeep for us to see them spraying water on themselves to cool off at close range. The only animal we did not catch sight of was the rhino. Time passed quite quickly. By late afternoon, our drivers found a spot that was safe enough for us to get


down and we ate lunch provided by the camp under a tree. It was good to stretch our legs and have a bite to eat. Not that we were hungry. We had brought a lot of snacks with us in case anyone got hungry and had been eating nonstop. After our meal, we spotted more wild animals such as cheetahs, zebras, Thomson gazelles, giraffes and wildebeest. We also saw vultures feasting on the carcass of a gazelle killed by perhaps a cheetah. As the sun started to set, we made our way back to the tented camp. The road was bumpy as well as slippery because of the rain the day before. After an hour, we arrived at our destination. Apparently, the British influence still prevailed in Kenya, our friendly driver suggested that we enjoy a cup of tea first, before we go back to our rooms. Sure enough, tea and cookies were waiting for us at the dining area and we were happy to sip a cup to tea after a long ride. We soon headed back to our tented camp to freshen up before dinner. It felt a little bizarre to be in a room with no telephones or locks. Internet access is almost impossible. We simply zipped up our tents when we were ready to retire. We also merely zipped up our “windows� when the weather grew cold during the night. Dinner was served at the same open-air dining area. There was a big bonfire next to the dining area where a smiling entertainer played his guitar and sang his native songs as well as some old popular English songs. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 29

Maasai village

Our group had already been in Kenya for three days before we went on the game drive but the other attractions we visited earlier paled in comparison to this one. Yes, the ride was bumpy and not so comfortable and it was not fun eating cold and dry food from the lunch box. But all this discomfort disappeared the minute we saw a beautiful animal moving nonchalantly in their natural habitat, oblivious of the hundreds of tourists peering at them from their various vehicles, many equipped with high-tech cameras with their huge zoom lenses. Maasai village The day before, we had visited the Maasai Village inhabited by Nilotic ethnic group. Dressed in their bright red tribal costumes, the friendly Maasai people welcomed us with their tribal dance and songs. There was also a short demonstration on how to make fire.



They also told us about life at their village. The village head explained that the way they selected the head of the tribe was to have the men compete in a jumping contest and the man who jumped the highest would become the village head. The villagers live in harmony by observing their customs and traditions strictly. Anyone who left the village and come back had to go through strict re-orientation procedure to assimilate back into their society. Giraffe centre The Giraffe centre was a bit of a disappointment as the place was crowded with camera-wheeling tourists who wanted to get their photo taken with a giraffe at all cost. After fighting our way through the camera-clicking crowd to get glimpse of a Rothschild giraffe named Daisy and her two friends, we ourselves went photo-crazy and managed to get some photos with Daisy who was happily slurping away the food pellets that the visitors were feeding her.

“We had visited the Maasai Village inhabited by Nilotic ethnic group. Dressed in their bright red tribal costumes, the friendly Maasai people welcomed us with their tribal dance and songs.� OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 31

“The happy memories in our minds and beautiful photos in our cameras were more than enough for us to remember our trip to Kenya.”

Karen Blixen Museum Novel and movie lovers went down memory lane at the Karen Blixen Museum. It was the farm that Danish writer Karen Blixen actually lived from 1917 to 1931. The house became famous when her book on the memoirs of her life in Kenya was made into a movie “Out of Africa” in 1985, as most of the Oscar winning movie starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford was filmed in the house. The house eventually became a museum and the caretakers of the house has maintained it the way it was when the author lived in it. We toured the house, the gardens as well as the coffee processing equipment area. Homeward bound After five amazing days in Kenya, we took the long dusty drive from Maasai Mara back to the Joma Kenyatta international airport in Nairobi. There wasn’t sufficient time to do much shopping on this trip to the delight of our husbands. But we did pick up some souvenirs from the street vendors who were more than enthusiastic to sell their wares. The happy memories in our minds and beautiful photos in our cameras were more than enough for us to remember our trip to Kenya. 32


Karen Blixen Museum garden About the author: Netra Ruthaiyanont is currently the Marketing Director at GT Auto, authorised dealer for Volvo and Subaru automobiles. She began her career in Public Relations and Publishing and later moved on to Business Development. She enjoys writing about life’s challenges particularly for women, education and travel. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 33

Digital Citizenship at Harrow International School Bangkok

From the Head of Lower School: Mr Nicholas Prockter

Digital citizenship in the Lower School What word or phrase describes the teaching at Harrow International School Bangkok? Leadership for a better world, and we live and breathe this through our curriculum and co-curricular activities. How do you prepare students for the digital world? Technology is seen as a useful and essential addition to the classroom with outstanding teachers as the driver to high-quality learning. In the Lower School, our teachers are skilled in allowing our digital learners to enquire and discover for themselves. This is done by providing just enough instruction for students to get started and then knowing when and how to ask the right questions. How does the design of your school encourage digital learning? Wherever possible, we ensure that our learning spaces have no set teaching space or learning format to encourage both independence and collaboration. In addition, we have advanced ICT 34


facilities comprising tablets, computers, ICT suites, film and music studios, toys, sensors, technology rooms and VR. Are the teachers at Harrow Bangkok equipped for teaching in the digital world? Our students have high expectations of what technology can do, and so recruitment and training has focused on ensuring that all our teachers are equally up to date. Technology is used widely across all curriculum areas to enhance learning, and computational thinking is taught hand in hand with creativity to ensure that our students can fully express themselves in a future world. Our educators also understand that technology is just a tool and must be used carefully. In the wrong hands, technology can limit creativity and disconnect students from the purpose of learning - our mantra is always that ‘learning must lead technology’. Do teachers use new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) or gamification in their lessons? This year, AR technology provided students opportunities to explore

internal organs in Biology with the Virtuali-Tee app, whilst software such as Aurasma gives students the chance to bring inanimate objects to life. How does your school regulate the students’ use of digital devices? In the Lower School, our teachers are skilled in allowing our digital learners to enquire and discover for themselves. From the age of 9 we utilise a ‘bring your own device’ programme which is managed carefully with age-appropriate ‘e-zones’ and a clear policy understood by all our stakeholders. What advice would you give to parents raising children in the digital age? Parents must be good role models in their digital use and for Primary aged students, parents always need to be aware of what their children are doing with their time either through gentle monitoring or talking with their child. Just like other activities, limits must be set and adhered to. And finally – never forget the value of face-to-face communication.

From the Head of Upper School: Mr Jonny Liddell

Are the teachers at Harrow Bangkok equipped for teaching in the digital world?

Digital citizenship in the Upper School

Absolutely. All of our teachers are highly competent in the use of technology with teachers in some departments who are ‘super-users’. The use of technology for assessment and feedback is a particular strength.

What word or phrase describes the teaching at Harrow International School Bangkok? Leadership. How do you prepare students for the digital world? We have a clear statement on developing digital citizenship. We have an emphasis on developing young people who are digitally literate but also responsible digital citizens. How does the design of your school encourage digital learning? In addition to several PC and Mac suites used for Computer Science, Music and Art, we have a ‘bring your own device’ policy in the Upper school so all students are able to use their own device in lessons with a teacher’s permission. Outside of lessons they can use their devices in dedicated ‘e-zones’.

Do teachers use new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) or gamification in their lessons? We have begun to experiment with using AR and VR, but we don’t feel the technology is sophisticated enough yet. It tends to give students a headache when using the headsets! We do use some AI based software products in languages which give students adaptive feedback. How does your school regulate the students’ use of digital devices? Using digital devices will be useful to children. But there is a penalty as well. It is all about finding a balance. They can’t be on devices all the time and need to make sure they are developing

other essential learning skills like communication and numeracy. How does your school develop learner’s social and emotional learning (SEL) or Digital Intelligence (DQ)? Everything we do is guided by ‘The Harrow Learning Journey’ which clearly articulates that we develop transferable learner skills such as communication and problem-solving. This is achieved in many ways both in the classroom and through special challenge days and expeditions. DQ is addressed through our tutorial programme in line with our statement on digital citizenship. What advice would you give to parents raising children in the digital age? You need to be aware of the information that students can access on their devices. Learn how to check what content they access and ask your school for help if you are unsure.

For more information please visit: OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 35

Hunting the big five

by Neil Brook


t’s 6am and freezing cold as the sun peaks over the horizon and begins to light up the bush. The sky is clear as zebra wander past my lodging and I head out to join our guide who’ll take us on this mornings game drive, seeking out the big five – lions, elephants, rhino, buffalo and leopards. Climbing onto our vehicle, of course, painted in the obligatory fatigue green we place blankets over our knees which will eventually work their way up to cocoon our heads and shield our ears from the wind chill as our eyes poke out, scanning the surrounding landscape for any movement. The sun creeps over the trees and shrubs and warmth gradually brings the wild to life, although we’ll be back enjoying breakfast long before any benefit allows us to fully warm up. It’s close to zero degrees and 17 degrees will be the pinnacle today. Heading out of the safe zone, an area fenced off to keep the dangerous animals out, the gates click shut behind us as we bump over the cattle grid and head out along the dirt tracks. Now and then we stop and check out the animal tracks, looking for fresh evidence, noting their direction as we drive on eyes peeled. Springbok dart across in front of us and I recall the name from a menu recently, some of the most delicious



carpaccio I’ve ever tasted. Is that wrong? Anyway that’s the only thing off any menu we’ll see today. More zebra stare us down as we pass. Most animals we see look directly at us initially, checking us out or daring us to approach. They will scatter if you get too close. It’s quiet on the plains today. There are three drivers out this morning each keeping the other posted on sightings and whereabouts via walkie talkies. Our guide points out lion tracks on the road highlighting the difference between male and female. They’re fresh so we stay quiet and scan the shrub. This tease is energising in the cold however the lions are either well hidden or have moved on. Fresh dung by the roadside is a calling sign of rhinoceros.


There’s a difference between that of white and black rhino, because they eat different things. She likens the heap to their Facebook page where others will come and dump on top of the remains if they like them and beside it if they don’t! I don’t know how many likes I have today as we’re completely off the grid and I love it. Black rhinos are rare and recently one was released into this reserve says our guide with a tear in her eye. If not for people like her then our planet would be losing most species as poachers kill to satisfy the vain needs of consumers. The world loses one rhino every 8 hours! Rhino horns are like our fingernails she explains. Do you really need them ground up in your

morning juice to improve whatever you think this does? In the human world this is a form of torture. Try pulling out your own and grind them down instead… just saying. Keen eyes spot giraffe feeding on the leaves high in the trees in groups a little too far away but within eyesight nonetheless. Warthogs in bigger numbers feed close to the roadside and without fail hold our gaze. We’re always respectful and keep our distance. We skim the fringes of the lake where menacing eyes drift above the water concealing the bodies that lurk beneath as crocodiles seem to float effortlessly and a hippo and her baby clamber out onto the small island metres from shore. It’s hard to believe they are responsible

for more human deaths than any other animal. Don’t be fooled by their size or apparently sluggish nature. They are fast on land and in the water they are deadly. Flimsy canoes are no match as they are easily flipped leaving the inhabitants precariously unprotected in the water. We stop for coffee and hot chocolate beside the water reassured that we are far enough away to avoid harm. We’re relaxed but never complacent. We are the visitors. We’re driving through thousands of hectares of bushland so it’s a lottery looking for needles in haystacks. Calls from other trackers give us some direction but maybe today the lions, rhino and elephants are too far from the well worn tracks we are travelling. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 37

More fresh tracks taper off into the brush and most of the dung we come across is yesterday’s news, likes or not. Suddenly we stop and keep quiet, listening. Lions somewhere. The sound is enough to reassure us of their presence. On a drive last week elephants were so close that their trunks prodded jubilant onlookers. We’ve been warned not to touch any animals if they approach. Even those that are close enough to, well touch. We drive on in the hope that elephants will want to come up to us as we resist the urge the stroke their enquiring trunks. Not today. Part of the realness is understanding that we are immersed into another world. An animal’s world. While we may take the same route to



work each day or prefer to do things in a certain way, animals in the wild are both predictable and unpredictable. We’ve learnt about their habits and monitored behaviour patterns however they are driven by much the same as us. They will go where there is shelter, food and safety. Unlike most of us, they are nomadic or maybe like some of us, they have holiday homes in different places for different seasons. The vicinity is often the same but the dwelling may be different. They rarely dust of the furnishings when they return for the summer season. Most animals on this reserve are monitored for protection with tracking devices. However few have access to the passwords in order to tackle abuse and limit rogue rangers. Recently a

lioness was seen to be in the same place for longer than usual. She was discovered in a trap. The rangers are forever on guard. It’s now legal to shoot poachers to kill on sight. Apart from the obvious slaughter poaching leaves orphans and babies are often cared for by dedicated staff. Our guide has looked after a meerkat since he was orphaned when just a few days old. The trust this little animal has for Therese is astounding. She truly is his mother now. However as a male he is threatened by males of any species. To put this to the test she puts him down. There are three of us men here today and he immediately goes in to attack the one of us with shorts on, legs uncovered. He picks up the scent of testosterone.

Travel “Part of the realness is understanding that we are immersed into another world. An animal’s world... I’ll return in warmer weather and probably to a different place to experience the joys that Africa has to offer.”

“Get up on the table” she screams to him as he is a little surprised that this cute little thing has gone from cuddling his mummy to attacking the male intruder in a blink of an eye. He is staking his territory and it’s a reminder of where we are and who is in charge. We’re not here to roll up and snap photos and go. We’re here to enjoy the search and the experience the thrill of the hunt so to speak, without guns. I can now completely understand the skill required and the resulting excitement of tracking animals in the wild, the anticipation that goes with it, and the indescribable pleasure of discovering them. I cannot understand the egotistical, senseless need for killing them. The zebra, hippos, wildebeest we see are a bonus and although it’s a little disappointing to miss some it’s reassuring to know that this is not a theme park ride where caged up and distressed animals beg for release while they are prodded or withheld food in order to appear or perform. “You’ll have to come back” our chef states emphatically as he scrambles our eggs and pours hot coffee to thaw us out. He’s right. I’ll return in warmer weather however and probably to a different place to experience the joys that Africa has to offer. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 39

Ethiopia with two Bangkok expats and a lot of mutton by Jocelyn Pollak




ehal Meda, a small town in rural Ethiopia, is an unlikely place to find a current and former Bangkok expat. But sure enough, in April, I (the current Bangkok expat) journeyed to this small town to visit a close friend whom I taught English with for over two years in Thailand. In 2016, my friend Conor began his service with the US Peace Corps in the education sector. Essentially this means that he would spend 27 months teaching at a local high school in a farming community in central Ethiopia making just enough money to cover his rent, food and transport. When he was assigned to his post, I remember telling him that I was going to come visit and sure enough, two years later, I had the chance. I flew into Addis Ababa the day after Orthodox Easter, which I didn’t realise would be a big deal until I arrived. In Ethiopia, everyone participates in a vegan fast for 55 days before Easter, which meant that I arrived precisely at meat o’clock. Restaurants were only serving injera (traditional Ethiopian spongy flat bread) and meat, mostly ox and sheep. As it is a major holiday, travel and life in general is not ‘normal’ which added to the, let’s use the word ‘excitement’, of trying to figure out logistics for the next 10 days. Addis Ababa is at around 8000 feet so it enjoys relatively cool temperatures and lots of sun year round; except for the day I was there. Conor and I wandered the

Feature city, battling brief rain showers, and visited the national museum and a couple big churches. The break from the Bangkok heat and humidity was very welcome. Our dinner of all meat save for a few tomatoes was a fantastic introduction to Ethiopian cuisine for me. I had to eat with my hands which is obviously very different from eating with the ubiquitous Thai spoon. We took two days to go north to his site. There are no bus tickets or system so, needless to say, it was an “every man for himself ” situation to try to get a seat in the cramped van heading to Debra Brehan, our first stop. We were incredibly lucky and were able to get the front seats of a van and survived the dangerous speeds, sheep crossings and potholes and screeched into our midpoint destination. It was obviously time for more meat, so we had some amazing mutton with rosemary and spices in a local restaurant whose cleanliness would scare away even the most seasoned Thai expat. It was fantastic, probably some of the freshest, best meat I have ever eaten. Living abroad has definitely taught me to never judge a book by its cover in terms of restaurants. I also have an iron stomach, so I suppose I can gamble more than the average person. The next day, we took a five hour mini-bus ride on a dirt road up to 11,000 feet and arrived at Conor’s home of 2 years, Mehal Meda, which translates to ‘centre field’. It is remote! My first day consisted of wandering the town and being the subject of the gaping stares of the farmers and townspeople who have never seen a Western woman. Minus the catcalls, the people in the town were welcoming and friendly. Within an hour of our arrival, we sat down with a 6’4” retired geography teacher for a lunch of, you guessed it, sheep, honey wine, real coffee and popcorn. They typically eat popcorn with coffee after meals; I was thankful for this ‘vegetable’.

“We had some amazing mutton with rosemary and spices in a local restaurant whose cleanliness would scare away even the most seasoned Thai expat. It was fantastic, probably some of the freshest, best meat I have ever eaten. Living abroad has definitely taught me to never judge a book by its cover in terms of restaurants.” OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 41

Conor lives in a compound with a family of 4 and a maid. There is a water tap in the yard, a latrine and sporadic electricity. And it’s cold up there, with no heat; wool blankets were essential. Being off the grid for 5 days was a much-needed vacation for me. Since most people barely have a cellphone, it was so refreshing to sit and talk to people and not be interrupted by a bunch of messages. Children were playing with rocks and sticks and parents were paying attention to them rather than looking at a screen. It really puts into perspective just how far and how quickly we have drifted away from this critical human behaviour. The next day, we headed out to a spectacular gorge about 5 kilometres outside of the town. Conor just kind of found it by accident because no one in the village bothered to tell him it was there. It was complete with donkey paths, waterfalls and spectacular scenery. We followed one of the goat/ donkey paths down into the canyon and back up,



which was literally breathtaking at 11,000 feet. That night, we found some tomatoes and onions and Connor whipped up his Peace Corps staple, spaghetti and tomato sauce, sans meat. For all the primate fans out there, you may be interested to know that there are alpine monkeys living near Mehal Meda that are endemic to this very small area of Ethiopia. Gelada monkeys look like a cross between a baboon and a lion and chomp away on grass all day long. We hiked up a different mountain in the fog and were lucky enough to get right up close to the monkeys. I was jealous of their vegetarian diet. There are 3 researchers (2 American and 1 Taiwanese) who dedicate a year of their life to living in tents and following these monkeys into incredibly remote locations. We went to visit their camp and to my surprise, while enjoying a cup of hot tea, I saw probably the most unbelievable sight of the whole trip hanging on the wall of their food tent. A Bangkok Bank 2018 calendar of the King of Thailand! I did a triple take when I saw that. Apparently, one of the researchers had been living in Thailand until early 2018 and brought the calendar back with him. Talk about small world! My final day in Mehal Meda was all about market day and hanging with the local people in the town. I met one of Conor’s high school students named Betty who helped us navigate the market. Her father died of kidney failure when she was 7 and she wants to become a doctor. Her English was near perfect from speaking with the Peace Corps volunteers over the years. She lives in a mud house where her mom distills ‘Arake’ (moonshine) and serves the local drunks who stumble in to their house. Betty was truly inspirational. She was so strong and steadfast in her goals. Meeting people like that really makes you think more about what opportunities you have


and how you are using them. We spent the afternoon with Conor’s counterpart, Teshome. The counterpart’s job is to be a liaison for the Peace Corps volunteers in the town; it’s unpaid. Teshome’s friends showed me how to make coffee from start to finish – from green beans to a deliciously aromatic brew.

Unbelievably, this was the first cup of coffee I have ever had, but that’s a story for another time. It seemed only appropriate to drink it here as coffee supposedly originated in Ethiopia. Plus, coffee basically became classified as a vegetable at that point so I was happy to drink it. After a full day of travel back to Addis Ababa, I had one more night in the capital, where we decided to eat pizza and drink German beer. Local food was amazing, but for a Peace Corps volunteer who doesn’t get a chance to experience the luxuries of a city very often, pizza was a must-do. We reminisced about our times in Bangkok drinking Chang beer and what a totally different world we seemed to be sitting in at the German beer garden in Ethiopia. Since I was in Peace Corps mode (and Peace Corps budget), my trip was definitely not what the average tourist to Ethiopia should expect. There are fantastic world heritage sites and nice hotels catering to the more well-heeled traveller. If you ever have the opportunity to go to this beautiful country, go, but if you aren’t a meatatarian, make sure it’s not the week after orthodox Easter! OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 43

Finding the perfect retirement spot: Perusing Penang by Barbara Lewis


he search is on for our retirement haven. As we draw closer and closer to the age of retirement we as Canadians who have been non-residents for many, many years need to find somewhere that we can create a similar financial and tax situation that allows us to be residents. Malaysia fits the bill. We had been to Penang and stayed in Georgetown for a few days on a visa run almost a year ago. We really liked the area and thought it had potential to be our retirement destination. Malaysia allows expats in retirement a 10 year visa with no residency requirement in country; meaning once you have got the 10 year retirement visa by meeting the Malaysian government’s requirement there is no minimum number of days you need to reside in country. This is ideal for us because it gives us residency with no actual residence requirement. To be honest, wherever we choose we will spend a portion of our time there but it makes it is easier if there is no minimum then meeting some arbitrary amount of time with rules associated to how it is calculated will not be a problem or a headache.



One of our chief concerns is whether or not our dogs will fit into the community. This is a primarily Muslim community so it is a concern because in general because of religious restrictions Muslims don’t care for dogs. They generally prefer to not be around them and it can be a problem to find help in your house because housekeepers who are Muslim sometimes will not clean up in areas where dogs have been and our dogs are allowed to go pretty much everywhere in the house. When we aren’t around our Thai Mae Baan looks after our dogs and we would want any kind of help we had to do the same, be it taking them for walks or staying with them when we are away. We were very fortunate to meet up with a woman that we met online who helps expats get settled in Penang. She is a Canadian woman who has a medical concierge business and is in Penang on a 10 year retirement visa. She and her husband packed up and moved from Ontario, Canada to Penang, Malaysia two years ago after they successfully received the 10 year retirement visa. They have lived full time in Penang ever since and really like it. Their aim is to help


other people navigate the obstacles of moving to Malaysia and specifically Penang. Normally, she doesn’t start helping people until they have already made the move and are in Penang but we were fortunate to steal some of her time and probe her with questions that we had so we can make a somewhat informed decision about Penang before we move there blindly like they did two years ago. We found out that like most Muslim countries stray dogs and cats are a real problem. She works with PAWS and since Penang is an island they were actively trying to contain the problem. It seems that there was adequate vet care and access to good quality dog food however the issue of help might be a problem. Penang has a large population of Chinese so therefore it is more dog friendly than other areas of Malaysia that are more heavily populated with Muslims. As anyone in Bangkok knows who has dogs it is very difficult in anywhere but Nichada Thani to rent when you have a dog. Usually the apartments available aren’t very nice,

old and expensive for what you get. I understand the availability of apartments in Penang that allow dogs will also be very limited. We also learned that although legally we could buy it is not advisable because selling takes a very long time to complete sometimes up to two years and is fraught with bureaucracy. It seems that for expats, at least Canadian, renting might be the way to go but having dogs just like in Thailand may pose a problem in what we can and can’t rent. Another big concern of ours is community: by this we mean how available is the community to us socially, religiously, physically and different means of entertainment. Wherever we go we want to become part of the community and some destinations are just more open to allowing newcomers in than others. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 45

If a community doesn’t normally have transient people coming in and out of the community they might be reluctant or distrustful of newcomers. Also, if there is a lot of transients then sometimes members of a community are reserved about getting to know newcomers until they figure out whether they are going to stay or not. We got told that the expat populous in Penang although very mixed falls into the latter category. There is a great deal of transients in Penang after all it is an island and some people think they can live on an island and find out they can’t. In general, people are unwilling to invest in newcomers until they know they plan on staying for a while. We also found out there is no end to ways to meet others: through clubs, physical activities, educational opportunities, volunteer opportunities and various other miscellaneous things one does outside the home. It seems if a person has an interest then there is a group associated with that interest and if not one can always be started. The weather in Penang is similar to Bangkok however, because it is an island surrounded by water and mountains, it subject to those influences. One can drive across one of two large bridges to the mainland and after about four hours will arrive in Kuala Lumpur, so



you are never really far from a very large city with an international airport however Penang’s airport is also considered international and Qatar Airlines now flies out of it instead of just budget airlines. Ease of travel into and out of the destination is very important. The airports don’t need to be big but they need to be efficient, reliable and organised. We need to be able to get back and forth to North America without too much difficulty and have people be able to come visit us with relative ease. We also want a place where they want to come visit us because it looks like some place that would interest them and Penang does have lots of interesting things to do. From what we could understand from the answers to our questions and our research thus far we estimate that Penang’s cost of living will be about 30% cheaper than living in Bangkok but we will continue to investigate this. While on this trip we stayed in an area we would consider renting and we tried to visit a number of other

Retirement areas we had read or been told were popular with expats and found some very nice areas. We are not sure about actual buildings or rental properties that allow dogs as that will require more research on another trip. Penang is still on our radar with much more research left to do it shows great promise for our needs and lifestyle. We continue to build our pro and con lists and our eventual destination will of course have a much longer pro than con. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 47



Komodo: Walking with dragons by Scott and Nori Brixen



ig one coming!” the guide shouted. Seconds later, a scaly monster came speed-waddling down the trail. We all assumed that he would go straight for the deer carcass. Instead, he veered uphill, toward us. The guide had advised us not to run if a dragon approached. Yeah, right! We all panicked, bashing into each other and tripping over brush as we fled. Nori was behind me, but the boys had scattered into the forest, screaming. 1, 2, 3… 4! Thank God, no children eaten. At least not yet!


Logan had warned me about the risks of a Komodo Dragon encounter. Normally, he adores animals; we often call him the “Beastmaster.” When he was younger, he used to lug a thick, illustrated animal encyclopaedia with him from room to room. Over the years he had memorised an extraordinary amount of anecdotes about all kinds of creatures. But what he had read about the dragons had clearly terrified him. “Why do we have to go and see them? They’re huge lizards with poisonous saliva! They’re cannibals!

I mean, they eat their own babies! Are you trying to get rid of us? The only way I want to see them is if I’m in a helicopter with a bazooka (telephoto) camera!” As usual, Logan was mostly correct. Komodo Dragons are the world’s largest reptiles, but their size (up to three metres and 300lbs) is one of the least interesting things about them. For a start, they’re cannibals: young dragons spend their first few years in the trees to avoid being munched by Mom. Second, they are venomous; their bite rather than the bountiful bacteria in their maws is what kills prey. Third, females are capable of parthenogenesis – making babies without males. Fourth, males have two penises. (Maybe that explains why some females choose to go it alone.) In short, the dragons are big, weird and fearsome beasts. They may spend a lot of time laying around, but as we had just experienced, they are not docile. They can smell blood from 5km away, get very aggressive when they hunt and like to ambush prey from the tall grass. They can also eat their own body weight in a single meal.

Travel To them, my boys would look like a 4 piece McNuggets set. My biggest concern was that the boys would think they were just bigger versions of the skittish monitor lizards we chased every weekend in Lumpini Park, Bangkok. The dragons live on a handful of adjacent islands: Flores, Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang and Gili Dasumi. But there are only two official (read: safe) places within the park where you can join guided treks to see them: Loh Liang on Komodo and Loh Buaya on Rinca. The internet is full of conflicting and probably spurious opinions on which place is better for encountering dragons, e.g. “the dragons on Komodo are bigger… but the dragons on Rinca are more aggressive.” We saw dragons at both locations. I think you’d be very unlucky to not see any. Overall, we preferred Rinca for its varied landscape and incredible views. But when you’ve come all this way, why not visit both? Dragons and scuba-diving bring people to Komodo, but the trekking deserves equal billing. The trails were steep and exposed to the brutal sun, but the views were glorious. On Padar Island, we joined dozens of tourists for the very popular 30-40 minute hike up a ridge offering views of four beaches, castle-like peaks and distant islands. Later that day, I went wild hiking on the north end of Padar. Captain Adi claimed that Padar still had dragons, “but normally not in this area”. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 51

Just to be safe, the guide and I both found sturdy walking/dragon sticks anyway. As we laboured up gravelly inclines and bashed through spiny brush, we startled a herd of Timor deer - the dragons’ favourite repast. Following them up a game trail to a boulder-strewn bluff, we got a completely different perspective of this incredible island. The guide nodded appreciatively. “I’ve never been here before,” he said. I could see my family playing on the beach far below. From here, a narrow ribbon of wet sand between the blue water and the white beach was as pink as a scoop of strawberry ice cream. We loved our boat. The Carpe Diem had



three separate cabins, each with a small bathroom and air-conditioning unit. The main deck was upstairs, just aft of the pilothouse. This was where we spent most of our time. It had a small, covered lounge for dining and relaxing and a large, open area with bean bag chairs. The upper deck was also encircled by a wooden railing, perfect for the boys to jump off. The excellent crew was led by Captain Adi, who did a great job meeting our request for quiet, off-the-beaten-path beaches and hiking trails. On our last morning in the islands, I trekked with three of the four boys to an extraordinary viewpoint atop Gili Lawa Darat. A skeletal finger of Komodo Island extended to within

a few hundred metres of the the island, creating a circular near-lagoon with breathtaking blues at its coral-lined edges. The boys were wowed by the vista and proud of making it on their own. As in the Mergui Archipelago, “abandon ship” became the boys’ favourite pastime. They spent hours leaping off the boat into the water. Currents can be very strong in Komodo, however, so the boys (and the crew) were nervous at first. But they are excellent swimmers and were wearing lifejackets, so I wasn’t worried. Logan, of course, went first and screamed “this is so awesome!” once he climbed back onboard. Soon all the boys were “current bombing”: jumping off, popping up quickly and then paddling vigorously to the ladder before the current swept them past the boat. As remote as Komodo National Park was, we were rarely alone. During the high season (May-Aug) there are dozens of vessels on the water – from floating backpacker dormitories to luxury sailboats. And while there are 29 islands in the archipelago, most boats visit the same 5-6 places in a clockwise loop, resulting in traffic jams and crowded moorings at the popular spots. It isn’t Halong Bay – at least not yet – but it can be dispiriting to travel so far and find yourself following the same boats from site to site, day after day. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 53

For instance, nearly all itineraries include a stop at Pink Beach on Komodo Island. It’s around the bay from Loh Liang and is on the way to Manta Point. It’s beautiful, but it can get very crowded, and as we discovered, it’s not the only pink beach in Komodo National Park. In fact, most of the beaches on northern Padar have a pink fringe. That’s the huge advantage of chartering a boat. We were all having such a great time jumping off the boat, snorkelling and playing on the beaches of Padar that we decided to stay the whole afternoon. While I was hiking, the kids solved the ‘mystery’ of the pink beaches. They found little knobs of crumbly, bright red coral washed up on the shore. The beach was still mostly white, but the coral grains were enough to make it blush. On the morning of Nori’s birthday, the boys gave her homemade cards and bear hugs. Being the mother of two sets of twin boys is exhausting. She makes things even harder on herself by always trying to do and see so much. But when the day started with four warm embraces from little humans she made, I could tell that she felt really feel blessed. That was just for breakfast. Later that morning, she walked with dragons on Komodo Island. After lunch, she swam with manta rays. In the late afternoon, she snorkelled above an incredible reef at Gili Lawa Laut. That evening, the sunset was remarkable and the stars turned out in force. “Not a bad birthday, huh?” I asked, knowing the answer. “Yeah, I don’t know if this can be beat,” Nori replied.









About the author: Two Twins Twavel 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 twinboys, Tai, Logan, Drake and Kiva. Follow their travels at: 54


Batams up! by Scott and Nori Brixen


’ll never forget standing on the 57th floor of the newly-built Marina Bay Sands, chatting with Sir Ranulph Fiennes while looking across the ship-choked waters of the Singapore Straits. It was a very clear day, so I pointed to the land on the horizon. “And that, Sir Ranulph, is the island of Batam, in Indonesia.” The ageing adventurer was jetlagged from his overnight flight from England, but no explorer could fail to be excited by the realisation that there was another country at hand, so close! He perked up. “Really? I had no idea!” He wasn’t alone. Singapore receives over 17 million tourists annually. Yet few visitors realise just how near Indonesia is. In fact, Singapore is surrounded: by the tip of the Malay Peninsula to the north and by Indonesian islands in every other direction. At their closest



point, Singapore and Batam are just 6km apart. Work had taken me to Batam multiple times when we lived in Singapore. But I had never been there on vacation; in fact, the idea had never crossed my mind. Of the nearby Indonesian islands, it was Bintan that was the ‘resort’ island. In contrast, Batam had a mixed reputation as a gritty, crowded ‘industrial’ island with a few nice golf courses. Could there be really be enough to keep our boys busy for four days? When I first informed them that we were going to Batam, they all started giggling. I didn’t get the joke. “Bottom?” Tai asked, grinning. Of course; I should have thought of that. But amongst Indonesia’s 17,000 plus islands, Batam was actually near the top. Offering very cheap labour within sight of ultra-expensive Singapore, Batam had developed a large manufacturing base and was

already one of Indonesia’s most important islands economically. The availability of jobs had lured migrant workers from across the archipelago, swelling the population to 1.2 million. It’s easy to get to Batam from Singapore. There are nearly 80 daily ferry crossings between various locations on the islands. Travel times range from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. We travelled with Batamfast from Singapore’s HarbourFront Centre. It’s a very convenient location for tourists: accessible by MRT, next to the big Vivocity shopping mall and directly opposite Universal Studios Singapore. Onboard Batamfast’s sleek Ocean Raider boat we got a wonderful surprise: seats in the spacious VIP/Business Class section upstairs!

Travel “Wow! This is total luxury!” Logan shouted, sprawling out on the comfy white leather seats. The boys’ eyes were glued to the windows as the boat cruised past Sentosa and out into the Singapore Straits. As always, the sea was busy with dozens of boats waiting to call at Singapore’s port. It’s quite an amazing sight. After crossing the Straits, we sailed east across the northern edge of Batam before turning into the deep inlet that led to the port. Despite a long line of golfers shouldering heavy bags, we cleared immigration quickly and were met in the arrivals lounge by Darno, our friendly driver for the next four days. The Batam View Hotel is an older property in a brilliant location. The rooms in the classic double-winged main building

have been nicely renovated and the well-maintained grounds include a large pool, a soccer pitch that doubles as an ATV course, a fruit and herb garden and an effectively private beach with a full range of water sports. Logan and Tai loved riding on the mini-motorcycles. I took Drake and Kiva for ATV rides over little obstacles. All five of us climbed to the top of the floating bouncy castle.

“For the adults, the real attractions of the resort were its sea view and waterfront villas. Built in a traditional style with wood shingled roofs and protruding gables, the villas have wonderful views of the Singapore Strait and the South China Sea.”

At night, I could see the lights of Singapore’s East Coast Park, where I had pushed the boys a thousand miles in a jogging stroller. During the day, I could just make out the distinctive shape of the Marina Bay Sands, where I had stood with Sir Ranulph all those years ago. The illusion Batam wasn’t large, but we spent two happy hours in the Trompe l’oeil playground. The four young ladies working there were fantastic, helping us to stage the photos and look after the boys. My favourite illusion was of the boys levitating: legs crossed, palms together, floating halfway up the wall. The image looks convincing, but I know better – what my boys achieve daily is the opposite of Nirvana. I did, however, enjoy (almost) an hour of real serenity at Spa Central, the best place for a proper massage in Batam. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 57

I actually prefer Indonesian-style massages to Thai-style deep stretching torture. My masseuse had the strength and skill to untie the knots in my back caused by four weeks of sleeping on rock-hard Thai hotel beds. Nori was getting an aromatherapy massage nearby and the boys were getting foot massages and back/neck massages in a separate room. It was uncharacteristically, perfectly quiet. Just as I was beginning to drift off, I heard the thumps and shouts of a Brixen boy fight. Sigh. Batam is busy on the weekends, with hotels and golf courses full of Singapore locals and expatriates. During the weekdays, the same resorts are generally empty. On Thursday, we had the pool to ourselves during the day and were one of a few occupied tables at the hotel’s Kelong Restaurant in the evening. But by Friday night, the lobby bar was heaving with tipsy colleagues on a company off-site. We had hoped to do a mangrove kayak tour at the new Seaforest Park, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. So while Nori and the boys got a



golf-buggy tour of the Nuvasa Bay development, I zipped back to the hotel to pick up the boys’ swimming clothes. Despite the foreboding, black clouds and choppy waves, the boys were begging to experience the Aqua Adventure Track, an inflatable obstacle course tethered off the point. I was a bit hesitant (I broke my nose at a similar water park in Thailand) but we all had a great time. We love to makan (‘eat’ in Bahasa Indonesia), so when I came across Batamliciouz’s Instagram feed, I knew we’d be alright. With over 77,000 followers, a bottomless gullet, high cholesterol and loads of charisma, Chandra is the guy who would have taken Anthony Bourdain around if he had ever made it to Batam. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to meet Chandra in person. But his recommendation for 3-in-1 carrot cake at Abun Cha Kue was spot on. Even our finicky boys enjoyed the different textures of the two types of noodles (mie and kway teow) and the spongy radish cake all wok-fried together with a dark, semi-sweet sauce.

In Kampung Batu Besar (Big Rock Village), we stopped for dinner at a busy place serving chicken satay (sate ayam) and grilled chicken (ayam bakar). It took 30 minutes for them to charcoal grill the boys’ 40 satay skewers and five minutes for the boys to devour them. At first they dipped and then they dunked the charred meat into a delicious, freshly-made peanut sauce. Our simple-sounding ayam bakar was an unexpected treat, an ample leg with perfect grill marks served with a spicy, smoky sambal sauce. Clearly, we had not given Indonesian food enough credit previously. Not far from Batu Besar, we turned down a road that passed first a Muslim and then a Chinese cemetery. Just before the road descended to the coast, there was an entrance gate and a man selling tickets – 5,000 rupiah per visitor (about US$0.30). I’d never seen this before: a fee collected by a village to help protect its authenticity. But I liked the concept.

Down near the muddy shore, a cluster of stalls sold coffee, tea, coconut water, fried crabs and shrimp omelettes. Everybody wanted to know about the boys. Thankfully, my Indonesian is decent. “Mereka dua kembar.” They are two sets of twin boys, I replied, to predictable shock and amazement. “Very good… very strong,” said grandmas in headscarves, smiling and clenching their hands into triumphant fists. Nori frowned. She had done most of the work, after all. Nunung, a tall, skinny man who spoke a bit of English, took us on a walk through the community. First we tromped along a wooden walkway that wound through the mangroves. Then we circled back through an area of fruit trees and fishponds. He was clearly proud of his village and hopeful for the future. “We are building areas for camping and archery,” he said, pointing to a clearing. “And preparing home stays for tourists.” As we crowded onto the ferry to Tanjung Pinang, Bintan Island’s capital, I thought about our four days on Batam. What a pleasant surprise this ‘industrial’ island had been! We would have loved a few more days to explore the local food scene. We never did get the chance to drive the Barelang Bridges, six spans that connect Batam to Rempang, Galang and other islands. Batam had ferry services to islands that I had never heard of (Lingga, Singkep) and an increasing number of domestic and international flights from Hang Nadim Airport. Batam was much more than just a weekend golf or spa escape from Singapore. It was an authentic, chaotic, entertaining, delicious and even beautiful gateway to a littleexplored region of Indonesia. Batam’s up!

Trip Details: Trip planning: ( Great discounts and packages, ferry bookings, hotels with more than 200K properties worldwide, car rentals, activities Batam Fast Ferry: ( 20+ ferries daily from Singapore to all of the international ferry terminals in Batam. Hotel: Batam View Beach Resort ( – hotel rooms and 1 & 2 bedroom villas with big buffet breakfasts and many kids activities Spa: Spa Central ( 1 of the best spots in Batam for a spa weekend with 2 convenient locations: Batam Centre and Nagoya Activities: Seaforest Adventure (seaforestadventure. com) huge adventure park with family-friendly activities like mangrove tours, zorb soccer, paintball, floating obstacle course and much more

About the author: Two Twins Twavel 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 twinboys, Tai, Logan, Drake and Kiva. Follow their travels at: OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 59

by Daniel Sencier


fter a long time away, I deal with returning to England in much the same way as I enter a cold swimming pool. There’s no point in dipping my toes first, the whole process is agonisingly slow, and I’m afraid that one day I won’t be able to do it; such is the change in a country I once knew so well. No, I march straight down to the deep end, take a deep breath and dive into my hometown agricultural show; English again in a flash! Penrith is and has been for centuries, a key hub in the Cumbrian farming community with tractors, sheep and horses passing through town as regular as tourist caravans. It’s as old as towns get, with evidence of a settlement dating back to 500BC and was the ancient capital of Cumberland. Our house is relatively modern, dating back to around 1680 and on a back



Diving back into English culture – The Penrith Show street that used to be the main London Road. Agricultural shows are held throughout England from around June to September, and the date is set in stone regardless of the weather. Bad luck on the day could see a complete washout, or at best everyone wading through muddy fields, steam rising from the rich mix of soil and dung, an almost creamy taste to the air if you allow the imagination to flow! In the north of England, maybe it’s the frequent memories of all those ugly days that makes it oh so wonderful when, as with this year, the Penrith Show was blessed with sunshine. Although all these shows vary in size, they carry a very common theme throughout and every town/village holds great pride in putting together an

amazing catalogue of events where there really is, ‘something for everyone.’ The most obvious on display, just through sheer size, are the horses, and these range from mighty shires capable of pulling massive loads, to tiny ponies smaller than some dogs! The jumping events are a spawning ground with young country folk trying to outgun each other, not just over the sticks but in the fashion stakes too; all farmers seemingly addicted to the principle of strength through breeding! Massive bulls, cows, sheep, pigs and then to the dogs, rabbits and chickens, many smaller than starlings.


“Every town/village holds great pride in putting together an amazing catalogue of events where there really is something for everyone.” A prize-winning cow can produce, on average, 8 gallons of milk per day in exchange for 100 pounds of feed, which can include grain, silage, hay, soybean meal, plus vitamins and minerals. You’ll see these interesting facts on display everywhere and what a great idea, getting everyone interested in so much often taken for granted. If you’re a southerner, you might be excused for thinking there are two or three varieties of sheep, but I lost count at this year’s show. The rams seemed out of proportion with reality, some as large as small bulls and showing no fear of anyone. Others, small and timid, huddled in the corner of their pens, terrified

of the surroundings looking, well, as bewildered as sheep can. The same for the pigs really but they seemed far harder to keep clean, farmers running ahead of the judges, tools at the ready, continually trying to clean up the dung before the huge animals could joyously roll around in it, savouring every steaming squelch! The sheepdogs always pulled a big crowd, their skills looking vastly enhanced against an animal with similar intelligence to a pigeon, but unable to fly. But you could bring your pet dog and win prizes too, as long as they would obey the simplest of instructions and not try to eat or become over-acquainted with the other dogs! Cats? I didn’t see any all day; maybe I missed the ‘cat tent.’

Poultry? A sea of chickens, ducks, geese and every other feathered thing you could think of under one giant marquee, but not just birds, their eggs too! I made the mistake of asking a judge just how they decided on the best egg; I was still glued 10 minutes later! Size, shape, colour, uniformity, balance, and then when broken, whether the yolk sits centrally to the white, the colour, volume, opacity, shell thickness… it went on, and on… then, all 3 or even 6 had to match; synchronised eggs! Judges were vastly experienced and travelled hundreds of miles to preside over these fiercely contested events! OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 61

At the Penrith Show, you soon begin to realise that you can enter almost anything for a prize, not just a horse, rabbit or pig but peas, dolls, strawberries, bread, knitwear, wine, jam… even recycled junk models; such is the nature of this special summer day. As a child, I had a pet chicken called ‘snowy’ who followed me around the yard everywhere. One day I noticed she was missing, so at dinner, while tucking in, I asked, “Grandma, where’s Snowy?” She told me that Snowy had gone on holiday, and I accepted that, after all, we all needed a holiday. Even the white feathers in the yard hadn’t given me the obvious clue that I was sadly eating my best friend! Well, nothing much has changed, because kids at the show petting rabbits, chickens and sheep seemed oblivious to any connection between them and the food/butcher’s stalls around the ground. I feel it more open and honest in Thailand, with children well aware from an early age that they are actually eating animals and a clearer relationship with their food.



Shouting, grunting, cheering and clapping ahead? That had to be the Cumberland wrestling! A simple rough circle scored on the grass and two willing opponents who are told to, “tekk hod!” It’s strength and skill from there on to try and get the other person either on their back, out of the ring or break their hold, and it’s best-of-three. The crowd never get bored as each bout lasts around 3 minutes and there’s no break between the next pair coming on. Under 12’s, under 15’s, under 18’s then it goes by weight, up to 12 stones and then ‘any weight’ where the giants or ‘plumb uglae ans’ come out. In recent years they started a ‘Women’s Open’ which is proving extremely

popular with the men and this year took place in the only torrential downpour, everyone watching from the packed beer tent, exploding in rapturous applause as many a country lass displayed their art in gladiatorial style. Hospitality tents dotted around with free canapés and Champagne if you happened to be a customer, but plenty of hot dogs, burgers, tea and coffee for the commoners. The biggest surprise of the day…” Thai Food” cooked in a wok by a lovely woman from central Thailand, and as friendly as all Thai’s are! I practiced my little Thai to greet her and then quickly broke into English just in


case she asked me anything! Had I seen that five years ago I would have dreamt of living in that wonderful country, now three years in I feel so lucky, it’s a reality. The display of vintage tractors was a must because they gave contrast to the new equipment available to today’s farmers, ranging from hi-tech quad bikes with GPS to monster combine harvesters, more at home in a Transformers movie. I thought back to my Grandad, who in 1935 had won the All Ireland Championship for turning a straight furrow with a horse and single plough and wished he could be there to see how easy life would get. Tens of thousands once worked the land in Cumbria, whole villages in full employment, but machines have replaced them all, strawberries being the final challenge. A breathtaking day, all in all, where the local community met with those who put the food on our plates but rarely see eye to eye with us, ‘townies,’ who endlessly complain about animal rights, chemical pollution, muck on the roads and most other things that make ‘countryfolk’ so delightfully different!

About the author: Daniel Sencier, writer/copywriter, has lived in Bangkok for over three years with his wife Beverley, Head of Kensington International School. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Media, is a CELTA qualified teacher and recently partnered with ‘English for Thais,’ a project pioneered by Thailand’s Ministry of Education. He is also founder and organiser of the ‘Bangkok English Speakers Lunch Group,’ encouraging others to improve their English while exploring this fascinating city. Contact: OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 63

Get to Havana now! by Neil Brook


isiting for the first time in seven years, I am eager to see what has changed and how Havana is developing into a world class city and tourist destination. Well for most of the world Cuba has been easily accessible with direct flights hitting the shores from virtually every corner of the globe. Intrepid travellers from the US however have been sneaking in via Mexico or Canada, stampless passports and paper visas allowing access to one of the most fascinating places on the planet. This is about to change, although US Presidents seem to change the minds of their countryfolk at a whim. Stuck in a time warp when the Americans up and left when intervention through CIA assassinations and coups failed, Havana has endured, baroque architecture struggling to stand amongst crumbling neighbours, facades propped up hiding interiors virtually falling apart. The buildings are stunning, European style boulevards, ornate exteriors shielding marble staircases, balconies overlooking streets and squares, gothic cathedrals blending into neighbourhoods. Things are changing and fast. Now cranes are popping up, construction is evident. Prices are rising. Get out of your hotel, leave the wifi behind and



hit the streets. Although now an internet card will work at any hotel throughout the city people cluster nearby logging into drifting signals. This trip I had planned a structured walk around old Havana. Starting at the Gran Teatro de la Habana, next to the domed Capitolio National heading down Brazil Street and circumnavigating back along the water returning along Paseo de Marti (Prado). The theatre has been tastefully restored and once again plays host to Cuban ballet, opera and concerts. It glistens like a jewel adjacent to Parque Central. I manage to obtain tickets to Lago de Los Cisnes (Swan Lake). Spectacular, ballerinas on pointe, audience well dressed and passionate with applause and standing ovations. Stall seats well worth the CUC30 (USD30) for tickets delivered to the hotel. Immediately I am surrounded by life. Starting off something catches my eye down a side street I wander down following drums and Belles on stilts. As they turn the corner I keep walking grabbing an espresso in one of the many bars spilling out onto the street serving espresso that more than satisfies my Aussie bred taste for coffee. I’m lost. Well not really, I have my map and throw caution to the wind and with fate as my

guide, explore. So far, things are changing for the better. Rules have been relaxed and entrepreneurs can now operate businesses. Cafes with a dozen or so seats, espresso bars Italian style with standing room or under umbrellas in the squares. Restaurants open up behind huge wooden doors into courtyards, or shutters fling open as the music draws you in. Narrow buildings


make use of every level as narrow staircases guide you to rooftop bars and terraces. To find them you have to wander around taking time to stop and look, grabbing lunch and a Mojito as you go. With little high rise and no towering blocks, apart from a few 50s throwbacks, most streets look quite similar and it’s easy to become disorientated. With the aid of a map it’s easy to get back on track as you check the cross streets for reassurance you are heading in the right direction. I wasn’t, but there are umbrellas inviting on another corner. Vintage cars, yellow taxi lights picked up from eBay? Stuck on top or on dashboards and TAXI stickers clinging to windscreens homemade or otherwise, comb the streets or congregate strategically providing photo opportunities and promising private tours. I didn’t notice the Mercedes last time. Carry some change as ‘life’ in Havana can be captured for a small fee. I thought I’d go in search of the perfect Mojito however there is no need as they are everywhere, outside of the hotels. As in most places throughout the world the unassuming places are usually the best. Sugar, lime juice, mint, stems and all… muddle… Havana Club rum, free poured of course, a splash of soda. They slip down easily any time of the day as I enjoy an espresso whist others enjoy them at ten in a local cafe. ‘Where are you from?’ And so starts the conversation

in a smattering of English as my Spanish is basic to say the least and I order my first Mojito of the day. ‘Happy holiday!’ Others enjoy Cuba Libre, which sounds more exotic than Rum and Coke, with a squeeze of lime. I find the Cubans friendly, inviting and interesting to talk to with fascinating tales of history and insights about what the future holds. Sure, ‘taxi signor’… invitations to view souvenirs… will greet you as you walk the streets, however a polite refusal and a smile will suffice if you are not interested. Maybe the next person will want a ride or a

memento. As the music draws you in you will be offered a CD, buy it if you want to, politely refuse if you don’t. A tip goes a long way and is appreciated. People are making a living and entertaining as they do so. Havana is a history lesson worthy of consideration. Cubans celebrate a religion blended between native African and Roman Catholic, Afro-Cuban. Superstition mingled with Catholicism as crosses and lobster tails are nailed to lucky trees. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 65

Museums pay homage as do churches and squares. Having taken the time to research before arriving, things will fall into place. Draw your own conclusions, allowing for home ground bias. Name one memorial or museum without a tinge of home grown favouritism. At the Museo de la Revolution I head in to meet Fidel and Che Guevara. Set in the former Presidential Palace it’s a fairly small place where history jumps off the walls and stories of betrayal, assassination and revolution unfold as you wander the halls. A huge Cuban flag billows in the breeze hanging over the courtyard. Allowing half an hour to take it all in is ample time unless a guide is available, with exhibits explained in Spanish and sometimes English. Unfortunately there is no guide available today. There are fabulous tapas bars and restaurants opening up and against my better judgement, I agree to join friends for lunch at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, or is that Mundane? Ernest Hemingway used to write here and his room holds pride of place ‘as it was’ on the second floor. A tourist trap, serving tasteless food as a soulless three piece band drags out a guitar and maracas, dressed in white who, was it not for their strumming and clicking, you would believe them to be statues who come to life for a dollar. I am expecting the collection bowl at any moment. 66


Following Hemingway’s trail I pop into Floridita to a sea of selfie sticks swinging around in a bar full… a revolving door would be a perfect addition. You would learn more about the man by reading The Old Man and the Sea whilst sipping a Mojito sitting in the square allowing the city’s music to drift around you. If you must, pop in for a photo of a bronze Hemingway resting at the end of the bar and exit post-haste for somewhere with more atmosphere and authenticity. Horse and carriage, three wheeled bubble taxis and vintage cars await to transport you around the city, drivers offering a city introduction. Hire a bike, grab your map and explore, if you intend to stop and visit museums, sip coffee or cold Cervesa, have lock and chain to hinder thieves lingering in the shadows. I revisit an old favourite, La Guarida for lunch and remember why I loved it so much the first time. The set for the Oscar nominated film Strawberry and Chocolate, eclectic rooms welcome at the top of a marble staircase not out of place in Gone With the Wind, walking up past Fidel and the Cuban flag. Artwork dripping from the walls, chandeliers swaying in the cool breeze. Afterwards I climb the spiral staircase to the roof, a recent addition, the view literally framed, endless over city and ocean.


Cool roof terraces are lighting up Havana’s skyline as inventive and stylish proprietors utilise space and capitalise on stunning weather. No Golden Arches or Starbucks here! The Malecon is a stunning boulevard along the seafront where you can look back on a perfect view of the old fort protecting Havana harbour. During the day fishermen are scattered along the ocean walls casting their lines and trying their luck. At night the Malecon transforms into a hive of activity. The perfect place to take in the sunset and people watch with a cold Cerveza in hand. Havana is opening up to the world. Karl Lagerfeld and entourage have presented the Chanel fashion show where the Paseo de Marti was partially blocked off as runway hosting the who’s who of the fashion world. Residents were warned not to congregate on balconies overlooking the street through fear of collapse. Helicopters have zig zagged above the Malecon as one in the series of The Fast and the Furious franchise was filmed. “The city provides a stunning backdrop. I will return again soon as I have fallen in love with the city and it’s people however as I fly out the first cruise ship arrives from Miami.” Watch out, the Americans are coming...



Travel “The city provides a stunning backdrop. I will return again soon as I have fallen in love with the city and it’s people however as I fly out the first cruise ship arrives from Miami.” OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 69

Markets of India by Arlene Rafiq

“What an interesting journey to the land of rich culture, fairytale palaces, epic forts, interesting people. Noise, spice, heat and colour it’s all there”


t was 44 degrees in India and I see myself in a dizzying, chaotic open market. Who cares about the heat, continuous honking of cars, smell of masala and korma, all I care about is the psychedelic colours of the market. Colours can make one feel excitement, joie de vivre. All day long an Indian market is filled with throngs of people, buyers, sellers, merchants and sightseers. It is a picture of bewildering variety of people pushing each other in the dusty crowded streets. The shops are nothing fancy, a booth, and a hole in a wall, the shop owners spread their wares, squat beside them and wait for customers. A confectioner’s shop draws attention and everyone seems to have a sweet tooth by the boxes of sweets on hand. My favourite is rasmalai but I had to control my craving for health reasons. Today, confectioner’s shops also sell cooked food such as chicken biryani, a variety of dal dishes, parathas, naan, chapattis and chicken korma. People from all walks of life are seen in one place eating with their hands. It’s a very delightful and tempting place to experience the joy of eating Indian food.



Travel One has to be aware though of the added inches to the waist and hips. Walking about one hundred metres, I see a happy tea vendor preparing the delicious masala tea to the enthusiasm of customers. Masala tea, I swear I can drink non-stop. From another stall is the spice supplier. From this stall the vendor provides everyday needs for spices, wheat, lentils, flour, peas and sugar but finding a bag to pack them seems to be the customer’s concern. Along the street are corn vendors, grilling corns under the heat of the sun. The result is a semi charred corn in a cob; browned, nutty bits that really make it taste, well, grilled to perfection. People walking by can’t resist the tempting aroma, throw a coin and get a piece to munch while walking. Next is a trinket seller, no glittering shop of ornaments but an improvised space exactly like the rest. There is no obvious order. You will find just about anything and everything in one section and repeated in another section. There are other air-conditioned shops that sell clothing materials and readymade Punjabis, saris, kurtis and salwal. The shops looks grand compared to the others but they also demand high prices for their merchandise. As I walk further from the street market, there are rows of high end clothes shops. Most of the clothes are of high quality, hand dyed in bright colours which they said will last for years. But there are also some merchants who sell poor quality materials that fall apart after just one wash. I am good at bargaining, thanks to years of practice but am not so interested anymore as I used to because I have bought a lot of silk and muslins on impulse but have no use for them today due to a scarcity of seamstresses so piles of materials are kept in storage for many years. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 71

While I was checking on 100% cashmeres, I noticed a booth selling lassi, a yoghurt drink. I left the cashmere booth and got engrossed in watching the man prepare the lassi which sells for 10 rupees per glass. Lassi is a crowd pleaser not only among the locals but foreigners as well who are lined up to taste this delicious drink, I know how to make lassi and watching the maker was a confirmation that I was doing it the same way he does. Despite the temptation, I was able to fight it as I was not sure if it would be good for my system. It is such a pleasure, a visual delight to be with the locals in their market. From sombre earth-toned



surroundings. The kaleidoscope of wild colours changes the whole atmosphere. The market with heaps of flaming red roses, orange dandelions and sweet scents is a refreshing splash of cool water under the scorching heat. These markets are not just for selling and buying things. It’s a melting pot of cultures and traditions. It’s the most interesting place to be… meet people… interact with locals, learn their ways and appreciate their culture. Bright smiling eyes of men and women fill me with excitement as I visit my most favourite places anywhere I go in the world… the market. It was very intriguing to see various sari materials in


silk, cotton, muslin and chiffon with colourful embroideries and patterns that I began collecting – as many as my heart desires. Like carpets, some of the embroidered saris have stories that I find irresistible and which give the material a lot of appeal and value. After a trip down alleys browsing, haggling and in the middle of chaos, I go back to my hotel with a feeling of immense satisfaction. There is still much to be learned and to explore but that would be for next time. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 73

Animals galore: Costa Rica in a nutshell by Kasia Kszymanska


fter many years of flying east out of London we made the somewhat wild decision to throw caution to the wind and fly westwards to Costa Rica, the temptation to see a sloth in the wild was far too strong. Although having booked the flight I did feel a surge of panic, I kept thinking about how I would manage with food that doesn’t include coconut milk, lemongrass and the all important chillies. By the time we left London I considered myself to be quite the sloth expert, I knew that there are two and three toed sloths and that the only way to see them was to spend my whole holiday looking up into the trees. Our arrival at San Jose airport wasn’t quite what I expected. There were at least 300 people on our plane and



to reach the immigration hall we were either expected to pile into a lift designed to take 4 passengers, or go down a broken escalator which had a red cone in front it and a sign stipulating do not use. So we chose the latter and raced to immigration only to find the longest queue in the world, it took two and half hours get through, welcome to Costa Rica! I started the holiday as I meant to go on, looking up honing my scanning skills, what I didn’t expect were a couple of diversions from below. The first being a 6.5 magnitude earthquake which luckily struck off the coast. I’d experienced earthquakes before, relatively minor ones but with this one, the balcony swayed back and forth, it was a totally surreal experience. Then following on from that with wine in my hand, I looked into the distance and saw a red sky and great blobs of redness flying into the air, it was a volcano providing us with a magical first night show. Our next stop was La Fortuna and a smallish town at the base of the large Arenal volcano, which I monitored on a regular basis. While the town itself was nothing to write home about the surrounding countryside was stunning.


Think nearly one kilometre high waterfalls and jungle walks galore. The area is awash with geothermal activity which is harnessed and there are a number of very posh and expensive hot spring complexes outside the town. The advantage of having such an abundance of hot water meant that when I moaned about the cold water in the hotel pool our lovely owner took note, then disappeared for a moment and came to tell me that she had turned on the hot water tap to warm up the pool, as yes I felt hot water flowing into the pool, bless the hot springs. While I heard whispers of sloth sightings, I didn’t see any, but I mustn’t forget the toucans, the dog rescue centre, the green and pink snake and Proyecto Asis; a rehab centre that was well worth a visit. The information provided about the animals was fascinating, under supervision we were able to feed some monkeys and I found out that many of the fines for keeping wild animals at home were so low, approximately $100 for a jaguar compared to twenty times that for a speeding ticket. Somehow the balance here is very wrong.

“Santa Elena together with Monteverde was also home to magnificent cloud forests, iridescent hummingbirds, tame coatis and gorgeous vistas... What struck me about Costa Rica was the oasis of greenery, the sheer number of national parks, the array of the animals and the emphasis on sustainability.” OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 75

It was only at out next destination Santa Elena, high up in the Cordillera de Tilaran that I saw my first sloths. Just outside the hotel reception a couple were looking up at a tree, I raced over, and there she was (the hotel owner believed the sloth was female). I spent so much time looking up, that I developed a crook in my neck, it was hard to distinguish between her top and back end, all I saw was a ball of fur, but to me that was enough. I don’t think she moved for the 3 days we were at the hotel, but she was joined by other sloth that luckily posed for some photos. Besides sloths, Santa Elena together with the next door Monteverde was also home to magnificent cloud forests, iridescent hummingbirds, tame coatis and gorgeous vistas. What struck me about Costa Rica was the oasis of greenery, the sheer number of national parks, the array of the animals and the emphasis on sustainability. We expected to see animals in the national parks, but we saw the majority just sitting on our balcony or in the grounds of our hotels. Whilst in Montezuma by the coast we stayed in a lovely hut, where a huge iguana sunned itself on our roof, an anteater climbed up the tree in front of our wooden balcony and the



howler monkeys played behind the hut. While by the pool a good looking iguana posed with confidence on the stone frog statue. We saw at least 40 different types of wildlife and on a very rainy day at the end of our travels, a sloth sneaked into our outside restaurant and proceeded to climb into the rafters of the rattan roof, what an absolute treat. I never expected to see so many sloths, so if like me you love wildlife, Costa Rica is the place to go, but if also like me, like chillies, take your own and sprinkle liberally.

Expat Life

Book club by Rebecca Hilton


ne of our recent Expat Book Club books was ‘Little Deaths‘ by Emma Flint. I’m the first to admit that thrillers are not my genre of choice, and I also tend to steer clear of books where children are victims of crimes. Yet this novel, which follows the story of a mother whose two young children are murdered, had me hooked. The reason for this? Well firstly, we already know the horrific fate of the children. We are not left desperately turning the pages hoping they live, and there is no ‘goryfication’ (not a real word but it should be) of the murders. Instead, ‘Little Deaths’ focuses on their mother, Ruth, and the way she is perceived and treated by the police, the press and the people in her neighbourhood. Secondly, the writing is so assured that I couldn’t believe it was Flint’s first novel. Ruth’s world of 1960s working class New York is brilliantly observed; as a reader you are drawn right in. You can feel the relentless heat of the summer, hear the Queens’ accents, and see how the women in the neighbourhood watch and judge Ruth. I was also intrigued by the fact that the novel is based on a real case which gripped America in the late 1960s. Alice Crimmins was a divorcée and mother of two young children. One night the children disappeared and were later found dead. Crimmins maintained her innocence but two years later – based on flimsy and circumstantial evidence – she was convicted. This was later overturned, and then she was found guilty again… and later released on parole. Did she do it? Well, she was definitely guilty of being a very attractive woman who flouted the norms of the time – she had affairs, she stayed out late, she drank. It seems the police and the press pinned the murders on her right from the start. In ‘Little Deaths’ Flint shows how Ruth is watched and judged by everyone; we see how the tabloid press reduce her to a femme fatale to sell papers and how she is immediately presumed guilty because she does not fit into the ‘good mother’ mould. I loved Flint’s evocation of time and place, and how she gradually built up a portrait of Ruth so that we could see behind the ‘mask’ she put on. Ruth’s grief – and attempts to numb her pain with sex and alcohol – are compellingly written. Some of our book club members found it a little slow in parts; I would also say that, for me, this was more

a psychological drama than a ‘thriller’. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much. I was thrilled when the author, Emma Flint, agreed to take some questions from The Expat Book Club. Thank you to Emma for being so gracious with your time and answering every question that we put to you!

The Expat Book Club interview questions with Emma Flint ‘Little Deaths’ is your debut novel; how long have you been writing for? I’ve always written – ever since I knew what stories were, really – but I started to write seriously in my thirties. I began Little Deaths in 2010 and finished it in 2016. We have lots of writers as well as readers in the group; do you have any advice for people who are working on their first book? I believe that the most important thing is to read as much as you can, as often as you can. Read to find which writers you love, and work out why you love them. Find writers you don’t like, and work out why. Read other books in the genre you’re working in, and read outside your area of interest. Read poetry to find new ways of using language. Read drama to understand dialogue. Read non-fiction to give your fiction credibility and authenticity. I’d also recommend finding a writing group. It’s impossible to write a first novel in isolation: you need support and you need feedback from readers you trust. I also needed the accountability of writing a certain number of words for my writing groups by a certain date. Most people write a first novel about something they’re passionate about, and you need the objective judgment of others to tell you whether that passion translates to the page. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 77

It helps to find a routine that works for you – whether that’s writing 1000 words a day, or 5000 words a week, or spending ten hours a week with your novel. Work out when you’re most productive. Set aside lunchtimes or two evenings a week or find childcare for half a day each weekend – but carve out the time and then use it. Above all, don’t give up. Writing can be a long slow process – it took me three years to write a full first draft, and there were eleven more drafts before it was finished. To make time for that amount of work, you have to believe completely in what you’re doing and that you feel you have a story to tell that only you can tell. That belief will get you through the rejections and the lack of free time and the slog and the utter exhaustion. Belief in what you’re doing will also help you decide whether the criticism you’ll get is fair or not: only you can know if changes that others suggest are right for your book. You must have done lots of research into the case of Alice Crimmins and the murders of her children. Do you have any theories on what really happened? I realise this is an unfair question, but it is one we have all been asking each other! I obviously don’t know the truth of what happened to the Crimmins children – and unfortunately it’s very unlikely that any more will be learned about their deaths, beyond what was uncovered during the investigation and the trial. But my starting point with the book was that it didn’t seem that the police had looked at other suspects. 78


Because it took so long to get enough evidence to bring Alice to trial, and because it took three court cases to return a guilty verdict, I felt there must be other versions that were at least as plausible as the official version. I wanted to write a book that felt like it could be true, both in terms of the evidence found, and from a psychological perspective – and that’s where the idea for my ending came from. One of our members gave the following summation of ‘Little Deaths’; ‘It was the patriarchal Madonna/whore dichotomy – women were expected to be either modest, saintly angels to be placed on a pedestal or to be sinful beyond all redemption. That a woman could enjoy her independence and explore her sexuality yet still love her children simply didn’t fit into his world view. Once she was shown to be unfaithful, she was seen as capable of any crime’. Would you agree with this? Absolutely – I think this is a great way of looking at it. There’s a line in the book: ‘a bitch like that is capable of anything’ – and I had that in mind the whole time I was writing.

Unfortunately some of that attitude is still prevalent today: look at the way the appearance of Kate McCann was analysed in the media alongside the disappearance of her daughter Madeleine. Or the way Amanda Knox’s sex life was discussed in articles about the murder of Meredith Kercher. Appearance and sexuality are clearly irrelevant to guilt or innocence, but they’re often discussed as though they can provide clues to a crime, especially when a woman is the prime suspect. I was drawn to the story because of the sense of injustice that pervaded it, and because of my impression that the real-life Ruth was condemned for who she was, rather than what she’d done. I’m not sure that society, particularly certain areas of the media, has moved on a great deal in that respect over the past fifty years: I wanted to highlight how women are often still judged on their appearance and their sexuality more than anything else. The opening chapter of ‘Little Deaths’, where the children go missing, is a frightening scenario, yet the book is attracting lots of interest from our book club (no doubt it includes parents). What made you write about this topic? I first read about it when I was sixteen, and the details stayed with me until I began to write the book that would become Little Deaths. I was fascinated by a woman who could become the chief suspect in the murders of her children before the police even had confirmation they were dead. Little Deaths was borne out of my fascination with this ambiguous woman: she was a wife, brought up a Catholic and married in a Catholic church – yet she was separated from

Reading What fascinated me about her was why she behaved the way she did. I wanted to know if there might be another story to tell, beyond the obvious surface details.

her husband and had multiple lovers. She was a mother who claimed to be devoted to her children, yet she worked long shifts in a seedy bar instead of staying home to take care of them, and locked them in their bedroom for hours while she slept late. She was bereaved and supposedly grieving, yet she continued to dress provocatively and to apply her heavy mask of make-up in the days following the discovery of her children’s bodies.

I thought ‘Little Deaths’ evoked a very strong sense of place and time, yet you are British, not American. Why did you choose to set it where and when you did? How did you go about doing the research for the background of the story? Thank you – it’s very good to hear that Little Deaths conveys a strong sense of time and place. It wasn’t a conscious choice to write a book set in America more than 50 years ago, and had I known what a difficult task I was setting myself, I might have thought twice! It was more that I was interested in the story and in the character at the centre of it, and that story happened to be set

in New York in the 60s. I read two excellent books about the original case which I mention in the acknowledgments, as well as dozens of relevant newspaper articles, but most of my research was done online. I used Google Maps and Streetview to ‘walk’ down the streets in Queens where the story is set, to look up at the buildings, and try to get a sense of the neighbourhood where Ruth lives. I listened to Queens accents on YouTube, and I looked at thousands of photos of suburban America in the mid-60s. I also kept thinking about my own childhood: I grew up in a quiet and sometimes claustrophobic suburb on the outskirts of a city. I think anyone who grew up in an environment like that will understand the closeness of that kind of neighbourhood, and how anyone different stands out. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 79

The plastic epidemic “Every year, the world produces 300 million tonnes of plastic... Eight million tonnes of waste are dumped into our oceans each year, equalling one truckload per minute. Of this amount, half is composed of single-use items like: plastic bags, cups, straws and cutlery.

by Johanna Stiefler Johnson


pend an afternoon at a Thai market and you’ll end the day with a larger carbon footprint than you started with. This is most likely thanks to plastic – a cheap and accessible favourite of Thailand that now suffocates its beaches and marine life. A recent study found Thailand to be one of the top six sources of marine plastic; together with the other five countries, all of which are in Asia, Thailand contributes to 60% of plastic pollution at sea and it’s not difficult to understand why. Buy a couple of t-shirts at the market and you can bet they’ll be bagged. A styrofoam container for fried rice, along with plastic utensils, will also be put in a plastic bag. Order iced coffee and the amount of plastic waste is considerable: cup, lid, straw, and, in most cases, a little bag to keep condensation off your fingers. Soda might be put directly into a plastic bag, with a few straws in case one is for some reason not enough. Most people consume plastic in their daily lives, and few consider the impact this deeply unsustainable product is having on our planet. Every year, the world produces 300 million tonnes of plastic – enough



to circle the earth four times. Of this amount, half is composed of single-use items like those described before: plastic bags, cups, straws and cutlery. We use these items once for the sake of convenience and throw them away immediately afterwards. Most hard plastics such as cups should be recyclable, but they aren’t always disposed of properly; meanwhile, soft plastics like single-use bags go right into a landfill – or worse, into the ocean. Eight million tonnes of waste are dumped into our oceans each year, equalling one truckload per minute. Even more shocking than the amount of waste we produce is the fact that plastic, the majority of our trash, takes 500 to 1,000 years to decompose. In the past ten years we have used more plastic than in the entirety of the last century, and virtually every piece of plastic that has ever been produced still exists on earth in some form, excluding the small percentage that has been incinerated. It is therefore unsurprising that our poor planet - along with its wildlife - isn’t able to keep up with the unsustainable choices we have started to make in the past few decades. Human-made waste now covers a jaw-dropping 40% of ocean surfaces, and 90% of this waste is made up of plastic. Off the coast of California, a

floating mass of trash known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest garbage patch in the world at twice the size of Texas. Here, plastic pieces outnumber sea life six to one. It is estimated that one million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals are killed annually by plastic. Disturbing images of these creatures, cut open to reveal stomachs full of plastic, have sparked discussion across the world. Some of the most powerful stories are those about whales washed ashore with their stomachs bloated with plastic pieces. Recently, the death of a short-finned pilot whale in Thailand’s Songkhla province spurred fears for marine life. Eighty plastic bags, weighing about 8kg, were found in its stomach. People sometimes assume that marine animals consume plastic simply because they’re dumb and eat anything, but the truth is plastic seeps into the diets of even the smartest and most accomplished hunters. In fact, it has found its way into 180 species of marine animals. In an interview about Blue Planet II, David Attenborough describes a sequence about a mother albatross who returns after a long, calculated hunting journey to feed her young; what emerges from her mouth? Plastic. To many of these animals, plastic looks, smells, feels, and even sounds like


food. In some cases, algae growing on pieces of plastic are consumed by krill. The feast releases a chemical that draws marine animals, but they are attracted to the plastic instead of the krill they came for. In other cases, items such as plastic bags are mistaken for jellyfish, which would explain why jellyfisheating turtles are so often entangled in them. In still other cases, echolocation tricks toothed whales and dolphins into thinking pieces of plastic are edible, because they sound just like food. The animals consume the trash we produce, or are physically trapped by it. These statistics are extremely disheartening, but hope is not totally lost. As more and more statistics and images surface depicting animals ensnared in beer six-pack holders and plastic bags, more people are talking about how to stop the plastic epidemic. Countries across the globe have made efforts to decrease the amount of plastic pouring into our oceans. Earlier this year, Taiwan made one of the boldest bans on plastic worldwide when it announced that all single-use plastics are to be phased out by 2030. Britain also pledged to eradicate avoidable plastic waste by 2042, including straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds. Not long afterwards, the EU proposed a similar ban on these disposable products. The EU ban will target the ten plastics most commonly found in oceans, and EU member states will be responsible for meeting targets to reduce single-use plastics. There are some success stories for these types of bans. After South Africa introduced a plastic bag ban in 2003, the use of plastic bags decreased by 90 percent (although illegal use of the product has increased gradually since

then). In China, a 2008 ban on thin plastic bags led to a reported two-thirds reduction in plastic bag use. Countries in Europe in particular have been active in their attempts to eliminate plastic bags. As early as 1994, Denmark began charging a tax on plastic bags, which caused their usage to decrease by half, from 800 million bags per year to 400 million. These success stories tell us that if governments recognise the deplorable trash-ridden conditions of our oceans, and create laws to ban harmful plastic products, we may be able to clean up our planet. Hopefully Thailand, one of the sea’s top polluters, follows the anti-plastic trend and takes initiative to make its beaches beautiful again. Perhaps Thailand has already begun the shift toward a greener world. Just last month, the Pollution Control Department set a target to eradicate plastic seals on water bottles, which are responsible for 520 tonnes of annual waste. Even more exciting is a development from World Environment Day on June 6, when more than 20 Thai businesses and state agencies signed a memorandum of understanding to cut plastic waste in half by 2027. There are also steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint. Plastic is deeply rooted in modern society, but there are always measure individuals can take to reduce their plastic consumption. Going shopping? Always remember to bring a reusable bag (or many!), and turn down every plastic bag that is offered to you, no matter how small. Getting coffee? Bring a thermos or mason jar, and your own stainless steel straw (readily available on Amazon or in stores). Lunch on-the-go? Offer your reusable container to the

people at the counter, and bring utensils from home. By doing these simple things, you’ve managed to avoid disposable plastic bags, cups, lids, straws, utensils and containers. These practices are generally minimal and easy to implement, and with them, we could decrease the amount of waste in our ocean by an incredible amount – and marine animals would thank us for it.

About the author: Johanna Stiefler Johnson is Danish and American, but grew up moving around Asia, Europe, and the United States because of her father’s work with the UN. She is currently an undergraduate at Boston’s Emerson College, where she majors in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and minor in Environmental Studies. Her fiction work has appeared in The Greensboro Review, Blacklist journal, and Polaris magazine. Her main issues of interest are the environment, animal protection, and feminism. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 81

October is Breast Cancer awareness month by Khunying Finola Chatamra


he ‘Pink Ladies Group’ the fundraising group of the Bangkok Breast Cancer Group are organising another pink dinner, dance and fun activity evening on October 6th at the Holiday Inn on Sukumvit Soi 22 in Bangkok.             The dynamic group of international women based in Bangkok who raise funds for the Queen Sirikit Breast Cancer Centre (QSCBC) projects, including the slum outreach project, which screens and educates the poorest women for breast and cervical cancer and the ‘Pink Park’ cancer rehabilitation and hospice care home, are organising another big pink event for the October 2018 Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Following last year’s highly successful and over subscribed event, this year the pink themed dinner, dance and evening of fun activities, will be held on October 6th. Gather your friends, save the date and have a great night out.  

Pink Park facility and grounds 82


All funds raised will be donated to the work of ‘Pink Park’ to help the most underprivileged patients nationally recover from cancer. For details contact Manjit Wahlia at: What is Pink Park? There have sadly been many cases of breast cancer at the Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer (QSCBC) over the last twenty five years; often large breast tumours that have been neglected due to fear and poverty. On occasion these patients will need a long treatment regimen or may sadly pass away. The terminal patients desperately

need a facility where they can be cared for properly, away from the squalor of their home conditions or an acute hospital bed. Likewise, patients who cannot be discharged to a home in the slums, may only require outpatient care and a place to stay during their recovery period and do not need to stay on a surgical ward. These very poor patients, through no fault of their own, often prevent new patients receiving urgently needed treatment. The latest project under the QSCBC Foundation is therefore, ‘Pink Park Village’, a facility that will provide the specialised care that these convalescing or terminally ill patients need. ‘Pink Park’ will be the final part of the QSCBC project envisioned by Dr Kris and his wife Finola twenty six years ago; offering the right environment for these patients nationally. The QSCBC Foundation has raised the majority of the funds to build ‘Pink Park’ with individual and corporate help and it will open to patients in 2018. The patients will be cared for free, so the fundraising will be ongoing.

Feature Pink Park facility and grounds

Khunying Finola, who works on a pro bono basis for all the projects, like her husband Dr Kris Chatamra, the Honorary Director and Founder of the Queen Sirikit Centre and Foundation, explained: “One of the most salient issues that came directly from our experience of over twenty five years of working in the poorest slum communities, was the lack of a supportive environment for a patient’s recovery or for those with terminal cancer, an appropriate place to pass away with dignity, pain free and not in squalor. We could see a great need for a facility which would cater for these patients in an appropriate environment. A kind donor heard of our idea and donated 125 rai of land in Minburi and this was the beginning of the

building of ‘Pink Park Village’. Pink is the symbolic colour of breast cancer internationally and we wanted to have a relaxed garden full of flowering pink blossom trees, surrounding low rise homes, where patients could stay in a peaceful setting. Pink Park is aiming to be environmentally friendly and has planted many trees and is installing solar panels. Trees can be donated as a gift to ‘Pink Park’, to celebrate birthdays, weddings or to remember family members. We keep a list of donors to display at Pink Park, to honour personal donations. The centre will be free of charge, so donations will be ongoing and always welcome however small. The medical focus will not be intensive; the majority of the patients, will recover from their treatment and do not need high-tech care.

Some of the patients at the QSCBC have also lived under bridges and on the sidewalks, just so that they can attend outpatient clinics for radiotherapy or chemotherapy; ‘Pink Park’ will be a place for these individuals to rest and stay. The aim will be to help them recuperate, physically and emotionally, as well as offering them vocational skills and activities to help their transition back to a full life. The patients who need a place to ‘end their days’, will require pain control, as well as emotional and spiritual support. We are passionate that these patients need to be looked after with dignity, so that they do not suffer. A nun, who I worked with in the Klong Toey slums, Sister Joan Evans, once told me that before our team helped her, all she could offer a woman dying of breast cancer on the floor of her slum home, was a bottle of rum to ease her horrendous pain.

Homes of women in slum communities OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 83

Patients in slum communities

The team, who will not all be based at ‘Pink Park’, will include doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, pharmacists, nutritionists and volunteers. The patients will be housed in different ‘homes’ in the grounds, to address their needs.” “‘Pink Park’ has received substantial support from many sectors, including ‘Sansiri’ the property developers who offered their team on a pro bono basis, as did Khun ‘Pui ‘, Wannaporn Phornprapha, ‘PPlan Landscape’, who did the landscaping design. We have tried to create another sanctuary, but this time in a garden setting, so that patients can feel at home and get the moral support needed to beat the disease.’ ‘Pink Park Village’ was started on March 2016, but the final cancer rehabilitation centre still needs donations. We still need additional financial support. All donations and revenue from hosted activities go directly to equipment.  In addition to gifting of trees, the QSCBC Foundation also sell souvenirs and designer T-shirts from its collection called ’Miss Pink Park’ to help raise funds. The T-shirt was designed by Ajarn Somnuek Klangnok, a famous artist well known for his illustrations. Another channel for donations is bank account transfers and our QSCBC Foundation will issue a receipt for tax deductible contributions. (Please see end of article for details.)



What other projects happen at the QSCBC?          “Dr Kris is, however, the Honorary Director and Founder of the QSCBC and Chairman of the Board of the QSCBC Foundation; he is the key figure in all the work that has been done to date. He works everyday as a full-time surgeon at the QSCBC, operating on the most difficult cases, teaching and organising clinical research projects, dedicating his time from early morning to evening, on an honorary basis. The QSCBC and the QSCBC Foundation have nurtured a special and hard working team and they also deserve a lot of credit. Like Dr Kris,  I volunteer my time, I have helped in many aspects of the projects, from fundraising to education work, focusing on the risks of breast and cervical cancer for a national photographic campaign, which I have organised for over ten years, with the key message: ‘early detection may save your life’. Breast and cervical cancer are the biggest cancer killers of Thai women and it should not be forgotten a small percentage of men suffer from breast cancer too and transexuals. Many celebrities have been kind enough to donate their time for this cause every year. I also help to co-ordinate international research trials for the QSCBC. I started a breast and cervical screening project in the slum communities, over twenty

years ago, serving the most underprivileged women. We try to inculcate a positive message encouraging the early diagnosis of breast and cervical cancer and try and take away the fear of so many of the women. We make the whole breast and cervical screening experience as positive as possible. We also work closely with the community leaders, to build up trust and confidence in our project, working alongside volunteer social workers, to ensure that the women we are screening are genuinely in need. The project relies on donations and so we need to ensure funds are used wisely. The women bring their children and grandchildren and we also provide food and transport for the day, alleviating any anxieties about childcare or providing meals, because so many of the women are on a minimal daily wage. The children and women have fun activities organised, in addition to the breast and cervical cancer checks and when the women return home, they become our best advocates for breast cancer screening in their communities. These women would normally not have an opportunity to access screening and are often terrified of having a diagnosis, because they have seen neighbours suffer terribly due to a late diagnosis and a lack of care. We try to teach them that the faster a disease is detected, the greater the chance of recovery. The Bangkok Breast Cancer Support Group and the Pink Ladies have been great supporters of our work.”   “Many women are scared and too afraid to undergo treatment, thinking that the disease is incurable. We try to teach them that the faster a disease is detected, the greater the chance of recovery. We want to encourage them to fight the disease and be proactive.”  The QSCBC has many clinical research projects, in addition to the full patient workload. Dr Kris leads the research teams and has, for example, set up an international research trial for ‘intraoperative radiotherapy’, which offers radiation therapy to patients directly in the operating theatre, so that patients can avoid several weeks of 5 minute treatment sessions. This kind of approach could make the lives of

Feature rural patients, so much easier and treatment more bearable. Other trials looking to find the most specific and valuable treatments for patients are also underway, helped by the use of a ‘cancer cell bank’, where patients cells can be stored and matched for future treatments. Dr Kris has introduced the most advanced treatment programmes available and is adamant that all patients should be offered these approaches. Pam aged 50 is one such example, it is a tumour profiling test that determines the benefit of using chemotherapy in addition to hormone therapy for some oestrogen receptor-positive and HER2 negative breast cancers. The QSCBC has always been forward thinking and all that has been achieved has been done so as a multi-disciplinary team of staff, volunteers and such generous donors. We are grateful to so many.

For those who want to join a voluntary programme or make a donation, please visit our website: or contact Khun Supanaree Sumonmart, manager of the Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer Foundation at:  094-790-4561 or


F U N DR A ISI NG E AT DR I N K PI N K 2 018 Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer Foundation in association with The Peninsula Bangkok and 35 of Bangkok’s leading restaurants request for your presence to support the fight against breast cancer as well as to inspire women in raising awareness of the danger of breast cancer at the Eat Drink Pink 2018 fundraiser. Monday, 1 October 2018 6:00 pm Cocktail reception, opening remarks at Sakuntala Foyer, The Peninsula Bangkok

7:00 pm Mindful gourmet journey of Eat Drink Pink event at Sakuntala Ballroom

RSVP: Khun Chanakit PR Department at 0 2020 2888 ext. 6215 or e-mail by 21 September. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 85




Interview with Jane Crowder Clinic volunteer for The Bangkok Breast Cancer Support Group What is the Bangkok breast cancer support group? The Bangkok Breast Cancer Support Group is a small independent charity. The team consists of dedicated Thai and expat volunteers who are committed to offering support, compassion and practical information to women and their families who have been diagnosed or are living with breast cancer. How did you get involved? I joined the group 16 months ago after moving with my husband to Bangkok from Australia. I am a registered oncology nurse and had previously been working at The Epworth Hospital in Melbourne as the chemotherapy coordinator for the breast cancer patients. I was really keen to do some volunteer work and was very excited to find a charity, which enabled me to continue using my oncology knowledge. Why is support important and what impact do you think that you have on the women that you meet? A breast cancer diagnosis for the majority of women and their families will result in some level of psychological distress, which can impact on day-to-day life. This distress can be furthermore compounded by treatments, which can be complex and can extend over a long period of time. Shock,

anger, guilt, denial, fear, anxiety and a sense of isolation are all common reactions. These emotional responses can alter over the various stages of diagnosis and treatment, we therefore realise the importance of ongoing support. Evidence suggests that women who are well supported have a better adjustment to a breast cancer diagnosis. Many women find comfort in meeting and talking to the other volunteers who are breast cancer survivors and have therefore been through the breast cancer experience. Some women find it beneficial to be able to speak to someone who is not a friend or family member. I would also like to think that by offering support and up to date information that we are helping to empower women to make informed decisions. What advice would you give to women regarding breast care? Regular breast screening is recommended for women over the age of 50. Breast awareness is equally important. Women regardless of age, including pregnant women need to self check their breasts monthly. It is important to see your GP if any changes are detected. How are our readers able to help? We are always looking for volunteers with breast cancer experience to help out in the clinic. Please contact Jane on 0909 605 805 or Raymonde 085 810 8208 for further information. Fundraising – The Pink Ladies have regular fundraising events to raise money for the Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer and the Pink Park project. For more information please contact Manjit Walia on or 081 402 1066

How can you be contacted if someone needs support? Visit us at the Breast Health Centre, BNH Hospital, Convent Road on a Tuesday or Thursday between 4.30-7pm By phone contact Jane 0909 605 805 or Raymonde 085 810 8208. Email Our volunteers can speak Thai, English and French. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 87

The truth about breast cancer by Dr Abdulla El-Hossami, MD Head of Integrative Oncology Asia Pacific, Verita Life


reast cancer, like any other type of cancer, starts when cells begin to grow out of control, forming a tumour. Most often, these are seen on an X-ray or felt as a lump. The most common types of breast cancers are ductal, that is, they begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple. Some also start in the glands that make breast milk. These are known as lobular cancers. Untreated, breast cancer can also spread into the lymph system and get carried to other parts of the body. Despite the fact that most cases of breast cancer occur in women, men are also susceptible. Statistics show that approximately 2,550 cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in the year 2018. This is precisely why men, as well as women, should also be aware of symptoms, risk factors and preventive measures. The most common symptom of breast cancer is the development of a new lump or mass. This could be soft or hard, painful or even painless, so, it is important to have any new breast mass checked immediately. Importantly however, lumps are not the only sign of breast cancer. Other signals include



swelling of all or part of a breast, skin irritation, breast or nipple pain, nipple retraction, redness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin and nipple discharge, other than breast milk. To date, the exact cause of breast cancer is not clear. However, certain risk factors have been identified. The first and most common factor is genetics. When a close relative has had breast cancer the potential for breast cancer diagnosis is higher, while the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, can also be inherited, causing breast cancer to the women who carry them. Another factor is having a history of breast cancer or breast lumps. If a woman has had breast cancer before, she is more likely to develop it again. Having dense breast tissue is another factor that has been reported to cause breast cancer. Women exposed to oestrogen for long periods of time are also known to have an increased chance of developing the disease. This explains why mothers who breastfeed for more than one year have less chances of developing breast cancer, since breastfeeding decreases women's oestrogen levels,

while women on hormone treatments or birth control pills, which contain high levels of oestrogen, have a higher risk. Oestrogen levels are also linked to obesity which is why overweight women increase their chances of developing the disease. High sugar and alcohol intake has also been linked to cancer in general. Another surprising factor is radiation exposure. Strange as this may sound, being exposed to radiation to treat any other type of cancer can cause cancer to develop in the breast in particular. One last factor is age; risk tends to increase with every decade. Although there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, or any other type of cancer, for that matter, adopting some lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk of developing it. These include cutting down on alcohol and sugar consumption, following a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, making regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body mass index.

“Adopting some lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk of developing it. These include cutting down on alcohol and sugar consumption, following a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, making regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body mass index.� Tel +66 2 554 8300 OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 89

“Well-equipped with state-of-the-art facilities... the centre’s GI specialists are specifically trained to provide early detection to advance diagnostic procedures with the best medical and surgical treatment.”

Colon cancer: The silent threat

Dr Sukpraseart Jutaghokiat

Dr Taratip Prakongwong


ukumvit Hospital recently conducted a seminar on the topic of ‘Colon Cancer – The Silent Threat’, which was well received by both medical professionals and the public alike. The hospital also took the opportunity to introduce its modern ‘Digestive and Liver Diseases Center’. The guest speakers at the seminar were both prominent professionals in the field of digestive and liver diseases; the first being renowned Dr Sukprasert Chulakorkiat, followed by Sukumvit Hospital’s very own Dr Tharathip Prakongwong. The event’s objective was to educate the audience on the threats, symptoms and causes of colon cancer, as well as the modern clinical care available for the diagnosis and treatment of this deadly disease. Dr Sukprasert began with a thought-provoking statistic, which revealed that over a million people die of colon cancer every year. It was also discovered that colon cancer is the third leading cause of death in the US, and the percentage of Asians suffering from this disease isincreasing annually by 10 to 20%.

“Colon cancer is the third leading cause of death in the US, and the percentage of Asians suffering from this disease is increasing annually by 10 to 20 %”. You may be thinking what is colon cancer and what are its symptoms? Signs and symptoms of this disease tend not to be specific. In other words, they can occur due to a number of different conditions. When colon cancer is detected early on in stage 1, it may not have caused any noticeable signs. It is during stage 2 to 4 when symptoms and signs become more evident. These symptoms include changes in your bowel habits, such as chronic diarrhoea, constipation or a variation in the consistency of your stool which lasts longer than four weeks. There can also be rectal bleeding, blood in your stool or persistent abdominal discomfort including cramps, gas or pain.



We still aren’t exactly certain what causes colon cancer, but we do know that a person’s risk for developing this disease increases based on certain factors, such as age and family history. People over 50 years, especially those who have direct relatives who have suffered from colon cancer are two to three times more likely than the general population to develop the disease. If your family has a history of other types of cancer, such as uterine, ovarian or stomach cancer, you are more likely to develop colon cancer. It is highly recommended by the American Cancer Society that anyone over the age of 50, who does not belong to any high-risk groups, should undergo a colonoscopy and repeat the procedure every 10 years. Additionally, people who consume a lot of vegetables, fruits and whole grains are less likely to develop colon or rectal cancer; whereas a high and regular consumption of red and processed meats could lead to an increase in the risk of colorectal cancer. However, if caught in the early stages, the disease is treatable. Sukumvit Hospital’s Dr Tharathip commented on the topic with valuable advice on the benefits of preventive measures, especially with the help of advanced technology and tools available at the hospital’s ‘Digestive and Liver Diseases Centre’. A colonoscopy is internationally regarded as the screening standard that protects against colon cancer. Together with CT scans and MRIs, the comprehensive the centre is well-equipped with state-of-the-art facilities that can effectively prevent, diagnose and treat disorders of the digestive tract, as well as its associated organs, including stomach, colon, liver, pancreas and oesophagus. The centre’s GI specialists are specifically trained to treat both acute and chronic diseases and provide early detection to advance diagnostic procedures with the best medical and surgical treatments.

Sukumvit Hospital, which began its operations 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 is the equipment, state-of-the-art MRIs, Cath labs and a 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.

Sukumvit Hospital 1411 Sukhumvit Road, (Ekkamai BTS) Phrakanong Nua, Wattana, Bangkok, Thailand 10110 02 391 0011 Facebook: @sukumvithospital OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 91

Know your immune health: Find out your cancer risk Immune Cell Tests | Cancer Tests:


here are an estimated 15 million new cancer cases around the world each year, 7.4 million being male and 6.7 million being female. This number is expected to increase to 25 million by 2035. • Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide contributing to nearly 15% of the total number of new cases. • Breast cancer (women only) is the second most common cancer with nearly 2 million new cases. • Colorectal cancer was the third most common cancer with nearly 1.5 million new cases. This growing cancer burden, within the overall context of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), in an ongoing key focus to governments, researchers and medical professionals around the world. ImmuneCells21 has a focus to offer the most upto-date approaches to accessing cancer risk, early detection of cancer, diagnosis of cancer, immunotherapy success, targeting of cancer treatments and monitoring reoccurrence rates of cancer. They offer a range of individualised tests from a world class molecular oncology laboratory. These tests can: • Measure your immune cells activity and cytotoxicity • Detect early signs of a developing cancer • Help to monitor existing cancers • Produce an individual profile of which cancer drugs and which natural substances can be used to achieve the best treatment outcomes



Key immune cell function and cancer tests: Natural Killer Cell Activity Test: Natural killer cells within our bodies have the ability to detect when other cells have undergone tumour transformation and destroy those transformed cancer cells. NK cells have the ability to identify and to eliminate cancer cells, pathogens, including viruses with high efficiency. As humans we have an average level of NK activity which is regarded as healthy, low functioning NK activity is associated with higher risks of cancer and lower immune protection. Cancer Biomarkers: A cancer biomarker refers to a substance or process that is indicative of the presence of cancer in the body. A CA biomarker may be a molecule secreted by a tumour or a specific response of the body to the presence of cancer. Different types of cancers release different substances which can be identified and measured from a simple blood sample. During cancer treatments, tumour markers can be used as one monitoring aspect. Circulating Tumour Cell Test (CTC): CTCs are cancer cells which have broken away from the primary tumour and have entered the bloodstream where they circulate and have the potential to generate metastatic disease. The CTC test provides information about the presence of Circulating Tumour Cells, their concentration, and immunophenotype, which may help to identify their origin.

Cancer Chemosensitivity Test: This test provides information about the efficacy of specific drugs on cancer cells derived from a single patient. The method incorporates two procedures, epigenetic analysis, and viability assays to validate the data. Cancer Natural Substance Sensitivity Test: This test examines the efficacy of natural biological substances or extracts on cancer cells. This assessment is based on three methods: the direct cytotoxic effect, stimulation of the immune system and the inhibition of proliferative signals in the cancer cells. Patients can have circulating cancer cells well before a tumour is noticeable on any scan or symptoms develop related to a tumour growth. This approach to early detection of cancer cells can put patients minds at ease if they are negative, or give the best possible chances of successful treatments if they are positive. If a patient is positive for cancer cells in circulation or is already diagnosed with cancer looking for treatment, there are many alternative based approaches available.

Some of the most exciting and successful treatments available today are: Immunotherapy: the patients own natural killer cells (NK cells) are expanded in numbers and optimised to be cytotoxic & immunity stimulatory. RNA Therapy: Ribonucleic acid are polymeric molecules essential for various biological roles in coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes. We can select specific RNA such as Thymus, Spleen, Lymph nodes and Bone Marrow. Photodynamic Therapy: light sensitive photo sensitiser products which bind to cancer cells are given to the body, then specific wavelengths of lasers are used to activate the molecules. Anti-cancer Infusions: various anti-cancer natural products can be infused to patients such as IV Curcumin, Amagdalin, Artisunate, Resveratrol, Hyperacin, GcMAF. For more information on cancer screening or treatment, visit: or call 02 650 7709 OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 93

Can lifestyle choices prevent cancer? by Judith Coulson-Geissman


ctober and November are global cancer prevention months. The WHO has published the following cancer facts in 2008:

At least one third of all cancer cases are preventable. Prevention offers the most cost effective long term strategy for the control of cancer. About 30% of cancer deaths are caused by the five leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, alcohol use and could be prevented.



Cancer can also be caused by: physical carcinogens, such as ultraviolet and ionising radiation;chemical carcinogens, such as asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin (a food contaminant) and arsenic (a drinking water contaminant); and biological carcinogens, such as infections from certain viruses, bacteria or parasites. In 2015 the global medical establishment as well as several national cancer research centres around the world have changed the number of preventable cancer cases closer to 50%. Screening tests can help detect malignancies in their earliest stages, but you should always be alert for symptoms of the disease. The American Cancer Society developed this simple reminder years ago:

C: Change in bowel or bladder habits A: A sore that does not heal U: Unusual bleeding or discharge T: Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere I: Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing O: Obvious change in a wart or mole N: Nagging cough or hoarseness You don’t have to be an international scientist to understand how you can try to protect yourself and your family. Harvard Medical School has put together the following 7 commandments of cancer prevention: 1. Avoid tobacco in all its forms, including exposure to secondhand smoke. Additional note: The newest research shows, that e-smoking devices have an equal impact on your health as normal smoking habits.

Feature 2. Eat properly Reduce your consumption of transand saturated fats as well as red meat, which appears to increase the risk of colon and prostate cancers. Limit your intake of processed products especially meat products like sausage, hot dogs, cold cuts, meatballs etc. and avoid deep-fried foods. Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains. Two large studies in 2003 found that high-fibre diets may reduce the risk of colon cancer. 3. Exercise regularly. Physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer, and it may even help prevent prostate cancer. Exercise also appears to reduce a woman’s risk of breast and possibly reproductive cancers. Exercise will help protect you even if you don’t lose weight. Additional note: Exercise is boosting your immune system and is helping you prevent chronic

disease that could increase the risk of cancer in the long run. Exercise at least 150 minutes per week if needed start with something as easy as walking 8-10,000 steps a day. 4. Stay lean Obesity increases the risk of many forms of cancer. Calories count. If you need to slim down, take in fewer, nutrient dense calories and burn more energy with exercise. Additional note: There are several reasons including physical and emotional stress that can make staying lean difficult. It is sometimes worthwhile to talk to a nutritionist, fitness or lifestyle coach to lead us in the right direction for adjustments. 5. Moderate alcohol consumption Excess alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, larynx (voice box), oesophagus (food pipe), liver, and colon; it also increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Smoking further increases the risk of many alcoholinduced malignancies.

Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Examples of one drink include: Beer: 12 fluid ounces (355mL) Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148mL) Distilled spirits (80 proof): 1.5 fluid ounces (44mL) Additional note: Unfortunately the recommendations above are still the official statements from most government agencies, based on a lack and feasibility of research. Personally I would limit alcohol to 2-3 drinks a week. 6. Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation. Get medical imaging studies only when there are other symptoms indicating that you need them. Check your home for residential radon (radioactive, colourless, odourless, tasteless noble gas), which increases the risk of lung cancer. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 95

Protect yourself from ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, which increases the risk of melanomas and other skin cancers. As far as research shows today, there is no evidence that electromagnetic radiation from highvoltage power lines or radio frequency radiation from microwaves and cellphones, cause cancer. Additional note: Thai hospitals like to offer unnecessary X-rays to increase your medical bill. Ask for alternative assessment treatments and use common sense when in doubt. 7. Avoid exposure to industrial and environmental toxins Be aware of asbestos fibres, benzene, aromatic amines, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

8. Avoid infections that contribute to cancer Take action to prevent hepatitis viruses, HIV, and the human papillomavirus. Many are transmitted sexually or through contaminated needles. These lifestyle changes will yield another cancer-preventing benefit: if you stay healthy, you won’t need cancer treatments (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, drugs that suppress the immune system) that have the ironic side effect of increasing the risk of additional cancers. (Harvard Medical School, April 2009)

About the author: Judith Coulson is a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist, Positive Psychologist and Nutrition & Lifestyle coach working with individuals, executive teams, schools and companies based in Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore.

As always, prevention is the best medicine.











An American’s first rugby experience by Jocelyn Pollak


ompared to its rowdier counterparts in cities like Hong Kong, the Singapore Sevens Rugby Tournament is billed as the “Family 7s”. What a perfect venue for an unwed, childless, American to see their first rugby game; I’m referring to myself in case it wasn’t implied. However, as an American, I love a good sports game no matter what it is so when I had the opportunity to attend this event, I was psyched! I brought a friend along who is a frothing at the mouth rugby fan which really helped me try to discern what this strange version of the NFL was all about. I arrived in Singapore on a Friday night for my weekend of sports. I normally don’t include stuff in my writing about the hotels I stay in, but this trip warrants an exception. First



of all, in my past life, I worked in corporate America and stayed in some pretty swank hotels. Now, I’m a teacher. No one becomes a teacher to get rich so trying to find a teacher-priced hotel in Singapore was a challenge. I ended up splurging a little and getting a great deal at the Carlton City Hotel, which was 4 stars more than hotels I have been staying in as of late. I justified the splurge because I was splitting the cost and hey, I gotta live a little. I was greeted at the airport by the hotel driver and asked to wait a minute while he got the car. I specifically remember my friend asking what kind of car it would be; I replied, probably just a Toyota or something. Nope, it was a brand-new Mercedes. It was literally the nicest car I have ever been in; I think it was from the year 2025. Upon

check-in, the hotel manager greeted me and asked if it would be alright if they upgraded me into the Executive Club Room. Um, no that’s not a problem at all. Oh, and did I mention, free alcohol from 6-8PM. Everything about this hotel was awesome: location, pool, breakfast, service, room, sky bar and the fact that we didn’t have to spend $16 for a beer. It was a really unexpected jewel of the trip. I’ve still got the shampoos and lotions to remember it next time I’m in a slimy hostel shower; come on, we all take these free bottles, not just us teachers. The next morning, we were up bright and early so that we didn’t miss the start of the tournament. When we arrived at the stadium (via subway like normal people), there were all sorts of

Expat Life

“The popular Spartan race had an obstacle course that looked like a seven year old’s dream day. I spotted a ball pit and all the exhibitor booths had family centred contests and games. If I had kids, this would be a somewhat ideal venue to take them to.”

family friendly activities set up. The popular Spartan race had an obstacle course that looked like a seven year old’s dream day. I spotted a ball pit and all the exhibitor booths had family centred contests and games. If I had kids, this would be a somewhat ideal venue to take them to. The stadium is impeccably clean and safe, it is Singaporean after all, and I still can’t understand the physics of how it is air conditioned while one end zones

is totally open to the sky. Compared to my usual stadium experience at home (100+ year old Wrigley Field in Chicago), this place felt like I was in some kind of future world. Out comes the American in me… How the heck do you play rugby? Prior to this event, my only knowledge of rugby was that they don’t wear pads/ helmets, they throw backwards and there are a lot of guys with cauliflower ears. This was the perfect event for a

first rugby experience. It’s only 7 against 7 (hence the name of the tournament) and it’s fast paced. Games only last about 20 minutes and there aren’t a lot of players to follow so it’s easy to learn the basics quickly. By the time the American team played, I was ready to cheer hard. As an expat, visiting a different foreign country, it was a cool experience to cheer for my country’s team. There are a couple guys on the team who are ex-sprinters so they were fast! All in all, I really enjoyed the tournament and clearly the families in attendance did too. I haven’t experienced other events like this, but from what I understand, they are usually a raucous drunken mess and everyone is in costumes. Perhaps the fact that a beer was something like $16 kept the drunkenness to a minimum here, but the event organisers also clearly billed it as a family event. Not to say that the non-family people didn’t have a great time (I did), but the family theme was very clear. It was really cute to see all the kids show up in costumes with their parents and have a great time. For Thailand expats with families, I would absolutely put this on your must attend list next year. It’s just a two hour flight to Singapore and compared to the other hectic city options in SE Asia for travel, Singapore is orderly and safe. In my 6 years of living in Thailand, this was the closest thing I’ve been to that resembled a sports experience from home. Definitely check it out in 2019! OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 99


The UK's leading co-educational school for children aged 2-18 Inspiring academic excellence with a culture of kindness, confidence and curiosity

To find out more, please contact our Admissions Team:

8/8 Krungthep Kreetha Soi 15/1 100



Welcome to English camp by Laura Bagin


ne weekend in November 2000 a group of inspired, energetic women decided to bring a little bit of a “Western” summer camp to a group of underprivileged Thai high schoolgirls. With that the American Women’s Club of Thailand English Camp was born. Peace Corp Volunteers came to the AWC Scholarship Committee earlier in the year. They wondered if it would be possible to develop a programme that would allow these girls to enjoy a learning environment that would involve them with native English speakers to help with their language skills. The AWC already had the school connections with their Scholarship Programme that was started 5 years earlier. The committee reached out to Thinopatwittaya School in the northern province of Phrae to see if they would be able to host the camp. Their facilities were large enough to accommodate the 125 students, 20 advisors and 22 volunteers. It was a rousing success! The AWC English camp provides a cross-cultural opportunity for girls in the Scholarship Programme.

Although the girls are all Thai, camp provides the chance for them to learn about the differences between provinces. This all-expenses-paid weekend gives them the chance to meet new students from different backgrounds. For many of these girls this is the first time they have gone anywhere outside their village without family. While the classes are a bit different today, the core programme for camp hasn’t changed in 18 years. A rotation of 7 classes, communal lunch, two evening

programmes and lots of fun and laughs. It makes for a busy two and a half days. Today’s activities include our version of Scattergories (encouraging the girls to use the forgotten dictionary), Pronouns (something the Thai language doesn’t have), Divide and Conquer (learning how to put sentences together), Just Say It (working on hard-to-pronounce sounds), and Quiz Game (testing all types of cultural, historical, and contemporary knowledge). OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 101

The camp curriculum is designed to enhance each student’s use of spoken English and provide them a better comprehension of the language. Speaking English is encouraged, but the Peace Corps Volunteers help with translation when necessary as do other Thai-speaking volunteers. The programme advisors also enjoy attending camp. It helps improve their English skills as well and gives them new tools to take back to their own schools. The students’ English is only as good as their teachers’. Helping improve the teachers’ proficiency



keeps the benefits of camp moving forward in a whole new dimension. English camp provides opportunities for the volunteers, too. Many of the people who come to lend a hand have never been to the rural Thai landscape. It is a chance for them to see a different part of the country. They get to see the simplicity of life that many Thais lead. It is a different perspective than you get from the comfort of a tourist resort. It also provides the platform for the volunteers to better understand the importance of the AWC Scholarship Programme. What a joy it is to see

these bright eager minds soaking up all that they can. Without the extra financial support most of these girls would not be able to stay in school. The highlight for the volunteers is the chance to interact with our girls, getting to know them on a more personal level. For some, camp provides the opportunity to meet the student that they personally sponsor. Even though there may be a language barrier, it is remarkable how easy it is to communicate with them. They enjoy hearing about our experiences back home, wherever that may be. They love hearing about our children and grandchildren, our pets and our hobbies.

Your child will experience unique learning opportunities because we are one of the Nord Anglia Education family of schools, the leading provider of international education. Your child will get all the benefits of global collaborations with world class organisations like the Juilliard School of the Performing Arts and the Massachusetts Institue of Technology (MIT). Your child will have the best teachers who encourage them to be ambitious in their learning. Your child will have all of these advantages and more at Regents International School Pattaya. Join the most sought after boarding and day school on the Eastern Seaboard that believes there are no limits to what your child can achieve. Come and experience the difference for yourself. Visit our website to book a tour or call +66 (0) 93 135 7736.

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English camp is an amazing experience for both our students and our volunteers. It provides a unique opportunity for our girls to leave their home province, meet new friends (both Thai and Western), and improve their English skills. It allows the volunteers to meet some amazing young women and see a different Thailand outside of the confines of Bangkok. This year’s English Camp will be held at Tao Ngoi Pattanaseuksa School in the northeast region of Thailand. Camp dates are November 9-11, 2018.



If you are interested in volunteering at this year’s AWC English Camp please contact Laura Bagin at: It will be a once in a lifetime experience that you will carry with you long after your time in Thailand is over.

Visit Email OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 105



The relaunch of the Queen’s Gallery Madame Astrid the wife of the Colombian Ambassador in Thailand, is also a passionate art and culture promoter. She has been actively collaborating promoting art institutions in Thailand such as relaunching the Museum of Chulalongkorn University with their first international art exhibition.


romoting art in public spaces like several exhibitions in malls, inviting schools to workshops with artists, or advocating for Thai artists internationally, with three artists already signed up for the cover page of international magazines.    I heard that you are working on two ambitious art projects can you introduce them? Yes, we have two art events that will be part of the Bangkok Art Biennale and also one will have Bangkok Art Cultural Centre (BACC) as a partner and as part of their 10th year anniversary celebration. The relaunch of The Queen's Gallery with the "Queen's Gallery international tribute to the Queen"  an exhibition from distinguished artists from seven different countries including Thailand.



The first "Art & Creativity School Fair" (ACSF) and the first "Thailand Art Talent" contest TAT. Leading schools will shine with their best artworks and performances. From: October 8 to 22 Grand Opening on September 12. At: Queen’s Gallery a beautiful modern 5 floor gallery created in response to the wishes of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit as a public space for all to enjoy and to promote Thai art. Located at Ratchadamnoen Klang Road (near Phanfa Bridge).  Open daily 10am – 19.00 except Wednesdays. How did the idea come out?  I was part of a group of wives of Ambassadors invited to a lunch and exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery this year and I was surprised that none of us had visited the gallery so I told them that we should organise a big event to promote this beautiful gallery. The gallery gladly agreed and we started working. What do you want to achieve?  To promote the Queen’s Gallery, to engage people to take advantage of the public cultural places available here to enjoy art, to promote not only the art of Thai artists but it is necessary to bring also art from artists from different countries and cultures. These exhibitions will open minds and will benefit Thai artists to grow, it will also attract and strengthen ties with the Thai, International and diplomatic communities. 

Arts and Culture

“To promote the Queen’s Gallery, to engage people to take advantage of the public cultural places available here to enjoy art, to promote not only the art of Thai artists but it is necessary to bring also art from artists from different countries and cultures.” OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 109

“These exhibitions will open minds and will benefit Thai artists to grow, it will also attract and strengthen ties with the Thai, International and diplomatic communities.”



Arts and Culture

The first "Art & Creativity School Fair" (ACSF) that will also have the first "Thailand Art Talent" TAT contest. BACC Bangkok Art Cultural Centre is our partner, as part of their 10th year anniversary celebration. BACC are also one of the three judges of the TAT contest. In this fair, schools will shine through their student's creativity. Creative education is the biggest and most important educational movement taking place in world leading capitals. How did the idea originate? After visiting schools art departments here in BKK, I had the pleasant surprise of seeing great artworks and art performance, creative programmes, and beautiful art centres. I wanted to share all this creativity with the community, to empower this talent, to inspire other students, to promote schools for its creative education so we started organising the first "Art & Creativity School Fair." We had a very short time as schools started their holidays. Schools saw it as a amazing project and we are starting this first fair with leading schools that immediately jumped on the project. As we are writing the article we already have Shrewsbury, Concordian, Harrow, KIS, Bromsgrove, Wattana, Ruamrudee, Wells, Rose Marie Academy and other schools that are just confirming this week.

From: September 29 to Oct 5th with the Grand Opening on September 29. At: River City Centre who will also be a host for The Thailand Biennale. Located at: 23 Soi Charoen Krung 24, Khwaeng Talat Noi, next to Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 111

Where to find art in Bangkok by Johanna Stiefler Johnson


angkok isn’t known for its art exhibits, but hidden gems scattered throughout Bangkok do have art to offer. Several galleries and museums across the city allow opportunities for art lovers to experience the historical, the contemporary, and the unique.

Museum of Contemporary Art Bangkok’s Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA, is located outside of the city. About a twenty minute drive from Nonthaburi, the museum can be found in a white cube-shaped building with a dazzling flower-like design of windows across it. The grounds are enclosed by carefully pruned hedges, and a mirror-like pond complete with a white sculpture resembling a bouquet of closed tulips. MOCA is perhaps the largest and best source of modern art in Bangkok, because of its size and variety. In addition to contemporary art, it includes exhibitions of local and historical art, with displays of artists from different generations. The museum exhibits traditional Thai art along with the work of international artists, spread across several levels that are pleasant to walk through. When I visited the museum, I had virtually every



exhibit to myself; I was accompanied only by the guards standing at the entrances of each who made me feel very welcome. The walls were full of paintings of all styles, and sculptures in varying materials were scattered here and there. The space was so impeccably clean that the floor reflected every piece of art like water. You can lose yourself at Bangkok’s Museum of Contemporary Art, walking slowly through the tranquil exhibits or sitting at a bench to gaze at an artwork of particular interest. When your feet are tired, you can venture to the museum’s café for a cup of tea and a pastry to enjoy while overlooking the well-kept grounds. Nova Contemporary Nova Contemporary is accessible off the Ratchadamri BTS stop, but because it seems to be located behind a parking lot and beneath a series of apartments, it’s a little tricky to find. However, this tiny gallery is not to be dismissed. Stepping through the elegant door and into the cool, softly lit space is a wonderful experience – as is being greeted by the woman at the front desk,

Arts and Culture

who may briefly explain the exhibits to you, hand you a programme, and offer you free reign of the gallery. The space consists of just two small levels, but the displays are worth examining for a long period of time. At the time of my visit, several walls were decorated with large, abstract pieces of modern art which added splashes of neon to the cloud-grey walls. The lower level featured a display of zippered umbrellas that gallerygoers were allowed to zip and unzip as they pleased. A television in the same room showed how the umbrellas were used in a performance art piece by artist Moe Satt of Myanmar. Upstairs, a simple display of portraits entitled Heads in the Head, by Parinot Kunakornwong, offered further explosions of colour. I was drawn to these paintings for some time, examining the details and differences of each. Because of its small size, Nova Contemporary is not the type of gallery you put aside a day to visit; but it is a lovely place to wander into when you lack some contemporary art in your life and long for the serene silence of a room full of paintings. Art in Paradise This unique, interactive art museum is a great option for those with children. Art in Paradise, located in Esplanade Bangkok shopping centre, is full of fascinating 3D art exhibits for people to interact with and enjoy with friends. This museum is more suited to a fun outing with friends and family than a quiet place to look at art, but there are plenty of interesting things to see. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 113

Here, you may pose for photos with entertaining art pieces that are actually quite ingenious, when you consider how their hyper-realistic designs can make them appear three-dimensional. There are countless different exhibits here; you can walk across a precarious cliff painted on the floor, sit in a Venetian gondola, climb the vines of a jungle, crawl across a room turned upside down, and pretend to escape from the biting teeth of a great white shark – to name a few. Art in Paradise has something for everyone, and is worth a visit for people of all ages. Bangkok Art and Culture Center You can access the Bangkok Art and Culture Center from a large overpass that connects to shopping centres like MBK and Siam Square One. Standing on the breezy overpass to watch colourful taxis and tuk-tuks fly by underneath is quite enjoyable, but the centre’s accessible location is just one of its positive attributes. The atmosphere inside is pleasant, as the open layout allows for natural light to pour in through large windows. Multiple levels are visible from wherever you stand, with wraparound balconies offering tastes of the exhibits on the floors above. The first few levels of the centre are lined with shops and stands selling everything from handmade tote bags to violins to spray paint. The shops contain arts and crafts supplies, books, jewellery, and more. There are also a few cafés at which weary museum-goers can relax. Meanwhile, artists sit on chairs here and there, selling their artworks and painting portraits on request. The lowest level is home to exhibits and an art library that contains a variety of books, and tables where



people can sit and work, should they feel inspired. When I visited, the floor was filled with a design exhibition that displayed fascinating dresses, textile artworks, and even a set table – including a kettle, nuts, and oranges – made entirely of fabric. On the upper levels you’ll find the more standard art exhibits, which range in time period and style. The rounded architecture of the centre allows for a comfortable experience walking through the exhibits, as the layout leads you in a natural loop. After a relaxing time admiring the artworks, it is equally as lovely to emerge from the dim lighting of the exhibitions and enter the sunny atrium of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, perhaps in time to enjoy a refreshing cup of iced coffee.

Arts and Culture

About the author: Johanna Stiefler Johnson is Danish and American, but grew up moving around Asia, Europe, and the United States because of her father’s work with the UN. She is currently an undergraduate at Boston’s Emerson College, where she majors in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and minor in Environmental Studies. Her fiction work has appeared in The Greensboro Review, Blacklist journal, and Polaris magazine. Her main issues of interest are the environment, animal protection, and feminism.

1998-2018 OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 115

Do we “get up ourselves”

obtaining international cultural capital – for example, the English language and other social norms). We can do a lot to improve the randomness of social inequalities in Thailand through our attitudes and behaviour.

by John Wilson

How to improve your relations with the working Thais:


obody gets to choose where they are born. Many foreigners living in Thailand “get up on themselves”. That is, through an accident of birth, education and an increased spending power, say, with new personal drivers, they turn into little dukes and duchesses. With the “me first” generation this can easily turn into an unearned sense of entitlement and an inappropriate escape into narcissism. Thailand has a wellbeing index of xyz. French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, divided wealth into economic, social and cultural capital. With our degrees and the knowledge of travellers, our connections and savoir vivre, we are comparatively prosperous and can depend on a lot of social mobility. Many of the working Thais have had only basic education. They know nothing about business cycles or macroeconomics. Their understanding of money is based on a monthly salary. Their social capital is based on friends and relatives. We are their personal connection with the international community (their source for



Always smile, be very polite and friendly.The Thais appreciate small gifts – fruit, confectionary – and any sign of generosity and consideration. Don’t think your life is secret. The security guards know everything about you. They love to gossip about you, so everyone has a reputation. Yours will gain through unknown friends and admirers where you live! Expat Life – Social Capital Thailand is a low wage economy and it there are plenty of opportunities for foreigners to "get up on themselves". Getting up on yourself commonly occurs when you get a driver to take you around Bangkok. Suddenly, you are in the class of business gatherings and diplomatic parties. You are no longer a bookkeeper from Essex and are now an international management accountant heading for CEO. Pierre Bourdieu was a sociologist whose interest focused on social class and stratification along with inequality.


Groups can use cultural practices and symbols to distinguish themselves, both signalling and constituting their position in the social structure. In sociology there are three types of capital: economic capital, social capital and cultural capital.* Social capital is about who you know, how you can exert power and accumulate prestige through contacts – but it does not include what everyone knows about you. The Thais love to gossip and, in the local community, every farang has a reputation establishing their position in an informal hierarchy. Be not too assured. The local Thais know all about you. They know your family circumstances, what you own, what you keep in your apartment, your drinking habits, who you argue with and who is indulging in part-time adultery. Being too up on yourself can involve not bothering to learn basic Thai, becoming increasingly selective about who comes to dinner and being rude and dismissive towards tradespeople. So give a decent tip to Thai waitresses – at least 20B per diner (not just yourself). Make sure she gets it and it does not disappear into a box. Never show anger or impatience when things go wrong. The Thais are conscientious managers and love to solve problems. You will improve your social capital considerably if you tip well, make small gifts to the security man, smile at people and try out basic Thai in short conversations. This will also indirectly improve your nations standing in international affairs. So "getting up on yourself " may feel good while it lasts but it does little to improve your reputation in the local community. Try some egalitarian conduct – it will pay dividends and boost your social capital on all levels.

*Bourdieu, Pierre. (1972) Outline of a Theory of Practice OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 117

About the Soroptimist International Club of Bangkok (SIB)


he Soroptimist International Club of Bangkok (SIB) is part of Soroptimist International, a worldwide organisation for professional women who volunteer their time to work on projects that promote human rights and raise the status of women.

“Chartered in 1977, our mandate is to inspire action and create opportunities for women and children through advocating for equality, promoting safe and healthy environments, increasing access to education, and developing skills for a sustainable future.” In Thailand, there are two chapters of Soroptimist of Bangkok International: SIB and its sister club Soroptimist of Dusit (SID). Each club meets once a month for lunch or dinner, to discuss club business such as our fundraising projects, provide networking opportunities among professional women,



and occasionally listen to guest speakers. Recent speakers have covered diverse topics, from the status of women and girls in Afghanistan to how to build an engaged and community-driven dialogue to address the deep-seated issues surrounding interpersonal violence. Throughout its four decades of existence, SIB has focused on education, funding scholarships, building dormitories and toilets in rural schools, and supporting vocational training for poor women and women prisoners. In addition, our club supports student nurses studying under the Queen Mother’s Foundation nursing programme. We hire nannies to care for children at the Pakkret orphanage. We developed an award-winning Cross Stitch of Love Project that helps hilltribe women in remote villages in Chiang Rai to market their remarkable cross stitch handicraft, generating income for themselves and their families. The club also supports the Siriraj Project, funding boarding for low-income families with gravely ill children under palliative care. This year, under the helm of new President Niru Narula Chansrichawla, SIB will also turn towards promoting sustainable development, working to reduce the use of disposable plastics and air pollution. According to Greenpeace, poor air quality shortens the lives of 50,000 people in Thailand annually, while negatively affecting the health of 2 million people in SE Asia. Planting a tree improves air quality by cooling

Expat Life

“All women with professional backgrounds in any industry or business are welcome to join us at our monthly meeting, to learn more about who we are and what we do to improve the lives of girls and women in Thailand.”

the area and removing pollutants within a 100 foot radius. While Thailand is top 5 worst polluters of plastic in the world generating almost one million tons annually. “It is our responsibility to look after mother nature for this generation and for generations to come,” says Niru. “Guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, going green and reducing plastic are pressing issues in today’s world.” All women with professional backgrounds in any industry or business are welcome to join us at our monthly meeting, to learn more about who we are and what we do to improve the lives of girls and women in Thailand. We meet every second Wednesday of the month for lunch at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel. For more information or to get in touch, please visit or follow our facebook page: Soroptimist International Club of Bangkok. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 119

Provence Finally my dream came true! by Monica Nilsson


few years ago I wanted to travel to Provence in France with the main goal to see the lavender fields that I had seen in so many post cards and travel magazines on flights etc. etc. It looked so amazingly beautiful.
It was in 2014 and hotels were prebooked etc. Luckily the flights were not booked because the vacation plans got ruined and changed due to a business trip to Edinburgh in Scotland instead and a Science conference I had to attend to. However it turned out to be a very good vacation after the working week. My husband joined me after 6 days and we spend 4-5 more days in Scotland, playing golf etc. It was just a bit different than we had planned from the beginning. Scotland turned out to be a fantastic destination and that year in particular, since 2014 was the warmest summer they had experienced in 20 years. We read the headline in their newspaper one morning “Another day of uncomfortable weather” and we smiled and thought to ourselves they are just not used to warm climate here. Now back to 2018 and finally heading to France. We started our journey in Nice and spent the evening and also the day after, by the Promenade de Anglais and around the harbour. In the morning we, like many more went to the local market opposite the Promenade. The fruits in all the stalls looked so nice and it was really tempting to buy a basket full of tomatoes, peaches etc. It was great atmosphere in that market. We



also walked up to the highest peak from where you have a fantastic view over the nice NICE(!) beach. After Nice our next stop was Monaco and Monte Carlo and we took a tour in a “Hop on – hop off ” bus. Usually this is a splendid way of getting a glimpse of a city for the first time and to tell you the truth I am not sure we had taken the time to go and see even the famous Casino if it wasn’t for that one of the stops was right next to it. I’m happy that we got the chance to see this place with all the rich and famous strolling outside blending with tourists, watching the Lamborghinis and Ferraris and McLaren luxury cars. Not to mention all the enormous yachts in the harbour. Gosh, so much money and capital in one place! It sure is a different world from Bangkok and Sweden as well. It was also quite amazing to think of that the Formula 1 Grand Prix race goes through the number of tunnels

there is and that they are driving at 200km/hr(!!) I wouldn´t do that for all the money in the world. We then drove back towards Nice but had booked 15km outside of Nice high up from Cagnes-sur-Mer towards the mountain and a fantastic hotel called Chateau Le Cagnard, which I highly can recommend. The hotel is situated in a medieval castle and beautifully restored and decorated. We learned that it is a Swedish owner to this place and that was my guess already for breakfast the following day. Who else would choose to serve herring and salmon at the breakfast buffet? Not a French person any how is my guess. The room we stayed at was really lovely and I was very thrilled about the staff´s willingness to offer me the room I had seen on the hotel´s website. In the evening we walked up to the top of this area where you find numerous


restaurants and a chapel. There is also a boule area in the public square. What we didn’t know was that they didn’t serve any food between 14:30 and 19:00 and exactly 14:30 we arrived together with some other tourists very hungry and thirsty. Thank goodness that beer can be quite filling. It was long but still hours until we finally got our pizzas around 19:20. It was time for us to leave for the next destination, which was Marseille. Marseille has been know more for being an old industrial city with lots of problems earlier such as higher criminality than other cities in France but has improved in many ways the last ten years or so as I have understood. We stayed in the harbour and it was time for the Football World Championship Semi

Final this our first evening. We cheered and laughed and clapped our hands together with a lot of football fans and we shared their joy at a nice restaurant close by. It was a memorable evening to be in the “right” country for this event this time I must say. Day two we spent in the fantastic artistic alleys and if you like to see mural art this is the place to go. It is everywhere you turn and some of them are really amazing. You could sense the bohemian side of Marseille here. By the harbour there is also a new modern cool arty, touristic thing in a big space and that is a huge roof mirror out doors. Everyone wanted to look up and take photos in the reflection. No need for

selfies. You took a photo up towards the roof to get your selfie(!). Some street acrobats came also and drew the attention to the public for a while with their show. There is a cute blue train (looks like a big toy train), which you can take around the city and we did that too and we did an early morning walk the last day up to the cathedral on the hilltop – Notre Dame de la Garde. It was a hot and very steep walk but worth it of course. There are many churches and cathedrals in Marseille but we picked the highest located one mainly for the view. So, finally after a number of great days and fantastic French cities it was time to go to Aix en Provence to look for charm, lavender fields and vineyards. I had booked a hotel with a very common name – Hotel de France located in a small square: www.hoteldefrance-aixen and it was just perfectly located and quite charming too. Right outside the entrance door was a café/pub and 3-4 other places with lots of people drinking, chatting and enjoying themselves. The first thought was: – Oh boy, we will have a noisy night in this place and lack of sleep!! But in fact it was the opposite. When you opened our hotel room window it was very loud from all the people, but once you shut the window it was totally 100% sound proof. Thank goodness. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 121

We were also impressed with watching outside in the morning when everything was emptied, no chairs, no tables no nothing – so that the cleaning of the street could be possible. Around 8am it was spick and span, clean and almost spotless. Fantastic. 15 minutes after the cleaning was done, the restaurant staff put everything out again and the morning Espresso could be served. I almost immediately fell in love with this place. The market, all the nice streets, the wine, the cheese we ate was incredible. Warm Camembert with smoked Chorizo sausages, toasted small bread. Just yummy, that’s all and in perfect French setting. It was only the man with the French beret and a accordion that would have made this almost “too good to be true”. We spent three nights here in this charming



town and then head off to the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Senanque – a monastery I had read about that is supposed to be surrounded by lavender fields. And yes, there was lavender in front of the place but there were also hundreds of people taking photos. We paid tickets and went inside but it was not much to see actually, just three empty medieval “rooms” so not worth the 22€ if you ask me. The best places came when we had left and it was actually on our way back to Nice when we choose “not high way-roads” and we had lavender and vineyards all around us. Magnificent is the best word. It was just so beautiful everywhere we looked. Back in Nice and chose to be close to the seaside again. It was the final and then I mean the final of the World Cup. My goodness what a joy to see all the people cheering and they were so very happy. They won the Gold medal. Best in the whole world in football to hold fours years to come – not bad at all. We were very happy for them and as one girl said at the restaurant later on by the promenade de Anglais: You know we suffered so much pain and sorrow after the terror attack and now this – I think we deserve it! Some joy, celebration and laughter to our people. I can only agree with her. Vive La France. This story could have ended nicely here, but in fact it didn´t. Our last day turned out a bit different than we expected. Many years ago I was in San Remo Italy celebrating a jubilee with co-workers from Malmö, Sweden. I wanted to go back with my husband to show him where we were and also to visit the Alfred Nobel museum. Between Nice and San Remo is just an hour drive so we checked out from our hotel and took off. Along some Italian roads we came to the seaside and San Remo only to find that the museum was closed. I recalled it was Monday but in fact this museum was closed both Monday and Tuesday. Remember this folks if you ever go. So my dear husband just has to live with it, without having seen the summer home of Alfred Nobel. I think knowing him that he takes this quite well. We found the great hotel Royal in San Remo and I got a bit nostalgic since we spent 3 very nice days there and I also remember the “freeflow” we were offered as part of our celebration one evening, in the hotel bar and a few nice Mimosa drinks we enjoyed there me and a colleague. Memories. Good memories. I was not too happy in that working place (a law firm) but I must say that this trip was very nice and memorable, in all aspects. Only the roads could be improved a bit but besides all was great. Back to Nice and we took this time the highway, which in fact is a quite nice one for being a highway. You have the mountains on the side, great view all around and through some tunnels etc. Not too bad at all. We went straight to the airport to return the hire car and had planned to enjoy the business lounge since we both are Gold members of Star Alliance. Car returned, bags


checked in, looking hungry for the lounge only to find there isn’t one. SAS and Star Alliance only has a business lounge left in Paris we were told. I am not sure if this is the truth but in Nice there is none. Time for a meal then in a airport restaurant with lots of noisy kids running around, a chicken that was not cooked enough and had to go back to the kitchen etc. Time to go to the gate for boarding. There came next surprise! 40 minutes before the flight was supposed to take off, it said cancelled on the sign. What?!! OK – to make a long story short we had to spend another night in Nice and we were happy that the airport is so close that it only takes 15-20 minutes to go back to the promenade again. It didn´t bother us too much since we still had vacation so we just went down to the closest restaurant and shared a bottle of nice red wine and had dessert and went back to Copenhagen the next morning around 10. All was settled quite smoothly and we were rebooked by SAS very fast. There was a thunderstorm in the evening so we guess the cancellation was due to the weather. In that case in fact one should be thankful that they take this precaution and decision and not risk our lives. To summarise – it was fantastic 11 days in France, which I highly can recommend to anyone. It is not the cheapest destination in Europe but to go there at least once in your lifetime – please do! We met very friendly and nice people and I must say their English skills have improved over the last 20 years. Good for them! And for the rest of us. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 123

An intolerance to allergies: common allergies and food intolerances by Dr Donna Robinson


ow many times have you eaten something and thought ‘could I be allergic to that?’ It’s not surprising that this is a common worry of ours as allergies are indeed really quite common and considered to be on the rise. It’s not exactly known what might be causing the rise in allergies around the world – it may be that we are less exposed to germs as children or it could just be that, with better food packaging, we are more easily able to identify what might have caused us to feel unwell after eating something. Nevertheless, eating foods that you are unknowingly allergic to can leave you feeling generally unwell, can affect your concentration and mood and, in some cases, can lead to more serious long-term consequences. It’s also really quite important from a medical perspective to distinguish whether you are allergic to something or whether you just have an intolerance to it. Knowing which one of these two health impacts will determine how you can best avoid any immediate symptoms and long-term consequences. So what is an allergy?

An allergy is when our body has an inappropriate or exaggerated response to any particle (usually to a certain food or a certain air particle). Our body thinks that the ‘particle’ is something that definitely shouldn’t be inside us and as a result, rejects it. As your body rejects the ‘particle’, you may feel symptoms such as: • Sneezing • Runny nose • Reddened, itchy, watery eyes • Wheezing and coughing • Difficulty breathing (in the case of an anaphylactic reaction) • Red, itchy rashes • Exacerbation of eczema or asthma symptoms



What’s the difference between an allergy and food intolerance? The key difference is that with a food intolerance, your body is not actually rejecting the food/particle. Instead, your body does not know how to deal with the food once it’s inside your gut. Usually, when we eat food, our digestive system breaks food down into smaller pieces so that we can absorb nutrients. If you have a food intolerance, your digestive system might just not have the correct ‘tools’ (i.e. enzymes) to break this particular food down into smaller pieces and the undigested food leaves you feeling unwell. You may have symptoms of: • Bloating • Migraines/headaches • Feeling under the weather • Stomachache • Irritable bowel So the symptoms of an allergic reaction and a food intolerance are really quite similar. The one difference is that being exposed to one tiny drop of something that you allergic to could immediately trigger all of the symptoms above. With a food intolerance, it’s usually the more of the food you eat, the more unwell you feel. Generally speaking, the symptoms of a food intolerance appear with slower onset after eating the food (i.e. about 1-4 hours after consumption).

Health How do you develop allergies?

How do you develop food intolerances?

You can either be born with allergies or you can develop allergies at any given point in your life. Allergies are more often first discovered in young children but it is not uncommon for adults to develop them and be ‘diagnosed’ with a certain allergy later in life. The reason that we allof-a-sudden can develop allergies during adulthood is not exactly known – it’s thought to be because our immune systems gradually begin to weaken. If you were previously allergic to something as a child or teenager and ‘outgrew’ this allergy, you are greater risk of developing an allergy again later in life.

Food intolerances are mostly explained by when our body lacks that certain ‘tool’ to break down food that we discussed earlier. Lactose intolerance is the perfect example of this – a person is lactose intolerant if they do not have lactase, the enzyme that breaks lactose down. However, sometimes, it can be caused by a condition called ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome’, a chronic condition where our bowel just doesn’t ‘agree’ with certain foods.

Common allergies include: • • • • • • • • •

Pollen from grass and trees, also known as ‘hay fever’ Dust mites Animal dander/dandruff Food – particularly nuts, dairy products, shellfish, and eggs Insect bites and stings Medication; e.g. Ibuprofen, aspirin, penicillin, and various antibiotics Latex Mould Household chemicals such as detergents and hair dyes

So do I have an allergy or an intolerance? If an exclusion diet does not alleviate your symptoms or if you receive a negative allergy screening test, you should consider consulting a doctor to exclude any more serious causes of regular stomach cramping/pain and stomach upset. Sometimes stress and other environmental factors can cause symptoms similar to a food allergy or food intolerance.

I am experiencing symptoms such as abdominal bloating and pain, excess gas, diarrhoea/ constipation regularly.

Do I have an allergy or intolerance?

Yes I have symptoms within 1 hour of eating this food Food allergy

Food intolerance I roughly know what food might be causing my symptoms No If you’re unsure, start by excluding the more common foods that people have intolerances to (i.e. gluten, lactose etc.) and observe how you feel

I know what food might be causing my symptoms

Yes Start by trying to exclude this food from your diet for at least 2 weeks. Re-introduce the food after 2 weeks and see if your symptoms come and go.

No Food Allergy Panel Screening (i.e.g all shellfish)

Yes Specific IgE Food Allergy Test for i.e. prawns OR Skin Prick Test OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 125

Allergy testing The allergy evaluation begins with a thorough history to look for possible triggers of the symptoms that you are experiencing or have experienced. In cases in which there is no clear trigger, allergy testing for multiple foods or allergens can be preformed. There are two main ways that you can have allergy testing done – the skin prick test or by one simple blood test. A skin prick test involves placing a small drop of a protein extract (the ‘allergen’) on the skin (usually the forearm) and a small prick is made in the skin through the drop. The size of the swelling (the ‘wheal’) is measured after 10-15 minutes. Skin prick tests can be slightly uncomfortable (itchy) but are usually well tolerated, even by small children. Local itch and swelling normally subside within 1-2 hours. The skin prick test is considered to be more convenient and you can get the results in 20 minutes, but if a severe reaction to an allergen such as peanuts then blood testing is safer. The second option is allergy testing by one simple blood test. You can either select an allergy test for one specific food, for a group of similar foods (i.e. seafood) or opt for 20 common foods allergy (IgE) panel test or 20 common food and 20 common inhaled allergens panel test (IgE). This involves taking a small blood sample which is sent to a laboratory. Then you just need to wait for the result which you will receive by email shortly after. This is recommended for more serious allergies.
 What can I do If I am allergic or intolerant to something? Allergies and food intolerances can be quite an annoyance. Avoiding allergies and food intolerances, or the symptoms, can be achieved by various means. The simplest way is to avoid contact or exposure to the specific food as much as possible. However, this can be very difficult at times! When the actual allergen cannot be avoided, Dr Donna notes that the symptoms of allergies can also be mitigated through the use of anti-allergy medication, also known as antihistamines, which work by calming your body’s immune system’s response to the allergen and therefore lessen the symptoms they cause. Two common antihistamine/ anti-allergy medications that are usually available over the counter are Zyrtec and Claritin (Loratidine). Both have similar effects and are considered relatively safe to use. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Donna or her staff at MedConsult Clinic who will always be pleased to help or provide advice. 126


Allergy test

Typical cost (Baht)

Allergy Test for 1 Specific Food or Inhaled Allergen (i.e. for peanuts, for tuna, etc.)

900.00 – 1,800.00

Allergy Test for a Food Group Panel (i.e. for Seafood Panel: Tuna, Prawns, White Fish, etc.)

1,500.00 – 3,000.00

Allergy Test (IgE Test) for 20-panel Common Foods: Egg White, Egg Yolk, Milk, Wheat Flour, Rice, Sesame, Soya Bean, Peanuts, Hazelnuts, Beef, Pork, Chicken, Shellfish Mix, Fish Mix, Crab, Shrimp, Lobster, Blue Crab, Chocolate, Glutamate


Allergy Test (IgE) for 20-panel Common Foods and 20-panel Common Inhaled Allergens: Egg White, Egg Yolk, Milk, Wheat Flour, Rice, Sesame, Soya Bean, Peanuts, Hazelnuts, Beef, Pork, Chicken, Shellfish Mix, Fish Mix, Crab, Shrimp, Lobster, Blue Crab, Chocolate, Glutamate Tree Mix, Beefwood, Acacia, Oilpalm, Mixed Grasses, House Dust Mites Mix, Cockroach, Cat, Dog, Cage birds, Guinea pig, Mouse, Rabbit, Hamster, Mould Mix1, Mould Mix2, Candida

4,500.00 OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 127

Ever taken antibiotics? Here’s what you need to know by Monique Jhingon


hen a lingering cough kept getting worse and started to interfere with her ability to work Myra, an expat based in Bangkok, finally decided to go see a doctor. She happily accepted his recommendation to take antibiotics, one at first followed by a second dose. When that failed to help and the same doctor prescribed a 3rd dose she took it too, albeit reluctantly. What followed was something neither she nor the doctor had anticipated: a whole body crash. Myra reacted so severely to the 3rd round of antibiotics that she ended up in the emergency room. The saga didn’t end there: Myra had to fly back to her home country two weeks later, in a wheelchair, to start a long recovery. What became clear was that the medication she had been prescribed had affected her on multiple levels: her energy was almost non-existent, she was unable to tolerate most kinds of food and anything out of her diet routine, which was limited to a few basics staples triggered a severe reaction. When I spoke to Myra for the first time, about 5 months after the start of her issues, she was back in Bangkok, mostly homebound and still dealing with low energy levels. In addition to the extreme fatigue she was experiencing digestive issues and she was pretty desperate and ready to try anything to get back to feeling like her normal self. While Myra’s reaction to the triple dose of antibiotic treatment had been extreme and possibly related to a number of different factors, there was a strong possibility that the antibiotics had done more than just wipe out the bacterial infection in her lungs. It had most likely eradicated a significant part of her gut bacteria as well. Antibiotics are known to affect the health of our gut microbiome, which consists of trillions of microorganisms that play an essential role in many of our body functions, including energy production and digestion. While antibiotic treatment can literally be a lifesaver with respect to curing or preventing



life threatening infections they are unfortunately still handed out like candy at the first sign of a cold or flu, more so even in certain parts of the world. Most expats in Asia can relate to this. It is very rarely that I work with a client who doesn’t have antibiotic use as part of their health history. Restoring the microbiome therefore ends up being an important part of a holistic health-building programme and it was something I actively focused on with Myra. You can compare the microbiome to an inner ecosystem such as a tropical rainforest, which is housed in the gut. There are trillions of microorganisms and thousands of different species and some of those are, like in many of the world’s ecosystems, facing extinction. If you consider that all the different types of microorganisms play a unique role and help to maintain a delicate balance, you’ll begin to understand it is essential to support microbial diversity. There are several ways to help restore microbiome health. Taking a high quality probiotic supplement is a great starting point for most people and adding probiotic rich foods to the diet is another great way to help to introduce certain strains of beneficial bacteria into the gut. But what is turning out to be even more important than that is to encourage natural growth of the beneficial bacteria that are already in the digestive tract with the help of plant based whole foods. I came across an interview some time ago where it was said that our Palaeolithic ancestors ate, on average 600 different foods in one year. The estimated number of different foods in a typical modern Western diet is on average 20 per year. This lack of diversity in our diet is (in addition to antibiotic use, toxins, infections, etc.) what is contributing to a lack of microbial diversity in our gut and an inability to restore balance. So what do you do to help resolve that? Branch out! Step out of your comfort zone and try different foods. The aim is to include 40 different plant based, whole foods into your weekly diet routine.


While this may initially seem like a challenge, consider that a red onion is different from a yellow onion. Brown rice is different from red rice. If you are used to eating salads with your meals, try stepping away from the usual romaine lettuce and try a different type of lettuce, arugula or kale. Explore weekly farmer’s markets in your area and experiment with new seasonal produce. Myra got the hang of this pretty quickly and it was one of the things that helped her to achieve a remarkably quick improvement in her digestion and energy levels. When we spoke earlier this week she was happy to report that she is up and about and back to living a normal life. We are all creatures of comfort and it is easy to fall into a routine with regards to food. If you are feeling less than optimal or you have taken antibiotics try the food diversity challenge so that you can restore the health of your microbiome and create a positive ripple effect in your entire wellbeing.

If you need help with any of it, I invite you to a free Nutrition Breakthrough Session so we can discuss ways to have you feeling on top of the world. Be well.

About the author: 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: OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 129

Bees and quiet by Scott and Nori Brixen


fter four years in Bangkok, we had pretty much exhausted all the nearby weekend getaways. We had toured the aquarium in Suphanburi, fed farm animals in Nakhon Nayok, taken the train to Samut Songkhram, did a jungle hike in Khao Yai, hit the beaches in Hua Hin and Pattaya, cruised the rivers of Kanchanaburi and chilled out on Koh Samet. Friends and colleagues had mentioned Suan Phueng to me before. It sounded like a mini-Khao Yai: sheep farms, ATV rides and oddball hotels tucked up in the mountains near Myanmar. But Nori and I weren’t big fans of Khao Yai itself (except for the incredible national park), so we had never made it to the “Bee Garden”. I didn’t even know that it was located in Ratchaburi Province, just a few hours’ drive from Bangkok. One of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s twelve “Hidden Gem” provinces, Ratchaburi is west of Bangkok and south of Kanchanaburi. Its most famous attraction, the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, is on the Mae Klong River just upstream from Amphawa. West of the Mae Klong,



the province gets more mountainous, right up to its 60km border with Myanmar. On the drive south to Hua Hin, I’d often looked to the east at the range of blue peaks on the horizon and wondered what was up there. Now, I know: Suan Phueng. As you’d expect from the name, Suan Phueng is a clean, fertile place with ample runoff from the surrounding mountains. There were so many creeks that they numbered rather than named them. In the valley were fruit plantations, while thick stands of bamboo gave the rounded mountaintops a shaggy, cottony look. When I went for a run one morning, the air was so perfumed with flowers that I could taste it. In the evening, it was dead quiet and cool. Everyone in the world wants to come to Thailand. But Thais always seem to want to turn their homeland into someplace else. Any place with a bit of altitude and slightly cooler weather becomes “The Switzerland of Thailand”. On the highway to Hua Hin you pass the Santorini Hotel and Water Park. There are two Moroccanthemed hotels in the same area. And we will never forget our first glimpse of Toscana Valley near Khao Yai National Park, an impressively large Disneyland version of a Tuscan hill town. Like Khao Yai, Suan Phueng has a bizarre mix of kitschy themed

accommodation and attractions. We stayed at Stamp’s Hill Resort, a collection of delightful pseudoEuropean villas. The adults stayed in the “Rome” villa; the kids in Amsterdam. The Swiss Valley Hip Resort was just down the road. There were, of course, Tuscan-themed resorts and even vaguely African ‘huts’. There were pick-your-own strawberry farms and waterslide parks. But it was significantly cleaner and quieter than Khao Yai. We liked it. Early one morning we visited Alpaca Hill. I knew going in that there was a 50% chance it would be awful, despite the five-star reviews by a mostly Thai clientele. In general, Thais love anything ‘nah rak’ (cute), especially if there are multiple selfie opportunities. Sitting in the briefing area, I chuckled as an employee explained, in Thai, where not to pet an alpaca. (Don’t touch their butts.) And after the tenth time she said “Al Pairk Kahhhhhhhh”, I was stifling laughter. We were then supplied with a “Fur of the Gods” brochure in which the boys could collect stamps at each of 24 animal stations. It turned out to be great fun. We petted and were chased by greedy, snaggletoothed alpacas. The boys giggled as parakeets and budgerigars perched on their fingers


and heads. We cradled tiny hedgehogs in our hands, fed rabbits and capybaras, stroked chinchillas and scratched piggy bellies. And as usual, we lost Logan. (He had been daydreaming in the flamingo area.) As petting zoos go, Alpaca Hill was excellent. The animals looked well looked-after and the boys absolutely loved it. Later that same day, we drove down the valley to Baan Hom Thien (the House of Scented Candles). I expected a small candle workshop and a gift shop. Instead, it was an attractive Suan Phueng souvenir mini-mall that meandered uphill to a viewpoint. We were the last group of the day to do the candle-making class. First the boys chose an animal candle base (alpaca or sheep-shaped) and a colour for the wax

‘wool’. Once the wax had been melted, it was dunked in water to cool. That’s when the boys got to work, sticking clumps of Starburst-coloured wax onto their naked beasts. Few foreigners make it to Ratchaburi Province and Suan Phueng. Like Chiang Khan or Lampang, it’s something of a local tourism secret. (As such, it helps to speak some Thai.) If we had not come in the dry season, there were numerous trails to waterfalls that we might have explored. The Burmese border can also be visited on full-day 4WD expeditions. And the climate was pleasant, especially at night. Overall, we thought Suan Phueng was an excellent family-friendly excursion from Bangkok.

About the author: Two Twins Twavel 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 twinboys, Tai, Logan, Drake and Kiva. Follow their travels at: OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 131

Taking a proactive approach to your own health by Isabel Valle


irstly, let me start by saying that I am not writing this article on health and wellness from an expert’s perspective, but rather from someone who cares deeply about holistic health and wellness overall. This journey for me started a few years ago, when I had a serious health scare. I had only given birth to my second child less than a year prior, and



was having trouble hearing. An MRI showed a tumour in my head, and from then on things moved very quickly. Since I was living in the Borneo jungle at the time, and they lacked the resources to operate this kind of tumour, I was quickly evacuated to Singapore for surgery. I will never forget the day, at a Singapore hospital. My neurosurgeon at the time wanted me to make a decision on which plates to choose to replace a part of my skull once they removed the tumour in my head. I felt completely removed from the decision making of what was to happen to me, and deep down I had an unshakeable feeling that surgery was not the right course of action for me. Having two small children at the time, I was also concerned as to how we would cope in the months following surgery, as I was aware that recovery would take 4-6 months. I also felt there were other options that I wanted to explore

prior to making such a drastic decision, and I simply didn’t have the time or opportunity to explore if they were right for me. During my interactions with my doctor, I felt as well that he was primarily focused on the process itself, rather than myself and my personal circumstances, and by not including me in the process of making such an important decision about my health, I didn’t feel like I could trust that he had my best interest at heart. So on my last conversation with my neurosurgeon, and just hours prior to my scheduled surgery, I decided to confront him and asked him to consult with two other colleagues and come back to me with the exact same diagnosis and course of action. As I saw my husband’s face of panic, I assured him that if all 3 doctors came back with the same prognosis, I would oblige and go through with it, but if I felt that there were other options, he’d need to give me space to figure out what I felt was right for me. My neurosurgeon was not happy with my request, and yet he agreed to do it as he felt very confident about his conclusion. It was a long wait until he got back, and I’ll never forget his face as he entered the room. He told me that the three parties had differences of opinion, and even though he strongly suggested that I had it removed regardless, it gave me enough confidence to trust my gut and do what I wanted to do. At that time I had this overwhelming instinct to walk out and try something different. And so I did, and I never looked back. To cut the story short, I sacked my neurosurgeon and I continued to be monitored for a while by a paediatric neurosurgeon with a big heart; and, after 3 years, I was given a clear picture of health. “I don’t know what you’re doing, but whatever it is, keep doing it. This is one of the happiest tumours I have ever seen. I never though I’d say this, but I don’t ever want to see you again.” And with that, I had won the battle. This experience ignited a very personal revolution that taught me how to take responsibility for my health and wellbeing. I spent countless hours researching the fields of nutrition, natural living, holistic healing, mindset, spirituality, etc. As a result, I decided to live a holistic life, one where I looked after myself on all levels physical, mental,

Health and packaged stuff). Green juicing is a terrific way to get an instant blast of sustainable energy and you will also feel satisfied longer. Be aware of drinking loads of clean, purified water, and add a squeeze of fresh lemon to your glass to help alkalise your body. Dump refined sugars, fried foods and sodas from your life. If it’s made in a lab, your body won’t be able to digest it properly, and it will create inflammation, impairing our immune systems and fuelling disease in our bodies. Rule number 2: Exercise regularly emotional and spiritual. The results have been short of amazing, and you too can join the health revolution by just applying a few simple steps.

“Vibrant health is not just about what you eat, it’s also about dealing with what’s eating you.” Nowadays, the amount of information regarding health and wellness is simply overwhelming. It appears there is a new revolutionary diet released every week, and constant new developments and ways of doing things, which leaves us confused and afraid of making the wrong choices. The important piece here is that you choose to do something that works for you. We are all different, and so I wouldn’t expect a single approach to work for everyone. Whether you choose paleo, ketogenic, vegetarian, raw food, Ayurveda or others, it is entirely up to you. There are however some common guidelines that will help you at the time of making the switch. In everything that I do, I love simplifying things, and in order to help me stay on top of my health – and look and feel great – I have created 4 simple rules that I live life by, and I want to share them with you, in the hope that you’ll be able to easily adopt them in your own life too.

My 4 rules in life are as follows: Rule number 1: Eat nutritious food Food is your medicine. We can’t just eat what we like, but what our bodies need. When it comes to nutrition, I follow the very simple formula: nutrients in, toxins out. You not only need to provide your body with foods that will nourish it, but also ensure that whatever toxins are entering your body (i.e. environmental, ingested, through the skin or cleaning agents), you are actively reducing and removing the level of toxicity within your body. You can remove toxins by detoxing and learning to live green. Do your bit for yourself and the environment. The rule of thumb here is that you need to get back to nature and eat a plant based diet (that’s right, plenty of vegetables!), preferably organic or less sprayed with pesticides. You also need to learn about the health detriments of inflammatory foods (such as gluten, dairy, meat, sugar, coffee, soda, energy drinks, alcohol and processed foods – AKA the white

In our busy daily lives we seldom make time to exercise. Exercise and sweating helps us carry away waste, remove toxins and strengthen our bodies. It is also a natural mood and energy booster. Pick a type of exercise that you enjoy and a type of activity that is within your level. Whether this is bike riding, swimming, cross fit, running, brisk walking, yoga, etc, shake it 3 to 5 days per week for at least 35 minutes to really enjoy the benefits of exercise. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 133

huge impact in your life, and hopefully, become a role model for all those around you too. Eat right, exercise, sleep and rest. That’s it. Start where you’re at, then work out a plan to implement small baby steps to help you continue to grow in your health journey. You will not only look good. You will feel great. Take health into your own hands and make nutrition the primary form of prevention for you and your loved ones. Here’s to your health and success! Isabel x

Rule number 3: Sleep and rest Studies show that everyone is tired. No one gets enough sleep. Without proper sleep, your body cannot fully detox, heal and repair itself. When we lose sleep, our decision making, reaction time, memory and communication (among others) goes down by 20 to 50%. A lack of sleep is also linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s disease. So do not underestimate the need for sleep, it is just as important as good nutrition and physical activity. Ideally you want to get 7-9 hrs sleep daily. You just have to figure out how to get enough sleep and make it a priority. Rule number 4: Cultivate a positive mindset Vibrant health is not just about what you eat, it’s also about dealing with what’s eating you. The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To counteract this, practise activities that help you wind down, such as meditation, prayer, deep breathing exercises, positive affirmations, a gratitude journal, guided relaxations, time in nature, etc. Again choose an activity that resonates with you and stick with it. The results are worth it. Making time to take care of your physical and emotional needs is not selfish, but beneficial not just to you, but everyone around you. I hope these simple rules will inspire you to take an active approach to leading your health, so you can live a healthy and happy life. Wake up and learn to live life like you really mean it. Join the pursuit of personal health, spiritual wealth and happiness and create a



About the author: 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


Your health is your responsibility. Take charge! by Aurimas Juodka


ou start feeling a bit sick. You try to power through it. When you can’t continue, you decide to see your doctor. Your doctor prescribes you medication without asking you too many questions, the doctor most likely does not enquire about your diet, (can’t blame them, they’re too busy). The medication is going to suppress the symptom but definitely not address the underlying issue. Your prescription is going make you feel better for a matter of time and then you will probably get sick again in the near future. It will start happening more frequently, more unexpectedly. You will leave the doctor’s office with an even longer list of pharmaceuticals that will bring you back to his office to ask for more. Taking a pill is just too easy, why question your lifestyle choices and find out what could have made you sick in the first place? Have you ever thought about asking yourself that question? Most likely not. Neither did I for a long time! I have now reached the conclusion that conventional

medicine is great for acute illnesses, broken bones and car accidents. It can be absolutely amazing and life saving! However, it does not function properly long term. When treating symptoms, deeply rooted, underlying issues remain untouched. We go to our doctor because we think that they have the answers to everything, we think that the pill that they prescribed us is going to fix all of our problems. Are you aware that a given doctor receives little to no education on nutrition and lifestyle counselling? According to the article published by the American Society for Nutrition, among 900+ cardiologists, 90% stated that they did not receive adequate training in nutrition and counselling. Meanwhile, the numbers of chronic diseases are rising, people are feeling less productive and more stressed. That means the only thing – we must take charge of our own health. Not by putting ourselves into the hands of, “specialists” who are not competent and all they care about is getting you out of their office as quickly as possible. We must take charge of our own health by finding integrative/preventative medicine doctors, holistic nutritionists, lifestyle counsellors, and coaches. The first step in taking charge of your health is to empower yourself and implement lifestyle changes!

First of all, you might ask yourself, “What in the world is, “integrative medicine?” I have your answer. Integrative medicine goes beyond regular healthcare. The World Health Organisation defines health as, “A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Integrative medicine addresses exactly that. It goes beyond treating diseases and factors in all the markers that influence our health. Integrative medicine still addresses acute and chronic illnesses, but in addition to that, it promotes general health and disease prevention. Health is not a single dimensional entity and should not be addressed as such. Health encompasses way more than getting in your daily exercise or eating better. Personally, I define health using these 4 pillars: Movement Not all of us are fitness fanatics, so find something that doesn’t feel like a chore, movement is all about happiness! I suggest including a couple of things in to your movement routine. 1. Lift weights, at least once a week. There are so many health benefits to lifting, such as increased bone density, improved overall strength, and balance.   2. HIIT it harder! Short on time? Need a good sweat? OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 135

Try High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT); TABATA, 40/20, 30/30 intervals (work/rest ratio). Try incorporating HIIT into your workout routine at least once a week. 3. Try some sort of activity that you haven’t done before and that appeals to you. I’m constantly trying to learn new skills (wake boarding, rock climbing, handstands etc). It builds new brain pathways and makes you use muscles that you never even knew existed. 4. Walk. I know, sounds too simple, but we live such sedentary lifestyles these days and we need some natural movement. If you’re stuck at a desk job, make sure to stand up every 45 minutes or so and move around, stretch a little bit. Don’t fight for a parking spot right next to a building, take the furthest one possible when parking at work or going shopping. Simple habits yield amazing results! Being in the fitness industry myself and being an advocate for working out, I will advise that exercise is a big part of a healthy lifestyle, however, it is not the only solution for better health. Nutrition Food seems to be a sensitive topic these days. Nobody wants to be told what to eat and it seems like nutrition is becoming more and more tribal. Too much attention is coming from the mainstream media and even more 136


amateurs who are trying to capitalise on the expense of your wellbeing. The mass confusion is what the food industry is thriving on! I base my beliefs on hard science rather than the latest diet fads, in conjunction with this, Michael Pollan has great general advice on nutrition: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Let’s break it down a little bit! The western diet is clearly not serving us well, making us sick and fat, we can’t deny that. The majority of chronic lifestyle diseases and general dips in performance can be fixed with good nutrition. How? Some simple tips: 1. Eat real food that is as close to its natural state as possible. It’s hard to overeat real food since it is nutrient dense and fills you up quicker. On the other hand, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners etc. (the list is endless) are calorie dense and do not provide you with any nutritional value, and are actually engineered to be addictive and cause cravings.

On top of that, they damage your gut lining and yield to a wide array of problems. It takes a little while (up to 2 weeks) to reshape your gut microbiome. Once you introduce new and healthy foods, your gut forms the environment around it and starts sending different hunger signals to your brain. 2. You probably heard the saying, “you are what you eat”, it is not quite accurate, you actually are what you eat ATE. It means that the animal products are mass-produced and come from low-quality sources, (Grain fed, antibiotic filled etc.) and those antibiotic and low quality residues ultimately end up in your body. The meat that you find in your regular supermarket is definitely not serving your wellbeing. If you choose to consume animal products, ensure their quality. Pastureraised eggs, grass-fed beef and wild caught salmon. Sounds expensive?

Well, it is still going to be cheaper than doctor’s visits and/or cancer (I know, sounds extreme). At the end of the day, you are the consumer and you have the power to demand high-quality products. Overall, I suggest that you start pushing meat to the side of your plate and consume it more as a side dish rather than the main course. Your mother was right, load up on veggies! 3. Shop on the outside perimeter of the supermarket or find a local farmer’s market. That’s where real, whole healthy foods are waiting for you with no colourful labels that are screaming, “Healthy choice” and other nonsense. Avoid packaged foods that have more than 5 ingredients. 4. Limit your food consumption window to 12 hours. You might say, “Oh, easy, I already do that”, but we don’t realise that the sugar, cream or milk that often ends up in our morning coffee or other mindless snacks kicks off our digestive system, with nothing to digest, causing extreme cravings later in the day. Stress management Some say that we live in the most stressful age. I would absolutely disagree because most of us are fed, clothed and have a roof over our heads. I believe that we are responsible for being responsive rather than being reactive to the things that happen

around us. Everything that occurs in life happens for you, not to you. Every event that might be perceived as a failure might turn out to be an amazing opportunity. How to manage your stress levels? 1. Ensure good quality sleep. Limit your screen time before bed, relax and keep your bedroom dark. You can see more tips on a good night sleep on my blog: 2. Meditate. TM or transcendental meditation is one of the best practices out there, based on my own research and multiple top-level executives are swearing by it. If that is not something that appeals to you, find a practice that serves your needs and calms you down. Look into emotional tapping,

breathing techniques or mindfulness practice. 3. Take a break. Sometimes we think that cramming in as many, “productive” hours as possible is going to make us better. Not true! Prioritise rest and see how your productivity increases. Social engagement Last, but not least. The community has always been an inseparable part of humanity, that’s why we should keep it that way. Surround yourself with people that serve you and support your goals. Get rid of those toxic relationships, it will make your life easier and definitely more positive! Do something that helps others. I like living my life based on the motto, “If it’s not bigger than yourself then it’s not big enough”. Give back to your family, to your community. Give more and it will come back around.  We are lucky to live in the age of wellness revolution. Medical practices that seemed, “Voodoo” a couple of years back are making their way into the sunlight. As you are aware, conventional wisdom does not seem to help us much anymore, so it is time to empower yourself and make better lifestyle choices, which is going to shift your health and overall wellbeing in a positive direction. Take charge! OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 137

Let’s talk about fat! by Aurimas Juodka,


at was out of the picture for the better part of the 20th century due to the massive in-field study (Seven Countries Study) conducted by Ancel Keys. He investigated the dietary patterns of different countries, measured their blood pressure, collected blood samples and gathered other significant measurements. Finally, Ancel Keys concluded that dietary saturated fat is directly linked to the heart disease and should be avoided. Not long after, the American Heart Association implemented the recommendations to limit the saturated fat intake due to overwhelming proof of this all-encompassing study. However, the society took these recommendations the wrong way and, instead of consuming more healthy fats coming from natural sources, people started eating more processed foods that became more abundant due to the food industry jumping in and embracing the “low fat” craze. Saturated fats were demonised and replaced with industrially processed trans-fats, that claimed to be more healthy and contained less calories. Low-fat margarines, cookies, pastries and other junk food could now claim that they’re healthy due to reduced saturated fat content. Recently, a



meta-analysis (the study of studies) has been conducted and it concluded that the link of saturated fat intake and coronary heart disease is inconsistent. INCONSISTENT. The mainstream media took this up as a green light for saturated fat. “Eat Butter” – the cover of the TIME magazine proclaimed. Despite the flawed study that has been absolutely invalidated since and had no significant conclusions, the damage was done and difficult to reverse! Well, so should you start eating extra butter? ABSOLUTELY NOT! The study of the studies that was inconclusive cannot reverse the profound scientific research that has been conducted for the past century and proven to be contrary to the majority of high fat fad claims. Unless you are following a strict high-fat diet, where all of your dietary fats come from high quality sources, there is no reason to start putting butter on everything you eat. Let’s talk fat! The fats in the typical western diet are significantly abused. In our predecessors’ diets the Omega 6 (pro-inflammatory) to Omega 3 (anti-inflammatory) ratio was close to 1:1. The current average of this ratio is ~15:1 (!). We can clearly see that our dietary changes are not leading

the society to healthier lifestyle, since the rates of obesity, heart disease and cancers have been skyrocketing in the past decade. Overconsumption of Omega 6 fats is making us more inflamed and promotes cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. If one decides to increase their fat intake, it is important to take educated decisions, based on research that does not come up on the cover page of the Time magazine. Not all fat is bad, right? Correct! However, there is one fat that we should steer absolutely clear of - trans fat. It raises our bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowers our good (HDL) cholesterol levels and is barely found in natural foods. In 2015, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled trans fats as UNSAFE to consume. Unsafe! In order for such a big regulatory body as FDA to proclaim that something is not safe to eat, there has to be some overwhelming evidence on how trans fats are detrimental to our health. As for saturated fats, the current recommendation from the American Heart Association states

Health that under 7% of your daily caloric intake should come from saturated fats (it is a very controversial recommendation in the medical community). Are you confused? You’re not alone! So what fats should you eat? Let’s put it simply – go for naturally occurring fats that are found in nuts, such as walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pistachios; seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower or chia; indulge in fatty whole foods like avocados, grass-fed beef or pasture-raised eggs. If you are looking for a reliable oil to cook with, go for a high quality olive oil or avocado oil. You can also include a moderate amount of coconut oil for baking and dowse your salads in extra virgin olive oil, since most nutrients in vegetables are fat-soluble and adding extra virgin olive oil to your salad will help your body to absorb them. Other oils, such as soy, rapeseed, sunflower or vegetable oils are highly refined,

causing inflammation in your brain and body, and do not promote healthy lifestyle. Lately, fat has been one of the most controversial topics in the field of nutrition. With the rise of the ketogenic diet, high-fat approach has received a lot of attention from the mainstream media and weight loss practitioners. By no means should one state that there is no place for the ketogenic diet in anyone’s lifestyle. There is enough anecdotal evidence that shows how the ketogenic diet assisted with controlling cases of type 1 diabetes and reversing type 2 diabetes, the ketogenic diet (when done right) can also promote sustainable weight loss. However, the ketogenic diet is difficult to incorporate, hardly sustainable and, subjectively, lacking of more complex, flavourful foods. On the other hand, there’s plenty of scientific research on how plantbased diet reverses type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. It seems like the field of nutrition is

divided into two camps, high-fat lowcarb proponents and low-fat high-carb supporters, with nothing in between. Rather than chasing low-fat or low-carb fads and overthinking daily food choices, it is easier to stick to the whole foods that do not claim their “health benefits” on their eye-catching labels, but rather resemble real foods in the first place. As Michael Pollan cleverly wrote in his book “In Defense of Food”, “Yet as a general rule it’s a whole lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a raw potato or a carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over in cereal the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming their newfound ‘wholegrain goodness’ to the rafters.” Most people take fat, or lipids, too generally, assuming that fat is just a macronutrient that is going to make them overweight. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 139

Fortunately, it is way more complicated than that! Fat is essential to our daily diets, however due to a lot of conflicting information and influence of big industries it is challenging to know which fats are beneficial for you. If you would like to dive deeper into the world of fats and educate yourself on what is what, hang in there with me. There are two general types of fats: saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Going further, unsaturated fats are broken down into three subcategories: Monounsaturated fats, Polyunsaturated fats and Trans fats. Saturated fats usually stay solid at room temperature and have high melting points, meaning that heating them in high temperatures does not affect their nutritional benefits. Some foods rich in saturated fats are: eggs, beef, coconut oil, cheese, butter and pork. Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and have lower melting points. Main foods that contain monounsaturated fats are avocados, nuts and seeds and olive oil. These fats are usually considered to be the healthiest ones to consume.



Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and get solid when kept in lower temperatures. They are classified by four different Omega Fatty Acids (3, 6, 7, 9). As mentioned before, Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory and are found in foods like salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds, whereas Omega 6s are pro-inflammatory and can be found in salad dressings, fried foods and lower quality grain-fed beef. Polyunsaturated fats are also healthy to consume, while keeping Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of 4:1 and under. Trans fats. There are two types of trans fats – natural and artificial. Natural trans fats are found in very small amounts (<3%) in dairy products, beef and pork and are not harmful if consumed in moderate quantities. Conversely, artificial trans fats are highly processed through the process called hydrogenation and even small amounts can be harmful. They raise our “bad cholesterol” (LDL) levels and lower “good cholesterol” (HDL) levels, damage our gut lining and increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Trans fats are sneaky, so read your labels and avoid anything that says “partially hydrogenated oil” on it.

Why do we even need to consume dietary fats? Well, first of all, dietary fat holds more energy per gram than any other macronutrient (9 calories, comparing to 4 calories, provided by 1gm of carbohydrates or proteins) and it is more efficiently delivered to our cells, avoiding insulin spikes. Secondly, our brain tissue is mostly made of fat and dietary fat is necessary to fuel our brain. Another reason, why we need to consume dietary fat is that human’s body does not synthesise essential fatty acids by itself, therefore it is necessary to acquire them from dietary sources in order to support basic bodily functions. The bottom line is – in order to maximise your health, regardless of how much dietary fat you consume, you should go for quality fats coming from natural sources, while trying to completely eliminate trans fats from your diet!


by Nicola Sheldon, The Spice Doc

Shan Zha


s a practitioner of Chinese Medicine I always use and prescribe yao shan or medicinal foods to my patients. Within the tenets of the practice of yao shan, medicinal teas are an essential component. When you hear the word ‘tea’ you might immediately think of green tea, oolong, pu’er, Darjeeling, and a whole other slew of tea’s that are commonly drunk. However, in China there are tea’s made of all kinds of fruits, herbs, and yes, also leaves (green, oolong, etc). Most of these teas can be found right here in Thailand, thanks in large part to it’s Thai-Chinese population and a long history with Chinese Medicine. One of my favourites to prescribe as well as use for myself and my family, is shan zha 山楂 (Hawthorne berry) tea. The indications for drinking this tea can be the following: food stagnation/indigestion; blood stasis/ pain; post partum or menstrual pain; high cholesterol; high blood pressure; weight loss; angina. It is sweet, warming, and sour and targets the liver, spleen, and stomach according to CM theory. Depending on what you are using it for, would dictate how long you would drink it for and how often. If it’s indigestion? Perhaps only for a day. If it’s for post partum abdominal pain? Until the pain resolves. If it’s for high cholesterol? Drink daily. Shan Zha is also found in some old fashioned Chinese candies here (Hawthorne cakes/haw flakes) which are used traditionally as digestive candies.

Instructions for shan zha tea: 15-30 grams of sliced dried shan zha can simply be put in a large pot after washing off debris, add 2 tablespoons of rock sugar (good for building your yin i.e. moistening the body if it is dry), and bring water to a boil for 5 minutes – approx. 1 litre’s worth. Let it steep for an additional 15 minutes after, drink 2-3 glasses/day. Enjoy! OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 141

Fall/Winter Fashion with Talar

Be a Starlette



ime to say goodbye to the heat and welcome this exciting new season, I am happy to share with you the best looks and trends that have marked fall – Winter 2018-2019. The great news is that nothing will be grey and boring.We'll defy all the prejudices with bright colours and believe it or not, this season we will see metallic shades; from pink, violet and blue, there is a varied palette of colours, a lot of orange, different browns and from the dark indigo to the lighter blue. As for every fall, the coats have returned in the form of long jackets, blazers and the classic bags. Regarding the pants we have two wide ends: Leggings and wide pants. The bet is for elegance but without losing comfort. And if we're talking about footwear for when the fall comes, there are the ideal boots, comfortable, juvenile, with laces and even the controversial Balenciagas for more risky looks. Some trendy platforms or low heels, don't forget the canvas and leather. The sporty chic continues to stay strong this season, making the casual look more flexible and adding all kinds of shoes to any outfits. Of course, you can plan your outfits and adapt everything to your own style; my advice will help you to choose the right colours and trend! Because, fashion is a philosophy, it's that freedom to dress, it reflects the relaxation of the feminine, we have lived in the time where the mixture is the ideal style. What we enjoy the most is to create ensembles with what is tendency to our unique style. Clothes are always paths to female liberations, it will always be ambivalent, a land for the women who live it every day. So prepare yourself and Be a Starlette... Here is a summary of all the highlighting brands of this season, you can play with their textures and techniques, the game of colours and patterns, curves and shapes, skirts and pleated dresses and much more...


1. Wide variety of colours If you ask me what colour will dominate this season, I’ll tell you that it’s hard fought between yellow and orange, don’t be afraid to use them. The last thing is to dress in various colours and even a unicolour. Let’s overcome the sober tones and bet on bright colours.


2. Light and colour for Winter days. Bright and versatile looks, in boots, gloves, pants, skirts, coats and even for your socks.

3. Sporty chic It’s still present this season, they are combined with tailoring, dresses and the best thing is that you only need a little creativity to wear this outfit.

4. Synthetic skin Among the influencers we have noticed that they have made a trend to this garment, you can use it as a coat, jacket or vest.

5. The English way It’s possible to wear a square’s piece without falling into the sober and boring. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 143

Fall/Winter Fashion with Talar

6. Futuristic vision


Like the sporty look, the small glasses accompany us once again this season and the best thing is that they look good on you with any outfit.


7. Everything is a matter of proportions A coat is never too long if you can combine it with appropriate pieces. My recommendation is to wear high boots for this look and try to show at least 5 centimetres between each piece.

8. Winter prints and flowers With the arrival of the cold weather they will not disappear from your closet, I leave you some proposals.

9. The fringes have returned We love the fringes, they are super fun and of course totally elegant. Perfect to dance or simply stand out from the crowd. Among my favourites are fringed skirts.


10. Millennial blazer The best wild card of the season, blazer with marked shoulders and about two sizes above, plays with colours, I’m sure you’ll love them.

11. The ideal hat This season highlights two hat’s models: The beret and the cordovan style. Are you willing to wear them?

12. The protagonists of this season I was waiting for the moment to talk about them, for any outfit in any presentation. They have been present this season and have come to stay, so stomp, you will not lack the elegance and there’s already many celebs that use them. Boots socks Balenciaga style have also become controversial, would you use them?

Inspired by the most current and elegant values, luminosity and new trends, this new season is a challenge that we are ready to take in the present days, because besides chic it is super comfortable. – Talar Artinian Be a Starlette OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 145

A day in the life of..... an expat working mum, a spouse and a leader in the fashion business by Hanim Jain


unning between deadlines for a Autumn/Winter ready-to wear collection, a shopping to trip to London to spot the next season trends, preparing a restructuring plan for a board meeting, approving a social media marketing event for our newest brand campaign and attending a Fashion show at the Australian Embassy. Do you recognise this person behind the role? This “role” of a businesswoman is only one of the roles I have to execute on a daily basis. Of course, I also have the duties and responsibilities of a mother, a spouse, a housekeeper, an administrator, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a mentor etc. While I execute all the above mentioned work duties, I also call home to give instructions to the nanny, email the teacher about our child’s homework, app my spouse to ask about his meeting, texted my mum to see if she is recovered from her health issue..... How do I do that? Well that’s a good question. When I reflect on it, I realise it happens almost automatically. Are we “programmed” as women? Do we learn it in our early years? From whom do we learn, at school or at home? One recent case popped into my head while writing these lines. It was during an exhausting long business meeting. I was involved in a large-scale strategic turnaround project for a luxury fashion brand. We had to present to the shareholders. I was one of the presenters and suddenly my mobile started beeping. Although as a leader, I insist to turn off mobile phones during internal meetings with my team, I somehow had forgotten my own rule. As I saw our youngest daughter’s number on the screen, I apologetically touched the screen and put the phone to my ear. Since she has a GPS watch phone for urgent matters I felt my heart beating faster. On the other side of the line, our 7 year old daughter asked “Mummy can I eat mushroom soup please?” I guess children do make us feel “normal” again and bring us back to what is really important in life. Namely, eating mushroom soup! Kids are brilliant in teaching us when you need to put things in perspective. Personally, I always turn into a better mood when I engage with our daughter after returning from work. Especially if it was a very tough day. I love playing, listening or just sitting in her room and being in the moment. Nevertheless, as a woman, I do feel guilty sometimes if I have to take time off during work (even now when I am my own boss) to do errands around our 146


children. Talking about this topic with my husband, who is in the fashion industry too, I realise he does not always share the same dilemma. For him, it is simple. You are either at work or with your children. Black and white. Why feel guilty? During my upbringing, I had many challenges. One of them was, being from an immigrant family (my parents moved from Turkey to the Netherlands in the early 70s), we all had to work harder to get where we wanted to be. Since we were “disadvantaged” in areas like language and social status, we had to prove ourselves even more to show that we were the “same”. At school, in social circles and later in our professional careers. So, because being the “same” has been extremely critical and being accepted as an equal, I do feel guilty if I act “different” then my men colleagues. Now, at this stage in my life where I have been living and working in many parts of the world as an expat, I see clearly the same behaviour with lots of other professional women across different countries or cultures. I am not alone…… No matter what social status, religion, culture, profession or education, we women do have a sense of guilt when juggling between work and family. An extremely important factor, which helps me to cope with different roles and responsibilities, is the unconditional support of my husband. Since he is an executive himself in the global fashion industry for more than 30 years, he knows as no other, the ins and outs of the business. Therefore, I do not have to explain or justify any work related obligation. On the contrary, he will encourage and advise me. Living an expat life for almost 25 years myself, I can only emphasise the necessity of a supporting partner, as there is no extended family support structure from parents, in-laws or siblings. Yes, luckily enough we do have the household support from housekeepers, nannies and drivers available. I am very grateful for it too. Although, you need to manage them like you manage your staff at work (which is an


additional job/role) they can take the load of some daily issues in order to survive a household were both parents are working. I would like to make a statement here that raising our children is our responsibility as parents and can never be passed on to other members of the household. I do have the convenience of passing on an ironing job but it will be me who takes our children to swimming lesson or to the park. The fashion industry is tough, very tough. Lots of women, gossip, competition, envy and elbow work. Strangely enough, all the top jobs, positions and executives are mostly occupied by men (like in most other industries). Yes, even in the fashion industry. Look at the world’s most famous designers or successful CEO’s. They are men… Karl Lagerfeld. Valentino, Polo Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Bernard Arnault etc. How is this possible? Is it the complicated lifestyle of women trying to juggle between their private lives and demands of a career? Is it men in decision-making positions who are prejudgmental about capabilities of working women? When I started my career in the fashion business in Paris, I had

just switched from being the founder of a successful IT company to a traineeship position at Karl Lagerfeld. My boss was the commercial director, a man, who informed me that the owner of our company, Karl himself, had invited all his staff including me to the Christmas dinner. Well I was so excited and honoured that I couldn’t believe I was going to meet one of the greatest designers and personalities in the industry finally. Just a few hours before the Christmas party, I got a phone call from my boss, who informed me with regret that our CEO (his boss, a lady), did not want the lowest rank in the company, namely the trainees to join the dinner. So, I did not attend..... Would a man CEO have handled it differently? Being in a leading position now, I want to be a good role model. Specifically for the younger generation and for women around the world. I am able to practice what I always believed in. I can break the barriers that held me back and many before me. I do support and give my extra time to women who need a mentor. I share my stories to as many as possible because I hope to inspire or encourage women to be both successful at work and at home.

About the author: Hanim Dogan-Jain is an international fashion expert, speaker and business advisor. She started her career at Karl Lagerfeld fashion house. She has over 25 years of experience in the global fashion industry including executive positions and advisory roles in buying, sourcing, manufacturing, retail and E-commerce. Dogan-Jain has a post-graduate qualification from the Paris Fashion Institute and an MBA in Economics from the University of Maastricht. Hanim is also the founder of Women Entrepreneurs in Fashion (WEIF), a non-profit organisation. More info on or contact or 092-769 5830 The book “10 Successful Steps Into Fashion” written by Hanim-Dogan-Jain is available via OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 147

The gold inside by Margaret Johnston


s expats in Thailand, you know the value of having a good quality life with little expense. What does health, happiness and harmony in your life look like? Sure, we can put all the right foods in our bodies and make sure to get our exercise, but I feel it is more than this, especially if we have come into the time of our lives when we feel we can enjoy our mid to older years. Having a good community to thrive in, be inspired and inspire others, be of service and appreciate what we have also comes into play. I have been fortunate enough these past years to travel around the outer edges of Thailand discovering



Laos, Malaysia, Bali and even a bit further to Nepal and India. Finding out as much as I can about the places I visit as I live my life of holistic health education, medicinal plant painting and having small expos along the way. It has taken me years to be able to feel like I have created a wholesome, all encompassing life for myself, and I am happy to have reached a point where I feel I am getting to live my passions and inspire others. This is not an article to go on about how great my life is of course, for I certainly have my own trials and tribulations. But it is more an article dedicated to thoughts of fulfilment of who we are in this world

that we have created around us. The life of an expat within a community, and a way in which we can feel like we are honouring our whole selves, having that golden life away from where we have come from. Finding your niche among friends and family, finding your value and sharing it, as a solo traveller in the middle of her life, I have found this to be of the most value along with maintaining my health and learning to accept my own downfalls and grow from them. Being able to live in a less expensive manner than back home is of great benefit also. For I feel I


so I flew to Hawaii to check out the latest scene, being 6 years ago the last time I swam in the Pacific Ocean here. I’m quite familiar with Hawaii as I lived here in my mid 20’s and know all the islands pretty well, this time I choose Maui as my 5 week getaway. Let me tell you Thailand Expats! The cost of one dragon fruit is $5, one latte is $7 and gas for the car is almost $5 a gallon… like wow. Minimum wage is $10-$15hr depending on tips though so if one lives here it can be easier than coming from less expensive countries however I feel the pinch around me. A normal 3 bedroom house is $3000 a month. Even though this is a small island, people don’t drive around much and tend to stay in their area a lot. There are definite new-age spots vs conservative spots like most places and folks tend to stick to their comfort

heating needed and living on fruit and fish is an easy option. The artistic touch permeates everything and is very good, with bright bold colours and flowers galore, so I am very inspired. Like Thailand, florals, fruits, song and culture floats through the daily breeze. Here in Hawaii, being aware of “Mama Maui” and “Pele, the Fire Goddess”, the ancient hula dance and thanking the natural healing energies of the planet is immersed in conscious thought. The painting in this article is called Paradise Fire; The Gold Inside. I painted it when on the Big Island of Hawaii representing the life in the fire of the volcano combined with the bursting vibrancy of the flowers. Years later, it represents what I am living now, my golden life, “Where do I live it out and how can I do it to can dedicate more time to feeling like part the best of my ability?” We all know, of a community and being able to give and or I should hope we do, that the gold share of myself rather than always focusing is in our hearts, what we do and say on the money making aspect of life. every day, what we put in our bodies, I am writing you from Hawaii of all not just in food, but in thought and places, having come here for a visit after a the personal connections we create brief sojourn home to Texas to reorganise along the way. Whether we are in my USA home for a semi-permanent Asia, Europe, UK or in the USA, rental. I’ve been on the road finding that “sweet spot” around Thailand for 1 year and The painting in this article is called we can call home is 8 months and so the shock of worth cultivating. I have expenses here has made me a Paradise Fire; The Gold Inside. I found that being able rather boring dinner date with painted it when on the Big Island of to create our life in a my “chin on the floor” at the cost Hawaii representing the life in the way that isn’t so focused of things all the time. I won’t on money making and even begin to tell you how tired fire of the volcano combined with more about being of my family got of me when in the bursting vibrancy of the flowers. service can be more the UK briefly for the Chelsea Years later, it represents what I am fulfilling, indulging in Flower Show last May going on creative skills (even living now, my golden life, “Where while about the cost of Prêt A Manger travelling), has coffee shop. do I live it out and how can I do it its healing benefits I am happily continuing and being able to to the best of my ability?” on my journey around Thailand share those skills beginning October 1st to fly while learning from to Cambodia and Vietnam before finally zones. Even though the others can create a divine balance returning to Thailand. This is my fluffy cost of life here is high, the in our life. Living somewhere less quest of looking all around various mood is still very “Ohanaexpensive than our home town semi-retirement living possibilities, but style” meaning, relaxed vibe, has it’s challenges if we leave loved really just a reason to keep on moving, mainly due to the fact that ones behind, however, the benefit discovering myself and enjoying life! (So one can “beach-it” daily of being able to focus on our own far the competition is between Thailand with little clothes and flip immediate life will eventually and Bali.) I managed to get the Texas flops aren’t like boots, coats outweigh the loss. house finished before the October date and hats in London, nor is OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 149

It takes time and consistent perseverance to pay attention to what we create everyday in our own personal here and now. In this article I’ve included a collage of some of the beautiful golden fruits here in Maui Hawaii, some of them similar to our luscious Thailand fruits like the dragon fruit. Aren’t we so lucky to be able to purchase them at less than $1 each! I have been indulging in the Maui pineapple, star fruits and mangoes as well as the golden sunrises, sunsets and golden sands. The picture of the beach here is of Big Beach on Maui, my favourite beach so far. Aloha to everyone in SE Asia Thailand, I will be in Cambodia when I will be writing my article, never knowing if it will be about a place, a way of health or something fabulous I’ve discovered! I’m still painting and writing for my website and small expos, my small bio is next, Mahalo! (Hawaiian for thank you!)



About the author: Margaret Elizabeth Johnston ND has been writing for Expat Life in Thailand since June 2015. She enjoys painting flowers of medicinal or uplifting plants with flowers, creating art exhibitions and travelling to various countries to explore life from a different viewpoint as she shares her journey through travel articles, holistic health information or thought provoking life enriching ways to live. One can follow her on her art or health blogs and join her monthly newsletter on:



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Summer holidays in Europe by Agneta de Bekassy

Porchiano AirBnb

Italian lunch in Todi

Dinner on the terrace at Porchiano


his summer I decided to stay as long as two months in Europe. Normally I plan for just six weeks, but I had a feeling this summer was going to become totally different and how right I was. I have never, ever experienced a summer like this year and they say, that it has been the warmest for 280 years. I left a very warm and sticky Bangkok and arrived in a beautiful Gothenburg, (Sweden) blue sky with no clouds. After a few days in Gothenburg with my Mom, I took off for a few days in Italy. I was in Rome as a student and to Tuscany many times on holiday and have always loved it. This time, I was invited to attend a Swedish friend’s 50th birthday in Umbria, a completely unknown part of Italy to me. I landed in



Rome, met with 2 other friends and we rented a car and drove to a small village called Porchiano. This little village belongs to the municipality of Amelia, in the province of Terni, is situated more or less between Rome and Florence. We were happy to have a working GPS in the car and we arrived safely early evening. We checked in to an airbnb named “Residenza Collefiorito” and were welcomed by a charming Signora Fabiola, such a “sympatico donna”. We also met a group of Swedish friends from Shanghai and several parts of Sweden. This was my first experience of Airbnb and I was happily surprised. My two companions and I from Bangkok, got an apartment in an old house with a lovely living room, two bedrooms and an open kitchen area. In the garden was a nice pool with the most comfortable sun beds and cabanas. The “birthday child” and her close family stayed in a nearby small castle and in the evening we all gathered together on its beautiful terrace for a welcome dinner. The view was spectacular and the catering


Porchiano bed and breakfast

company handling the dinner, were very efficient. I had wondered if it was time for white truffles and luckily for me, it was the season for this delicacy. We were served a delicious dinner with risotto and truffles, which was typically Italian and delightful. During the evening, we also enjoyed a selection of quality wines from the Orvieto region close by. The day after our arrival, we decided to pay a visit to Orvieto. This was about 40 minutes drive away and we had a loverly day in this ancient city in the Termi province. Orvieto has a population estimated to around 20,000 people, approximately 2000 are foreigners. Orvieto is not only known for it’s excellent wines, but their unique cathedral. The city has Etruscan Orvieto cathedral

roots and is perched high on a rocky cliff. The Cathedral is located on the Piazza del Duomo and is from the 14th century, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It was constructed under the orders of Pope Urban. The Cathedral has a very dominating position in the city. The Cathedral has large rose windows, golden mosaics and heavy bronze doors. Inside you will find two frescoed chapels decorated by some of the best painters of the period. The facade, in black and white stones, gives the Cathedral its rather unusual look. The next day we also took a trip to Todi, a small city built on a hill overlooking the Tibet River. Like Orvieto, this little town has Etruscan origin. Here you can explore the Etruscan necropolis, a Roman amphitheatre and a forum. Todi belongs to the province Perugia in central Italy. Todi is sometimes called “Tuder”. This was the most powerful fortress city in the preRoman period. The city has been very well maintained over the past years. It has a population of around 5,600 people.

Todi city view Orvieto old city OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 153

The evening my friend had her birthday, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner overlooking the greenish, beautifully landscape from the terrace, belonging to the castle Porchiano. Italy is, without doubt, one of the most enjoyable countries to celebrate holidays in. The people are friendly, the cities beautiful and the food to die for. Time passed much too fast and unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Signora Fabiola after four days. She who had taken such good care of us. We all agreed we had to return soon. Before boarding the plane again to Sweden, I enjoyed a last delicious, typical Italian anti pasta meal at the airport, Arrivederci Roma.

Gothenburg Society Garden Trädgårdsföreningen

Umbrian landscape



Arriving back in Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden after Stockholm, the capital. Gothenburg has two nicknames “Little London” and “New Amsterdam”. Gothenburg is the fifth largest town in the Nordic countries. The city is situated by “Kattegatt” and has a population of approximately 580,000 inhabitants. Gothenburg was founded as a primary Dutch trading colony in 1621 when King Gustavus Adolphus ruled. The port of Gothenburg is the biggest and busiest in Scandinavia. It says, that in year 2035, the city residents will make space for 700,000 habitants. About 50,000 people are studying in Gothenburg and here we’ll find two of the most popular universities; “University of Gothenburg” and Chalmers. One of the most important industries in Sweden is hospitality. Gothenburg’s prosperity increased in the early 18th century with the development of the Swedish East India Company. A second period of wealth started with the completion of Gøta Kanal (Gota Channel) and a beginning of a transoceanic shipping service. Gothenburg is also the hometown for the company Volvo and several other well known Swedish companies. The archipelago with its thousands of islands and islets, is popular to visit. It’s a completely different archipelago from the East coast. On the West coast the cliffs are rough and not very green compared to the East coast. After a short tram drive you can reach the nearby islands Køpmansø, Styrsø and Donsø. When you visit Sweden, you should keep in mind that the Swedes are extremely kind to the environment. Sweden is the world leader in the movement to eliminate waste. Popular places in Gothenburg during summer are; Traedgårdsføreningen (The Garden Society of Gothenburg). It’s located in the middle of the city. Here you can walk through a 19th century park with a magnificent rose garden, woodlands and sculptures, palms and exotic plants in greenhouses. The Palm House dates back to the golden age of horticulture. This part is very popular for both the people living in Gothenburg and tourists.


Gothenburg LĂĽngedrag yacht harbor

Hotel-Gaesslingen-Skanoer OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 155

If you are a fan of rollercoasters, a visit to the amusement park Liseberg is a must. This park was founded in 1920. Haga is a charming area of traditional wood buildings and cobbled streets, home to 17th century fortress Skansen Kronan. Candlelit cafes and pubs with terraced courtyards create a bohemian vibe around Järntorget square and adjoining Långgatorna thoroughfares. The area is dotted with vegan bistros and bakeries known for cinnamon buns. Quaint stores sell books, crafts and Skanör old limestone church knitwear. Like the capital Stockholm, Gothenburg is both a spa and a pool. This charming hotel is situated surrounded by water and several canals divide the city. next to Skanør’s old, white limestone church, most Take a sightseeing boat called Paddan and popular for weddings and concerts. What else can you experience the canals and the harbour. The guides are do in Skanør/Falsterbo? Go for a walk along the sea, feel fluently in English, German and French and can tell the sand between your toes, play golf or rent a bike. If you everything worth knowing about Gothenburg. it’s warm enough (was this summer) go for a swim in From the West coast to the south. If you are the crystal clear water. Stroll the small, narrow streets in Sweden you absolutely need to visit Skåne and and admire the beautiful, colourful houses and the especially Skanør/Falsterbo. These two, typical hollyhocks growing against the walls, they are typical summer places, are most charming and very popular for this area. destinations for both Swedes and foreigners. Picnics on the beach are also very popular and In July you will find many of the worlds best why not try the relatively new sport ”paddle”. There is riders in Falsterbo for the “Falsterbo Horse Show”. It’s so much to do, the days pass too fast……. the most prestigious event, there riders from all over I haven’t mentioned much about Stockholm, the world come to compete in jumping and dressage. “Venice of the North”, but there is too much to say about During this July week, you have to book and confirm this incredibly, beautifully city, so I’ll better leave it for your hotel in advance, as it is overcrowded around this later on. It can make another story in the future. time of the year. There are so many interesting countries to visit In Skanør you have two really lovely hotels, in Europe, it is hard to say where to begin. With age, I Gæesslingen and Gæstgivaregården. Gæsslingen offers have become more curious to explore places I haven’t Skanör house been to before. I love my life in the never sleeping Bangkok, but I must admit, that from time to time, I need to breath European air. My advice, go travelling and enjoy other cultures and manners, it makes your life richer. Happy journey! Travel safe, be happy and be safe! Agneta x




Stockholm city architecture

Stockholm hotel interior

Stockholm hotel interior

Skanรถr bathing place OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 157

Importing your car and household goods into Thailand


re you moving to Thailand in the near future, either for work or pleasure? If that’s the case, you’ll need some in depth information on the regulations that govern the importation of vehicles and household goods into the country. Like many nations around the world, Thailand has a strict set of rules regarding importation, a specific set of required documentation and various taxes and duties that you must pay when bringing in items from abroad. To help you navigate this sometimes-complicated topic, covered below is all the information you need to make an informed decision about what you should pack (and what you should leave behind).     

Paperwork required to import a car into Thailand Temporary importation Unfortunately, importing a car into Thailand is a complex and expensive proposition, and many people find it easier to simply buy a car locally after moving. The exception to this is temporary importation of a personal vehicle, which carries no duties or taxes. If you plan to import your car for six months or less, you can do so without paying anything for the privilege. However, be aware that you’ll be required to deposit the full amount of applicable taxes and duties that would come due, were you to fail to re-export the car back out of the country in time. You’ll also need a good deal of paperwork to complete the process, the full list of which can be found on the Official Thai Customs website. Permanent importation of a new vehicle. The process involved in permanent importation of a personal vehicle is much more involved, though it is somewhat easier if you’re attempting to import a brand new vehicle. 158


Again, you’ll need a slew of specific paperwork. The biggest difference between permanently importing a new vehicle versus a used one, is that you won’t be required to obtain an import permit from the Foreign Trade Department of the Ministry of Commerce (which can be a difficult feat). Permanent importation of a used vehicle. When it comes to importing a used vehicle into Thailand, you’ll need all of the documentation necessary for bringing in a new vehicle. In addition, you’ll be required to submit several more items and procure an import permit from the Foreign Trade Department of the Ministry of Commerce before your vehicle arrives in port. Otherwise, you’ll be subject to a fine equal to 10% of the vehicle’s price (1).

Feature However, be aware that you’ll be eligible for a discount ranging from 2.5 – 70% (or even more), based upon the length of the registration period of your used vehicle.

Documentation and taxes for importing household goods.

Taxes and duties you’ll pay to import a car into Thailand. The final point to cover regarding importing a car into Thailand, are the taxes and duties you’ll pay to do so. As already mentioned, for a temporary importation you won’t owe any taxes or duties – which make this an attractive option. For permanent importation of both new and used vehicles, the exact amount you’ll pay is figured using a table that’s based upon the size and power of the engine. For the least powerful vehicles you can expect to pay a total of 187.47% of the CIF value in taxes and duties. This percentage climbs as your vehicle’s power increases, topping out at 328% of the CIF value for vehicles with the largest engines.

The discussion takes a turn for the better, when moving to the topic of importing your household goods. Here the regulations and expenses are far more palatable, which is excellent news if you’re moving overseas to Thailand for the long haul. If you plan to make Thailand your place of residence and fulfil certain criteria (covered below), you can import your used household effects without paying any taxes or duties. That means you can bring in all the furnishings of your home abroad with you, without incurring any additional expenses. Be aware that you’ll need to be given a nonimmigrant quota (it will be shown in your passport or Nonresident Identification Card) or obtain a one year non-immigrant work visa by the Immigration Department. Another option is to be given an annual temporary stay in a letter from the Immigration Department, or you can procure a work permit valid for one year or longer from the Department of Labour. Finally, for non residents coming into Thailand with a contract to work for a government agency or as a specialist in your field, a letter from the relevant agencies certifying you’ve been given a non-immigrant visa by the Immigration Department good for one year or more will suffice (2). You’ll also be expected to provide these forms and documentation, to successfully complete the importation of your household items. You’ve probably come to realise that importing household goods and especially a personal vehicle into Thailand, involves quite a bit of bureaucratic red tape. It’s advisable for you to seek out qualified international moving companies, as they are likely to be familiar with the process involved. This can help things to move smoother and allow you to avoid any undue difficulties or hefty fines. Many people also choose to hire a local agent who is fluent in Thai and intricately familiar with all the required forms and procedures. No matter what you ultimately decide, one thing is sure - moving overseas is always an adventure.

 SOURCES: (1) content=individuals_151007_01&lang=en&left_ menu=menu_individuals_151007_01 (2) content=individuals_151007_02&lang=en&left_ menu=menu_individuals_151007_02 OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 159

Events / social pages Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been happening Photography by Agneta de Bekassy

71st Independence Day of India Shangri-La Hotel



Indonesia Independence Day festivities at Siam Kempinski Hotel



SWEA (Swedish Women Educational Association) meetings

Cosmopolitian Ladies Bangkok group meeting at AN AN LAOS

IndĂŠpendance Day of Indonesia at the Siam Kempinski Hotel OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 163

Music event hosted by the Latin American Embassies. August 17th

International ladies on excursion in Cambodia



Fashion event at Siam Paragon

Philippine textiles/handcrafts talk by the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines led by H.E. Mrs. Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon and cultural attache Ms. Edith Maililin OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 165

Osteoporosis – a silent insidious disease that sneaks up on you By Barbara Lewis


y mother and I were always the same height; five foot four and half inches, not tall of course, but sort of average height. I thought it was amazing we were the same height. My daughter is much taller; she is about five foot ten, and got her height from my dad and her father. I had the great fortune to know and be around my great grandmother who was a small English woman of five feet tall with perfectly erect posture for the 96 years of her life. She commanded a room with her presence and demeanor. One felt her anger and wrath by her sharp tongue and pole straight spine. I believe it was when she was 92 that she fell and broke her hip. We found out then that she had osteoporosis and it is a circular argument as to whether the hip broke from the fall or she fell because the hip broke. We will never know and as with most accidents of this kind it is quite often hard to tell. Osteoporosis was in our genes and something all the women on my mom’s side of the family needed to be aware of. I was peripherally aware of it but I was a runner in the past before my knees gave out on me and I have always lifted weights, so exercise wise I felt I had nothing to worry about and had never even asked my doctor about it. When I started seeing a GP in Bakersfield, California it was her standard practice to test your bone density, which I had never done before but I was over 45 so I figured it was a good idea. Around this time I noticed that when I stood beside my mother she seemed shorter than me. She would have been 67 at the time. She was really working on her fitness and was probably the fittest she had been in her life. She could run, which she had never done before, she walked for miles. She had always been one of the fastest walkers I knew. I learned my shopping skills from her and my friends and kids hated to go shopping with me because I would ask or sometimes demand that they keep up with me and I could move just like she did. I asked her about her height and she passed it off that I was just imagining things. This went on for a few years. I got increasingly worried however because I was sure she was shrinking. I finally demanded that we measure our height and made her admit that she was several inches shorter than me at which time I also asked that she go see someone about it. Unfortunately, she found out that she does have Osteoporosis and believes it



is because of a drug trial that she took as part of a study that she suffers from the disease rather than genetics. In any case, it doesn’t matter, she takes medication to help stop it in its tracks. Supposedly there is no pain with osteoporosis unless you break a bone but I know what I have seen and I am not so sure. My mother’s shoulders have rounded and I will often remind her to stand up straight. This usually happens when she is concentrating on other things. I have to wonder if it is because her spine is weaker and takes more muscle concentration to stand tall. In the past she always had very good posture and was very aware of maintaining good posture. She has pain through out her arms and legs, unexplained, which makes you wonder if the bone weakening could have anything to do with it. Her gate because of the pain has slowed considerably. Osteoporosis means porous bone. So one’s bone density lacks the density it should and depending on the severity the bone becomes brittle and breakable. North Americans have a good diet and shouldn’t suffer from lack of good bone density due to nutrient deficiency but it is possible especially with all the processed foods we eat. Osteoporosis should not be deadly but it can be as it can be silent, painless and insidious until something significant happens like a spine breaks which could be life threatening. As we get older it is important to check our bone density and to participate in weight bearing exercise to maintain and improve our bone density so we don’t run the risk of osteoporosis. Although I can’t run anymore because my knees don’t allow me, I do walk and play tennis, both weight bearing exercises. There is a great deal of information on the Internet and of course, from your health practitioner on osteoporosis. Just because it isn’t something that is readily apparent does not mean that it should be ignored because the sooner it is caught it can be treated and in some cases possibly even reversed but if left too long osteoporosis can kill and at the very least maim. It is a real concern for all of us getting older and easy to check with a bone density test. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 167

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Expat Life in Thailand October/November 2018  
Expat Life in Thailand October/November 2018