Those violent Internet images: blame everyday stress The Internet has been ‘entertaining’ us recently with all kinds of incidents involving road rage, violent scuffles, arguments, fights and even murder in Thailand. Such graphic images are not representative of life here; the vast majority of Thais are reasonable, peace-loving people who handle problems and accept difficulties with far greater equanimity than is the norm in most other countries. However, there’s also no doubting that violence, physical as well as verbal, is on the increase, especially in Bangkok. And it’s not rocket science to work out why that is the case. The culprit, of course, is stress. A mere 40 years ago, Bangkok was a low-rise, laid-back city where virtually everybody had access to space, inexpensive accommodation in houses often set in tree-filled compounds, and mostly empty streets. In fact, urban life back then was more or less an extension of the unhurried and generally tranquil ways of the village. The easy-going temperament of Thais was one of Bangkok’s greatest assets. Today’s Bangkok is so different, opposite in almost every way to the city of the past. It may still be popular with short-stay visitors from overseas, but Bangkok is no longer an easy city for its citizens. Tempers are short because of the unyielding congestion, the ever-rising cost of living, and the lack of time and space for recreation. Tiny apartments in giant condos do not provide the same peace of mind as a house and garden. In short, the stress for the majority is enormous. In such an environment it’s hardly surprising tempers fray so easily. Stand by for more of those Internet ‘clips.’
Incentives needed to tackle the problem of a greying population
Thailand’s ageing population is one of the biggest challenges facing this nation. The World Bank among others has already issued warnings about the cost and responsibility of looking after these old folks. The number of people over 65 is set to increase from seven per cent of the population in 2003 to 14 per cent in 2015. This will result in fewer younger people to take care of the country’s senior citizens. Meanwhile, falling birth rates, particularly in cities and urban areas, will exacerbate this problem. The government has responded with a plan to give tax breaks to couples with children. Will it be enough? Almost certainly not. A few hundred baht extra take-home money is hardly an inducement or incentive to start a family or increase it. Thailand should follow the lead of other countries like Singapore, and urgently increase the stock of low-cost government housing for young families on limited incomes. Otherwise, there won’t be enough people around in 20 or 30 years’ time to look after the nation’s greying population.
Mandarin Oriental’s key asset
When the Mandarin Oriental celebrated its 140th anniversary at a spectacular riverside party last month, the general manager’s speech to guests rightly stressed the importance of its staff in the hotel’s enduring popularity and success, describing them as a key asset. Those who know and love Thailand’s oldest hotel will certainly concur, having experienced for themselves levels of service and personal attention rarely seen in today’s world. A few days earlier, hundreds of delegates to the Thailand Travel Forum listened to speeches about the future of the hotel industry in general. It will be, they were told, one dominated by a few major companies run by faceless accountants intent on reducing staff costs by introducing the latest technology that dispenses with people such as check-in staff and bell boys. Without the personal touch, as defined so wonderfully by the Oriental, hotels of the future are going to be bleak, frigid and impersonal entities. Long live the Oriental.
This issue in
The number of restaurants included in our round up of Bangkok’s best Mexican restaurants. See page 57.
The date the Magners International Comedy Festival kicks off next month. You better wear tight socks. See page 26.
The number of teams expected to compete at this year’s Hooters Bangkok International Rugby Tens Tournament. See page 28.
The year Fred Tibbitts decided to give all of his belongings away and devote his life to serving others. See page 76.
The number of people arrested when Pol Gen Wuthi ordered a nine-day crackdown in Pattaya. See page 80.
The value (1 million), in baht, of the Batman Utility Belt on display at the Batcat Museum in Bangkok. See page 14.
PUBLISHER Colin Hastings email@example.com MANAGING EDITOR Adam Purcell firstname.lastname@example.org EDITOR Nina Hastings email@example.com ASSISTANT EDITOR Chutinanta Boonyamarn firstname.lastname@example.org SALES & MARKETING MANAGER Rojjana Rungrattwatchai email@example.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Thana Pongsaskulchoti firstname.lastname@example.org Sakuna Nupinrum email@example.com ACCOUNTING MANAGER Saranya Choeyjanya firstname.lastname@example.org ACCOUNTING ASSISTANT Janjira Silapapairson email@example.com ART & PRODUCTION Arthawit Pundrikapa, Jaran Lakkanawat PHOTOGRAPHY JL & AP CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Anette Pollner, Johanna DeKoning, Judith Coulson, Maxmilian Wechsler
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Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016
Busy Phra Khanong’s first “beach-style” resort opens Looking for accommodation with a difference in Bangkok? Here’s the place ■ ONE of Bangkok’s busiest suburbs is home to an eye-popping low-rise resort that would not be out of place on one of Thailand’s pristine islands. Comprising a total of 15 self-contained chalets surrounded by trees and plants, Resort M Bangkok is located some 300 metres down a quiet residential lane connected to Sukhumvit Soi 81 in Phra Khanong, close to the BTS Skytrain station of On Nut. Opened last month, the resort’s unusual beach-style design is in stark contrast to the growing number of traditional hotels and guesthouses now open in this busy area of Bangkok. Although only eleven of its one-storey chalets are currently available, the resort is already packed with mostly western tourists who enjoy its alternative character and surprisingly large swimming pool. The other four chalets and a restaurant are due to open soon. Each room has a private bathroom and balcony, along with a flat-screen TV, plus tea and coffee making facilities. The chalets are actually ready-built units trucked into the resort’s spacious compound and then equipped on site with guests’ amenities. Special introductory room rates at Resort M are comparable to those charged by other hotels in the area. Single or double chalets cost B1,200 a night, while the triple is B1,500 and deluxe quadruple is B1,800. Bookings are available only online via booking.com.
Annual awards ceremony scheduled for Feb 29 in Bangkok ■ FOLLOWING three successful years in Singapore, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants is coming to Thailand for the first time. Similar to previous years, the event will bring together the region’s most respected chefs and influential restaurateurs, together with leading industry figures and international media, to hear the announcement of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. As evidence of Thailand’s growing influence on the region’s culinary scene, Bangkok restaurants have claimed the No.1 spot on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the last two years. David Thompson’s Nahm took top honours in 2014 while Gaggan Anand’s eponymous restaurant secured the No.1 spot in 2015. Along with Gaggan and Nahm, the 2015 list also featured the Bangkok-based restaurants Eat Me (No.25), Bo.lan (No.37) and Issaya Siamese Club (No.39). You can follow the announcements live via twitter @Asias50Best on Feb 29. Following the ceremony, the results of the awards will be published live at www.theworlds50best.com/asia.
St David’s Society Ball 40th Anniversary Charity Ball will be held on March 5 at the Amari Watergate Bangkok ■ TICKETS are now on sale for the St. David’s Society’s always-popular annual charity shindig. Featuring performances by the Hong Kong Welsh male Voice Choir, The Jazz Knights, and DJ Trevor Fisher, plus a fivecourse meal with drinks included to fuel all the fun, the event looks set to be great fun. Tickets are B3,200 each or B30,000 for a table of ten. Book before Feb 20 for the early bird price of B3,000/B28,000. stdavidsinbangkok.com, email@example.com
THE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE COMPANY THE ARRIVALS / SOS INTERNATIONAL, MICHAEL SCHULZ, LOOKS BACK ON HIS 36+ YEARS IN THAILAND AGE 50+ WHERE BORN KOLDING, DENMARK NICKNAME TOO MANY TO PICK ONE. MIKEY? WORK MEDICAL INSURANCE ALARM CENTER; IN-BOUND TOUR GROUPS; AND A 4-STAR NOBLE HOMESTAY IN TAK PROVINCE. PERSONALITY HAPPY GO LUCKY BUT WITH A SERIOUS NOTE AFTER THREE SCOTCH & SODAS. FAMILY MARRIED TO KHUN NONG WITH TWIN DAUGHTERS, ANETTE AND TANIA. WE HAVE JUST CELEBRATED OUR SILVER WEDDING ANNIVERSARY. BEST FRIEND I KNOW I WILL BREAK THE HEARTS OF MY DOGS AT MY BANTAK HOUSE, BUT THE PERSON WHO HAS HAD MOST IMPACT ON MY LIFE IS JOHN BIRT, A STOUT SCOT WHO I HAVE ENDURED MANY VERBAL BATTLES WITH OVER 30+ YEARS. YEARS HERE ARRIVED 19 JANUARY 1980! MILE-POSTS 1989 WHEN I, WORRIED AS HELL AND WITH TWIN BABIES COMING, OPENED MY OWN COMPANY. UNCERTAIN FUTURE, BUT IT HAS GONE WELL SO FAR, THANKS TO GREAT STAFF AND FRIENDS. BEING THE PRESIDENT OF ROTARY CLUB OF BANGKOK SOUTH WAS AN HONOR, BUT HAVING OUR TWIN GIRLS BEATS IT ALL. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE AND LIFECHANGER! LOW POINT THE TSUNAMI. SCANDINAVIANS WERE THE HARDEST HIT GROUP OF TOURISTS AND MY COMPANY WAS DEEPLY INVOLVED IN HELPING THEM. IT WAS HEARTBREAKING TO SEE FAMILIES TORN APART IN AN INSTANT. NEVER EVER AGAIN, I HOPE. DON’T MENTION THAT IN 1979 I APPLIED TO BE POSTED TO SRI LANKA AND WAS VERY UPSET THAT I GOT ‘BANISHED’ TO BANGKOK INSTEAD. REGRETS THAT I STILL HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO READ AND WRITE THAI. TOTALLY ASHAMED BECAUSE I CAN SPEAK IT GOOD ENOUGH TO USE FOR WORK. SELF IMAGE POSITIVE, CALM, HONEST, LOYAL, AND KIND WITHOUT BEING WEAK. FRIENDSHIPS ARE THE FOUNDATIONS OF EXPAT EXISTENCE, AND I VALUE THEM GREATLY.
Gourmet Bangkok’s hottest dining deals and news
Special course for aspiring Thai restaurateurs Gourmet cheese showcase AVAILABLE NOW AT FLOW, MILLENNIUM HILTON BANGKOK
WHO said it was impossible to find a good selection of cheeses in Bangkok? Head to Flow Restaurant and you’ll discover over 75 pungent and delicious delights in a dedicated cheese room, all laid out buffet style alongside dried fruits, homemade jams and a wide selection of freshly baked breads. Expect to sample hard-to-find cheeses such as Pecorino di Fossa from Italy; Reblochon de Savoie from Savoie, France; and Colston Basset Stilton from Nottinghamshire, England. The cheese selection is available as part of the restaurant’s daily dinner buffet (B1,800 per person) and Sunday Brunch (B2,200 per person). 23 Charoennakhon Rd., 02 442 2000, bit.ly/139Rxjl
All-You-Can-Eat Pork Ribs and Mussels THROUGH FEB 29 AT HAMILTON’S STEAK HOUSE
FEB 29 – MARCH 22 AT DUSIT THANI HOTEL SCHOOL
THE recently launched Dusit Thani Hotel School is offering a brand new course aimed at individuals looking to perfect their Thai culinary skills in order to open their own Thai restaurants. The “Traditional Thai Food and Desserts” course will be offered from Feb 29 through March 22, 2016. The month-long course will focus on 30 Thai dishes and 15 Thai desserts, along with Vegetable and Fruit Carving for Plate Presentation as well as Restaurant and Kitchen Operations Management. At the end of the 60-hour course, students will receive a Certificate of Achievement accredited by the Thai Ministry of Education. dusitthanihotelschool.com
DUSIT Thani Bangkok’s signature steakhouse is currently offering unlimited servings of pork ribs and mussels at both lunch and dinner. Highlights include Grilled
Vive La France
THROUGH FEB 29 AT THE WORLD RESTAURANT
EVERY Wednesday evening The World Restaurant at Centara Grand at CentralWorld is presenting a “Vive La France” dinner buffet featuring regional fare such as Braised beef short Ribs in red wine sauce, Gratinated scallops “A la Parisienne”, Snails “Escargot a la Bourguignonne” with parsley and garlic butter, and much more. B1,890++ per person. Free-flow drinks packages are also available. 999/99 Rama I Rd., 02 100 1234, bit.ly/1LuZuVb
Tasty Thai deal at Mövenpick pork spare ribs; BBQ Kurobuta pork spare ribs; Hokkaido scallops with Cajun potato and cream spinach; and Black mussels in white wine cream sauce. Great value at B6,500++ for lunch, and B800++ for dinner (with free flow peach iced tea). 946 Rama IV Rd., 02 200 9000 ext. 2345, dusit.com/dtbk
AVAILABLE NOW AT MÖVENPICK HOTEL SUKHUMVIT 15 BANGKOK
A SPECIAL deal is currently on offer at the recently opened five-star Mövenpick Hotel Sukhumvit 15 Bangkok, whose Lelawadee Restaurant is serving up a threecourse Thai set menu for just B380. Great value for food of this quality. Available daily from 11am to 10.30pm. 47 Sukhumvit Soi 15, 02 119 3100, bit.ly/1FtgYyF
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Gourmet Bangkok’s hottest dining deals and news
Seafood Sensation AVAILABLE NOW AT CAFÉ CLAIRE
All in Italian taste AVAILABLE NOW AT GRAPPINO
EVERY Saturday and Sunday from 6pm-10pm Amari Watergate Hotel’s Italian restaurant now serves up an Italian buffet spread featuring a wide variety of pizzas and pastas, plus salads, soup, Italian meat platters, and traditional desserts. B630++ per person (food only), and B799++ per person with free-flowing wine and beer.
CAFÉ Claire (Oriental Residence) has always been a great spot to indulge in a weekend brunch – even more so now that they’ve introduced a Seafood Tower to the mix, meaning that alongside classic dishes like Ratatouille omelette, Eggs Meurette, and Tournedos Rossini, you can expect to enjoy Boston lobster, Alaska king crab, Fin de Claire oysters, and more premium quality seafood on ice. Available every Sat and Sun from 11am-4pm. B2,590++ for two, and 4,850++ for four. 110 W ireless Rd., Lump ini, 02 125 9000 ext. 908 0, oriental- residence.com
8 47 P etchburi Rd., 02 653 9000 amari.com/w atergate
New menus in The House
THROUGH MARCH 31 AT THE HOUSE ON SATHORN
THE splendid multi-venue dining and entertainment venue, The House on Sathorn, is offering a ‘Set Lunch’ promotion at The Dining Room featuring a collection of carefully crafted delicacies for a gourmet yet quick lunch. Available daily from noon-2.30pm, two menus are on offer: two-courses at B720++ per person, and three-courses at B920++ per person. Prices include a soft drink and tea or coffee. Menu highlights include as Pasta with black truffle and spider crab; Drunken Chicken; and Lamb belly with Uyghur rice and Mushroom Mille Feuille. N orth Sathorn Rd., Silom, 02 344 4025, thehouseonsathorn.com
All-Italian lunch at Attico AVAILABLE NOW AT RADISSON BLU PLAZA BANGKOK
ATTICO Italian restaurant has just launched a new set lunch menu featuring a choice of two and three-course options. Both include Attico’s premium antipasti buffet featuring imported charcuterie as well as fresh breads, chef’s daily pizza, salad bar and antipasti of the day. Among eight main course choices are Pan-roasted fillet of seabass with cherry tomatoes, saffron potatoes and taggiasche olive; Pork tenderloin “saltimbocca” with mashed potato and sautéed spinach. The meal concludes with choice of dessert: Lime and mint “Macedonia” fruit salad with limoncello sherbet, selection of ice cream, or tiramisu. B650++ for two courses; B775++ per person for three. Available Mon-Fri, Noon-2.30pm. 48 9 Sukhumvit Road ( Soi 27) , 02 302 3333, bit.ly/1U uP IT 2
Burger Tower Challenge
AVAILABLE NOW AT TEDDY’S BIGGER BURGERS
HERE’S a fun challenge for all burger lovers: Teddy’s Bigger Burgers at Gateway Ekamai is offering you the chance to eat for free. Simply build the biggest burger you can, and hope it doesn’t fall over in 30 seconds. If it does, you pay B990 and still get to eat. You’re also in with a chance to eat free for a year if your burger doesn’t topple and is the tallest of them all. Ground floor, Gateway Ekamai, 02 004 1065, facebook.com/teddysburgersth
Scrapbook Last month’s foodie functions in focus
Blue Sky welcomes ‘The Oyster King’ SOME of the world’s finest oysters were shucked and served in a special dinner event featuring guest chef Bill Marinelli at Blue Sky Bar and Dining, Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao Bangkok. Chef Marinelli, founder of the acclaimed Oyster Bar on Narathiwas Soi 24, is one of the nation’s best-known oyster specialists, earning him the nickname, ‘The Oyster King.’
Pirate Chambre Local Trattoria
LOCATED in the heart of Bangkok on bustling Silom Road, this new restaurant serves a fresh and enticing blend of Lebanese, Moroccan and Thai cuisines, as well as some delicious rotisserie chicken. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, and the owners are clearly passionate about satisfying their guests. Take a big appetite. 22 Silom Rd., f acebook.com/A msacaf eN grill
YOU won’t spot any salty sea dogs at this hip new restaurant and bar hidden away on the third floor of the Maneeya Center, but you can still expect a crackling atmosphere thanks to its dark, rustic-yet-modern design and adventurous food menu that features flavour-packed Thai dishes by day, Western classics at night. Highlights of the latter include Bone-in braised beef short rib in red wine sauce served with Chinese buns (B750), Tex-Mex pizza (B390), and Pirate grilled half chicken (B250). Drink enough of the boozy, innovative cocktails, and you’ll soon be swaying like you’ve spent time at sea.
New on the
scene Punjab Grill
Level 3, M aneeya Center ( B T S Chidlom E xit 2) . O p en daily 11am- 3p m, 5p m- M idnight, 02 252 5131- 2,
Restaurant & Bar openings in Bangkok
DINERS who have experienced Punjab Grill’s cuisine in India, Abu Dhabi or Singapore will be happy to know they can now enjoy the restaurant’s signature dishes right here in the City of Angels, at the ground floor of Radisson Suites Sukhumvit. This includes delights such as ‘Avocado Papdi Chaat’ (avocado tossed with sweet and spicy chutneys and marinated cherry tomatoes, and served in flour roll cones), ‘Tawa Scallops’ (pan-seared, spiced king scallops, served with saffron scented Tandoori cauliflower puree and topped with cauliflower fritters) and ‘Tandoori Jheenga’ (tiger prawns scented with carom seed and char-grilled in a tandoori oven, served with mint and coriander chutney). Open daily for dinner, the restaurant is now offering a complimentary glass of Prosecco to diners who book via its website and visit this month. Sukhumvit Soi 13 ( B etw een N ana and A sok B T S stations) , 02 645 4952, p unjabgrillbangkok.com
Suan Bua Restaurant
CENTRAL Plaza Ladprao Bangkok’s longstanding Thai restaurant (over 30 years!), is back on the scene after extensive renovations with a brand new look. The new setting incorporates the hotel’s lush garden with the use of glass walls to create a bright and airy, tropical feel. The menu features dishes from all regions of the kingdom, ranging from ultra-spicy southern curries through to tangy northeastern and milder northern fare. All food is prepared using the finest local and imported ingredients, as evident in signature dishes such as Spicy and crispy morning glory salad, Minced chicken in shrimp paste dip served with vegetables, Wagyu beef flank soup with sweet potato, and Australian beef tenderloin in shrimp paste curry with lemon grass and sweet basil. 1695 P haholyothin Rd., 02 541 1234, bit.ly/1P 1yrgR
Blend Bistro & Wine Bar
OFFERING a unique blend of classic dishes from France, Italy and Thailand, and owned and operated by well-seasoned chef Laurent Scire – who counts Michelin-starred restaurants among his former
Twist Bar and Bistro
LED by French Chef Gregory Caplot, Twist Bar and Bistro at the new Well Hotel (Sukhumvit Soi 20) offers a wide range of western dishes with a French Bistro-style
workplaces – Blend is an exciting new addition to Sukhumvit Road’s dining scene. The wine list has been carefully crafted to provide a range of wines that both complement the menu and are perfect for drinking on their own (many are available by the glass), beers start at just B95, and every week there’s new special cocktail to try. Keep your eyes peeled for ‘Tapas and Sangria’ and ‘Wine and Two Oysters’ promotions (details are posted regularly on Blend’s Facebook page). 533 Sukhumvit Rd., AD ( close to E bistro_Feb mp orium Shop M3.pdf p ing M all and ay betw een Stirp Bend 1 midw 1/30/16 1:59 A sok and P hrom P hong B T S Stations) , 02 258 8 8 08 , blend- bistro- bkk.com
twist. The menu features soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, burgers, grilled meats and seafood, and the restaurant offers the option of enjoying your food in a bright and comfortable dining room or out on a terrace. Instagram friendly, Twist also offers complimentary high speed WiFi. Daily happy hours from 5pm-8pm offer selected drinks at buy-oneget-one-free. Every Sat and Sun from Noon-Close, there’s 25 percent PMdiscount on all food and drinks. 10 Sukhumvit 20 Rd., 02 127 5995, W ellH otelB angkok.com
La Bottega di Luca Restaurant
Guest review by
Bangkok Beefsteak & Burgundy
The BB&B dining group starts the year with an all-Italian lunch
OR the first lunch of 2016, we gathered at La Bottega di Luca on a cool day (for Bangkok). We had an excellent turn-out despite the recent weeks of holidays and staff outings and started with Negroni cocktails followed by Follador Treviso Prosecco Rosé (Veneto). Our wine spokesman, Andrew McDowell, was in good form and singled out the Negroni (“The bitters
are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you”) for special mention as he suggested he drinks gin in ‘industrial quantity.’ Close at hand was Bruschetta with tomato and fresh basil, and a second with melted scamorza (a cow’s milk cheese similar to mozzarella) and ‘Nduja’ (a spicy spreadable Calabrian salami). There was competition for seats as the private room could only just accommodate our ‘100+ kg group’ of 17. The starters of Burrata cheese with 24 months Parma ham ser ved with cherr y tomato and balsamic vinegar dressing; and Mixed Italian cold cuts cured meat and marinated grilled vegetables went early and were followed by Slow
cooked Mediterranean giant octopus ser ved with potato, needle beans and mixed salad. Sadly, I found the octopus dish disappointing. Similarly, Santagostini IGT Chardonnay/Catarratto (Sicily) enjoyed by the Club in 2015 failed to enthuse Andrew or indeed most of the group, (a ‘past its sell-by-date economy 9 wine’ with a woody taste). Platefuls of Pasta with crispy Italian pancetta ham, green asparagus and pecorino cheese came next. Our first time visitor to the Club, Greg Wong, had volunteered to critique the food and we thoroughly appreciated his amusing commentary. The dish was accompanied by Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Riserva 2008 (Tuscany); this ‘economy 10 wine’ was much more to the Club’s liking and enjoyed by a majority of us (but perhaps not by Andrew) but, as pointed out by him, its disposal again protected the Club’s investment. We had asked for Galician Rubia prime rib bone in Tomahawk style for mains and this came with a selection of vegetables; the meat was
tasty, the vegetables well-cooked and there was a choice of really excellent mustards. One was left wishing for more and perhaps sight of the bones! The wine which came with this, Fonterutoli di Castello 2006 (Tuscany), was definitely the best of the day. Made with different Sangiovese clones with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon, it has 13.7 % ABV and was given 91 pts by Wine Spectator, 93 pts by James Suckling, and 90 pts by Robert Parker. It was much enjoyed by all and earned further praise of Thomas Boedinger’s recent selections. Traditional Italian tiramisu with mascarpone, coffee and cocoa powder served in large glasses completed Luca’s offerings for the day but we were not finished. Tom Whitcraft had brought along a guest, Ian Dayus, from England, who had gone to some length to find and deliver Stilton Cheese and Taylor’s Vargella Vintage 2002 port. This was an excellent way to finish the lunch, with it remaining just to ask our hardworking service team to receive our thanks and gratuities. La Bottega di Luca, The Terrace Building (2nd floor), Sukhumvit Soi 49, 02 204 1731, labottega.name
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The Water Library dining group gets back to basics in style
ATER LIBRARY, chieftains of some of the city’s finest restaurants, have taken a more down to earth approach for their latest venue – a rustic neighbourhood hangout which replaces their former brasserie, The Library, on Sukhumvit 39. Inspired by the kind of simple, hearty meals served up in European countryside restaurants, and recreating that kind of atmosphere through a carefully considered blend of decorative carpentry, polished stone, and hodgepodge décor featuring potted grass, hanging ropes, and glass jars filled with nuts and seeds, the restaurant’s atmosphere is bubbly and down to earth – just perfect for a laidback meal with family and friends. Just as seeds need the right amount of sustenance and care to grow, the restaurant’s Chef and General Manager, Pakapat ‘Jao’ Sakyaso, and her team ensure the operation runs like clockwork. The open kitchen is a hive of activity, all fresh vegetables and high quality meats being sliced and diced and prepped for inclusion in a wide range of French-inspired dishes – given, here, an Asian twist. Similar to the Water Library
Group’s other operations in Bangkok, the menu focuses on quality over quantity. The one-page selection features starters (hot and cold), salads, soups, pastas, meats, and a small selection of desserts. Nothing fancy, nothing experimental – just simple ‘homemade’ hearty food made with premium imported beef and lamb and the finest sustainable local ingredients, including fresh vegetables from HM the King’s Royal Projects. All meals begin with a complimentary serving of freshly baked sun-dried tomato ciabatta bread. Arriving warm at the table, and sweet and salty and simply delicious when spread with the accompanying chive, garlic and parmesan butter, it provides a great start to any dinner. You can then kick things off proper with one of the delicious starters, such as the signature Organic lamb tartare (B390++), featuring tomato and chilli compote, goat cheese and herb mayonnaise; or Duck breast salad (B290++), which mixes smoked duck, beetroots, leafy greens, fresh oranges and orange caramelized onion dressing to delicious effect. 104 Soi Sukhumvit 39. O p en T ues- Sun 5.30p m- midnight. 099 28 3 6363 f acebook.com/seedbangkok
For mains, the Chilean seabass (B850++), which comes with sautéed spinach, garlic confit, and spicy broth of clam and ginger; and the sweettangy Pork ribs (B680++), featuring homemade coleslaw, crispy onion rings, tamarind BBQ sauce, and served in a portion big enough to share, are both well-worth a try. While there are plenty of desserts on offer, including some utterly moreish Homemade ice cream and sorbet (B75++ per scoop), the French toast (B250++) is by far the most popular choice – think freshly baked-brioche with mascarpone cheese, vanilla sauce, poached pear and smoked banana ice-cream, all combining to provide a wonderful medley of flavours. And speaking of wonderful flavours, there are plenty of ‘delicious’ premium cocktails on offer too. Including our favourites: Seed Caramel Negroni (a blend of Beefeater Gin, Campari bitter, Red Vermouth, Magic caramel and soda. B320++) and fruity Sexy Lychee (a concoction of homemade chilli ABSOLUT infusion, lychee liqueur, fresh lime, sugar syrup, fresh orange juice, and Seed homemade Aphrodisiac bitter. B320++).
Wo rds C H U T I N A N TA B O O N YA MA R N
Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort’s teak rice barge delivers a gourmet journey to remember
OMBINING TWO of life’s greatest luxuries – gourmet dining and a river cruise – a meal aboard Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort’s lovingly restored teak rice barge is always a pleasure. Departing every evening at 7.30pm from the resort’s private pier, the twohour cruise takes a group of up to 70 diners down the Chao Phraya River to the famed Rama VIII Bridge and then back again. The tranquil journey includes the opportunity to see (and learn more about, if you wish) over 30 historical landmarks, including, among them, The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and the Temple of Dawn – all lit up brilliantly against the violet night sky. The gentle breeze, lapping of the water, and cozy confines of the open rice barge set the perfect atmosphere for an authentic Thai feast, and as for the food, well, this is Royal Thai Cuisine at its finest. While there’s no a la carte menu
available on board, Mahnora Cruises' Royal Thai Set Dinner has been beautifully designed to ensure there are dishes to please all palates, and the selection can always be tailored to suit your preferences (meat and vegetarian options are available). Settle into your wicker chair and, shortly after departing, you’ll first be served some flavour-packed Miang Kham – fresh herbs and spices wrapped in betal leaves and topped with sweet tamarind sauce. The sweet, spicy and citrusy flavours are the perfect indication of what’s to come: Thai food that showcases its high quality, indigenous ingredients with pride. The starters, served in individual portions, include highlights such as Grilled scallop marinated with lemongrass and chilli sauce; Deep fried fish cake with kaffir lime leaves and cucumber relish; and the Kingdom’s A nantara Riverside B angkok Resort. 257/1- 3, Charoennakorn Rd., 02 476 0022, bangkok- riverside.anantara.com
most celebrated soup, Tom Yum Goong (Spicy river prawn soup). As for the mains, they come in family-style platters designed to share alongside generous servings of steamed jasmine and brown rice. Celebrated dishes like Slow-cooked Massaman beef curry with sweet potatoes and shallots (wonderfully tender!); Crispy sea bass fillets in garlic, chilli and hot basil; and Marinated grilled chicken with tamarind sauce all provide plenty of tasty evidence why Thai cuisine is consistently voted amongst the world’s most popular. Rounding out the experience, and providing a fitting end to the gourmet journey, is a selection of traditional Thai sweets and tropical fruits. Priced at just B2,300 per person, The Royal Thai Set Dinner Menu is great value for money. You can also team your meal with some specialty cocktails, local beers and fine wines that are all reasonably priced too (the latter start at just B310++ per glass; B1,500++ per bottle). Advance booking is highly recommended.
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Co-founder and Managing Director Vicharee Vichit Vadakan explains more: “We wanted to create somewhere in Thonglor which suits families as much as it does foodies and nightowls. A bustling community hub where you can while away time sipping high quality coffees, sampling some of the finest foods the city has to offer, and even buying quality produce to take home.” From the ground floor up, The Commons is all about quality. Take the ground-floor ‘food hall.’ Here you’ll find outlets operated by some of the most respected names in the business – Soul Food
(Thai), Peppina (pizza and pasta), The Beer Cap (craft beers), Maison Jean Philippe (amazing baguettes and freshly baked bread to take home), Meat & Bones (ribs), Bao and Buns (Taiwanese), and Mexican newcomer Barrio Bonito (read more about the restaurant on page 69) – all under one roof. You can opt to enjoy your food and drinks in the restaurants’ dedicated seating
focused on food, of course. While at time of writing the mall was still in its soft opening phase, by the time you read this the onsite offerings will include a play area for kids, an educational toy store, a Yoga and Pilates studio, flower shops, and other little shops offering sweets and some of life’s simple treats. “Basically, we’ve brought together a group of people who want to do simple things
areas, or at communal seating arranged in an air conditioned central area. Or head outside to sit by a large central staircase and enjoy the constant breeze generated by a huge fan that looks like it was removed from the top of a helicopter. You can buy high quality foodstuffs from Sourced Grocers, fine coffees at Roots, head to the second floor for some delicious waffles at Jona Waffle, and even venture to the fourth floor to enjoy Roast’s renowned comfort food in a bright and airy dining room with a crackling atmosphere. On this floor there’s also a communal kitchen where chefs and owners of restaurants within The Commons will host regular cooking demonstrations. The Commons is not only
right,” says Varatt. “We have 30 tenants in total – and each are experts in their own respective fields.” While bringing together respected artisans under one roof may sound like an amazing idea on paper, Varatt and Vicharee say that bringing the project to life was far from easy. “Because we weren’t following the usual mall formula it was difficult at first to find investors,” says Vicharee. “But luckily we found a group of people who shared our vision, and we were finally able to bring this dream to life. Now we just hope we can make it a success.” Our verdict: it’s a sure-fire hit. If only all community malls in Bangkok could be like this. Thonglor Soi 17, thecommonsbkk.com
Bourbon St. Restaurant & Oyster Bar
The setup: Okay. So Bourbon St. isn’t technically a Mexican restaurant – it’s actually Bangkok’s only restaurant specializing in ‘Cajun Creole’ cuisine straight from the Bayou Country of New Orleans, USA. However, every Tuesday night it serves up a superb All-you-can eat Mexican dinner buffet, for just B325++ per person. The quality of the spread is top notch, and a good representative of what this restaurant is all about – great food, great fun, great times. 9/39-40 Sukhumvit Soi 63 (Ekamai), 02 381 6801-3, bourbonstbkk.com
Mezcal and Tequila, what’s the difference? LET’S
get this straight. Genuine tequila, like fine cognac, is meant to be sipped and savoured. And you can forget about lime and salt. Made with 100 percent agave azul (the blue agave plant indigenous to Mexico), and double distilled and aged in oak barrels, pure tequila's as good as it gets. All genuine tequila can only made, by law, with the Blue Agave plant. Mezcal, on the other hand, which is often mistaken for tequila, can be made with upwards of thirty varieties of agave. The production process is slightly different to Tequila’s, and the quality can vary. Always make sure to check the bottle before imbibing; a genuine tequila, and a decent Mezcal, won’t give you a hangover (when enjoyed in moderation, of course).
The setup: Located on the second floor of trendy drinking and dining destination Groove@CentralWorld, Méjico is the first international branch of a chain based in Sydney, Australia, which prides itself on offering modern Mexican cuisine made using seasonal produce and the freshest ingredients available. The menu is divided between the Raw bar (ceviche, carpaccio), Small plates (chips, dips, salads and snacks), Tacos, Big plates, and Desserts. The onsite tequila bar, meanwhile, offers the largest selection of tequilas in town (over 190 brands). Signature dishes: Mexican Chef Martin Garro serves up a particularly tasty Guacamole (B235) – the perfect blend of avocado, serrano chilli, lime juice and chopped veggies. Other highlights include Beef Short Ribs, marinated with Méjico’s secret barbecue sauce; Lamb Shank, marinated and baked until soft, then accented with a special hot and spicy sauce (B595), and Tacos filled with chicken and chorizo with spices (B185). It’s a deal: Méjico changes its promotions every week. Keep up to date with what’s on offer at facebook.com/ MejicoThailand. Groove@CentralWorld. Open daily, 11am-Midnight. 02 252 6660, mejico.asia, facebook.com/MejicoThailand TheBigChilli
ng Dinicial Spe
A carefully considered menu, a striking design, and a passion for authenticity are the hallmarks of this new restaurant tucked away between Sukhumvit Sois 2 and 4
REAL labour of love, The Mexican is the result of 10 months handson supervision by its Texan owners, Bonnie and Dennis Thomack, who’ve gone the extra mile and then some to create a restaurant that brings a taste of Mexico to the heart of Bangkok with aplomb. Their venue is literally a work of art: a vibrant blend of copper, wood, stone, Aztec-style carvings and large paintings inspired by Mexico’s
annual Day of the Dead festival – including the centerpiece, a voluptuous take on the famed La Calavera Catrina (‘elegant skull’) portrait, which you’ll see the moment you enter the restaurant’s massive solid wood door (amazingly easy to open thanks to a nifty bit of handiwork by Dennis, who’s proved a dab, and very creative, hand at bringing his and Bonnie’s dream to life). “Really I’m just the cigar, whisky and tequila consultant,” he joked, when we visited the restaurant last month. “But I’ve managed to make a few things for the restaurant too.”
One of his proudest achievements, he says, are the illuminated ‘floating’ glass shelves which line The Mexican’s bar – not just because they look cool (which they do), and not just because creating them was akin to solving a Rubix cube for the first time (the joy!) – but also because they’re lined with some of the finest Mezcal and 100 percent agave tequilas to be found in Bangkok (read Mezcal and Tequila, what’s the difference? on page 63). Meant to be sipped and savoured, and amazing when served straight, or mixed in the restaurant’s wonderfully smooth Mexican martini, or infused for 18 hours with habanero peppers for a notable kick, these tequilas provide a genuine taste of Mexico. As for the food, well, Texas native Bonnie certainly has her Tex-Mex down pat, but she knew that to achieve real authenticity she’d have to enlist the services of a Mexican chef. “We’ve done everything we can to ensure that diners
have a great experience,” she said. “And that, of course, started with assembling a great team in the kitchen.” In charge of the ovens, smokers and grills, and overseeing the culinary team is Chef Tomas Alaniz, a Mexico City native who found his passion for food while studying in America before returning to Mexico to hone his craft while travelling the length and breadth of the country. “Like Thailand, in Mexico there’s so much regional variation in recipes and ingredients,” he told us. “I wanted to learn as much as possible so that I could really maximize the flavour of my food.” Using fine ingredients imported from Mexico, as well as Mexican chili peppers and vegetables grown on Bonnie and Dennis’ own organic farm in Saraburi, he creates a lip-smacking range of housemade salsas and sauces which add a pleasurable punch to each of the restaurant’s dishes. Ditto his handmade Mexican chorizo, which elevates the flavour of several plates.
ng Dinicial Spe
use only the freshest and finest ingredients, and focus on authenticity. Think bold, vibrant flavours that’ll make you groan with delight.
The Setup: This exciting newcomer to Bangkok’s Mexican restaurant scene (located at Thonglor’s hip new community mall, The Commons – see page 54) is operated by Mexico City native Mariana Villalobos Torres, and her French partner Julien, who for the past eight years have run a highly regarded Mexican restaurant of the same name on Koh Chang. Their philosophy is simple but effective:
Signature dishes: Ceviche (raw chopped fish cooked in lemon juice with salsa Pico de gallo. B280); Tacos de Barbacoa (tacos stuffed with sevenhours slow-cooked lamb. B140 for one piece; B400 for three pieces); Tacos de pato (fried corn tortilla roll stuffed with duck and topped with traditional mole sauce. B330); and Doraditos de guacamole (corn tortilla cones stuffed with traditional guacamole. B220). The Commons, Thonglor Soi 17. facebook.com/barrio.bonito.5
Coyote Mexican Bar & Grill The setup: Hearty servings of tacos, quesadillas, fajitas and more piquant favourites are what this lively hangout on Sukhumvit Soi 11 is all about. Factor in a choice of over 75 margaritas, and you have the perfect venue for a pre-party meal before hitting one of the Soi’s renowned nightclubs or bars.
Signature dishes: Coyote Nachos (B345++), featuring tortilla chips topped with shredded grilled chicken, diced chorizo, melted cheese, black beans, jalapeños, black olives, sour cream, pico de gallo, and guacamole; Smoked baby back ribs (Prime Australian baby back pork ribs marinated with barbecue sauce, served 68
with chilli roast potatoes, smoky beans and honey Dijon slaw. Full Slab: B575++. Half Slab: B385); Grilled chicken tacos (B355++ for two soft-baked shells, served on a bed of red salsa, black beans and Mexican rice); and Mesquite prime rib eye steak (Chargrilled Australian rib eye with cracked black pepper in chipotle gravy served with chilli roast potatoes and asparagus. B675++). It’s a deal: Every Tuesday an all-youcan-eat buffet is available for B399 (6pm-10.30pm). Daily Happy Hours, from 4pm-7pm and again from 10pm-Midnight, offer margaritas (glass and pitcher) and local beers at buy-one-get-one-free. And every Thursday is Ladies’ Night, with free margaritas for the girls from 6pm-9pm. 29/1 The Prime 11 Condo, Sukhumvit Soi 11. 02 651 0221, coyotebangkok.com
& proudly announce THE
Thailand International Business Awards 2016 BUILDING on the success of the Expat Entrepreneur Awards 2014, the BigChilli is joining forces with the British Chamber of Commerce Thailand (BCCT) to launch a new initiative aimed at recognising Thailand’s most successful and dynamic businesses and entrepreneurs. The inaugural Thailand International Business Awards will feature a range of categories to reflect the wide diversity of businesses operating in this country. These will include one category specifically designed for small and medium enterprises under the banner ‘Expat Entrepreneurs.’ Nominations will be open to any company registered in Thailand regardless of size or affiliations. A team of independent judges will review the nominations and select the winners in each of the categories. This prestigious event will culminate in an Awards Gala Dinner mid-2016. Raise your company’s profile, build contacts, create new business opportunities and tell the world about your achievements through the Thailand International Business Awards 2016. Featured over the next few pages are just two of the nominees. More will appear in next month’s issue.
Nominee Thailand International Business Awards
Businessman: Eddie Evans
Rugby his sport, profession and now booming business By Maxmilian Wechsler
When Canadian-born Eddie Evans set up X-treme Sports Gear company in 2002, he didn’t envision how extremely successful the enterprise would be 14 years later. The company offices, factory and Eddie’s residence are all under one roof in an eight-storey building near Rama IX Road in Din Daeng district of Bangkok
F you want to know what Eddie is all about, watch a rough and tumble game of rugby. With the large poster of Clint Eastwood hanging behind his office desk, this also provides some clues about his personality. On Clint, “he is a true on screen, no nonsense hero,” Eddie said at the start of the interview. So like Eastwood, Eddie is also a genuine tough guy, but he’s also a square shooter who believes in treating his workers fairly and playing a positive role in the community. “Personally, I feel positive with what I have accomplished in Thailand in building up this company from scratch and then watching it grow into a successful business. Having said that, I also feel that true success should also be measured by what you put back into your community.” Before coming to Thailand, Eddie made his mark as an international rugby player from which he made his living. He was introduced to rugby
while at his boarding school, Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island. He was part of Canada’s national squad from 1986 to 1999, playing in three World Cups and also being a member of the team that beat Argentina, Wales, France and Scotland. He earned 50 caps for Canada and enjoys the record of having the most winning percentage of any Canadian who played for his country. Eddie was then able to take his skills overseas playing for 13 years. “I played rugby in the United Kingdom for a couple of seasons and in New Zealand for one season. I then finished up in Japan for a long stint of ten seasons before retiring from professional rugby in 2001. I then moved to Bangkok that same year.”
He may have retired from the sport, but rugby still occupies a central place in his life. Describing himself as a “social rugby player” since coming to Thailand he’s coached youth teams and in 2006 started the Bangkok International Rugby Tens. (www.bangkokrugby10s.net). “I have more fun with rugby than ever before. The Bangkok International Rugby Tens is now one of the biggest rugby tournaments in Asia. It’s the major event of the Thailand rugby calendar and features over 40 overseas teams,” Eddie said. Filling a demand “The decision to form X-treme Sports Gear arose
from difficulties I and others were having sourcing reliable suppliers of team wear who could also deliver a quality product. This was just not possible locally or even regionally so I then figured there must be a market for this. To me it was simple: a quality product, well priced and with a focus on customer service. We also placed a high emphasis on customization, using great designs and products, to make it fun for the teams. “I founded the company in 2002. I was renting a two-story townhouse in Bangkok where I had a small office downstairs with a couple of staff. I had suppliers lined up and enough customers to keep the business going. After a couple of years we started to get some momentum and orders increased. At that time I decided that I probably had a good business model but I needed more control. I didn’t want to rely on suppliers. So I made the decision to buy the building we’re in now, hire more staff and invest in manufacturing equipment. Instead of using the supply route we started doing things in-house, and now everything we sell is made in the factory here. “We started by providing
only rugby wear and gradually added apparel for other sports like volleyball, basketball, football, ice hockey, softball, cycling and golf. We are making, among other products, shorts, jerseys, all kinds of track suits, caps and polo shirts. We supply team wear to schools, universities, clubs and organizations all over the world. We also supply corporate items to companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Pepsi and Hooters. “Locally our customers include many of the local schools, universities and club teams but typically the market in Thailand is small compared to our main focus which is the overseas market. About 95 percent of our business comes from North America, New Zealand, Europe and Australia, where exports have been pretty good. “I have a few sales representatives selling our brand, but most of our business comes through the internet – it’s crazy how many people visit our website. People can come online and create their own uniforms now. We have something called the kit builder that allows customers to put in their colours, designs and logos. It’s quite interactive and fun for this generation. People want to be online and they like to shop online. In the last couple of years most of our business is now coming from the website. “We have about 40 employees, five of them foreigners. My manager is a Thai guy I hired as a designer more than ten years ago and he worked himself up. He learned how to speak English and how to run the company, a real success story. “As for our set up, we do all the printing on the ground floor and the sewing factory is on the third floor. Our main office is here on the second floor and this is also where all our great designs come from. Also with living in the building it makes it so much easier to oversee and maintain control.
As mentioned in the past I X-treme Sports Gear of having relied on outside third parties all employees on salary. I know and things weren’t being that sounds odd but that even done properly or to our high covers the factory workers and standards. This set up suits sewing staff that would typically me and my lifestyle perfectly. be paid on a daily wage (this “We are doing well. This is normal in manufacturing). business is like any other. This approach is probably a When we first started off lot different from some of my things were obviously tough competitors, who may think and to add to the pressure we they can’t afford to provide are also in a very competitive benefits for employees’ monthly industry. There are so salaries. For me, I choose to many big players who are treat my employees as I treat established in what is a very everybody else, which is with competitive and saturated fairness and respect. I think in market. I had a lot of people the long run this philosophy questioning my path. pays off for the business and for “The first two years were me as an individual.” really a struggle but luckily we started to see Private space some good results soon after and Eddie’s hobbies now momentum include cooking, is with us. We go enjoying nice We have from strength about 40 wines, keeping fit to strength. playing music employees, and We are at point in his home studio. five of them “I really like living now of perhaps foreigners. and working in having too much business, which My manager this building. I can sometimes be a is a Thai guy just get in the problem. We aren’t and pop I hired as elevator doing too much down to the office a designer in the morning. marketing anymore more than Definitely no time because we have already established ten years lost in commuting, a loyal client base.” I feel very lucky!” ago and Nevertheless, Eddie is also cohe worked founder of the local Eddie disclosed himself up. Slum Kids Rugby that he does have plans to expand Academy known the business but just needs to in Thai as Nak Suu [Noble maintain a good balance. Warrior] Tigers (www. naksuurugby.org). The motto Doing business of the foundation is Changing on the high road Lives Forever. “We bring in children from the poorest parts “I believe that if you work in of Bangkok and introduce them Thailand with Thai people you to rugby. We also counsel the must be respectful and try children and try to provide to be part of the community. them with basic life skills Hopefully you can also and mentoring. We feel that through example instill good rugby can help prepare them values. As a business owner I to lead productive lives by like to focus on what has made instilling fundamental qualities us successful and that is the like discipline, teamwork and dedicated employees that work leadership. for me. It’s important to be a “Our goal for the future tough strong leader but you is to provide these children must also lead with integrity with a proper rugby club and treat people fairly. house and training facility “We have a policy at to help them develop their
skills to the highest level. We also want to offer vocational training to help them escape the cycle of extreme poverty they are living in. “To fund our basic program we are able to use the proceeds for the Bangkok Rugby Tens (Feb 27-28 at Bangkok Patana school). Basically, we have 1,600 to 1,700 players from all over the world coming here to play rugby. It is a massive tournament with huge international exposure. An estimated 50 million people around the world will watch it on television. All the money raised will go to Nak Suu Tigers. Please come out and support this great event and enjoy the rugby, food, drink, kids’ zone, and live entertainment.” Thailand as home “With living and doing business in Thailand people always ask me about the difficulties I encounter, and how I deal with all these differences and challenges, “said Eddie. “Simply put, this is true of any place in the world. There is no perfect location, everywhere has its own unique set of rules and challenges but it’s how you deal with those and what you make of it. I am committed to Thailand and I enjoy my life here. “Nevertheless,” he lamented, “the cost of living in Thailand is rising. Prices have risen so dramatically over the past decade and as a business owner you always need to be concerned with this. So from that standpoint Thailand today might not be the best country in the region to set up a manufacturing and sales business. I am now well established here, but if I had to do it over again I would really consider other Southeast Asian countries as well. (Read the full version of this interview on thebigchilli.com). x-tremerugbywear.com, x-tremesportsgear.com TheBigChilli
Feature Nominee Entrepreneur: Benjamin Leiner
From exporting clothes to importing ice cream By Colin Hastings
ENJAMIN Leiner is living proof that Thailand is the land of opportunities for willing entrepreneurs. In the past eleven years, he’s established two successful but very different businesses here. The first involved the export of clothes to the US. The second involves the import of ice cream from the US. What makes this more amazing is that New Yorker Benjamin’s background is law. He even worked for the same firm as US President Obama. However, during a business trip to Shanghai he realized the legal profession wasn’t for him. And after a side journey to Thailand, Benjamin also thought his future was in Asia. “I felt Bangkok had a New York vibe, and decided to settle here, though I didn’t know at that time what I wanted to do,” says 38-year-old Benjamin.
His interest in fashion prompted a move into the clothing business to take advantage of the low costs of production in Thailand and the high cost of goods at the retail level in the US. He took his idea to local factories, some of whom expressed an interest in his business plan and invited Benjamin for exploratory talks. After a few setbacks which allowed him to better understand market conditions, Benjamin eventually established contacts with local suppliers. Finding customers in the US proved easier than he had imagined. In fact, it amazed him. “My first order was huge, worth US$750,000 from J.C. Penney, one of America’s biggest department store chains. Honestly, the order was too big – it shouldn’t have come to me.” Initially, the factory he chose to make the clothes seemed not up to the task. “So for the next two months, day and night, I sat on its quality control lines and personally checked 30,000 pieces of polo shirt. It was tough but in the end it proved a great learning process for me.” With that order successfully completed, Benjamin’s export business began to really take off and he began working with other major American retailers like Kmart, Walmart and chains located at US army bases. But after seven years, Benjamin lost interest in the clothing business. “The low wages paid in some countries – not Thailand – and the monotony of the work for ordinary workers depressed me, so I got out.” For a short while, he operated a small trading company, but this took a back seat when he launched yet another venture much closer to his heart. “I’d always loved ice cream but I couldn’t get any of my New York favourites here in Thailand.” One of those favourites was Emack & Bolio’s, a Boston-
based ice cream brand founded in 1975 by Bob Book, a lawyer Made from 84% hormone-free milk and 16% milk fat on and self-declared hippie and activist. Benjamin had learned that a small family-run dairy farm in Massachusetts, just outside Bob and his family were on holiday in Thailand and tried to Boston, the ice cream quickly proved popular, and last year the contact them. A meeting was set up but then cancelled at the last company opened five new stores in Bangkok – EmQuartier, minute. Siam Center, Central Westgate, Central Determined to get Emack & Bolio’s Festival EastVille and Central Lard Prao. business in Thailand, Benjamin flew to the Although Emack & Bolio’s has a total of 34 US. “I met Bob and his son, and we really flavours, its individual outlets stock between 20hit it off. In the end, they said ‘you’ve got the With assistance from 24 different varieties, with regular rotations to business if you want it. Now go figure out his former staff in the ensure customers have access to the full range. how to do it.’” In Thailand, the most popular ice cream now defunct clothing With assistance from his former staff is coffee-flavoured with Oreo and chocolate business, Benjamin chips, while Emack & Bolio’s biggest seller in the now defunct clothing business, took on the challenge in the US is the mint-flavoured with Oreo Benjamin took on the challenge, finding of figuring out how and chocolate chips. The latter is also the the best way to ship the ice cream, as well as satisfying Thailand’s formidable Food & most popular at Nichada Thani. The average to bring Emack & Drug Administration (FDA) and overcoming Bolio’s to Thailand, age of customers is in the 16 to 31 age group, a myriad other hurdles. some of his Facebook ‘likes’ includes including finding the though Although FDA approval took a lengthy people as old as 65. best way to ship the 12 months, Benjamin is perhaps surprisingly Looking ahead, Benjamin is targeting hotels uncritical of the delay. “The FDA works ice cream, as well as and restaurants for his ice creams. He also has thoroughly and they genuinely want to make satisfying Thailand’s the option to open outlets in Cambodia. sure that imported foods are safe.” The company’s head office and central formidable Food & kitchen, An even tougher challenge, he says, was where it makes the cones, is located Drug Administration. at Sukhumvit Soi 36. It employs a total of finding the right location for an ice cream shop. After numerous meetings with the 45 staff, including Benjamin’s Thai wife Central Group, he opened the first downtown Khun Dao. “It would be impossible for this outlet in mid-2014 in CentralWorld. At the same, he got the company to work without her,” he says proudly. go-ahead to open an Emack & Bolio’s at Nichada Thani, the sprawling expatriate housing community in Bangkok’s northern *Benjamin was the winner of the 2014 BigChilli Expat suburbs. Entrepreneur Awards, F&B category.
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Born to serve: The former highflying wine guru who swapped a life of luxury to help those in need By Adam Purcell
From New York to Delhi to Bangkok to Hong Kong, Fred Tibbitts’ annual dinners bring together the world’s leading hoteliers for a night of wining and dining and inspiring conversation. The message: “Let go of what you have and help those less fortunate.” American expat Fred did. And he couldn’t be happier ■ SOMETIME in the winter of 1956, when Fred Tibbitts was 10 years old, he had a frosty exchange with his dad that he’ll never forget. “I had finished school for the day and I’d walked to a nearby street corner where I thought my father would pick me up,” he says. “It was freezing cold and sleeting, and just a typically horrible winter’s day. “The problem is, I’d made a mistake and I was actually meant to meet my father outside a nearby shop. It was thirty minutes before he found me. And he was furious.”
red’s dad shouted at him for not following his instructions properly, and Fred began to cry. “You know what your problem is, son,” Fred’s dad barked. “You wear your heart on your sleeve. You want to tell the world all about yourself and all your problems, and the world doesn’t care and the world doesn’t want to hear it.” Fred was stunned into silence. “I was so shocked,” he said. “I know it hurt him to be so cruel to me, but I honestly think he was trying to teach me what he thought was an important lesson – that people wouldn’t understand someone who is so open about their feelings. But that is who I was then, and that is who I am now. So I never learned that lesson. And I’m glad of it.” Fred, who turns 70 this year, is nothing but an open book. And what a story he has to tell. From studying and practicing clinical psychology in the early ‘60s, to obtaining a degree in economics, to becoming a highly respected international wine supplier, to converting to Buddhism and living in a monastery for 18 months, to giving away most of his possessions and eventually turning his own company into a social enterprise which gives all of its money to charity – well, there aren’t many people as humble and caring as Fred. To anyone who works in the hotel industry, Fred will be a familiar face. Every year he hosts ten special annual dinners (eight in Southeast Asia, two in his native New York), all of which bring together leading figures in hospitality for a night of wining and dining, all in the name of charity. There’s never a head table – “nobody is more important than anyone else,” says Fred – and there’s no seating plan. The events simply bring together influential people who can help make a difference to the lives of those who are less fortunate. Awards are presented to those deemed to have had the most positive impact during the year, and at each event Fred always takes to the stage to share his signature message: “Service is the highest calling. Excellence is a way of life.” It’s inspiring stuff. Especially when you learn of the journey Fred has undergone to get to the stage where he
can now confidently stand in front of some of the world’s most respected hoteliers, and tell them that, to improve their services and lead better lives, they should all simply “let go” of what they have. This, in a nutshell, is exactly what Fred once did. Time was Fred had it all – a nice New York apartment, a state of the art sound and TV system, a vast library of movies (VCRs – this was the mid ’80s) and a mountain of music CDs. And as for work, well, putting his degree in economics to good use, Fred joined The Seagram Corporation, once the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in the world (it’s now closed), at its American headquarters in New York City. Here he spent 11 years rapidly rising up the ranks, learning from some of the finest marketing minds in F&B, perfecting his knowledge of wines and spirits, befriending top level executives, and flying everywhere in a private jet. But something felt like it was missing. Something just wasn’t quite right. Fred knew exactly what that something was when he discovered Buddhism. “Around 1990 I was looking for something to read on my way back from San Francisco to New York and I picked up a book about Buddhism,” he says. “And, oh my, it just made so much sense. “And so I kept reading more about it. And the more I read, the more fascinated I became. Five years later, in 1995, I knew that I had to convert to Buddhism.” So Fred ventured to the renowned Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery in Woodstock, New York, which he began visiting most weekends for teachings. By this point he had been married and divorced twice, had two grown up kids (a son and a daughter), and was flying high enough at work to change his schedule to include more time at the monastery. In January 1996, he literally moved in. “I’d spend long weekends at the Monastery and work midweek in Manhattan,” he says. “I slept in an army cot, shared a room, excelled in the teachings, and at long last learned how to be in a low state of continuous, autonomous meditation 24 hours a day. In fact, staying at the monastery with limited material possessions had such a positive effect on my life – I decided to give almost everything I had away.” Deciding to part with his belongings, and then follow through on this decision, proved to be more difficult than Fred first thought it would be.
Fred Tibbitts & Associates in focus FRED Tibbitts & Associates (“FTA”) is a social entrepreneurship, operating as an NGO via outsourcing all functions, the founder not drawing a salary and keeping all expenses to a minimum; and donating all monthly and annual profits to those less fortunate in Asia Pacific and the United States. FTA is committed to easing the suffering of those less fortunate via contributions at all ten annual FTA Asia Pacific dinners as well as NYC Spring & Fall. FTA does direct intervention charity and family social work for individual, very poor families in Cambodia and Thailand. Fred Tibbitts’ background in Clinical Psychology and Social Work allows very important assistance beyond the carefully-planned direct charity (weekly and monthly, as needed from the FTA dinner revenues), with Tibbitts working to stabilize families, insure their healthcare, insure schooling of the children, and acting as the resident Shaman-clinician for each family in distress.
“When you decide to give everything away, you realize what you are most attached to,” he says. “And there were two big hurdles for me: My VCR collection, mainly music videos which I loved, as well as my huge collection of CDs. I was in a rock band in high school, so music has always been a big part of my life. But, after some meditation, I decided to give the lot away to my son and daughter, and, you know what – when they took everything away, I felt so much better.” Fred believes that the biggest barrier preventing people from fully connecting with each other is our attachment to material things.
Feature “Sure, my kids thought I was being a little eccentric giving everything away, but they still supported me as they knew it was what I wanted to do; this was the path I wanted to take. And, I must say that ‘letting go’ was a real breath of fresh air. I felt as light as a feather. Clear minded. Cleansed. And what was left? A keen desire to focus on people.” Of course, Fred couldn’t stay in the monastery forever, and although he’d succeeded in Hoteliers were out in force for Fred's 2015 Bangkok dinner ‘letting go,’ he still needed staff. At the same time, I was channeling to make a living. as much money as possible into various “Buddhists believe that the purpose charitable causes.” of money is to take what you need, to cover Fred continued to do this up until your basic needs, and buy some affordable three years ago, when, in another act luxuries, and then you should let the rest of ‘letting go,’ he officially retired and pass through your fingers to benefit those restructured his businesses to become less fortunate,” says Fred. “But in order to what he calls “a social entrepreneurship serve others as best as possible, I knew I’d acting as an NGO (Non-Governmental have to find a way to make money which Organization).” I’d then be able to pass on.” “The reason I can’t say it’s an NGO is because I never applied to the US Internal o Fred got back to Revenue Service for official status. work with a new Why? Well, I found out that it would cost sense of purpose. thousands of dollars in accounting fees And when he first and legal fees to do so, and that we’d have visited Bangkok to re-certify every year, just for them to on a business trip say that I’m doing what I’m doing, which in August of 1998, is giving money away. he knew what the “So I said, screw that. I’ll just give end goal would be: the money away and tell the truth – we’re transition his trade a social entrepreneurship run as an from New York to NGO. So that’s what I do, and it works Bangkok, and help those who are less beautifully.” fortunate in Southeast Asia. Alongside the aforementioned “Thailand, back then, was very annual dinners, which raise funds for much like the US in the 1950s. Decisions various scholarship programmes and by big brands on national accounts were impoverished families, Fred, once only just starting and most of the wine again embracing the role as a clinical and spirits producers were just throwing psychologist, also personally helps needy money at the distributors and saying, families in Thailand and Cambodia. This ‘here, you do it.’ But, thanks to my rich even extends to adopting children he’s experience with Seagram, I knew I could rescued from a life on the streets. Over do a great job for them. the past 20 years he’s married two single “So I started calling all the chains Thai mothers and one single Cambodian – Hyatt, Marriott, Sofitel, Starwood, mother (at separate times, of course) so everybody – and before you know that he could take care of them and their it, I had established Fred Tibbitts & children, educate them, and give them Associates and I was the top national an opportunity to start businesses either accounts wine and spirits person in Asia. here or in the States. “I worked with all the top names, “The women and children I have Sofitel, Sheraton, Westin – you name rescued were very poor and had it – helping to expand their portfolios, nothing,” says Fred, “and I was adamant establish best practices, and even train
to give them the chance in the life that they deserve. After helping them, and when they were established and fully ok, I simply let them go. I’m now on the third family I’ve saved, but this will be the last as they have asked me to continue taking care of them here.” Funds for Fred’s clinical social work comes from a large network of angel investors located all over the world. The money they donate is used to help pay for hospital bills, food, clothing, education and other essential items. A recent case involved raising enough money so that a young Cambodian girl could have a prosthetic foot fitted. The results have completely changed her life. As for Fred, well, he doesn’t earn a bean. He simply keeps what he needs to get by and continue to help his adopted family. “People who have closed hearts think I’ve lost my marbles,” says Fred. “But like oil and water, my heart is open, theirs isn’t. It doesn’t mean I’m any better than them. I’m not. It is what it is. “I’m just happy that I’m finally doing what I intended to do, and what I’ve always done best – following my deeprooted sincere desire to serve those less fortunate. “I don’t do it to make me feel good, I do it because it is the right thing to do.” But with 70 fast approaching, will he have the energy to continue down this path for many years to come? “This isn’t my energy, it’s the energy of the universe,” he says. “Read any recent theory and you’ll soon come to learn that we’re all connected – from a spiritual standpoint, and from a scientific standpoint. And when you serve others, as I do – most sincerely with all my heart – the energy in the universe will always make sure that you have enough energy to accomplish what you are intending to accomplish. A byproduct of this, of course, is that it will make you happy. Hopefully many other open hearted people will choose to follow the same path.” So, yeah. Fred does wear his heart on his sleeve, and he does want the world to know his feelings. And the world is a little better for it.
Meet the Police chief set to launch new crackdown on foreign criminals in Thailand Words MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
• A nine-day crackdown ordered by Pol Gen Wuthi in Pattaya last November resulted in the arrest of 200 people and seizure of 142 guns, 150 rounds of ammunition, 630,000 methamphetamine tablets and 80 grams of crystal methamphetamine. • Owners and proprietors of hotels, resorts, motels, guesthouses, condominiums and houses now have to report to the local police station within 24 hours from the time a foreigner takes up residence, even if just for a day.
ROUDLY wearing the four stars on his shoulders that signify the second highest position at the Royal Thai Police (RTP), Dr Wuthi Liptapallop is the Police General in charge of a new initiative designed to address a host of international issues and developments that directly affect the capabilities of the RTP to enforce the law in Thailand. They include terrorism, serious crimes committed by foreigners, illegal migration, drugs trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. The police chief is additionally overseeing a new computer software system that will cause considerable concern among international criminals as it can link almost instantaneously into the Interpol database dealing with fake passports or stolen passports. It’s a tough assignment for Pol Gen Wuthi, but he readily admits that in his 33-year career he’s made a habit of working almost non-stop for long stretches, not even taking time off on holidays and weekends for his favourite but much neglected pastimes of tennis and golf. There will be a plenty of time for that in a couple of years when he reaches the compulsory retirement age of 60.
Social Last monthâ€™s best events in pictures
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THE PHYLL OPENS ON SUKHUMVIT 54
NEW community mall The Phyll officially opened its doors to the public last month. Designed under a ‘green’ concept, the 10,000 sq. meter property (located approximately 100 meters from BTS On Nut station) features both open-air and enclosed retail spaces, with everything from grocery shops, dental clinics, and convenience stores, to banks, coffee shops and restaurants. For more info visit thephyll.com.
THAILAND TOURISM FORUM 2016
HOTELIERS and tourism industry professionals flocked to the InterContinental Bangkok for the 2016 edition of the Thailand Tourism Forum (TTF). Organised by C9 Hotelworks, in cooperation with Thailand’s American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) and supported by the InterContinental Hotel Group, TTF, now in its fifth year, has emerged as an important platform for tourism news and discussion, attracting over 500 registered delegates this year. Full details are available at thailandtourismforum.com.
RUNNING FOR A CAUSE
ANANTARA Siam Bangkok Hotel, together with the Thai Red Cross Society and the Canadian Embassy, held a press conference at the hotel to announce the upcoming “Care for Cancer – 2016 Fun Run”, which will be held on Sat Feb 6 at Lumpini Park. Beginning and ending inside the park, the run offers both 5km and 10km routes and promises to be a fun and enjoyable Saturday outing for families, joggers and health enthusiasts of all ages. For more info visit bit.ly/1JKvVyM.
Around town Social|Last Month’s Best Events
TOKYO IN VOGUE
JAPAN’S semiannual fashion festival, Tokyo Girls Collection (TGC), will be coming to Bangkok this year from July-August at Parc Paragon. The news was announced last month in a glit y fashion show featuring music and live entertainment. Watch this space for more info.
BRONZE OPENS IN STYLE
CHANINTR Living joined forces with PACE Development Plc., and enakArt Villa Art Gallery to launch “Bron e”, a contemporary art exhibition by Pierre Bonnefille, the French alchemist of colours, at MahaSamutr Membership Pavillion, Bangkok. The celebration was attended by VIPs such as Bee and Supanee Techaubol, Supornthip Choungrangsee, Molchaya Techapaibul, Jareyadee and Jay Spencer, Patreeda and Nuantong Prasarnthong. The exhibition was held exclusively from January 1 – 1 . 112
WONGNAI AWARDS BANGKOK’S BEST RESTAURANTS
THE third annual Wongnai Awards Presented by KBank Credit Card was held last month at the Aksra Theatre King Power. Hosted by Mr od Chinsupakul, CEO and Co-Founder of WONGNAI Media Co., Ltd., the event awarded Wongnai’s top 29 restaurants, as voted for by the website’s users.
DIPLOMATS p Meet the people uniting nations
Francisco Dionisio Fernandes From activist to diplomacy: Timor-Leste's man in Bangkok Page 114
Diplomat: Francisco Dionisio Fernandes
From activist to diplomacy: Timor-Leste’s man in Bangkok
Words MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
N the Tetum language spoken by native East Timorese, Francisco Dionisio Fernandes given name of “Mau-Kura” means “man who promotes peace,” and that’s exactly what he does as Counselor/Charge d’Affaires at the embassy of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste in Bangkok. His days are also occupied with the same pursuits as other chief envoys in the Bangkok diplomatic corps – improving bilateral relations and trade, providing consular assistance to his countrymen, and in general doing his best to promote the image and interests of his country in Thailand. Mr Fernandes’ energy and broad knowledge are impressive, along with his profound dedication to the still young nation. He was a courageous activist during East Timor’s long struggle for independence. Although he did not take up arms himself, his life was on the line every day. Now that peace has come he is putting everything he has into securing a brighter future for Timor-Leste by building strong ties with Thailand, a country he sees as a natural ally.
Coming of age in a battle zone
Mr Fernandes’ parents migrated from rural areas to the capital city of Dili in 1950. He was born in June 1974, just one year before East Timor was plunged into war by the invasion of Indonesian troops. He started on the path of activism when he was just 16 years old. “I became involved in clandestine resistance activity in 1989. I didn’t fight with the Armed Forces for the National Liberation of East Timor (FALINTIL) or live in the jungle; I was based in Dili. “The duty of my small group was to mobilize the logistic support and supply information to FALINTIL. We helped to collect intelligence and supply food, medicine, clothes and other things needed by the fighters. We also gave news to foreign journalists. “I also participated in many other activities like peaceful
demonstrations and strikes in Dili. I was there at the Santa Cruz cemetery on November 12, 1991, when Indonesian troops fired on mourners at a funeral in Dili. The military opened fire on several thousand unarmed civilians during a peaceful funeral procession. In all 271 people were killed and many more injured. A large number of people were arrested and never seen again. I was very lucky to survive unharmed, but many of my friends were killed, injured or disappeared. “On October 28, 1991, two weeks before the massacre, I was with a close friend, also in the movement, who was being sought by the Indonesian military. He and other activists were requesting protection from the church. We were inside the church when Indonesian troops came. One of our comrades was killed. I was arrested about one week after the Santa Cruz Massacre and held for almost two months at the Indonesian military headquarters in Dili. I wasn’t physically tortured but I was subjected to intense emotional and psychological pressure for several weeks before I was released. I was just 17.” In 1995 he went to university in Malang province of East Java, Indonesia. He returned to East Timor in early 1999 and immediately rejoined the campaign for independence there. In August of that year a UN-organized referendum on independence passed overwhelmingly. Indonesian-backed militias continued their campaign of terror however, and martial law was imposed. A quarter of the population fled, most to West Timor. “Almost 80 percent of the people voted for independence, but in the weeks and months after the referendum around 1,400 Indonesians were killed and the country’s infrastructure – water systems, electricity grid and schools and so on – were all but totally destroyed,” said Mr Fernandes. Fortunately the international community stepped in and took steps to end the bloodshed and uphold the results of the referendum. In September an Australian-led peacekeeping force arrived and gradually began to restore order. The Indonesian parliament recognized the outcome of the referendum.
Tasitolu, Dili - Courtesy of Ministry of Tourism of Timor-Leste
Traditional house - Courtesy of Ministry of Tourism of Timor-Leste
In October Falintil leader Xanana Gusmao was released from prison and the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) was established. In December Timor coffee - Courtesy of Ministry of Tourism of Timor-Leste international donors at a Tokyo conference agreed to provide aid to help rebuild East Timor. Dr Ramos Horta returned after spending 24 years in exile. Renamed as Timor-Leste, the country finally gained full independence in 2002 under Handicrafts - Courtesy of Ministry of the presidency of Mr Gusmao.
Horta was made Foreign Minister and was later elected president. “In my service with the MFA I have visited many countries around the world. I have been to Africa many times, the first time to Benin. I went there for a conference on least developed countries. I have also been to Kenya, Ghana, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau. I have been A cowboy poses for the camera to Portugal three times, and also to Spain for diplomatic training. I travelled to Germany and Austria as a part of a delegation accompanying our foreign minister. I have been to New York four times to attend the UN Traditional costumes - Courtesy of Ministry of Tourism of Timor-Leste General Assembly. “I have been to all ASEAN countries except Myanmar. Not counting Indonesia, my first trip abroad was to Malaysia in 2002, and the second was to Thailand in 2005. This was to attend a meeting of the United Nation Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). I made seven more trips here, usually to attend UNESCAP meetings. The last visit before assuming my current post was in November 2012, when I led a delegation to the first bilateral technical consultation between our two countries. “My first overseas posting as a diplomat was at our embassy in Manila, from April 2007- April 2010. This is my second posting abroad. I have been in Thailand since August 2013 and my term should expire in August this year.”
Joining the foreign ser vices
“While in exile, Dr Horta was responsible for our external relations during the national resistance,” said Mr Fernandes. “He was for a short time Minister of Foreign Affairs following the proclamation of independence on November 28, 1975, before Indonesia invaded East Timor in December of that year. “When Dr Horta returned he established the embryo for Timor-Leste’s foreign service in collaboration with UNTAET. I applied and along with 49 others was accepted into a diplomatic training course administered by the UN in Dili. I completed the course in August 2000 and I also took training courses in Kuala Lumpur, Madrid and New Zealand. When Timor-Leste became an independent nation in 2002, I became a full-fledged diplomat under the Timor-Leste Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Dr
“The function of the Timor-Leste embassy here is to represent and promote our national interests and relationship with the Kingdom of Thailand in all areas that look worth exploring. While I don’t hold the title of ambassador, my job description is the same. “It is my responsibility to be present at all ceremonies, receptions and meetings, to deal with the relevant Thai ministries, mainly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [he is invited to MFA briefings with other foreign diplomats] and other organizations like various chambers of commerce. I also actively promote trade relations, which entails things like personal meetings with potential investors. I participate in activities to honor the Royal Family, in particular birthday ceremonies for His Majesty the King.”
Cristo Rei Beach - Courtesy of Pedro Caraclao
Tourism of Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste opened its embassy in Bangkok in 2008 on the 7th floor of Thanapoom Tower on New Petchburi Road. “The location of the embassy is very convenient. It is easy to go anywhere,” said Mr Fernandes. Compared to some foreign embassies in Bangkok it seems rather quiet. “We have one other Timor-Leste diplomat besides me and three local staff. There is also a delegation from the Timor-Leste Ministry of Education represented by an attaché and one Thai staff. In the future we are looking to bring over an economic attaché to look after commerce and trade and help in the mission to provide information to Thai investors. “When I started my term here, I was also in charge of Cambodia and Laos, but since we have now opened embassies in those countries I am only in charge of Thailand. “Formal diplomatic relations between Thailand and TimorLeste began in 2002. They are very good and getting stronger. Thailand was very supportive of the UN process to establish independence for my country. In those difficult times the Kingdom helped so much to restore peace and order under the United Nations. Thailand contributed military personnel, police and also members of the civil society after the referendum in 1999 and during the transition to democratic government. “Thailand has also assisted Timor-Leste with technical assistance through His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy projects. Agricultural projects were initiated in 2003 in two rural areas very close to Dili. The projects are going well and helping farmers in these and surrounding areas to improve productivity. The Thailand International Cooperation Agency has sent experts to work with the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture to develop agricultural training programs and projects.” r Fernandes said bilateral trade is still in its early stages but he’s hopeful it will be energized in the near future. “Timor-Leste is a new market for Thailand. At present we import mostly dairy products and other agricultural products like jasmine rice, and also beer. Timor-Leste’s only export to Thailand is coffee, about seven to eight tons per year. This is premium coffee, and I believe it is bought by Starbucks to be brought to Thailand. “Tourism is also on a small scale. Only about 500 people from Timor-Leste visited Thailand in 2015, and this was mostly officials who came to attend various meetings like UNESCAP or training sessions offered by the Royal Thai Government in agriculture and public and reproductive health. We also send junior diplomats here for training. “About 2,000 Thai tourists visited Timor-Leste last year. I organized three trips for journalists from Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand to visit Timor-Leste. The objective was to get favorable press for Timor-Leste in areas like development, government policy and infrastructure. We hope that many more of our Thai friends and also expats in Thailand will come and explore our country. The construction of new hotels is booming and we have a lot to offer to foreign tourists.” Indeed, the mountainous island nation has a long coastline with pristine beaches and spectacular diving. “As far as I know, no Timor-Leste citizens reside in Thailand except students. There were about 100 scholars here but about 30 have already graduated and returned home. Our students are primarily at the Asian Institute of Technology, with some also at Assumption, Mahidol and Thai Chamber of Commerce universities. They are all supported by the Timor-Leste government. “There are about 1,000 Thai nationals living in Timor-Leste.
Fransisco Dioninsio Fernandes in focus Education • Bachelor Degree in Economic Management at the Catholic University of Widya Karya-Malang, East Java, Indonesia. Professional Training • July 31 to August 2000, Diplomatic Training Course of Timor-Leste conducted by UNTAET in Dili. • September 29 to October 30, Senior Diplomatic Training at the IDF Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. • September 9 to October 4, 2002, Diplomatic Training Course Miscuela Diplomatico, Madrid, Spain. • February 9 to April 2, 2004, ELTO Program at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology in New Zealand. • April 5 to June 25, 2004, ELTO Program (Foreign Policy Focus) Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. • March 7 to 11, 2005, participated in WTO/ESCAP Trade Policy Course on WTO agreements and the Doha Development Agenda. • April 30 to May 7, 2005, International Financial Cooperation and International Investment Course in UNITAR, Hiroshima, Japan. • October 3 to 5, 2005, English Language Workshop on structure, drafting and adoption of United Nations resolutions, UNHQ, New York, USA. Occupation Record • 2002, Joined Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MFAC). • January 2003 to January 2004, Desk officer for International organization, Multilateral Affairs, MFAC. • 2006, Acting Director of Multilateral Affairs, MFAC. • 2005 to 2007, National Focal point for Least Developed Countries, MFAC • April 1, 2007 to December 31, 2010, First Secretary at the Timor-Leste embassy in Manila. • January 6, 2011 to August 25, 2013, Director of International Cooperation, MFAC. • January 2011 to August 2013, member and leader of TimorLeste delegations for Bilateral Consultation Policy for TimorLeste and Development Partners. • 2011 to 2013, member of delegations to international conferences in Vienna, New York, Haiti, Juba South Sudan, Monrovia and Liberia. • August 28, 2013, Counselor and Charges de Affairs at the TimorLeste embassy in Bangkok. Award • Presented with the Lorico Asuwain Gold Medal by Dr RamosHorta for his contributions to the national resistance and struggle for independence.
They have mainly opened or work in restaurants, while some are trying to establish tourist trails between Bangkok and Dili. I believe that in the future the number of Thais living in TimorLeste will increase.”
Entrance to ASEAN
“We officially requested to join ASEAN in 2011, and there has been quite a lot of progress toward that goal. We are participating in all ASEAN meetings as a ‘special guest.’ In 2012, when Cambodia chaired ASEAN, a special commission was established to study our request for membership. The commission formed three working groups based on three pillars of the ASEAN Charter: political and defense-related; economic; and social and cultural.
Snapshots of Timor-Leste OUR population is growing. Before independence it was about 800,000, but now it s 1.1 million. We e pect the trend to continue, said Mr Fernandes. Timor-Leste is predominantly Roman Catholic because we were a colony of Portugal for 450 years (1702-1975). We have some Buddhists from Macau and Thailand. There s one Buddhist temple in Dili. Our government is secular. Portugal doesn t have much influence in the affairs of Timor-Leste today, but there are still deep ties between our countries. Our Constitution says that Portuguese is the official language, Tetum is the national language and Bahasa and English are working languages. There are newspapers that publish in each of these languages. All official documents are in both Tetum and Portuguese, and students learn both languages in school. However, most people can speak some English and there is a lot of interest in studying the language. English proficiency is improving mostly because of the connection with Australia. We now send about 3,000 scholars to study around the world, mostly to Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the United States and European countries. There are many ob opportunities in Dili but the ma ority of people still live in rural areas, so they are mainly involved in farming and raising livestock. Many people also now work in the service sector. Business opportunities for small-time entrepreneurs are growing. Many people are opening restaurants and shops. After fourteen years of independence the economy is now growing steadily. Timor-Leste has 32 diplomatic missions around the world. In Asia we have embassies in Tokyo, Seoul, Bei ing, and in every ASEAN country. We have embassies in Canberra, New Zealand, Washington, New York, Cuba, Brazil, Portugal, Belgium and the Vatican. We plan to open more embassies but not more than 42. This is enough for a small country. About 90 percent of Timor-Leste is covered by the internet and about 400,000 people use it regularly. Mobile phones are everywhere. The airport at Dili is too small but we have plans to upgrade it by renovating the terminal and e tending runways so the biggest planes can land. We are in the process of building a new international airport in Ouekusse district in the west part of the island. We also plan to launch our own airline. After the latest round of unrest in 2006, Timor-Leste is now a stable country. The UN peacekeeping force left in December 2012. The country is peaceful and we are looking after it on our own. There s no longer any reason for tourists or business people to be apprehensive about coming to Timor-Leste.
The first working group visited Timor-Leste and its assessment was quite favorable. They saw that we are making very good progress. The second working group on economics has also visited Timor-Leste several times to make its assessment. I think this will be no problem because the economy is on the right track. The third group on social and cultural affairs visited Timor-Leste last November. I hope that next year the ASEAN member-countries will come to a positive conclusion after reviewing the assessments of the three working groups,” said Mr Fernandes. ASEAN was formed in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Over time the membership was expanded and it came to be understood that every country in Southeast Asia had the right to be a part of the regional grouping. The only requirement was geographical inclusion, and Timor-Leste certainly qualifies under that criterion. Mr Fernandes suggested that the reason Timor-Leste is being held to a higher standard is the ASEAN Charter. “When Brunei, Laos, Cambodia and other countries joined ASEAN it was before the promulgation of the charter in 2007. We requested membership in 2011. But obviously we feel that as a newly independent country in Southeast Asia we have every right to join the regional group. “Actually, way back in 1975, when we first declared our independence, we announced our wish to be a part of ASEAN. Because of all the problems we’ve faced this wish has been thwarted. But the goal of joining ASEAN is written into our constitution and we believe this will come to pass soon. I can say without hesitation that Timor-Leste is prepared to join ASEAN at any time. The only question is: when will ASEAN be ready for us. We will leave it to our ASEAN friends to decide, hopefully at the next summit meeting.” Cristo Rei Statue - Courtesy of Pedro Caraclao
Enjoying the Thai experience
Portuguese Boat which arrived in Timor Island in 1515 (Courtesy of Ministry of Tourism of Timor-Leste)
“I really like Thailand. The people are very smart, calm, soft and welcoming. Among all the countries I have visited, Thailand stands out with regard to convenience for non-natives and also safety. I am really impressed with the Thai culture and history. I come from the newest country in Asia, and I feel we have a lot to learn from the experiences of the rest of Southeast Asia and Thailand in particular. “I travel fairly often outside Bangkok, both at the invitation of the Thai government and privately. For example, the Ministry of Culture organized a visit to Udon Thani and the MFA organized a diplomatic trip to Sakhon Nakhon. My family travelled to Chiang Mai for a private visit and we have gone to Pattaya at least seven times for leisure. Recently we visited Hua Hin. “My most memorable experiences in Thailand are centered around the Songkran festival – the first time in Chiang Mai in 2014, and last year in Bangkok. Maybe getting drenched together makes the bonds between family and friends stronger. Everyone is engaged with their neighbours. I feel that Songkran promotes a peaceful society.” Mr Fernandes’ wife and their son and youngest daughter live together with him in Bangkok. “Our oldest daughter who visited recently lives in Dili with her grandparents. We are Roman Catholic and speak in our two national languages, Tetung and Portuguese. I also speak English, a little Spanish and Bahasa/Melayu. “I like to play football and when I have the time I like to go to Chonburi, Buriram and other places to watch Thailand Premier League matches. For relaxation I swim with my family. I take my kids to visit temples, museums and other interesting places.” Mr Fernandes thinks that after this posting he will be made a full-fledged ambassador. “After completing my term in Thailand I will go back to Timor-Leste, stay there for some time helping the ministry. After two or three years I will get my third posting, wherever this might be. It depends on my superior at the MFA.”
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H u a Hin Revi ew
Wo rds H A R V E Y W H I T E
Rim Talay Bar & Grill
Bistro-style dining by the beach
Following an ‘East-meets-West’ concept, the restaurant’s regular à-la-carte menu has dishes to suit almost every palate, with a tantalizing selection of salads, pastas, mains and desserts, all blending Asian and European flavours to delicious effect. There’s also a tasty range of tapas to choose from, available by plate or sharing platter – and just perfect with a glass of wine.
ACE ANY POET, WRITER or artist with a sweeping horizon, a gentle breeze, and the soothing sound of lapping waves, and they’ll invariably be inspired. Where sand meets sea, that’s the home of creative magic – and it’s even better when that home happens to be located at the front of a renowned five-star hotel.
Rim Talay (Rim meaning edge; Talay, sea) is the signature beachfront restaurant of the Dusit Thani Hua Hin. Located right next to the sands and overlooking the Gulf of Siam, the restaurant offers alfresco bistro-style dining on an elevated deck, and the stunning setting is equally suited for romantic evening nibbles as it is well-earned gourmet get-togethers with friends. The restaurant’s chefs have obviously found their collective muse in this superb location because they serve up some of the finest international fare in town. Among the highlights: a vast array of lip-smacking imported meats and local seafood – all sizzled to perfection on the grill and served piping hot by the restaurant’s friendly, knowledgeable staff. D usit T hani H ua H in, 1349 P etchkasem Rd., Cha- A m, 032 520 009 w w w .dusit.com/dthh
Every Saturday night the restaurant serves up a fabulous Barbecue Buffet Dinner, featuring succulent slabs of beef, pork, chicken, lamb, prawns and lobster, several types of fish, and a salad bar and dessert buffet. At just B1,450++, it’s great value for money. Another great deal is offered at Ladies’ Hour, every Tuesday, when all the girls enjoy cocktails at buy-one-get-onefree (7pm-9pm).
Hua Hin THE
Banyan Mercedes Benz Road Cruise THE Banyan Mercedes Benz Road Cruise rolled into town on Jan 22-23 giving car enthusiasts the chance to feast their eyes on the motors in an automobile exhibition at Banyan The Resort. Visitors also enjoyed a fabulous gourmet buffet dinner featuring performances by renowned Thai singers Joe and Kong Nuvo, Tang Mo & Attention, and a mesmerizing magic show.
Centara looks to the stars A ‘Stars in Heaven’ theme and a grand buffet dinner delighted a crowd of over 400 guests at Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin’s New Year’s Eve Party. Hosted by the resort’s general manager, Peter Nilsson, the event boasted a stunning setting by the resort’s Colonial Poolside and featured some great live performances, magic shows, and a fireworks display.
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Spanish Fiesta at Royal Varuna
ROYAL Varuna Yacht Club welcomed 2016 in style with a fun-packed Spanish Fiesta featuring a fabulous spread of food and drinks, excellent live music, and dancing till late into the night.
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Midnights: One Year On
How The Bangkok Women’s Writers Group ‘reclaimed the night’ with impressive works of fiction
ITTLE over a year ago, The BigChilli published Monsoon Midnights, a short story collection by members of the Bangkok Women’s Writers Group. It was launched with a stylish event at the British Club in December 2014. Six of the twelve authors were present and read from their stories. We even had a ‘download party.’ Available on Amazon (http://amzn.to/1tj8fJr) the book also includes beautiful illustrations by BigChilli graphics artists Jaran Lakkanawat ‘Nui’ and Arthawit Pundrikapa ‘Rung.’ Since then, Monsoon Midnights has been in the bestseller charts a few times, both as a short story collection and in the ‘literary travel guides’ category. Readers from all over the world have discovered and enjoyed our unique stories. For some, it has awakened old memories: “The Bangkok you have not seen – Monsoon Midnights has created a vivid picture of the special qualities of the Thai culture and, with clever story telling, has totally discredited the clichés that once defined Bangkok.” – Bles Chavez-Bernstein, Florida, US. Others have seen it as an alternative guide to the ‘real’ Bangkok: “Been to Thailand? Live in Thailand? Here’s a rather different view of Bangkok than that you might previously have
experienced. Enchanting stories written by women who’ve immersed themselves in the city, it takes lesser known parts of the day to day Thai life and gives them a different twist. With many voices there’s something to pull the attention of everyone – and the narrator’s single strand that twists and turns around each of the stories brings them together in necklaces of words, as the stories share different parts of the Bangkok night. There’s no sex trade or girlie bars here – just lovely writing and another perspective on Thailand.” – Ellen Bard, UK “All of [the stories] uncover unknown corners of Bangkok not typically seen by tourists. You will find stories that intrigue you and tantalize you, stories that share a unique slice of life in one of the great and mysterious cities of the world.” – David W Jones “Authentic Taste of Bangkok – a must read for anyone who’s had a love affair with Bangkok –the city itself and its people. Taste the city of Angels on these pages. A delightful read even for someone who’s lived here for 20 years.” – Alisha Somanas, Bangkok/US Monsoon Midnights does provide a map with the locations of all the stories on the first page. So the intrepid reader could explore the city with just a Kindle and a Monsoon Midnights map, getting to the locations by whatever means the story
provides, a tuktuk, a boat, a train, a wild ride on the wind. Then pause, have a coffee, or a sip from the water bottle, or a quick snack from the noodle stand, and read the story then and there. Then move on to the next story, and the next location. Of course, in the service of authenticity, the journey would have to be undertaken during the hours of night time, between sunset and sunrise the next morning, as all our stories are set at night. This would be great fun, and maybe one day we will offer a glamorous guided tour. If you prefer, you can of course also take this journey from the comfort of your home, protected by walls, WiFi and air conditioning. As many readers have, reading our book all over the planet. It is interesting that so many readers point out how Monsoon Midnights challenges and transforms the clichés about Bangkok that are repeated again and again in books, films and global media. As women who live and work in Bangkok, we would like to think that such clichés are a thing of the past, and they certainly don’t appear in our writing, but maybe it will need a few more volumes of Monsoon Midnights until this is no longer the standout for so many readers worldwide. Because we have so many stories to tell, all different, all from unique perspectives, and because we love this wonderful, crazy, magical city. Monsoon Midnights started as a monthly short story series in July 2013 with ‘Backstreet Hero with Seventeen Brave Hearts’ by Anette Pollner, a story about the little canal that saved Bangkok during the great flood of 2011 that seems to have struck a chord with quite a few reviewers. And stories have appeared in The BigChilli ever since, every month by a different author. Monsoon Midnights will continue as a short story series in the magazine well into 2016 and, yes, we are already planning volume 2 of the collection. During 2015, the Monsoon Midnights authors have been invited to readings and panel presentations.
Pictured, from left to right: Morgan Pryce, Anette Pollner, Bhavna Khemlani, M. S. Khan, and Mariejoy San Buenaventura.
One was at the US Embassy in February 2015. The picture (above) shows our authors outside the building, since the “escort” (not that kind of escort), who accompanied us at all times, couldn’t allow us to take photographs inside. Another remarkable event was the Dies Academicus at Ramkhamhaeng University in September 2015, where the BWWG presented an in-depth literary analysis of Monsoon Midnights and how it relates to our lives as female authors, and of course as women.
Reading Ramkhamhaeng University in September 2015
The presentation, entitled ‘International female authors reclaim the Bangkok Night,’ featured live reading from the book by some of our authors in front of a packed academic audience (sadly, the official photographer didn’t include that audience in her pictures). We signed many programs and answered eager questions by students and faculty. How free are women to experience the night? Can we just walk out and do what men can do, see where fate and adventure will take us? Here is an excerpt from the presentation (first published by Ramkhamheang University in 2016) by BWWG leader Anette Pollner: “The idea for Monsoon Midnights has many origins. “One of them is that night falls very early in Bangkok in the summer months. But life in the streets, the shops, the restaurants and many other public places continues. “Night is not a time to hide at home, night is a time to socialize, to run errands, to interact and be present. Women and children inhabit the public space during the hours of darkness. “Bangkok is a very safe city for women, and many of us walk by ourselves down the road at all hours of the night. From our windows, we can see the multi-coloured nightscape of the city, the buildings, the roads, the river. And in the sky, at least for eight months out of the twelve, we see the grand opera of the Monsoon thunderstorms. “But in spite of its general high levels of street safety, the night is still not an equal space for women to be free, to explore as they wish. The women I see walking by themselves at night are not from the highest parts of Thai society. Middle class friends have told me that their parents didn’t let them go out at night. “In the West, women have for many decades campaigned to ‘reclaim the night.’ What they mean is the right and freedom to enter the public space without fear, and in particular fear of intimidation and possibly violence directed specifically against women. “What we are doing, with Monsoon Midnights, is to reclaim the night in terms of literature. We are reclaiming the public space of the imagination, we are claiming our stake in stories about the night. “In most of the men’s books about the Bangkok nights, women have no place except as servants of men. “In our book, the night belongs to the city herself. “And in our book, although the characters can be of any and all genders, and some are not even human, the authors, those whose imagination creates the story from the rich and complex material that the city envelops our ears, eyes, noses and skin with every minute of every day and night, these authors are women. “We are the ones who tell the stories of the Bangkok night.” Maybe the high proportion of ghost stories in Monsoon
Insight Authors in focus
• Anette Pollner Leader of the BWWG, prize-winning author of novels published in UK and US including HarperCollins UK, stories and articles published regularly in UK, US, Thailand. Also professional writing coach – see her ‘Bangkok Writers Workshops – Writing from the Unconscious Mind.’ • Marie-Joy San Buenaventura Poet (published in the US), MA in poetry from Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, US, creative writing tutor at Mahidol University, Bangkok. • Morgan A. Pryce Speculative fiction published in the UK, senior creative writing tutor at Ramkhamhaeng University, Bangkok. • Tracey Martin Poet and short story writer, published in the UK, MA in poetry from Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. • Bhavna Khemlani Thai author, published several novels internationally, short stories published by PEN international, creative writing tutor at the Bangkok School of Management. • Jenny Péres-Genge Educator, mothers’ rights activist, and poet. • Tejaswini Apte-Rahm Author of non-fiction books and short stories, including a prestigious upcoming collection in India. • Ann Leander Interpreter, graphics artist entrepreneur and author of short stories published in the UK. • Jasmine Eisner Debut author and educator. • Sarah Sutro Painter, artist, award winning poet and author of many short stories, poems and non-fiction books about art widely published in the US. • M.S. Khan Non-fiction author and journalist, published in the US. • Catherine Lee Award winning poet and editor of several poetry magazines in Australia. Published in Singapore and Australia. • Anshika Sony Debut author and educator. (Anshika’s first story has just been published in the January 2016 issue of the BigChilli and will be included in Monsoon Midnights II). • Emily Kuklas Debut author and poet. (Emily’s first story will be published in the March 2016 issue of The BigChilli and will be included in Monsoon Midnights II). 66
Midnights has something to do with the fact that, unlike women, who still are restricted both factually (increased danger to life and health, negative image of nocturnal females, family objections, family obligations) and internally (perceived danger, lack of positive female nocturnal role models, lack of female friendly night time events), ghosts can go wherever they like and do whatever they like with impunity. And, mostly, ghosts are invisible which protects them but also limits their ability to interact and influence. n the other hand, women are up all night in many domestic settings, in home and freelance work, and in jobs like cleaning and nursing. Over time, women have started the hard work to reclaim the night. And that includes literature. The authors of the BWWG, founded in 2001, and meeting in an unbroken line every second Tuesday to workshop our writing in a supportive and inquisitive atmosphere, come from many different places on this planet, too. Most of us have lived in Bangkok for some time, but a few have only spent a year or two here. All of us are also immersed in jobs and extended networks of friends and family. Some of us are locals, born in Bangkok and writing here all their lives. The authors of Monsoon Midnights are also very diverse in terms of age and background. Our youngest contributor is 24, and the most mature one is in her seventies. Many are professional writers of all kinds – novelists, poets (quite a few poets for whom a Monsoon Midnights story seems like a very long text), journalists, academic writers and successful bloggers. On the other hand, we also have a few debut stories from authors who never published fiction before. Genres also vary a lot, as people do and their experiences. As Anette Pollner puts it, in another excerpt from the Ramkhamheang presentation: “Monsoon Midnights elevates often neglected characters (and people!) into the centre of the story. “The stories themselves are as diverse as the international authors from five continents, and as the city herself. Most of them have female narrators, but by no means all. “Each story reflects the personal experience of the author, her very own Bangkok. “And, unsurprisingly, these versions of Bangkok, seen through the eyes of female writers who live and work here, are very different from the tired and unpleasant cliché generated by the male writers who still dominate this genre, and the international iconography of the city. “Stories are set in back alleys, parks, markets, malls, temples, on the river, along the canals, in tiny rooms and deserted public halls. Some stories explore the pavement, and the swamp underneath the concrete, and some rise thousands of kilometres into the air. Central characters are girls, boys, teachers, cooks, poets, beggars, singers, mosquitoes, elephants, birds, ghosts, monsters, angels, the city, the water, the land and the sea. And women. Women of the night that never turn up in the male books. Old women, sick women, women with jobs, women who follow their dreams and women who lost their dreams, women who are searching for the meaning of life (not a man), and women who give birth in boats. Under the moon. “All these characters enter the public space of the imagination with us. Through us. Through the pages of our book. “Where only a few cardboard cutouts existed before, designed to confirm to the male author (and often also narrator and central character) that he is the only full human there. (And that he owns this world, and defines it.) “All those many unexpected characters claim their space and claim it with gusto and passion. They are in the pages of our book now, just as they always were in the real life of this city, and all cities. Yes, some of them make unaccustomed central characters. Which makes the stories all the more exciting and inspiring to the reader. If you look around you with a fresh eye, which characters that you can see right now, right here, could be represented in literature, and represented a lot more than they are now? “If you can see one (or hear one), please do write about them. “They deserve to be ‘elevated’, as people like to say, to active players in the public sphere of literature.” Monsoon Midnights has been a joyful journey for us, and hopefully for the readers, too.
Monsoon Midnights is available at http://amzn.to/1tj8fJr
The first volume of Monsoon Midnights (18 stories by 12 authors with beautiful illustrations by the BigChilli graphics team) is available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1tj8fJr. TheBigChilli