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The best of British The president of SHOM

Empowering women Food by community

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Britain’s man in Bangkok President of SHOM She roams alone Myanmar - a fading culture? Rong Island Cambodia Healthy holidays Travel tips for families The best of British 12 years of teaching in Thailand An appreciation of the arts Bangkok's school fees Setting up your child for a move Daddy daughter dance at NIST “Do you need a plastic bag?” Girls Rock Asia Women’s Journey Thailand Living at Nichada Thani Weight training for women A celebration of US! Empowering women Breaking boundaries Superwoman Book review Confessions of a male feminist Fashionable Friday night Menopause Afghanistan: in the eye of the beholder

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Welcome to Expat Life The editorial content in Expat Life is created by an enthusiastic and passionate group of volunteer, talented individuals. Without them there would be no magazine. The publisher would like to thank those individuals and welcomes submissions from any of our readers that have an experience, hobbies, an opinion or their pastimes to share. If you have travelled anywhere in Thailand and discovered a ‘hidden gem’ or had a holiday with family or friends in SE Asia or beyond, then we would like you to share it with us. If you are a nutritionist, dietician, fitness trainer, doctor, surgeon or a specialist in any field then please find time to share your expertise with others and draft up to a 1000 or 1500 words and we will sub edit, proof and publish it. If you would like to join our group and get your prose published online or in the magazine then please email Accounts Panumas Kayan (Daow)

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Meet the artist The Green Lung Khlongside conviviality Hibiscus, pineapple and durian Garmin Blue Run Touching the hand of God Dining on the river Food by community The joys of motherhood A prisoner in Bangkok Tamar Centre Pattaya Spirit Houses and Shrines Happiness through meditation How important is Facebook to you? Internet of things Gourmet corner Run for Dek 2017 Social gallery Kentucky to Bangkok Advertisers welcome If you are a manufacturer, distributor or retailer and or if you supply and sell services and products to the affluent expat/international resident in Thailand. Or their constant stream of friends, family and business guests visiting from overseas. If you want to engage and connect with high net worth individuals and families then let us send you our profile and present our business case. You will find no better expat targeted strategic marketing solution in Thailand today. Please write to (English) or (Thai) or call 02 331 3266

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August/September 2017 EXPAT LIFE in Thailand June/July 2017 EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


King Power - we are travellers too King Power the leading travel retail group in Thailand now operates ten duty and tax free shops nationwide. Six are located at international airports including Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Phuket and U Ta-Pao just outside Pattaya. The other four are in ‘downtown’ sites located at Rangnam in Bangkok, Srivaree in Samut Prakarn, Pattaya and Phuket. These superstores take the company into mainstream retailing where they are becoming a major force. For Thai and international residents, their guests visiting from overseas and tourists alike, these shopping outlets present the very best brands available to the consumer today and at competitive prices. Whether you are shopping for beauty products, makeup, skincare, perfume for the one you love, fashion goods for men, women and or the children, leather goods, electronics, kitchens and kitchenware you will be surprised at what they stock. They also carry a wide range of OTOP (One Tambon One Product) and local Thai arts and crafts so you and your guests can do all of your shopping in one place.


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The four downtown centres are shopping paradises under one roof. Based in the key tourist cities of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket these purpose built shopping emporiums carry well in excess of 100 quality international brand names, some exclusive to King Power in Thailand. The main store in Rangnam is currently being fully refurbished and

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will be relaunched in October this year. They are located at easily accessible destinations, cleverly designed architecturally to attract attention, soothe and cosset their visitor, laid out in customer zones. Those with international flights within the next sixty days can purchase products and collect them at the

Pick Up Counter in the departure halls at the airports. They even have a world-class dining facility in each location Ramayana where you can sample a selection of foods from an international buffet before or after your shopping experience. The shopping facilities at each of the airports are a cornucopia of shopping pleasures and present a welcome sight when you have passed through immigration. Here you can wile away the time before your flight departure browsing through a myriad of quality products at advantageous prices. Gifts for your loved ones, family and friends or just a treat for yourself to celebrate life. The company offers shoppers 5 differing membership cards based on the amount that you spend from Navy through to Vega and each card comes with member benefits and advantages. They offer a wide range of member advantages including discounts on every purchase, monthly special events and promotions. Apply to become a King Power Membership cardholder as a frequent flier or shopper. They even offer online shopping and a delivery service to their customer base in Thailand. Cardholders can also utilise the 24 hour King Power lounges at the international airports - at Suvarnabhumi it is located on concourse A (turn left at the Thai sala) present your card, passport and boarding pass and be met with

comfortable seating and relaxation rooms that offer complimentary hot and cold food, alcohol or soft drinks, tea and coffee, WiFi and magazines as well as shower facilities should you need to freshen up. King Power was launched in 1989 and was awarded with a Royal Warrant by the King of Thailand in December 2008. In 2010 the company bought English football league club Leicester City which they then

helped steer to the Premier League Championship in 2015/2016. In May 2017 they purchased Belgian First Division B club Oud - Hever Leuven. In June 2016 King Power bought a stake and became the largest shareholder in Thai Air Asia so they are expanding their portfolio and intent on living up to their slogan King Power the Pride of Thailand. Subscribe to their newsletter and get exclusive offers and the latest news.

King Power contact centre Local1631. International +66 (0)2 677 8899 | Email (for online shopping)

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Britain’s man in Bangkok by Rianka Mohan

The British Ambassador to Thailand, H.E. Brian Davidson, looks to modern British values to forge the future of the four-hundred-year-old relationship between Thailand and the UK, as he describes in an exclusive interview with Expat Life. The sprawling verdant grounds of the British Embassy greet you with a silence that feels worlds away from the tumultuous traffic beyond. A stately, cream-coloured mansion - the home of the current ambassador - stands within as testament to a relationship dating back to 1612 when the first English ship arrived on the shores of Siam. The entire effect of the eightacre compound is to take you back in time until you meet Brian Davidson, the tall, dapper diplomat who from his casual shirt worn without a tie to his crisply ironed slacks is every bit as modern as you can get. And it doesn’t end with his dress sense. Davidson is determined to bring the best of 21st century Britain to Thailand.

“While we’ve had a significant historical relationship, I think both the Thais and the British suffer from certain misperceptions about each other. When you think of Britain


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“One of the things that I would like to do is showcase the multi-cultural and truly diverse place that is today’s Britain. ” here, the images conjured might be a tad outdated and influenced more by our past than our present,” he explains. “One of the things that I would like to do is showcase the multi-cultural and truly diverse place that is today’s Britain. A country not just to visit for castles and Shakespeare but one that’s at the forefront of pioneering work in many areas across a range of industries. On the flip side, it is my responsibility to shift perceptions in the UK. Thailand is not just about holidays and beaches but stands as ever, a valuable trading and investment partner in the ASEAN region with ample opportunities for British business.” It was exactly a year ago that Davidson took over the role of from his predecessor. And an extraordinary year it has been, marked by stunning events both in Thailand and in Britain. Yet Davidson remains unfazed, “Certainly these events - the passing of the King of Thailand, the referendum on Brexit and the election in the UK - were unexpected and have had an impact on the level of activity and engagement but our mission, the mission of the Embassy, remains unchanged. I have outlined my top three priorities in Thailand, which are about promoting a free and open society; building stronger partnerships for mutual prosperity; and providing top-notch consular and embassy services to all who avail of them.” Considering the first priority, Davidson himself has been the embodiment of the very values of openness and transparency that he champions. In 2014, Davidson married his long-time partner, Scott Chang, at a private ceremony at the British consulate in Beijing, which made headlines as one of the first same-sex marriages to be conducted by a

diplomatic mission of a foreign country in China. Both the local and international press made much of the fact and it catapulted Davidson into the public eye in China and overseas as an icon for gay rights. Davidson is sanguine and happy to be open about his family life if it serves a purpose. “I think it’s incumbent on those of us who’ve enjoyed the support of their families and their government to live the life we want, to be more visible and to show that there’s nothing unusual about this, on behalf of those who may not have the same privileges. I also encourage others in my team to contribute to causes about which they feel passionate. It’s not a preachy, this-is-how-you-should-do-things approach but rather speaking from the heart with our perspectives and/or struggles around these issues. I’d like us as a whole, to walk the walk on diversity because this is an important part of the fabric of our society.” Since taking up his post here in Bangkok, he has opened the ambassador’s residence to create an open space for debate for various groups working on promoting human rights and social justice in different parts of Thailand, whether it be in the area of LGBT rights, rights of the disabled, gender equality, support for Muslim mothers in the South or victims of child trafficking. “We’ve had a reasonable amount of success by opening the house to established groups working on these causes as it gives people an opportunity to share their perspectives, articulate ideas, and jointly figure out workable solutions. There is a limit to how much we can accomplish but I am hopeful that this approach in tandem with governmentto-government lobbying around commitments already made on some of these issues can be highly effective.” His goals around an open society also extend to creating a stable business environment and the Embassy is working with the Thai government on improving transparency around public procurement as well as tackling corruption, both of which, in Davidson’s view, are elements which will further Thailand’s own aims to be a service leader and beacon for innovation in the ASEAN region. “We’ve had good traction on these fronts, especially on certain projects funded through our Prosperity Team. We’ve just completed work with the

UNDP and Thailand to draft the first ever public procurement act, following international best practices, which will increase efficiency across government. We’ve also undertaken many initiatives with anti-corruption agencies where we share knowledge and help disrupt networks.” Joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1985 after graduating from Cambridge University with a bachelor’s degree in law, Davidson has worked extensively in China, completing three tours of duty there, most recently as Consul General in Shanghai. But his career has also taken some atypical turns such as his stint as the Deputy Chief Executive of International Financial Services. “Professionally, I’ve always followed my instincts on what might be interesting and the thing that I felt was missing from my arsenal was a clear sense of the private sector and its motivations. When an opportunity arose at IFS to develop their China strategy, I jumped at it. The experience was useful in understanding what drives business decisions and what they want from us in the public sector to best enable that”. It has also helped him with his second priority of strengthening ties between Thailand and England with trading and investment partnerships. In Davidson’s opinion, “Much of the efforts have been around the Thailand 4.0 initiative and we’re in constant dialogue with different constituents here to determine the key sectors of focus and where there could be a match with the skill sets and strengths of British companies. It’s learning what technologies are needed and trying to partner those needs with appropriate providers in the UK, whether in the areas of advanced engineering, aerospace, education, or the digital economy, among others. There are also significant opportunities in the UK for Thai investors and it’s my EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



responsibility to provide a forum to promote them here. We’ve accomplished much with the Thai-UK Business Leadership Council, which helps trade and tech partnerships and also advises us on how to progress the ease of doing business.” Davidson is similarly prioritising the continual improvement of the quality of consular and visa services that his Embassy offers. Given the one million annual British visitors to Thailand and the 50,000 current British residents, not to mention the 100,000 visa applicants they receive each year, there is no dearth of work to go around! And Davidson and his team are not letting the grass grow under their feet. The Embassy is active on social media and Davidson himself is featured in many of the messages on safety and tourism. “We’re taking a look at what has worked in other regions and circumstances and trying to apply them to run preventative campaigns to hopefully get the point across in a lighthearted, personal manner. We’re also partnering with British companies working here to shine a light on the good work they do around corporate social responsibility, whether it’s Diageo’s Drink Responsibly Campaign, Tesco and their Royal Project work in Chiang Mai, or GSK’s partnership with the Thai Red Cross to distribute vaccines.” As if this wasn’t enough on his plate, there is the “elephant in the room” question of what’s to become of the Embassy’s current estate with rumours widely circulating of its imminent sale. Davidson pauses before responding, “I wish that I had something more concrete to say on this matter. It’s all still being finalised but it’s looking more likely that we will be moving. In the context of our global portfolio, which is self-funding and has myriad needs for building embassies in new places or shoring up security in certain high risk jurisdictions, if we were to consider whether we are using our footprint here to its fullest capacity, the truthful answer is no. However it remains one of our most


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valuable assets and we do need to be careful with its history and heritage. I have deep respect for the traditions that it represents. But if it were to be decided that we need to move, then we need to view it not as ignoring the past but as embracing the future. This is an opportunity to define our relationship with Thailand for the next 100 years. A smaller footprint in no way implies smaller impact or investment or engagement. If anything, all that is ramping up. We will certainly not reduce staff or resources and we would aim to preserve the fabric of this building and the use that we have made of the space in a similar fashion at another site. If I detach myself from the sadness of the passing of an era, I see it as all possibility. Three of my last four years in Shanghai, I spent moving a 200 plus staff to a one stop centre so I’ve been through this process once before. I can safely say that all the people involved in that move are still on speaking terms and all ended well! I feel confident that if called upon to do so, we can make it work here too. We’ve got to think of what’s next, what are the positives to be gleaned from this and where are the opportunities.” So in short, his response to the gargantuan task on the horizon that has everyone nervous and nostalgic is a classically British, keep calm and carry on!

His Excellency Mr. Brian Davidson, British Ambassador to Thailand, presented certificates to our 2017 IB graduates.

Congratulations to Regent’s Class of 2017

Un i ve r si ty of f e r s i n 2 0 17 in c lu d e

I BDP p o in t a ve r a g e e xc e e d e d g lo ba l a verage World


Our 2017 IBDP score was well above the global average. Two students were awarded scores of 42 out of 45.

The Regent’s International School Bangkok Tel. +66 (0) 2 957 5777 ext. 202, 222 Mobile: +66 (0) 92 362 8888 Email:


SHOM : An organisation for the wives and partners of Ambassadors to Thailand by Agneta de Bekassy

On a steamy Monday morning in May, photographer Daniel Herron and I visited the German Ambassador’s beautiful residence on Sathorn. We were there to meet Lucia Costantini Pruegel, the wife of Peter Pruegel, Germany’s current Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand. Lucia is also the president of SHOM Bangkok, the organisation for partners of ambassadors. The acronym SHOM represents “Spouses of Heads of Mission.” I was curious to find out more about this organisation and about the interesting woman who currently leads it. Lucia welcomed us into her home with a warm smile. She is one of the most uncomplicated, warm hearted people I know. Her charming Italian accent and her spontaneous gestures make you immediately feel very comfortable. I mention her accent because although Lucia and her husband represent Germany, she is a native of the sun kissed Italian city of Napoli. My plan for our discussion was to chat about both her personal story and about SHOM and her role as an ambassador’s wife. SHOM Bangkok is the association of partners and spouses of the Ambassadors accredited in Thailand. It was founded in 2004 with the name of DIPLOSPOUSE as a sort of club of spouses aiming to provide assistance for newcomers and a safe place to discuss issues and concerns related to the diplomatic life. The founding initiative was taken by the wives of the ambassadors from the US and New Zealand at that time. At the end of 2004 the group received an invitation to attend the celebration of Queen Sirikit’s birthday and soon after SHOM became a more formal association. Traditionally SHOM plays an important role in both the YWCA and the Red Cross Diplomatic Bazaars held each year in Bangkok. More recently, the group has become more structured, with the introduction of guidelines and an association policy including precise job descriptions for the board members. There has been a transition to a more current mode of


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communication with more use of Facebook and social media. The organisation has also created a new logo for use on SHOM related materials. These efforts were undertaken during the active and successful administration of the most recent president, Mrs Juri Segikuchi Drofenik, spouse of the Austrian Ambassador. The association has a monthly meeting, hosted by the spouses at their residences, where they normally discuss ongoing projects and plan future activities. Often they invite a speaker to give a lecture about a wide range of topics such as human rights or gender issues but also about the traditions of their respective countries as well as life in

“ I want to make clear that we are not just a women’s association. ”

Thailand. They also sponsor cultural and historical visits. “We want to learn about Thailand and experience all the facets of this culture,” Lucia said. A recent outing brought them to the Flower Museum with a Thai lunch afterwards at the beautiful Siam Hotel. An upcoming event will be a visit about art and antiques at River City along Bangkok’s riverfront. “I want to make clear that we are not just a women’s association,” points out Lucia. Currently the group has 32 members, with some very involved men such as Dr Kevin Colleary, the partner of the Portuguese Ambassador. The most recent development in SHOM, Bangkok is the growth of philanthropic activity. Once conceived only as a group to discuss internal matters and organise activities for the members, this year SHOM opened up to the “outside” world with some interesting charitable projects. The rationale for this, according to Lucia, is a desire on the members’ part to interact with the society and to try and “give back” to their host country. “As ambassadors’ spouses in Thailand we enjoy a very privileged life, in terms of status, visibility, lifestyle hence the desire to give something back to society.” But the organisation and planning of philanthropic events also helps the group members. “It’s not that easy to follow your partner to different posts, leaving your own profession behind,” she explains. She also points out that often the spouses are seen almost like decoration or “belles of the ball” who do little more than attend cocktail and dinner events. “Participation in worthwhile projects that make a positive impact in Thailand give us the opportunity to use our own skills and competences,” said Lucia.

This year the group had three main projects. The “première” was a fundraising concert held last February in the garden of the German Residence to help a non profit music school in the underprivileged area of Klong Thoi, founded by the Immanuel Lutheran Church. The string orchestra of the school performed a programme that included classical Thai and international music, amazing the public with beautiful renditions of Beethoven and Hayden. “Music has such a positive influence in these children’s lives. They are dedicated to classical music and for many of them the music has opened doors to a more empowered life,” Lucia tells me. She proudly shared that SHOM raised 1.4MB at their event. This money will help finance scholarships for more advanced music studies for these talented children. The second big project is also linked with education. SHOM is currently working with Thai partners to publish a children’s book of folk and fairytales from around the world. The book will be in Thai and English and will include tales from 25 of the SHOM member countries. The book will be distributed to needy schools and libraries throughout Thailand. In addition to the 25 members who contributed stories, a small committee is working on this project including Dr Kevin Colleary (Portugal), Mrs Juri Sekiguchi Drofenik (Austria) and Mrs Chungwha Oh (Korea).

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The third project has to do with wine and cheese. I immediately got interested, as wine and cheese are two of my favourite things! As a way to use the leftover wines donated by several embassies from the February concert, SHOM organised a special event for wine lovers with the proceeds going to the Rainbow Room Foundation, an organisation helping Thai families who have children with special needs and learning disabilities. One of Lucia’s important tasks as president of SHOM is to keep in touch with the media in order to give visibility to the activities and the values the association stands for. As a journalist, she knows exactly how to “pull strings” when it comes to publicity and how to effectively communicate with people in the media. But who is this dedicated, fun and down to earth woman Lucia Costantini? She was born and grew up in Napoli, Italy. At university, she studied political science and earned a Master’s degree in journalism. While studying in Paris at ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration) she met her future husband. He attended the same school, a year ahead of Lucia and at one point, they happened to have a class together. Their love story soon began. They married in Italy in 1990. Lucia worked for some years as a freelance journalist and foreign correspondent for Italian media outlets. She is very interested in politics and worked mostly as a political correspondent. Her husband started his career in Bonn and since then the family has moved abroad many times. The first posting was Rome, then they served in Belgrade, during the Balkan wars. They have also lived and worked in Paris, France, Ankara, Turkey and Tel Aviv, Israel. In between those posts there were also two periods working at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Germany. “One of the most interesting and exciting posts was Ankara,” Lucia tells me. “Because Turkey is more like a continent than a country, with a huge diversity in landscapes, cultures and traditions. Travelling across that country can bring you from the Middle Ages to science fiction!” Israel, as well, was a very interesting experience. “In fact, I have enjoyed all our destinations” she points out. I had to ask her opinion about Bangkok and Thailand. Lucia admits that it was not easy in the beginning, when they first arrived. She was not at all familiar with Asian culture and history, not prepared for the heat, the pollution and the heavy traffic. “I’ve always been a fan of Europe,” she says, “loving above all the Mediterranean countries.” After two years in Bangkok, she has become accustomed to the lifestyle and has started to appreciate


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“ We live a fortunate life and a lot of doors are open to us. All this together makes my life so interesting. ” it. She loves her morning walks in Lumpini Park, the great choice of cuisines, the sunrise at Wat Arun, exploring in Chinatown and, last but not least, watching the the magic skyline silhouette of Bangkok at sunset. I wanted to find out if she had been travelling in Thailand and she explained that she had the opportunity to travel to northern and central Thailand and loves Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. Her favourite island is Koh Kood, near the more famous and well known island Koh Chang. “On Koh Kood you can have it all, pure luxury resorts or more reasonably priced ones as well. The island is not overcrowded with tourists and still has its original, unspoiled charm.” “In fact our life is like a journey. A journey through physical places, but also a journey through different cultures, traditions, ways of life, forms of art. We live a fortunate life and a lot of doors are open to us. All this together makes my life so interesting.” It was here that we ended our wonderful morning talk. We said goodbye to dear Lucia thanked her for the tea and coffee and wished her all the best for the coming years.


“She roams alone” - Mint Monthon Kasantikul: -O  n the female rise of Thailand’s backpacking culture, why you shouldn’t be afraid to ditch the luxury hotel, and her newfound online fame -F  inding home in each journey and overcoming fear -T  ravelling solo as a woman, adapting to change -T  he girl who finds home/family in every land she goes -H  ow a lone traveller finds home/family in each place she goes -T  he traveller who sets off with no one and returns with countless friends -H  ow a pampered only daughter became a solo female traveller -W  ho runs the world? Women -H  ome is where the heart is -H  ow a solo female clears blocked paths and leaves new trails To many, travelling is a dream to pursue, but it’s a reality that only few could take on. From a teenage girl scared of the world outside of her home, Montol Kasantikul aka “Mint I Roam Alone” has become one of Thailand’s most popular

travel bloggers. Along with facing the changes each country comes with, she has challenged the Thai mindset of female vulnerability, having backpacked by herself across seven continents around the globe. As a solo Thai female backpacker, she’s often called ‘brave’ and ‘independent’. Truth is, it was not until the age of 16 that she was sent to England for a three week language

course. “I cried the whole time,” Mint writes on her blog. Then again before university, did she take on her first real journey alone to Spain for a three month language course. “I remember crying for the entire first week.” “It was difficult, having to take charge of things myself without the help of my mother - she had no control over the country of Spain.” Despite her difficulty of being far away from home,

“ My mother would always tell me it was alright to return home if I wanted to - but she knew I wouldn’t. ”


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she pushed through. “My mother would always tell me it was alright to return home if I wanted to - but she knew I wouldn’t. However, it gave me a sense of assurance, knowing she’d be there for me if I were to return.” “Either you prepare your child to be strong and responsible enough to get through it, or you don’t and your child comes home with broken wings and damaged self-esteem. This type of change doesn’t all happen in one day. In the end, it roots back to how your were raised.” When asked about her mother’s influence on her as a traveller, Mint replies, “I think my mother and I are the same person. She loved mountain climbing, now I love mountain climbing. She likes reading, I like writing. She’s a strong woman, I’m a strong woman.” In contrary to what many may think, being a female traveller doesn’t only come with cons. “Men can be more adventurous on their trips, but women are more helped. Everyone is much more loving - I meet grannies who want to adopt me,” Mint justifies. “Because it is easier for women to approach anyone, our experiences are often more hearty and warm.”

“ I think my mother and I are the same person. She loved mountain climbing, now I love mountain climbing. She likes reading, I like writing. ” “But at the same time, the downside is not being able to travel unexplored routes or roam around at night alone,” explains Mint. Travelling can be more dangerous for women than it is for men, especially in the views of Thai society. The idea of women wandering alone may not seem new for Western countries, or even oriental ones like Korea and Japan. But regardless of a the increasing gender equality in Thailand, many women are still

discouraged from travelling alone. “Our society views women as those to be taken care of, those who are supposed to be sweet and vulnerable. Being so, travelling is perceived to put us out there, unprotected from any unknown danger. That paranoia is instilled in our minds, making us afraid. And when society tries to keep us away from exploring, we tend to feel that it’s okay to stay inside our comfort zones.”

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Although Mint has jumped the Devil’s Pool in Zambia and caught an Anaconda in Venezuela, worry and unease still presents itself in each of her trips. “Fear isn’t a bad thing. Fear is what prevents us from death,” she says. In her case, some threats are common merely due to her gender. “Beauty is a curse,” she mentions before describing her worst trip: being stuck in Nepal after the earthquake with a rather vulgar and invasive tour guide, of whom was the one she depended on to return home safely. “Well, travelling always has a bitter side to it. There’s the sweetness, then there’s the bitterness to remind you how nice the sweetness is.” Another advice she has for fellow female travellers is confidence. Unlike many other Thai women, Mint isn’t considered to be very reserved, shy, or indirect. “I think it’s lovely, but after travelling so much, I know those qualities won’t help me survive a trip.” Her blog, in contrast to many other travel blogs, concentrate on the stories of people she encounters along the way. Being “addicted to human conversation”, she avoids staying in hotels and using private means of transportation in order to truly absorb each culture by engaging with locals. “It’s a learning process. We travel to grow, and we grow through other humans, from what we see and what we receive.” To do so, she recommends basic phrases, compliments, and banters, explaining how it “breaks down boundaries between people”. Again, being able to approach strangers and form a conversation is easier said than done. It requires some


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“ Fear isn’t a bad thing. Fear is what prevents us from death. ” charisma, as well as self-confidence, which many of us lack. To put into words the mentality she carries with her on each journey, Mint says, “Real confidence is knowing who you are and loving it. For me, travelling alone has definitely helped. When we travel alone. We know what we like and what we don’t because it’s just us and the world around us. There’s nothing that’s pushing us to doing something or pulling us from doing something. We learn to live with our strengths and weaknesses, accepting them as part of our complete selves. Then when social trends tell us what to be or not to be, it no longer affects us, because we are complete. This is the confidence that people, especially women, should have in order to stand tall in a society without falling victim to criticisms that would otherwise bring us down.”

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However, there is shown to be an increasing trend in Thai backpacking culture. With technology's help in a more connected world, more and more people are able to travel overseas with ease and convenience. But when it comes to social interaction, the 28 year old travel blogger believes that “there is a fine line between outgoingness and rudeness.” She subtly addresses touring teenagers and their unpredictable behaviours. “We need to be careful, because we carry our country’s name with us.” Jokes and teases are great ways to create friendships, but a sense of politeness should always be present. The job of a travel blogger may seem like a career path of paradise. Although exciting, combining work and leisure together can be stressful. “Travelling is to pack your bags and


continuing to go places that can make you uncomfortable,” says Mint about her 8 month non-stop journey from Mexico, across South America, all the way to Antarctica. Being flexible to change is essential - with a single backpack, she has gone from country to country, from temperatures of a sweating 40 degrees celsius to a freezing -15. “It was all great fun, but after a while, I felt like I wanted to return to somewhere I’d be comfortable. It’s wanting to to be able to let go of everything, to unpack and leave everything cluttered.” To the solo female nomad, adapting to changes may be mandatory, but being homesick is optional. Having globetrotted to more than 70 countries, she has had to leave her birthplace for fairly long periods of time. But when asked where her home truly is, she responds, “I have realised that one half of home was with me. Wherever I go, I consider home. The other half is with my mother. As long as I could talk to her, I would be home.” But of course, that is emotional and internal. Like many other long term travellers, Mint lingers for the comfort to come with the end of her voyage. “Maybe after eight months of sleeping on couches and tolerating snoring roommates, we might feel the need to come back to what we’re familiar with.”


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With travel, many things once taken for granted - whether electricity, sunshine, pillows, or air conditioning - then become appreciated more fully. From the pampered only daughter she was as a child, the now internet icon of solo female backpacking has learned to carry her own bags, and also climb a volcano in Nicaragua. “What stops us from our potential is our own fear. Like courage, fear is made out of two things: fear of what you know and fear of what you don’t. So to conquer that fear, we need to know more. Then you’d have to build courage. It’s a leap of faith, but not that kind where you blindly step with no knowledge of what’s ahead. You should be scared and brave of what you know.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Once you get past the first step, the second one becomes easier. The fear doesn’t so much disappear, but the courage grows.” After deciding to share her experiences online as a hobby, her blog “I Roam Alone”, of which she posts personal stories, travel tips, and life lessons, has gained more than 100,000 followers. Adding to her success, she has written two books about her adventures through Siberia and South America. “What I do is who I am. If you stick to your true self, you can never run out of content. But If you try to be like others, it’s like you’re always chasing and comparing. Eventually it will all disappear.” Many travel bloggers face the dilemma of commercial opportunities like advertising and reviews, which of course, is normal for anyone trying to make a living out of what they do best. But while some are able to sustain and satisfy their audience, others lose their hard earned fanbase. “Don’t let them slap money in your face. In the end, what are you left with? Emptiness. It won’t satisfy you or your viewers. You need to ask yourself why you do what you do.” Mint “I Roam Alone” will be working with her film crew to produce a travel series “We Roam Alone” to share their travel stories in Thailand on TV this August.


Myanmar - a fading culture? by Barbara Lewis

If you live in Asia and have three plus days you can use on vacation head to Myanmar before it is westernised and commercialised beyond recognition. We had the good fortune to recently visit Myanmar for nine days. We developed our itinerary from a friend who lived and worked in the capitol city of Yangon, so we were in the best of hands so to speak. Anyway as it happened the travel agent that he recommended couldn’t accommodate our group of four anywhere we planned to go with guides so we were on our own. None of us were too bothered by this however because we all prefer it that way and are scared of anything that even whispers “tour group”. Our adventure began with a flight on Air Asia out of Don Mueang Airport to Yangon. Then a taxi ride to the Novotel Yangon Max ,which was about 30 minutes away. This is a nice new hotel, quite upscale but not overpriced. It is not in the downtown but just outside of it. We arrived early and they accommodated us and let us into our rooms. We then went walking for lunch and to see the Golden Pagoda and the castle walls. We ate at a typical Burmese restaurant close to Shwedagon Pagoda. Burmese food is similar to Thai food but less spicy. We looked out on a classic scene: three kids playing in front of their house. It wasn’t a house you or I would live in. They were hacking with huge knives at the rind of some fruit, likely watermelon,


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laughing, talking and poking fun at each other. How they didn’t cut off their fingers only they knew. All their fun ended up in a water fight of sorts where the girls pitched small plastic bags of water and water soaked garbage at their brother. It was a delight to watch. The Pagoda entrance is very spectacular with lots of shops along the grand stairs leading to main entrance. You must be wearing something past your knees so both my husband and my sister in law had to purchase longis to wear around the temple. There is an entrance fee for foreigners. It is a magnificent structure made up of many different sized temples with Buddha figures. My particular favourite is the lying Buddha. Many people worship in different ways around the temple complex and groups of monks visit as well. That night in Yangon we took a river cruise which was very interesting as this is one of the main routes of transportation within the country. The river taxis zooming back and forth from bank to bank tells you a little about the life of the people of Yangon. On several occasions we watched the taxis being swarmed by seagulls and wondered why? Then we noticed one where it seemed that they were actually

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

throwing food in the air to cause them to do this. We watched a man reach high in the air from the boat and grab a seagull breaking its neck on the way down. We wondered if he would eat it and shuddered at the thought. The next day we were off to Bagan. A short flight and then an hour’s drive by taxi to the Bagan Lodge Hotel, an oasis. Bagan is an area of religious temples. These structures can be found everywhere. We hired our taxi driver and we toured around the major temples that we wanted to see in the area. You can only see so many - there are literally thousands - 2,200

apparently. We visited Sein Nyet Sister temples, Ananda temple, Thatbyinnyu temple finishing up at Pyathadar temple to watch the sunset as this was considered the least busy with tourists. It wasn’t a very spectacular sunset and I did still think it was crowded. If you can imagine Myanmar expects to increase the number of Japanese tourists from one million to four million next year. I imagine things are going to get much more crowded. The next morning we went on a magical flight with Balloons Over Bagan at sunrise. I had never been in a hot air balloon but I am hooked. It is very difficult to make reservations for the flights and you must plan and book months in advance although expensive so worth it; an experience of a lifetime.

I was told by our pilot that they do balloon flights over Kenya and when we go there it will be one of our must dos. The next day we flew to Inle Lake. Again a one hour plus taxi ride to the View Point Lodge located right in the town. After a great lunch at a small restaurant called Paw Paw, which helps train local displaced youth in serving and cooking we walked a good distance to Red Mountain Winery to taste some wine at sunset

on Valentine’s Day. Who knew that you could find some very tasty local wine. The next day we hired a boat to take us around the lake and its communities to see what it was all about. We saw many

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men out fishing - in their very unique way; they hold the oar with their foot so their hands are free to deal with the net. They have amazing balance. This traditional way of fishing is still used by most fishermen but we saw tourism leaking in and turning a mockery into it for some. Two “fishermen� we came upon eagerly posed for us balancing on their boats and then asking us for money. They held up a fish while they posed I am sure it was days old. They now probably buy their fish with the money they make posing instead of fishing for it, much easier. Thankfully there were lots of others out on the water making their lives from the lake as they have always done. We saw the classic silk and lotus weaving and the many products that


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they produce from silk, cotton and lotus (a thread that I did not know could be produced spun and woven) in beautiful colours. Inle Lake sustains a lot of people and the populace is growing all the time. They have not always been careful with the lake as a resource and now realise that they must refine many of their practices so that the lake can continue to provide for them and be a valuable resource. We visited a small village where they are trying different ideas to develop practices that are more sustainable and less harmful to the lake. Also at this village they had a number of Burmese cats. On our way back to our launch point we stopped at a silversmith shop and a shop of goods developed by the Karen (long necked) people. It is the tradition of the women of this group to wear rings around their necks that stretch their necks. The older they are the more rings they wear.

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From Inle Lake we flew to Mandalay which used to be the capitol of Burma again it was approximately a one hour taxi ride to our hotel. Mandalay seemed less progressive and had less infrastructure than Yangon. Yangon had very little motorcycle traffic and


Mandalay has many motorcycles. Things were cleaner and less gritty in Yangon, the buildings definitely newer and Mandalay was dirty with broken sidewalks and older buildings especially around the Royal Palace. We saw male and female monks everywhere in Mandalay, young and old processing through the streets going from store to home to storefront giving blessings and receiving rice at all times of the day, not just the morning as I have seen in other Asian countries. It is common for the Burmese to decorate their faces with Thanaka - a kind of natural face mud that is yellow in colour that serves some say as a sunscreen. We saw this practice on all kinds of people in Mandalay more than anywhere else in Myanmar. On the first night in Mandalay we walked from our hotel to a well recommended restaurant called “A Little Bit of Mandalay”. What was amazing about this walk was it felt like we were walking in the middle of nowhere in the pitch black, very little street light, to get to a rather large well known place. The food was Burmese and very good as was the atmosphere. The next night we decided we wanted European food and took a taxi to Bistro 82 and it was remarkably modern, upscale with very good quality continental food. We viewed sunrise in Mandalay at U Bein teakwood footbridge. People fish in this bay. We were told to go at sunrise as it is to packed with tourists at sunset. We were greeted with other tourists, mostly


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Japanese I would say, the funny part is it looked like these photographers had hired one of the fisherman to throw his net so they could take “natural” pictures of him doing his work with the sunrise in the background. It did make for some great shots. We finished off our trip by flying back to Yangon spending the remainder of the day in Yangon. We went to the large indoor market called Scott’s Market (also Bogyoke Market) and it literally had everything. It is clean and seems relatively well organised. It is a nice break from the outside heat. I am sure there are bargains to be had but we were only there for a short time

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and really there just to look not shop. Our final evening we went for dinner to a beautiful colonial mansion called Le Planteur overlooking Inya Lake. The food was very good and the setting out on the lawn by the lake was amazing, truly a wonderful way to end our trip. If you haven’t been to Myanmar at all or if you have been but not recently go because it is sure to change drastically in the coming years as it westernises, and becomes more commercial, less reliant on its cultures and traditions: like the crafts/skills of lacquerware, weaving, silversmithing, boat building and fishing.


The Strand Yangon

- a jewel in South East Asia’s crown

The Strand Yangon is one of the original luxury colonial outposts in South East Asia, opened in 1901 by the Sarkies brothers, founders of Raffles Singapore and the E&O in Penang. The hotel is one of the most architecturally beautiful heritage buildings in Yangon and is a name synonymous with luxury hospitality. The Strand Yangon recently entered a new era after it completed a restoration ushering the hotel elegantly into the 21st century. The renovation preserved the hotel’s heritage, honouring its part in Myanmar’s history, whilst creating a more relaxed and glamorous setting for 21st century travellers and explorers. Local artisans meticulously restored every original detail, from the teak panelling and antique bedsteads of its 31 suites, to traditional Myanmar lacquer ware and marble flooring, while adding a contemporary twist through upgraded technology, a refreshed colour palette and subtle decorative details. The finishing touch will occur in November 2017, when the hotel adds a new outdoor pool, dining terrace, two therapy rooms and gym. A teak terrace will edge the pool, offering space for loungers, pool cabanas and al fresco dining. Completing this oasis in the heart of the city will be a shady and fragrant private garden, leading to a new parking area. Occupying a prime location at the cultural centre of Yangon, the renaissance of The Strand has happened at the same time as an explosion of art galleries, shops and restaurants nearby. To take advantage of the hotel’s position at the hub of this vibrant city, the Strand has launched two new packages, Off the Beaten Track Yangon and Landmarks of Yangon, available until end of the year. The two-night Landmarks of Yangon tour includes one full day, or two half-day, guided walking tours of some of Yangon’s most impressive late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings, both religious and secular. Just before sunset, guests will travel by car to the nearby Shwedagon

Pagoda just as oil lamps begin to illuminate it. Here, a private area will be set aside so that guests can light 500 lamps as part of the daily ceremony. This two-night package is priced from USD927 in a Superior Suite based on double occupancy during low season and includes airport transfers and excursions as described. The two-night Off The Beaten Track Artisans package includes two half-day guided walking tours with visits contemporary art galleries close to the hotel, a gold jewellery workshop, spice market, fortune teller and local fair trade shops, as well as lunch in a nearby restaurant. This two-night package is priced from USD939.50 in a Superior Suite based on double occupancy during low season and includes airport transfers and excursions as described. Guests eager to experience more of Myanmar can do so aboard The Strand Cruise, a custom-built 28-cabin luxury river cruiser that operates three- and four-night itineraries on the Ayeyarwady River between Bagan and Mandalay. The Strand Yangon team can customize any itinerary to create a memorable visit to this Golden Land. |

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The Rong Island at the right time by Scott and Nori Brixen

With all this talk about ASEAN integration and the AEC (ASEAN Economic Community), you'd think that driving a Thai vehicle into Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar or Malaysia would be easy - but it isn't. As we approached the Cambodia border down a narrow finger of Thai territory, we still weren't sure if we had all the necessary documents. Google didn't know. Lonely Planet's "Thorn Tree" had more questions than answers. And even if we did have everything, there was still no guarantee that Cambodian Customs and Immigration officials would let us drive our right hand drive vehicle all the way to Sihanoukville without greasing a few palms. Our goal was Koh Rong, Cambodia's second largest island. But that meant a four hour drive through the countryside to reach the port city of Sihanoukville, the country's second largest. From there, we'd catch a speedboat for the one hour journey to Koh Rong. At least that was the plan. The afternoon before, I'd driven three hours from Bangkok to Rayong, where we stayed the night. The next morning, it was another four hours to the border. Pulling into the chaotic, dusty border post, I scanned the crowd for a "fixer" and locked eyes with a Khmer looking man. While Nori took the boys to start the Thailand exit process, I parked the van in a big lot behind the ramshackle shops. This was clearly what most people did: leave their car on the Thai side and arrange transport on the Cambodia side. I saw in my rearview mirror that the "fixer" had followed me.


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We shook hands and introduced ourselves. His name was Vatana. When I told him that we hoped to drive our vehicle into Cambodia, he looked worried. "Is this your car?" he asked. Yes. "Is it registered in your name?" Yes. "Do you have an international driver's license?" Yes. "Do you have the car passport?" Yes, barely. The previous morning a friend had warned Nori that this document was required. She rang me at the office in a panic. We were supposed to leave Bangkok in five hours! Our plan was falling apart. She rushed to the motor vehicle department in Chaeng Wattana and, miraculously, obtained the car passport in less than two hours.

"OK," he smiled, "then I can help you. But you can only drive in Koh Kong Province." The border province - named after Cambodia's largest island - contained more than half of the country's coastline and a huge swath of forest covered, low mountains. But to get to Koh Rong, we first had to get to Sihanoukville, which was 80km past Koh Kong Province. "We're going to Koh Rong," I explained. "Don't worry," smiled Vatana, "I will tell the immigration people that you are staying in Koh Kong Province. I don't think any police will stop you on the road. But if you do get stopped outside of Koh Kong, just say you're lost or get some tea money ready." I couldn't help but laugh. An hour later, we were on our way with a big red sign on the dashboard indicating that our vehicle had "temporary import" clearance. As soon as we crossed the border, the road quality plummeted, traffic switched to the other side, development plunged, there were water buffaloes on the roads and the only signs were for Cambodia Beer, Angkor Beer and political posters with Hun Sen's sort of smiling face. Things also got a lot greener. Flat topped jungle covered

“ to get to Koh Rong, we first had to get to Sihanoukville, which was 80km past Koh Kong Province. ”

ridges extended to the horizon. In the valleys, rice paddies reflected the golden glow of the fading sun. It was a bumpy but beautiful drive, not that my four boys noticed. They were too busy watching Lego Batman: Gotham Breakout for the fourth time. We arrived in Sihanoukville after sunset. First impressions weren't positive. Neither were the second or third impressions. Considering its location at the tip of headland, with hills behind and beaches in front, the city has a lot of natural potential. But man, was it ugly. Our hotel was in the middle of a backpacker ghetto next to the island ferry pier. I expected the dreadlocked neo hippy couples wearing Thai fisherman pants. I expected the grizzled white 'sexpats'. But I didn't expect to see so many Chinese - the thick jowled, buzz cut men walking up and down the strip with their shirts pulled up over their bellies. We caught the first speedboat to Koh Rong the next morning. I felt uncomfortable leaving Black Bull (our beloved Hyundai H-1) parked on the street, but the road was choked with cars, buses and tuk tuk’s dropping off passengers so I

had no alternative. It was mayhem at the pier: a man shouting out departure times through a distorted loudspeaker, nervous backpackers trying to look unperturbed, excited Cambodians building suitcase altars and taking photos with bemused bearded Europeans. I was glad we didn't disembark at Main Beach (where all the Chinese got out) or Natural Beach (everything looked run down). Instead, we got out at Coconut Beach, where Nori had booked two nights at Coconut Beach Bungalows. "Wow!" Nori said, as we stepped out of the boat onto the long finger pier. The owner, Robby, was there to meet us and help with our bags. The beach was amazing, with sand so clean and fine it squeaked, and water so clear that we always found the goggles that the boys were constantly losing. We spent most of the next two days in the water, riding the waves on inner tubes and looking for crabs and prawns in the tide pools.  Cheerful and plump, Robby was an extraordinary host. He amazed the boys with his double jointed antics. He taught Logan a magic trick with a loop of string and a soda can. He set up domino chains with them. If they wanted to tell him something, he stopped and listened. And his even fatter father was smitten with the boys: he let them punch his jelly EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



belly, he hugged them and pinched their cheeks, he would spend hours happily watching them playing, drawing and interacting. He kept grabbing my hand and repeating something. I don't speak Cambodian and he didn't speak English or Thai. But I know what he was saying: your boys are beautiful, and you are so very lucky. Yes, indeed. I think about that all the time. Not so many years ago, I was devastated because I thought that I would never be a father. I started writing a book, dedicated to my unborn children, as if writing about the parent I'd like to be might dream them into existence. The restaurant/bar of Coconut Beach Bungalows had a beautiful deck overlooking the beach. In the middle of the day we spent a lot of time there: reading books, drawing, playing boardgames. On the first night, Robby showed the guests how to light and fly Thai style paper lanterns from the terrace. Two got stuck in the trees, but no one seemed worried; apparently the trees are so moist that they don't catch on fire. After that, he led a group of 15-20 guests down to the beach. Koh Rong is famous for its bio-luminescent plankton. The skies were clear and dark and the moon was nearly full, great conditions for the living light show. As we waded into the black water, Nori said, "Taking our four boys into the ocean at night … this is Parents-of-the-Year material!" She was being sarcastic, but I was on edge. It was very difficult to keep track of the boys. We stopped about 15 metres from shore and Robby made a pouch with the bottom of his T-shirt. He dipped it into the water and when he lifted it up, water straining through the material, a mini-constellation of green stars appeared. The effect was even more impressive with my black rashie. The boys ducked underwater, their paddling hands stirring up green flashes. They'll never forget this, I thought.  It had been a long, hot and fun filled day so we went straight back to our bungalow. Then night chores: shower off the salt water, hang up dry clothes outside, brush teeth, pee. There was no AC - only a fan - so I was dreading a night of sweaty, fitful sleep. All four boys were wedged onto one

mosquito net covered bed, and they were making a racket as limbs overlapped and squeals of outrage pierced the night. I focused on the sound of the fan, lifted my arms to be closer to its cooling vortexes and soon fell asleep. The next (and last) day on Koh Rong was a delightful blur of sun, swimming and laughter. I taught the boys how to use their bodies to link together the inner tubes. "Who is the weakest link?!" I shouted as waves threatened to break their chain. They built a sand fort with rock battlements and a dead crab atop the tallest turret. They chased nearly transparent 'ghost' crabs down the beach. After an ill conceived run under a blistering noonday sun, I returned to the beach and waded out to where Nori was playing with the boys. "OK," I asked, "who wants to go (dramatic pause) jump off (even more dramatic pause) the end of that pier?" The boys shrieked in confirmation. Soon the six of us (Tai had made a friend) were racing down the beach, causing a quite a stir among the suntanning tourists. I had already checked with Robby: the water was deep enough, local kids jumped off there all the time. With no hesitation, the boys leaped off the 4 metre high pier into the sea. Logan did a flip. I always feel proud when the boys are so adventurous and trusting. The boat ride back to Sihanoukville the next morning was very rough. Some passengers were shrieking; others were vomiting. Sigh. I had an 8 hour drive ahead of me, assuming Black Bull was still where I had parked it. It had been a very inefficient trip: two days on Koh Rong and two days of driving. It would have been much easier to fly to Phnom Penh and arrange transport to Sihanoukville. But where's the adventure in that? We had proven that it could be done. We had seen parts of Thailand and Cambodia that most people would never see. And the beauty of Koh Rong and Coconut Beach far surpassed our expectations NB: While backpackers are already doing this the slow way, I think within 5 years there will be regular ferry services that connect Koh Chang/Koh Mak/Koh Kood (Thailand) with Koh Kong/Koh Rong (Cambodia) and Phu Quoc (Vietnam).


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High quality KIWI imported directly from New Zealand High quality low KIWIprice imported at everyday directly from New Zealand at everyday low price

Why not give them a try next time you are out shopping at Big C store : Extra Rama IV, Pattaya 1 (Central Marina), Pattaya 2 (South Pattaya), Extra Pattaya (Pattaya Klang), Extra Phuket (Jungceylon Patong) and Extra Chiang Mai

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Sansara reimagines living in Hua Hin Situated on what must be one of the most picturesque golf courses in SE Asia - Black Mountain in Hua Hin, Sansara is creating a totally fresh approach to living in Thailand tailored to expats. The green rolling hills that it looks out on are less than 10kms from downtown Hua Hin which is the resort destination of choice for HiSo Thai’s and international visitors to Thailand. Sansara is building a development to the highest possible standards and specifications. Just 20 minutes from Hua Hin and less than 3 hours from Bangkok’s international airport. In a relatively short timeframe the Black Mountain area is quickly becoming one of the more desirable

areas to live in Hua Hin. In addition to the majestic European PGA golf course, there is an international school, driving range, waterpark (offering all manner of water based activities) and quality housing developments surround the sculptured landscape of the golf course. There’s even a new community mall being jointly developed by Black Mountain and Sansara to cap this vibrant little gem of a location. Sansara is so much more than a luxury property development however;

it is introducing to Thailand the idea of full service hospitality living and community engagement, delivered at an accessible price.

“ We chose this location specifically for its striking beauty and feel that being connected to such a world class golf course is a perfect fit for the active community we are building. ” Hans Van Steertegem - General Manager

Sansara will also have a wellness centre on site, restaurants, community clubhouse, swimming pool, gymnasium and concierge services that you would normally associate with a luxury resort.* What is unlike a resort is these facilities will be used as part of Sansara’s Community Development to re-enforce and grow the active community. What to expect at Sansara •S  mart Home (with voice activated) technology throughout your property •A  100% buy back guarantee ** •L  ong lasting, top quality building materials •P  remium architectural design and build quality •A  unique and active community •R  esort style hospitality From what we understand right now they are also offering special discount rates as well as inclusive furniture but these offers are expected to end soon.


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Some of the services and benefits for residents • At the plane, Airport meet and greet service with fast track clearance twice a year. • Support in retirement visas and immigration • Personal assistance services • Annual health check • 2 rounds of golf per week at Black Mountain golf course • Complete maintenance of homes, gardens and facilities • 24 hour security • Housekeeping services • Guest suites • Preferential insurance rates and medical services • INS 24 hour emergency response • Discounts at selected restaurants, hotels and retail outlets in Hua Hin • A wide range of recreational and wellness activities including yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, meditation, aqua aerobics, cycling, hiking and trekking • Spa and massage services • Complimentary shuttle to downtown and Black Mountain golf course • Happy hour at Sansara Beer Garden Sansara plans to offer a trouble and stress free environment for its residents in the warm tropical climate of Thailand. Whether you plan to live here year round or just get away from the harsh winters of your home country, Sansara is offering you something quite unique. Interview with Hans Van Steertegem - General Manager What attracted me to working at Sansara was the dedication and freedom the management team were

prepared to give me to create a unique environment and culture. The staff and our approach to our residents is key to developing the community and moving it forward from a concept to a working, thriving entity that will be seen by visitors as a breath of fresh air to the norm. We are working hard to hire the right staff and to ensure that they bring with them a positive attitude to the community. We have brought in consultants from all over the world

to ensure we are putting together something truly special here. Hans came from an international hotel background and is aiming to provide similar services to his residents and the community. *These items are in different phases of the development. **Buy Back Guarantee - Sansara Hua Hin is continually serviced and maintained by our Lifestyle Management team. The development undertakes to buy back the property for the same price that you paid for, should you decide to leave at any time. Contact for full details.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Healthy holidays by Tara Conrad

It’s that time of year again! The expat school year is coming to a close and many of us are wrapping up last minute details, packing up our belongings and heading out of Thailand for a holiday amongst family and friends. It’s the greatest time of the year! But, let’s face it, it can also be a difficult time for our health and nutrition. My 13 year old came to me last week with this exact concern. He said that he didn’t want to lose the ‘gains’ (his word, not mine) that he had worked on throughout the year. He lamented that he would eat too much in the US over the summer and he wouldn’t have his ‘gym’ to work out in. The next evening I heard him talking to my mother on the phone asking her to install a pull up and a dip bar in her house before our arrival so that he would be suitably outfitted to do his daily workouts. At first I laughed at his overzealous spirit, but after I thought about it for a bit, I realised what a great idea. He is making sure he stays fit while on holiday. We should all be so motivated! Feeling inspired by my 13 year old son, I decided to come up with my own 5 things I will do to keep my ‘gains’ going this summer! Or is it losing my ‘gains’? I’m not sure really, but here is what I am going to do to stay fit healthy while I travel! 1. Exercise. This is easy, right? Wrong … whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure getting the appropriate amount of exercise is never easy. What you need to do is plan for exercise. Pack all your exercise shoes and fabulous workout clothes in your suitcase, as well as any gym equipment that you can fit in. OK, I’m not talking barbells.I’m


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thinking more like jump rope, resistance rope, and hand tubing. My son never leaves home without them! Also, walk whenever you can. If you are stuck in the airport for a long layover go for a walk. Climb stairs instead of taking the elevator. If you are in a big city walk instead of taking the bus or the subway. Every bit counts. Lastly, if you wear a Fitbit or an iWatch, set daily goals for yourself and try to stick to them at least 3 to 4 times a week. 2. Portion control. Whenever we travel to new places it’s important to experience the entire culture which usually

means indulging in the local cuisine. If we are travelling back to our home country, we are usually excited to get back to our comfort food. Remember, that when you are on holiday you can indulge in your favourite local dishes but you also need to be sure not to overdo it. Here are a few suggestions how: • Before you head out to a restaurant make sure you don’t turn up starving. Have a healthy snack before you go. Make yourself a small salad or a handful of mixed nuts. • Drink water while eating your meal. This will help fill you up and it has no calories. • Share a dessert. One or two bites should do the trick and hopefully sooth your sweet tooth! • Leave half the meal on your plate or have the waitress pack it up before you even begin to eat. You can still finish the whole meal, just save half of it for lunchtime tomorrow. This way you don’t waste any food and you still get to eat what you love. 3. Alcohol control. Usually travel, whether its business or pleasure, involves drinking more alcohol than you might if you were at home. If you are out at a bar catching up with friends or meeting up with business partners on a nightly basis, make sure you pace yourself. Before you head out, make an effort to decide how much you will drink that night. Give yourself a cut off of 2 drinks and then order a soda water with lime, because it looks like an alcoholic drink without actually being an alcoholic drink! If you are looking for a low calorie drink, usually a Vodka soda with lime is your best bet as it has no added sugar. Remember, alcohol lowers our inhibitions, which can wreak havoc on our healthy eating, we tend to indulge much more after a few drinks than we would have before. 4. Keep hydrated. It sounds simple enough right? But the reality is most times we don’t even realise that we are not drinking enough water. When you are travelling, drink as

much water as possible as it reduces fatigue, helps flush out any toxins, helps improve skin complexion and boosts the immune system. Add a slice of lemon and you have added more nutrient benefit without adding any calories. 5. Breathing and stretching. Being mindful is important while you are travelling. You know that travel, without a doubt, can be very stressful at times. And while your holiday is usually more fun than not, it’s important to practice stress release whenever you can. Breathing in and out slowly for 10 minutes, and completely focusing on this task relaxes the mind and the body. Also 5 to 10 minutes of stretching first thing in the morning, right as you are waking up can allow our blood to start flowing and raising our awareness and our energy levels for the rest of the day. So there’s my list on how I am going to stay healthy and strong this summer. I am looking forward to hopping on that plane and heading off into the sunset (with my running sneakers and shorts, of course!). Safe travels to everyone and enjoy the adventure!

Tara Lynn Conrad is a certified clinical nutritionist. Tara can help change your diet, lifestyle and the way you feel about food. You can find her on Facebook at

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



10 top travel tips all families should read before their summer holiday! by Jane Waterman

OK, so taking children on holiday is on a par with a major military manoeuvre! The key to a stress(ish) free start to your holiday is … preparation, preparation … and more preparation! Running a travel company for families (, I know a thing or two about family travel. I have compiled my 10 top travel tips that you need to know before you fly off on your family adventures!

1. Visa and vaccinations (boring but essential!) First things first, check what visas and vaccinations are required for the country you will be visiting. Do this in plenty of time. Paperwork is always very stressful if done at the last minute! Vaccinations may require you to have them a month or so before you travel in order for them to give you protection from day one of your holiday! Sort out travel insurance. Double check everyone’s passports for clear pages and expiry dates! You don’t want to leave anyone behind! Once these are all ticked off you can begin the fun stuff.

pants or a top that goes with a particular pair of shorts! (Been there done that, have the messy disorganised suitcase to show for it!) If you are having a beach break roll all swimwear, sun hats, armbands and plastic sunglasses into a towel. Keeping all the beach things together. The final thing to pack (and therefore the first thing you see when you open your suitcase) is pajamas for the first night. There is nothing worse than arriving at your hotel at night and trying to find PJ’s for sleepy children!! (By the way if you do not follow these tips and you are looking for PJ’s they will be right at the bottom of your suitcase for maximum stress!). Put your children’s toothpaste and brushes into a zip lock bag and wrap their PJ’s around them so you have instant bedtime routine at your fingertips!

2. Roll with it With some top tips and allowing yourself a bit of time packing needn’t be a painful experience! (OK, still a bit painful so as you pack say the packing mantra; “Beautiful beach, sunny sun, chirpy children” and repeat!) Avoid throwing things in randomly. Have a plan. Pack outfits together. For example; start with a pair of shorts, fold a t-shirt in half and place on top of the shorts, then place socks and pants into the middle of the t-shirt and roll all of the clothes together. This way you avoid constantly rummaging through the suitcase for a pair of socks or


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a plane with hand luggage and toddlers in tow is no way to start a holiday (take it from the expert - been there done that!). Airports often have strollers for rent, phone chargers etc., go to the information desk and see what services they offer that could help you out!

3. Family travel gadgets and gizmos Check out the top travel gizmos and gadgets! There may be products that have been developed that you’re not even aware of yet! My top travel gadgets are; the Ben Bat Go Vinci Trolley bag, a bag for the little artist in your family. The Trunki Boostapak, a handy backpack that doubles as a car seat too. Luggage scales, keep your stress levels in check by weighing your bags before you reach the dreaded check in desk. The Track R Pixel tracker, never loose your passports again with a handy tracker system. A Grid it organiser, this has saved me from the endless search for things in my bottomless handbag! And finally, headphones for the children, with all my good intentions of not letting my children have any devices there is the odd moment (or two….!) that I just need a bit of peace and quiet.

5. Parent prep A balance between spontaneity and research needs to be reached. Make a list of family activities in the area of cafes, parks, museums and galleries. Take note of their phone number, address and cost. Print off your findings and pack it in your luggage. That way you will have an idea of what’s on near you when you arrive and something to refer to if you find yourself without internet. Then you can explore your area but you have an idea of what you could do. Get your children involved in the research. Let everyone in the family choose an activity that they want to do (no veto’s allowed!). This is a great way to try things you normally wouldn’t and to gives the children a sense of ownership on the holiday. Teach your children a couple of phrases if a different language is spoken in the country you are visiting. Look at pictures of where you are going and discuss what they think about it. 6. Fun on the run! Buy some games and books to play on the move to keep everyone occupied. The Littlies (ages 2+) love snap, pick a pair memory games and bring the travel theme in with the Usbourne book ‘That’s not my Plane’. The Leapfrog books are also great for energetic explorers who cannot read yet (ages 3+) as they trace the pen over the words it reads the book aloud, games can also be played on it and they have a good variety of story books available Older children (ages 4/5+) will love ‘Sushi Go’ and ‘Dobble’ (both available on Amazon). These fun card games are really easy to learn and are great fun for all the family. Sushi - go had the added benefit of making my children want to eat sushi (a good game to pack if you are travelling to Japan). Dobble is a silly fast paced fun that is addictive but in all the excitement

4. Up, up and away! If you are flying, your holiday begins at the airport. Avoid tears and tantrums by doing some research before you go. Airports can be a fun family destination in there own right. Find out if the airport has an indoor play area, and what level these are on. Plan your airport adventure, split it into playtime, stop for a drink and snack, find a bookshop and buy a book for the journey and then head to the gate. Always allow plenty of time to get to the gate (in larger airports you may have to catch a bus or a train just to get to your gate). Running for

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



may get a little loud and animated (don’t say I didn’t warn you). Finally, The Loaded Questions Junior is a fun way to wile away a long car journey, or delay at the airport, with a selection of fun conversations you wouldn’t normally ask your children such as ‘What is the best thing about being really short? What is something you would never want? If you were a professional wrestler what would your ring name be? Allowing you a window into how your children see the world which can be both eye opening and very funny! 7. Keep it simple Before I had children, my holiday was all about seeing the sights and cramming as much in as I could. With children, these expectations have to be adjusted. We keep activities for the morning when our children are at their best. This is when you can go for that scenic walk, do some sightseeing or visit a museum. After lunch it is all about the ‘chill out’ factor. We tend to book hotels with swimming pools or on the beach so we still feel like we are doing something, even if it just building a sandcastle on the beach. 8. Nifty tricks We love walking as a family, and on holiday exploring on foot can be a great way to experience a place. Make the stroll around a new area much more exciting for the children by Geocaching ( This is like a grown up treasure hunt. Geocaches are small treasures carefully placed with the help of Global Positioning Satellites (GPS). There are 2 million Geocache hidden all over the world. Just download their App before your holiday. When you are on holiday look up which Geocaches’ are close by and then use your phone to navigate to them. Once you find it (difficulty levels vary) sign the logbook, which will be with the geocache, and sometimes you can even trade small nick knacks like a key ring etc. This revolutionised our walking experience, and rather than plodding at the back our children now bound ahead! If you have no Internet where you are going Fitbits are great to start a bit of family competition on who can do the most steps in a day. And trust me the toddler always wins!


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

9. Lil’ local Once you are at your destination pick up some of the local magazines. These are a great source of up to date information on what to do, what’s on and could equip you with some great local insider knowledge. It may also give you discounts to local companies and a heads up to any local festivals that may be happening. The magazines will also have an online version, if you want to do some research pre-trip.

10. Strike a pose Holidays are generally in beautiful parts of the world and you should all be relaxed and happy … with a bit of a tan, …. so the perfect time to get some family photos. Find out if there are any local photographers in the area and get some beautiful holiday memories snapped by a professional. Have a location shoot at your villa, on the beach or when you are doing an activity all together. Family holiday shoots are becoming more popular and a great way to capture the memories of a fabulous holiday!

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The best of British by Hugh Cocke

At the end of April, the Independent Schools Council's Annual Census revealed that private schools now educate more international students abroad than they do in Britain. The number of pupils attending 'satellite' campuses set up by leading Independent Schools has, for the first time, outstripped the number of overseas students taught in the UK. In 2017, British private schools operate 59 campuses abroad, educating 31,773 pupils an increase from 46 campuses last year with 27,619 pupils. This year there were 27,381 pupils in ISC schools whose parents were from overseas. So why is it that British schools, both in the UK and abroad, have proved to be so popular with overseas pupils and their parents? For over 100 years, overseas pupils have enjoyed the benefits of a world class education. First and foremost, UK Independent Schools are renowned for their academic record and exceptionally high quality of education bringing about outstanding examination results, based on a broad and balanced curriculum, accompanied by rigorous assessment. According to the Independent Schools Council over 50% of A Level entrants from ISC member schools get A or A* grades and 91% of those leaving ISC member schools go on to university. Outstanding academic results are very much down to three key factors: firstly, a very good student/ staff ratio. The average ratio in ISC member schools is one teacher for every 9.4 students. This means that every student can be well looked after, both academically and pastorally. It means that the learning environment is totally focused on the needs of individual students, with small


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classes providing individual attention and support, and an environment where all students are challenged. Secondly, the schools invest in both their teaching staff and their facilities. Up to date facilities in art, drama, information and technology, music and sport are often state of the art and having access to world class facilities produces outstanding results. Finally, the schools will often have the traditions and ethos to address the needs of the students as individuals. The specifics of these traditions will vary from school to school but there will be a number of common themes such as the aim to develop the 'whole person' through an holistic belief; by instilling a social responsibility brought about by the promotion of such values as respect, thoughtfulness, kindness, mindfulness and generosity, whilst at the same time striving to create a rounded learning environment by encouraging self-expression, creativity and individuality in its

students. An extended school day, along with the provision of a wide range of extra curricular activities, allow for individual interests and talents to be recognised and encouraged. This then in turn results in students fulfilling their unique potential while also building up each student's independence and confidence. The heads of the leading British schools both in the UK and abroad would agree that their single most important role is to appoint outstanding members of staff - teachers who have a deep subject knowledge, and a determination to extend it through their teaching, reading and writing; teachers who are effective communicators of their learning; teachers who themselves are good learners; teachers who bring a cocurricular interest or talent to the school and finally teachers who have a well developed pastoral responsibility. The best teachers are emotionally astute, intellectually curious and are great communicators. The emphasis that is now placed on pastoral care and personal mentoring is perhaps the biggest difference between the schools of today and those of 30 years ago. UK Independent Schools were always academically successful, but today they pride themselves on being just as successful at assisting students with the social and emotional challenges that they face not only during their school careers but also in their adult lives. There is growing evidence that some teenagers are in the grip of a mental health crisis: rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased in the UK by 70% in 25 years, and with the absence of 'traditional anchors’, students are more adrift than ever before. Schools are seeing the urgent need to respond, providing much needed emotional security and moral framework: 'As educators, our chief mission must be to inspire students' minds, help them to think imaginatively and entrepreneurially and give them the skills and character to thrive’ - Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, and former Master of Wellington College. This mission to think entrepreneurially has been picked up by an increasing number of schools. With business skills finding their way into broad based curriculums as industry leaders call for better quality workforces, the world of business has entered into both primary and secondary classrooms. By becoming involved in a plethora of entrepreneurial projects, students learn skills that they do not get the opportunity to gain elsewhere in the curriculum.

Students will develop their leadership, communication and teamwork aptitudes while at the same time they will grow as individuals who are confident, business minded and problem solvers. At Eton College, over a tenth of the pupils enter each year the Hoberman Prize for Entrepreneurship in Educational Technology. This award, set up by the entrepreneur and Old Etonian Brent Hoberman, challenges students to come up with product ideas, develop them and pitch them to investors. This same vision will be at the forefront of the Entrepreneurship Suite at the new Denla British School: this has been specifically designed to provide all students with a set of resources which will allow them to take part in real life business scenarios. The 21st Century will present new challenges, new demands and as yet undreamed of opportunities, and the young of today must be equipped to respond. Denla British School has chosen as its motto - 'Semper ad maiora’ … 'Always towards greater things’. That vision will be met by providing an education that will develop intrinsic values of awareness, curiosity, optimism and resilience among its students in the years to come, along with a curriculum that will continue to evolve, meeting the need to fully captivate each student, their creative minds, their emotions and their character. The hallmark of the UK Independent education system has been this ability to evolve, to meet new challenges as they appear, and explains why it has proved to be so popular with overseas families, and why we will continue to see more and more British private schools opening abroad in the future.

Hugh Cocke taught in UK Independent Schools throughout his teaching career,and was Headmaster for twenty-one years of two leading Preparatory Schools. During his final year at Brambletye in West Sussex,he won the prestigious 'Tatler Award for Best Head of a Prep School 2011'. On retirement,he was invited by the Pandejpong family to be their Project Adviser for the Denla British School, which opens on 28th August 2017 across eighteen acres in the Nonthaburi area of North West Bangkok.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



After 12 years teaching in Thailand by Christopher Simcox

My inspiration for life adventure came from my father. He was an engineering fitter from Sheffield, but in the 1970s - a time when international travel was a relative rarity - he took a job in Mexico. I remember receiving airmail letters in which he included drawings of sailfish and Aztec ruins which, as a young boy, filled me with a sense of wonder. As an adult, travel became a real passion. During the school holidays, myself and my wife Carol would jump on a plane from England to spend weeks at a time travelling to the Caribbean or Mexico, or driving around the USA and camping in its National Parks. Teaching positions in San Diego and Houston followed, and when we did move back to England with three young children, almost immediately the urge to move on, to experience something different, hit us once more. Bangkok was a world away from all of our western experiences, and despite my wife having just, once again, picked up her own career path


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as a nurse, she agreed to give it a try “for 6 months”. We didn’t dare to research before setting off in case we weren’t doing exactly the right thing for our boys, but we did think “let’s just keep an open mind and be happy to experience and learn new things”. Our first contract was for two years, but 12 years later we are still here. So we arrived in Thailand with Sam, Zach and Jacob who started school in Years 7, 5 and 1. I knew that I had come to the right place when I first proved the quadratic formula to my class and got a round of applause! At first it was understandably tough for the boys, and especially Carol, who didn’t have a job, and had to get to know the city by herself, and reliant on local taxi drivers who didn’t always understand our accents or pronunciations! Our youngest, Jacob, was a tow head blonde who drew a lot of attention, and quickly took to riding my shoulders through our condo and shopping malls. Nevertheless, I think we were helped by the sheer business of life here; it was so hectic and so different that we quickly became totally immersed in our new lives. Things were little bit crazy to begin with, and turning up for a “Greek Day” meal on Ekkamai with all Zach’s teachers dressed in togas was a little bit bizarre. It turned out that costumes and props were needed for all sorts of celebrations both at school and at our condo (floating krathongs on the

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

swimming pool). In a city that was entirely new to us, having to source outfits ranging from Ring Wraiths to Ricky Ricotta, and pirates to Zeus, was a challenge that many parents will empathise with. Throughout all of this however, was the reassurance and stability of working in a fantastic school with the boys still receiving a British education grounded in the English National Curriculum. And it is why we have been here for so long. Sam made great friends with students of every nationality during his time here, but especially with Thais. He had to compete with them for places in the sets for Maths and was challenged by the standard of homework and the prodigious amounts of revision that they would do for every test. But I think it was this peer group attitude that led to his success. He went to University College London to read Geophysics, gained a First Class degree, and went to Leeds to do his Masters, with a project in Chiang Mai that helped him obtain his first job. The company he now works for is based near Pranburi, but at the moment he is offshore from Denmark conducting geophysical surveys. It wasn’t all plain sailing for him, however. Moving to London, with all of its inherent challenges, after 7 years in Bangkok, was not an easy transition, and the university didn’t seem to have particular sympathy for accommodating a home fee status student anywhere near his department.

“ Let’s just keep an open mind and be happy to experience and learn new things. ”

Fortunately, Sam has proven in many ways that he is tougher than he looks. Zach loved almost every minute of his time in school, becoming an accomplished guitarist, performing in student led productions with utmost confidence, and picking up 12 IGCSEs and 4 A levels along the way. Zach took full advantage of all that school had to offer, forging a wide and loyal friendship group, and enjoying our travels in the region. He won an individual award for innovation in Thailand and ASEAN in the AEC

and is currently studying Acoustical Engineering at Southampton, due to graduate this summer. His tutor is planning to add his name to his final thesis and for the paper to be published. Jacob is now in Year 12 (that’s how I know how long we’ve been here), and he has wonderful support from his teachers. He loves English and Drama and has contributed in many productions, not least ‘Fusion’, stealing the show two year’s running with his dancing. As parents we love

Shrewsbury for the very fact that it is as cool to be in the choir, or to swing dance with your crew, as it is to be a star athlete. Jacob is working towards the Gold standard for the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award which his big brothers achieved and which ensures that he does community service, skills and trekking with like minded individuals from his peer group. Like any expat family, each time a contract was up for renewal it was a huge decision time for us to stay EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



or go. Naturally, the relative stages of our boys’ education has tended to dominate our thinking, but Sam’s especially as the examination years quickly came around for him. However, we have always been extremely happy about the level of care and support that Shrewsbury staff give to their students, and we were always confident that this was the best place for our own children not only to achieve the best possible grades, but also to develop their own interests. They have all been happy and confident learners here, and the school has helped to nurture life skills that will I know will help them to flourish at university and beyond. It has definitely been the right decision for us to remain. My boys all have world class qualifications that stand them in good stead for anything they wish to progress to, and quite a unique outlook on life to go alongside their credentials. For my part, I have been fortunate to be able to balance an amazing lifestyle here with an incredibly fulfilling professional career. It gives me a genuine sense of pride when I see our Year 13 students, many of whom I will have taught as very young children, complete their A level exams and graduate to universities around the world. In addition to teaching Maths, which I love, I have also been Head of Year, leading a pastoral team and organising events and residential visits. I have been lucky to go on many expeditions with the International Award, and have dined out for years on stories of leeches in my belly button and porcupines eating their way into my tent. One thing I am particularly proud of being involved with is the Rotary Club Kid’s Day Out, which gives my students a life changing experience working with disabled kids to ensure they have a special day. Carol has for many years now, also worked at Shrewsbury, most recently as a Learning Mentor. She spends her days supporting younger children, understanding the unique pressures they face both within school and beyond, and working with


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them to help establish a positive and productive approach to their school life. It’s a job she also loves, and I have to literally drag her away from school the end of each day. At home, she has a penchant for welcoming friends, and friends of friends (and even their friends too!), to stay at our apartment. We have a very active social life and there’s never a dull moment. There is, of course, a price to be paid for working internationally and for educating your kids at an international school. You don’t have access to the familiar support structures of family or friends, and you miss out on spending valuable time with loved ones back “home”. We have spent a lot of money on flights to maintain contact with everyone, and to ensure that our boys were able to be exposed to British culture and absorb our own family values. However, we are also fortunate to be part of a very strong international community here in Bangkok, and our kids have grown up surrounded by friends, tutors and teachers who genuinely care for their wellbeing. The school’s pastoral and social programmes such as “Learning for Life” have also helped to give our own children the resilience to get through the tougher moments that all expat families inevitably experience. The other side of the coin is that as a family, we are gaining something priceless; we have all been privileged

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

to be guests in the Kingdom of Thailand for so long. Being together to experience all of Thailand’s wonders on family holidays, expeditions and residential trips, and being able to engage so regularly in activities we all love like swimming, snorkelling, wake boarding and diving is simply something we could not have done in the UK. I would never claim that our choices are better than anyone else’s but simply that we chose a different way to enjoy precious family time. Importantly for us, there has been no compromise in terms of our children’s education. All of our boys have received a top quality British education, coupled with a deeper understanding of different cultures and a broader perspective on life and the world in which we live. Our move to Bangkok some 12 years ago was admittedly a bit of a ‘leap of faith’, but from where I stand today, I firmly believe that we made the right decision, and that our children benefitted from an international education in the widest sense that will in turn give them the opportunity and confidence to forge their own futures anywhere they choose.

Chris Simcox, Director of Standards, Shrewsbury International School. June 2017.

Shrewsbury Class of 2017 celebrates 370 offers including 170 offers from World’s Top 100 Universities and Medical Schools

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Join us on the Journey to Success at Shrewsbury International School Bangkok Contact: Lucy Pederick 02 675 1888 ext. 1407 or email Visit our website:


An appreciation of the Arts

Education and engagement in the arts are a vital part of the school curriculum and play an important role in students’ academic and social development. Through creating, making, designing, exploring and experimenting, students develop their creative thought processes, learn to ‘think outside the box,’ risk take and develop their critical thinking skills and ability to communicate and present their ideas and opinions both visually and verbally. The arts help to break down barriers and foster intellect and community


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across the globe and can be a platform for expression for one’s ideas. In Thailand and across Asia, Bromsgrove International School Thailand is working tirelessly to raise the profile and importance of ‘the arts’ as we recognise that students require a curriculum of breadth, encompassing traditional subjects as well as creative opportunities. There are many different views about the importance of studying subjects within ‘the arts.’ It is apparent that in some educational institutions at present, there is still greater emphasis

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

on core academic choices. Whilst being in no doubt that these are of great importance, a growing number of universities and employers look for more than simply academics when recruiting and at how balanced their creative and academic skill set is. At Bromsgrove, we aim to nurture this and the students who leave are school are well-rounded, globally-minded citizens. We are justifiably proud of our outstanding arts facilities: our Performing Arts Centre, with its 550 seater auditorium opened in 2015 has meant that we have been able to host both internal and external professional performances since its opening. Music is also taught within this state of the art building and it has grown from strength to strength, both inside and outside of the classroom. Curriculum music and extracurricular music together form the basis of an integrated, practical, exploratory and child-led approach to musical learning. In 2016, the ‘Hadley Art building’ also opened at Bromsgrove, providing a state of the art facility to our students and staff with

wonderful light and space to showcase their talents. We are also proud to be members of both FOBISIA and TISAC and have enjoyed leading and participating in a number of events. The FOBISIA Drama Festival has become a successful and fundamental event within the FOBISIA calendar and its increase in participation from schools across Asia has been wonderful. We were lucky enough to be the host of this event in March 2017 and welcomed over 150 students to the school from other schools across the region. When planning our curriculum, we have been careful to balance our arts provision with the need for academic rigour. Students in Key Stage 3 benefit from Drama, Music and Art lessons, allowing all students to gain a breadth and appreciation of all areas of the arts. In key stage 4, we have a discrete arts option block so all our students are guaranteed to study one of art, drama, music or media to GCSE level, thus providing them with wider opportunities for future careers. We also believe strongly in the value of experience outside of the classroom for students in terms of a wellrounded arts education. Many young artists, dramatists and musicians take advantage of our excellent facilities, using lunchtimes and after school to work independently or in groups. This dedication and passion has become

ever more evident as the status of the arts has grown at school. Our extracurricular programme includes art clubs, manga drawing, arts and crafts, set design, school drama productions, school musical productions, drama clubs, three choirs, orchestras, a rock school; all promoting the importance of high quality performance and skill, commitment and resilience to an ever growing number of students. Our set design is linked to the school production, and students who participate have to put their artistic skills into practice; designing, building and painting sets and props. This gives an insight into one example of how art is used in a real world context. We also have the Bromsgrove Music Academy;

our instrumental lessons programme which allows for one-to-one lessons on a range of instruments, delivered weekly by a team of specialist teachers. The opportunity to pursue the ABRSM graded exams is offered, should students wish to take this route. We also host an annual celebratory Art Exhibition which showcases our students’ work across all ages and abilities. At Bromsgrove International School Thailand, we firmly believe that the arts are integral to our global society, and as BIST has such an international population, it is important for the students to be able to explore their own and others’ cultures, ideas and global issues, both visually and practically through their education.

For enquiries, please contact or call 02 989 4873

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Bangkok’s international schools create barriers to change by Lauri Barrett (an expat mom)

For those of you with children at international schools in Bangkok, you may not have considered in depth the unique fee structure of international schools here until you are considering a change. The flurry of information and decision making required when you come on your “look see” familiarity trip including signing up for a school, apartment hunting, mobile phone and banking services can be truly mind boggling. It was only when we began thinking our family will probably be in Bangkok longer then 2 years, that we looked again at the schools and what we wanted for our two girls, which raised the unique fee structure. Almost all schools in Thailand have three elements to their fee structure. When you are admitted to a school, there is an upfront substantial one time non-refundable fee called a ‘registration’ or ‘enrolment’ fee, an annual ‘capital development fee’ and then term based tuition fees. Of course meal fees and school bus fees are added on as needed. I believe that this format is unique to Thailand. Our family arrived from Shanghai where school fees were simple - per semester tuition fees only. I also checked Beijing, Singapore and Hong Kong, all very competitive international school markets, none have this multi level structure that requires the upfront payment, which can be up to 40% of the first year’s tuition. Depending on the school, the ‘registration’ or ‘enrolment’ fee ranges from 95,000B to 265,000B - that is typically per student. For many families, once the fee is paid as part of their relocation package upon entry into a school, they may


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never think of it again. They stay with the same school for the duration of their time in Bangkok. However, sometimes things change during your time in Bangkok. Families may want to live in a different area, reduce the time spent commuting to school or work or perhaps their children are getting older and have different needs that the current school is not providing. Whatever the reason is, the changing of schools is not an easy or cheap endeavour in Bangkok. For our family, we arrived mid school year in January and were unable to get our two daughters in the school that best suited our needs from a location, school facilities and curriculum standpoint. It was only in the process of changing school because our second choice school wasn’t delivering the results and opportunities we were looking for after two years, that the unfavourable fee structure of Bangkok’s international school became apparent. To change schools for our two kids, we’d have to pay upfront 180,000B up to 530,000B to the new school. Given the uniqueness of Thailand’s international school fee structure, it makes me wonder why it was implemented this way. In corporate America, we’d employ this type of structure to create a ‘barrier to exit’, making it more advantageous for customers to continue service then to change. If all providers have the same structure, it would work to the advantage of all - keeping customers in place. Maintaining customers would be based not on the quality of service provided, but the cost of changing. Another reason why the fee structures may have been set up this way was to take advantage of the deep pockets

“ Schools should charge a tuition that is equitable for the services provided. ” of corporates and embassies that typically pay the school fees for their employees they bring in as expats. Given the frequent in and out on two to three year contracts, it is the businesses and embassies that keep paying this upfront fee as new families arrive. However, corporate packages are changing for many. International workers may no longer be able to afford international schools, which will drastically impact the “international” environment of the schools. It is my hope that as Bangkok attracts more international schools and current schools expand their capacity; schools will reevaluate their fee structure to align the costs with services delivered. The idea of paying an additional 40% in the first year of service because you are new, yet there are no incremental direct cost associated with new customers does not seem equitable. I cannot think of any other service based industry that levies such a high premium to new customers. Schools should charge a tuition that is equitable for

the services provided and remove barriers that hinder their customers from making changes when their needs are not being met. The inclusion of an upfront registration or enrollment fee is clearly aimed at corporates and embassies that will pay this fee every 2-3 years as employees change as compared to locals who will pay it once per student. These fees are too high to simply be the cost of being a “farang” in Thailand.

Below is a table of current “enrollment” or “registration” fees as compared to the yearly tuition at the school. Since tuition can vary from year to year, I took the cost at the Year 4 or Grade 3 level for comparison purposes.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Setting your children up for a successful move and a new life by Isabel Valle

Moving to a new place and setting up a new life is no easy task. It requires a great degree of energy and stamina. The degree of change and diversity is so great that it becomes quite a challenging experience for most of us. If adults find it hard at the best of times, imagine younger children, lacking a wider perspective and awareness of the world at large.

Let’s be honest, our natural tendency to change is to react to it and resist it, and for our little ones change may be a bit more than we anticipated. We know that children thrive in routine and certainty, and an expatriate move provides a complete change of the world as they know it, which can present a really unsettling time for our little ones. Every child is of course different, and their personalities and age at the time of the move will present different responses to the adjustment. They will be facing a new life with a lack of belonging, among strangers, and will have to face new social rules and ways of living. If your child is in school, moving into a new school may bring additional challenges, as they try to align what they know to the new curriculum and way of doing things. For children specifically, moving to a new place and leaving behind life as they know it can be a very daunting time. On top of that they will be leaving behind friends, family and possibly pets they have come to love, and will undoubtedly grieve their loss.


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But don’t let any of the above scare you or put you off. After a small period of adaptation, and with some proven practical tips to help them ease into their new life, your children will be reaping incredible benefits from being exposed to a whole different way of life. Here are some proven tips that will help your little ones adapt with ease into your new location: Be empathetic: For children, focusing on the negative aspects of a move will simply be a natural reaction, and you must validate their feelings with empathy, without holding judgement. They probably have not been faced by loss or change to such a degree before, and even if they did, change will seem much bigger and more real to them than for adults. Prior to the move, it is very important to help them understand and explain the benefits of moving to your next destination. Educate them about your next new life: One of my favourite tools that has worked best for me with my little ones, is to create a storybook with our move, including an acknowledgement of life as they know it, the reasons for the move, and a vision of our new lives in our new location, adding plenty of images of the people, key places, traditions, etc; so when we got to our new place, they were already familiar with some aspects of it, which made them feel at ease. So if you know the hotel or accommodation where you will stay initially, the school they will attend, places to visit, etc, help them create a vision of what their new lives will look like. This acts as a way of helping them visualise their new

life, and their little brains will become more conditioned to these changes, which will help in the process of adaptation. Let them express themselves: It is very important to acknowledge their feelings, and give them the time to express their emotions and fears about the move. Let them relate their sadness about leaving people they love behind, their fears about the new life that awaits them, and don’t dismiss any of their feelings. Reassure them that you will do everything you can to make the move as easy as possible, and that no matter what, you will always be there for them. It is also helpful for you to be open and express to your children how you feel about the move too, being careful not to portray a negative picture that may be adopted by your little ones. Allow plenty of time: The initial weeks prior to and after the move are the most critical ones. If you are able to, give yourself time to say your farewells, visit all the places they love, take frequent breaks and relax, and take time to play and enjoy each other’s company. It is important to allow plenty of opportunity to get closure with life as they know it. In your new location, try to find the time to go on exploring trips and adventures to interesting places, and make it an exciting time despite the unsettling feeling you may have. Pretend you are on an extended holiday, only this time you get to go back to a base and call it your home. Involve them in the process: What will really help your children is to include them in the move whenever possible. Help them choose what they want to take, things to give away, places to go before leaving to your new destination; also help them create a list of what they believe will be helpful for them and you all as a family, and let them plan it. Ensuring they have plenty of projects (age appropriate) to keep busy, will help them feel part of the move and ease their fears. Make it ‘homey’: I know that we are always running out of space in our plane cases, however you may want to allow a bit of room to bring with you those things that bring your

children comfort from home - a blanket, soft toys, photos and items that will bring them much comfort when they are missing their old life. If you can, create a farewell book and add in it photos of their favourite people and places, as well as some words from their friends and loved ones. They will cherish it when they miss their previous life, and for years to come. Do an orientation: As soon as you move into your new location, do as any new employer or school would do with you. Make a trip to the school they will be attending, the supermarkets or shops you may visit often, the parks or outing locations you may enjoy together, etc. Also create a list of things your children may enjoy, and if available visit some of them. What’s really important here is to get them used to their surroundings, and their fear of the unknown will soon disappear as they come to know their community and all it has to offer.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Get involved: As soon as possible, try to create networks of people and become involved in the community to build the support and sense of belonging that will be crucial to your survival. Try to meet various types of groups, from school, neighbours, activities you enjoy, clubs, etc., to provide you and your children with a rich group of people and opportunities to make new friends. The sooner you can start creating friendships, the easier it will be for everyone to feel at home in your new location. So don’t be shy to ask others to meet up; the success of your move depends on it! Stay in touch: If your children are old enough to have made good friendships in your previous location, make sure you take contact details and allow your children to stay in touch with those relationships. If not old enough to have their own accounts, allow them to use your Skype, Facebook or email accounts (under your supervision of course). If feasible, visit your previous place from time to time, and invite their old friends to come and stay with you over long weekends or holidays. Nowadays it is very easy to stay in touch with those we love, regardless of distance and time zones. Break it up: There will be times when your next move will seem way too overwhelming and impossible. Whenever any of you feel this way, break it up and try to focus on your very next step towards it. Make a list of broken down steps to allow you to see the trajectory of your move, and rest assured that no matter what, one way or another (it may not be as tidy and perfect as you initially intended it to be), things will get done, and you will get there. Make it fun: Cut yourselves some slack and give you and your family the opportunity to delve into the unknown, test it out, make mistakes and learn from it. If you find

yourselves feeling down, take a break from it and intentionally do something together that allows you to disconnect and just have some plain old fun. Nobody ever said that a move is easy - so take it in a stride and just jump into your new adventure. A new move can provide you and your little ones with an opportunity to create a whole new life, meet new interesting people, visit new places, learn about new cultures, create long lasting memories and so much more, so don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from making your next move your best one yet! Here’s to you all global nomads! Isabel x

Isabel Valle is an accredited ICF PCC Coach, Leadership Mentor and Facilitator. She 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


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Daddy daughter dance at NIST On Saturday, May 13th, the American Women’s Club of Thailand Scholarship Program and Generation.Education.Period. (G.E.P.), a program supported by the Lotus Educational Fund, held the first annual Father-Daughter Dance in partnership with NIST International School to great success. The event raised 216,000B to support health and education for girls in Thailand. The AWC Scholarship Program was founded in 1995 and has helped over 7,000 underprivileged girls in rural Thailand complete their high school education. For the 2017-2018 Thai school year, 474 students are sponsored across Central, North and Northeast Thailand. The AWC Scholarship Committee also participates in quarterly school visits, and holds an annual art competition and annual English camps for the students. The Lotus Educational Fund was founded in 2008 to support girls’ education in Southern Laos, and provides employment for its students by making reusable sanitary kits. Through surveys and discussions, it was revealed that both women and girls in Laos urgently needed education and access to practical hygiene solutions. The lack of these were impacting their school attendance and livelihood. Hence, in collaboration with Sengsavang, a local rehabilitation shelter for girls, Lotus launched G.E.P. A natural partnership formed between AWC Scholarship co-chair and NIST mother Michelle Hartel and Lotus Educational Fund founder and NIST teacher Dianne Gamage, as Ms Gamage wanted to introduce the kits to girls in Thailand via the AWC’s Scholarship students. Wanting to share their passion and support for girls’ health and education, Michelle and Dianne choose an event that they


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felt would bring attention to the issue and would allow the primary age female students at NIST an opportunity to support the cause here in Thailand. “Girls supporting girls” quickly became the tagline for the dance. The event also provided a special opportunity to spend an evening with their fathers, many of whom have extensive travel obligations for work. Though a father-daughter dance is an American tradition, it was exciting to introduce the idea to the diverse NIST community, where it was warmly embraced. NIST generously donated the dance space, which was decorated in gold, white and silver décor made by students, highlighting the evening theme “Ties and Tiaras”. NIST Catering provided a delicious dinner buffet, and S&P donated cupcakes for dessert. The fathers and daughters danced the night away to music DJ'ed by student volunteers Taku Toyama and Joshua Maza, who were assisted by the Year 6 Girls Education Service Group. The service group opened the night with a choreographed dance and emceed the evening sharing facts on girls’ education and ways to support the initiative in Thailand and beyond. A true highlight of the evening was a father-daughter dance off, during which many fathers showed of moves the daughters had never seen before. A photo booth was set up by student volunteers Tarini Budhraja, Vin Stratton, Ishaani Budhraja and Katie Soltis, who also captured many candid photos of the event which were made available to the participants. When the girls needed a break from dancing, a fun craft was provided.

The girls were able to hand decorate neckties for their fathers to take away from the dance as a keepsake. Many fathers quickly changed into their ties for the remainder of the evening. The evenings success is largely due in part to Mr Brett Penny and Michelle Marquez with NIST International School;

the volunteer teachers Gretchen Boisseau, Bhavna Budhraja, Amber Emmons, Lauren Hateley-Crowe, Heida Porrata-Doria and Joy Khosinglang; and parent volunteer Carmel Norton. The fundraising goal was exceeded by the generous support of local businesses that donated items and vouchers for the silent auction and raffle. The funds raised will be used to support the AWC Scholarship Program, including individual scholarships and sanitary kits to be handed out at the annual English camp being held in Sakhon Nakron this April. Lotus Educational Fund will use its fund to launch a subsidiary in Thailand to provide sanitary kits to women in rural regions.

For more information or volunteer opportunities with the AWC Scholarship Program, please visit or email For more information on the Lotus Educational Fund, please visit or email

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



“Do you

need a plastic bag?”

In June a group of year 11 students from NIST International School joined Expat Life for a weeks work experience. We wanted it to be an interesting and worthwhile experience for them so as we are currently blessed to have a social media specialist volunteering his skills to us. He set them the task of coming up with a CSR project on an issue that they felt strongly about. After much discussion they came back with the unnecessary overuse of the old chestnut in Thailand plastic bags. As we are in the rainy season there has been much coverage in the press lately as Bangkok floods most years because of the disposal of rubbish in the khlongs blocking the drains and discarded plastic is always blamed as one of the primary causes. There were also reports of a 10km island of plastic waste floating in the Gulf of Thailand off Prachaup Khiri Khan. Over the next couple of days the students researched the subject and came across some frightening statistics. They developed a presentation, posters, designed badges for retailers staff to wear and reached out to ecological groups like Greenpeace and WWF. They wrote emails to send out to all of the other international schools in Thailand. They recognised that they needed to engage and connect with Thai consumers and state schools in the first instance. But recognised that they needed to recruit other international schools to gain critical mass. They came up with a hastag for Twitter - #EighttoZero as the average resident in Thailand uses 8 - yes 8 plastic bags a day. Across Thailand that means 500,000,000 - five hundred million bags a day! The average bag is in use for just 12 minutes but it takes 500 to 1000 years (depending on which report you read) for it to fully decompose. The problem is that plastic bags have only been around for 50 years so no one actually knows! Our social media expert showed them TedTalks and YouTube videos of other campaigns in other countries. They collated data and results from other campaigns across the globe. They found that the UK was just one of the countries that had reduced their plastic bag usage by up to 85% when they introduced a charge for bags. That was bought about my government legislation. It changed consumer habits through education and awareness and they decided that this was initially perhaps an easier objective than bringing pressure on the Thai authorities. If we could reeducate consumers and show them how harmful their actions were then perhaps they could make a difference.


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They designed and posted a petition to try and get others involved but soon realised that the online petition that they first chose was only available in Thai - not good when they wanted to recruit the international schools first so moved the petition to another site. When their week was over students from Bangkok Patana and KIS took over. It was pleasing to see that these young people, tomorrows generation, were so conscious and ecologically aware of the danger plastics represent in the modern world. They saw that a number of the major retailers in Thailand had launched individual campaigns and achieved differing levels of success but it was felt that if it was possible to create a campaign that a number, if not all, retailers joined it would be more successful. United we stand divided we fall. Some of the retailers that we reached out to proved difficult to influence. ‘They had tried it before’ and or ‘had done it and what could a group of kids teach them’? Each one that we spoke to however we were able to refine our approach and we currently have a number onboard. CP All, Tesco, Big C, Villa Market, Mega Bangna were all making the right comments and saying that they would join the campaign. We approached UNEP, UNDP and each time we discussed the subject we were referred in turn to other interested parties. They designed an action plan - schools first, as students have the time to devote to signing up others and they will inherit the world that we create and live in. They also felt that schools have a wide community. The teachers, parents, board of directors many of them had businesses. One of the students signed up his Dad’s and his Aunt’s companies. We reached out to other media owners and so far so good everyone we spoke to agreed that it was a good cause and we could count on their support. What we need though is everyone not just to sign the petition but for everyone to send it to all of their friends and family and ask them to encourage their friends in turn to sign and pass it on. Could we make the campaign turn viral? We need your help. We need you to sign the petition and then send it on to all your friends, family and address book and ask them to do the same. If the kids of today set their minds on making it happen they can! Let’s all join forces behind them. Two simple requests: 1. Sign the petition 2. Share the post/petition #EIGHTtoZERO


Girls Rock Asia:

Battle of the “All Female” Bands 2017 by Harris Woodman

What is Girls Rock Asia and why is RSM Thailand throwing its support behind this initiative? 2015 marked the planning phase for an underground all female music scene featuring girl bands from all over Asia. The strategy was to search for all girl rock bands that already exist in Asia or alternatively individual talented female musicians not attached to bands and persuade them to team up together to form rock and pop bands to enter an all female battle of the bands competition at a future date with prize money totalling USD10,000 for the successful winning band.

The concept was to move away from the traditional manufactured pretty girl’s bands such as the Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child and the Bangles who largely sing pretty harmonies to recorded backing music and move towards full female bands with a drummer, guitarist(s), keyboard player and vocalists with a more raw and gutsy sound. In Asia, this concept is a new one which had never been undertaken before. The pioneer of this idea was Clive Gibson, an Australian entrepreneur who runs and owns a successful chauffeured car airport transfer company in Melbourne and a dedicated call centre in Manila, Philippines. Girls Rock Asia (“GRA”) is his brainchild. Clive has spent many years following various genres of music and as a result he states in his own words “I saw a lack of opportunity for girl musicians and in particular girls in all girl bands several years ago. Constant work is

not available and although that is true for many musicians in general, I felt it was harder for girl bands that play and sing. At the moment we are part way towards providing not just a platform for our girls but also long term continuous work for girls that can and do join our community. There is still a lot of work to do but we are truly on the way.” Clive‘s vision therefore is to provide opportunities to female Asian musicians that are struggling to find their first break in the cutthroat music industry. One night when visiting Bangkok, Clive met EarthCollide or Khun Rapeeporn Anantariyakul a seasoned rocker who was belting out popular numbers in English to a large group of adoring fans at Bangkok Betty’s in Sukhumvit. Clive spoke briefly to EarthCollide about his vision and promised to make contact with her again on his next visit to Thailand to discuss his innovative all girls’ rock band idea. Unfortunately, EarthCollide was not playing at Bangkok Betty’s on the next occasion that Clive visited Bangkok, but he did find his way into the famous Titanium Bar on Sukhumvit, Soi 22 where the Bangkok based female professional rock band the Unicorn Band were performing. The Unicorn Band is a six piece girls band led by Dom or Khun Napak Boonruang who as well as playing six nights a week at the Titanium Bar, is also well known on the Thai expat circuit having performed with her Unicorn Band at many of the largest expatriate calendar events including The Melbourne Cup, St George’s Ball and the BCCT Xmas lunch to name but a few.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Inspired by the all female ensemble it became clear to Clive that more all female groups needed to be discovered and promoted quickly so Clive hired a PR company in Thailand to track EarthCollide down, explain his vision in more detail and begin the hard work ahead on this exciting project. Clive and EarthCollide entered into a joint venture devising a plan to put together a competition and calling it “Battle of the ‘All Female’ Bands” at the end of 2016 to launch this new exciting initiative. The next two years has seen a terrific period of growth for GRA and the search for all female bands adopting various methods including social media. This initiative resulted in a tester concert in 2016 made up of EarthCollide and The Stalkers launching the 3 Thai GRA competition bands at the Quaint Restaurant in Sukhumvit with a 3 day event the following week held at Dexter’s in Sathorn and Quaint in Sukhumvit with 5 bands competing in total. Attendees at the event were treated to a set by EarthCollide herself and her faithful and long term band The Stalkers followed by GRA competition bands the Grumps ably led by veteran guitarist and lead singer of Unicorn fame, Ms Appetizer and the Simple Band from Thailand and The Metal Muffins and Greenberries from Cebu in the Philippines. This event also welcomed a new sponsor to the project with RSM Thailand Limited becoming involved with MD Gareth Vaughan Hughes invited to become one of the 4 tournament judges. Gareth stated “I was excited when EarthCollide invited me and RSM Thailand to participate in GRA. And it was an easy decision to accept as I used to play bass guitar in various bands many years ago and more recently I have been building a collection of guitars. In addition, RSM Thailand is an audit, accounting, legal, tax and recruitment firm which is part of the RSM International global network which is the 6th largest in the world and we sponsor exciting and innovative events such as the US PGA and European Business Awards. RSM International takes gender equality


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extremely seriously and can boast to be the first top 10 accounting network to appoint a global female CEO. RSM Thailand’s staff is 70% female and over 50% of our directors and associate directors are female. So having an interest in music as well as being part of an international network that supports gender equality there were immediate synergies between RSM and GRA.” The GRA 2016 competition was extremely successful with the competition being won by the closest of margins by the Thai band, The Grumps led by Khun Dom of the Unicorn Band. Subsequent to the 2016 competition a number of concerts have been held featuring the Thai GRA bands with the first at Christmas time in Sukhumvit with Wasabi Bytes. Followed by the April Fool’s Day Rock Festival at Hyde Park, Don Muang. Molly Malone’s Irish Bar Silom. The LGBT 2016 Concert, Phuket for a radio station and more recently at our new partner the Hard Rock Café Siam’s venue which was highly successful. The 2017 Battle of the All Female Bands competition has just been announced and will occur over a 3 day period again between 30th November 2017 and 3rd December 2017 at the Hard Rock Café – Bangkok and GRA is already receiving applications from various Asian girl bands for this competition which again promises to be a huge success with prize money of USD10,000 to the successful 2017 winning band.

nspiring ndividuals

At KIS International School all students can shine. The midsize, caring community allows KIS students to be confident and to be appreciated as an individual, with unique dreams and strengths. The school is a full IB school, offering the International Baccalaureate Programmes for all age groups (IB Primary Years Programme, IB Middle Years Programme and IB Diploma), ensuring an academically rigorous curriculum that not only prepares students to be successful at university, but also teaches important life skills. KIS, it’s all about Knowledge, Inspiration and Spirit. Check out the students’ videos to learn more about their passion

Tel: +66 (0) 2274 3444 Email:

“If you do things with passion, your audience can feel it ” Anthea, Grade 3.


Women's Journey Thailand campaign to return with great offers throughout August 2017 The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is bringing back the Women’s Journey Thailand with all the highlights and offers to entice women travellers from around the world to enjoy a huge range of activities, special deals, discounts and privileges in Thailand throughout the month of August. According to the latest statistics of international arrivals, the growth of female travellers has risen significantly over the past few years. Mrs Srisuda Wanapinyosak, TAT Deputy Governor for International Marketing Asia and the South Pacific, said, “Today women are significant decision makers and powerful with high-spending power. With a full range of products and services that can serve women’s needs, Thailand can definitely be the ideal destination. The Women’s Journey Thailand campaign will showcase how women travellers can enjoy these products and services at very attractive prices when they visit Thailand in August.”

TAT is bringing back several activities launched as part of the inaugural Women’s Journey Thailand, including the Lady golf challenge, Lady celebrities to Thailand, Thailand through her eyes, Lady in Thai fabrics, and Lady bloggers. These activities are to enhance Thailand’s positive image as one of Asia’s most female friendly destinations. Moreover, Ms Natthaya Boonchompaisarn, or Grace, the recent winner from the FACE Thailand season 3, has joined in the Women’s Journey 2017 as an honourable representative to inspire the lady travellers all around the world in order to explore varieties of quality products and services the country has to offer for this segment. TAT is also collaborating with various tourism-related businesses throughout the country, and has classified the products and services for women travellers into seven types. These include accommodation (hotels and resorts); health, beauty and spa services; shopping malls, dining and restaurants; recreation and entertainment; such as, theme parks; lifestyle activities; such as, handicraft workshops and fitness, and transportation services; such as, airlines and car rentals.


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All the products and services as well as special privileges will be featured in the “Women’s Journey Thailand” mobile application and the mini website http://womensjourney., which will be officially available in June. Also featured in the campaign’s mobile app or registered at the shops is a welcome privilege package for female travellers, which entitles a free SIM card with a data package from Dtac, a complimentary drink from Coffee World, and a discount up to 300B from Grab Taxi. Additionally, female VISA cardholders will be offered on top with a dining voucher from The Cook-Amarin Plaza, a shopping voucher Club 21 with the amount of 5,000B at the Emporium along with complimentary gifts from participating department stores on Sukhumvit Road and enjoy discounts at stores in 20 provinces across the country. Moreover, those with a VISA premium card will receive a complimentary spa and signature dish for rewards claim in advance. Meanwhile, the Airports of Thailand and the Immigration Bureau will provide special ‘pink lanes’ for women travellers who visit Thailand in August.


Living in Nichada Thani

- a definite choice by Barbara Lewis

We moved to Bangkok two years ago. We were on our way with my husbands company to Angola; bags packed, by that I mean 20 x 75lbs bags packed ready to go when we found out the move was no longer on. We had been evacuated from Erbil Iraq 10 months earlier because of ISIS takeover of Mosul and so another devastating blow and we wondered what we were in for.

Thankfully with many on our side including God we ended being placed in Bangkok - a wonderful second choice. We then hurriedly had a pre assignment tour of Bangkok which was really a search for housing. Boy did we search! Bangkok is such a cosmopolitan place and while we were living in Houston we lived very close, within walking distance to downtown, so we thought that


since we were moving to Bangkok just us our belongings and our beautiful dog then perhaps the bustle and vibe of Sukumvit or somewhere downtown was the place for us. In total we looked at about 50 properties downtown and in Nichada and a couple of other areas in four days. It was hot exhausting work. I love looking at property and I wish I could say it was fun but unfortunately it was quite disappointing. We had determined a range that we were willing to pay and for the money we were willing to spend and having a pet the properties we saw downtown, with the exception of two, were old, dated and layouts lacking in function. Plus although almost all Thai people love dogs it is amazing what an unfriendly place Bangkok is for dogs; from where to walk them, to soi dogs chasing you. There was one property downtown that we seriously considered. It had very limited storage but the facilities were great however the dog was to be neither seen nor heard. We were to literally hide him whenever we had him in the public space of the apartment. Still for me living the downtown life was very alluring and hard to give up. During this pre assignment trip we also saw 25 or more properties


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in Nichada Thani, what I would call suburbia Bangkok or what the residents of Nichada call “The Bubble”. It was actually my husband who said to me that he thought it best if we lived in Nichada because he felt it would provide us with more of the lifestyle that we live. My husband and I are often been asked why if you have grown children don’t you live downtown - why on earth would you want to live way out in Nichada? We are not crazy, we are not the only ones who have chosen to live way out of downtown and we do have concrete reasons for doing so, they might not be something you subscribe to but the reasons do make sense to us. For my husband to get to work it is almost easier to get to from Nichada than downtown. We now have two dogs, one we bought once we moved to Bangkok and we,

especially I, love being able to walk them on sidewalks in greenery without being chased by soi dogs. When we first came to Bangkok before our house was ready we lived in an apartment on Soi 24 and I walked my dog (then only one) on Soi 26 down to and around K Village. Unfortunately I got chased by a pack of three soi dogs, I have been chased by local dogs before but these were very persistent and Louis is just a small Yorkie so it really scared me. This reaffirmed our choice to live in Nichada. We also like to participate in a lot of outdoor sports like: biking, running and tennis and although I know all these activities are available downtown it just seems like there is easier access to these activities in Nichada. Living in Nichada as a couple without kids going to a school close by does have its drawbacks and it does take effort to get involved in the community as most things are centred around the school however I don’t think that this experience is any different from being downtown. It would take effort to get involved and to get to know people as well because people are busy with their lives. Definitely people who live downtown have easier access to medical care, shopping and better restaurants but with a little driving we can have that as well and then we get to return to the relative peace of the community that we live in. We have not completely ruled out never living downtown but for now we are very happy with where we are.

Barbara Lewis is a regular writer for EL and a resident of Nichada Thani. Her insightful pieces are a real treat for all readers. Barbara has just started teaching at Rose Marie Academy.

Women's Empowerment

Weight training for women by Jocelyn Pollak

"Really? But you don't look like a man." This is typically the response I get from women when I tell them I lift weights 3-5 days a week. If you're a woman who's hesitant to start lifting weights for fear of turning into Arnold, I have good news for you! First, your body does not produce enough testosterone to build muscle the way a man’s does. Second, you would need to alter your diet significantly (think chicken and broccoli every single day!) and commit to intense training to gain that kind of "man muscle". With that fear hopefully quelled, let's look at why weightlifting should become a regular part of your week and some tips on how to get started. Modern exercise science is opening our minds to the benefits of resistance training, not just to have a hot bod, but as the key to lifelong physical function and health. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that regular weight training can't help you reach your Instagram perfect beach body, but the benefits of committing to a few weekly sessions are much farther reaching than the cosmetic ones. First off, because muscle is metabolically active, meaning it burns blood sugar (glucose) for energy, having more of it is a good thing, especially for people at risk for metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes. Strength training is also one of the best remedies for other medical issues such as high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels and other metabolic disorders. It’s even being shown that the risk of heart disease can be reduced by strength training because regular sessions can reduce inflammation, one of the leading causes of heart problems. Weight training for women is particularly important to protect our bones. The load from resistance training on bones, tendons and muscles helps protect against the loss of bone density, especially if you are sedentary or menopausal. As we get older, our bones begin to deteriorate faster than we can produce new tissue. Resistance training seems to slow this process dramatically and therefore reduces common postural and functional issues that we would otherwise face. So here we get a two for one: better posture and better health. If this health info isn’t convincing enough to get you moving toward the dumbbells, research has also shown that strength training has positive impacts on focus, balance, anxiety and general wellbeing. And for those of you who need one last push, lifting weights seems to be one of the best predictors of survival. Almost all health outcomes improve when strength is added.


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

“ The benefits of committing

to a few weekly sessions are much farther reaching than the cosmetic ones. ”

Hopefully, now you are convinced that it’s time to pump some iron. If you’re new to this idea, there are a couple easy ways you can get started. First, educate yourself a little bit about the basics of weightlifting. Whether you read articles, watch YouTube or chat with one of your more experienced friends, there’s a lot of information out there that can help you feel less anxious about the prospect of lifting weights. Second, understand that weightlifting doesn’t mean you have to lift huge, heavy weights. Light weights have been shown to have immense benefits, especially for people who have mobility problems or injuries. Last, find a trainer or coach that can guide you. A good trainer will correct your form, build a plan for you and “do the thinking” so that you can just focus on the activity. For me, this has been something that is particularly helpful because it also holds me accountable. In Thailand, most gyms will provide some initial consultation with a trainer and then you can choose if you’d like to continue working with them. Whether your goal is to have a better beach body for your Koh Samui trip, to be able to carry more bags from your Chatujak shopping spree or to stay out of the Thai hospitals, weight training will keep you healthy, fit and feminine for many years to come!

Mae Phim In the south east of Thailand you find the delightful province of Rayong with a coastline in the shape of a bay facing south open to the clean waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

At the eastern reaches of the bay you will find a 7 kilometres white sandy beach called Mae Phim beach untainted by the masses and a perfect place to reside. Home to many Scandinavians already, as either a north European getaway or a year round retreat from the ravages of cold winters. This oasis of tranquility provides all options to the expat in Thailand seeking a sunny destination. Mae Phim beach is a white sand natural beach formed 40 kilometres from Rayong City and just 2.5 hours from Bangkok or 2 hours and 170 kilometres from Suvarnabhumi International Airport. With the announced development of the EEC (Eastern Economic Corridor) and U Tapoa Airport soon to be upgraded taking more international flights this beachside paradise could provide you and your loved ones with a home from home in the sun. There is a good mix of quality condominium complexes with a range of options from studios to 2/3 bedroom beachside apartments. The logistics appeal with the area well served with seafood restaurants providing the locally caught seafood


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straight from the Gulf alongside the normal Thai culinary delights. The beach offers over 60 restaurants within a 10km range. Convenience stores and markets prevent you from running out of daily needs whilst Rayong City just 30 minutes away offers department store and major supermarket chain shopping. There are international hospitals in the area in case of emergency or need and a number of international hotel chains - Centara, Marriott and Novotel have opened 5 star facilities attracted by the coastline and crystal clean waters lapping the white sand, while Sheraton has just recently purchased a large plot of land to build their mega resort complex. If you are the energetic type the 7km beach provides an ideal running or cycling track alongside the sea. There are number of international golf courses within an hours drive or there is windsurfing, kayaking, scuba diving or snorkelling. Recently a family friendly hotel with an oversized swimming pool GrandBlue opened that has all day dining facilities with a spa for personal relaxation or indulgence at the western end of the beach. The trees shelter you from the midday sun and there are no hawkers walking the beach to pester or intrude as on many beaches in the more commercial resort areas.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

If you are searching for your own little bit of paradise in the sun check out Mae Phim.

For more info on Mae Phim’s properties:

Women's Empowerment

A celebration of US! by Jacqueline Arce

Women’s empowerment and equality are hot ticket items in today’s social landscape. Thanks to the technological age, there’s no lack of resources out there from which to get educated and inspired. There’s so much good media out there about strong, revolutionary, innovative women - many of which who also dealt with dirty nappies, night wakings, and temper tantrums. In addition to fighting the good fight for women’s place in today’s world, it is important that we also take time to celebrate women. So let’s raise a hypothetical (or real, if you’re in the mood) glass to the women in your life. Here’s to the stay-at-home moms: Who put up with all the things us working moms need to escape from day in and day out. Who are tirelessly selfless. And who also make giant steps for womankind. Look at Sheri Schmelzer- the SHM who invented Crocs. For any momma out there who has ever tried to squish a fat baby foot into a tiny baby shoe while the kid wails and kicks, we thank you. Here’s to the working moms: Who bring in the bread, and more importantly, the insurance, for the inevitable runny noses, sore tummies, and broken bones. Who bear the excruciating morning tears when dropping the little one off at daycare (but also reaping the benefits of running hugs upon return). Take Donna Langley, Chairman of Universal Pictures, who (gasp) was the brain behind the Fast and Furious franchise as a primary example. That’s right, hubbies, a mom made your favourite flick!

the kids. When I’m really beat, I know I can “meet my friends for coffee” which is code for have a coffee while they chase around my daughter. The aunties are the unsung heroes. Did you know that Jane Austen never had kids? She wrote lots, like lots, of classic literature about families and women all from her experience of being a daughter and very dedicated aunt! Here’s to the women: Listen, you don’t have to be a mom, or auntie (biological or appointed) to deserve praise. Let’s celebrate all women and their contributions to the world around us. They are just as

dedicated, loyal, selfless, and driven as the rest of us. Thankfully, we’ve got amazing women like Malala and Gloria Steinem (and Ellen Degeneres, of course) who have spent time - the time we’ve spent cleaning sticky messes making strides on behalf of all of us. Every year, International Women’s Day has a theme, and the 2017 theme is Pledge for Parity. However, for once let us put down our boxing gloves and pick up our Champagne glasses. For a brief moment, instead of focusing on equality amongst men and women, let’s take a moment to establish parity within our society of women; cheers to us all!

Here’s to the aunties: They save us when we’re tired, lavish our offspring with attention, give us a sounding board, and never complain when all we do is talk about


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


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Women's Empowerment

Empowering women

7 steps to living your brilliance and making a difference by Isabel Valle

One of the reasons why I became a coach and a leadership mentor was to help women globally tap into their potential, help them be successful and make a positive impact in this world. It is quite obvious that women are the most untapped resource with such tremendous potential, that if one was to grant permission to all women of the world to step into their gifts and show up fully, a remarkable global shift would take place where women all over would find it in them to make what they never thought possible a reality. This is why we need women empowerment. Unfortunately the reality seems to be far removed from what is actually possible and so a need arises for women to step it up and rise into their brilliance, so they can make a positive contribution to this world. To help you do just that, here are 7 steps to help you get there. 1. Own up Know your worth. Invest some time getting to know yourself, your values, your strengths and unique set of gifts and talents. Find your passion, for

living our passion is the key to a happy and fulfilled life. In other words, be your best fan! 2. Imagine it Create a vision, a purpose for your life, and keep playing that vision in your head. Walt Disney said: “If you can dream it, you can do it”. Find your dream, and then set about making it a reality. Your life is created first in your mind, then in the world. Here’s a secret: what you focus on grows, so

focus on the things you really want and watch them materialise! 3. Do the things you fear If you are not stretching out of your comfort zone, you are not growing. Fear is a precursor of change; learn to accept it as a challenge that will lead you to bigger and better things. Be realistic, be prepared to fail and make mistakes, as this will give you an amazing opportunity to learn and evolve. 4. Get thick and start caring I don’t mean this literally! But in order to move forward you will need to develop a thick skin. Not everyone is going to be supportive of your changes; their issue, not yours. Don’t make assumptions and do not take things personally. If you come from a place of knowing yourself then external factors will have very little influence over you. Know which life you aspire to live, do the hard work and let others worry about their own lives! 5. Slay your gremlins Gremlins are those internal voices responsible for telling us self-limiting


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and scary stories in our head, which influence our actions. As our inner critic, they try to control all our actions and keep us safe and into our comfort zone. How do you slay them you ask? Simply notice them, get to know them; you will learn very quickly that you are not your gremlin and that your gremlin has no real hold on you. 6. Make time for yourself Women lead very busy lives - we work, we look after the home, we take

care of our children’s and the family’s needs, the responsibilities just seem to pile up. This crazy lifestyle can quickly lead to stress and exhaustion, as we feel overwhelmed by the demands of our time. Making time for yourself to rest and restore not just your body, but your mind and spirit are critical. Set a routine around this “me time”. Book it on your agenda and never miss it! Meditate, exercise, catch up with friends, sleep, take a relaxing bath … these are some

of the most important success habits to commit to if you want to stay on top of it all.

7. Share the love! Be a change maker. The world if full of women who, like you, possess amazing unique gifts just waiting to be shared with the world. Remove yourself from people or situations that bring negativity and judgement, and drain your energy and motivation. Try to always speak positively and uplift others with your words and actions, be a role model and inspire others to follow suit. Here’s to empowered women all over, may you share your gifts with the world, and raise above all fear, obstacles and challenges; may you be determined to succeed and show the world what you have to offer! With much love and admiration to all courageous women out there, Isabel x

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Women's Empowerment

Breaking boundaries

The growing influence of women in sailing in Thailand by Duncan Worthington

Most sports around the world are segregated by sex. There are women's teams and men's teams, women's competitions and men's competitions. Never the twain shall meet appears to be the unwritten rule in sports, however, that's not true for all sports and in the case of sailing, it is a sport where men and women can compete equally. In Phuket a group of ladies are breaking boundaries in this male-dominated sport and leading by example. From varied backgrounds, and of different nationalities, these ladies have created an all-female sailing team that goes by the name “Farrgo Ladies� and more are treading new ground holding important positions in yacht charter, race management and regatta ownership.

Duncan talks to these inspiring women who are breaking the mould, empowering themselves and others, and redefining Phuket (and Thailand's) sailing scene. Kanyarat Jones Owner, Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek Tell us how you came to own Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek? I am the Managing Director of a media and broadcast company in Phuket


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

called Phuket FM Radio, and that company has been involved in some form or other in a number of Phuket-based events. I believe Phuket truly is a water sports destination and the radio's plan is to own and organise niche events that fit the overall strategic plan. Phuket Raceweek is an established and very well run event and was 10 years old when the opportunity came along to purchase it in 2012. Since then I and the rest of the team have worked hard promoting the event both in Thailand and overseas, and in 2016 we achieved the largest entry on record of both boats and overseas participants. As a female regatta owner, what have been the challenges? Understanding completely the needs of the participants, meeting and getting to know over 500 new friends whilst developing the social and online presence of the event to facilitate smooth and efficient boat registration and accommodation booking. All this has been accomplished while continuing to promote Phuket, Phuket Raceweek and the fantastic beachside location at Cape Panwa Hotel to potential participants and their families. Sailing is a male-dominated sport, being one of very few females involved in the sport what is the secret to your success? Having plenty of men around me to do whatever is needed to get done.

Julie Crompton General Manager, Sailescapes Yacht Charter What is it like sailing with an all-female crew and what are the highlights? Sailing with the Farrgo Ladies team in Phuket is firstly about having fun, and of course sailing past all male crews is good as well! The first race we did together at Phuket Yacht Club was memorable as was winning the club series after nine races, but for me entering our first full regatta which was Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek was the most nerve wracking of all, the real highlight was finishing third overall which was a nice way to announce our arrival. What are the challenges for a woman in the sport of sailing? Even though great strides have been made by lady sailors with the likes of Dame Ellen MacArthur at the top of the sport, there is still a long way to go with events like the America's Cup and even regatta racing being very much male dominated. Even at regatta level there are very good women sailors but they are still very much in the minority. Part of the problem is if you are new to sailing, male or female, the first jobs you are given are the bits that require quite a lot of strength and a view that more muscles make better crew. Women bring another dimension, we are calmer on the water and not as pumped full of testosterone so when things go wrong, and they do, there tends to be not as much swearing and shouting. You also run the yacht charter business Sailescapes, tell us about what that entails? My very grand job title is General Manager of Sailescapes Yacht Charter here in Phuket and also Pattaya and Krabi. We have 12 yachts of our own that we operate but also act as an agency for over 70 other yachts. My job is oversee the enquiries and make sure our clients are looked after for all their wants and needs from pickup to them being on the yacht with everything they asked for. I also have to make regular checks to ensure both our yachts and the yachts we represent are constantly maintained to the highest standard possible. It is quite hectic at times and unfortunately keeps me off the water more than I would like!

Susann Keck Race Management and Assistant Measurer How did you get into race management? By accident. A friend took me to the Phuket King's Cup Regatta in 2013 where I met Kae Wattana and we got along so well that I went to Samui for the Samui Regatta the year after. This is where/ when I met Simon James who is the Race Officer at many of the regattas around this area. After that I was invited back for other regattas and that's what I have been doing ever since. With not many women working in this field, explain what are the challenges to getting into it and what are the challenges in doing the job? Well I got into it by accident so I would say it is a kind of “right place at the right time� thing or you need to know someone who is already involved in the sport and can get you into it.

I think a huge challenge is that people don't take you seriously as long as they don't know you (especially sailors). And of course for some people you are just a woman and you don't have a clue anyway. What is needed to encourage more women to take up the sport of sailing? I believe that promoting sailing as a sport in primary schools would be an excellent way to start. Providing sponsorship for female sailing programmes (particularly learn-to-sail programmes) would also be an excellent way to get more girls sailing. Sailing can be an expensive sport; both excellent male and female sailors often miss out on big opportunities as they may not have the financial ability to compete on a larger scale. Starting girls sailing young is a great way to help them possibly discover their talent and passion for the sport. For women, the organisation of "ladies night" at local sailing clubs can be a fun incentive to get more women interested in sailing. Some sailing clubs around the world have already started promoting this, which is excellent to see.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Women's Empowerment

June Carwardine Foredeck, Asia Catamarans Hurricane Why do you enjoy sailing? Sailing has many facades; it can be a sport, an adventure, a social get together, a lifestyle and/or a combination of the above. I enjoy them all. The racing side of sailing is exciting, physical and challenging and great for fostering mateship amongst those you race with, and against. I particularly like racing on the big boats where a large team sails and socialises together. We live in a fantastic part of the world with tropical waters and many beautiful islands at our doorstep so the cruising side compliments well. My most memorable night skies, sunrise and sunsets have been witnessed whilst cruising. Socialising is also very much a part of my sailing world, whether racing or cruising. One does not own a 12m catamaran in these parts without having a crew to race it hard, friends to take out cruising or a pile of people partying. It is very comfortable under sail and gives non sailors a taste of what it is like to be involved in this sport and lifestyle. What is it like to be part of the crew of Asia Catamarans Hurricane? What are the challenges of being a female on board? Firstly, it is comfortable, as the core team has been


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sailing together for years. We know each other as friends, on and off the water and respect each other and the specific role each one plays in racing the boat to its optimum. I run the foredeck team on the boat and strive to do what is expected of my position. I don’t see any specific challenges on board our boat relating to the fact that I am female. I sail with fellow sailors who respect me for my abilities and would hope I get the same acceptance crewing with other sailors on other boats. It is a mixed sport for both sexes and all ages. In a male dominated sport, what is needed to attract more women into sailing? We need to promote and encourage more girls to jump in a dinghy and go mucking around on small boats with fellow sailors. Let them grow in confidence and learn to take on both helming and crewing and the fundamentals of sailing from an early age. School sailing programmes have a big role to play here. If we seriously want to encourage women into the sport let’s give them meaningful roles and mentor them in the key aspects of sailing. Encourage them to crew on all sorts of sailing boats with all sorts of skippers and crew line ups. Granted, not everyone wants to learn tactics and race around the buoys. Women may want to become confident social sailors who can jump on a boat and lend a hand when and where needed. There are many sailing courses available that teach basic seamanship and sailing. Join up with a local sailing club and start to network with those in the know. Clubs generally have local race days which are very social and accommodating to include new people into the sport.

Health and fitness

Let’s Relax Spa, Thailand’s boutique day spa Relaxing the mind and revitalising the body seems to be what everybody needs nowadays, after a hectic schedule, a busy lifestyle and stressful city living. At Let's Relax Spa you can let loose, reward yourself, indulge, relax and enjoy the finest pleasures of pampering. Let’s Relax Spa, Thailand’s original boutique day spa launched in 1998 and offers the highest spa pleasures to balance the body and soul. Providing superior equipment, products and treatments with experienced well-trained therapists we aim to deliver an unique and remarkable experience. Let’s Relax possesses its own unique characteristics; expert therapists, hygiene guaranteed, conveniently placed locations and excellent service. Let's Relax Spa currently operates 22 day spas conveniently located throughout Thailand; Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Koh Samui, Krabi, Pattaya and Phuket with recent international expansion to Kunming, China. Individual branches are decorated differently to reflect the uniqueness of its location, local tradition and culture.


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Let's Relax Spa aims to achieve a harmonious connection of body, mind and soul with provision of highly trained therapists, modern training and professional licenses, who deliver a wide range of treatments in a professional manner. Massages are conducted on modern adjustable spa beds, comfortable mattresses, relaxing soft leather chairs or imported back and shoulder chairs. Sterilised towels, blankets, bed sheets and pillowcases are used for each individual treatment. Loose pyjamas and disposable underwear are also provided for the guest’s comfort (for selected treatments). Local and imported spa products are used to ensure the highest quality spa experiences. Spa menus, available in 6 key languages, are available to provide the very best spa experience for our guests from around the world. Let's Relax Spa treatments combine different healing practices from the traditional Thai to Swedish massages

to modern healing techniques with the use of western spa technologies, providing a wide range of treatments: aromatic hot stone massage, aromatherapy oil massage, Thai herbal massage, foot and hand reflexology, back and shoulder massage, facial relaxation, body scrub and body wrap. Let's Relax Spa has been voted as ‘Best Thai Spa’ from ‘'People’s Choice Awards Thailand voted by Chinese tourists' for three consecutive years since 2015. Along with Best Day Spa, Best New Spa, Best Value for Money Spa and many more.

Let’s Relax Spa branches: Bangkok: • Airport Link Phayathai • Berkeley Hotel Pratunam • Grande Centre Point Thonglor • Mandarin Hotel Samyan • MBK Centre • Park Lane Ekkamai • Siam Square One • Sukhumvit 31 (coming soon) • Sukhumvit 39, Phromphong • Suanplu • Terminal 21 Asoke • The Street Ratchada Hua Hin: • Market Village Koh Samui: • Bophut

Chiang Mai: • Nimman (coming soon) • Pavillion Night Bazaar • Thapae Krabi: • Holiday Inn Resort • Wake Up Hotel Pattaya: • Dolphin Circle Phuket: • Boat Lagoon (coming soon) • Karon • Patong 2nd Street • Patong 3rd Street • The Sis Kata

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Women's Empowerment

Superwoman by Ravit El-Bachar Daniel

Superwoman: A woman who fulfills her many roles with apparently superhuman efficiency. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition

I've came across several Superwomen during the time I have been living in Thailand, and I keep having the honour to meet more of them every now and then. I have decided to dedicate a regular section for them - to bring their story, give them a little praise, and let all our readers get some inspiration.

Olga Balachina: From the DJ podium to the gymnasium Her gymnastics students don't know, that until not long ago, she was still spinning remixes on the DJ podium at nightclubs and big parties in Moscow and Pattaya. Nowadays she's more into body spin - Olga Balachina's true passion was always sports and gymnastics. She now fully devotes her time to grow new gymnasts at her schools in Bangkok and Pattaya, while sharing life between two cities. Life can't be busier. “Who am I? I'm a woman. I'm a mother. I'm a wife. And I really hope that at this stage of my life - I'm not just a coach but also a person who can inspire students to achieve their maximum and grow to be strong people who love what they do. In return, my children inspire me to improve and do my best”, says Olga. Olga has one daughter, but she often talks of her students as if they were all 'her children'. I was introduced to Olga when my daughter started taking rhythmic gymnastics classes under her training. I got a glimpse to who she is on a long ride from Bangkok to Pattaya to gymnastics competition. I've discovered that behind the calm blue-sea eyes, there is a woman with high level of energy, very focused on her goals, hardworker, who maintains a unique bond with her teenage daughter.


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she decided to move to Bangkok to allow her daughter a formal Russian education which was not available in Pattaya. She explained it was important for her that if her daughter will ever decide to go back to Russia one day - she will meet the Russian criteria to start her life there. You can't do it with international education apparently. Now Olga shares her life between those two cities, running professional gymnastics clubs for children both in Bangkok and Pattaya. It means long mileage driving her car every week on the highways, but it seems she absolutely loves it.

Olga Balachina, 38, married plus1, originally from Russia, started her Thailand journey 7 years ago in Pattaya, following her husband's job there. At the beginning of 2016

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Living in two cities at the same time .... tell me a bit about this experience! “Right after moving to Bangkok it was clear I have to use this opportunity to expand my business and I opened in Bangkok the second branch of Universe Gymnastics Club, in addition

to the club in Pattaya I have run since 2012. I teach in both branches. I now live in Pattaya on some days and in Bangkok on the other days. I love both cities. When I just started my Bangkok life, I thought I will probably like it more than in Pattaya, because previously I used to live in Moscow which is also a big city, and I missed big city life. But living in Bangkok for awhile now, I've realised I actually enjoy Pattaya better, as it is more relaxing and less traffic. I spend my weekends there - and it is always so amazing. I also feel Pattaya is a very good place for international expats, especially for the Russian expat community. I honestly think that I haven't seen all of Bangkok yet, and my journey in the city just started. The time to explore all what Bangkok has to offer will come soon.” Pattaya has a big Russian expat community, in Bangkok it's growing, and although you have been living in Thailand seven years now, it seems you are still maintaining a very

Russian life - many of your students are Russian and you teach them using the Russian language. After so many years in Thailand - do you feel you have managed to blend? “I've been living in Thailand for so long that I think I understand Thai culture by now, but I'm still a foreigner here. For a Russian person it's very hard not to be Russian, but Thailand did change me in a way that I'm still Russian but at the same time - I'm a woman of the world.”

beginning I worked a lot as a fitness instructor and did different group classes for adults: yoga, Zumba, Pilates and more. My business of fitness club started this way. The club offered various classes for adults and gymnastics classes for kids. At that time in Pattaya there weren’t any gymnastics clubs and I thought it can be a great idea to start this programme in my club, especially as I love teaching kids.

What brought you into the profession of gymnastics and fitness trainer? “I've been enjoying sport and gymnastics from a very young age. I was always serious about it so it just stayed in my heart forever. I'm a Master of Sport (a special title given in Russia). Even though I've completed my first academic degree in Moscow university in economics, I decided to complete another degree in physical education and become an instructor in fitness and gymnastics. I don't regret it. Sport is my passion and something that I really love doing.” How did you start your business Universe Gymnastics Club? What do you practice for your own wellbeing? “When I came to Thailand I was thinking what can I do here. At the

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Women's Empowerment

vacation, going to different places and experience different hotels. If I don't have the time to go and stay for few days - I prefer just to spend my day off at home and relax, or go to the spa. And of course, my favourite day off is when we can go all the family together somewhere. We like restaurants, shopping, cinema, concerts and shows. I especially enjoy spending good time with my daughter - we are real girlfriends!

As the kids grew and wanted something more serious and professional, I started preparing them for gymnastics competitions, that required additional lessons and hours of practice. I've realised that I can't focus on my adults fitness classes as much as before and I have to focus on the kids programme and keep only my favourite adults Pilates and yoga fly programme. For myself I also like to do gym workout and stretching.” It was a surprise for me to discover that you are a DJ too. When did you start DJ'ing and why? What music do you play? “Back in Russia, when I just started working as a fitness instructor, I was running dance aerobic and step aerobic classes. I created my own choreography and I recorded my own mixes for my classes. My husband, who is a musician and saw my abilities, advised me to engage in DJ’ing. Thanks to him this whole DJ adventure started and opened me this wonderful opportunity to play my own mixes and tunes. I played in many clubs in Moscow and continued to do so in Pattaya. I love Deep House, Tech House and Techno, but I like also spinning Russian popular music. However, Pattaya is a touristic city and clubbers prefer commercial music.


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I believe there are more DJ opportunities to explore in Bangkok, but at this point of my life - DJ’ing is just a hobby and it should not interfere with the main work.” It seems you are a very busy woman. Do you take time off? What do you do then? My working week is very busy. It is not easy to make the time to do everything, but I like being busy. I'm a workaholic. I like to always be in control, but sometimes I do give myself a rest. When I have time off, I do not really like to go to one-day-atthe-beach - it should be a longer

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

What are you proud of? “I'm proud of my kids. And I know in the future they are going to be really good gymnasts; we already have some wins.” Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now? “I hope that my Universe Gymnastics Club will be a big sport school similar to my school at the time when I was a kid in Russia. For me it will be what I've imagined when I originally planned it. I believe nothing is more remarkable than achieving your goal, as well as the process itself. Nothing is impossible.” Your top tip to inspire other expats women in a foreign city? “Continue following your dreams! There are lots of opportunities awaiting for you, even in a foreign city.”

Gateway to the World Regents International School Pattaya is an international school in the true sense a 21st century education as a gateway to any university in the world. Nord Anglia Education As a Nord Anglia school we are part of a family of 43 international schools located in 15 countries around the world. We believe there is no limit to what our students can achieve and our approach supports every child to succeed academically, socially and personally. With our unique collaborations with The Juilliard School and MIT, we bring inspiration back to learning.

Find out more -

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We provide a free shuttle bus service to and from Bangkok for our Boarding students.

Women's Empowerment

Spinster - book review by Lisa Donaldson

"Tell me, what is it your plan to do With your one wild and precious life?"

- Mary Oliver (The Summer Day, 1990)

This is the closing quote from one the most thought provoking books I've ever read, "Spinster: Making a life of one's own" by Kate Bolick. In order to explain the effect it's had on me, I must do it a bit of injustice and try to summarise it. Kate walks her reader through the history of independent women and the ever present struggle to maintain one's identity while balancing the societal expectations and limitations around family and career. Starting with America in the 1800s and chronicling through to modern day, she colours in black and white images of real, pioneering women through the lens of her own personal search for independence, while challenging the invisible, yet tangible shackles that have prevented gender equality. To say the book took me on an emotional, introspective journey of how I plan to live my own precious life is an understatement. I am incredibly affected by literature of every kind (save perhaps Garfield comics) and as cheesy as it is, I find a new perspective at every turn of every single page. As dramatic as it may sound, I know at the end of every book I will be a different person, so I must screen my literary picks carefully. Kate's attempt to define what it means to live an independent life is personally quite timely as this Road Warrior steadily approaches her 30s, heals from past heartbreak, sets up house in a new country, finds success in career, all while beginning to trust and follow her heart again. I'm discovering my true self, my sacred core, through travel and continuously operating outside of my proverbial


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comfort zone. The virtues of being alone keep adding up, I adore fending for myself, owing credit to no one and I secretly wonder if that will ever change.

With each chapter of Spinster, my views on relationships, marriage, career and children change. Early chapters had me convinced I should never marry and be a powerful career woman eternally on her own. Cue the image of a lone road warrior standing above a battlefield strewn with bodies of her lovers, friends, foes or anyone who dared to try and hold her back from her true purpose. But what's the prize to be won? Only a few pages later brought me back to the human reality of loneliness and my (perhaps primal) want for companionship and affection. Growing old, wrinkly, weak is something I've never done before - I've got no idea how to do it nor even prepare for it. Being an intentional outcast in this coupled world started sounding scary and unnecessary (I hoped). Deeper still, it finally seemed

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

entirely possible to find the elusive 'balance'. After all, I am a part of a different generation, faced with new opportunities and experiencing cultural shifts never before fathomed by women before me. I felt optimistic for the first time - there must be a way to live independently, naturally, easily without pushing people away. With all due respect Mom and Dad, I adore your relationship and look up to you in so many ways, but the way you love each other just doesn't exist anymore. If my generation's women can crack the code, it will be the greatest breakthrough of the century. Move over Mars, we're conquering Venus. The book struck a deep chord and put into words what this independent woman has been wondering … is there another way to live my one "wild and precious" life? While I still don't have any answers, as this book is not a golden prophesy, it instead served as an unmistakable, energising call to action - 3 in particular that I believe every woman should embrace... •W  e should strive to be described as wild, unapologetic and fearless •W  e should actively seek out solo time regardless of relationship status. Single women are blessed (not cursed) with the plethora of free time to devote entirely as we see fit. •W  e shouldn't waste the most precious resources ever given - time. We all need to make a deeply meaningful life plan and unwaveringly drive towards it. Cheers to your own fantastic, wild and precious life! Lisa the Road Warrior


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Project: Bangsaray Heights, Moo 6 Bangsaray, Sattahip, Chonburi, Thailand. Construction Permit: In process of submitting. Construction Start: 05/2017 Expected Completion: 01/2019 Land Title Deed Nos.: 59966. Project Area: Approx. 5 Rai, 0 Ngan, 53.6 Sq.Wah. EIA approval letter dated 13 January 2017. The residential condominium project consists of three 6-Storey buildings and 1 basement floor with approximately 44 residential units. The project will be registered and expenses and taxes will be paid by unit owners under the condominium law after construction is completed. Mortgage: a mortgage will be registered on Land and Building. Developer: Bangsaray Heights Registered Capital THB 100,000,000. Paid up Capital: THB 100,000,000. Authorized Directors: Ms. Jutamart and Ms. Viparwan Smanattanon.

Project: Baan Phing Fah Moo 6 Bangsaray, Sattahip, Chonburi, Thailand. Development License No. 133/2555, Total 26 plots, Title Deed Nos.: 5627 (partial), 23845 (partial), Project Area approx. 97-0-1 rais Development License No. 145/2558, Total 76 plots, Title Deed Nos.: 53961 (partial), 53962 (partial), 53966, 53969, 53970 (partial) and 53971, Project Area: Approx. 108-3-64.2 rais. Public Facilities and Public Services: there Park & 3 ponds total 1,270 sq.w. EIA approval letter dated 18 June 2009. Land are ready to register transfer at Land Department after receive payment. Encumbrance: All plots are not mortgaged and are not registered with any encumbrance with any person, juristic person, or financial institution Developer: Bangsaray Property Co., Ltd. (Formerly known as Buraran Property Co., Ltd.) 19/2 Sithakarn 3/f, Soi Chidlom, Lumpinee, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330. Registered Capital: THB 90,000,000 (THB 90,000,000 paid-up). Authorized Directors: Ms. Jutamart Jiratana and Ms. Viparwan Smanattanon.

Women's Empowerment

Confession of a male feminist writer by Win Nimman

Writing is my cure for sadness. Since I found myself being an introvert among the extroverts, my high school years weren't a coming of age love story, nor a teenage Hollywood road trip movie. They were a dark comedy series about a boy who discovered himself as a feminist. I grew up with my fabulous single mother who has always been my heroine. Being raised by her makes me understand the term "Girl Power". At the time, at an all-boys’ school, I was not a fan of Thai society's idea of masculinity. It clashed deeply with what I had learned to be true throughout my childhood. The idea of bullying girls or objectifying their bodies was and is not my kind of happiness. So, I usually enjoyed being alone at the library, where I discovered authors like Roald Dahl, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Haruki Murakami. I had fallen in love with their words and the magic of literature. I knew at that moment, when I started writing a diary, that I wanted to be a writer. I once wrote a poem to my high school crush, and in return she taught me about unrequited love, which could be both inspiring and heartbreaking for a hopeless romantic like me. Unexpectedly, the heartbreak didn’t change my attitude or feelings for girls at all. After graduating from high school, I made friends with a lot of girls, which made me feel more comfortable than when I was around boys. I found more compassion and dreams in their eyes. Even while sometimes they are naughty when it comes to their passions like ice cream and lipstick, I took them all as the inspirations for my writings. Without a secure, full time job, I'm a nowhere man in my early twenties. I went to New York to mend my broken heart and find the true meaning of life. It turned out that New York's feminism scene inspired me to find my hidden compassion through the eye of feminists. Understanding diversity of life is to be who you are and to love people the way they are


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

without building a wall of gender or race. Some say a heart was made to be broken. But without my broken heart, I would have never learned how to fall in love with the world. I found a new definition of love, outside of affection and romantic relationships. The love of humans and equality are the most important kind of loves. Perhaps that's why we are here, on planet Earth. Even though it took courage to write about what I believe, after a few years I've made it through becoming a published writer and poet. I stared a community for the girls who are feeling lost, insecure by traumatic love and get their heartbroken. I'm trying to empower them by the thing I loved the most, which is poetry - my very first love. Time flies. I'm now a 27 year old man who dreams one day he will publish an English novel about his bittersweet childhood memories and journey towards becoming a feminist. I wish to write a big love letter to the world to celebrate things I love, and reveal a secret about a man who is a feminist. If people ask me why I'm a male feminist, I will smile and tell them that we should all be feminists. And then one day, if I have a daughter and she asks me, "Daddy, what is a feminist?". I will tell her, "Sweetheart, it means you are beautiful, fearless and feeling the love of equality."

The Anchor of Arts and Antiques When it comes to arts and antiques, River City Bangkok is the place to be. Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, River City Bangkok is Asia's premier arts and antiques hub. For more than three decades, the shopping centre has continuously offered magnificent products and services under the concept of “The Anchor of Arts and Antiques”. Here, you will be dazzled by collections of rare masterpieces in many categories. The furniture, art and decorative items on display span many eras and locations.

What’s more, River City Bangkok not only features a diverse selection of galleries, but also organises arts events, workshops and seminars to provide knowledge to collectors, visitors and art lovers.

Apart from being a must visit place for art and antique lovers, the shopping centre is also an ideal venue for dining. Here, you can indulge your palate with sumptuous dishes and amazing flavours of local and international cuisines at a variety of restaurants. Many of these venues have outdoor terraces right by the Chao Phraya River so you can enjoy your favourite dishes while taking in a breathtaking view. Last but not least, River City Bangkok also devotes a good portion of its space to a plethora of retail

stores. Whether you are looking for luxurious silks, bespoke tailors, beautiful jewellery, leather goods or pretty souvenirs, River City Bangkok simply has it all.

Fashion and Beauty

It’s a fashionable Friday night in Bangkok by Talar Zambakdjian

I am meeting up with my good friend Duvey for our usual Friday evening cocktail treat, winddown and giggles. I’m actually awestruck by Duvey because besides being a career mom and wife, she is also an accomplished lawyer, in all this scenario she manages to keep herself on top form in every sense, notwithstanding the most important, fashionability. I have a quaint feeling what our discussion will evolve around with Duvey. What’s hot right now? For us, women, the what’s hot goes beneath complicated matrixes and sticks plainly and strictly on the fashion scene. What else? Although, admirably I do feel obliged to admire the lounge, the Vogue Lounge @ CUBE Bangkok where I’m sat for this pleasant wait, it’s having a delightful teasing effect on me. Perhaps it’s the gleaming bronze retro reflections, the real cosmo chic mood lingering around the Champagne and sweet treats, surely to brighten our conversation ahead … Not long into the enchanting pause, Duvey walks in with the most exhilarating affect. A woman of taste and mind, I suddenly feels impressed and swayed by her ‘Audreyness’. The Friday evening ensues and seduces. Our main conversation on what the style is this summer. Duvey’s opinion is important as she talks the talk, in a fashion sense. We both agree on many issues and trends, can picture what to wear, we agree more than disagree, as a fashion consultant I listen and confer, and we sum up the summer fashion trends of 2017. Here’s what we came up with. Assuredly, “The Eighties Disco” type and hype is back with a bam for the nostalgic hearted. Bypassing the disco leggings, fun is the name of the style game, and the likes of Saint Laurent, Isabel Marant and Balenciaga are loving their shiny fabric plays, new baggy profiles, the 80s waist game with nipped line, huge belts around the bellies and oh the crystal earrings and accessories, with of course, who else but Moschino doing this brilliantly. High fashion is given a glossy facelift. There’s also that thing about the shoulders of the 80s, Duvey agrees, we laugh, take a sip of the cChampagne cocktail and continue. We also notice the second big thing, which always seems to be a factor; the “Bright Colour Dare”. In fact Duvey is wearing a 3.1 Phillip Lim ‘satinish', sunshine yellow dress and the colour has given the entire Vogue Lounge an incandescent glow. Beyond the hue organza of scarlet, indigo, khaki, there’s also more fuchsia offered by the big


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

houses. Max Mara, Balenciaga, Roland Mouret have all ventured and opened their colour offerings wide, giving wardrobes an added demure and multicolour culture. Now living in Thailand and so much into the Bangkok high fashion scene, one would never bet against the “Floral, Aromatic Chic” blousy trend so prevalent with Chloe, Balenciaga and Dries Van Noten. Botanic patterning, beneath

intricate floral gowns, colour fusion specially in Bangkok has always been in good standing reflecting the ‘jolie' of the Thai fashion scene, with complimenting mini bags by Hermes, Celine, Chloe and Loius Vuitton.       The night seems young. Duvey and I have identified three fashion blinks, and the sweets treats begin to adorn our table. The conversation warms up and we both point our fingers to “Stripes and Long” trends by Proenza Schouler, Mulberry, DKNY,  Victoria Beckham and Alexander Wang. Stripy long suits, ‘pattern du jour’ are eccentrically catching women’s wardrobes and are well loved, an advanced trend for all of us who love ‘Instagraming’ and taking selfies. Bring on the goodies from New York. 2017 fashion is offering beautiful patterns for beautiful women. Aren’t we glad to be in Bangkok.    Tulle, Lace and Minimalist outfits are also stunning our fashion senses in the spring summer of 2017. Both ethereal and sexy, tulle is ideal also for hot weathers specially for the fashionistas in Bangkok. Duvey and I love the day wears offered and designed by LFW wunderkind and Molly Goddard, specially the pastel hued lacy ballerina ensembles which so much revoke the red light lead soiree walks at the Champs Elysees in Paris. Eclectic motifs, personal touch and individuality from who else but DIOR, ‘le meilleur damme de couture’, and the sherbet tones of Rochas. Feminism uninterrupted.    Mixed and matched styles are also for the creative adventurers, blush blush - it seems like I am writing an autobiography here. Oozing with ideas and mixing temptations, Duvey notices there’s a lot could be done mixing patterns, colours and important with the right accessories. The main focus

here could be new offering by first stop Gucci, the real one of course … then Dolce & Gabbana, Bottega Veneta and Miu Miu, kind of architecting personal styles, regular wears and up to the grand detail of going-out-outfits. Love the fashion and certainly in love with the moods at the Vogue Lounge, sitting next to my wonderful friend. By now she’s glowing. What a pleasant and sane exchange of ideas. Think twice, think again for us busy moms and career women there’s that last but most essential wear which fills our normal days. Kids, duties, run arounds and completing the 1000 tasks which we women are so good at. That’s where comfort and style are blended in what we agreed as the Sporty Chic trend of 2017. Live, do and dress to impress yourself first, mix relief with sophistication, playing with names like Versace, Rodarte striking a note and to add an extra bit of ‘can do’ attitude we resort to Dolce jeans on par with Gucci accessories. All the rest is up to your fantasy. That’s perhaps the best conclusion to this neverending source of trends and style for spring/summer 2017. Amazing how much could be noticed, said and written for fashion trends and the real girl conversation hasn’t really kicked off yet, except the mention on everyone’s plan to be a starlet. It’s a fashionable Friday night in Bangkok and c'est la vie, myself and wonderful Duvey have stretched our fashion flairs beyond the white shirts and have shared the thoughts, hoping you will read and love it. Champagned kisses, Talar   EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

Non-hormonal treatments for menopause by Judith Coulson

A friend of mine in her mid 40s called me up the other week asking for assistance in dealing with her starting menopause. I was startled at first as I had never considered before what menopause would mean to me and I’m a bit older. You might think 41 is a bit early for menopause but the fact is perimenopause, or menopause transition, begins several years before menopause. It's the time when the ovaries gradually begin to make less oestrogen. It usually starts in a woman's 40s, but can start in her 30s or even earlier. In the last 1 to 2 years of perimenopause, this drop in oestrogen speeds up. At this stage, many women have menopause symptoms. Menopause, medically defined as the absence of a menstrual period for a year, is due to a decline in oestrogen and progesterone production by the ovaries. About 60% to 80% of women experience menopause symptoms, most commonly hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Studies indicate that menopause symptoms can last a decade or longer, affecting substantial numbers of women in their 60s. Although randomised clinical trials indicate that hormone therapy can be safe and effective way to control most menopause symptoms, it's not considered a first line approach. Dr. JoAnn Manson, Michael and Lee Bell Professor of Women's Health at Harvard Medical School, suggests trying lifestyle modifications for at least three months after symptoms begin before trying hormone therapy. Let’s look at hot flashes and vaginal dryness a bit closer: What are hot flashes? • Hot flashes are one of the most common complaints of menopause, as the periods of intense heat, warm skin, and sweating are uncomfortable.

• drinking alcohol • consuming products with caffeine • eating spicy foods • being in a hot room • feeling stressed or anxious • wearing tight clothing • smoking or being exposed to cigarette smoke You may want to start keeping a journal about your symptoms. Write down what you were doing, eating, drinking, feeling, or wearing when each hot flash began. After several weeks, you may begin to see a pattern that can help you avoid specific triggers. Some women are able to manage their hot flashes with some simple tools or techniques. Here are some simple ways to find relief: • dressing in layers, even on the coldest days, so you can adjust your clothing to how you’re feeling • sipping ice water at the start of a hot flash • wearing cotton night clothes and using cotton bedlinen • keeping an ice pack on your bedside table Non-hormonal treatments for hot flashes The following have been found effective in reducing the discomfort from hot flashes, both those that interrupt daily life and those that disturb sleep: Mind and body approaches Cognitive behavioural therapy and, to a lesser extent, clinical hypnosis have been shown to be effective in reducing hot flashes. There is also growing evidence that mindfulness

How do hot flashes feel like? Hot flashes can appear suddenly, or you may feel them coming on. You may experience: • tingling in your fingers • your heart beating faster than usual • your skin feeling warm, suddenly • your face getting red or flushed • sweating, especially in the upper body Hot flash triggers Each woman’s triggers for hot flashes may be a little different, but some common ones include:


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

based stress reduction can reduce the severity of hot flashes. Some women find acupuncture done by a certified practitioner helpful. Weight loss Women who are overweight or obese tend to report greater discomfort from hot flashes, compared with women of normal weights. A few studies have shown that losing weight helps lower the intensity of hot flashes. Soy There is quite a bit of evidence that soy products can alleviate hot flashes, but the degree of relief provided varies widely. In general, soy high in diadzein is most effective. Diadzein is a compound that can be converted in the intestines to equol, a chemical that attaches to oestrogen receptors to duplicate some of oestrogen's effects in the body. However, because only about 50% of Asian and 25% Caucasian women carry the intestinal bacteria necessary to produce equol from daidzein, equol supplements may be more effective than soy. There is early evidence that a 10 milligram S-equol supplement taken twice a day may control hot flashes with no harmful side effects. However, more studies are needed to better determine its effectiveness.

Lifestyle changes Lifestyle choices can make as much of an impact on your body as any medication or supplement you take. Living a healthy lifestyle can reduce the incidence and/or severity of hot flashes and help reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Be mindful of the following ways you can improve your health: • eating a well balanced diet, eating smaller portions 5 times a day • exercising regularly, at least 30 min a day • stop smoking, if you do, reduce alcohol consumption to no more than 3 glasses a week. Vaginal dryness Vaginal dryness is very common in women going through menopause and for postmenopausal women as well. The most common cause:

Decreased oestrogen Oestrogen is a hormone that’s essential to keeping vaginal tissues healthy. This hormone helps to maintain the vagina’s normal lubrication, acidity levels, and elasticity. Therefore, when oestrogen levels decline, the lining of the vagina becomes thinner and less elastic, and the vagina produces less lubrication. Oestrogen levels drop during and/or after menopause, during childbirth, and during periods of breastfeeding. You may also experience a loss of oestrogen if you smoke cigarettes, have had your ovaries removed, have been treated for cancer, or if you have certain immune disorders. Alternative treatments for vaginal dryness Hormone therapy may not be the right treatment for everyone. Replacing natural oestrogen can help with dryness, but can also trigger side effects. These include: • weight gain • fluid retention • nausea • headaches • breast tenderness • spotting of the skin • increased risk of stroke, blood clots and breast and ovarian cancers There are several alternatives to oestrogen therapy, which work very well and are often worth trying before using oestrogen therapy. They include: • Water based lubricants, which can help add moisture to the vaginal lining. Their effectiveness can last for hours at a time, making them a good alternative when dryness causes discomfort during sexual intercourse. Lubricants are not absorbed into the skin so don't provide long lasting relief. They should be applied right before having sex. • Vaginal moisturisers. These products adhere to or are absorbed by vaginal tissues, so they provide longer lasting relief from itching and pain. Unlike lubricants they are designed to be applied regularly. • Compounds in soybeans and soy products mimic the effects of oestrogen. If you add soy to your diet, you may experience some relief from vaginal dryness. • Black Cohosh is an herbal supplement that’s considered by some to relieve menopausal symptoms. There are no significant clinical studies that show its effectiveness. • Wild yam is another supplemental ingredient that promises to relieve dryness, but evidence from research is lacking. Judith Coulson is a certified corporate wellness specialist, medical nutritionist and lifestyle coach working with individuals, executive teams, schools and companies based in Thailand and Hong Kong. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Afghanistan: in the eye of the beholder by Arlene Rafiq

Band-i-amir -Afghanistan's first national park located in Bamiyan Province

Not too long ago, Afghanistan was the target of America as it has become a terrorist haven. It is not on any traveller’s list of destinations and probably won’t be in my lifetime. Who knows where this country will lead, all I know is that I have enjoyed my temporary visits. I have been to a place where angels fear to tread so when my husband and all the male members of the family were called by the late King Zahir Shah, I had no qualms in following him. I flew to Afghanistan not knowing what to expect but full of enthusiasm and anticipation. Just a few hours after landing at the airport in Kabul, I was subjected to six and a half hours of bumpy, zigzag mountain routes not to mention crossing a one car wide bridge with no railings hanging in between the mountains about four hundred metres high. It was torturous to begin with and extremely dangerous especially at night. My excitement turned to anxiety. We crossed the bridge with my eyes closed and my hand tightly holding on to my husband’s arm. What I was going through at the time was far from my wildest dreams. There were no streetlights …. electricity was available to only a few. It was an emotional experience from anticipation to anxiety and moved on to an overpowering sense of achievement especially knowing myself to be so fearful of almost everything. I never played any type of ballgame in my youth for fear of getting hit by the ball. I never learned to swim for fear of drowning. I avoided any activities that would put me in danger or give


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me pain. So going through what I just had was something for the Guinness Book of World Records. Stern looking men with guns in their hands not knowing what they had in mind was enough to put anyone into a frenzy. A long dark tunnel built by the Russians for their own interests can give you goosebumps after the many horrible stories you hear about that tunnel. It wasn’t so much the dark Salang Pass that was scary; it was the reality of driving through a tunnel inside a mountain that created goosebumps

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

all over. Passing through several galleries covered with snow and the smell of diesel all over was suffocating. I was told that hundreds of men died inside that tunnel during the Russian occupation as the opening of the tunnel was covered with snow and the people inside the tunnel were buried inside. More men carrying guns stopped us asking questions all along the mountain route. It was good to be with someone who is highly revered in the country, my husband Sardar Abdullah Atiq Khan Rafiq, a member of the former ruling

family of King Zahir Shah. My first day in Afghanistan can be compared to a young soldier who has never seen a gun much more asked to go to war. It was like pushing someone into the lion’s den. I had no fear only anticipation of the excitement that was ahead of me. My husband took me to Puli Khomri in the north of Afghanistan to attend an important meeting with the UN Food Organisation. My husband’s family before the Russians took over had huge tracts of agricultural land and were the major producer of cotton, sugar beet and wheat. I was hoping that the UN would see the importance to revive the irrigation system covering 1600 hectare of irrigable land that would feed farmers and returning refugees. It would also create sustainable source of income for 800 families that are now under the UN Food and Shelter Programme. Passing through the mountain routes was an exhilarating experience. Layers of almond trees blooming with white flowers adorn the mountains of Afghanistan. Mud houses built on top of the mountains looked very charming. Women covered from head to toe in their colourful burqas providing contrast to the otherwise monochromatic colour of mud, clear, clean water cascading down the mountains was enough to clear the mind and to touch the soul. It was like being in a meditation camp or spa. Who said that this country is God forsaken? There is so much beauty around here to explore and to appreciate. The drive down the mountain stopping for kebab and freshly baked Afghan bread was a real treat. It was interesting to interact with the locals, mostly men staring at me like I came from another planet. Now I understand fully well. Afghanistan is a man’s world. Women are either inside their homes or wearing burqa when outside and there are not many on the streets of Afghanistan. So a woman like me, thank God, got away with face uncovered, with long, red fingernails was enough reason for these men to stare. It was not enough that I wore a Chadari to

Fabric market in Kabul

stop them from staring. I am after all a woman - which was enough to draw attention. Their eyes show both enthusiasm and disbelief that there is a woman not fully covered. In my book, a true sight of men not used to seeing women. Despite the weird behaviour, there is so much respect for women in this country or maybe I was seen as just one of the boys. These men jumped into an opportunity to offer me hot tea and whose cup I took first got the biggest cheers. The guns they were holding were put aside and started friendly

chats with my husband and our convoy of bodyguards who were also fully armed and equipped. We left after our high tea, Afghan style heading back to Kabul. Kabul is chaotic to say the very least. There is no order on the streets, driving was a free for all. People seem to be busy with something but it was quite hard to detect. Everything is available only one has to know where to find it. Chicken Street has everything that Kabul has to offer including imported goods from cosmetics to food items - except oddly enough for chicken!

Remnants of the Afghan Russian war EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Doing a bit of charity for street kids

Even items that were not supposed to be sold are available for sale such as food packs coming from the US that read very clearly and in bold letters NOT FOR SALE. My husband took notice of this and bought this to the attention of the vendor. They hid the items from view after that. It’s bonanza time for entrepreneurs selling antique items from the famous lapis lazuli to furniture pieces and carpets of varying designs and sizes. Every carpet has its own story from the number of looms to colour and design. It was enough to feast the eyes of any discriminating shopper. Prices are quite high but the high priestess of bargains could not be fooled, true to my nickname, everything I bought was a steal. I was not sure though if it was my bargaining gift or being with my husband that did the job. I would like to believe that I haven’t lost my touch when it comes to getting what I want for less. The shopkeepers seemed to be happy selling to me, so there must be something there that I

With the boys at a local shop

was not aware of. Oh well, who cares! I was happy with my purchases and the sellers were happy selling to me. For some strange reason education in Afghanistan was not for everyone. It is very rare to find someone who went to high school. Education was only for the rich, very few women even got to secondary level but what surprises me is the intelligence of boys around 9 -12 years old. They would come and sell books and will tell you stories of their life and a synopsis of the books they are selling and in English. They are fast learners and very persuasive. I bought some books only because I wanted the boys to feel motivated and show pride that they were good and should go back to school. One older man whose daughter took a liking to me would come and visit me as she wanted to learn about the world outside of Afghanistan. Her father came and saw me teaching the girl how to read. I never saw the girl again.

Darulraman Palace ravaged by war


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Today, there are many clandestine schools that teach from elementary to high school and also some skills so they can find a job and not just confined inside homes taking care of everyone in the family. It is still discouraged as the parents want their daughters to stay at home and learn household chores for when they get married, these girls do the same thing for the husband’s family. It is a vicious cycle of looking after everyone but herself. Whatever the country lacks in material comforts the beautiful scenic countryside more than makes up for it. Along the way, the landscape changes from rocky hillsides to a more picturesque area. A view of Afghanistan countryside, crisp air and magnificent scenery is a sight to behold. The drive down the mountain to stop for kebab and freshly baked nan bread was a real treat. It was very interesting to interact with locals, mostly men staring who are still not used to seeing women. Their eyes show both enthusiasm and disbelief but friendlier now than before when they looked at me as if I came from another planet. At least that is how I saw the encounter. After a long and tedious trip down the mountain going through traffic in the city, I emerged feeling immense satisfaction. A few hours of calmness is just what I need. Getting home with all the comfort, I started thinking of all those people I’ve met on the road who had very little but seem happy and contented. Happiness has nothing to do with what you have … it is how you make it.

ArtS and Culture

Meet the Artist: The Lowdowns by Rianka Mohan

Expat Life sits down with The Lowdowns to get an education in funk from one of Bangkok’s hippest music bands. A small crowd has gathered in 12x12, a cosy bar tucked into a sheltered soi off Thonglor 55. Good-looking girls sporting sneakers and expressions of disdain mingle with hipster boys dressed mostly in black. A deejay in dreadlocks serves up Afro-centric beats while everyone waits for the main act to take the stage - a funk, soul, groove trio composed of Panapong Permpoon (Top) on guitar, Jake Crowl on drums, and Michael Selby on keyboards. The Lowdowns are finally announced to much applause and cheering. More people turn up to pack the place to the rafters and the temperature is soon sweltering. But the moment the guitar kicks in, the keyboard fires up, and the drums take up the beat, everything else melts away. Funk is in the house and it will have your ears for the evening!

Two days later, I caught up with the band members to get the lowdown on their past, present, and future. Q. Tell us a bit about yourselves and how the band came together. Jake - I was born and raised in Chicago and I studied at the Musician’s Institute in LA. I applied for a job as a drum teacher at Rockademy in 2014, which I found out about through a friend who was doing the same gig before. Michael - I’m originally from Kansas and I also came here in 2014 for a movie, intending only to be here for the shooting for three months. I got an opportunity to perform an acoustic show at a bar called Grease and I needed a band. I jammed with some musicians at Rockademy and instantly connected with their drummer, Jake. So I asked him to join me for the show.

Jake - Then all we needed was a guitar player and I roped in Top who also works at Rockademy. We rehearsed once together as a trio and that was it. Top - I’m from Bangkok and I studied music at The College of Music, Mahidol University. I met Michael for the first time at our first rehearsal! We did the show and we all thought we came together really well. So Jake was keen to keep it going as a band but I was reluctant because of my other commitments at the time (being front man of the band, “The Messenger”). I’m glad now that I said yes because we’ve continued to put great music together. Why the name “The Lowdowns”? Michael (laughs) - We always get this question! The day of the show, the organisers at Grease were like you’ve to give us a name so we can let people know who’s playing tonight! Jake and I had a list that we came up with and then showed to Top. Top - Well, of all the names on the list, The Lowdowns was the only one that made sense.


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Any close favourites? Jake - We were so pressed for time, we even tried an online band name generator, which came up with Vaguely Asian! I don’t mind that one. Michael - It’s funny with the name, The Lowdowns. You talk to someone from the States and they get that it’s a funk term. Here in Thailand though people sometimes ask us, why’re you all sad? So that’s still an ongoing education! Has it been a learning curve for your audiences not just with the name but your brand of music as well? Michael - Certainly. I feel like this band itself is a big experiment. From the get go, I felt that funk music could work in Thailand, although Jake and Top weren’t as sure because there wasn’t as much of a knowledge base nor were there any performing bands or labels into that kind of music. Jake - Fortunately, Michael was proved right in many ways and we’ve played over 200 gigs since then. Michael - You do meet many here who’re open to different influences and sounds but it takes a certain blend of people to make our live shows work.

Funk music is meant to get you on your feet, grooving but sometimes people just sit and watch us because I guess they don’t know what to make of it. A few times we’ve played indie shows, we get tagged on photos and the comments will be like, “I saw this band, they were really cool.” And the next one asks, “Me too! What kind of music do they play?” To which the response most times is, “I have no idea!” Jake - But the interest is growing. People are starting to pay attention and more indie events are coming our way. We’ve already played some cool music festivals this year like Wonderfruit. Soul, funk, groove are terms so broadly applied so what does that mean for your band? What is your definition of your sound? Michael - We all agreed on playing funk music but we brought three different perspectives to it. Jake comes from a rock, punk rock background in terms of the music he likes and was listening to. I grew up around a lot of blues music and was really into R&B.

Top is more into post-rock and even electronica. We don’t exactly play funk chords the way you’d traditionally play them but we certainly come at it from a funk mindset, which is wanting to get people moving. So what’s next for you? Michael - Putting our sound on a record is what’s next. We’ve an album worth of original music that we just need to refine, arrange and finalise. Jake - We’re more instrumental than focused on vocals and so far, we’ve been refining our music playing live. Not many bands get to play live twice a week the second they become a band. Three years of playing together, we know each other really well, so we can start a song we've never heard before and react to it and each other really well. So we’ve that going for us. Now we've to try to get our sound to sync on a record. It’s two completely different orchestrations that go into the recording versus the live music. That’s our next challenge -

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


ArtS and Culture

we know how to make things sound good live. We’re trying to make it work on a record, which has a different element to it. Any chance of playing overseas? Michael - We haven't played outside Thailand yet but we’d love to. We’re not too picky on how it happens, whether we get in a van and road trip for three months. Not to knock Thailand but I also want Top to see what it’s like to play in the US or places where our music isn't unique or unknown to the audience. Who are your personal favourite bands or artists? Top - I’m a huge fan of Radiohead. I also like Tower of Power for funk. Jake - It depends. Right now, it’s The Meters and Anderson Paak. Michael - For funk, Stevie Wonder was a big bridge for me. His Signed,

Sealed, Delivered album introduced me to funk. I also used to listen to Ray Charles a lot. As a band, Radiohead has been an inspiration in how uncompromising they are. They've been a band for 30 years now and they’ve rarely sacrificed their artistic vision. Watching them recently made me realise that I needn’t get too caught up in trying to have our music fit into a neat category. That it’s far better to be true to who you are. All three of you teach at Rockademy. What has teaching been like? Michael - My students range from ten to 65 years old. For me, the older students are really interesting because most of the time they want to be able to play and sing their favourite songs. And we end up with the Beatles, David Bowie. It’s really satisfying when we end up just sitting around playing these songs and melodies; it inspires my songwriting and reminds me to not take things so seriously. If you write a song that people like to sing, that makes them feel good, then that makes it worth it. It trumps being cool any day.

Top - Many of my students are older too so they feel more like friends. We talk a lot about songs and I learn a lot from them and from the other teachers that I know and interact with at Rockademy. Sometimes they introduce me to music I haven’t heard before. And sometimes they ask me how to play something that to me comes naturally and it helps me to better understand my method because I’ve to then break it down for them. Jake - I’ve been drumming and learning since I was five. I always looked up to my teachers and so now I get to give that back and teach someone else the joy of music, of drumming, which is beautiful. Sometimes the musicians I meet, we don’t speak the same language but we can get onstage and play the same songs through. Music is the last universal language. And I always say to my friends here, even if you can’t speak the language of the place you’re going to, if you learn how to play the chords to ‘Hotel California’, you’ll be good to sit in anywhere in the world. There’s always some bar playing that on repeat.

Rianka Mohan moved to Bangkok last year from New York, which she called home for 15 years. She spent 13 years on Wall Street, 10 as an investment banker before taking a career break to pursue writing. She has two kids aged 8 and 4. Rianka is Expat Life’s Art and Culture editor. Please contact Rianka with any arts or cultural events or profiling.


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The Green Lung by Alex Bannard

With a potential departure looming, Alex is on a mission to knock off all the Bangkok Bucket List experiences. The Green Lung has been on my list of must do’s since we arrived. I had never heard of it until we moved here and I was intrigued by how to get there, where was it and this was exactly what was putting me off venturing there - I just did not know how. One Sunday morning following, what I have to admit was a lazy Saturday, hungover, post-birthday celebration and way too much movie watching, I reeled off a list of excursions to the family to garner some enthusiasm. Biking around the Green Lung was unexpectedly met with reasonable enthusiasm and within minutes, teeth were cleaned, clothing adorned, suncream applied and bikes loaded into the back of the car, we were off. A quick recci on the internet and a confirmation with a friend who had ventured this way only the previous bank holiday and we were trundling down Bangna Trad towards Bangna pier. In no time at all we had alighted on the other side of the Chao Phrao River, hired bikes for the adults and were on our way. The pier on either side of the river are alongside or back onto a Wat and it felt somewhat auspicious that we departed


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with the sounds of chanting in the background only to arrive to similar sounds. The kids were keen to visit the Siamese fighting fish so we headed in that direction. The roads were pretty clear and easy to navigate and there are also elevated walkways through the ‘jungle’. Being of adventurous spirits we quickly embarked upon one of these narrow wooden glorified bridges. My daughter who is 6 immediately lost her nerve and was much less impressed with the adventure and tried to walk/balance bike her way along wobbling worryingly. I coaxed from behind secretly kicking myself for being such an intrepid explorer so early in the day. With enough coaching and encouragement she did perk up and even cycle but I was waiting for the inevitable, ‘This is the worst day of my life.’ comment, always one to go for over the top, melodramatic effect. I don’t know where she gets it from! Finally, we found the Siamese fighting fish gallery. It was not as I expected if I am honest. And therein lies the problem especially when flying off piste in Thailand: things are rarely as you expect them, having no expectations works as well in

Thailand as it does in real life, if only I could remember that mantra. However, just because it wasn’t as I expected, it also did not disappoint. First snacks and drinks were purchased which put a smile on the little people’s faces. Then we found the ‘gallery’. Now I have made this mistake in Thailand before. Looking for a gallery to buy some art with some friends earlier in the year we had chanced upon a gallery café. The café was great but the gallery was actually a rather weird toy collection, no art to be seen. This too was the same … a collection of small jars with a Siamese fighting fish in each. Some looking, it has to be said spritelier than others. There is no denying that they are beautiful fish and of course they could not be all displayed together in a beautiful tank because, as the name suggests, if they were they would kill each other.

The surroundings with a teak Thai building, gardens and views of some of the Bangkok skyline, were also lovely. But a morning’s entertainment it does not in itself make. So we headed off to the grandly named Sri Nakhon Khuen Khan Park. Here we saw the elaborate curtain figs, suicide trees, coconut island and if you are so inclined you can go birdwatching in the tower but with my 6 year old, whose volume control is suspect, along for the ride that was not a pursuit worth embarking upon, doomed from the start as it would be. Again, absolutely lovely and the shade was desperately appreciated but not much more than half an hour’s cycling in total. Longer if you took a picnic, we hadn’t.

So the next stop was lunch. We had seen random signs tacked to trees advertising Appletree Café. Hopeful of some A/C and ideally no chicken feet we set off to find it. By now the heat was intense, the blood sugar levels falling dramatically and the whining on the rise. Vain attempts to change the mood with ‘let’s have a quiet few minutes and just listen to what we can hear, shall we’ failing as passing mopeds and the occasional car drowned out all the sounds of nature. Thankfully it was not a long cycle until we happened upon this café and oh hurray and hurrah and a million more: it was air conditioned. Once bellies were full, spirits rose again and we decided to head to the floating market. My son and I took the lead and we rather kamikaze style headed back to the main road, which was suddenly a lot busier than it had been an hour earlier. We missed the turning for the floating markets and when we realised our mistake retraced our steps and tried to find Mr P and Indie. We failed but found the market, parked up our bikes and called them. They were apparently at the other end of the market. Mr P was reluctant for us to leave Akiro’s rather nice mountain bike unattended and unsecured and even more reluctant to take on the crowds and try and find us so we agreed to meet back at the pier. We would return and next time bring locks for the bikes and hit the market first thing. We were given directions on how to find the pier but mummy being mummy thought it would be more fun to go via the elevated walkways. We came across another Wat and a serene monk nodded and said ‘yes that way to the pier’

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



and we trustingly complied only to end up at the other end of the market. But I trusted him, he was in saffron after all and looked so kindly, so we took the back route through the forest, literally off piste. When I realised my mistake I was turning my bike around on a narrow muddy path when I slipped mid calf deep into the mud. As I freed one foot I realised I was sinking deeper with the extra weight on the remaining foot. There was no foothold or anything to grasp onto as the nearest tree was swarming with giant red ants. We both got the giggles and then Akiro dumped his bike and came to my assistance just as I managed somehow to free my foot and clamber free in the most ungainly fashion. We then got sidetracked spotting a giant centipede, which wasn’t actually squished and was really moving and alive unlike all the others we had seen that day. Another hopeless attempt to seek directions sent us off in the wrong direction and Akiro announced probably more optimistically than he actually felt that he knew which way to go, ‘Yes, now I finally get to go in front,’ he said, mentally fist pumping himself. I know he was doing that, I do it all the time too, I know the signs. To give him his due between his boyish innate better sense of direction, Google maps finally recognising our location and yet another call to Mr P for confirmation we eventually got back to the pier where the bicycle hire guys greeted me with howls of laughter and got the hose out on my feet. I was mightily relieved on removing my socks not to find any leeches or any other critter latched onto my tootsies. All in all it was a really fun day. I love giving the kids a chance to see real Thailand and it is. There are a few farang but it is not a touristy spot. The market was busy but with locals and Bangkokians who had driven over. Cycling round, especially in the morning you get a sense of days gone by and it is not a great leap of faith to imagine what it was like there 10 years ago with hardly any cars and only a handful of motorbikes. It feels cleaner and fresher there - although not according to my daughter, ‘I wish I didn’t sweat, Mummy, it makes me itch.’ There are probably better days to go than mid May days but then I figure most days in Bangkok, you


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end up hot and sweaty and actually I don’t mind that so much. There is usually a pool to dip into at the end of the day and an ice cold Singha to sip, so it’s all good. And although I have technically crossed off another thing on the bucket list, actually I do desperately want to return to do the floating market and possibly even stay at the Bangkok Treehouse, apparently one of the most eco friendly guesthouses in Bangkok.

Alex Bannard and her family have lived outside the UK for more than 10 years. Alex teaches yoga to private clients and group classes and can be contacted at


Khlongside conviviality by Robin Westley Martin

Bangkok, quite rightly, has gained a reputation for having horrendous traffic jams … but there is an alternative - a long-tailed boat on the khlongs The first canals (khlongs) in Bangkok were constructed in 1782, around the Rattanakosin district (near Khao San Road), after the destruction of Ayutthaya (then the capital of the Kingdom of Siam) by the invading Burmese, in 1767. Over about the next 120 years, until the dawn of the 20th century, so many canals were built that visiting foreigners named Bangkok as ‘The Venice of the East’. After the year 1900 or so few canals were built, as roads became the priority for a rapidly expanding Bangkok, and some of the canals started to be filled in, or built over. But Bangkok still retains a wealth of canals to explore. Join us on this trip. On the busy CBD side of the river a very important canal for residents of the Big Mango is Khlong Saen Saeb, which stretches for 18 kilometres through some of the busiest parts of Bangkok. It is dotted with piers every kilometre or so, where commuters can


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pick up a long-tailed boat (reua hang yao) for a few Baht, and get to their place of work quickly, avoiding the traffic jams and bus or taxi fares. But as a tourist you get to see another side of Bangkok too, as you pass by the wooden houses built on stilts, nestling between golden-roofed temples and high-rise condos or office blocks. Entire communities live alongside the khlongs, with their families having occupied the same wooden house for several generations. One such little hideaway lies between Sukhumvit Soi 3 and Soi 1. Khun Lek and her husband Somsak have been residents within this close-knit community for more than 40 years, said Khun Lek, “I raised my son and daughters in this house, but now they’re all gone, they want to live in a more modern place with modern conveniences, and with a wi-fi connection”. But in spite of their rude, wooden self-built houses, the residents of this community are self-effacing and polite. Although so obviously poor, several people sitting on rickety

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porches outside their home beckoned me inside to sit and eat with them. They may not have much, but what they have they are willing to share with a stranger. Some of the enterprising people in this community have bought a handcart and sell delicious noodle dishes to the staff and visitors of the nearby Bumrungrad Hospital, one of the city’s most expensive private hospitals. It’s a tasty and filling bargain at about 30 to 40B. I struck up a conversation with one of the doctors eating there during his lunchbreak. He told me that he

would much rather enjoy the authentic food they serve him, rather than the bland offerings of Macdonald’s or KFC, who both have branches within the hospital complex. The doctor also surprised me by letting me in on a secret - most of the highly trained and well-paid doctors that work in Thailand’s private sector donate one or two days of their week to work in the government hospitals, that give free treatment to those in need. When the Bumrungrad Hospital was being constructed, many people in the surrounding community were worried that the khlong they lived over would be polluted by waste from the hospital, and that their health might be affected. But the hospital built its own waste treatment plant and now the waters of the canal are even cleaner than they were before. A good example of how rich and poor, or the old and the new are able to live together in harmony, with benefits to both. So, from the busy CBD side of the city, let’s continue the journey through some of Bangkok’s khlongs by heading over to Bangkok Yai, on the Thonburi side. As you head up the Chaophraya River towards Khlong Bangkok Yai, you will pass the Santa Cruz church, built by the Portuguese community in 1770. It sits amongst old houses on the river banks and newer buildings further inland, and the reddish dome of this old Catholic church is a prominent landmark on the Chao Phraya River. After passing this landmark, and turning off the river into Bangkok Yai it might be less than a kilometre before you see a fisherman hauling in his fishing nets, and the houses on the banks of the khlong you pass by are some of the oldest you will see in Bangkok. As you motor up the khlong in your little hang yao boat you will see many more of them parked up on the banks of the canal, laden with fruit and vegetables for sale. Including some that are selling sweets and drinks, and even cooking hot food in a charcoalfired clay cooking pot. The canal-side

dwellers have everything brought to them on their doorstep, they don’t need to make a weekly trip to the market. While Thonburi is indeed a part of modern Bangkok, and is following the trend towards construction of highrise developments, the pace is still noticeably slower in Thonburi than it is in bustling Bangkok. After about half an hours travelling along a khlong the city has been left behind, and you can find yourself amongst orchards and reed-covered wharves. There are many small to medium-size temples, most with their own piers, and you really should ask your driver to stop, and take a few of them in - you will find they are not at all touristy and you will have some great photos to show your friends that they will not have seen before. Khlong Bangkok Yai connects with several smaller canals, and if you are feeling adventurous, and really want to make the most of your day out on the waterways, you can travel all the way

by long-tail boat to the most famous floating market, Damnoen Saduak, in Ratchaburi province. Go to Tha Chang pier at Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace, and negotiate a price for your trip. You will be taken along Bangkok Yai to Khlong Pasi Charoen, and then travel the rest of the way along Khlong Damnoen Saduak, a distance of about 50km. Or you could travel there by road and hire (negotiate, bargain!) a long-tail boat to take you around the floating market once you are there. After your early start to escape the big city for a while, you might find the prospect of a long khlong or bus trip back to the city a little daunting … but no worries, it is not so far away, and there are mini-vans or taxis to take you back to Bangkok in comfort. Whichever way you decide to go or return … pat yourself on the back, you have done something a little different, and ventured off the well-trodden tourist trails. Well done!

Robin Westley Martin is a journalist who has lived in Thailand for 30 years, and has contributed his expertise to many publications. His first position was as News Editor at Business in Thailand, after which he moved on to Hotel and Travel and Kinnaree, where he was Assistant Editor. He has been published in newspapers in Thailand and overseas, such as The Nation and The Sunday Times. Robin currently works on a freelance basis, covering a wide range of genres. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

Sukumvit Hospital can help you reduce your risk of heart disease Sukumvit Hospital is the easiest access hospital in Bangkok at less than 200m from Ekkamai BTS. With the latest equipment available and a team of qualified cardiologists, the hospital is able to take on all types of heart-related diseases. In modern day life we often overlook the emotional state of mind. As a result anxiety and stress levels are often heightened, whether it’s due to financial problems, relationships or just the daily toll of life. We neglect psychological and behavioural factors that are essential to controlling stress which is often the cause of heart disease. According to the World Health Organisation, coronary heart diseases is the number one cause of death in Thailand, accounting for more than 15% of deaths in the country. The three main types of heart disease are: Cardiovascular disease: This is when coronary arteries (the arteries that supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood) become narrowed by a gradual build up of a waxy substance called plaque within their walls. Over time, this plaque can harden and or rupture (break open). Hardened plaque narrows the coronary arteries and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, which in turn can cause angina or a heart attack. Angina is chest pain or discomfort that can occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of the heart muscle is cut off. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die. Without quick treatment, a heart attack can lead to serious long term health problems or indeed death. Arrhythmia: This is an abnormal rhythm of the heart. There are various types of arrhythmia’s. The heart can beat too slow, too fast or irregularly. Bradycardia is when the heart

Cardiologist, Dr Nivit Kalra in Sukumvit Hospital’s modern Cath Lab rate is less than 60 beats per minute, while Tachycardia is when the heart rate is more than 100 beats per minute. An arrhythmia can affect how well the heart works. The heart may not be able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Heart valve problems: If the valves do not open enough to allow the blood to flow through as it should, it’s called stenosis. When the heart valves do not close properly and allow blood to leak through, it’s called regurgitation. When the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse back into the upper chamber, it’s a condition called mitral valve prolapse. When the latter happens, they may not close properly. This allows blood to flow backward through them. What is an Interventional cardiologist? Interventional cardiology is a branch of cardiology that deals specifically with the catheter based treatment of structural heart diseases. Interventional cardiologists rank among the world’s foremost authorities on cardiovascular disease and its treatment, which is why the team at Sukumvit


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Dr Utai Puntitpong

Dr Tidtha Vanawathkul Dr Apichai Pokawattana

Hospital is fully confident in their level of treatment and the quality of their equipment. Currently, Sukumvit Hospital has made it its primary objective to be amongst the forefront of heart-related problems with a team of 13 renowned cardiologists. The hospital has state-of-the-art medical equipment to treat or alleviate all kinds of heart-related diseases. The hospital is beginning to make inroads into this specific branch of treatment and would like to instil total confidence in patients seeking treatment here. The team of cardiologists live up to all expectations that any community, patients from overseas seeking medical tourism, expats resident in SE Asia or local Thais, can rely upon.

Renowned Cardiologist, Dr Wasan Udayachalerm

Director of Sukumvit Cardiac Centre

Dr Davin Narula, Hospital Director

Dr Wasan Udayachalerm, one of Thailand’s well known intervention cardiologists, heads up the heart centre, and with his experienced team, has many years of experience and expertise and can treat 100% of blocked arteries, or what is known as chronic total occlusion (CTO). There are just a handful of CTO specialists in Thailand, and Sukumvit Hospital’s team is strengthened by the presence of Dr Wasan, who apart from being one of Thailand’s top CTO specialists also developed the Siam Technique system which involves the use of specialised equipment such as diamond tipped rotor blades and special catheters that can open up blocked arteries. This process eliminates the need for a heart bypass and has helped many patients recover from CTO in a few days, whilst at the same time, drastically, cutting medical expenses.

Dr Nivit, cardiologist, at Sukumvit Hospital advise all patients to improve their heart health through the following: 1. B  e conscious of all food consumed because diet plays a major role. 2. R  egular exercise is necessary. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to a host of problems including heart related diseases. 3. Smoking will damage your health! 4. R  egular medical checkups are necessary. Early diagnosis and treatment can not only save your life, but can reduce the cost of treatment. 5. C  hest pains can be risky, deadly and should not be taken lightly. Sukumvit Hospital began operation in 1977 and the entire team of doctors, specialists, nurses and assistants have been trained with the singular aim of helping patients maintain optimum health. They have the latest equipment so that their specialists have the best available tools for diagnosis and treatment. Conveniently located on Sukhumvit Road with English speaking staff, the hospital is ready for all emergency and or any treatments that you might require. For more information please contact or 02 391 0011 EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Food and Beverage

Hibiscus, pineapple and durian; Island hopping health by Margaret Elizabeth Johnston

Last edition of Expat Life I was in Malaysia on my way to Tioman Island where I enjoyed a good few weeks diving and relaxing on the beaches. I had left my large suitcase with large portfolios and paper with a friend in KL so I could island hop so here are a few of the watercolour pencil “paintings” I did “on the road” that depict 2 fruits and one flower I feel we see and have most every day that have medicinal qualities; hibiscus, pineapple and durian.

Sitting on the beach with my portable coloured pencil set allowed me to be a bit more “free” than in the studio. My hibiscus drawing is full of the bright sun and flow I felt from the sea breezes. The hibiscus flower has been used as a healing and cleansing tea for centuries. It is also the state plant of Hawaii, represents Haiti and it’s the national plant of South Korea and Malaysia. In the Hindu religion, it is often depicted as the flower merging into the Goddess Kali and is offered as a symbol of love to Kali and Ganesh. I am seeing so many different species here in Malaysia, more than I knew existed even while living in Hawaii and California, where this plant grows prolifically. The tea is made mostly from the flowers, the scientific name being Hibiscus Sabdariffa. It may be recognised as being called Rosella in other parts of the world also.  The many ailments hibiscus tea can help with can be from common ailments to more serious issues. The tea can help with digestion and inflammation; it is a diuretic so can help to flush the body. The immune system gets a boost


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

with the vitamin C content, there are also flavonoids which act as an antidepressant. The flower contains an acid called protocatecheuic acid that creates in the body apoptosis, programmed cell death, which helps to slow the growth of tumour and cancerous cells. It is a bitter taste and similar to cranberry so you may want to add a sweetener and some spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg or ginger root slices! It is delicious hot or cold and can bring down the temperature of someone with a high fever or even after exercise. Some research studies have concluded that hibiscus tea can lower cholesterol which helps to keep type 2 diabetes under control. It is a wonder flower of beauty and elegance, found in many countries around the world. From ancient days to modern ways, hibiscus tea can find a place in our tea cupboards and drinking mugs with low cost, easy preparation and enjoyable tea drinking days in the heat or cold. Be vibrant, be alive and be floral! If the colour alone doesn’t make you feel good, the product from the flower certainly will! I did a few practice drawings of close up tree bark, sea shells and some fruit rinds, the pineapple skin made for a fun drawing! To take the time to “see” the variety of colour in nature you “think” you’ve seen before can reward you with a contemplative afternoon that can spread into a lifetime. The blues of the skies, the greens of the gardens. Paying attention to the details in nature can help to ignite your awe and wonder at life, or renew it. The name “pineapple” is believed to of been given in the 17th century due to the likeness of pine cones. The diamond pattern and colours on the outside of the pineapple are intriguing. I love all the varieties of greens, yellows, browns, purples and oranges! The fruit is a composite of coalesced berries that grow at the top of a fruiting tree and is a member of the Bromeliaceae family. A native to Paraguay and Brazil, it is now known throughout the world. Not only yummy to eat, there is a high level of vitamins and minerals including potassium, copper,

manganese, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, beta carotene,  thiamine, B6, and folate, as well as soluble and insoluble fibre and bromeliad. The pineapple is often depicted as a message of welcome and hospitality, hence carved pineapples on table legs in the kitchen or above doorways. The fruit is often carved creatively at receptions or in welcoming buffets when visiting foreign lands. During the colonisation periods pineapple became like sugar because of the cost of importing it, a commodity of privilege. In this day and age we can all experience the privilege of having pineapple in our diets, even in canned forms! Of course I would always recommend fresh fruit and living in SE Asia certainly makes that easy! Contemplation of the details around you can be a lesson in paying attention, being aware. Noticing things with fresh eyes and recognising the beauty all around us seen in the minutest items can be awe inspiring! Durian … the name can send shudders down some people’s spine and sheer joy to others. You either love it or hate it … I for one, am in the middle. I feel it has a cinnamon/ butterscotch/vanilla/caramel flavour with a sticky sweet texture and smell, but as I said, some people are actually repulsed by it, especially the smell. Nonetheless, it is a very popular fruit in SE Asia as you all know. It is known for many health benefits; boosting the immune system, improving digestion, lowering blood pressure, strengthening bones, reducing inflammation and reducing anxiety and stress. It is often called the “king of fruits” and is native to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei.  I have come across durian in the form of the pure fruit, dehydrated snacks, chocolate covered, milky sweets, added to tea and really any form of confection one can think of. There are also many grades of durian depending on the water in the flesh, the different creamy textures, light or strong flavour, heavy or gentle smell, bitter, dry, gooey and the size of the seeds. There are some people that get hot after eating durian, it seems to raise heat levels in the body and it is not recommended to take alcohol with this fruit. To decrease

the heat in the body after durian I have heard of people swearing to drinking fresh water out of the shell of the durian and that helps to reduce the heat more so than just a glass of water. There may be some chemical in the shell that prevents the heat from rising which would not surprise me. Most plants that have any kind of “bad” effect have within it a cure or there grows a plant next to it that does in the wild. Nature has a way of staying balanced, it is our job to learn from that … I did a watercolour pencil of the durian for fun as I have been tasting lots of different durian products these past few weeks and made the background a strong “heat” colour coming out.  Sunglasses may be needed!! Since this is an issue geared for school and home, I wanted to recommend trying out some coloured pencil sets for fun. Adult colouring has become a meditation tool for some and kids also love to play around with pencil sets. The kind I used are watercolour pencils and so one can draw something with them and take a tiny brush, dip it in water, then spread the pencil a bit to create some fun and easy “paintings”. It’s a very good way to add a bit of personal creativity to stationary, journals, schoolwork for kids and/or if you have some time in a coffeeshop and can sketch what you see out the window, then water it when home.

Margaret Elizabeth Johnston ND enjoys travelling around SE Asia learning about the various medicinal fruits, flowers, spices and herbs. Depicting them in works of art is her way of educating the public about holistic health. Blending her passions of art, writing, health and travel, she has carved out a fun life that she enjoys sharing with others. You can follow her and her travels, check out her health and art blogs or just browse through her paintings at “Incorporating health and happiness in little ways every day is worth cultivating.”

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Health and fitness

The Garmin Blue Run by Cody Jackson

I recently had a fun and interesting experience running my first mini-marathon in Bangkok. In June I ran the Garmin Blue Run near Queen Sirikit Centre Station. I would have never signed up for this race but my Thai friend was running in it and she persuaded me into joining her. I thought that Garmin was a well known brand so the race should be fine. I looked at the race map and it didn’t seem too hard so I signed up. I enjoy challenging races. When I race, I race against myself. I find that more enjoyable then comparing my results to others. My goal is to beat my last 10.5K time. However I knew with this race I was going to be hard pressed to beat my time. Four weeks before the race I flew back home to the US to visit my family and I overindulged in my family’s cooking and hospitality. I was busy spending time with my family and friends and I didn’t train while I was there. When I got back to Thailand I had two weeks before the race. I didn’t want to injury myself so I trained lightly. The hardest part was trying to get used to running outside in the hot and humid temperatures. I had to condition myself to the heat. I decided the race would be motivation to get back into running and run more races! The race started at 5:30am. I woke up anxiously wanting to lace up my shoes and get out the door. I live in Asoke so I planned on walking from Asoke to the Queen Sirikit Centre. Well, I didn’t give myself enough time and when I got there it was exactly 5:30am and the horn went off to start running. I quickly found my friend and we darted off past the starting line.


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

I would describe the scenery much like a concrete jungle. There wasn’t much to see or admire. I ran past shops and tall buildings. I ran over the railroad tracks. They had us run up the street then turn around and run back on the opposite side so I saw the same things twice. The thrilling part for me was running with the crowd through the stopped traffic to get to the other side of the road. I wasn’t expecting to run through the cars. Like I said, it was thrilling and certainly increased my heart rate. The area to run was marked off by traffic cones. Some areas were missing cones and other areas the cones had fallen over. I didn’t feel overly safe at some points. I could be just paranoid of getting hit but it worried me some. Sometimes the area we had to run in got too crowded so runners would run around the cones and there was moving traffic on that side. Maybe this is normal here but it isn’t something I’m used to. What shouldn’t be normal is not having porty potties along the race. I have never been to 10km race where there weren’t at least 1 bathroom stop along the way. Luckily, I was fine but I couldn’t help but think what if someone else needed to go. There were restrooms in the area where you start and

finish. I was just flabbergasted by not seeing any along the route. Interesting I guess this is what they mean when they say TiT (This is Thailand). I was very happy to however to see water stations along the way. Bangkok is still pretty hot at 5:30am and you bet I was struggling with the heat and the masses. I could feel it by 2 kilometres and needed to take on water. If my memory serves me right then there was four water stations. I grabbed water at each one. It’s important to stay hydrated especially in this heat! I’m one of those runners that jog slowly along the water route but never stops completely. I gulped my water down, threw the cup in the bin, and ran on. The route was all pavement. We ran over two highway bridges so for the first and last part of the race there was an incline. I enjoy the challenge of running inclines but this wasn’t a race I had trained hard for. At the beginning I felt pretty good about the incline because I knew once I ran up then I would be running back down again. It was the last part of the race I struggled with. I feel my finished time was affected by the last two hills. I struggled with them. I tried my best to push myself to run the hills. It took a lot of mental effort to push myself to do that. While I was playing mind games with myself, that is where I saw the first photographer. Smile for the camera! At first, I was shy and didn’t want my picture but then I realised I never had a good race photo before so let’s try it! Good thing there were many photographers because I had a chance to pose for a few. Vain of me, I know but no shame here. There had to be over

ten or fifteen cameramen at the end of the race. I didn’t know until later when I checked Facebook that there were even cameramen at the beginning of the race too. One hour and five minutes later I made it to the finish line. One of my favourite feelings is running to the finish line and seeing crowds of people around me as I finish the race. Adrenaline rushes through me and I feel like I’m on cloud nine. After the race, I felt motivated. If I could run 10.5K with little training then I could do more with training! My time was my third highest for that distance which I’m still proud of. I met back up with my friend and we cooled down by checking out the tents that were set up in the area. One tent had samples of whey protein shakes. That tent got my approval. The other tents had food. I’m never hungry after a race but we went to check out the food selection anyways since it was all free for runners. The food they were serving was pork cooked with holy basil on rice. I was hoping for bananas and so was my friend. The last tent had Pocari Sweat drinks and water. I tried it for the first time and it tasted good after the exertion. It was just like a Gatorade and replenished the salts and minerals used up in the race.. Overall, it was a good experience but I won’t be a returning runner for this particular race. I expected that a race by an international brand would have been better organised but like I said I need to adjust to running in Thailand as my previous experience has been in the States where safety and regulations dictate regimentation. I am not disappointed though. This race has given me the motivation to keep running and to look for new runs to sign up for. I am told that the American Women’s Club Run for Dek on the 1st of October at 5am in Lumpini Park is one I should sign up for and will be sure to do some acclimatisation training for this one!

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Expat Stories

Dying was easy; coming back to life was harder! by Daniel Sencier

I was 12 years old, had only seen swimming on TV, and though it looked great fun, it wasn’t top of my, ‘to do’ list. Then, one summer day in 1963, and as had often happened, our neighbour Daphne shouted across the road to my mother. ‘Eileen, do your boys want to go swimming with Ena?’ I was waiting for my mother to shout back, ‘No thanks!’but ... ‘Yes OK, but just Daniel!’ she yelled, looking at my two younger brothers and shaking her head; they in turn were giving me evil stares. I couldn’t believe it! Swimming? Wow, he’s almost a teenager, I guess my mother thought, what could go wrong, they have lifeguards. I was delighted, Daphne’s daughter Ena was 3 years older than me, but I was convinced I’d marry her if things worked out. My younger brothers, Paul and Andre weren’t so lucky that day; well so I thought. I remember arriving at the pool, looking at the bright, vivid blue mass and thinking how huge it was. So many people splashing about, shouting and laughing, having a wonderful time. Looking back, I didn’t even know I couldn’t swim; I guess I thought it just came naturally when you took your feet off the bottom. So I ran in to get changed, as Ena’s fading holler ordered me to wait for her until she came out of the girls’ room. Well I waited and waited, all those other kids having fun and me stood there like a beanpole; that’s what my dad used to call me. After about 10 minutes I decided I’d wait in the water, after all, I could watch for Ena from there, and dive in to impress her. Big mistake! Should I go down the ladder, like all the slow and older people, or jump in like a superhero, getting all the attention those other lads were getting from the girls? I chose the latter, not knowing at the time that the big number 12 near my edge of the pool, meant 12 foot deep! People were treading water, I know that now, but back then, I thought they were standing on the bottom. In fact, I was a bit afraid that I’d hit the bottom when I jumped, so decided to put very little height into it, more of a ‘walk in’. Well I did just that; I walked in and went straight under! The shock made me take a deep breath, not good with no air around! After that, it’s difficult to remember anything within timeframes, but I’d seen all this before at the cinema, and I knew I was drowning! My eyes were open, I could see the


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

wriggling legs and bubbles in the bright sunshine above me, and I guess because I had no air in my lungs, I just sank, slowly, slowly down, not panicking, just thinking. You know when you see someone in trouble in the water, even on a film, they’re struggling to keep afloat, screaming and spluttering as they choke and constantly try spitting out water. None of that, this was very different, my lungs were full, so no choking to be had, just a resignation that I would die, and knowing that I couldn’t do anything about it. They say your life flashes before your eyes when your dying, and it really does. At 12, not much to flash through, probably starting in Ireland with my grandmother who raised me until I was 5; I could see her lovely face reassuring me and I’m sure I smiled back. I wondered why my Mum and

Dad had never really liked me, had it been my fault, should I have made more effort to like them? I was only 5 when I first met them, so never real bonded. I thought about my brother Paul, how shocked he’d been when he opened the sideboard door and it came down like a guillotine on his feet. I’d removed the hinges just to see what would happen, I just expected the door to fall off. My brother Andre drifted through, maybe Paul and I should have been kinder to him, when we were always forced to take him on our adventures when our mum wanted rid of him. My sister Jacqueline was a tiny baby, I‘d never see her again, and I was just getting to like her, well, a bit. But at least I wouldn’t have to spend hours like a robot, rocking her to sleep! The weirdest things just kept flowing and flowing, mainly very funny. I saw Minush, my cat, best friend and constant companion, especially at dinnertime, waiting strategically under the table to eat any of my mother’s cooking that I couldn’t cope with.

Things were so quiet, no sound at all, and even though I was aware, I sensed that I was slipping away. I felt warm, comfortable and sort of happy, because at the time, although I had started to doubt Christianity, believing in God seemed an instant fix given my current predicament. So I decided there and then that I truly believed in Jesus, knowing that single factor could save me from going to hell, if that was about to happen. As I drifted slowly into unconsciousness, the light got brighter. What light? They always say that at the point of death you see a bright light, and there it was, an all enfolding, massive soft warm blanket of radiance, reaching out and wrapping itself around me, making me feel safe.

I would now be looked after, I was ready to go and I was calmer than I’d ever felt. Then, I touched the hand of God! I use that as a metaphor for a feeling that there is no other way of explaining, but I’ve never had that feeling before, or since, but know that one day, I will again. Shock, horror, coming to life was going to be far worse than dying! Someone had spotted me at the bottom of the deep end and raised the alarm. Apparently, the lifeguard dived down, pulled me out and put me in the recovery position. With shocked people all around, so Ena said, he got my heart beating again, and then pumped the water out of my lungs. I spouted like a whale, first the water, then the cooked breakfast that I’d had that morning. Like a fire evacuation in a theatre, everything that could leave my body from any exit did so in a flash. I could hear everyone cheering, I knew I was alive, but I wished I were dead! When I arrived home, my mother asked if we’d had a good time, and with Ena glaring down on me, I said, “Yes mum, it was amazing”. Ena smiled and left, I hadn’t grassed on her; she still liked me! I didn’t go back in the water for about 5 years, and for the rest of my life I would struggle to feel comfortable in any water activity; but over the years I did get better. My magic moment came last summer, when in Australia, I scuba dived for the first time, and to top it all, on the Great Barrier Reef! Oh and, I never did marry Ena!

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Food and Beverage

Dining on the river by Agneta de Bekassy

If you would like to explore the best of Thailand and especially Bangkok, longing to have a tasteful dinner on a beautifully remodeled teakwood rice barge gliding along the river Chao Phraya, I have the optimal solution. Make a reservation for a luxury dinner cruise with newly launched cruiser “Baan Khanitha”. This cruiser is the Queen of Chao Phraya. She is a beauty, designed and built by the young architect Khun Narin Lerrtasavathikul and the first boat belonging to Khun Khanitha Akaranithikul, owner of 4 well known restaurants in Bangkok. Khun Khanitha, was for many years, the leading fashion lady in Bangkok. She made her own collection of exclusive, Thai silk garments and had 7 boutiques in Bangkok and one in New York. Agents in several countries both Europe and South America represented her collection. I had, at that time, the pleasure to import her garments to Switzerland. We are talking 1989 and Khanitha was on the top. I remember well, how my husband and I admired a dress in the window at her shop at the legendary Oriental Hotel. My husband persuaded me to go and try it on; I was very skeptical, as I thought the cut was made for the slim Thai women. I was surprised to find that the dress fit and my husband was delighted! It didn’t take long before my husband found out who the owner was of this elegant shop. Before I even blinked, we were visiting Khun Khanitha in her flagship store, located at Suriwong Street. To walk inside this store and meet the woman behind those elegant outfits is a memory I will treasure forever. I was deeply impressed by the designed wall to wall carpet, looked almost like an Aubusson carpet. The woman greeting us was elegant and fluent in English. It didn’t take long for me to choose a small collection; I was impressed by the fabrics and how well the garments were made.


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Khun Khanitha told me that I could expect the delivery at a certain date with flight so and so and I could hardly avoid laughing. I was, at that time, importing garments from Sweden to Switzerland and I was happy when the collections arrived before we had a timed sale. I shouldn’t have laughed, she was right; I received the delivery on the exact date she had mentioned. For 10 years, I had the pleasure of selling this fabulous collection. Due to personal reasons, Khun Khanitha decided to walk out of the fashion business, but that didn’t mean she was going to lay back and do nothing.

She decided to do something completely different. She discovered a love of the restaurant business. She, had probably never put a foot in a kitchen, but suddenly was starting a restaurant. She collected old recipes from her grandmothers, found an old barn on Sukhumvit soi 23, redecorate it and went to the north of Thailand to pick up some antiques for decor. In 1993 the first restaurant Baan Khanitha opened. Almost overnight it became a very popular place to go for genuine Thai cuisine and it didn’t take long before Khun Khanitha was given an award for best Thai kitchen. Today in 2017, there are 4 restaurants named Baan Khanitha and one newly launched cruiser, the second is soon to come. On Sukhumvit soi 53, you’ll find the popular Glass Moon bar, next to the traditional restaurant. This bar is built on a swimming pool and is two storeys. From the upper floor you can look down and see what the guests on the first floor are up to. Here you will find the best red and white Sangria in town. International cuisine is also offered. Baan Khanitha at Sathorn is the largest of her restaurants. Here you will find an exclusive collection of paintings done by a monk. You can sit inside, or outside in a small garden area, similar to a European winter garden. At Asiatique, you’ll find the latest restaurant right next to the Chao Phraya river. You can have a table on the terrace or inside. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and chairs and sofas are covered with Jim Thompson fabrics. Here you also book your dinner cruise. We were a small click of friends, enjoying a delicious and very elegant dinner on board Friday April 28, 2017 with Khun Khanitha along with us. The set menu gives you a taste of all Thailand’s spices and fragrances, starting with a complimentary with wine and to be followed by some specialties. We were enjoying duck, a prawn from Ayutthaya and fish. Khun Khanitha changes the menu monthly.

The wine list offers you whatever you ask for, a chilled Sancerre, a Penfold special edition, you name it. All the food is prepared from scratch onboard in the ultra-modern kitchen. The interior design is elegant Thai style and even a visit to the bathroom is a pleasure, pure luxury. During the 2½ hour cruise up the river and back; you can enjoy food, wine and the magnificent scenery along the river with a spectacular view of the Grand Palace. The staff are efficient and polite. This is a perfect place to knot the bonds of love, celebrate a birthday, have a business meeting, seminar or just a tête à tête. I don’t think I exaggerate if I say my friends and I were all overwhelmed. I can warmly recommend you to book this cruise. I am 100% sure, you will not regret it. This is an adorable memory for visitors to take back home. I have done the cruise 3 times already and I’m already longing for the next one. Sail along…because you are worth it!

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Food and Beverage

Expat communities in Thailand: The changing foodscape by Wentworth Power

This rich, vibrant and ebullient land of smiles, food, beaches and romance owes a lot to its cultural diversity. But what is the history behind its expat communities, and how have they contributed to Thailand’s economy, culture and heritage?

Join Expat Life as we delve into the social makeup of the country … with the food scene right at the heart of it. Here in Bangkok we are blessed with an abundance of food at affordable prices. You could encounter equally delicious dishes at the stall of a creative street vendor as you could while dining at the hands of a Michelin star chef in opulent surroundings. The food is generally more affordable and of far greater quality than you’d expect in Europe or North America. With hundreds of miles of coastline, and an entire kingdom of fertile lands, Thailand enjoys an abundance of natural produce that are rich in flavour. The fruits are so sweet and juicy, vegetables emit vivid colours, rice varieties are aromatic,


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and the herbs and spices activate and challenge every taste receptor in the tongue. No food in this land of plenty need ever be served bland. Northern Thai cuisine traditionally leans towards broths and dishes that are steamed or boiled, techniques heavily influenced by their Mekong River neighbours in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Isaan province, in the Northeast of the country, is famed for its intense, spicy flavours, such as fiery chilies, strong fish sauces and sour bites. You can find sticky rice and the iconic papaya salad as everyday staples here. Down south, where coconut groves produce enough for local consumption and global exports, dishes are driven by spicy coconut curries and seafood. Combine this splendid

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

combination of food heritage with the forces of globalisation, a burgeoning middle class that seeks new dining experiences, and a fine dining scene that is increasingly gaining recognition for its excellence on the world stage. It is clear that the country is reaching its zenith in gastronomic superiority and we are truly fortunate to be living here. In particular, the injection of different migrant communities into the fabric of Bangkok over the last couple of centuries has helped to shape the colour and flavour of its neighbourhoods. Each enclave draws on their influences from home to contribute to a rich, multicultural tapestry across the capital; the most prominent being Chinese, Japanese, Western and Indian. Each has played a significant role in shaping the Thai

economy, culture and its cuisine. In the coming months, Expat Life will produce a series of features that aims to draw a culinary mapping of Bangkok and its international communities. We will speak with prominent businesses and

spokespeople from each community to better understand their history and impact on the country. And what better way to do it than through their cuisine? Some people live for food. Many eat just to survive. And most eat simply because they are hungry. But food

plays an inextricable role in the daily lives of every community. It is integral to the customs and rituals of a society, its hospitality, celebrations and religion. In this edition we delve into the history of three influential communities: Japanese, Indian and Lebanese.

Do you have stories to share about the history of your community in Thailand? Please get in touch with India’s influence on Thai culture and cuisine • Population in Thailand: approx. 100,000 • Most populous district/area: A large Sikh community in Phahurat (near Chinatown), and Hindus in Silom, between Soi 19 and Naratiwat Road. • Fast facts: Staple ingredients of Indian cuisine like potato, tomato and chilli were introduced to India by the Portuguese. • Famous dishes: The world’s favourite, Chicken Tikka Masala, and a popular dish in India, is not Indian. It was invented in Britain! Introduction The Indian community in Thailand is well known for its entrepreneurial pursuits. Trading in textiles, real estate, gems and jewellery, they have made a significant contribution to the Thai economy. Naturally, a plethora of restaurants sprang up to feed their ambitions, eventually influencing the wider gastronomic landscape. Street side roti and Indian fine dining can be found all over Bangkok, particularly in the neighbourhoods

around the two Little India’s. But the shining light and superstar on the scene is multi-award-winning chef Gaggan whose culinary mastery and creativity has helped to reshape what we understand of Indian cuisine. Deep rooted cultural ties Cultural and religious influences from India run deep through the veins of Thai society. Thai Kings, known as Rama, take their name from the main character in India’s immortal tale, Ramayana. Thai religion too is a blend of two Indian faiths, Buddhism and Hinduism. Several ceremonies, such as marriage, merit making and cremations have been adopted from Indian tradition. The origins of Thailand’s Loy Krathong festival are rooted in Diwali, Hindu’s own Festival of Lights. Whilst

Thailand’s New Year festival, Songkran, and the Hindu festival of colours, Holi, bear water soaking similarities. Two little Indias Over the last three or four generations, the Indian expatriate population has swelled to approximately 100,000 residents, three quarters of whom live in Bangkok. Some Sikhs have congregated along Sukhumvit Road, but most run their businesses in the prominent community around Phahurat Road, near Chinatown. Here, the congested alleyways squeeze in shops, markets and street stalls. Traders peddle textiles, groceries, sweets and spices typical to their native cuisine, including the locals’ favourite Mumbai and Delhi roadside snacks, or Chaat. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Food and Beverage

Holiday Inn and Intercontinental. He takes pride in his work and a genuine interest in the people he meets. In 2008, a Thai-Indian Sikh approached CJ to open a restaurant with him. At that time, it was rare for restaurants with modern décor in Bangkok to serve authentic Indian food. The few that did were mainly located in hotels. They rented a space in the upmarket neighbourhood of Thong Lor and focused on creating a high end concept with a beautiful atmosphere. Masala Art opened on 1 January, 2009, and soon became a favourite among expats and locals. This is home to many descendants of Punjabi Sikhs from northwest India who settled in the early 20th century. The community’s centrepiece is the enormous Sri Guru Singh Sabha temple, which was built in 1932 and is said to be the second largest Sikh temple outside of India. A few kilometres away across the old town, another famous temple plays a central role in the lives of the Hindu community. The technicoloured Sri Maha Mariamman was constructed in the 1860s by the southern Indian newcomers who settled along Silom Road, between Soi 19 and Naradhiwas Road (itself named by the Indian community). In close proximity, several stalls line the streets selling decorative garlands, incense and Bollywood posters while the sounds of up-tempo Indian music thump and chime.

Masala magazine, a free English language magazine aimed at the Sikh population, has over 200 outlets in Thailand and serves the interests of Thai-Indians. They also cover stories on Indian expats working for multinational companies, such as the hotel chains, various international and UN organisations, banks, financial institutions and technology companies. Changing tastes CJ Singh, a veteran in the Bangkok food scene, has been at the centre of the changing gastronomic landscape. CJ has that lovely warm, soft demeanour that lends itself so naturally to customer service and people management. It’s easy to see why he has been so successful in senior management for some of the best known hotel groups: Taj, Sheraton,

An outward looking, younger generation Mr Singh has witnessed firsthand the change in tastes within the catering sector and enthusiastically chimes the changes. According to the restaurateur, lots of Thai people are keen to try new cuisines; especially the younger crowd. He feels this is augmented by Thai students who study abroad and are influenced by their international friends. In his experience, Thais are sensitive to the strong smells and oily dishes. “In the beginning they didn’t like the smell of lamb,” he says. “The kitchen has had to adapt creating a balance of spices with no one flavour dominating the others”. For example, they tend not to use whole masalas because they are too intense for local tastes.

Retaining a strong sense of community India is a vast country with a huge range of cultures, sub-cultures, communities and languages. This diversity is reflected in the Indian community here in Thailand where different identities subscribe to their respective associations. Each Hindu community, called a Gujrati Samaj, has a group leader who coordinates events and festivals. They keep the community informed and raise financial contributions for the events via email and the group’s Facebook page.


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

“The kitchen has had to adapt creating a balance of spices with no one flavour dominating the others. ” However, Mr Singh works hard to retain the authentic, signature flavours of Indian cuisine and imports his ingredients from his home country. “Chickpeas imported from Burma do not cook the same way. The soils, rainfall, altitudes all have an impact on the quality,” he explains. This goes for his chefs too. “I never allow anyone other than Indians to touch my pots and pans”, he jokes. Over the last couple of years, a wealthier middle class has sought new experiences. CJ believes that as their appetite for adventure grows, so too does the popularity of Indian cuisine. This market demand has been met by individual entrepreneurs like CJ, not the chains. In the fine dining sector, local favourite Gaggan Anand is leading the charge to redefine our perceptions of Indian cooking on the world stage. His ability to reinvent himself and his molecular cooking techniques continues to win over the judges. In March, his eponymously named restaurant was crowned Asia’s Best Restaurant for the third year running, placing seventh in the world’s best list. Public opinion is often divided over the tasting menu with tiny portions, but Mr Singh says the Indian community is very proud of the master chef and all his achievements.

The Japanese in Thailand • Population in Thailand: approx. 65,000 (50,000 in Bangkok) • Neighbourhoods: along Sukhumvit Road, between Phrom Phong and Ekamai, Bangkok • Fast facts: Over 2,300 Japanese restaurants in Thailand • Famous foods: Sushi: bite size combinations of vegetables and raw fish with cold, cooked rice; Ramen: a bowl of hot broth filled with fresh wheat noodles, topped with thin slices of meat; Tempura: lightly battered, deep fried seafood and vegetables. There’s been a quiet transformation in the Thong Lor area of Bangkok in recent years. You’re as likely to hear Japanese spoken there as you are Thai. Along Sukhumvit between

Phrom Phong and Ekkamai, the neighbourhood has become extremely desirable among young Japanese families who’ve moved to Thailand to service the 4,500 Japanese companies which have sprung up around the country. A favourable exchange rate for Japan has meant Thai labour is cheap for manufacturing companies like Toyota, Honda and Canon. And the influx is not about to stop. Medical, electronics and auto industries are raising the investment bar, while garment, chemical and renewable energy sectors are showing increasing interest too. In the past four decades, official figures show a tenfold increase in the numbers of Japanese living in Thailand, an estimate that many believe is way too low. Maintaining a strong sense of community The dramatic increase in the Japanese population has led to a range of entrepreneurial opportunities to serve their needs, not least the desire for news from home, and to provide for the distinctive taste for Japanese cooking. Mikkio Numadate was one of thousands of Japanese to arrive in Bangkok in the late 1980s. Contracted through Kyoto News, his role was to keep the growing Japanese population in Thailand updated on news stories from back home. As the numbers living here grew, Numadate spotted a business opportunity; providing targeted

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Food and Beverage

news and features to the burgeoning community. In 1998, the first print edition of Daco, a lifestyle magazine for the expat community, was distributed in Japanese restaurants, supermarkets and book stores. The magazine covers wide ranging themes like food and travel, as well as special features such as ‘How to die in Thailand: arranging your cremation’. According to Numadate, the Japanese are keen

readers of practical information. This first wave of Japanese migration brought an affluent crowd of professionals, employed by large corporations and government organisations, almost entirely men. Nowadays, there is a much better gender balance and a community that is far more reflective of society back home. The families tend to forge strong social links through their schools, and mirror their local prefectures in Japan. This is more about regional dialects than anything else. The more recent trend sees an uptick of younger Japanese moving to Thailand to work for Japanese call centres and other language services. Their pay may be less than half what they could earn in Japan, but by living in Thailand they can take advantage of the country's low living costs.

decades ago and started her own business. With their different skills, Mikio and Kumi reflect the changes the arrival of the Japanese has brought to Bangkok. Brown Eyes is a popular restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 11, which breaks the mould of the majority of Japanese restaurants in Thailand It serves a fusion of Japanese and international cuisine; just as you may find in many modern eateries back in Japan. Kumi feels that the most popular perception of Japanese food - either sushi bento boxes, or customers sat in a horseshoe around a chef juggling knives at a teppanyaki steak house - is more of an American clichéd

An increase in popularity: gaining a taste for Japanese Mikio met his wife, Kumi Yuki, when she arrived in Bangkok two

“Truly authentic Japanese food was initially tasteless for Thais.”


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Food and Beverage

interpretation of Japanese dining. Originally, there was very little meat in their diet. Beef, which they feel is too fatty for everyday consumption, was only introduced to Japan around 100 years ago. The island nation cooked without oil and predominantly ate the fish from their coastal waters, vegetables, and healthy dishes like dashi; a soup stock made from seaweed. Truly authentic Japanese food was initially tasteless for Thais. The majority of Thai (and many western) people didn’t like the sushi import. The flavours were too subtle for the foreign palate and could not compete with the native noodle and rich curry dishes here. Likewise, when the Japanese first visited their southeast Asian neighbour, there was one particular ingredient they could not tolerate: coriander. They typically ordered Thai food without it and yearned for the authentic ramen’s and curries from back home. These days, according to Kumi, the Japanese are ‘crazy’ about Thai food. She points out that a restaurant called Takchui, back in Tokyo, specialises in coriander. It’s also clear to see that Thais have fallen in love with Japanese cuisine. At last count, Japanese restaurants exceeded well over 2,000 in the Thai capital. Considering the population, that’s a mightily impressive ratio of 25:1, Japanese expats to restaurants. So what has influenced this cross cultural assimilation?


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Changing tastes: a mutual appreciation Several factors have fed into the Thai obsession with Japanese food. The rapid growth of the Japanese community called for establishments that could cater to their national tastes, making the cuisine easily available. As the average income of Thai people has risen over the past decade, high priced Japanese dishes have become more affordable to more Bangkokians. Chain restaurants, such as Yoshinoya (gyudon), GyuKaku (yakiniku) and Kourakuen (ramen), have primarily targeted Thai consumers, which has fed into the popularity boom. Noticeably, the dishes have been adapted adding more deep

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

fried ingredients, sugar, sauces and rice to mop them up. Another major factor is the increase in bilateral tourist flows. Thais and Japanese have tasted authenticity in its natural setting and acquired a more discerning taste for each other’s national dishes. Three years ago, Japan waived visas for Thai nationals for up to 15 days, prompting tourist numbers last year to surge to nearly 800,000; up fivefold from 2011. Unsurprisingly, the younger Thais who travel to the country feel closer to the culture. Many go on eating holidays, armed with some Japanese vocab and their camera phones, to experience the cuisine that retains its roots; the real Japanese taste. The demand for authentic Japanese on their return to Thailand is manifestly beginning to influence the market here. Kumi believes the social and cultural links between the countries are growing ever closer. “In Japan, when the Japanese meet Thai people, they become attracted to the idea of visiting Thailand,” she says. The visitor numbers reflect this. Some 1.38 million Japanese tourists came to Thailand last year, viewing it as a dreamy, tropical destination. For some it’s a break from the imperious norms and practices of a traditionally conservative society. For these reasons, many decide to stay indefinitely.

ArtS and Culture

The joys of motherhood Heather Latva-Kiskola is a Bangkok based portrait photographer specialising in maternity, newborn and families. On her eighth year away, fourth country, and her ninth year photographing for clients, Heather has grown both her family and her business abroad. She continues to enjoy the incredible journey that is 'expat life'.


August/September 2017

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


ArtS and Culture


August/September 2017

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



A prisoner in Bangkok by Barbara Lewis

I visit a expatriate prisoner in the Lard Yao Women’s Prison here in Thailand. I won’t give her name for reasons of privacy and we will simply call her Miss C. She has no one here in Thailand to visit her except for another foreigner like myself who volunteers to do so. Her family, of which she has little left, live in the Philippines. She was arrested on drug trafficking and sentenced to life imprisonment. Her lot in life is not an easy one from wrong choices she has made. She admits she committed the crime under circumstances that left her perhaps with the inability to make the correct choices at the time. She and her mother were very close. Her mother became terminally ill and she spent all her time with her caring for her in someway or another. She was not close with any other members of her family according to her. When her mother died the grief and loss took over her life and she was in need of money, for what she did not say. It was at this time, in this state of mind that she was recruited to traffic drugs. She believed it was a quick way to make a large amount of money. She has been in prison now, I believe, for about seven years. At different times during her sentence different types of amnesty have been given out and her sentence has now been reduced to 35 years. She currently waits in hopes of yet another gift of amnesty and perhaps the opportunity to get out permanently and go home. My understanding is that this is not something that is likely to happen, rarely does it occur, but at least she might get another reduction in her sentence. As I visit and speak with her I come to know a little about her life in prison. Since the beginning of her sentence she has worked. It sounds like all of the prisoners work in one capacity or another. Many of them are given education to


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

massage so they will have skills once they are released. In prison they do things like sew beads or sequins onto garments - this was her first job and it paid very little, was long hours and since she is suffering from cataracts in one of her eyes I am sure not a job that was easy to do well at. The prisoner’s pay and points they receive is based on how fast they work. Beadwork takes time so it is not easy to do it fast. Awhile ago she got a new job that is sewing piecework which pays more, she can do faster and she gets more points for. Also sometimes to complete an order they need them to work overtime and so they then get to take a shower after other prisoners which means they don’t have to stick to the 10 count rule. That is correct. Each prisoner during their normal showering time has to the count of 10 to complete their shower. Needless to say she feels it is a real luxury not to have a count for showering. The women prisoners are separated according to their sentences and new prisoners are not allowed to converse with prisoners that have been in for awhile. They do this so that contraband cannot be passed between prisoners. All the women who have sentences greater than 30+ years are housed together and then those that have sentences of between 20-30 years, etc. I was told that almost all the women are in prison for drug and prostitution charges. The

prisoner I see sleeps with approximately 140 other women in one cell. She feels lucky because her cell isn’t full, the cell above her has approximately 220 women in it! Space is obviously at a premium and so fights breakout all the time over all kinds of small things, like one woman’s leg hits another woman while they are sleeping or someone believes someone has done some personal infraction to someone else in the shower or wherever. These fights are recorded and brought to the attention of the Women’s Prison Warden. There has recently been a change in administration and with each change in administration the prisoners find their punishment for infractions changes. It used to be that privileges were taken away. Miss C told me of one prisoner who got into a fight with another prisoner and was told that she would not be able to see her family for an inside visit. The family was already there and they were turned away. You might think this was nothing but it takes quite a lot of paperwork to get permission to have an inside visit with a prisoner and they only occur at certain dates and times. To say the least the prisoner was devastated; I got the impression that the fight wasn’t her fault it was just someone lashing out at her. Also under the new administration they also get their class taken away. There are three classes, the third being the highest and they gain class by the points they acquire for good behaviour and work ethics, etc. However if they have an infraction of any kind they get their class taken away. Right now their class is very important to the expatriate prisoners because of the possibility of an amnesty being handed out. The class a prisoner is determines what kind of amnesty they will get. As Miss C says she just keeps her head low and no matter what people do or say to her to provoke her she just walks away. I asked what happens when someone gets caught up in something and they are just an innocent bystander. It is certainly a possibility when the cells are so crowded and space is a premium. She told me the guards

investigate and write a report on all incidents. One can only hope they are honest about their investigations. Miss C has cataracts, needs glasses (her lenses got broken not sure how) and can’t get a prescription for the glasses or an appointment to see about possible cataract surgery. Her eye is almost completely clouded over so it does need to be seen to but she says it takes a lot of time to get to see a doctor and it costs a lot of money. I am in the process of trying to find out through her embassy if I can expedite this in anyway. I am relatively new to this and so it is all a learning experience. Visiting expatriate prisoners was an initiative that was started through our community church and so as things come up, I have questions, I pose them to the more experienced members who have been visiting prisoners for a while and they help me to negotiate the ropes, so to speak. I am not excusing Miss C’s crime but I think she has paid for it. I certainly hope that the amnesty she gets will be a vacation of her sentence although I am not sure this is even possible. I do pray for her sake it is at least a major reduction in her sentence. I can’t imagine waking up every morning with the weight of knowing I was going to have to live in her circumstances for another 35 years. She smiles when I am with her and doesn’t talk about what is going on inside unless it is something that she needs to tell me. I try to keep things light but I want her to know that I care about her suffering and that I do want to help in other ways other than just visiting. I visit her, deposit money in her account and buy her some food and toilet items - such a small thing to do to reach out a helping hand to another human being. I wonder however what will happen when I move onto some place new? Will she have another person to visit her and bring her some kind of friendship? One can only pray she will or anyone else who has made some decisions they desperately regret and are in need of support and friendship. EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Women's Empowerment

Tamar Centre empowering the women of Pattaya by Jess Thakkar

Pattaya may not seem like a place that particularly empowers women. Far from it, bars and clubs are full of scantily clad women, whose purpose is to serve men. What's empowering about that? It's totally degrading and humiliating. It wipes out any self-esteem and self-worth they have. It's a sad existence. These women have no choice, as they are often the sole financial providers for their families, consisting usually of parents, younger siblings and their own children. They come to Pattaya to find bar work, often dazzled into thinking they will find love in the arms of a foreigner and all their financial woes will be over. That's their ultimate goal. Yet before that happens she will go with many men, night after night. She wants the life of the girl from the house next door in her rural village home. She's found love with a foreigner and he's built her family a house and bought them a car and a television and all the bills are taken care of. This is happening, yes it's true. But often the girls here in Pattaya don't find love, they become hooked on alcohol and drugs, some self-harm. They are sad and lonely and bitter. The dream they set out to follow didn't come true. They are naive,


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

and often lacking in a decent education. Unaware of the true cost of what they seek and harm that they are doing to themselves. “Working� as we understand it, isn't an option for these women as they feel the money they need to support their families will be easier and quicker to find working in a bar. Prostitution is an acceptable means to make money. These women are predominantly from the Issan region of Thailand. The farming backbone of the nation where the people are poor and work, other than farming is scarce. Indeed when some young girls have been asked as to what they want to do when they grow up, their answer is "marry a farang". Because that's what they have been told to do. Their mothers and grandmothers want them to do that. It's considered the way out of poverty. The girl has a duty and a debt to repay, that debt is to her parents for bearing her and raising her and educating her. The issue is a complex one. Far too complex for me to explain here in this article. But know this, the women that leave their homes to work in these bars and clubs feel they have no choice. They are indebted and desperate to provide for their families. And to prostitute themselves is the only way to do so. There are centres here that provide help and advice for these women, offering them hope, guidance and an

education. Showing these women that there is a way out, an alternative. One such centre here in Pattaya is the Tamar Centre, which is part of the Project Life Foundation based in Bangkok. The founder is a Dutch women in her late fifties called Nella Davidse. Her background is teaching and social care. She opened the centre where it's stands today in 2005, but it has existed in other locations since the year 2000. The organisation is a Christian one, and faith is what guides

baking, hairdressing and the making of greeting cards. The programme also includes some bible study and more importantly counselling. This offers hope and dignity, teaches forgiveness and nourishes their self-esteem. Nella sought to unlock the full potential of these women, it's very obvious that what she does gives her immense joy and fulfilment. There is also a outreach centre based right in the heart of an infamous street full of bars here. Where the team approach the working women and offer them escape. An audacious undertaking in my opinion, surrounded by the bars, their owners and of course the men that frequent them. But this seems to work as its run by ex bar working women that have been through the Tamar Centre's programme. These women have an affinity with the working women. They know what they are going through and so they are trusted and accepted.

this amazing woman. She felt compelled to help and do something that would make a difference to the lives of these poor vulnerable women. She saw that these women may seem all happy and smiling, laughing and giggling with whoever buys them a drink, the potential customer, but as she told me, they are broken inside. They are self-loathing and feel worthless. Nella saw this and was determined to help those that needed an escape from that life. Initially she set about befriending some of the women working at the bars, offering them the chance to leave the work that they do. Which took months, but it paid off. She arranged parties and days out. Where the women could be themselves and "normal". Where they could talk and be listened to. A programme of rehabilitation if you like, was formed, in exchange for a small salary, the women had to commit to it for three months. It consisted of teaching them

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Women's Empowerment

Nella has since handed over the day to day running of the centre to others and focuses on counselling. Addressing the emotional needs of these women is very much important to her. One of those responsible for the day to day running of the centre is an another amazing woman, aged only 27 years old. She has been associated with the centre for the last four years, her name is Alinda Ronje. She juggles working at the centre and being a mother. Her son is two years old and she is expecting her second child. Yet the energy she has is truly inspiring. Her focus is on helping these women and changing lives. She is responsible for the running of the bakery and restaurant which is on site and the teaching of baking skills. She works at the centre alongside her husband. As a young women, new to Pattaya, Alinda too was struck by the scenes she had witnessed. The women working in the bars needed help, she felt they were helpless and emotionally distraught. The image shocked her initially but that only encouraged her to want to help and change their lives. Her and her husband both have strong faith and this drives them to do the work that they do, coming from a nursing and IT/business background respectively. Alinda tells me that each woman's three month programme costs the equivalent of 1000USD. This includes salary, training, housing and food. The funding is received primarily via the bakery and restaurant, along with special orders for cakes etc. Other funding comes from individuals and organisations from overseas. The objective for the Tamar Centre is to help provide a basis for a new beginning, giving the women hope and aspiration in order to change their lives. I'm told by Alinda that the intake for the programme is quite low at the moment. But that doesn't deter her it seems. They are happy to continue and help as many women that have the need.

When speaking with these two amazing women, I tried to get an understanding of who they really are. What is it about them that makes them give so selflessly? It's not just a "job" to them. It's much much more than that. It's a calling, a desire and a need. Yes they receive an income from their supporters, enough to survive and to meet the cost of living. It's a basic amount, so it's not for the money, this type of work rarely is. I am not religious so I don't have a strong faith, perhaps I don't quite understand. I drive myself. God doesn't really enter into my daily life. But their faith is what drives them. Its this that helps them help those less fortunate. The very basis of charity and Christianity. These two women, Nella and Alinda have given hope to many many women over the years. They have indeed empowered these women to change their lives. The selfless nature of their work is to be truly admired and I for one am in awe of what they have achieved. Yet I can't help but feel who is empowering who here? The helpless souls of Pattaya have allowed Nella and Alinda to empower them and in turn they have empowered Nella and Alinda to do the work that they need to do.

Jess Thakkar was born in the UK to parents of Indian, East African origin. She followed her husband to Thailand in 2010.  She is the president of Rayong Pattaya Ladies Circle, an expat women's group based in Pattaya.


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

ArtS and Culture

Spirit Houses and Shrines by Alex Bannard

Wandering around Thailand it is hard not to notice the spirit houses, which are present outside in the corner of almost every business, hotel, shopping mall, even in some people’s homes or maybe I should say their gardens? They are often elaborate in their design and are adorned with offerings from food and drink to flowers and fruit. The Thai people are deeply spiritual and superstitious. 97% of Thais are Buddhist but a lot of their beliefs also stem from animism, a belief that natural objects possess souls and Hinduism. When a Thai buys a piece of land for development, before anything is done, a spirit house is erected to appease the land spirits. A dolls


August/September 2017

house sized abode is built for the now homeless land spirits. Technically a Brahman monk will decide on an auspicious placing in the grounds for the spirit house, which should not lie in the shadow of the house nor disturb any auspicious tree. Indeed many Thai houses will be built around a tree that has special spiritual significance. Often such trees are also wrapped with ribbons and become a shrine themselves to the tree spirits. Often Thai’s passing spirit houses will wai to the land spirits who are

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

represented inside the home with small figures and many office workers and home owners will leave offerings to keep the spirits happy, a kind of Thai you scratch my back and I will scratch yours. The fear in not keeping these spirits happy is that bad luck or bad karma afflicts those who do not respect the spirits. There are 4 types of spirit house. San Jao Tii, which is the typical spirit house built for the spirits who occupy the land and tend to resemble old Thai houses with figures representing the land spirits ’living’ inside.

Should the time come to move or update the spirit house this is also a ceremonial process. The old spirit house should stay in tact whilst the new one is made. This ensures that the spirits are not inconvenienced by the process. Once the old one needs to be removed, another set of auspicious ceremonies must be adhered to safeguard the landowner’s own karma.

San Pra Phoom is a home for the guardian angel that inhabits the land and is often built more in the style of a Thai temple. Reflecting the hierarchal nature of Hinduism it stands higher and more grandly than the more humble San Jao Tii with a figurine of Phra Chai Mongkon, holding a sword in one hand and a bag of money, sitting inside alongside a motley crew of assembled characters. Also reflecting the higher standing of this spirit guardian, people may be seen praying in front of them and not just making merit. San Phra Brahm is the larger style open sided spirit house often seen outside businesses and has the Hindu God of Creation, Pra Brahm inside. Pra Brahm is seen as being more auspicious and consequently these

spirit houses become more shrine, such as The Erawan Shrine. San Piyanda is a temporary spirit house erected during the building stages of a project and generally used by the workmen to protect them while they are working - making merit to this spirit house is seen to be a better safeguard than wearing a hard hat. Once the placing and style of the spirit house has been decided upon the date of installation and ideally the time is also determined by what is most auspicious. Various ceremonies, rituals and chanting are required to invoke the spirits or invisibles and viola they have a new home. Often the spirit house is then jazzed up to ensure that neighbouring spirits are kept happy too.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


mind matters

Happiness through meditation by Netra Ruthaiyanont

Meditation is not for everyone. If you like it, embrace it. If you don’t, let it go. Like many things in life, I got into meditation by chance through an invitation of a dear friend. Her family was a great supporter of the venerable Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm and he was coming to Bangkok to give a Dhamma talk. I told myself, “Why not give it a try?” and I attended Ajahn Brahm’s talk on “Happiness.” All of us know him as Ajahn Brahm but the jovial monk’s full name is Ajahn Brahmavamso, his official religious name being Phra Visuddhisamvarathera. Currently the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Serpentine, Western Australia, Ajahn Brahm travels all over the world to give his Dhamma talks and lead meditation retreats. He visits Thailand and Singapore regularly where he has a huge following. After listening to his talk, I signed up for one of his meditation retreats. The first one was a bit uncomfortable, but the more experienced meditators helped me through with a great understanding and compassion. And little by little, I was hooked. As far as religion is concerned, I was raised as a Buddhist. When I was five, my mother sent me to the temple to practice meditation. But what can you expect from a little kid whose major concerns were playing, eating and sleeping? I fell asleep, of course, and that was my memory of Buddhism. So, it was only much later in life, after I had attended Ajahn Brahm’s meditation retreat, that I came to understand the significance of meditation. Ajahn Brahm’s meditation retreats enable novice meditators to ease into the process. I started off with two nights at a nice, comfortable hotel. There was no need to sleep on the floor or forgo air conditioned bedrooms like other meditation retreats. The beauty of these retreats is that one does not have to be a Buddhist to attend them. People from other religions sign up on a regular basis, and the number is growing. At the last retreat in Thailand, Ajahn Brahm said that one should think of coming to the retreat as coming out of jail (the trials and tribulation of one’s daily life) to enjoy the freedom of not having to worry about anything for a little while. He encouraged us to enjoy the beauty of the retreat. Don’t linger


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

A smiling Ajahn Brahm poses for a photo

in the past, worry about the future, he said - just enjoy the present moment, the freedom. The dress code for the meditation retreat was simple. No jewellery, no makeup. (Fine, no worries mate.) Wear a white top, dark trousers or long skirt (nothing tight or fitted). (No sweat, can do.) All are to observe the five precepts of Buddhism. (OK by me).

The five Buddhist precepts are rules that most of us go by anyway (except for number 5 for some of us): 1. Thou shall not kill 2. Thou shall not steal 3. Thou shall abstain from sexual misconduct 4. Thou shall not lie 5. Thou shall not get intoxicated During the retreat, all meditators were to observe three more precepts: 1. No solid food after 12 noon. (That gets a little tough.) When I joined my first retreat, I was so afraid that I would not last the night if I skipped dinner. Thankfully, the organisers were kind enough to provide us with hot drinks, chocolate and cheese at 5pm. That was really helpful for those of us who probably got hungrier by worrying about the possibility that we might get hungry in the middle of the night. The feeling is similar to when one has to refrain from eating and drinking after midnight if have a blood test the following morning. One starts getting uncomfortable with the thought that one cannot eat. 2. No talking, all must observe noble silence. (Say what? Oh no!) Most people think that it is easy until they try it. It just shows how much everyone takes speech for granted. It doesn’t take more than 15 minutes for us to realise how uncomfortable it is not to speak. We soon realise the importance of noble silence. By keeping quiet, we can clear our minds and concentrate on meditating. 3. No TV, no music, no dancing and no mobiles in the conference room. (Now that is going to be too much!) No entertainment? How do we pass the time? The days got longer than usual and the nights were not so peaceful, especially if one’s stomach decided to growl in the middle of the night! We began each morning of the retreat with a meditation session at 5.30am. Then, we did some chanting with the help of the Ajahn, and afterwards, we happily moved to the dining room to consume the much awaited breakfast.

The beauty of a sunset

Source of illustrations: A little wisdom that makes a huge difference, by Ajahn Brahm. Published by Mitra Holdings Pte., Ltd.

Then at 9am, we returned to the conference hall to listen to a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm. The topic that morning was about letting go. Ajahn Brahm gave the simple example of holding up a glass of water. After a while, the glass gets

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


mind matters

heavy because one is getting tired from holding the glass for so long. So what to do? Very simple. Put it down, he advised. Give yourself a rest, and then get back to it later. By having a rest, one may come up with some solutions. If you approach your “problems” in the same manner, he noted, you will be able to handle your life much better. A guided meditation session followed. Afterwards, all of us headed to the restaurant for a quiet, and peaceful lunch which had to be eaten before 12 noon. More meditation practice followed after a short break. In the afternoon, participants could also sign up for a 10 minute interview session with Ajahn Brahm. These sessions fill up quickly and if one had any questions, they could be written out and put into the question basket for the Ajahn to answer in the evening session. There were many things Ajahn Brahm said in his talks that made a lot of sense. He kept his talks simple and humorous. He cited similes that most people could relate to, one way or another. Meditation teaches you the value of patience, he said. Tell yourself you will sit still and think of nothing for half an hour. OK, let’s start with five minutes. You will find that your mind will not stay still at all. It starts wandering without your permission: Oh, I have to make dinner. I forgot to call so-and-so. What shall I do this weekend? Problems at work, sick child, Worry, worry, worry. There is no doubt that meditation takes time and practice. It is just like learning to ride a bicycle or learning a language. How long it takes depends on each person. Some will get it quickly while others take longer. However, there is no need to compare. And one day, one will have the “aha!” moment and things will become easier and the meditator will be more relaxed about getting to the next level. Patience will eventually lead to enlightenment. In any case, one should not jump to conclusions too quickly. If one doesn’t succeed this time, try again, and if one doesn’t succeed the next time, well, try again.


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

Ajahn Brahm gives his Dhamma talk to the participants

Eventually, a sense of peace will come to the meditator, who will be glad that he or she tried. Ajahn Brahm’s talks are available in You Tube and also by clicking on to this link:

Netra Ruthaiyanont is currently the Development Director at Rose Marie Academy, an inclusive, internationally oriented PreK - 12 school in Nichada Thani. She holds a BA in Communication from Stanford University, California, USA and a MS in Corporate Public Relations from Boston University, Massachusetts, USA. She enjoys writing about life’s challenges particularly for women, education and travel.

The clean and peaceful meditation hall at Sampran Riverside Hotel


When going home is harder than being away … by Erica Dolsen, BSW.

With many schools gearing up for term break, the prospect of holidays at ‘home’ can be daunting. Many expat families live with a foot in both camps - a sense of where ‘home’ is and the daily reality of being in a new place and making that home, too. Often there are old friends, family expectations, in laws, and legal, financial, or bureaucratic matters to deal with. The routine is disrupted, kids are suddenly ‘from away’, our home helpers are on their own holidays. People at home don’t understand what expat life is like, or make assumptions that don’t fit. Living with palm trees all around doesn’t automatically make life a holiday! As well, there may be underlying conversations or questions - the most common one being: ‘when are you coming home?’ Hard to answer, that one. One that families wrestle with in their own way, in conversations with employers, with peers, with community. Going ‘home for the holidays’ can intensify the sense of distance and disconnection, as delightful as it is to see familiar sights, eat familiar food, get reconnected with extended family. For some, the shock of returning, after being ‘home’, can be cause for deeper distress. The highs are higher and the lows are lower - everything is in technicolour. Very often the second round of adjustment precipitates some depression, homesickness, another version of culture shock. When depression, anxiety, over stress, or adjustment concerns are impacting your life in negative ways, it can help to prepare some strategies and supports for both the return home and the return back. Families might consider creating rituals that carry over and aren’t place dependent (such as sharing something they’re grateful for before eating supper), or creating photo albums or movies of both ‘homes’. Letters, recordings, and video messages to grandparents, friends, or other important people can help to process feelings of longing for connection and familiarity. Hearing stories about how it was the same or different than last time (or when a

parent was young) can create perspective about accepting change. When thoughts or statements come up like ‘everything is better over there!’ ‘I can’t wait to go home, I’m so tired of’, having a gentle conversation that unpacks these notions can help with accepting the full range of benefits of translocation. Conversely, actively accepting that things might actually be hard, change is difficult, and readjustment will stir up big feelings will help those feelings integrate. Sometimes professional support is called for. School and private counsellors are valuable resources, providing a safe space to process and deal, develop strategic solutions, or just have a place to intentionally explore the processes of big change. Wherever home is, it’s normal to have mixed feelings about change. As you travel home for the holidays, maintaining self-care, family rituals, and lowering expectations will help everyone to enjoy both the arrivals and the departures.

Erica is a counsellor and social worker, with a private practice online. She specialises in working with adolescents and preteens, and has significant experience supporting people in recovery from addiction. It’s her belief that everyone deserves to be heard and seen, in order to integrate growth and facilitate positive change. She works with evidence based practices such as CBT, bodily inquiry and mindfulness, and various tools from the wisdom traditions of the world. She can be found @ dolsencounsel, or at

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



How important is Facebook to you? by Daniel Sencier

I think it's the best thing that ever happened, but I'm comparing it to a time way back, when you had only real friends and the only way to keep them was to meet up and buy them a cup of tea occasionally. I've moved on so many times over the years that without Facebook, I guess I wouldn’t have any friends. Some friends on Facebook I've never met, yet I enjoy the interaction with them immensely. It’s helped me hook up with people who I knew as far back as childhood, and even though we don't talk much after our initial contact, it's nice to see them all still there. Same with old work and army colleagues, and people who I may have only met once on the other side of the world, without Facebook I would never have kept in touch. It's helped me to stay in touch with my kids and to see what's going on in their lives, as none of us are geographically close anymore. Between Facebook Skype and WhatsApp, we have stayed fairly close and it's just great! It would be nice to live closer to them all one day, especially as my 3 grandchildren grow up, but for now, we are where we are. I worry about the 'watchers' on Facebook, those that are ‘friends’ but never comment or 'like' anything you put up. I’m also intrigued with people who feel they can't use their real name, though my partner has a very good reason. She’s a head teacher, and all her staff and pupils would send her friends requests; perhaps a bridge too far.


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Have you seen those who appear to be on Facebook all day? They live there; it’s a drug, it’s their version of the real world! I’m worried that I could end up in that place, so I’ve set myself rules that only allow me to access twice a day, morning and night; but of course, I cheat! People sometimes pour out their hearts on Facebook, looks embarrassing, but hey, it gives others a chance to jump in with support. I was sent a private message awhile back by someone who said, "It's good to know you're always there if I need to talk Daniel", and we do, often. Others have been there for me at desperately bad times, so this can only be an amazing support, surely? When you send someone a 'Friends Request' and they don’t acknowledge, how bad do you feel? Maybe you liked them, but they weren't as keen on you. Don’t you wish there was an ‘unsend’ key? I didn’t really want to be your friend, I just felt sorry for you! When someone 'defriends' you, are you devastated? Someone did that to me recently, just because we disagreed on something. I dared to have a different opinion and his macho image wouldn't allow that! My favourite friends on Facebook are those who I can have a good debate with, without falling out. Be it politics, religion or lifestyle, let’s talk about it. I’ll try and understand why you’re happy killing

animals for fun, or why believe that you go to heaven when you die! When it's your birthday, do you find yourself looking closely at who sent you well wishes? Not one member of my entire family or in laws acknowledged my birthday on Facebook last year. Should I worry that I'm not loved :-)? I always try to wish everyone a Happy Birthday, but I must miss more than I remember. I reckon if a handful of your 'friends' say happy birthday, you've done well. I laugh at people who have some 5,000 plus friends. In your dreams! I've got 271 and I've just counted 11 that I've never met; mainly people I've befriended on cancer support sites. I love keeping up with all the political and wildlife groups on Facebook. You can also get a more balanced view of the

news without the influence of the totally biased main channels, like the BBC, because there’s terrible stuff going on in the world right now that’s simply not reported. I can follow people who I like/admire and join lobbying groups such as '38 degrees' who can influence our government, because alone, we can't. I'm even in a group called, 'Babies born at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital'. Must say, I’m getting towards the far end of that maternity ward now! I love it, and though it gets technically more difficult by the day to browse the site, it saves me a fortune on both birthday and Christmas cards, even reminding me when your birthday is. If I've got news to tell, you’ll all get to hear at the

same time. If you talk about things like cats, soaps or put photos of your grandchildren up all the time, I probably don't follow you, so I don't see you on my timeline, but it doesn't mean I don't like/love you! I never got into Twitter in the same way; I guess I never really understood it. But yes, Facebook does it for me, I'm glad it's there and I wouldn’t be without it. As I travel the world, I can take you all with me, and we’ll never lose each other! Unless you ‘defriend’ me!

Daniel Sencier was born in London 1951, the son of Belgian/Irish parents who settled in England after the war. He spent his childhood being raised by his grandmother in the Republic of Ireland, before moving to go to school in England. He is married to Beverley, who is Head of an International School in Bangkok, and they have eight children between them. After service in the military, aircraft and hotel industries, he retired to further his education at the University of Cumbria. He successfully completed a Bachelors Degree in Wildlife & Media, and qualified as an English teacher. Now in Bangkok Daniel is organiser of the ‘Bangkok English speakers lunch group’, encouraging others to improve their English and explore this wonderful city.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



The internet of things by Bernard Collin

Conversation on the IoT (internet of things) is rising as it becomes a more broad and social consideration. It has a wide reach and it also shows that people need to be more aware of their personal impact. What might look like a minor problem hides a greater trouble. First let’s discuss what the internet of things is, broadly speaking the internet of things is any and every device connected in some way to a network and open to the internet. A home system designed to allow you to set the house to wake up the lights and run the heating/air conditioning ready for your arrival home. A sound system connected wirelessly through your home wifi, a baby monitor you can check from the office. All of these systems constitute part of the internet of things, things connected to the internet. (I know aren’t we amazing at naming things.) But the term simply applies to any and every device meant to automatically connect to the internet and accomplish a task with little to no oversight. This is where the problems start, these devices are crafted for simple use and convenience which then become points of weakness. Not designed for high security but simply task completion, many of the devices have now been breached and exploited.


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EXPAT LIFE in Thailand

The activity isn’t specifically because it targets you, in fact that the device is “yours” is incidental, it’s just another bot to them. The devices are not breached to spy on you, and aren’t designed to break down and try to ransom the device back to you (See the previous article on Ransomware). The devices are compromised by small edits to their code, small innocuous changes that are made not to interfere with their use. Owners of the devices which are exploited will never know. Each device is added to a larger group called a botnet. It has a new purpose now on top of accomplish tasks for you, it will also check in and make sure to lend its power and your bandwidth to large scale attacks. Denial of service, or to inject corrupted code into larger more robust systems. Without your knowledge or consent any device connected to your internet connection can be used by criminal organisations and general mischief makers against networks and websites. Shutting down a business ability to connect to the internet or simply wielded as a hammer

against single uses they have found offends them. People are selling time and activity on your home devices against others, a device you paid for and pay to keep running, on an internet connection you pay to upkeep. This is not a new problem, previously this issue happened on personal computers, widespread reach of viruses and exploits previously added computers to these botnets, the one thing that challenged this was better

awareness from users on how to use their device and the broad acceptance of anti-virus companies and businesses. What can we do to combat this new botnet problem? For one, we should make sure that device creators take their responsibility on creating secure devices more seriously, but on a more personal angle, anyone who likes to add gadgets and devices to their own home should either consider adding security layers to their connection to the internet. Home solutions for Firewalls or a well configured router within the home before reaching the modem out to the wider internet. Security is a personal responsibility these days, and being aware of how your devices are being used and exploited is something each household should be concerned about. These are your devices and you should be certain they aren’t being exploited by others for their own ends.

Bernard Collins is the CEO of SafeComs, established in 1999 in Australia with a focus on computer security in the SME and enterprise market. In 2003 he launched the Asian branch of the company located in Bangkok. Prior to launching SafeComs Bernard was CEO of Pacer Software Inc in Europe and was with Digital Equipment and Apple. 02 105 4520

Food and Beverage

Gourmet corner

from Arlene Rafiq's kitchen by Arlene Rafiq

Since the time of the cavemen and immediately after they discovered how to make a fire, they have learned to eat kebab. The basic idea of meat and fire have not changed but the process of marination has evolved which makes a big difference. In my various visits to Afghanistan, I have noticed the many stalls cooking kebab. They are in every nook and cranny of Kabul. Out of curiosity and smelling the aroma of freshly cooked kebab, I went to one of the stalls and ordered a few to take home. It was the best barbecued meat that I have ever tasted. Naturally, as a food enthusiast, I did not wait long to find out the recipe of this mouthwatering dish. A long time cook of my husband's family came into the picture as he wished to show me also his cooking prowess. He also said that the Afghans are basically carnivorous. The locals eat mostly kebab with rice, kebab with bread and more of the legendary kebab of a different kind. It's one of their favourite dishes. You will see them always on every Afghan table during special occasions but most of the time during picnics. He showed me the basic marination and tips on how to best grill the kebabs which I am sharing with you. First of all, 1. Charcoal grill is the best. 2. Use flat skewers as the meat stays flat and when turning the skewer, the meat stays with the skewer. 3. Make sure that the meat doesn't touch the grill leaving an inch above the surface of the grill Afghan kebab Ingredients: 5lbs lamb breast or chicken fats removed and cut the meat one inch cubes


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1 pc fresh ginger, peeled and cut about 2 inches long 5 cloves garlic 1 cup oil 1 tbsp turmeric powder 1 tbsp paprika 1 large bell pepper (seeds removed) 2 tsp salt 1 tsp black pepper Procedure: In a large bowl, put the lamb pieces, set aside. In a blender, place the ginger, garlic, bell peppers and blend till liquid. Pour the liquid over the lamb, add oil and the rest of the spices. Mix well, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before grilling. Start up your grill till hot. Take about 6 or 7 pieces of the marinated lamb, stick into the skewer, place the skewer on the hot grill and turn them over every 6 or 10 minutes (to cook the lamb evenly) until they are done. Serve the kebab with pita or Afghan bread (if available), Afghan salad of cucumber with yogurt mint or chutney. Some of the best Afghan meat dishes requires considerable effort and time to prepare because of its various spice preparation. I do not buy prepared mixes. I prepare the mix from scratch as I can be assured of its freshness. One of the best stew dishes which I learned from a cousin in law is easier to make and the taste makes you want to eat more. Likewise, instead of animal fat, I use olive oil as it makes me feel healthier.

Chicken qorma Ingredients: 1 kilo of chicken drumstick 1 large onion, sliced 1 pc. ginger about the length of your thumb sliced thinly 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 tbsp coriander powder 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves 2 large potato, cut into cubes 1 small can of tomato paste olive oil 2 tbsp turmeric powder salt and pepper to taste 12 pcs of whole red chilli Procedure: Pour oil in a large skillet or wok. Put the ginger to fry, add garlic and onion. When onion turned transparent, add the chicken and the turmeric powder. Mix until the chicken is slightly brown. When browned, add the tomato paste and a bit of water to the chicken. Mix well. It's not supposed to be watery. Let it simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer until cooked. When the chicken and potatoes are done, add the whole chilli pieces and simmer for a few minutes. Add the cilantro and serve with plain rice. Our Afghan spread will not be complete without dessert. The good news is they are so easy to make and are finger licking good. Most of these desserts are served along with traditional tea with cardamom. One of the best Afghan desserts is a rose scented pudding called Firni. Firni can be

found in countries that were once part of the Mogul empire but the Afghans have made their signature on their own version of this pudding. Ingredients: 4 cups of milk 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup cornstarch 1/2 cup slivered almonds 1 to 1/2 tsp of ground cardamom 1/4 tsp of saffron thread 1/4 cup finely chopped pistachio 2 tsp rosewater Procedure: Pour the milk except for 1/2 cup into a medium size saucepan. Take the remaining 1/2 and mix with 1/2 cup cornstarch. Add the milk and cornstarch into the pan with the rest of the milk. Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly until it thickens. Add the almonds and keep stirring until mixture thickens and bubbles. Add cardamom and rosewater and stir. Turn heat to low and cook for ten minutes. Stir occasionally. Pour into a platter spreading evenly. Sprinkle pistachio and cardamom on top. Refrigerate and serve cold. This ends our gourmet Afghan spread which you can prepare with ease to your friends. They will surely love the exotic flavour of these dishes. Most of the ingredients can be found at India Town in Pahurat or Spices are us on Sukhumvit Soi 20. Good luck please feel free to send me feedback.

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



Run for Dek October 1st 2017 by Phylis Ansusinha

It was a perfect day that pulled up out of the heavy rainy season. It arrived similar to a shiny new sports car tearing through a stormy cloud of dust, unscathed by the elements and shining its coat of armour, ready to pick up its beautiful date for the evening. That was September 25th 2016 AWCs Run for Dek Thai’s first debut. The rains had been so heavy that the grounds of Lumpini Park had become a bog but the sun had dried much of the moisture from the trail area. Over 400 monitor lizards had been removed from its grounds and the temperature dropped just a few degrees. While the humidity never lets up in Bangkok, we were blessed with a slightly more bearable day. Over 2200 runners showed up with much excitement and six Ambassadors arrived to support the cause. A high energy Zumba warm up kicked off the run and many people participated in it, much to the surprise of our Thai running coordinating partners. A welcome speech from the US Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies bought smiles to many faces. All for Thai underprivileged girls who truly want to finish their high school education! A cause that everyone can relate to. AWC has been supporting these students for over 22 years, graduating over 7000 girls and breaking the chain of poverty which brings possible

forced labour. 2016s run supported over 100 girls through the 2017 school year and provided another fun year of English camp for their students. Over 400 people from around the world participated to support the girls from a global perspective, creating the awareness of a need so near and dear to many hearts. The gift of a proper education can give these girls a start in life, preventing hardship and possible abuse by predators looking for unsuspecting victims. The AWC 2017 Run for Dek Thai brings about a lot of anticipation with Bangkok’s Thai community as well as the resident expat community. This year’s theme is Superhero; whose hero will you be? Whilst it’s still our mourning period after the passing of Thailand’s beloved King and we will tone


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down colours and run with respect in black running shirts, we hope to carry on a tradition that would make him proud. AWC expects to nearly double attendance and draw from the heart as we all run for a cause that cannot be denied. As typical with charity runs, this will be a fun run/walk with a focus on the family. Complete one lap around the park for 2.5K or go as many as 4 times around to complete 10k, the choice is up to each participant but a medal is awarded either way! Dress as a Superhero and potentially win one of many prizes for the best hero competition. We look forward to seeing the creativity we know will wow all of our guests and spectators. How can you help? A successful run cannot be held without the support of sponsors. If you are a business or an individual that would like to have exposure with pre and post marketing at the event as well, please reach out to us. We have many levels of sponsorship that will put you on the backs of over 4000 runners shirts (or front, for our premier sponsor), fliers, posters, social media and more. But hurry because this will go to print fast. AWC will seek cash sponsorship, food, beverage and fabulous prizes to create a great event and help our students. You can also sign up as an individual or team to support the event, and of course; have a lot of fun!

Please contact Phyllis Ansusinha at 091 885 5602 or AWC thanks the expat community for its continued support, the women’s organisations whose camaraderie is ever present, its AWC members, and also the Thai runners club coordinating partners lead by Julaluck Miaow Siamwalla and her volunteers from Mater Dei Running Club as well as the production team. We thank our sponsors past and present for always giving to our philanthropic endeavours. See you October 1st 2017; the run starts at 5pm but please arrive by 4pm for festivities and registration. Polish up your running shoes, start conditioning, and let’s have some fun!

Kalayaan 2017


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Argentinian wine tasting and meat event at UNO MAS Centara

Wine tasting at Pacific City Club with Hardy's wines from Australia

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


"House warming" reception at H.E. Mrs Alicia Sonschein's new home at Hansar residence

Bernardo Diaz concert at River City


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IWC's International Food Fair 2017

Serena Brancale jazz quartett

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



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The completion of Central Embassy with the grand opening of Park Hyatt Bangkok

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



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Italy's National Day at Oriental Hotel

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand



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St. George's Ball at Royal Orchid Sheraton

EXPAT LIFE in Thailand


Expat Stories

Kentucky to Bangkok by Cody Jackson

Hey y’all I’m Cody. I come from a small rural town in the United States of America. Specifically, the northern part of the state of Kentucky with a population of a little over 2,000. To put it in perspective, none of my family lives more than 30 minutes away from one another. Everyone knows everyone. It’s a real homey feel. Kentucky is known for the rolling hills, bluegrass, Bourbon, and racehorses. Farming is still very popular in Kentucky as well. I grew up on farm raising tobacco and learned what hard work was from a very young age. Multiple summers and school breaks were spent in the tobacco fields. I’m married to a handsome local Kentuckian named Andy. Andy’s from a small town in eastern Kentucky. You are most likely familiar with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Andy’s hometown is near where the first KFC was built. Coming from similar backgrounds, it took our families by surprise when we told them that we were going to move to Bangkok. When Andy’s work offered him a relocation contract to move to the Bangkok office I didn’t know what to think. I had never been out of the country before. Travelling to me was going 850 miles away to Florida to the beach, not going across the globe. I had only been on a plane a handful of times and it was never over a two hour flight. Panic struck me, what would my parents think? I’ve never moved so far away from them. What about my friends? I won’t get to see them for a long time. Oh, and my job? I will have to quit my job. I knew though that we couldn’t pass on such an opportunity so we made the decision together that we would move to Bangkok. We thought we were both young, no children, and have never travelled before. It all seemed like the perfect opportunity to leave Kentucky and see the world. What a shock it was when we first got here. I couldn’t understand people and they couldn’t understand me. I didn’t know where anything was. I didn’t have friends. I couldn’t find a job. I felt like I didn’t have much of a purpose. Andy would go to work and I would be home by myself all day. How I first coped with this feeling was downloading books on my Kindle to read. I had never read much so it was a good time to be by myself and read. I still had this emptiness inside me. I needed something more. I decided I would sew. My grandmother actually got me a sewing machine back in the States and when we moved I brought it with me. So I worked on quilts and I made two quilts for friends. As fun as that was I still didn’t have friends. I could no longer be on my own. I needed a girlfriend who I could chat with. Women long for communication! I wanted a job I could go to. My job search in the beginning was a complete fail. I went to some


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interviews but none would provide me with a work permit. The majority of the jobs here are for English teachers so I looked up the requirements and did a course online to get my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certificate. While I was completing the course to get my TEFL certificate I started to look up groups I could join but I wasn’t ready to commit and pay a membership fee to join any of them. A co-worker of Andy’s recommended I look at Internations online, that there may be some volunteer work I could involve myself in. I saw that Internations also has a membership fee but you can see a lot of the posts without having to pay. I saw a post that needed volunteer English teachers. I was intimidated at first because I didn’t have any teaching experience but I reached out to the organiser anyways. She was delighted to have me on the volunteer team and explained to me the need for English teachers at the Duang Prateep Foundation. It was the perfect opportunity for me to use my TEFL certificate and gain teaching experience. The school was located in Khlong Toei slums. I taught kindergarteners. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I volunteered once or twice a week. A lot of the volunteers helping at the school in the slums were older and I wasn’t able to connect with them. Don’t get me wrong, everyone was extremely nice! I even met a Thai friend who I still keep in contact with. She’s so busy with her own work and she travels a lot so I wasn’t able to meet with her much. Through Facebook I found a girls international group that’s based in Bangkok but didn’t find myself making friends there either. A lot of them are younger, like me, but are not here long. I find myself detached from younger groups because I am married and I don’t like going out drinking. I think I isolated myself at the beginning because I didn’t feel ‘worldy' enough to be around people. I haven’t travelled before so I didn’t have any stories to share. It’s very intimidating at first making new friends and there is a sense of vulnerability that’s felt when expressing myself to a new person. It’s been a year now and I have continued to volunteer. I am using my TEFL certificate and tutoring Thai students. I am now going out more and I have started going to the park near my house and going for a run in the mornings. Being here in Bangkok I have met a lot of interesting people. We may not all be lifelong friends but we all can give a listening ear when a sister needs it. We can uplift each other and tell each other our stories. I also have a wonderful husband who encourages me and seriously has shown me the world. For all these things, I am grateful.

Our Guiding Statements and values lead us to continuously improve our students’ learning experience at all stages of development.

From August 2017 our new Early Years learning spaces will further enhance the experience of our youngest students through: Even more time to inquire

Even more opportunities for

Even more early years

through play-based,

outdoor learning, creative role

experts inspiring each

experiential learning

play and physical development

child’s learning

with an extended

in our inspiring new facilities

school day

Scan the QR code or visit to find out more.

Celebrating 60 Years of British International Education Tel: +66 (0) 2785 2200

Bangkok Patana is a not-for-profit, IB World School, accredited by CIS and NEASC

Expat Life in Thailand August/September 2017  
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